Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fall Comes to Summit County, Colorado

So there are still quite a few flowers blooming in the county.


However the Aspens are beginning to turn to bright yellow and many of the wildflowers have gone to seed.

The willows are becoming all colors of the spectrum from green through various yellows into red. Above all the meadows of grasses are coming into their splendor. I often think that a meadow with high grasses is just as attractive as a wildflower meadow, with as much variety of color, and a plethora of different seed heads.

The sunlight on some clumps of grass makes the seeds appear like sparklers on a July 4th evening.

The sage brush insterspersed in the grasses gives a dusty blue contrast to the shades of the grasses.

Go out in a meadow of grass after a rain or a frost and the contrasts of textures and hues is magnified.

I am lucky to live in Frisco, Colorado next to the Summit County bike path and Lake Dillon.

My daily walk with my dog Sawyer, takes me into the wetlands on Lake Dillon and I am able to see the changes in the grasses and the undergrowth in the forest on a daily basis.

Another favorite wetlands meadow for me is at Farmer's Corner & Swan Mountain Road, at the southern tip of Lake Dillon. In winter this area is transformed into an area for snow kiting, but in the Fall it offers a myriad of colors for any passers by on Highway 9. Stop at the parking spot next to the lake some time and enjoy this assault on your visual senses.

After looking through this photo montage of  Summit County, when you are out and about in the county, open your eyes to the beauty of grasses, especially this year when our late Spring moisture has led to a bumper crop.

All pictures were taken with my Blackberry as I walked or drove in my neck of the woods.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ten Days in Breckenridge with the Grandchildren

I recently was able to assist in planning and booking ten days of activities for a grandma and grandpa traveling with their two granchildren, a boy aged 10 and a girl aged 7, to Breckenridge from the United Kingdom. The children were really kept busy and were able to experience a great deal that Summit County has to offer in the way of summer activities. I thought it was worth sharing their itinerary of adventures.

The first couple of days were spent adjusting from jet lag and also to the altitude. Then it was on to rafting with a float trip on the Colorado River The half day trip is perfect for multiple ages and is one of the raft trips that will take children as young as three if they weigh at least 35 pounds. Although both children would have qualified in age for a whitewater rafting trip, as an introduction to rafting this is a great starter trip. The drive to the Kremmling Outpost is about an hour from Breckenridge. The raft company supplies wet suits if you want them, a splash jacket, and an experienced guide. For the adventurous who would like to cool off, there is a jump into the Colorado River from a cliff above the water, and sometimes trips stop at a small natural hot spring on the side of the river.

The next day the family members headed to the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge This is a working gold mine, complete with resident donkeys and the opportunity to pan for gold after the tour. Apparently each child did find a flake of gold, helped by their grandfather who is a geologist and has primarily worked in the field of gold mining. This particular mine has an added attraction of "Shoot the Chute", where you can ride down a 50 foot ore chute. Both children took this opportunity, but I think the grandparents declined.

The next day the group headed to Frisco, picked up bikes, and rode a shuttle to the top of Vail Pass My husband met them at the pass after having ridden up from Frisco and rode with them to the Village at Copper Mountain for ice cream. I joined the group in Copper and rode with them to Frisco and the bike shop, while my husband descended at a faster pace. The only difficulty that we had was that the little girl was between bike sizes and was really on a bike that was a bit too small (the next size up was too large) with only six gears, and so her little legs underwent quite a work out.

After dropping off the bikes, we all met up at the Frisco Marina and hopped on the Water Taxi for a trip across Lake Dillon for lunch at the Tiki Bar The wind had started to pick up a bit, and we took on a bit of water with some waves out in the main part of the lake. The children were equipped with life jackets. Even though the captain could not make it into the normal dock in Dillon because of the wind, he skilfully guided the taxi into a slip rather than the T-dock. We actually took our bikes with us and rode back to Frisco, leaving the foursome to take the water taxi back to the Frisco Marina.

Still ready for more adventures, the next day saw all of us along with two dogs heading up to Lily Pad Lake on a guided hike from Frisco As the grandparents own a condominium in Breckenridge and are frequent visitors to the county, they had work sheets for the hike, to add an educational dimension. The children had a number of wildflowers to find and identify, as well as some questions about the mountains they would see on their hike, the types of trees, and the lake. In the spirit of competition between siblings they were very eager to find their flowers and other information. It was great to come across the remains of an old mine, as well as picnic at the Beaver Pond, where the dogs were able to cool off with a much needed swim, and to see some flowers on Lily Pad lake. Unfortunately the beavers have abandoned their lake, the lodge is not in good repair, although the dam is still holding fast. We were however able to see where the beavers had been at work.

The next activity was to ride the Georgetown Loop This is another really appropriate intergenerational outing and will thrill all ages. You have the option on the train ride to stop halfway down the mountain at the Colorado Historical Society's Lebanon silver mine. The group did not choose to do this as they had already visited a gold mine and were actually on their way down to Denver to stay with friends for the night and then go to Water World for the day.

A trip to Summit County with your grandparents would not be complete without a little shopping trip to the Silverthorne Outlets Although these children would not need Back To School items as all school children in the United Kingdom wear uniforms, the sales for that time of year, meant a couple of fun outfits for each of them were not so expensive.

A lot to accomplish in ten days. I was impressed with the children's willingness to try everything and their interest in all of the activities that they undertook. I am sure that this is a trip that they will remember for a long time, and as they grow older will come to understand what a wonderful gift their grandparents gave them. They will be back to ski in March with mom, dad and little sister to experience the other wonderful season of this area. I forsee maybe a Dog Sledding activity or maybe a Sleigh Ride if they can be dragged away from the ski slopes.

Consider bringing your grandchildren for this kind of experience in the Rocky Mountains and I would love to help you arrange unforgettable memories for your family. It was a gift to me too, in that I knew the family and was able to share in some of the children's joy in their surroundings.

Grandma & Grandpa Martineau, with Tabitha and Luke,
High Country Activities owner, Jane Shafroth
and canine companions
Sawyer and Huckleberry 

Friday, August 19, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Comes to Summit County

So I think everyone in Summit County is very excited that the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is coming to the area.

By the way the web site is very informative, with topographical and road maps of the daily routes, visuals of the elevation profiles, excellent spectator guides, stage timetables with the time the riders are expected to reach each point on the route, pages on each of the host cities and their celebrations of the event, as well as team and rider information with videos and interviews, as well as the Shack Tour Tracker that will allow you to watch the race live on your computer.

Seven days and some of the most difficult terrain in Colorado will test some of the world's best cyclists. I personally have sat glued to the television and watched almost every stage of the Tour De France for the past ten plus years. Now this is my chance to see the stars of this great race at home in my own state. The added dimension to this Colorado race is of course the altitude. Andy Schleck has been in Steamboat Springs training for the altitude. His brother Frank has stayed home to spend time with his family, but will be here for the race. Both of them race for the Leopard Trek team and placed second and third in the 2011 Tour De France respectively.

Andy Schleck

Frank Schleck

Tom Danielson, of the Garmin-Cevelo team, who placed ninth in the 2011 Tour De France, the highest placed US rider, lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado, so he is a local favorite to do very well in the race.

Tom Danielson
One wonders how the great time trialist and the 2011 winner of the Tour De France, Cadel Evans, of the BMC racing team, will fare in a time trial in Vail that is almost all up hill. The question is also whether Andy Schleck, as a great climber, will race better against him in this discipline than he did in the 2011 Tour De France time trail, where Cadel guaranteed his first place finish in the race.

Cadel Evans
All of the General Catergory podium finishers from the Tour De France will be racing, as well as US legends Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack - 2011 winner of the Tours of California and Utah, George Hincapie, team mate of Cadel Evans, former team mate of Lance Armstrong, who has finished the Tour De France a record 14 straight times, as well as podium Tour De France finisher from Italy, Ivan Basso, of Team Liquigas.

Levi Leipheimer

George Hincapie

Ivan Basso

I would say that the only disappointment about the roster for the race is the lack of the world's top sprinters. But we have all see how these guys struggle when the Tour De France heads into the Pyrenees and the Alps, and I am sure that the idea of crossing two high mountain passes in one day that are over 12,000 feet would be daunting for these riders. Speaking of Stage 2 on Wednesday August 24, racers have to ascend 13.7 miles to the top of the 12,126 foot Cottonwood Pass on a dirt road, and then summit Independence Pass at 12,095 feet with a 6.5% gradient, before descending into Aspen. This has to be the stage to watch. I only hope that I will be able to find a spot to cheer on these incredible athletes on Independence Pass, if I leave early enough from Summit County. The road will be closed at noon and the riders are expected to summit at about 3pm.

For the Vail time trial the next day, it is suggested that you park at the top of Vail Pass and then either ride your bike or walk down the bike path to the finish of the race. The ten mile stage will take the racers from Vail Village up the road that is part of the Vail Pass bike path. I imagine a lot of Summit County fans will be taking this option or riding all the way from Summit County to the finish.

Saturday August 27 is when the race really comes to town with the route taking the racers from Steamboat Springs, up and over the double-summit Rabbit Ears Pass, past Green Mountain reservoir, along the Blue River valley and into Silverthorne, around the shores of Lake Dillon, a King of the Mountain Stage on Swan Mountain road, and into a sprint finish on Breckenridge's own Main Street There is only one King of the Mountain stage after the Swan Mountain ascent, over Look Out Mountain in Golden the next day  Swan Mountain is where we will be tailgating at the Lowry Camp site and then walking or cycling to Sapphire Point to see who is the King of the Mountain for Summit County. Who knows, if the race is close, this could be a climb at the end of a long uphill day that could be significant. Let's hope so, as I know I would love to see a dramatic battle on the hill that so many of our local cyclists "love" to climb. The party in Breckenridge after the race finish, with a concert with Big Head Todd and the Monsters, promises to be a great way to finish what should be a very exciting day.

I know some folks are probably not so thrilled about the road closures and the potential crowds associated with the US Pro Cycling Challenge's arrival in Summit County. I know I have been taking extra time to warn my clients about the day's activities. But I for one am ecstatic that this event is coming to town. Let's show these elite athletes some Summit County hospitality and if you are not acting as a volunteer, get out there and cheer them on. I am in awe of their athletic ability and cannot wait to show them how much I appreciate their endeavors.

Watch this spot for my photos and blogs of the stages that I manage to see next week.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fall is Coming Photo Essay

It may still be in the 90s on the Front Range of Colorado, and in the 100s in the south and middle of the United States, but here in Summit County we are beginning to feel a touch of Fall. It has been under 40 degrees a couple of mornings, and the snow seekers are beginning to post 100 day count downs to the ski area openings.

Out in the forest and in the wetlands, changes are beginning to show that our short summer may be coming to an end, even though many wildflowers are at their peak at the same time. The moisture this year has led to the growth of some spectacular grasses. Many plants are starting to go to seed. The Fireweed patches are a blast of shocking pink in the trees. Berries are beginning to appear where the flowers are gone. Scrub plants are showing the various yellows and reds of their passage to winter sleep. The sun shines brightly in the morning with clear blue skies, the winds come up in the afternoon, making for some great sailing on Lake Dillon, and the evenings are cool enough to require a sweat shirt. Night temperatures are great for sleeping, and the overhead fan is no longer needed. What a great time for a nature lover to live in or visit the high country of Colorado.