Now that the long bike rides and triathlon are over, relaxing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sounded like a good time.
When we booked our cabin and planned the trip we were unaware that October is one of the busiest times for the park. We also did not know that this was the busiest National Park. One of the benefits of retirement travel is going during the week. We were surprised at all of the people gathered in the park and Gatlinburg. I guess Columbus Day is a popular time for schools to take a break; we visiting the week prior to the break. We thought traffic and the number of tourist picked up as we got closer to the holiday weekend.
One of the downsides was that parking to hike was at a premium. However, like a good restaurant that is always full, we found that the experience and scenery were worth the hassle. Traffic in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge was also heavy as we went through town. We have been to the park before. This time we were happy not to see any bears as we were hiking
We had a cabin away from town and up a hill so we could enjoy breakfast and linger a little out the front porch. The cabin had large windows and offered a great view of the mountains. We did see the “smoke” in the mountains in the morning that looked inviting.
Our afternoon hikes were good. We had spent most of our previous time in the southern part of the park (Cades Cove), so we hiked in the middle of the park this time.
We noticed that the signage on the hiking trails in the park was lacking or had been removed though too much use, but it was easy to find our way as several other hikers were on the trails with us.
We enjoyed the hikes and the views. It was great to have some hand holds as we went up and down near the edge on the hikes.
The National Park Service has done a good job keeping the trails in good condition given all of the traffic on them we encountered except for the signs while on the trail.
There are plenty of hikes we have not yet taken in the park. We will have to come back and enjoy some of them on our next visit. Now we know to schedule the visit outside of October.
The colors had not yet come out to the park. We did see some of the trees turning early here and there. The week after our visit was probably a peak time for fall colors. We enjoyed the lush green views and left the pretty colors for the visitors for the following week.
We purposely went back home on the back roads from the Smoky Mountains National Park (which is in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina) so we could stop at the three state Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
The weather on the Saturday when we arrived in Kentucky was cooler than it was in Tennessee as we were leaving. Our first stop in Cumberland Gap was at the only visitor center. This is a large park and it was important to know that there is only one visitor center.
We were happy talk with a couple making apple butter over an open fire and dressed in period costumes. It looked like hard work. They assured us that the taste was worth the work on the open fire. We liked the warmth of the open fire.
We were immediately stuck by how few visitors were at this park, just a few miles (85 or so) up the road from the Smoky Mountains. The ranger we spoke to at Cumberland Gap indicated that over 11 million visitors go to the Smoky Mountains and about 1 million visit Cumberland Gap. We really enjoyed hiking in Cumberland Gap with well-marked trails and easy parking.
We took the tri-state trail and hiked up and stood in the three separate states at the same time (Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia). It was interesting to see the contour of the land and to know that many western settlers had journeyed across the mountains where we were hiking.
When looking at the road into the gap we wondered how much harder the mountain pass must be, as this was not an easy climb. We do not have wagons with all of our possessions and have no real idea of the hardship.
The Civil War had a lot going on in Cumberland; we enjoyed the side spots where we could see evidence of the forts and the places where some of the troops moved through. It did make sense that the troops came by and through the gap in the struggle to move across the country.
I recommend driving up the road to the pinnacle overlook, although it twists a whole lot. At one point you can see the road next to you as the road almost doubles back on itself.
The paved paths along the viewing area made the walk out to the view easily assessable. Unfortunately, the view was one where we could see the clouds as the weather was not in our favor. We caught glimpses of the surrounding area and will look forward to coming back for a better view in the future.
We can get to the Smoky Mountain National park in about 5 hours. We should plan to go before or after the peak times for the park, staying away from October (Columbus Day for example) and school vacation week in the spring.
Both Cumberland Gap and Smoky Mountain National Parks do not require admission fees.
Cumberland Gap has hundreds of miles of hikes available. We are thinking about spending more time visiting this park in the future.
We enjoyed two dinner shows and would have liked to have gone for another. We were amazed at the horse handling skills demonstrated during the show at the Dolly Parton’s stampede and the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. The dinners out were fun and since it gets dark in October so early we had to leave the trails earlier than we would have during the summer.
Our preference was the Dinner Feud. It was a little smaller theater and we had a lively and interactive server. We found that we liked the food better at the Hatfield’s than the Stampede. The musicians for the Stampede put on a great show prior to the dinner and gave an amazing performance. Of course, the horse-riding feats were exciting to watch and they were well executed. We appreciated the good clean family entertainment at both shows.
We did not come for the town, so Gatlinburg was lost on us. A sea of people walking up and down the main street near the Park was interesting to see. I believe we would have enjoyed the walking in town had we been staying in Gatlinburg.
No bike riding in the mountains where the roads are narrow and winding. From the Cades Cove camp grounds areas you can go biking a few times per week. As we have seen bears in this area, we did not think we should tempt fate by riding bikes near the bears. It might be fun…with a group.
Part of retirement travel is being able to pick up and spend a week with family. I went back to visit with my mom in Arkansas in September.
I missed the square to square ride this year again as I was on one of the century rides that same weekend. I did manage a few bike rides with my sister on the Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway Trail. Some of the low lying trail access was wet but passable. When it rains it pours.
One of the highlights of the trip is finishing the ride that we began in the spring when it hailed on us. The neighborhoods were nice to ride though, and we did not have any rain.
We did encounter a motorcycle gathering at the turn around point. They had fun saying to us that we brought the wrong bikes to the event.
I was able to stop by the microbrewery I had seen earlier in the year when the weather was too cold to be outside. We enjoyed a beer while eating dinner from the restaurant we ate at in January. It was good to be outside and enjoy the beautiful Arkansas sunshine in Bentonville. We did see bikers (on pedal bicycles) stop in from the trail and enjoy a beverage on their bike ride.
My mom and I were able to complete a few puzzles and take a daily walk.
She is going strong and I am happy to be able to spend time with her.
Look up a new route and challenge yourself to explore. On the drive to Arkansas I met fellow Michigan State University alum who suggested I stop and see the National Forests along the route. I will have to check out a more scenic route for my next trip down to Arkansas though the heart of Kentucky and Missouri.
I was able to get out for three bike rides with a total distance of over 52 miles. Longest ride was 19 miles reliving the hail storm ride. I also had to keep running as we are doing a family turkey trot. So, I managed to get in over 8 miles of “running” at just over 2 miles per time going out to run.
I was able to convince a few friends into visiting the well preserved Civil War battlefield in Perryville, Kentucky. This is a Kentucky state historical site. The battle was a dramatic and short (less than 6 hours) fight for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As a border state between the North and South, Kentucky declared neutrality. So of course both the North and South invaded with the desire to use Kentucky as a base to defeat the other side.
The North and South forces met in Perryville with the resulting battle costly for both sides. The information provided by the state park was that more soldiers died in the short hours of this battle than at Gettysburg. They are speaking of the death rate per hour of battle and not of the overall number who died in the battle.
The Perryville site does a good job of presenting how the Confederate Army pushed the Union Army and, if they had stayed, would have been able to claim a victory. At the end of the day, the Confederates left the field and moved out of the state to Tennessee. So, this was a technical Union victory. When you are on site and see the movement of troops, you can better understand the results.
Before we made it to Perryville, the group of guys I was traveling with decided we could go to Buffalo Trace Distillery. This is a 200 year old continually operating distillery; of course continually operating for 200 years takes some talent as most distilleries were shut down for prohibition. Buffalo Trace was open as it was able to supply medicinal bourbon during prohibition. This is a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and on the way to the battlefield (kind of).
We arrived early in the morning and were able to take one of the free tours. You need to plan a few months in advance for the scheduled longer tours and, being guys, we planned a few days in advance to go and did not have the longer tour. The free tour was a very good tour. The tour had us walking the beautiful grounds. We were able to see a short film, ask questions and go into a rick house complete with a secret entrance. We were able to see the bottle filling and labeling as well. At the end of the free tour, we were able to taste test the product. As a result, or it could have been planned, our group purchased a few bottles of Buffalo Trace products at the gift shop.State Capital. This is a wonderful building with interesting statues in the rotunda of both Abraham Lincoln (dominating the center) and Jefferson Davis (much smaller and off to one side). Both were born in Kentucky, about 100 miles away from each other. If you know history, we were heading to a Civil War battlefield, and these two were in charge during the battle.
Everything is better with bourbon here in Kentucky. We visited the Kentucky Knows Coffee Shop in Frankfort. We had a good time talking with Tony, the owner of the store. And yes, we also purchased coffee beans.
You can read about history and then walk the fields to see the hills and sweeping fields of fire. Even reading the markers and then walking the grounds sharpened how we took in the scope of that effort by both sides. I am a proponent of being on site. Thank you for the preservation of this historical battlefield.
Travel with friends and explore what they want to explore. One in our group had heard of the bourbon coffee shop. It was a fun place to explore.
Support the local businesses, helping them and yourself. I am so happy we made a stop at the distillery and visited the capital building. We are not alone and need to continue to explore.
No biking was done on this trip.
Watching an event is different than participating in one. We were able to watch our son run in the Flying Pig Marathon weekend and complete a Spartan race. This weekend was different for me because I was participating in the race. My son challenged me to run a Triathlon at the end of July. At a moment of weakness, I said yes. Then the challenge began with him suggesting that I needed to try and beat him.
Our triathlon was a sprint, meaning it was a shorter distance (thankfully for me). A 400-meter swim, a 20K bike ride (about 12 ½ miles) and a 5k run.
I have to confess that I have not run in years—maybe the last time I ran was with the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band in college. I had to learn to run. The challenge for me was starting my running and working up to the 5k distance.
The training was good for me; I am already trying to keep in good health. My running training started and ended by listening whilst running to the NHS (British Health Care, National Health Services) couch to 5k audio podcasts. I ended up running over 60 miles prior to the triathlon. I felt good about running, although I am definitely not a runner. My best time, of course in practice, was still a generally slow time of over 10-minute miles.
It was great to have my son spend the night prior to the race and join us for dinner and answer my many questions on the race that he competed in last year. We rode up together and were at the event in plenty of time for a little warm up and to get some of the nerves out of our system.
I was over 13 minutes slower than my son for the event. He started on the swim after I entered the pool so that if he passed me, he knew his time was better. I had a good experience at the event and was happy to finish.
I learned that the start is critical in a sprint; I went too hard on the first few hundred meters of the swim. Next time, he goes first. Although I passed a few participants in the pool, I was passed by a few more as I walked from the pool to the first transition location and then spent too long getting ready for the bike ride. I did manage to beat my son on the bike; that was the only event I had an advantage.
My run was poor and I cannot blame anyone but me. My son passed me on the run portion as I was tired from biking and you know already that I am not a runner. I was walking (catching my breath) when he passed me during the running portion. That was all the encouragement I needed to get back running. I heard my son’s finish, so I was not too far behind (okay, 13 minutes…).
I had fun and I would do it again. Next year, I will find the time to practice more.
A few lessons learned.
Run after getting out of the pool…even if you are tired
Carry a bucket for your clothes and then you can use it to sit on before the race and during transition. The two competitors I saw with the 5-gallon buckets looked like they knew what they were doing.
Consider training to unbuckle shoes on the bike to go into the run transition without the clip-on shoes slowing me down.
Run more, swim more and start practicing earlier. If I am to do the event again, I will have to maintain a running regimen during the winter to get ready for a July event. If I can run in April, then I can work on time and not just getting ready to run the distance.
The warm-up is helpful; I need to determine the pool warm-up for the event.
There is no substitute for experience. I read a lot about the event, watched YouTube videos and learned more by doing.
Training for a triathlon is different than my normal bike riding for distance. It was a different mindset on the course.
Overall finish time: 1:31:41, place = 68 out of 92 men in the race (I was 30 finishers behind my son). He did better than his time the year before and I am happy to have been part of his motivation.
I have found out that when I do not have a goal, I am not motivated to ride or walk or do any other activity. I was encouraged to spend more time locally this summer to participate in a few local bike rides. Training to participate in organized rides takes practice on the local roads. Where I live we have a lot of hills, and since I was going to participate in Kentucky rides, I needed to practice on our local roads. As a result, I have enjoyed rediscovering some of the local rides that I ignored for the last few years.
The local challenge:
This year, a buddy of mine, David, who retired when I did, purchased a bike; together we went on several rides. It was great fun riding with him on the local roads.
Another friend of mine was looking for a riding partner for a few century rides. Mike took the Kentucky Century challenge and wanted a riding buddy. I looked at joining the Kentucky Challenge and decided against four century rides. Much to my surprise, I ended up riding three of the four century rides with Mike as well as training on some of the local roads. I also managed a few 50 mile rides on my own and with friends. I think I should have signed up for all four.
Additional encouragement to stay local was received when one of my sons challenged me to compete in a local triathlon.
As a result of my goals for riding this summer, I spent more time around the area than I did outside of our local area.
Favorite local rides:
Have you ever been to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky? I used to go about once a week in the summer a few years ago. It makes for a great stop when you are on a local bike ride. We have seen the original general store, the burned down general store, and now the re-built general store.
Big Bone Lick State Park to Rabbit Hash. This is a favorite ride for me and my wife. Many of the Boone County rides end up or begin at or ride by Big Bone Lick State Park.
We often ride from Big Bone to Rabbit Hash (about 10 miles out) with the variations open to go up the evil twins (both category 4 climbs) or a single category 4 climb or just to ride along the river without climbing to get to Rabbit Hash. We like to go early in the morning as motorcycles come to Rabbit Hash as a destination in the afternoon and evening.
As a side note, Strava recognizes the size of the climb in the results. A category 4 is a big climb (okay—it is hard on a bike!) with category 1 being a harder, steeper climb. This categorization of hill climbs started with the Tour De France; the category 4 climb is the lowest level they count. I am not sure I have been on a category 3 climb. Probably just as well.
The “no brainer.” This is a sponsored ride on Monday evenings along the Ohio River on KY Route 8. It is a no brainer in that as you leave the parking lot, turn right. When the road ends, you turn around and head back. This is a great beginning ride, and David and I did a few “short” 10 out and back rides to get a feel for road riding. The ride is fairly flat and does not have too much traffic. The views of the Ohio River are wonderful.
Harrison’s Tomb. William Henry Harrison’s tomb is in Cincinnati. He migrated to Ohio and became a senator prior to being elected president. He has an impressive tomb and has a regular procession of visitors to the tomb. The ride is a great route along the Ohio River, heading west toward the power plant and ending (if you ride the hill!) with a great view from the bluffs overlooking Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio. I appreciated learning about the ride from my bike mentor Chuck.
My triathlon-challenging son and I rode this ride—had a great day and enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately, he rode just as fast as I did, so I was determined to train a little harder on the bike ride for the triathlon.
Ride from the Boone County Arboretum. Our ride from the Arboretum avoids the big climbs and starts with a big downhill. The first time I went in 2019 with Mike and David it poured rain on us the entire second half of the ride, all the way up the hill on Big Bone Road (a category 4 climb). Even in the pouring rain, we had a good time. My bike riding mentors took me on the easier ride several times. I returned the favor for David and took the path away from the evil twins (two back to back category 4 climbs), riding on Riddles Run Road, taking a left on 338 or Beaver Road and then up Big Bone Road where we can climb just one category 4 hill before heading back to the Arboretum. This 17-mile loop is a great challenge for any rider. I know that to see if I am ready for the upcoming challenges, once a year I need to ride over the evil twins. I managed to get in a solo ride and accomplished riding up all three of the category 4 hills in one ride. Fun but exhausting.
Loveland Bike tail—Ohio & Erie. This is the rail bike trail in Cincinnati with a paved rail trail all the way to Cleveland. My wife and I have spent many fun rides on this trail with a stop in Loveland to enjoy a meal or ice cream. David and I spent our retirement anniversary (2 years) doing a 50-mile ride on this trail to celebrate.
- Enjoy the local rides
- Go out and exercise and have some fun with friends while you are out
- Join others or use their knowledge to explore some good routes.
I did participate in three century rides with my friends this season. I previously wrote about the Horsey Hundred ride over Memorial weekend.
My friend Mike signed up for the Kentucky Century Challenge and I joined him for three of the four required rides. I could have signed up and received a jersey for completing the challenge as well. Maybe next year. I enjoyed our time outside on the century rides.
The best one of the seasons was the last; likely I was in the best shape for that ride. The Limestone Challenge was a beautiful ride and very well supported. It made a difference that it was cool and overcast all day. One of my favorite segments was a switchback climb where we could see the riders ahead of us climbing up as we were climbing into the valley preparing to climb.
This was a big climbing ride and featured two category 4 climbs. This is why I practice on our local category 4 climbs, including the evil twins. The distance rode was 100.27 miles (had to get to the start) and elevation of over 6,100.
The other century ride we did was two weeks before the Limestone Challenge out of West Lafayette, IN , the Wabash River Ride.
We had another perfect day for a century ride in the summer. It was great weather for a long day on the bike. This ride was well supported and much smaller than the other two century rides we participated with. We rode 101.3 miles and climbed over 3,650 feet.
At the end of the ride we were looking for the hills that the organizers said were coming up. The day was cool to start, which is always great. We did cross a covered bridge and enjoyed the views of the river from the banks.
I am not a fan of pickles, and Mike and I both thought it was funny that at the Wabash and Limestone rides they offered riders pickle juice. Maybe I will try it some other time.
Early in July we took a trip to Natural Bridge state park. We went with two other couples and had a good time hiking the park and dancing on Hoedown Island. The summer weather was hot, so we sweated as we enjoyed the hiking trails.
One of the benefits of coming over the July 4th week was that we got to see and participate in two nights of dancing. The first night we experienced Kentucky Clog dancing; the next night was the regular Hoedown Island dancing. Clogging is the official state dance of Kentucky. We were fascinated watching the many people clogging. We did manage to learn a few steps, even though we did not have the fancy shoes.
The second night of dancing was more line dancing and some clogging. We were happy to dance until after nightfall. A long day of hiking and dancing led us to appreciate having a room at the lodge just up some steps rather than having to drive home after such an enjoyable day.
One of the reasons to come to Natural Bridge is to hike up to the Natural Bridge. Being adventuresome, we took the long way around, just to have fun. We went out toward the Rock Garden (trail 4) and around the back side of the bridge. We also hiked on top of the bridge and relished the skinny passageways up to the top of the natural bridge. It is big and wide.
We went on several other trails during our stay at the lodge. We liked the view from Lookout point and had a fun time walking down the steep Needle’s Eye and Devil’s Gulch on our way back to the lodge.
Travel with friends
We have been to Natural Bridge in the past and appreciated sharing the park with our friends who had not been to the park. The hiking is a better experience when you have others with you on the hike. You get to know some about them as well as getting another point of view on the trail.
Staying at Natural Bridge
The Hemlock Lodge was recently renovated. We like the balcony and the views from the porch. We have stayed at the lodge before and the room renovation was nice. The Hoedown Island fun ends around 10 PM and all was quiet in the lodge. One thing we like about the lodge is that it has several great places to just sit and watch nature, including the restaurant and a balcony overlooking the Middle Fork of the Red River, from the one side of the whole lodge. We took advantage of swimming in the pool, along with a lot of other guests. It was nice to have the pool available to cool off during the day after hiking.
Red River Gorge
The state park is near the Red River Gorge. It is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. According to their web site: “The Red River Gorge is a uniquely scenic area in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The area is known for its abundant natural stone arches, unusual rock formations, and spectacular sandstone cliffs. The Red River Gorge is designated as a national geological area by the U.S. Forest Service.” The visitor center for the area is the Gladie visitor center. We have visited in the past so we skipped it this trip in favor of going directly on the hike.
We took an enjoyable hike to the double arch (trail #201) in the Red River Gorge. We had a sunny warm day for our hike up to the double arch. After exploring the double arch, climbing up on it and eating lunch, we continued on the trail and saw Courthouse Rock and Haystack Rock. The area is really beautiful and not well known. The hikes in Natural Bridge were full of people, but the Red River Gorge, even on a big holiday week, was far less crowded.
Some of my friends from the area will tell you that after a long day of hiking and before dancing you need to stop at the best pizza place in Kentucky. So, we stopped at Miguel’s Pizza about 3 minutes from the park. The pizza hit the spot and was very tasty. We also went to the Daniel Boone Coffee Shop nearby and enjoyed a great cup or two of coffee and breakfast the next morning after dancing.
A few lessons learned:
Take a chance and go dancing. We had not tried clog dancing before and found it enjoyable, although we could not say we actually were clogging.
Sit on a rock and enjoy the view. The hiking is fun; spending time with your wife and friends is priceless, especially with a great view of the countryside.
No bike riding this trip. Just hiking and dancing.
Summer does not officially start until about June 21. We tend to think that summer is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The mountains do not agree; we hiked in May and June on trails with no snow and trails with feet of snow.
Rocky Mountain National Park has been a favorite of mine since I was a small child; we went to the park almost every other year. The park holds several happy memories for me: I proposed to my wife in the park and we honeymooned at the park as well. It is fitting for me that I spent part of May and June in the park for my 60th birthday.
I really enjoyed every hike. The biggest snow hike was our hike from Bear Lake to Lake Haiyaha through the snow.
We had a hard time following the path, as the trail was a few feet under the snow.
As we got closer to the lake, the snow was deeper and we found that boulders were warm and melted the snow. It was hard to avoid stepping through snow up to your hips. Fortunately, on the hike my daughter-in-law had a GPS trail guide that kept us on track when we could not find enough footsteps to go the correct way. Looking back on the hike we were often on the trail and off the trail.
The view from this lake is dominated by (looking at the lake) Otis Peak on the left and Hallett Peak towards the right.
We just called it the hike to lake “H” as we could not pronounce “Haiyaha” which is a Native American word that means “rock” or “lake of many rocks” or “big rocks” depending on the translation.
Not many hikers braved the snow to get to Lake Haiyaha. We did see some people bouldering near the lake. The lake was still mostly frozen and had a really blue hue. On the way up the mountain we were able to get some reception and speak with our son who is currently overseas. It was great to have him see us up on the mountain
We hiked two different ways to see Lake Bierstadt. We enjoyed them both. The hike up from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead allowed us to enjoy the views of Sprague Lake and Longs Peak on the trail while we steadily climbed more than 600 feet along a series of switchbacks to reach the top of the Bierstadt Moraine. Once we got to the top and under the tree canopy, we saw snow on the path and had snow the rest of the way to the lake. We chose to go straight or around the western edge of the lake both times we hiked. We had to make a path to the lake as we could not see the path.
We had a picnic lunch, flour tortillas with cheese and ham, and more water as we enjoyed the lake sitting on some of the rocks. What a great day watching the beautiful view from the lake. We were able to view Longs Peak, Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain along with several others.
We also enjoyed hiking to Bierstadt from Bear Lake after taking the shuttle. We encountered a lot of snow at the beginning as we hiked up the Flattop Mountain Trail from Bear Lake. I walked onto Bear Lake, which was a mistake as the ice was not as thick as I thought based on the footprints. My hiking boot went in, but my new merino wool socks dried out fast and I did not get any blisters. It was great hiking with three girls: my wife, daughter and my daughter-in-law. I kept up pretty well! We had another beautiful, clear weather day at Bierstadt Lake. After lunching again and sitting on the rocks, we finished our hike by going back to the Bear Lake shuttle bus station where we were parked.
We stayed outside of the park in a wonderful cabin on the Big Thompson River. My plan was to eat breakfast outside every morning. The cabin was great with a table on the covered porch just a foot away from the river running swiftly by. I went outside each morning, but one morning it was 25 degrees; this was too cold for me to enjoy breakfast outside, even with the heater on.
The mornings are the best time to hike in the Rockies as the afternoons often bring weather changes and a quick storm. Staying at the cabin allowed us to use the annual park pass with no long lines and “key card” or annual pass card access at the Beaver Meadows entrance.
Part of my morning routine is to watch and be inspired by Darren Hardy. We were listening at the end of May to Darren and he challenged us to walk or run, we chose walk, one mile or more every day. We began that 90 day challenge while we were at the park beginning the first of June. With so many daily hikes to choose from, we had a great start to our challenge.
As our time in the Rockies lengthened, the weather did manage to warm up, even some mornings. Okay, for Colorado, it managed to warm up. Yes, it was cold up in the mountains, but fortunately we could dress for it. Our kids came with what looked like not enough clothing. We had on bulky jackets and sweat shirts, flannel shirts. Apparently science has advanced and our warm weather clothing is much bulkier than what they make today. We will have to look into getting something easier to pack that will keep us just as warm.
Our first experience at Bear Lake was that we could not go too far without our micro spikes. Fortunately we were able to get them a week later when a few kids joined us for my birthday.
We hiked through snow up over my waist in June. It was pretty interesting to see. The park was blanketed in spring snows and it was hanging around. We did not have snow in Estes Park and the area felt like typical springtime weather for the mountains.
A few lessons learned:
Explore more of the area than you have in the past. We went to the Lumpy Ridge and Wild Basin Trailheads this trip. I do not know if I went there as a kid. It is possible, although we camped in Moraine Park campground in the park every year we visited, close to the same camping spot. It was easy enough to get to Bear Lake and the hiking was accessible for a family from there. We really enjoyed how diverse these two areas were from our typical hiking from Bear Lake. We have hiked on the other side of Trail Ridge Road (when it was open in prior visits as an adult) and we did not enjoy those hikes as much as Lumpy Ridge and Wild Basin.
Re-visit your favorite spots. As a kid and an adult I have hiked from Bear Lake many times. It is just a beautiful area. We had a fun time with our birthday visitors hiking some of the trails together.
Try something new. We went on a bike ride from Trail Ridge Road. We started at the top from Rainbow Curve as Trail Ridge Road was still closed and we rode down. There was only one small hill, and my riding buddy Mike from Kentucky would have commented that we rode only downhill. It was a fun ride and a really nice way to slow down and take in the mountain grandeur as we peddled by.
We did meet hikers, besides our kids, with all the correct gear. Many believe a cell phone is all that is required, and I saw plenty of people with flip flops and a cell phone. Real hikers know that proper footwear (my boots may be old, but they work well!) make all the difference. A compass, map, water, snacks, sunscreen, a whistle and a camera, okay a phone, are basics. Remember when choosing a hike to look at the distance and the elevation. Even a short hike can be really tough in the mountains.
Take the stops and do not be in a hurry. I decided to allow cars coming behind me to pass as soon as possible. I was not in a hurry. I know, you are saying, ok you are that guy…I wanted to take it all in. Enjoy the day as well as the moment. On one of our car rides, we stopped at Sheep Lake allowing faster cars to pass while we checked out the ranger station near the lake. While there we saw 7 big horn sheep come over to the lake. We also saw elk here and there and, quite frankly, all over the park as well as in Estes Park.
Here is a sample of our hikes:
From Bear Lake:
- Bear Lake to Bierstadt Lake up Flat top Mountain Trail to the Bear Lake bus station where we were parked.
- Bear Lake to Lake Haiyaha by way of Nymph Lake and Dream Lake up the Glacier Gorge Trail. Nymph Lake is a small lake with big views including Long’s Peak. This area was covered with snow and was a place where many would-be day hikers turned around. Dream Lake was worth stopping at and we spent some time here. We did not see many tennis shoe hikers at this stop as the snow was 1-2 feet deep at this juncture. Moving up from Dream Lake is where we encountered the deepest snow and fewer hikers.
Lawn Lake Trailhead—this was one of our first hikes, so we could get acclimated. We did not make it to the lake as we did not have our micro spikes just yet and encountered a lot of snow as we got higher up into the mountains.
We enjoyed the views of the Roaring River From the trailhead. We hiked the Lawn Lake Trail and part of the Ypsilon Lake trail.
Old Fall River Road (closed for cars) from Endovalley picnic area–Old Fall River Road is a historic dirt road built between 1913 and 1920 and does not generally open to cars until July 4. We had a real treat as we got near the road, spotting three big horn sheep grazing near the start of the road. The hike to Chasm Falls took us up roughly 1.4 miles up the old dirt road. Once we found the sign to the falls, we walked the short distance down the paved footpath to the viewing area.
Having a lot of melting snow allowed for a spectacular view of the falls that drop somewhere between 25 and 30 feet. We were happy to have the falls to ourselves as most hikers stopped too soon to get to the falls.
Sprague Lake—we went to this lake after deciding that the trail at Bear Lake was too snowy (we tried and then called for the kids to bring the micro spikes with them for the weekend when they came up). We enjoyed our hike around the lake. It was interesting to see a group of guys standing in the lake fishing. So we guess the lake is not too deep! We hiked over to the Boulder Brook Trail and back to the parking area. As we hiked along the area we came to our first experience with fire rings. We asked some of the passing rangers about this and they shared that the chain saws and big fire rings are part of a prescribed burn program that the park is conducting.
Hike to Cub Lake, the Pool and Fern Lake—The hike to Cub Lake began from the Moraine Park area. We saw a lot of elk grazing near the edge of the meadows. Also, on the way in to park, we saw a moose! Wow.
We were staying on the Big Thompson River and have walked past this river in Estes Park. It was nice to follow the river on the way back from The Pool.
Moraine Park Campground –When my family came to the Rockies we camped here. This is also the place where I proposed to my wonderful wife! We took a hike through the entire area.
With the spring snows, Trail Ridge Road was snowed in. The road was open to (non-motorized) bikers and hikers prior to allowing cars to go up the road.
In the many times I have been to the park, this is the first time I have hiked on Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road. We were impressed with the 30 foot high walls of snow that we passed at even the 2 mile mark up this road. We started our hike from the Rainbow Curve Overlook.
We hiked up until the Ute Trail. It was a brisk 43 degrees when we started and a steep climb up the hill. From the road we had great views and no traffic! We did see some of the snow plow equipment. The trees and animals have all adapted to the snow. We saw many young trees that bent but did not break under feet of snow, sticking out and getting sun. We also saw small wildlife here and birds doing well. The lesson I took from this is that if you want to survive, you can. You can see trees, birds, animals all surviving in extreme conditions, and they do survive, despite the odds.
We took some time to explore the town of Estes Park and we hiked around Lake Estes. It was a good walk and had one major uphill climb. On the hike we encountered a sign describing a potential hazard, an elk calving area, aggressive elk may be present. We did see that elk, no issues for us, thankfully. And, we saw a few other elk on and near the trail around the lake. The town is great fun to explore. We enjoyed eating out and finding a new spot for ice cream.
From the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead we hiked up to Gem Lake. This is such a different part of the park. The views may have Long’s Peak, but the red rock is more like the Garden of the Gods.
This was our first park hike without any snow on the path. I do not remember having been to the Lumpy Ridge Trail before and I highly recommend this trail. We did have nice views of the Estes Park valley and some of the surrounding mountain peaks.
Deer Mountain Trailhead starting from Deer Ridge Junction—The summit is 10,013 feet in elevation. Many have recommended this hike as a way to get acclimated to the higher elevations. I enjoyed being able to say we hiked to the summit of a mountain!
One of the guides on the bike ride said we “should summit” and the easiest one in the area was Deer Mountain. We are glad we took this hike up to the top of Deer Mountain. This was a multi-use trail and I am not always a fan of horses on the trail. We encountered a few, and that was okay; we were able to step aside and let them pass us. Outside of the obvious hazard, this trail has some big steps geared for mules or horses and not for humans.
Just like Lumpy Ridge, the Wild Basin, not a far (about 30 minute) drive from the park, is one I do not remember visiting in the past. We took one of our longer hikes here, over 7 ½ miles on the Wild Basin Trail and the North Saint Vrain Fire Trail. This hike featured the lower and upper Copeland Falls, the Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls. We found it tough viewing for the Ouzel falls, but worth it.
Once we were past the falls, it became snowy as we headed toward Thunder Lake (up the trail about ½ mile). We turned around—near the twin lakes (which we could not see through the forest) as the snow was too much for us. We went back down the less well-marked path (North Saint Vrain Fire Trail ) with the exciting sign that read “All stock except Llamas prohibited.” We are not sure why or what that would mean. We did not have a llama or any other stock so we took the path. The trail followed the creek or river the whole way back and was generally free from snow.
Adapted from A.A. Milne, “Now we are six” and updated by Retirement travel with Glen
When I was young,
I had just begun.
When I was twenty-five,
I was just married.
When I was thirty,
I was mostly a dad of an expanding family.
When I was forty,
I was not much more.
When I was fifty and still working,
I was just alive and the kids were leaving.
But now I am sixty and retired,
I’m and as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be sixty now
for ever and ever.
Hiking statistics: 13 hikes and almost 60 miles of trails.
One bike ride—mostly downhill: 20 miles.
Part of being retired is being able to pick up and visit. I was able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom for the first time in several years. One thing I am working on is visiting with family.
I enjoyed my visit and even got in a few bike rides with my sister; unfortunately, it hailed on one of our bike rides, not quite the experience we were looking for when we went out. Okay, you may have gone bike riding in the rain, so have we. Yes, it was supposed to be cloudy and yes, it did rain (hard). I hope to avoid riding in a hailstorm in the future. We called the ride short on that day. I think my shoes are still a little wet.
I did get turned back on a few of my bike rides because of the flooded road ways. The local area suffered the same rain and flooding as the rest of the country. The local bike trail was well marked and the signs saying closed were posted for a good reason. A few days later and the tunnels and underpasses were cleared out and the “trail closed” signs were gone as well.
My travels on took me to my mom, my mother-in-law, and finely to my house where I had a trifecta on Mother’s Day seeing all three in one day.
A few lessons learned.
Spending a week in a retirement community makes you think about people getting old and retiring somewhere else. My mom had stories of former neighbors who moved to the community and then as age and life happens had to sell and move back to their former home or where kids are located. Our decision is to stay where we have established friends, ties to the community, and family. This strategy is working out well so far.
It is good to help pull weeds and clean out the yard. Just watch out for the poison oak and sumac. My rash lasted a few weeks as a reminder that I was able to help out at my mom’s house.
Enjoy every bike ride. I went solo a few times, and despite having to find alternative places to bike I had a fun ride. The attitude starting the ride often determines the outcome. My sister took me on her triathlon course for the ride that ended in hail. It was still a fun ride and we found a tunnel that we had not biked to previously.
I was able to bike over 70 miles during the week and got out to ride 5 times. Several of the rides early in the week were cut short. Mom does not go biking with me so it is good to have my sister nearby who will join me for the rides.
It was a cold and wet spring. Not too much time for training on the bike outside. The good news is that Cincinnati has a lot of fun places to go and see.
In between the cold and the rain I was able to go to see the Cincinnati Reds play baseball. First professional game I can recall being at where the temperature was under 40 for the entire game. The Reds played their second game of the season, after their opening win, to a small crowd (18,737) compared to the opening day crowd of over 44,000, one of the biggest at the ball park. Even though the team lost, we were convinced that warm weather was coming. The game was fun and baseball always holds the promise of summer.
It was expected to rain when I went to see my first professional soccer game. The local club “FC Cincinnati” plays in the University of Cincinnati football stadium awaiting a new soccer stadium in town. So, it was fitting that I was invited to the game with my son who played in the first soccer game I ever saw. The day turned out nice and even though the game ended in a 1-1 tie, the game was exciting. The crowd, into every kick and pass on the field, seemed to know all the rules. With 26,023 fans in attendance, the noise and excitement was a contrast to the baseball game. Constant noise and cheers came from a fan section called “The Baily” that lent the game an atmosphere of intensity with chanting, drumming and yes, yelling.
The Baily has chants and songs for all occasions. We were able to witness the snake of fans in their orange and blue on the way into the stadium all chanting (Yes, I had to look it up…)
Cincinnati here we go, here we go, here we go.
Cincinnati here we go, here we go, here we go.
OLE OLE – OLE OLE, No one likes us, but that’s okay.
So score a goal, or score a few, Cincinnati, we’re here for you!
Another tradition in Cincinnati is the Flying Pig Marathon, something I have never done or even been to see in action. I do have friends that have run, including one who ran the marathon for 20 years in a row. The same son who took me to my first soccer game invited us to see him run in his events. He ran the “3 way with cheese” events, a 1 mile, 5k, 10k and half-marathon on the Flying Pig weekend. He did really well and we were glad to be on the sideline cheering him on.
My friend who ran all those marathons is also a champion bike rider and has completed a few iron man challenges. I have no desire to run a marathon, let alone run one at the end of a swim and bike ride of over 100 miles. We did manage to do a century ride together at the Horsey Hundred bike ride.
Each year over Memorial weekend, Georgetown hosts the Horsey Hundred, a bike ride displaying for all who care to bike ride the beautiful horse country area in Kentucky. The organizers directed us on routes past several horse farms; we were impressed and welcomed at the rest areas stocked with friendly volunteers and needed snacks.
The ride was a challenge as the weather in the afternoon turned sunny for the first time in weeks. Too bad I had not trained in the heat or the sun for the ride. I think we were both a little overloaded with the sun when we pulled into the finish after the 100 miles of bike riding. I am thinking my next ride (already signed up for a century ride in September) will see me in better shape for the distance.
Spring would not be complete without a visit our local Arboretum. Of course we walked and saw the spring trees blooming and the flowers starting to bud.
The flowers were coming out on the dogwoods just in time for the local dogwood dash.
A few lessons learned.
- Be a tourist in your back yard. We have a gangster tour planned for the summer in Newport, KY.
- Support your local teams. Wow, the baseball and soccer games showed that a lot of local people really like and support Cincinnati.
- Beauty is often in your back yard. Even though we have had to mow often this spring, the budding trees and flowers of spring bring joy.
Thank you Mike! I appreciate you pulling me along on the 100 mile Horsey Hundred event. That was not our first century bike ride together as Mike and I did a 100 miles MS bike ride a few years ago. My favorite comment from Mike was that at least he does not have to get off the bike and run a marathon. Amen to that! It was enough just to finish the ride and drive home.