Trip Report: Colorado 2004


Last week I spent a week in Colorado.  Attatched is a trip report of the hikes and mt. biking I did while there.  If any of you have never been to CO I suggest going it is a GREAT place for anything outdoors!


Robby Flowers

<<Colorado Trip 2004.doc>>


For the second year in a row Natalie’s family decided to visit Keystone Colorado for their annual family vacation.  With 26 people going this year it was a bit of undertaking organizing everything for the trip.  With two condos reserved in Keystone Natalie, her parents and I set out from Evansville for St. Louis (where we would meet up with the rest of the family) on Friday July 30th at about 6:00.  Once at her grandparents house Natalie and I took her grandfathers truck (we were driving it to Colorado for him) and headed to her Aunt and Uncle’s (Jim and Yevette) for the night.  Saturday at 8:30am we departed St. Louis bound for Colby, Kansas.  Rather than trying to caravan everyone together we all just decided to caravan with 1 other car and agreed to meet at the hotel in Colby sometime Saturday night (we drove with Jim, Yevette, their two kids, and Natalie’s sister).  After many hours of sunflower fields in Kansas we arrived in Colby around 6… not bad for having a 5 year old and a 9 year old with us.   After a good meal and some playing in the pool with the kids we headed to bed for our 10am departure.  With only about a 5-hour drive ahead of us to Keystone and not being able to get into the condo till 4pm (and you lose an hour) we decided to take our time and go over Loveland pass to keystone.  Just off of I-70 and right on the way it was a magnificent stop.  Other than grandpa’s Ford pick up didn’t like the high altitude (35mph full throttle) the view of the continental divide was Magnificent.  Once in keystone Natalie and I decided to do some last minute shopping in Dillon and Frisco for some bike shorts and gloves for her, since the next day we planned on going biking.


The start of Monday was pretty slow due to Grandma wanting to get a family picture next to one of the mountain streams in Keystone at 11am.  So I started the day off with some trout fishing…not much luck, had 1 nice size on the line then the line broke.  By the time we had all 26 of us rounded up and the picture taken it was 12:30.  After that about 7 of us headed over to rent some mountain bikes to do some downhill biking on the ski slopes of Keystone (in the summer the resorts make awesome single track trails down the ski slopes).  Finally after renting the bikes and getting our lift tickets to the top we were ready…..but the lovely Colorado weather wasn’t.  As many of you know the weather after 12 noon in CO. is VERY unpredictable.  As the heavens unleashed a storm they closed the ski lift to the top down.  Already being wet and having paid for the bike we decided to get a refund on the lift tickets and just ride around some single track trails in the valley while it was raining in hopes the rain would stop and we could go up on the mountain.  After about a half hour the girls all decided the rain was too cold and head back to the cabin.  Jim, Matt, and I decided to try one more trail.  By the time we were done with the 3-mile out and back trail the rain had subsided and were excited to find out the ski lift to the top would be opening back up in a few minutes.  So with new lift tickets in hand we headed to the top of the mountain for some downhill action.  Since it was the first run down the mountain this year we decided on a combination of green and blue trails to ride (rated: dirt road, green, blue, black diamond, and double black diamond…easiest to hardest).  With just the three of us we were able to ride fairly fast and got down in about 35minutes (there are 6+ miles to cover…depending on which trails you take down).  The wait and the riding in the rain was well worth it and we had a blast… and the girls were all jealous we got to go down the mountain ;).  That evening Natalie’s mom and sister went to the grocery and got lunch meat and snack for the week and we all just ate dinner at the condo.

TUESDAY AUGUST 1, 2004- Silver Mine/Train Ride

Tuesday was designated as the ‘family’ day.  Grandma and Grandpa had decided we would all go on a train ride to an old silver mine.  Since I work for a mine construction company I wasn’t to thrilled about going to see something I get to see for free at work, but it did turn out to be pretty neat well worth the trip.  The train ride started at Silver Plume, Co (about a half hour east of keystone) and went for about 2 miles to the Lebanon Silver Mine.  The Colorado Historical Society maintained the mine and gave the tours.  Having had some mining background I was really impressed at accurate the information given was and how it was not a perfectly ‘clean’ environment (unlike a real mine) just for tourist…it was wet and dirty just like the real thing!  The mine contained a 130-year-old air operated hoist and muck bucket (bucket for raising/lowering silver/dirt in and out of lower levels in a mine).  This was particularly interesting to me since hoists are the electrical division’s main focus at work (the division I work in).  After the mine the train continued on to George Town and then back to Silver Plume to drop us off.  After indulging in a Pizza Hut buffet we went shopping at some of the outdoor stores around town (outdoor stores are EVERYWHERE!!! A POCER’s dream land)  Dinner that night was at a Mexican restaurant next door to the condo.  Amazing food and the BEST strawberry margaritas I have had…and I had plenty J

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 2, 2004- Kayaking and Trout Fishing

Wednesday was kind of a free for all.  There were groups of people doing just about everything.  There was group going white water rafting on the Colorado (only a class 3 due to small kids going), a group of hikers hiking 3 14k foot peaks (democrat and 2 others on the same route, not sure of the other two names), and a group shopping in Keystone village.  Natalie and I decided to go flat water kayaking on our own to a small island in Dillon Lake for a picnic lunch. The two-hour kayak trip was great with magnificent views, peace and quite, and a much needed break from everything else.  That afternoon we were suppose to meet the white water rafting group in Breckenridge for lunch, sightseeing, and dinner.  However, once we got to Breckenridge Jim and Natalie’s cousin convinced me to go fishing instead (much better than spending money in tourist shops around Breckenridge).  So I spent the afternoon fishing with no luck at all (which is pretty much norm since I only fish about once a year and really don’t care to that much).  That evening we went to the DAM BREWRY for dinner located next to the Dillon Lake dam.  It reminded me a lot of the LBC with about 8 different micro brews, 4 of which I tried J were pretty good.  Wednesday night I spent the night working on my project for Thursday’s downhill biking expedition…….a HEAD CAM for my helmet.  Just having bought a digital camcorder at the beginning of the summer I decided it would be awesome to have some footage of going down the mountain.  So, I found an upholstery shop to give me some scrap foam, a plastic trail mix container that my camera fit in, and a roll of duct tape.  Armed with mans best friend (duct tape) I managed to strap my video camera to my helmet and the stage was set for Thursday’s expedition!

THURSDAY AUGUST 3, 2004- Mt. Biking

With the anticipation of making the next summer block buster and my debut as an extreme down hill biker (yeah right) ahead of me we set out at 8:30 to get our bikes and lift tickets and get on the mountain for several runs before the afternoon storms set in.  The filming started out great as the 8 of us headed down the mountain.  Having several non-bikers with us and trying to wear what felt like several extra pounds of camera on my head we opted for the much easier green trails all the way down.  After about 30 minutes the extra weight was really starting to become uncomfortable on my sun burnt forehead and neck.  Between 8 people, a couple crashes (1 of which was me…with the camera recording J) and stopping off and on it took us over an hour to get down the mountain.  At the bottom I met Natalie’s sister to exchange helmets for the next run and pre view the video.  Unfortunately the majority of the film footage is simply of the ground just in front of the front tire; due to having the camera pointed downward to much, but out of 44min of footage I hope to make about a 4 min clip of the better parts and put on the websites.  For the second run down the mountain it was just the guys and we opted for the much more difficult trails…. 1 green, 1 blue, 1 black diamond, and even 1 double black diamond (bad mistake).  The ride was awesome and we made awesome time coming down the harder trails only stopping a few times to catch our breath….until the double black diamond trail.  After conquering the black diamond trail we figured the double couldn’t be that much more difficult, YEAH RIGHT! I think we walked our bikes more than ride them.  This trail was unbelievable; it had some of the sickest drops, turns, bridges and other obstacles I’ve seen.  It was still fun and other than the rain that started (it was afternoon by now of course) the ride down was a blast.  If you are ever in Colorado and even if you don’t like biking you should still give down hill a try, the green trails are easy enough for even the clumsiest of riders, and I have yet to find anyone who didn’t have a good time.

Friday August 4, 2004- Climbing Mt. Elbert, CO’s highest peak

With a hurt knee from the previous day’s mountain biking escapade I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go with Arron and Vanessa to climb Mt. Elbert (CO’s highest peak and the 2nd highest in the lower 48 states at 14,433).  However, not always is there a chance to climb a high point so I took 4 Aleve painkillers and decided to go.  We set out from the condo at 5:00 for the ~40min drive to the trailhead just outside of Leadville, CO.  After arriving and getting stuff situated we got on the trail at 6:15am (about 15-20min later than we wanted).  We took to the North route up the mountain (1 of 3 routes, and the most used) that left out of the Halfmoon campground.  With the trail head at ~9,900 feet we had about 4,500 feet of vertical climb and 8.5 miles to conquer in the recommended 8hrs need to do the climb.  Just after setting out we crossed a small bridge and stream and I thought ‘hey this is going to be a pretty nice hike’.  I was wrong, after the stream there wasn’t much to see other than the pine trees that were gone after 11,900’, emerald lake at about 13,000’ (which was called Emerald because it looked like a green sludge pond…not very pretty), and millions of rocks.  Don’t get me wrong it was still well worth it and the views of the valley and surrounding mountains were beautiful.  With Vanessa and I having been in CO for nearly a week at about 9,000’ in Keystone we were doing pretty good up to about 12,000’.  Aaron, however, had only been in CO since Thursday so he wasn’t in as good a shape for the first leg of the trail.  By the time we had hit tree line Aaron was getting use to the thin air and starting to feel much better.  The pain really started to set in for Aaron and I around 13,000’ (Vanessa on the other hand is in excellent shape and had been running every night back in Keystone…she didn’t have any trouble all the way up).  The going was slow, or as Aaron I say we just decided to stop often and enjoy the scenery J.   With imposing clouds in the distance during the whole ascent we were pushed to keep moving at a decent rate the whole climb.  The biggest disappointment of the hike is the not one, two or even three but FOUR false summits.  Finally, after 3hrs 45min we made it to the summit of Mt. Elbert!  Surprisingly the summit was actually warmer than about a thousand feet below on the trail.  We spent about a half hour on the summit talking, eating, signing the registry, and taking pictures (I was disappointed to not find the USGS geological marker indicating the highest point in CO…it may have been buried under some rocks the registry was on).  Despite the clouds all around us the views were still great (it seamed as if Elbert was the only peak not in the clouds).  The trip down was by far easier on the lungs than the trip up the mountain.  The legs and toes were another story.  With several parts of the climb exceeding 25 degrees with loose rocks the descent was almost as tricky as the ascent.  Finally, after 6hrs 10min. we arrived back at the parking lot.  Overall I would recommend the hike to just about anybody; if for no other reason the shear bragging rights of having climbed the 2nd highest point in the lower 48 states.  I would make sure to a lot the recommended 8-9hrs if you are not acclimated to the altitude or not in fairly good shape.  In general though there is nothing technical about the climb; the trail is highly traveled and mostly free of obstacles.

Saturday August 7th, 2004- Drive Back to St. Louis

We left the magnificent out doors of the Rockies at 6:30am on Saturday to head back to St. Louis.  Other than many boring hours of driving the drive back was pretty much uneventful.  Arrived in St. Louis at about 11pm Saturday night and stayed at Natalie’s aunt and uncle’s house.

Sunday August 8th 2004- Drive back to Evansville

Sunday consisted of going to church with the grandparents then out to eat.  After installing a new motion detector flood light for Natalie’s grandpa we arrived back in Evansville around 5pm.

It was a wonderful trip and if you’ve never been to the Rocky Mountains…. GO NOW!!


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