environment

Weekly Sketch: Christmas Card Ideas

I’ve been trying out a few different designs for this year’s Christmas card. So far this is the basic concept I like best. I’m toying with the idea of giving the animals winter hats and scarves, maybe.

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Christmas, environment, Holidays, Life, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lions and Tiger and Bear (and Hyena and Serval and Leopard)

The Denver Zoo has reopened, with extra precautions in place for Covid. Tickets have to be purchased online in advance, you have to choose from available timeframes, and you can’t wander the zoo willy-nilly. Barricades and painted arrows keep visitors moving through the zoo on a one-way path from entry to exit.

We were there on a chilly morning, so some of the animals were more active in their enclosures and some were keeping warm in their shelters out of sight. This adorable hyena just wanted to play!

The bear looked very cozy and sleepy.

I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the tiger, but I feel obliged to include him anyway.

I wasn’t able to get a good shot of the serval either, but he is too cute to leave out.

I think this a clouded leopard? He was snug in his box.

The cold made the lions lively and frolicky. There are two or three separate lion enclosures, so the different age groups were all enjoying themselves in different ways.

This guy was not about sharing his ball.

MIIIIIINNNNE.

I took a gazillion pics, so there are probably more zoo posts to come.

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Cats, Covid-19, Dogs, environment, Family, Life, Weather, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breckenridge, Part III: Peak 8

On our first visit to the Breckenridge Ski Resort on Saturday, we had wanted to ride the “Colorado Super Chair Scenic Chairlift,” which goes up to the Alpine Camp on Peak 8. But the last chair goes up at 3:30 pm, and we didn’t get to it in time. So that was on our list for Sunday. We didn’t have any particular plan for what we would do when we got to the top, until we bought the tickets and they gave us a QR link to a trail map. We took one look at the map and resolved to summit Peak 8.

We got there early in the day, so we had the chairlifts mostly to ourselves.

The Alpine Camp consists of a restaurant called the Vista Haus, the Epic Discovery Fun Park with ziplines and other activities, and a wealth of trailheads for exploring the local peaks and forests.

The first part of the summit trail is actually a service road. It’s steep, but broad and smooth.

The views are wonderful all the way up.

The service road ends at a little ranger lookout station. From there the trail is narrow and much steeper.

We had agreed that we would head back down at 2pm whether we had reached the summit or not, to ensure that we didn’t miss the last chairlift at 3:30. At one point I realized that I might not make the summit in time. Elizabeth wasn’t struggling at all and I didn’t want to slow her down, so I told her to go ahead and claim the peak for the honor of the Silkotch name. She was like, “Okay, see ya.”

That structure she’s climbing past is an out-of-service ski lift, the Imperial Express. According to the signs it’s the highest ski lift in North America.

I kept chugging along…

…and actually did make it to the summit!

Elizabeth found a geocache box that had been converted to a visitor log. We both signed it.

The views were hazy from all the wildfires, but still phenomenal.

The lake in the distance is the Dillon Reservoir, the one we had stopped to admire on the drive up.

We chilled at the top for a while and then started down at about ten minutes to two.

We stopped at the ski lift station to snap a pic…

…and spotted a couple of ptarmigans! Another wildlife first for us.

We continued down and made it back to the Super Chair in plenty of time.

We felt like we had walked enough for one day, and decided to beat the traffic rush back to Denver.

Breckenridge has won our hearts. We’ll be back for sure.

Categories: Animals, environment, Family, Geocaching, Life, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Weekly Sketch: Prairie Deer

This week’s sketch is inspired by a scene I came across recently in a meadow. Something about the quality of the light and the way the deer blended so harmoniously into the grass made it all look like a watercolor. I’ve stepped outside my usual style a bit trying to capture the sense of peace and beauty.

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Breckenridge, Part I

After puttering around the parks and foothills for three weeks I was eager to get up into the actual Rockies, visit one of Colorado’s picturesque little mountain towns and maybe summit a peak or two. I would love to see Ouray, but I’m not quite up for the six-hour drive to get there just yet. For my Labor Day weekend outing, Breckenridge was a more accessible choice. Elizabeth came with me. Luke wasn’t feeling a peak-scaling expedition this time.

I expected traffic to be awful heading west out of Denver into the mountains, and it was. What should have been an hour-and-40-minute cruise ended up being closer to two-and-a-half hours. But the views are so pretty, we enjoyed the drive anyway.

It was nice to get out of the Denver haze and up into the blue skies. We even pulled out into a turnout to admire an overlook view of the Dillon Reservoir.

We didn’t really know what to expect in Breckenridge. We had a vague, flexible plan to find some public parking near the scenic downtown and then just walk around and see what there was to see.

Parking was easy to find. And the Breckenridge magic started right away –– we saw gondolas suspended over the lot, heading up to some unseen alpine destination.

We asked around and found out that the gondolas are free to ride, so naturally we got in line. In retrospect, I’m amused by the fact that we never asked where the gondolas were going. It didn’t even matter; we’d just find out when we got there.

There are a total of four gondola stations on the line. We stayed on all the way to the top.

We disembarked at Breckenridge Ski Resort, which offers year-round activities. After grabbing some lunch at the Ski Hill Grill, we made a beeline for the Alpine Slide.

We took a ski lift to the top of the slide…

…and then rode little toboggans-on-wheels back down the slope. Wheeeeeeeeee!

By then it was mid-afternoon, and we wanted to settle the question of where we would be camping that night. We asked a resort employee about dispersed camping nearby, and he cheerfully gave us directions to his own favorite area, up in the National Forest above a different resort. I made a note, and we headed back to the gondolas.

I accidentally got off one station too early. Stayed long enough to snap a pretty pic and got back on.

Elizabeth wanted to check out the High Line Railroad Park, so we drove there next. The museum part is currently closed for Covid, but we did enjoy looking at the old vintage train cars and engines.

This monster is a rotary snowplow, used for clearing heavy snow off of the tracks.

There’s also a nice railway-themed playground.

And my favorite part –– the park is near the trailhead of Trollstigen Trail, which led us to Isak Heartstone, the Troll of Breckenridge.

It’s a short, pretty path, definitely worth the detour.

The shadows were getting longer, and we didn’t want to be setting our tent up in the dark. We stopped by a local eatery for soup and bread to go, and then drove up to the area the resort guy had recommended.

It was pretty up there for sure, but we had a hard time finding any ground flat enough to set up a tent on. After driving a backroad loop that my car was not designed for, we circled back and stopped to talk to an employee of the nearest resort about where we could camp. He recommended near the river, but said that really anywhere was fine.

Long story short, we finally found a flattish spot to set up camp with a nice view. And with all of the care we took to follow the advice of the locals, we still got a visit from a ranger the next morning, telling us that we had set up our tent in a no-camping zone and would have to relocate. Clearly there are rules that we must learn. I’m not going to post any pics of our campsite, because I don’t want to encourage anyone else to camp there.

To be continued!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Covid-19, environment, Family, food, Holidays, Life, Travel, Weather | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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