NORWAY, DAY 1
I didn’t intend to write a travel blog, but it’s 3am (Oslo time), I can’t sleep (jet lag), and I have nothing better to do than put pen to paper…or finger to keyboard, as it were…and share my pain. I was lying awake composing this blog, just to take my mind off the scrumptious looking cinnamon bun I DIDN’T buy in the train station last night…or is it still tonight? Actually, if I had bought the bun, I’d have eaten it before bedtime, and I’d still be thinking of it…with nostalgia.
I almost missed my flight to Oslo. I was killing time in Reykjavik on my laptop, and when I checked the time, it was 10:17. My flight was scheduled to depart at 10:30, so I hastily packed up my computer and rushed to the gate, leaving my power adapter in the outlet where I was sitting. By the time I got to the gangway (outside), there was still a line waiting to board, and then several others fell in line behind me. Gee, I might have had time to go back for my adapter.
Anyway the remainder of that segment of the trip went perfectly, although if I had more time in Reykjavik I might have had a proper breakfast…not just a chocolate chip muffin and coffee. For dinner Thursday evening I had Croque Monsieur at Pour La France at DIA. Apparently, croque monsieur is French for grilled ham and cheese. I washed it down with an $8.50 amber ale, which makes $10 Norwegian beer seem not all that bad. And to top it off, for dinner last night, I had a turkey sub at the Subway (the fast food chain, not the underground railway).
My hotel is at the train station, which made it very convenient to take an express train from the airport. At 98 Kr ($12), the train was a real bargain, since the airport is more than a few miles from Oslo. I love European trains…wish we had more like them in the States. Today we’re off on a great train trip, first from Oslo to Myrdal on the Bergen express. Then we’ll transfer to the Flam (pronounced Flawm) Railway, rated by some as one of the five best in Europe, and by another as the BEST IN THE WORLD (eat your heart out, Jack). I’ll let you know how it stacks up against the Durango & Silverton or the Jungfraujoch.
But let me digress for a moment and tell you about my experience at the Oslo airport. It’s a bit ironic that Trump likes to cite Norway as some paragon of immigration idealism. Well, the Donald would be surprised to learn that as far as the Norwegian government knows, I am not even here. After what seemed like an inordinate delay in baggage claim, I made my way toward the exit…as did everyone else. I didn’t see any signs for immigration or customs until there was a split in the route…people with nothing to declare left, others go right. After snaking down several more corridors, I emerged in the terminal, having just passed a couple of customs agents idly standing in booths that had been roped off from the flow of traffic. I asked a young woman in uniform eating lunch in the terminal where I should go to clear immigration (she might have been a mall security guard for all I knew, but she WAS in uniform after all). She directed me back to the aforementioned agents in the roped-off booths. They seemed confused when I approached, and when I asked whether I needed my passport stamped, they said, “Not if you have nothing to declare.” I was a little disappointed, since us “world travelers” love to get those precious stamps in our passports…much like mileage pins…for bragging rights, y’know.
I’ll have more to say about my hotel room this afternoon, unless of course the train trip is everything it’s touted to be. Stay tuned for Part 2.
CHoS (Cat Herder on Sabbatical)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS HIKES & OTHER ACTIVITIES
Have you ever wondered what the expression “http” means in a URL? Have you ever wondered what a URL is? Do you care? URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator, also known as a web address. And “http” (or sometimes “https”) stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. So, why the Introduction to the Internet 101 class? Because there are still a few of you who don’t seem to appreciate that the bold blue “hypertext” embedded within the Blog actually are links to pdf files, jpeg photos, or website URLs (there’s that term again) which, by clicking on them, launches these files, photos or websites in separate windows. I don’t want to hear from anyone that they didn’t receive a particular file, map, photo, etc., because they failed to click on its link. These documents reside on our website. Links to URLs direct you to resources outside our website. So, let’s get started.
The first three hikes are west of the town of Yampa, enroute from Glenwood to Steamboat. They will be repeated on the way back to Glenwood on Friday, so you can do more than one, if you like. But you won’t receive mileage credit for repeating the same one.
Devils Causeway-Stillwater Loop
Trail begins at the end of the Stillwater Road. Follow the East Fork Trail for ~3/4 mile, where it intersects the Bear River Trail (left). Turn right toward Little Causeway Lake, climbing 1400’ in 2 miles to the Devils Causeway. Cross the Causeway and continue along a counterclockwise loop around the western rim of Bear River Basin with views of Stillwater Reservoir to the east. Descend from the western rim into the basin and follow the Bear River Trail back to the East Fork trailhead, 11 miles total.
Mandall Pass Loop
This is the “Causeway optional” alternative to the Stillwater Loop. Drop vehicle(s) at the Mandall Creek TH to shuttle drivers back up to the Stillwater TH. Then continue with the rest of the vehicles to the same TH as above and follow the same directions to the Causeway. The Mandall Pass loop continues north and east from the Causeway, and you need not cross it to complete the loop. However, if you’re feeling frisky, feel free to scamper across and back before crossing the Flat Tops, skirting the edge of Mandall Creek Basin to Mandall Pass. Take a peek over the edge of the 600’ tall cliffs that ring Mandall Creek. Descend from the Pass through the Mandall Creek Basin back to the Mandall Creek TH (where you left your shuttle vehicles). An easier alternative to this 12-mile clockwise loop is to start from the lower TH and hike up the Mandall Creek Trail to Slide Mandall Lake (3 miles one way, 900′) and/or Black Mandall Lake (3.7 miles one way, 1000’). Depending upon the weather, any of the Causeway hikes could be truncated to avoid exposure to lightning on the Flat Tops.
Shares the same TH as the two Causeway hikes, but diverges to the south, across the dam of Stillwater Reservoir on the North Derby Trail. Climb 1000’ in 2 miles to an unnamed pass before descending 500’ in 2 additional miles to a pair of alpine lakes, Hooper and Keener. Return the same way or bushwhack up to the pass via a “shortcut”. Either way it’s 8 miles round trip with 1500’ of gain overall.
I’ve condensed the remaining Tu-Th schedule to eliminate duplication and ensure that every hike has a leader. There will be only one start time for Upper Fish Creek Falls (7:00). For some, this will be your destination (2.5 miles). For others, we will continue on to Long Lake (6.5 miles). I will lead a Three Island Lake/South Fork combination on Thursday. Or, if you prefer, you can take the South Fork Trail as a stand-alone hike on Tuesday. There will be no stand-alone Three Island Lake hike unless someone volunteers to lead it. For further details, see hike descriptions below. Most, if not all, hikes will depart from the Holiday Inn parking lot at 7:00 for two reasons: to avoid crowds at the THs, and to avoid afternoon thunder.
To reach the Circle, drive west on US 40 through downtown Steamboat Springs and turn right on Elk River Road (at the sign to Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake State Parks). Follow the Elk River Road to Glen Eden and bear right, continuing to follow the Elk River upstream toward its headwaters. Slavonia is the TH at the end of the road, where you’ll find two trails, Gilpin Creek and Gold Creek, which lead to two lakes, Gilpin Lake and Gold Creek Lake, respectively. A trail across a low pass connects the two lakes to create the “circle” (difficult 11 mi, 2400’). There will be two loop hikes, one clockwise and one counterclockwise, in hopes of keeping both groups under the legal limit of 15 hikers each. Regardless of which direction you loopers take, you’ll see the same scenery…and it’s gorgeous. Hikers who wish to hike only to Gilpin Lake (moderate 10 miles round-trip, 1900’) should take the clockwise loop. Hikers who wish to hike only to Gold Creek Lake (easy 6 miles round-trip, 1100’) should accompany the counterclockwise group. All hikes start and end at the same TH.
South Fork Elk River
This easy 5-mile trail is west of Slavonia on a side road just off the Elk River Road. Drop a shuttle vehicle at the lower (South Fork) TH if you wish to do it as a one-way, top-down 5-mile (-700’) hike from the upper (Burn Ridge) TH. Or you can hike the South Fork round-trip from the lower TH (10 mi, 700’).
Three Island Lake
This moderate to difficult hike can stand alone or can be done in conjunction with the South Fork Trail. It has two THs, the lower one is 1¼ road-miles below the Burn Ridge TH, and the upper TH is 1½ road-miles above the Burn Ridge TH. From the lower TH at 8200’ elevation it’s a moderate 8-mile round-trip hike to the Three Island Lake (1700’ gain) or a more difficult 14-mile round-trip trek to the pass (2800’ gain). From the upper TH subtract 2 miles round-trip and 300’ from each of those totals.
Mad Creek Loop
Mad Creek is 5 miles north of US 40 on Elk River Road. Think of this easy loop as an inverted lollipop, with a 5-mile half-day sucker (1000’) at the bottom, and a 2.5-mile stick at the top (10 miles round-trip, 1600’, for both the sucker and the stick). A slightly easier option is to hike up and back on the same trail (up to 9 miles round-trip, 1000’). For a four-photo gallery, click HERE.
Lower/Upper Fish Creek Falls/Long Lake
With our higher than normal snowpack this year, these falls should be roaring. Lower Fish Creek Falls can be viewed a short distance from the parking lot or hike a little farther to the footbridge for a better view. Upper Fish Creek Falls is more of a commitment, ascending 1400’ in 2.5 miles. For no extra cost…except calories and shoe leather…continue to ascend another 1000’ to Long Lake (6.5 miles one-way) and return the same way. The Mount Werner Loop option has been canceled due to gondola construction in the ski area.
This trail, almost entirely within the Sarvis Creek Wilderness, is south of Steamboat. This will be a one-way, top-down hike beginning at the eastern end and descending 2000’ in 12 miles to the western TH. The eastern TH is accessible by driving ~12 miles south from Rabbit Ears Pass on Routt County Road 19. The evening prior to the hike, one or more vehicles will be dropped off at the western TH near Stagecoach Reservoir. This is a long car shuttle, and the hike will be even more challenging, with dense forest, blown-down timber, and numerous wet stream crossings. Route-finding can be difficult, so a small group of hardy hikers should stay together to avoid anyone getting lost or hurt.
Yampa Core Trail
This is a hike and bike trail that runs 6 miles along the Yampa River from just south of the Holiday Inn to the skateboard park west of town. There are numerous other access points along the way. Access from the Holiday Inn is best done out the back of the hotel toward Walton Creek. There is an underpass under US 40 at Walton Creek, eliminating a hazardous crossing of the busy highway. There are several diversions along the way, including wildlife viewing areas and a Botanic Park. And, of course, there’s always shopping downtown, ladies (oops, my misogynistic roots are showing). This is the easiest of the easy hikes for you light-duty hikers, ladies…and gentlemen [nice save]. It also can be an alternative hike for the rest of us in case of inclement weather…it’s paved.
In addition to the Botanic Park…and shopping…there’s tubing on the Yampa River (tubes available to rent), bicycling (BYOB), and, lest we forget, the feature for which Steamboat Springs was named…its hot springs. Though it no longer chugs like a Steamboat, Old Town Hot Springs can still be found on the north side of US 40 at the east end of downtown Steamboat. Looks like they’ve made some improvements since the last time I was there, so you might want to check it out. It’s easy to get around town on the FREE BUS. But if you prefer something more rustic, be sure visit Strawberry Park Hot Springs, out in the boondocks north of town. Be advised, however, that after dark it’s “swimsuit optional”. And I intend to exercise my option to wear one…and I hope you do too (no offense). And for you gourmets…or is it gourmands…there are many fine restaurants around town to sample.
See you in Steamboat!
It’s always something…parts II, III & MMXIX
Is it me, or do we always seem to suffer some “act of god” that tosses a spanner into the works, where “spanner” is Brit-speak for monkey wrench, and “works”, in this case, is our hiking schedule? Last year it was wildfires, delaying one hike twice and cancelling three others (all of which are back on this year’s schedule, including our next two). This year’s challenges to date have been almost diametrically opposite from our drier-than-normal conditions of last year…deep snow and high water. Though flows have peaked, they are ramping down at an incredibly slow pace. And there’s still lots of snow in portions the high country. Not complaining, mind you…just observing.
But our greatest challenges this year may, in fact, be due to acts of Man (the gender-neutral version…like “one small step for Man”), rather than those of mother nature or deity of your choice. Here’s a short list of roadblocks (literal and otherwise) on our immediate horizon:
Colorado River Bridge (West Glenwood at “The Wave” whitewater park): Closed for repaving July 19-20 (I found this out the hard way…on the way to Grand Junction yesterday). Shouldn’t affect our schedule, as long as they finish today as expected. Our next hike in that direction will be July 24 (Blair Mountain).
Two Rivers Road/Midland intersection (Basalt): Will be closed for repaving beginning Monday July 22. Guess where we’re heading Monday July 22. You’ve got it…Two Rivers Road to Midland. In fact, the next two Monday hikes will be up the Frying Pan River. Detour is possible via Midland Spur.
Sunlight (aka 27th Street) Bridge: The first of two lengthy bridge closures is slated to begin at 7pm on Thursday July 25 and end by 6am on Monday July 29 to enable installation of the pedestrian bridge. This would affect only those of us who live west of the Roaring Fork. However, if they adhere to the construction schedule and reopen by 6am, it should not impact our July 29 hike. A second closure will occur in “late summer” when the existing bridge will be removed and a new one slides into its place…THIS I’ve got to see. This 84-hour closure should follow the same Thu PM to Mon AM schedule.
Thunderhead Gondola (Steamboat Springs): Closed. It’s being replaced with a new one…of course it is. So, our Long Lake/Mount Werner Loop hike that was intended to finish with a gondola ride down the mountain will not happen as originally planned. Instead, we will hike to Long Lake out and back from Lower Fish Creek Falls parking lot.
And the final “act of Man” (this man) potentially will affect quite a few of our hikes. Whether or not you’re aware of it, Wilderness Areas impose group-size limits, and ours frequently violate them. We try to adhere too the spirit, if not the letter, of the law by breaking our groups into smaller subgroups. But as a backcountry ranger for the Forest Conservancy, it would be hypocritical of me to exceed the limits to which I insist other groups adhere. With the exception of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, all Wilderness Areas in Colorado require group sizes to be no more than 15 people. You may have heard the expression “25 heartbeats” as it relates to group sizes, but that applies to both people and animals (livestock and pets). The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness has even more stringent limits (10 people). I’ve listed the Wilderness Areas below and hikes scheduled there through the remainder of the season:
Holy Cross (Tellurium Lake 7/22, Cross Creek 8/5, Ironedge Loop/Mystic Island Lake 8/14
Flat Tops (Blair Mountain 7/24, Devils Causeway, Hooper/Keener Lakes 8/5, 8/9)
Hunter-Frying Pan (South Fork Pass 7/29)
Mount Zirkel (Zirkel Circle 8/6, Three Island Lake 8/8)
Sarvis Creek (Sarvis Creek 8/8)
Maroon Bells-Snowmass (Capitol Lake 8/12, Cathedral Lake/Electric Pass 8/19, Snowmass Lake 8/28)
Mount Massive (North Fork Lake Creek 9/16)
Collegiate Peaks (Mount Yale 9/16)
Sangre de Cristo (Rito Alto Lake 9/19)
For overnight trips, where more than one hike is scheduled each day, we can disperse our hikers more easily among several areas. More arduous hikes, like Snowmass Lake, likely will attract fewer hikers than easier/more popular hikes, like Cathedral Lake. So, the latter is more likely to exceed the maximum group size. Depending upon the level of interest, it may be necessary to schedule a second departure time so that our groups each meet the group-size limit. More on that later as the situation requires.
We are 11 hike-days into our 2019 season, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to recap the year so far. We have posted the mileage totals through Wednesday, June 12, and a couple of items caught my attention. First, our “wonks” are outdoing themselves this year, with Pat Cima, our cajoler in chief, leading the way with 102.5 miles, barely edging out Donna and Bruce with 102 each. All three, along with Kathy Kline, are the “sole survivors” (double entendre intended) in the race for the coveted gold star. For those of you unfamiliar with the significance of the gold star, it is awarded each year to anyone who completes every hike (i.e., at least one hike every hike-day), and these four are 11 for 11…or 44 for 44…so far. There have only been roughly a half dozen gold stars awarded in the history of the club (hence the coveting).
Secondly, despite what you may…or may not…have heard, everyone who hiked on Monday, June 10, received mileage credit, regardless of which route they took. As it turns out, the southern segment of the RR grade is a beautiful hike, partially wooded with magnificent views of Sopris. And there were no closures, save for one gate, which was neither locked nor posted private property. Those of you who missed it, missed out. And for those who insisted that it was part of the Spring Gulch Nordic Ski Area, NOT the RR grade, I have some news for you: you were half right. While it is part of the ski area (Finlandia, apparently), it also is the RR grade. So, next time, listen to your leader. He (or she) might actually know something that you don’t (chances are highly likely that he/she does). If you think you can do a better job, I invite you to try…seriously please sign up to lead a hike or two, so you too can be second-guessed by the nattering nabobs of negativism (look at me… quoting Spiro Agnew).
And speaking of signing up to lead, there is a vacancy on our schedule, because Bruce and Donna are conflicted out: Fourmile Park/Road Gulch on July 15. Actually, there are quite a few vacancies beginning with the Steamboat trip in August. So, here’s a golden opportunity for you Monday morning quarterbacks to get off your couches and onto the field of play. No experience necessary…much like the aforementioned Monday AM QB. Chips, dips and pizza rolls optional.
Now I’d like to switch hats, metaphorically speaking, from that of scolding parent to one of “my-kid’s-an-honor-student” (and yours isn’t…neener, neener) parent. A few weeks back we hiked Bellyache Ridge, a multiple-use trail complex outside Eagle. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have much competition for such a trail on a weekday. But when I scheduled it, I didn’t appreciate that it fell on Memorial Day. So, we had to share the trail with a “few” mountain bikers. Most of them were courteous, but there were a few downhill bombers with little regard for other trail users. You may have seen one of these signs at other multiple-use trailheads, where hikers are required to yield to horses, and bikers are supposed to yield to both horses and hikers. Well, I follow the same rule here as I do when crossing a busy street. I don’t step off a curb at a crosswalk and assume that the vehicle barreling down the road is going to stop. Regardless of what the law says regarding pedestrians having the right-of-way in crosswalks, in a contest between a 165-pound man (moi) and a 2-ton SUV, always bet on the SUV. The same holds true for bikes. In a collision, a hiker will suffer far greater damage than the bike rider, especially when the biker is 20, and the hiker is 70. Another reason…other than personal safety…to yield to bikers is that it’s the courteous thing to do, whether they are careening downhill or grinding slowly up a steep one. You bike riders know what I’m talking about. If a rider has to slow down or stop to avoid you while climbing a steep grade, he or she may not be able to start again, especially on a rocky single-track trail. I think we all acquitted ourselves admirably in that regard. And to John Burg’s credit, he had us walk against the flow of biker traffic, so we could better anticipate when we needed to step off the trail to let bikers pass.
Upcoming overnight trips
In August (5-9 to be exact), we’re heading to Steamboat Springs…our first visit there since 2010. I planned that trip, and I’m afraid I was a bit of an overachiever on that one, as my performance is largely responsible for my current situation…cat herder in chief for life. You know what they say, “Don’t be irreplaceable in your current job, or you can never be promoted.” But the only step-up from this job would be a step-down.
I shouldn’t have to “sell” Steamboat Springs…it should speak for itself. It’s not just famous for its Champagne Powder ™ (yes, it’s trademarked). There are wonderful trails in the (Mount) Zirkel Wilderness, not the least of which is the “Zirkel Circle”, an 11-mile loop we hiked back in 2010…before I knew it was called the Zirkel Circle. It’s habitat to a rare population of white monkshood and one of the best hikes in Colorado…certainly worth doing again. We’ll also revisit Fish Creek Falls (Lower and Upper), with an option to loop back to Steamboat via Mount Werner and the Thunderhead Gondola.
But first we’ll be taking a stroll across the Devils Causeway on our way to Steamboat. Acrophobes may choose to view it from the security of its eastern approach. It was on last year’s schedule as a day hike, but I opted to postpone it one year to avoid the 200-mile round-trip drive. It’s only a short detour en route to Steamboat. There are several hikes there, so we will revisit it on our way home. Day hikers will take a different hike on Monday (August 5), Cross Creek, off the Tigiwon Road south of Minturn. Last time we hiked it, several of you commented that we should do this one more often…so we are. For details on Steamboat lodging options, check out the “2019 Overnight Trips” file. You remember how to use these bold blue hypertext links, don’t you?
Our final overnighter of the year, Salida (pronounced Sal-EYE-duh by Coloradoans), will be September 16-20. It should be a good trip, with lots of new terrain to visit. For you peak baggers, there are 4-5 possible 14ers to climb in the area, including Shavano/Tabeguache, Antero, Yale & Princeton. You may choose to spent Sunday night (9/15) in Buena Vista (pronounced B-you-nuh Vista aka B-you-nee by Coloradoans…don’t get me started), so you can get an early departure on one of the Collegiate Peaks on Monday. But I have my eyes on an area in the Sangre de Cristos, Rito Alto, that’s intrigued me for many years…before I moved to Colorado, in fact. For those of us who don’t plan to bag a 14er on Monday, we’ll be hiking the North Fork of Lake Creek (just east of Independence Pass). This will also serve as a day hike for those of you who won’t be joining us in Salida.
The rest of 2019 Hiking Schedule can be found by clicking the link to the left or by visiting the Hikers’ Corner page on this website. In addition, you can find the Explanatory Notes, and Hiking Protocols in the same location.