Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gunnison/Crested Butte Colorado

We drove up to Gunnison and Crested Butte for a few days.  Partly to celebrate my birthday and partly so Mark could try out a few new disc golf courses.

Our first stop was the Gunnison Visitor Center where we picked up lots of pamphlets of things to do in the area.  The city park had a number of carvings that took advantage of dead trees.

We took a hike to this formation, called the Dillon Pinnacles. This is a deposit of volcanic rock called West Elk Breccia that has been eroding for 30 million years.

We also hiked along a beautiful creek. This area was lush and green,, and we had plenty of mosquitos to keep us company!

From Crested Butte we took the West Elk Loop drive over Kebler Pass.  The drive took us through the largest Aspen grove in Colorado.  It went on for miles and miles. 

The drive finished alongside Blue Mesa Reservoir. At 20 miles long and with 96 miles of shoreline, it is the largest body of water in the state of Colorado. It was formed by damming the Gunnison River west of Gunnison.
The National Park Service offers a pontoon boat tour in the upper reaches of the Black Canyon.  The tour runs about 1 1/2 hours, and requires a one mile hike down to the boat dock.  The hike includes 232 steps down (and then back up!). We enjoyed both the hike and the boat trip.  The scenery was amazing. 

The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad built a narrow gauge railroad down into the canyon.  The trail to the boat dock followed part of the old railroad track bed. Shortly beyond the boat dock the track bed disappears beneath the waters of Morrow Point lake. 

This is the Curecanti Needle that is on the RR sign.

Mark tried out 2 different disc golf courses, one near Salida and the other in Gunnison:

All in all, a nice part of the world...


Monday, July 15, 2013

The Monsoon Season Has Started

This area of the San Luis Valley is beginning to get some much needed rain.  Every afternoon we start seeing the clouds forming over the mountains, and we have had a few significant showers.  Not only are the rains helping the plants, but the wildfires in the area are just about contained.

We are also noticeably cooler.  Our high today was only 66°.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Big Boys and our Toys

I've gotten certified on a bunch of Heavy Equipment while here at Alamosa NWR, but haven't had much opportunity to utilize the certifications.

That changed this week when we started reworking an RV pad in anticipation of another couple arriving at the end of the month. The existing pad is tiny and covered with deep loose gravel. It needs to be expanded and covered with firm road base.

So I got to jump into the backhoe and start on the new pad. After spreading out the old gravel, I began hauling road base from a stockpile several miles away. It will take a few buckets of base to complete the new pad, but we decided it is easier to carry it over in the backhoe bucket than to get a dump truck.

Driving over with a load of base
I loaded up the bucket and "roaded" it over to the RV site on a refuge road. The trip takes about ten minutes each way, but the backhoe has an air conditioner and a radio, so it's not a bad ride.

Once at the site I drop the load in small piles and then spread it evenly. Teri is my spotter and helps me get the base where I need it.

Dropping base
Empty bucket
This is good practice for me and a good project for the refuge. We'll finish it next week.


Monday, July 1, 2013


Some days just don’t turn out the way we’ve planned. 

We got a call very early this morning from the refuge manager.  She asked Mark what we had planned for today.  While he was giving her a rundown of several things we wanted to finish up and a couple of new projects we wanted to get started on, he realized that what she really was asking was “Are you available right now?”

Turns out, she had no water.  She lives on the refuge in staff housing and her water comes from a well on the property.  We hightailed it over to her place to see what we could do.  Her water pump, of undetermined age, was going to have to be replaced.  After driving to two different plumbing stores, and a couple of trips to the hardware store, we were able to get her up and running.
New pump, fresh out of the box.
The temperature in Alamosa, Colorado typically reaches 30° below 0°.  The well house is inside the garage where it can be heated during the winter months.
There isn’t a lot of room to maneuver inside the well house!

Today was the kind of day that really shows us how much we, as volunteers, are needed.  Not only were we able to quickly respond to the situation, we also saved the refuge quite a bit of money on labor costs.