Saturday, June 25, 2016

DESTINATION: Ludlow, Colorado

Many times during our travels to Colorado we have passed a historical sign that read, "Ludlow Massacre." We've always been curious as to what events transpired at the location so this time we stopped to investigate.

Coal car used by miners

The Ludlow Massacre site sits 18 miles northwest of Trinidad, Colorado. A granite monument, in memory of Colorado coal miners and their families who died on April 20, 1914, has been erected by the UMWA (United Mine Workers of America).  The site of the Ludlow Tent Colony, where 1,200 striking coal miners and their families once lived, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Ludlow Tent Colony before fire - City was referred to as "White City" 

On April 20, 1914, some two dozen people, including miners' wives and children were killed when they were attacked by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards.  The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident.

Pit of death - one of the storage cellars beneath a tent

Between nineteen and twenty-six people lost their lives during the bloody massacre. Some death tolls vary but include two women and eleven children that were asphyxiated while hiding in one of the storage cellars beneath a tent.  The deaths occurred after a daylong fight between militia and camp guards against striking workers. 

Memorial erected by the UNWA

The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against coal mining companies in Colorado. The three largest companies involved were the Rockefeller family-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I), the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company (RMF), and the Victor-American Fuel Company (VAF).

In retaliation for Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg, Colorado. The entire strike would cost between 69 and 199 lives. Thomas G. Andrews described it as the "deadliest strike in the history of the United States".

Leaving Ludlow Massacre Site

Friday, June 24, 2016

DESTINATION: Estes Park, Colorado

After our tour through Rocky Mountain National Park we headed into the town of Estes Park, Colorado.  Estes Park is the headquarters for RMNP.  Many people visit Estes Park as a summer resort but our trip was to collect the final geocaches we needed for the Across the Divide Geo Tour.  Little did we know that in collecting our caches we would get a quick tour and history lesson of the town!

Fall River

We drove into Estes Park on Highway 34 which is also known as Fall River Road because it follows the Fall River.  This beautiful, narrow, road is lined with tall pines, cabins and lodges.  As Fall River comes into town the name changes to W. Wonderview Ave.  

Our first stop in Estes Park was a scenic over-look known as the Knoll-Willows Open Space.  This 75-foot rock outcropping sits south of W. Wonderview Ave. and east of MacGregor Ave.  We took a short hike to the rock outcropping and from there we could see the famous Stanley Hotel and the ruins of a burned cabin that was built in 1908 by Albert Birch, a city editor for the Denver Post.  The cabin was placed on the State Register of Historic Places in 2001.  Leaving the cabin we hiked along a path that follows Black Canyon Creek. The creek is a willow-lined stream that provides habitat for trout, beaver, elk, great-horned owls, red-tailed hawks and a host of migratory songbirds.  We tried but we did not find the geocache hidden at this location.

View of Stanley Hotel from Knoll-Willows Open Space

View of Long's Peak from Knoll-Willows Open Space

Ruins of Birch Cabin built in 1908

Stone fireplace inside Birch Cabin ruins

Heading north on MacGregor Ave. we stopped at the corner of MacGregor and Devils Gulch Rd. at the entrance to the MacGregor Ranch.  The ranch was established in 1873 but now the main ranch house now serves as a museum, displaying the original furnishings and personal memorabilia of three generations of the MacGregor family. Visitors to the museum can take a guided tour of the 1896 ranch house and a self-guided tour of the historic outbuildings, including a milk house, root cellar, smokehouse, blacksmith shop, and antique farm equipment yard.   Sadly, we did not visit the museum but we were able to find the geocache we needed very near the ranch entrance.

MacGregor Ranch sign & entrance

View of meadows at MacGregor Ranch

One more cache would lead us to the middle of an intersection at Highway 36 and Highway 7 where a bronze statue has memorialized a very famous Estes Park citizen, Samson.  This 1,000 pound, 9 point, bull elk was a mascot, of sorts, for the town of Estes Park.  He was frequently seen in town, sometimes at the YMCA, and had no fear of humans.  Tragically, Samson was killed by a poacher looking to harvest a trophy wapiti (elk).


View from deck of
Estes Park Brewery
Hiking and geocaching is hard work!  We decided we needed refreshments so we headed to Estes Park Brewery on Prospect Village Dr.  There we shared a delicious burger and a local micro brew from the top of their patio.  From this height we had views of the Big Thompson River flowing through Estes Park, and Fun City, another stop on our geocaching tour!

Feeling revived after a good lunch we headed to Lake Estes and the Estes Park Museum where we picked up more caches for our tour.  The historical center archives the lives of early homesteaders with restored buildings, displays & tours.

Estes Park Museum

Reconstructed buildings of Estes Park pioneers at museum

View of Lake Estes near Estes Park museum

From the museum we hit a few random tourist sites to pick up the remaining geocahes we needed to complete the Across the Divide Geocache Tour for Estes Park.  With ten caches under our belt we stopped in at the Estes Park Visitors Center located on Big Thompson Ave. and near the Estes Valley Recreation District.  We claimed our prize and then walked around the recreation district which sits near the Big Thompson River. In this area many people were working on their fly fishing skills.

Estes Park Visitor Center

View of Big Thompson River along the river walk in Estes Park

After a busy day in Estes Park it was time to head back to our base camp at Grand Lake. Instead of leaving Estes Park the same way we came in we chose to take Highway 36 to the Beaver Meadows entrance of RMNP.  At Deer Ridge Junction Highway 36 connects onto Highway 34 or Trail Ridge Road and winds back through RMNP.

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center of RMNP (built in style of Frank Lloyd Wright)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

DESTINATION: Trail Ridge Road Summit, RMNP, Colorado

After a brief stop at the Alpine Visitor Center we continued on Trail Ridge Road to the Gore Range Overlook.  At this point we stopped to get more information, from the interpretive signs, for one of the geocaches needed to complete the Across the Divide Geocache Tour.

Must get geocache, must get geocache!

From the Gore Range Overlook one can see Long's Peak, Stone's Peak, Terra Homah, Mount Julian, Mount Ida, Forest Canyon, the Gore Range, the Never Summer Mountains, the Crater, and Specimen Mountains - all evolving from volcanic explosions or carved out by Ice Age glaciers.

Gore Range Overlook

Traveling on from the Gore Range Overlook we hit the summit of Trail Ridge Road, went through Iceberg Pass and stopped again at the Lava Cliff's Outlook for more geocaching information.  Once we had the information we needed, it was back on the road to the Tundra Communities Trailhead, not to hike, but to get a few photographs of the furry marmots popping up out of the rocks and the elk grazing in the meadows.

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Mama elk and her calf

Elk, elk and more elk!

Bull elk rests among yellow snow buttercups

Rock Cut

Continuing on Trail Ridge Road we drove through Rock Cut then stopped again at Forest Canyon Overlook for a short, windy but scenic hike to an overlook.  Forest Canyon has to be the prettiest part of Rocky Mountain National Park!  At this overlook we were really able to view the alpine tundra.  The Alpine Tundra Ecosystem starts between elevations of 11,000 to 11,500 feet, depending on exposure.  Strong, frequent winds and cold temperatures limit what plants can grow there.  Staying on the trail is showing respect for this fragile ecosystem. 

Panoramic view of Forest Canyon

Forest Canyon from overlook

Beautiful, but fragile Alpine Tundra

Another shot of the Forest Canyon

Alpine lake in distance from Forest Canyon Overlook

Our next stop on Trail Ridge Road was Rainbow Curve where we photographed some seriously cute chipmunks begging for food. Obviously, the chipmunks, nor TK, read the sign that said, "Don't feed the wildlife!" Who knew chipmunks love Chex Mix!

"May I have some food, please?"

This Clark's Nutcracker wanted his picture taken too!

Thinking park rangers might be on our trail we hit the trail - Trail Ridge Road, once again, and made our way to the Beaver Ponds for more geocaching information.

At Deer Ridge Junction we turned north on to Fall River Road and made our way to Sheep Lakes Information Station for, you'll never guess, more geocaching information! We seriously wanted the prize at the end of the tour!

"Kettle" ponds at Sheep Lakes Information Station

From Sheep Lakes we continued on Fall River Road passing the Fall River Visitor Center and on into the town of Estes Park, Colorado.

DESTINATION: Alpine Visitor Center, RMNP, Colorado

Visitor Center
Our next stop along Trail Ridge Road was the Alpine Visitor Center.  The center is located a 11,796 feet above sea level at Fall River Pass, about two miles north of the highest point on Trail Ridge Road.

During the months prior to our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park we watched the webcam that sits above the observation deck at Alpine Visitor Center.  After several late spring snows we could only see a wall of white but as the snow began to melt we could make out some scenery beyond the observation deck.  Luckily, the snow melted and Trail Ridge Road opened just two weeks before our trip allowing us to experience the beautiful views from the deck in person.

Alpine Visitor Center Sign

 From the observation deck we were able to see alpine tundra, Fall River Road (still closed due to snow melts) and the Fall River Cirque (hollowed area formed by glacier erosion).  From this spot we were able to get information to help us complete a geocache we needed for the Across the Divide Geo Tour!

Fall River Cirque

Fall River Road

Ponds created by snow melts

The visitor center offers more than extraordinary views.  It houses the only restaurant in RMNP, a bookstore, gift shop, snack bar and restrooms.

Its not a fourteener but you can take a short hike up to 12,005 feet from the visitor center

DESTINATION: Milner's Pass and Lake Irene, RMNP, Colorado

Leaving Fairview Curve Overlook we followed Trail Ridge Road to the north where we hoped to stop at Milner Pass and hike a portion of the Milner Pass Trail.  (This trail starts at the Poudre Lake Trailhead and continues all the way to the Alpine Visitor's Center with a round trip distance of 8.2 miles.) 

Continental Divide at Milner Pass
When we arrived at the Milner Pass parking area it was congested with tourist studying the Continental Divide sign and taking pictures of elk feeding near Lake Poudre (ok we took a picture, also).  Since we couldn't find a parking spot we decided to move back down Trail Ridge Road and complete a short hike around lake Irene.

Elk feeding at Poudre Lake

Hiking Lake Irene turned out to be most fortuitous!  As we looped around the lake to complete the trail we looked up to the surprise view of a life time. 

Lake Irene

Can you spot the moose?

Right in the middle of the trail was a female moose and her calf.  This was the first time we had seen a moose anywhere in RMNP. 

Mother moose

Mother moose in foreground, calf in background

We were warned not to get between a mother moose and her calf so we skirted around the side of her and went through the trees.  Using our telephoto lens we were able to capture some amazing photos of the big girl and her sweet baby.

Happy moose viewing hikers!

DESTINATION: Fairview Curve Overlook, RMNP, Colorado

As we left the Holzwarth Historic Site we continued north on Trail Ridge Road.  On what seems like an endless road of climbs and switchbacks we came upon the Fairview Curve Overlook. 

Panoramic view of the Kawuneeche Valley from the top of Fairview Curve Overlook
This outlook sits nearly 1,000 feet above the Kawuneeche Valley and offers more breathtaking  views of the Never Summer Mountains and the meandering Colorado River as it begins its flow to the Pacific Ocean. 
Kawuneeche Valley
At the overlook we met a very friendly, and talkative, park ranger volunteer that offered to take our picture.
Just us with the Never Summer Mountains behind us!