August 12th – 19th: More hiking adventures with Veronica on the final days of our daddy / daughter adventure, then visits with friends and family!!!

August 12th – A rest day. Went to “Bear Coffee” in Silverton for their veggie breakfast burritos again. We checked email, etc. and then went to take a coin-operated shower at the Molas Lake campground. We then had a late pizza lunch along with some delicious brews at “Avalanche Brewing and Pizza” back in Silverton. Once we made it back to camp, we took some beers out to the creekside and talked until dark about movies and books. Slept soundly.

August 13th – Today we did the long Blue Lakes Trail hike. Not quite as challenging as the Ice Lakes Basin trail, but a challenge nonetheless. The trail gains 2,400 feet, from 9,400 feet to 11,200 feet over three miles, so it is a pretty steady climb. The reward is an unreal blue alpine lake surrounded on all sides by high, snowy peaks. The trail up is dominated by 14,156 ft. Mt. Sneffels, a Colorado “14’er” that I summitted in 2012 with Levar.

Beautiful Mt. Sneffels – queen of the San Juans
Blue Lakes majesty

“Sneffels is often said to be Colorado’s best and most beautiful mountain. Viewed from Dallas Divide, Mount Sneffels really looks like a “mountain” and has all the good features of one including symmetry, spires, pinnacles, rugged ridges and beautiful slopes of aspens and flowers. Mountaineers cringe at the climbing possibilities, Nature enthusiasts glory at its beauty and generic travelers are awed upon viewing this gorgeous mountain. Second in elevation only to Uncompahgre Peak in the San Juan range, Sneffels is affectionately known as the “Queen of the San Juans.” You will find photos of Mount Sneffels in stores, calendars, postcards and wallets! Sneffels has also made appearances in a number of westerns, notably “How the West was Won,” and more notably, in “True Grit,” where it is seen in flattering vistas from Dallas Divide. Next to the Maroon Bells, Sneffels is Colorado’s most recognizable mountain. Mount Sneffels brings together all types of climbers from the beginner hiker to the expert mountaineer.” (Source: summitpost.org)

Apparently, as we kept hearing from folks heading down the trail, there was or had been a bear up the trail. Everyone was very excited and we kept hearing varying reports of the bears exact location, which kept moving depending on who you were talking to. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, we missed the bear. Sigh!

August 14th – A rest day. Back for pizza at “Avalanche Brewing and Pizza.”

August 15th – A slow start to the day. Made it up to Bear Creek Pass and started up the jeep road for about 1 1/2 miles until we heard thunder and decided to turn around.

Veronica on the Black Bear Pass road

August 16th – Veronica’s last day in Colorado! 😦 A tearful goodbye at the Montrose Airport. Veronica opted to volunteer for a later flight and for this she was ultimately rewarded with a $1,200 travel voucher on United Airlines. Unfortunately, Veronica had a horrible time getting home – there was no announcement for her New Jersey Transit train, so she got on the wrong train to somewhere else in the state. Her phone was dying, so it was hard to text Michael with her whereabouts – she finally made it home at 3 a.m. Whew!

I drove from Montrose to Gunnison for pizza at a brewery, which was delicious. High Alpine Brewing Company – I had a Garden of the Gods pizza and brew. Yum! After Gunnison, I crossed Monarch Pass, elevation 11,312 feet, and then drove into Leadville, where I had been hoping to stay. Turns out it was the Leadville 100 race, so there wasn’t a hotel room within 50 miles available. Actually, there was one and I found it at Beaver Creek Resort, at The Pines.

Monarch Pass at the Continental Divide
Leadville downtown

When I arrived at The Pines Resort, the very nice valet came to my car and asked if I was Mr. Winford. He said “Mr. Winford, I am sorry but we’re overbooked. So, we are sending you to the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa.” Score!!! A $500 room for $160! I would get to see how the shi-shi people lived. I called Mandy from my balcony and watched people approaching the restaurant below – they were dressed to the nines. My cousin A. says people ski here in mink in the winter! Yuck! Not my style at all.

August 17th – No charge for parking (usually $35/night) and no resort fee ($usually $35/night). Whew! I guess coming from the Hyatt’s poorer cousin has its benefits.

My cousin A. insisted that I try “The Vintage restaurant” in Vail for brunch. The Vintage is a French brasserie-style restaurant. Turns out parking in a resort town is an expensive proposition. I parked underground at the exorbitant rate of $25/hour! The Vintage was truly phenomenal. I tried the Eggs Benedict with field mushrooms over a potato hash cake. Yummers!

Brunch at the Vintage

I had promised my friends in the town of Gold Hill, on the mountain above Boulder, that I would be there for a visit by early afternoon, but traffic on I-70 was not cooperating! I was stuck on the interstate heading into Denver near the Eisenhower Tunnel for over 1 1/2 hours. So, I was very late getting to C. and O.’s house in Gold Hill. And it turns out my cousin A. was expecting me for dinner, so unfortunately I only had an hour to spend. We went on a nice mountain bike ride though during that hour through the forested hills near their home. We talked about Cohousing the whole time. C. and O. envision starting a community in their town.

Biking with my friends C. and O.

I made it in time for dinner to A. and G.’s house. Turns out we didn’t have dinner at home, though, we went out for dinner and brews at a so-so pub grub establishment in their town of Berthoud. My other cousins D. and S. also joined us.

August 19th – Went for brunch with cousins A., G., and C. to Lucille’s Cajun Cafe in Littleton, then I turned for home.

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