Tag - Colorado

Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Another Cruel Summer
Bear In the Backyard
Three Months
Climb Ev’ry Mountain
After the Fire
Cruel, Cruel Summer
Ice Castles
Wild Life
Lookout Rock

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Not too long ago we went to see the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.  Philip and I have been to Mesa Verde…a very long time ago, way back before we were married. We were kind of surprised to find out that there are cliff dwellings not to far from us.  It turns out, these particular cliff dwellings were moved from somewhere else and carefully reconstructed in a way that lets visitors climb in and around them.  How fun!

Here’s the family right out front.  I would never have known those cliff dwellings weren’t built right there by the Anasazi if I hadn’t read up on them beforehand.


Right before you get to the actual ruins, you’ll see this Pueblo style building.  It is the museum and gift shop.  I think it’s kind of cute.  The kids liked the museum, especially Boo, who is really into history.  It’s definitely worth stopping in and taking a look.  They’ve got lots of nice displays which help you get a feel for the Anasazi.

cliff dwellings museum

The gift shop is really big! Another reason to stop there first is try to get your kids to forget about all the souvenirs they see and want!  Actually, I really liked the gift shop, though we only bought the usual postcards, magnets and key chains.  One especially cool thing in there was this model of the cliff dwellings built right into the wall.  I wonder if I can get someone to do that in my house?

cliff dwellings gift shop

And being the tasteful, cultural sensitive place that Colorado is, there were fun, appropriate displays like this one.candy headdress

Yeah, no words, really.  Does it make me a bad person that I think this is pretty funny?

Ok, so onward to the cliff dwellings themselves.cliff dwellings inside

These may be somewhat smaller than the ones at Mesa Verde, but you can walk around inside these.

cliff dwellings outside (2)

I think the kids really exploring the cliff dwellings, peering inside window holes and climbing into rooms.  It made the whole experience much more fun than just looking and taking pictures.cliff dwellings outside

I don’t think Pipsqueak cared one way or another.

cliff dwellings outside (3)

If you go – make sure you check their hours, which are seasonal and based on the weather.  Call ahead of time to double check.  Admission is kind of pricey: $9.50 for ages 12 and up, $7.50 for ages 7 and up.  Check out this site for a coupon: Pikes Peak’s  Area Attractions.  They have picnic tables for you to use and you can either bring your own food or buy some there.  We did neither, so I can’t really comment on comfort or food availability or price.  Wear comfy shoes and dress appropriately for the weather!  For more information, you can visit the website here: Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Bear In the Backyard

We are well used to the wildlife here by now.  Still, it is cause for excitement when a bear shows up in our backyard.  We haven’t actually seen *that*, but we know it has happened.  Our current bear friend actually frequents the creek that is behind our house.

This picture shows the top edge of our fence, to get a perspective of where the bear is in relationship to our house.

We’ve been watching this guy all summer.  He was particularly taken with a drain pipe that empties into the creek.  He sits on it, looking cute and thinking his bear thoughts.

Think, think, think. (Picture is a little fuzzy because it was taken through the window screen.)

We’ve seen him a couple of times a week for the last few months.

I’ve had my suspicions that he’s going to take up residence in there for his long winter’s nap.  Bears don’t really hibernate, did you know?  They have a “winter lethargy”.  (Me, I get a summer lethargy.)

I was right.  The children have been watching him tear up the dead grass on the creek bank and carry it back to his cave.  He’s got quite a cozy nest going there.

Here he is a few days ago, trying to decide if he needed just a little more cushioning.

How cool is that?

Three Months

It has been three months since the start of the Waldo Canyon Fire. The kids’s t-shirts say it all.

Community does not burn down.

I am so proud of our town. We’ve been working together to help the families who lost everything. Boo and his Boy Scout troop are collecting holiday items for the free “garage sale” for the families. Everything from decorations to roasting pans to wrapping paper! Air Force Academy cadets provided physical labor in helping to clear vegetation in the burnt neighborhoods. There is an active campaign to patronize the local businesses who had to close for a week or longer during the height of the tourist season.

Meanwhile, efforts have been made to mitigate future damage from flooding. Run-off from the burn scar will pose a real threat for the next few years. We took advantage of the free sandbags offered by the city, just in case the creek behind our house overflows its banks. Helicopters are once again flying over our house. This time they are dropping mulch before the snow comes, to make up for the lack of vegetation that previously prevented landslides.

I’ve said it before, but here it is again. I love my mountains! I’ve grown to love this community. This is our home now. Despite everything, I never want to leave.

Climb Ev’ry Mountain

One of the best things about Colorado is being outside. One of the most popular things to do is climb 14’ers. A 14’er, if you don’t know, is a mountain greater than 14,000 feet above sea level. Pikes Peak is one, and at 14,115 ft, is #30 in the state. Climbing these mountains is not for the weak of heart or mind! You have to be in good physical condition and prepared for the worst weather conditions and ready for all sorts of challenges.

Boo recently had the opportunity to go on a 14’er climb with his Boy Scout troop. Because of scheduling conflicts he had to go without his dad, but the adult leader agreed to bring him because Boo has proven himself to be a Reliable Scout on many other adventures.

I promptly started to worry. I’m his mom, it is part of my job! I had a very serious discussion with him about safety and weather. I warned him that he could expect the mountain to be 30 degrees colder than where we live. A hat, gloves and a fleece jacket would be necessities, even in August! He humored me. I think he even managed to keep from rolling his eyes. Then the planning meeting confirmed all this and more. I, for my part, did not say “I told you so.”

Departure day arrived. When I dropped him off I could tell he was nervous. I reminded him that the first day was just car camping and the climb to the peak was “just” a hike. I don’t know if my words helped him, but I know I felt better! Still, I worried just a bit.

Saturday morning I got a call.

“Hey mom! Can you guess where I am?”

“Well, I have an idea, but why don’t you tell me yourself.”

“I’m on the top of La Plata Peak! 14,336 ft!”

What a great kid! He accomplishes a mighty feat and his first thought is to say “hi, mom!”

When he returned home on Sunday he was full of stories. He said the scenery was absolutely beautiful and that the pictures he took couldn’t do it justice.

He showed me pictures of how steep the terrain was and told me there were four, very discouraging false peaks. One of the scouts got altitude sickness and needed to turn back with his dad. Boo said it was the toughest hike he’d ever been on.

So let’s hear for the boy! Conquering a 14’er at 13 years old.

After the Fire

Some thoughts…

That first morning after we returned, I went outside to look at the hill.  At first it didn’t look different, but then I noticed one patch of green.  Everything else was black.

I took the long way home from my errands on Monday.  As I turned the corner, that same hill came into view, but closer this time.  I gasped aloud because the burnt trees were much more clearly defined.  I went out of my way to drive to the Walgreens we always go to, just a couple of blocks from the first set of burnt houses.  I couldn’t see anything from where I was and I wasn’t brave enough to continue up the hill.  Turns out I was about 1/2 a block away from the first house.  I’d like to go take a look.  Just to see.

I’m overwhelmed at the wonderful community we live in. 32,000 people evacuated and there were only 24 incidents of looting.  We had a zero tolerance ban on fireworks for the 4th, and for the first time since we’ve lived here, no one set anything off in the park across the street from us.

Our church, being in the evacuation zone, was still closed last weekend.  We went to a neighboring church where the pastor had those us from our parish raise their hands.  He told us to mark our checks with the name of our church and he would make sure that our offerings would get to our own church.  We got a free pancake breakfast that morning, too.

Did you know that “America the Beautiful” was written after Katharine Lee Bates saw the view from Pikes Peak?  It is an amazing thing to be living right here, at the foot of those purple mountain majesties.  We love these mountains, no matter what.

The day before we evacuated, Boo came running up from the basement, into the kitchen.  “Do I smell burgers,” he asked hopefully.  “No honey, the mountain is on fire,” I told him.

It is a little disconcerting to be scrolling through my caller ID, looking for a number, and see “911 Event” in the list.  Twice.

Our neighborhood is filled with Thank You Firefighters posters.  My favorite one says, “Thank you, firefighters for saving our homes.  Thank you, friends and family for housing us.”  Well said.


Cruel, Cruel Summer

Record breaking temperatures. Very low humidity. Two years in a row of drought conditions. It is hot and dry here, so this was bound to happen.

We first saw the fire on Saturday, June 23. We were coming home and as soon as we turned toward the mountains we could see smoke. It was noon. We could tell that the fire was close to our house, but not dangerously close. We came home and turned on the TV and got what little news there was. My memory fails me here, but at some point we decided to be ready to evacuate. We talked to the children and they decided that what they wanted to save most was their stuffed animals. We packed those up, as well as all the summer clothes we had in our drawers.

We packed up the car, too. Scrapbooks, luggage, stuffed animals, litter box, cat food, important documents. We couldn’t find one of the cats. We continued to monitor the news and we discovered that our area was put into the mandatory evacuation zone. It took us a little while to finish loading up and in that time they made a correction and moved us into voluntary evacuation.

This is the fire as seen from our driveway at 2:30 PM, Saturday, June 23, 2012

We stayed packed up all weekend, just in case. We watched the news almost all day. On Sunday evening, my husband unpacked the cars.

Monday was uneventful.

Tuesday morning was uneventful.

Pumpkin Girl was at her ballet intensive all day Tuesday. At 2:00 PM the neighborhood to our immediate north was put into pre-evacuation status. For awhile we thought we were, too. A little investigation showed that the evacuation line was about 1/4 of a mile to the north. We decided to prepare anyway. Our plan was to do some laundry, repack the luggage, maybe load the cars again. I left to pick up Pumpkin Girl. While I was waiting for us, a friend in the pre-evac zone called me to tell me she could see flames coming down the mountain and that they were leaving. I called Phil at work and asked him to go home. A few minutes later, Pumpkin Girl’s class was over and I rushed her into the car. It was 4:30 PM.

As soon as we headed West and could see the mountain, we could see flames. It was ugly. The closer we got, the more we could see and I just kept saying, “oh dear God,” over and over. It is a miracle I made it home ok, because I was in a daze, trying not to freak out.

Driving down our street, we could see many of our neighbors loading their cars. Others were standing in the street, watching the flames come down the hill. This hill –

This hill was on fire when we left the house on June 26

Phil was already home and loading his car. The cats had been rounded up into Pumpkin Girl’s room. What happened after that is a blur. We gathered up last minute things, got the cats in their travel boxes, loaded up the children. I looked around the living room one more time, just in case. We got in the cars and left. I said goodbye to our house as I pulled away. It was just before 6 PM.

We encountered some traffic, but not a lot. We had already lined up a place to go – the home of a friend. We just drove and listened to the news. We heard that the firemen needed to fall back. We heard that the nursing home for retired nuns at our church needed help evacuating. We heard that behind us, the traffic was backing up. We reached our destination around 6:15. We waited.

Quite honestly, we weren’t sure we would ever see our home again. I couldn’t bear to watch the news. I felt helpless. I slept very poorly that night and was awake for good at 5 AM. The morning briefing gave us hope because the damage seemed to be confined to just a few subdivisions.

Over the next few days we watched the news and studied the perimeter maps. We could tell that the fire had not reached our immediate area, so we were cautiously optimistic. The pictures we saw of the neighborhoods burning showed a different style of house than those of our neighborhood. Soon, specific streets were named and they were not ones we knew.

Later, as I studied the maps more, I realized that I was familiar with the Mountain Shadows sub-division. Bip practiced soccer at the elementary school there last year. I remember sitting there, looking at the houses across the street. They have a nice view of Pikes Peak. It’s a nice little neighborhood. Most of those homes are gone now. So are the homes that lined the street we drove to get to practice. I remember one home with a giant slide going from the deck to the backyard. It always made me smile.

On Thursday a list of the effected streets was published. Our street was not on it. We relaxed for the first time.

Thursday morning brought a list of evacuations that were lifted. We were not on it. News that the fire had not grown was welcome news.

Friday morning came and went with no new evacuations being lifted. Late Friday afternoon came an announcement that a new briefing would occur at 8 PM to discuss the evacuations. We sat and watched. I tried to brace myself for another disappointment. The briefing was a bit awkward and disjointed and they never named our neighborhood specifically, but we could tell from the other street names that we could indeed go home.

So we packed up quickly – the scrapbooks, luggage, stuffed animals, litter box, cat food, and important documents, not to mention the cats in their travel boxes. We were home by 9:30 PM. I was practically in tears, that last mile up the hill to our home. A group of neighbors was standing outside, waving and cheering each car that drove by. I rolled down my window to wave back at them. After we unloaded the car we also stayed outside for a while, waving at the cars going by. I wanted to hug each and every one.

A very bad picture taken at night with my phone. But we are home.

Today is Saturday, June 30, 2012 and we woke up in our own beds. It is the third anniversary of the day we closed on our house. It is good to be home.

Ice Castles

Last weekend we headed up into the mountains near Denver to visit the Ice Castle in Silverthorne.

In a word: amazing!

The drive was a longer one than we normally make with 16 month Pipsqueak in tow, but it was worth it.

We arrived, had a quick lunch, then bundled up in the snow pants, boots and gloves we’d packed along.  Good thing, too.  It was much colder than even we were used to!

I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.


If you go (and you should!), bring warm clothing and sunglasses.

Wild Life

We had some excitement here last Saturday night.

A mama bear and her teenage cub got in to our trashcan, made a total mess and then broke down our gate.

A bear got into our trash.You totally didn’t expect that, did you? Yeah, me neither. We didn’t even find out until our neighbor rang our doorbell on Sunday morning. He heard the ruckus, looked out the window and saw the whole thing. We had forgotten to turn off the a/c and open the window, so we missed it. I’m glad we did. Our window is at the wrong angle to have seen the bears, so who knows what we would have done if we’d heard someone or something breaking down the gate.

Speaking of the gate – this was the same one that the deck people used while building our new deck. It may or may not have gotten whacked a couple of times by building material. It did get broken when a gust of wind caught it, back in June. My parents were visiting at the time, so my dad took it upon himself to fix the gate.

My dad is a great Fixer of Things. If you have a fix-it project, my dad is the one to call. He will do that job and do it right. Which is what he did with the gate. He took the time to hunt down the materials to repair the gate and repair it he did. We were grateful, because honestly, with 4 children at home we don’t always have time to address problems like that.

So, my dad fixed the gate and fixed it well. Alas, the bears broke it down.

Hi, dad!

Now the gate is propped up along the fence, because we’re classy like that.

And because bears will return to the scene of the crime, we had to move the trash cans in to the garage.

Did I mention it gets hot here in summer? Exactly. It’s a bit oderiferous in the garage now.

I’ve been online researching bear-proof trash can options. They are expensive. We could go with what looks like a regular trash can, but has some sort of child-lock lid thing. The only problem is that trash companies may not accept them because you can’t just dump them out, you’ve got to stop and undo the lid.

Another solution is a metal box thing that will hold the trashcans. Those are really expensive, but might be the only option.

So, who was it that had to move to the mountains?

Oh, right. That would be me.

Lookout Rock

I’m always thinking of a ton of things to blog about, but I’m a little sleep deprived these days, so I keep forgetting what they are.

“What are you saying, exactly?”

But when Pumpkin Girl and Bip took me to see “lookout rock”, I remembered to take my camera along.

This hangout of theirs is on the bluff the rises behind the park across the street from our house.

It’s not a difficult climb if you’re young and spry and fairly close to the ground and don’t have a camera banging around your neck. But I did my best, encouraged by Bip saying, “Come on, Mama, it’s easy!”

Here it is, lookout rock.

Perched upon this rock, you can spy on the whole neighborhood and see a good portion of the city.

The rock has fun hiding places, too.

Another close-by rock, in the “spy zone” as the children call it, has a little cave.

You can see our house from up there. I think I should go back and retake this picture with the depth of field reversed. Look at me with my photography jargon! It means with the house in focus and the tree branches blurred.

We think it’s a perfect place to play!

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