The gem of Fort Collins in November, shortly after sunset.
We went camping in Colorado State Forest State Park for a weekend in early July. Almost as soon as we turned onto the dirt road that would take us to the North Michigan Reservoir camping area, we saw a tiny baby deer in the road, followed soon after by its mother. I can’t think of a better welcome to a park! As we got settled in our campsite, we had lots of hummingbird and chipmunk visitors. And when we walked down to the reservoir so the kids could throw some rocks in the water, we saw several fish jump up! The reservoir was very lovely, but swimming isn’t allowed. Maybe someday we’ll come back with a kayak or canoe to enjoy the water a little more!
As night approached, our neighbors told us that there was a fox that liked to check all of the campsites for snacks at night and in the early morning. Of course we were careful not to leave any food out overnight, and I heard some little fox-sized footsteps near our tent in the early morning. I also heard an owl, and a friend that we shared the campsite with thinks she heard a moose.
The next morning we took a nice kid-friendly hike around several beaver lodges.
We didn’t see any beavers or other people on the trail, but we saw so many beautiful wildflowers! The flowers along the trail were very fragrant as we hiked.
We had a great time, but this particular state park is well known for having lots of moose, and I hoped that by staying overnight we would have a good chance of spotting a few moose. We will just have to return another time to see some moose!
We had hoped to take the cog rail up Pikes Peak on the Saturday morning of our snowy March adventure weekend, but tickets were sold out, so we decided we would drive up the 14,114 foot tall mountain in the afternoon instead. After spending the morning at Garden of the Gods and a nice lunch in quaint Manitou Springs, we headed to Pikes Peak. We then learned that the morning train ride up the mountain ended up getting cancelled because of the snow, so our new plan turned out to be for the best.
The lower part of the mountain was like a snow globe!
As we drove up the mountain, we went through the low clouds covering Colorado Springs, and were finally greeted with blue skies and sunshine! And gusts of wind!
On this day, our view from the summit was limited to the other high peaks that were above the clouds, and the tops of the clouds (sort of like the view from an airplane). I believe the summit temperature was about 0ºF, with a windchill of about -20ºF. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time outside of the car admiring our surroundings, but this drive was an incredible experience.
A couple of dear old friends came from the east coast to catch up and visit Colorado for a weekend in mid-March, so we visited a few places that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to visit on a snowy weekend. It turns out that the Denver Botanic Gardens are extra beautiful with a fresh blanket of spring snow!
Of course, the tropical gardens inside the warm conservatory are lovely year-round as well. We really enjoyed having the gardens almost to ourselves.
We visited Great Sand Dunes National Park in August. It’s a uniquely beautiful place, and though we were worried that it might be unpleasantly hot that time of year, the weather was very comfortable (high temperature each day in the low 80s). There is a creek that flows at the base of the sand dunes, and we expected that it would be dry by that time of year, but a wide shallow stream was still flowing. The stream was really fun for little ones to play in, and pleasant for everyone to cool their feet in. We also rented sand sleds and had fun sledding down the dunes. We briefly attempted hiking up the tallest dunes (which are the tallest in North America!), but there was a lot of wind during the morning we made the attempt, and hiking through sandstorm-like conditions was not our idea of a good time. This National Park is not super well known, and rather isolated, so we enjoyed that it was not crowded.
We stayed at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge, the only non-camping option near the park. Check out the lovely view from our patio at the Lodge, and our hummingbird friend! The Lodge was perfect for us: a quick drive from our area of interest, with a quiet room including a small fridge and microwave, and an indoor pool in case we needed an indoor activity during our stay. Our two-year-old loved the “sand dudes” and proclaimed that she wanted to live there!
We recently visited Hopewell Rocks, a provincial park along the Bay of Fundy with many remarkable rock formations. The late afternoon light was just right to catch some awesome silhouettes of the rocks at low tide.
While in Newfoundland, we spent a day in Gros Morne National Park. First we hiked along the base of The Tablelands, a flat-topped mountain that was pushed up from the earth’s mantle. This mantle-originating rock lacks the nutrients that support plant life, so it looks interestingly barren in an otherwise plant and tree-covered landscape.
Next we went for the “Lookout Hike,” which was a good uphill climb. Here’s the view from the lookout (I put together a panorama using Hugin, an easy-to-use free program that works on Macs):
You can see The Tablelands on the right – the reddish flat mountain. We had a wonderful day, but were a bit disappointed that we didn’t see any moose. People that we ran into on the trail mentioned that they saw moose near the lookout, but we weren’t so lucky. At least we saw quite a few pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant that is the provincial flower of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I wish we had more time to spend in Gros Morne, because there are many beautiful hikes that I would have enjoyed, and I also would have liked to take a day cruise to see the fjords along the coast. If you get a chance to visit Gros Morne National Park, go there for a few days!
We visited the west coast of Newfoundland last week. The views of Corner Brook and the Bay of Islands from Captain Cook’s Lookout at about 8:30 pm (still a while before sunset) were spectacular. This special spot is named after Captain James Cook because he surveyed and mapped the coast of Newfoundland back in the 1760s.
We took a day trip from Paris to Giverny to visit Claude Monet’s gardens and house. We traveled from Paris to Vernon by a very crowded train, then rented bicycles from a cafe across the street from the Vernon train station and rode on to Giverny. Tour buses and taxis were also available, but we had a perfect day for a bike ride. Most of the bike ride was on a quiet bike path, where we encountered a few butterflies! We passed a bright field of rapeseed on the way to Giverny.
And once we turned onto Rue Claude Monet, we knew we were on the right track.
The line to get into Monet’s property was very long, and parts of the gardens were rather crowded, especially around the water lily pond. The gardens were lovely though, and I enjoyed trying to put myself in Monet’s place, appreciating the changing effects of light and shadow in the gardens.
When I was at the Belvedere in Vienna, I saw a painting of Monet’s gardens with his house in the background. I bought a postcard of that painting at the Belvedere gift shop, and brought it along to the gardens. The photo below shows the painting postcard in the spot depicted in the painting.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, but I liked seeing the art that Monet hung on his own walls – lots of cool Japanese prints.
Ready to escape the throngs of tourists, we hopped back on our bikes and rode back to Vernon. We stopped by the Seine in Vernon to check out the castle shown below. There was no signage about it or mention of it in any of my pre-trip research, so I guess it’s no big deal to the French, but it’s called Chateau des Tourelles and was built in 1196!
We also thought this old mill over the river was cute and picturesque.
Back in the center of Vernon, we stopped to admire the collegiate church Notre Dame, which dates back to the 11th century.
We had a late lunch in a small family-run restaurant across the street from the church, then returned our bikes and headed back to Paris.