Sunday, December 25, 2011

Quiet Times

 Since Mr. Keith hurt his back and had surgery, we've stuck very close to home and led the quiet life. There have been no days off to take sight-seeing trips in our beautiful surroundings, so I've snapped photos where I can. Here is our itty bitty Christmas tree, complete with nativity scene, gifts from daughters, a snowman, and a festive bear.

 The workamping lifestyle is one of great fun and adventure for us, the only down-side being so far away from family. God has blessed us in this place with the nicest people in the world, it seems. There is a close knit country concern for neighbors and folks in need, which we are during the holidays! A co-worker invited us to join her family for a Christmas Eve dinner, a true blessing for two old coots without our own family nearby. On the way there, a 12 mile drive out on the prairie, we came across these buffalo foraging for food in the snow. I had to stop and get photos! These critters are raised on a ranch near Byers, Colorado. We'd seen them before, but not up close, and not posing so picturesquely in the snow.

 These new friends were our wonderful hosts for Christmas Eve dinner, the Gates, a caring couple with big hearts and an open home. They made us feel so included.

 Part of the afternoon's fun, props for funny photos!

 Christmas Day, another quiet time at home. I took a walk around the campground in the snow, and was intrigued by these semi-symetrical tracks, seeming to point towards the two trees in the background. Gotta take pleasure in small things!

I let myself into the closed office-store to check on our campground pet, Callie. (How many calico cats have you seen who are named Callie?) She wanted to go outside but wasn't so sure when she felt the cold air. I'll go back later to let her in again.

So passes another calm day while Mr. Keith recuperates a little more. Back to work tomorrow for me!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

This 'n' That

 Our two cats, Montana and Mia, are our traveling companions. They are like our kids, providing lots of love and amusement with their antics. Montie, our longhaired black kitty, usually sleeps in this shoebox which is just big enough for him, but when Mia, our tortie, decided to curl up in there, he had to join her. What a tight fit!

 I am a very amateur birdwatcher. The other day I was "watching" the doves that live in our KOA campground when I spotted this bird, about the same size as the doves, pecking his way up the tree outside our RV. I snapped a couple of photos, then went to the Peterson Bird I.D. app on my iPad and discovered he is a red-shafted northern flicker. Very pretty! Click to enlarge the photo, and you will see the red stripes near his beak.

Mr. Keith has been laid up with a bad back for awhile — that's why we haven't taken any trips to blog about lately. John, age 5, who lives in a 5th wheel near to us with his mom and dad, heard about Keith's illness, so he colored these pictures as a gift. We were so touched when he shyly presented them to Keith, ending his visit with a hug. He is a special little guy, so thoughtful and polite. His gift will remain on our wall for quite awhile! We are thankful to God for these small pleasures of life — cats, birds, kids — and hope our eyes will always be open to His gifts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Few Thoughts

Mr. Keith and I took a drive last week, making a circle from Strasburg to Limon, then back west through Kiowa where we had lunch, and north to Strasburg again. I always have my camera in case we see something picture-worthy. About 20 miles from home we came across a group of horses and mules lining the fence along the road.
This mule, standing stubbornly behind the "No Trespassing" sign, reminded me of some people who reject the company and support of others. Maybe I'm like that sometimes, chalking it up to shyness, or to not wanting to bother anyone with my problems.

Or, maybe I'll get with a few friends of like mind and share with them.

Better yet, I want to include all those around me, knowing each one has great value in God's eyes, so should have importance to me, too. It's a big pasture out there, and we need each other for company, for support, for fun, for joy, and just because God's greatest commandment is that we should love Him and then love our neighbor as ourselves. Just a few thoughts on a pleasant day's drive.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Early Morning on the Prairie

  Since we were up and dressed early this morning we made a run to the gas station. On the way home we watched this gorgeous sunrise changing minute by minute.

 Another treat! A buck with a nice rack was watching us pass. We stopped, he stayed, and when I said "good morning" to him he wagged his tail and raised his head a little higher. He made no attempt to run away!

There are many scenes like this across the prairie, old windmills no longer in use. Some are, though. I liked this picture, with the trees having just lost their leaves. It looks lonely there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Denver Zoo, Repeat

 Mr. Keith and I set out to go to the City Park in downtown Denver, planning to decide what to do when we got there. The Zoo won out! It's a wonderful place, huge, very well designed, and the critters are well taken care of and displayed. There are lots of benches, big trees, and goodies to eat and souvenirs to buy. We were there early, so avoided the crowds. Mostly we saw moms with preschoolers and strollers. I'm not posting many photos of the animals, just a couple that we didn't get before. Above you see a tapir. He was sleeping in the sun last time we saw him. Visiting the Zoo first thing in the morning seems to be best, because the animals are more active.

 This beautiful animal is an Okapi. He looks like a cross between a zebra and an antelope!

 The penguins were the highlight of our visit. I copied this from the Zoo website.
"Going, Going, Gone? - The African penguin population has been reduced drastically in the past century and currently only about 120,000 birds remain. The decline in the population was due to several factors including harvesting of eggs, reduction in the penguin’s food, removal of guano used by the penguins for burrowing sites and oil pollution from oil tankers. The Denver Zoo has participated in efforts to rescue penguins affected by oil spills."
 These little guys are so much fun to watch. They are comical, and have quite the personalities. This African species makes a sound like a donkey, so have earned the name "Jackass Penguins".

 We were lucky to be there at feeding time. The caretaker took a lot of time and patience to make sure each penguin got his or her fair share of little fishes. He said they are named and each one knows his name! He called one "Wilson", who turned out to be a female. Some took the fishes right out of the bucket and others waited to be hand-fed. Watching this was truly entertaining and educational for us.

After the Zoo it was time for us humans to be fed. We headed down to the old Lowry Air Force Base, which has been remodeled and turned into a trendy business area with shops and restaurants. Last season we ate at the Pei Wei Asian Diner so decided to try it again. This is Mandarin Kung Pao, a delicious dish that I couldn't wait to dive into! Mr. Keith had Pad Thai with shrimp. It's a wonderful place to eat and we will return. We still want to visit the Air and Space Museum, located at Lowry, so that will be followed by another great meal at the Pei Wei!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Random Ride

 I love the contrast between this freshly planted field of winter wheat, I'm guessing, and the just-bailed hay right next to it. This scene is immediately at the edge of Strasburg. There are still fields of sunflowers around at this time of year, too, very dried up and awaiting harvest. Today we passed fields that were being plowed and disced, being readied for who knows what crop.
 We see an abundance of horses on every country drive we take. I liked these spotted ponies, who seemed to be interested in us, too. Ponies and prairie dogs seem to go together! We stopped to watch the doggies today, but they scampered away and wouldn't come back as long as we were there. It would take a lot of patience and waiting to assure them we are harmless.
The prairie is flat and treeless almost everywhere, except where there is a dry creek bed. We've never seen water in these beds, but there are always lush trees growing for miles along them. Maybe there is water under the surface. Notice the sign warning of possible high water. I wonder when that happens? We enjoyed our random ride in the country today.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Colorful Colorado!

I've seen many a photo of the gorgeous autumn leaves in the mountains of Colorado, but now I can say I've seen it for real! We set out early one morning hoping that we weren't too late for the best display.  We headed northwest to Estes Park, planning on taking the Peak to Peak Highway south through the mountains, and then back across Denver. Last March when we first visited Estes Park we were surprised to find a large elk herd on the grounds of the historic Stanley Hotel. They were calm and unafraid of the many tourists taking their picture. This time we found them at the entrance to town at a park on the shores of Lake Estes. We think they are regular residents of the town, and are allowed to go where they will.

There was one huge "daddy" in the group, many females and quite a few youngsters. There were probably 20 or 30 elk altogether in the herd.

This was our first real view of the golden aspens. I like this photo because it looks like molten lava coming down the mountain. We are on the outskirts of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

I wonder how those aspens got up on the top of that hill?

A lovely view of Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak, left and center. Coming from the east approaching the city of Longmont this looks like one huge mountain with 2 points on the top. Closer up we could see that they were two distinct peaks. Longs Peak is in the "Fourteener" club, 14,255 feet, with Mt. Meeker a mere 13,911 feet.

There are lots of horses in Colorado! It would be quite an adventure to be able to ride horseback through the Rockies, getting the views up close and personal.

We came across a little old mining town hidden in a gulch down from the highway. Like many of the old towns in the hills west of Denver, this one once produced tons of gold, and is now ramshackle, a shadow of its former self. We liked the glimpse we had through the aspens. Of course we drove through it, and later read that the town, Ward, had been taken over by hippies! Interesting!
An old log cabin in Ward, surrounded by the beauty we saw everywhere. I didn't notice any other deciduous trees besides the aspens, mixed in with the dark green firs and pines. Their brightness makes the mountains look like they're on fire — a glorious sight, all too soon gone till the next year's autumn celebration of nature! God has shown us His creative awesomeness in this place!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pikes Peak or Bust!

America, the Beautiful!

I don't usually post this many pictures, but this adventure was so awesome I couldn't help it! I hope you will enjoy seeing a tiny portion of what we saw on our trip to the top of Pikes Peak, Americas Mountain. This first view is from near Strasburg, the beginning of our drive south. Pikes Peak stands out farther east than the other peaks in the Rockies.

Colorado Springs is about 80 miles south of Strasburg. Here we are just coming into the city, and this is the view of Pikes Peak from there. The early pioneers used the peak as a landmark on their journey, hence the motto "Pikes Peak or Bust".

At the small town of Cascade, west of Colorado Springs, we got on the Pikes Peak Highway. It cost $12.00 each to enter. There were signs up telling the drivers to use low gears when descending, and Rangers were out and about all the way to assist motorists who might be in trouble. So, being duly warned, we started our ascent up the 19 mile highway to the top. We did have some trouble with our brakes overheating on the way down — had to stop and let them cool.

We had hoped to see some fall colors, and just a few miles up we were rewarded with glowing aspens just beginning their change. 

One of our first stops was this beautiful lake, the Crystal Reservoir. It was the most gorgeous view, with the water outlined by the red shores, and the peak; not to mention the fall colors.

At this point the road began to have many switchbacks, and we knew we were really ascending. Finally we saw this sign, "Timberline", at 12,000 feet. Abruptly the trees stopped and the rest of the journey was rocky and barren, but still beautiful.

In this photo we are looking down on one of the switchbacks, and we could clearly see the abrupt end of the trees, which were mostly bristle cone pines. I kept waiting to see if I would notice the high altitude. We'd had plenty of warnings about that, too.

As we rounded our last sharp turn, we were there! 14,110 feet high! (Click to enlarge to see the sign.) It was a lovely, sunny day with no wind, and just a little snow on top, 39 degrees. There is a gift shop and small restaurant there, as well as several viewpoints with binoculars stationed here and there. It was from this vantage point that Katherine Lee Bates wrote the beloved hymn, "America the Beautiful". We could surely see why she was so inspired. There is an obelisk with the words as a tribute to her. There were lots of tourists at the top, all as awed as we were.

Now, about the altitude. My bag of Cheetos was puffed up so tightly that I thought it would burst. That's how we both felt! Our tummies felt bloated, we were a little dizzy, and breathing was not the easiest. We took deep breaths, and along with that, my heart was thumping. The effects of the altitude were uncomfortable, but we did take time to peruse the gift shop, where I bought a souvenir t-shirt and some postcards, and we ate a donut each which were advertised as being high altitude donuts. (Not very yummy!) I looked over a steep abyss, but Mr. Keith declined, since he was more dizzy than I! Our symptoms did disappear just a couple thousand feet down as we descended.

We took many photos from the top, but here is just one, looking to the east, down at Colorado Springs and probably clear across to the end of Kansas. Who knows how far one could see on a more clear day! The red rocks in the distance are part of the Garden of the Gods, which we visited last winter, another amazing sight.

Just to prove we were actually there!

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Driving the Farmland

Going from heavily forested country filled with lakes and rivers to a land that stretches flat for hundreds of miles can be a shock to our systems. There isn't much to do out here on the prairie except go for rides. All the roads are done in squares and rectangles, some paved, some gravel, some just plain dirt. But today our drive north of our area provided us with some sights pleasing to our eyes. Here is a field of sunflowers, one of many we saw. The petals are pretty much gone, and the sunflower heads are drooping, working hard to produce their seeds. It won't be long till they are harvested.

 We saw cornfields with dried stalks and fields where the corn had been harvested, but this one was still flourishing. I don't know if this is eating corn, or corn for seed, or just what it is used for. The ears were plentiful.

 This field looked as though it was being readied for plowing. We couldn't tell what had been growing here.

Sometimes the plowed acres are just as beautiful as the planted crops, with their varied browns against the blue and clouded sky, stretching forever. It's difficult to imagine the hours and hours the farmer must be out on his tractor, getting his fields ready for the next crop.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Beautiful Prairie

Last year when we came to the prairie east of Denver, it was the end of September. The fields were brown and most flowers were gone. The trees were losing their leaves. We came this year mid-August and were pleased to see a lot of green still around, with wildflowers blooming and trees looking lush. I wanted a photo of the fields of wild sunflowers, and I'd hoped to see some pronghorns, too. On this day we got both! These 5 or 6 critters watched us watching them, then they bounded off through the golden sunflowers. Last winter we did not see a single pronghorn and I had begun to doubt that they were around. Where were they hiding, I wonder? (Click to enlarge the photo so you can see the pronghorns better.)

 A few more miles down the dusty gravel roads we were surprised by this bonus, 20 or 30 antelope, also in the midst of a field of sunflowers. You can get a good idea how flat the prairie is, stretching to the horizon.

 What? Llamas out here on the prairie? I love llamas so I always take photos when I see them. It was a hot day in the 90s, but these guys didn't seem to mind. They weren't seeking the shade near the barn.

One last glimpse, a lone pronghorn. This photo shows different prairie vegetation, lots of prairie grasses and some yucca plants. We have enjoyed the prairie at this stage of summer. Soon it will be back to the browns and tans and naked trees and bushes of winter, also beautiful in its own way.