Bishop Castle

This is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been.

I was driving along, Colorado Highway 165 and suddenly the speed limit dropped to 35mph at the crest of a hill. Cars were parked along the wide shoulders. A hand-painted sign along the side of an old old truck announced this to be Bishop Castle.

Jim Bishop bought his land in 1959 for $450. He was 15.

In 1969, he built a small stone cottage to live in his wife, Phoebe. About 1971, people began to suggest that Bishop’s ever growing cottage looked a little bit like a castle and he decided to build just that, a castle.

Almost nothing about this place feels safe and everything is bananas. I’ve been on plenty of mountains and in all sorts of precarious places and I don’t usually get vertigo but on the iron pyramid atop of the highest tower in the castle (on the left in the photo below), I felt… not okay.

Cuckoo bananas is the only way I can describe this place. Nothing is finished, most of the windows lack glass, and along the back bit of the grand ballroom where the floor has been exposed to weather, there are missing… bits.

Bishop and his father had owned Bishop Ornamental Iron Works in Pubelo and while the iron work is pretty, in many places it seems a little bit less than secure.

As crazy as this place is, it’s also really cool to see someone really go after something. The Bishops lost their gift shop to a fire this spring and are currently funding the their building effort through donations. Aside from that, however, the castle is totally free to visit.

Greenhorn Mountain: Pueblo County Highpoint

As my EMT class, drew to a close, I went on a mission to have this weekend free of clinicals or of NREMT studying. Although last weekend was mostly obligation free, I did have the Love Your Valley event on the calendar for Saturday. Last weekend, there was nothing I had to do.  I plotted a trip to the east to hike the high points of Pueblo and Las Animas Counties.

Because this spring has been so dry (so dry that some Arizona National Forests and state lands are going to closures already), I didn’t even bother to check the weather. As I drove over Monarch Pass on Friday night, the skies over the Wet Mountains looked black. I was already fairly committed and the weather around Salida didn’t appear to look much better for the next day so I continued on towards Greenhorn Mountain. I headed up Ophir Creek Road about three miles when the driving rain that had started near Westcliffe turned to slushy snow. I decided the wise course of action was to sleep low in case this turned into an epic spring snow since there were 25 miles of gravel between me and the trailhead.

I woke in the morning to partially clearing skies and decided to make a go of it. The gravel road was in really great shape. Any car could make this drive. There were no ruts or large rocks, just a touch of washboard on some steeper sections. In about forty-five minutes, Sprocket and I reached the end of the road and started our hike towards Greenhorn Mountain.

Greenhorn Mountain’s name came from a Comanche warrior named Tabivo Naritgant, “dangerous man,” who was known by Spanish as Cuerno Verde. Tabivo Naritgant’s Spanish name came from the distinctive green horned headdress that he wore in battle. The warrior was killed by forces lead by Juan Bautista de Anza who had been offered the governorship of New Mexico to deal with the raiding Comanches.

With my recent reading about the history of the west percolating, I ascended the Greenhorn Trail cutting north of Greenhorn Mountain towards North Peak. Initially, I’d planned to just hike Greenhorn slowly cutting across the side of the peak but the trail felt like a much easier way to climb, even if it made the total hike a bit longer.

I know I say this frequently, but Sprocket’s joy on the trail is so sustaining for me. He is such a happy pup with new sniffs and places to explore. Every time I start to think the (old) boy is losing the spring in his step, he surprises me.

We made a quick run from the saddle up to the top of North Peak since it was only 200′ of gain from the saddle. after that, turned to navigating our way south along the ridge to Greenhorn proper. It was a pretty straightforward hike with perfect elevation practice up and downs along the way.

While we were up there, the low clouds broke to show off the southern end of the Sangre de Cristos and the Wet Mountain Valley. The clouds started to form the beginnings of baby thunderheads but nothing seemed to threatening until I was well back down the road toward pavement. Greenhorn Mountain has an elevation of 12,347′ but it’s prominence clocks in at 3,767′ thanks to its status as the high point of the Wet Mountains. (I guess their name actually comes from the amount of snow they receive in the winter not from the fact that I almost got rained out.)

Sprocket lead the final charge up to Greenhorn Mountain like a champ. This dog, man, this dog.

After a quick cuddle on the summit, we headed down to stay in front of the building clouds. We had talus filled hike down the southern face of the mountain to reach the Bartlett trail, an old road, that made for an easy walk back to the car.

Thanksgiving 2017: Montezuma Castle National Monument

This is a continuation of my adventures from Thanksgiving last year. I got distracted with moving into my house sooooo not much got blogged from the trip. 

After having visited Casa Grande National Monument, I gave into the prehistory ruins compulsion and visited Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde. By this time, I’d decided to just pay for my national parks pass and get on with it.

Montezuma Castle actually allows dogs on the trail! There is just a single paved path that goes along the base of the cliff with the structure but because it is just the one path and because of the extreme temperatures, they allow dogs! It was a touch hot for Sprocket to wait so I was super excited.

The visitors center was smaller than the one at Casa Grande and I was left with a lot of questions about just how the people further north on the Verde were related to the people who had been to their north (ancient Puebloans) and south (ancient Sonorans). This bookstore didn’t have anything I could impulse buy to bolster my knowledge of the Sinagua people so I’m currently accepting suggestions for books about ancient cultures in central Arizona.

It was a super short walk out to the Castle; the toughest part was dodging people on the trail! Apparently it’s part of the post Thanksgiving trek to the Grand Canyon.

We wandered down to Castle A. Apparently, Castle A was even larger than Montezuma Castle during its occupation. The vigas that supported beams to the rock are still visible. However, this castle’s upper floors collapsed and the structure suffered a fire after the end of its occupation.

The National Monument has a second unit at Montezuma Well but I decided to continue north because I had a breakfast date in Moab the next day and I had another few stops in mind.

Thanksgiving 2017: Casa Grande Ruins

So upon perusal of photos uploaded to this site but not attached to posts, I realized that I hadn’t finished blogging about Thanksgiving. (Something about moving into a house?) Thinking way back to my exploration of Bisbee and Tombstone and hike of Chihuahua Peak… 

After a quick stop in Tucson, I headed north towards Phoenix. Along the way I saw a sign for Casa Grande Ruins. I have no idea how many times I’ve gone past the exit near the I-10 and I-17 interchange but this time I was actually wasn’t only not on a schedule but I had some time to kill. I pulled into the visitor center parking lot with the late afternoon sunlight bathing the ruins outside.

My curiosity about these ruins was sort of piqued by having learned more about the history of Native Americans in the southwest (and in the US more generally) over the past year. I basically knew nothing about the ancient Sonoran people and their culture and it seemed like the right time to check it out.

I had a good time chatting with the Ranger inside the visitors center. He’d worked at Bent’s Fort and I’d learned a fair amount about Bent’s Old Fort when I read Blood And Thunder. It’s definitely on my “to visit” list. I spent a chunk of time in the visitors center.

I’ve spent enough time in the greater Phoenix area that maps of the Gila canals and other Hohokam sites really grabbed my attention.

Outside, I walked around the plaza surrounding the Great House and took a look at it from several angles. (The Great House is not open to the public.) Casa Grande was the first prehistoric and cultural reserve set aside in the US (it was established in 1892 by Benjamin Harrison). The Great House seems like an improbably large structure to have survived for over 600 years.

Never one to just be content with a “sort of” understanding, I meandered my way back to the visitors center to make a stop in the bookstore. I picked up some “light” reading to connect what little I knew about ancestral Puebloan people to the ancient Sonoran people.

In my last days in the shed, I read this pretty raptly considering its all academic papers from a conference about ancient cultures in the Southwest. I’m sure a lot of the information is a little bit dated as far as current archaeological info goes but I learned a lot and developed a rather burning desire to make it down to Aztec Ruins and Chaco Canyon in the very near future.

As I left, the nice ranger reminded me that if I bought an America the Beautiful pass in the next month that they’d apply my entry fee and I thanked him before heading west to find In-N-Out and a place to get some sleep.

 

The Tale of a Stubborn Dog, or a Dominguez Canyon Run

One of the best things about living in Ridgway is the access to the mountains right along side desert access. After exploring Alta, Katie and I wrapped up her trip to the Western Slope with a visit to Big Dominguez Canyon.

Big Dominguez is one of my favorite spring escapes a little more than an hour north but it is a glorious escape from lingering winter at higher elevations.

Funny story about these Sprocket photos: I tried to leave him in the car. He’d done nine miles with some elevation gain the day before so I thought I probably shouldn’t push old dog too hard. The day was definitely cool so I cracked all the windows and started to run away from the car when he totally lost his cool.

If you’ve met my dog, he’s kind of a mute. He might whine a little when he is excited but he definitely doesn’t yelp, bark, cry, and make a giant fuss. Except, apparently when you try to leave him behind when going for a run next to a river. Just like the wrapped around his paw dog mom I am, I relented and let him come. I figured if he lost steam, I’d turn around and let Katie finish the run without me.

He never lost steam. I underestimated the invigorating effects of a river bath followed by a sand roll for my old pup.

Katie, bless her heart, didn’t judge me (at least audibly) for giving in to him and commented that I’m the chillest dog mom for just letting him be dirty. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the old boy. ♥

Photos courtesy Katie Sealer. (Sprocks also made several appearances on her Instagram, including in her profile picture because he’s the best.)

Alta Lakes Road

Thanks to a combination of exhaustion, minor injury, and EMT class, I wound up staying home for most of Spring Break. Fortunately for me, my break overlapped with Instagram friend Katie’s break. Katie and I have known each other on Instagram for a long time (in fact, I can’t remember exactly what permutation of events actually lead to us connecting) but we’ve never met on person. That didn’t stop Katie from reaching out and seeing if we could hang out for a few days.

We were short a pair of snowshoes and I have an old dog in tow who hasn’t had much exercise lately so after some early spring trail brainstorming, I decided we should go up to Alta Lakes road near Telluride. Katie had never been to Telluride and because the road is used for snowmobiles I figured that it would make for easy walking (it did).

As is usual when you’re hiking south of Telluride, the mountains in front of you are gorgeous but then you turn around and see the Wilsons. (I don’t know, that turn around suprise just gets me every time.)

The lakes were buried under snow so I think the highlight was checking out the ghost town of Alta. (Alta was the first industrial site to receive AC power!) We didn’t end up checking out much of town because the post holing off of the main snowmobile track was real—I tried to get off the road a little bit for a better photo and ended up buried to my hips…

After the hike, we headed into Telluride and had lunch at the Phoenix Bean. Sprocks was exhausted but he gamely walked to the restaurant with us and slept under the table dreaming of cheese falling from our plates. (Katie made sure his dream came true.) Back in Ridgway we chilled out and watched the light change as the sunset before getting to bed early. (I got lots of sleep over break.)

Labrador Joy

Sprocket and I visited the river on a chilly late winter day with my friend and her pup. We hung out and Sprocket swam and snow fell all around us.

(All photos courtesy Nadia.) 

What Have I Been Up To?

Since moving into my house just before New Years, I’ve almost as equally moved into my car. In addition to a healthy commute, I’ve added a commute to an EMT class two to three days a week. Long time readers of this blog might remember that in spring 2012 I took an EMT course. Unfortunately, in all of my travels and tumult, my NREMT certification lapsed long enough that to get it back, I had to re-take the course. I figured, at once wisely and dumbly, that it would be easiest to just keep pushing forward with my crazy life and get it done with before returning to regularly scheduled hiking and exploring programming.

This has meant very little time for running or relaxing. (Twice a week, I leave home at 6:20am and get home about 10:15pm.) When I am home, I have homework to take care of and sleep to have. On top of class and teaching, I’ve still been pulling some shifts at my side hustle for that extra cash infusion.

Winter was kind of non-existent around these parts but Sprocket and I did get to do one really cool thing: one evening when we got about 8-10″ of snow, we left to do a 5 mile cross country skiing from our front door!

Having a house to come back and shower at has made it easier to grab those chances to run when they arise. Sprocket certainly appreciates having a warm place to wait for me to come home but even more I think he likes having a warm place to recover from snowy swims in the river.

I have another three weeks left of class and we’re both pumped to have a summer full of adventure!

Ute Indian Museum

Way back in January, I visited the recently renovated Ute Indian Museum. With my recent readings about exploration of the Western Slope (and the rest of the West) by Europeans and later Americans, I decided it was time to check out the history of the people that they’d displaced. The museum was renovated over the winter of 2016-2107 with what I understand to be extensive input from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Tribe, and the Ute Tribe of the Unitah and Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian Museum is part of the History Colorado museum network. The museum is located near the site of Ouray and Chipeta’s ranch just south of Montrose.

The museum isn’t particularly large but it does contain a lot of information and the new exhibits are really well done. I learned a lot as the museum moved from how the Ute tribe interacted with the physical environment and more about their historic range to artifacts of the tribe. In these early sections of the museum I was really struck by the use of “we” and “our” in the text to accompany exhibits. It served to really emphasize to me how a whole people was affected by the arrival of explorers in the area.

Seeing some of the historical artifacts was really exciting. The museum has several pieces of clothing worn by Ouray and Chipeta which I found really cool. That sinking sober feeling I’d gotten earlier, really struck home when I got to the section of the museum highlighting how the reservations of the Ute bands were splintered and made smaller over the years. I was familiar with the history from Ouray: Chief of the Utes and other books that I’ve read but seeing it laid out in graphic form was really striking.

The final section of the museum featured contemporary exhibits from the various Ute tribal groups. They were very positive in nature and talked about traditions that are preserved by the tribe.

After a quick pit stop in the gift shop, I headed out to the grounds of the museum. Chipeta, had been buried in Utah where she had died on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation but in 1924, her remains were moved to the museum grounds. (Chief Ouray’s remains are buried near Ignatio, Colorado.) I also checked out the interpretive signs about the Domniguez-Escalante expedition of 1776 down closer to the river.

I’m really glad that I visited the museum. I live on land that used to belong to the Utes and was glad to learn more about the tribes, especially their current situations. I’ve been in Colorado for five years now (and delightedly, all out on the Western Slope) and deepening my understanding of history here is always something I value.

As of this writing, the museum is $6 for adults (but if you’re a member of History Colorado it’s included) and well worth the visit!

Las Vegas!

In the car on the way back from the airport, a friend texted me, “Vegas? That’s not your style.”

I would counter that a little bit of everything alongside a big helping of adventure is my style, but I digress.

Last weekend, I traveled with some friends and my mom to Vegas to see George Strait in concert (with Lyle Lovett!!! and Robert Earl Keen). While seeing King George was the headlining event of our weekend, we had a lot of fun “doing Vegas.”

Amanda and I caught a flight out of GJ Thursday afternoon and started the party as soon as we got into the terminal. We even bought our tickets months apart and sat next to each other.  Once we landed and checked into our hotel, we immediately set out in search of food and then engaged in heavy duty people watching at the Cosmopolitan.

The next morning, my mom arrived and we headed out for brunch and some sight seeing. My friend Helen and her husband arrived mid afternoon and we had some celebratory “we’re all in Vegas” champagne at the hotel before heading to dinner and some after dinner drinks. While most of the crew headed to bed, Amanda and I went out for some dancing.

Saturday was more sight seeing but the big event was that evening. It was time to see George! There was a lot of “Do you think he’ll play this song?” talk and general excitement as we got ready for the show.

Our dinner before the show was actually one of my favorite moments in Vegas. The food was good (we ate at Tom’s Urban in NY-NY) and we might have discussed Pure Country a lot. Mom ordered ghost pepper wings and basically stared down the waitress when she was warned that they’re the hottest pepper in the world. And then, to top it all off, as we stood up after dinner Mom reminded me she wanted to ride the roller coaster at NY-NY before the concert. So we did. I might have laughed at her the entire time. I’m kind of a pro at laughing at people on roller coasters.

The show definitely did not disappoint. (Okay, well, maybe I could have listed to Lyle Lovett open for another hour and George play all night but reasonable expectations are important.)

I sang along to each and every song. When I grew up, George Strait was in the tape deck on the way to every camping trip (except when the Mariners were on) and the sound track to more than a few family gatherings. On top of that, he’s the best looking 65 year old I’ve ever seen. Anyway.

The next day, everyone other than Amanda and I had to catch early (or really really early) flights so the two of us enjoyed a lazy morning getting out of the hotel, hit up their (free) Sunday bloody mary and mimosa bar, had one last brunch on the Strip and then headed to the airport.

I had been sort of nervous about this trip: it was a motley group of people and the common denominator was … me. In the end, it was fantastic. I even get to tease my mom for the time she forgot to tip the Transformer for the rest of time: “Bumble Bee need tip.”