Friday, September 28, 2018

Arapahoe National Forest: St. Mary's Glacier and Ascent of Peak 11716

Yesterday, after my training session had finished up for the day, I had some time to kill before meeting my friend Steve again. I opted to walk my way north to his town of Arvada from my hotel near the Federal Center in Lakewood. Not too big a deal, except I was toting around my roller suitcase and a few sections of my route lacked sidewalks. Anyway, I traveled mostly on Kipling Street and stopped for lunch at Large Marge's, an excellent Philly cheesesteak place. After lunch I started north on Kipling again, but soon noticed a paved trail entrance, the Regional Clear Creek Trail.

A glance at my phone showed the trail seemed to go in the direction I was headed, towards Olde Town Arvada, and so I walked the pleasant, shaded path along its namesake creek
 headed northeast towards Wadsworth Boulevard. All was well until I came to a construction zone at Wadsworth. Barriers and signs directed me under the wide road, but I wanted to reach the road. I ended up passing under it and then found a set of old stairs leading up to the road grade on the other side. That's when I found myself in a scary heroin encampment in the no-man's land between Wadsworth and Interstate 70. I got out of there as fast as I could and soon found myself in Olde Town Arvada. I was thirsty by this point, and so I stopped for a few beers at Grand Lake Brewing. Definitely not the best beers I've ever had, but the bartender was pleasant enough to talk to.

After my stop at Grand Lake, I still had some time to kill, and so I made my way over to the town square. It seemed to be populated mostly by homeless folks. Some of them even had suitcases and so I fit right in. I called Steve and he agreed to meet me at another brewery in town, New Image Brewing. We had some excellent beers there and got some food to go to take to Steve's house where we settled in for a relaxing night.

This morning we woke up and got a fairly early start for our trip into the mountains. We made our way out of the clouds and into the beautiful blue skies as we ascended. We drove through Idaho Springs and then up to the town of St. Mary, eventually finding the parking area for the trailhead. The trail itself wasn't really much of a trail.
 Instead it was some old, rocky roads and user paths winding their way up to the beautiful location of a lake and the St. Marys Glacier. I'm skeptical its actually a glacier. It looks to me more like a semi-permanent snowfield.

We enjoyed the scenery on our walk.

A lake near the glacier was very beautiful
 and ringed with gnarled bristlecone pines.
 We made our way around the lake to the approach to the snowfield.
 There was lots of melting going on,
even on this cool morning. At this point in the season the snowfield is actually split into two. There is the lower snowfield and a linger, skinnier upper one.
We traversed to the right side of the upper snowfield
and then decided we might as well climb to the top of a distant ridge.
It was not particularly difficult terrain, but I could feel the lack of oxygen in the air. I really enjoyed the alpine feel near the top of the ridge.
 At this point we needed to decide what our objective for the day would be. I suggested a low peak just southwest. We made our way quickly up to the summit which I later identified as Peak 11716.
After our break it was a steep descent back to the parking area.
The views looking back to the lake were tremendous.
 We even saw a few people skiing on the glacier.

After returning to the car we drove back into Idaho Springs for lunch at Westbound and Down Brewery. The feed and beer were excellent! We ended our day's adventure with a drive along the Peak to Peak Highway to Boulder where I got some souvenirs for the family back home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hayden Park: Green Mountain Trail

As I was walking back to my hotel from the day's training session, I noticed a grassy-looking peak rising above my hotel. I figured right then and there I would have to see if I could hike that peak. A quick search on my phone indicated that the peak is called Green Mountain and that it is located on Jefferson County open space lands. I went back to my room, changed, filled my water bottles and set out. It was a pretty long walk along Alameda Parkway, past fast food restaurants and suburban sprawl to the entrance
and parking lot for the Green Mountain Trail. I started to make my ascent.
The trail climbed and climbed
with lots of views down to the plains, sprawl and the skyscrapers of downtown Denver in the distance.
I noticed a few wildflowers
and yucca plants as I made my ascent. Soon enough I passed a communications tower and then made my way along a wide gravel road on a relatively flat plateau.
I found the actual summit and then made my way to a little, unofficial overlook where I relaxed and enjoyed the view.
I couldn't spend too much time relaxing though. The sun would be setting soon. I enjoyed watching the sun set behind the mountains
 and the clouds turn various shades of pink and orange as I made my way down the mountain.

Then it was a long slog back along Alameda Parkway back to the hotel in the dark. I made a side trip for some food before my return. It was a great way to spend an evening away from the family and I even got in a little workout.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Colorado Rockies at Coors Field

I'm currently out in Denver for some training for work. This evening after the training session for the day had ended, I met up with a good friend from college, Steve and we went downtown to see the Phillies play the Rockies at Coors Field.
With the Phillies officially eliminated from playoff contention, and the Rockies in pursuit of a playoff spot, I was secretly rooting for the Rockies. I'll always be a Phillies fan at heart, but I wanted to see some Rocktober baseball. Well this wasn't much of a game if you were looking for suspense. The hometown Rockies obliterated the Phillies 10 to 3. Still, me and Steve still had a good time at the game and enjoyed some elk brats and Dale's Pale Ales.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mesabi Trail: Kinney to Chisholm

A warm, but windy day was forecast for today. I decided to take advantage of the warm September day by going for another bicycle ride on the Mesabi Trail. This would be my 3rd ride on the Mesabi Trail. Previously I had ridden from Virginia to Eveleth and then Virginia to Kinney. Today I would start at Kinney and head west to the town of Chisholm.

The trail started out a bit bumpy and led past several bodies of water.
Unlike the mine pits I had seen on previous rides, a few of the reservoirs seemed natural. I made my way through beautiful aspen forest
and past my first mine pit
 into the small town of Buhl.

The next section of trail was quite hilly. I enjoyed the break the downhills afforded. At a junction, I opted to ride a spur trail into Downtown Chisholm.
A sign on a building downtown proclaimed Chisholm as the home of "Moonlight" Graham.
I continued through town and soon enough found my way to my lunch spot for the day: The Stand Drive-In.
I had a delicious cheeseburger and root beer float.
After lunch was done I continued on towards the Minnesota Discovery Center, stopping for a look at the "Iron Man" sculpture.
The sculpture is huge and commemorates the men who have labored in the open pit iron mines of Minnesota's Iron Range.

From the Iron Man I crossed US 169 to the Discovery Center and past the Veteran's Memorial
into the St. Louis County Fairgrounds. I was now on another spur of the Mesabi Trail and soon enough would rejoin the main trail. Every now and then I would pass an old relic of the bygone mining days,
including the Bruce Mine Head frame,
supposedly the only head frame remaining in the Iron Range. Soon enough I was back where I had started: the trailhead at Kinney.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Mesabi Trail: Virginia to Kinney

Today seemed like a good day for a bicycle ride, and so I made the drive down to Virginia, Minnesota and hopped on the Mesabi Trail. Back in June I rode from Virginia, east to Eveleth. Today I would be headed in the opposite direction to the trailhead outside the town of Kinney. I rode through a small section of town and crossed US Highway 53, then closely paralleled a road for a bit before setting off on a separate, dedicated bike path. Goldenrod
and other fall wildflowers decorated the trail sides. Soon enough I found myself within the city limits of the depressing little town of Mountain Iron.
Many of the roads off to the side of the trail seemed to dead end
and an entire neighborhood is littered with abandoned, boarded-up homes. Is the mining industry taking over and forcing the closures? This seems to be the case as an online search found the following about Mountain Iron's Parkville neighborhood: "Minntac now is planning expansion of its east pit, which will take over the city’s Parkville neighborhood to the south. Skalko said the company has bought out about half the homeowners to date, but with the industry downturn has slowed down its purchasing efforts."

I made my way along an old railroad grade for a section of trail,
 passed a water-filled mining pit
and made my way to downtown. The city's mining heritage is on full display here. There's a monument to the discovery of iron ore,
a statue of Leonidas Merritt who claimed that the area was home to a "Mountain of Iron" and gave the small town its name.
There is also a park with an old steam engine once used to haul ore,
a bucket used to move it
and the tire of one of the trucks used to transport the ore out of the mines.
There is also a view of another mining pit with what appears to be a waterfall cascading into it.

I relaxed at the park for a bit and then hit the trail, headed further west. I passed through a section of town that was once a neighborhood. There was even a sign marking it as the Mountain Iron Original Townsite.
Today it is nothing more than abandoned roads and concrete slabs that were once the site of people's homes and dreams.
The trail soon paralleled US Highway 169.
I made my way to the Kinney trailhead where I rested a bit
 and then turned around for the return ride to Virginia.