Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Nuggets, A New Mesa and Greenland – all in one weekend

Whew – I need a vacation from this weekend! It has been busy, busy, busy! Friday evening was another one of our Nuggets games as part of our 10 game “season ticket”. This game was one of the better games that we have seen all season. The Nuggets were playing the Philadelphia 76’ers and it was a neck-and-neck game. Usually no more that 1 or 2 points separated the teams. Ultimately the Nuggets ended up winning by 4 points. We had a lot of fun riding the light rail and enjoying the game. Zack was in rare form – actually he was in normal form – he did his normal routine and attracted the attention of everyone around. In some ways it is kind of nice that he attractions the attention that he does as it is usually good attention. I can’t tell you the number of times I hear people say “he is so cute”, “he is so intelligent”, etc. So it is very nice. On Friday he put on a “drama” show for everyone in our light rail car. He had on a “wig” that he got as a present from his cousin Cole. He really had everyone on the entire train car cracking up.
My brother and nephew were also at the game. However, their tickets were REALLY good, unlike our peanut heaven seats. I called my brother on his cell phone during the break between the first 2 quarters and we spent a couple of minutes trying to find each other. Finally Zack and I were able to spot them 8 rows behind the Nuggets bench. As per usual we indulged in the very bad for you, very expensive stadium food. We had lots of hot dogs, churros and ice cream. It was a good evening! Saturday was a bitterly cold day. But regardless we got out for a hike. We headed south to Castlerock and an open space area that we had never conquered before – Gateway Mesa Open Space. It is not a large open space area, but if offers some dramatic views to the east of the plains and forested areas around Franktown and Elizabeth. We had the place pretty much to ourselves because it was nasty enough that no one else wanted to be outside at that point. Despite the cold Zack was fantastic. I really have to say I am so impressed with the level of strength he is showing and his determination to hike through difficult situations. Sunday we went to Greenland. No not the island in the north Atlantic! Though I wish we were going there. Having flown over Greenland numerous times on my way back and forth to Europe, I really do have a desire to go there. We actually went to Greenland, Colorado and the Greenland Open Space. This open space area is one of the largest open space areas on the Front Range. It consists of over 20,000 acres. The majority of the land is located to the east of I-25. However, all the major trails are within the 3600 acres located to the west of I-25. Nancy was not feeling very well today so I made the decision to take Lex on our hike. Lex tends to give Nancy a hard time – always getting into trouble. Normally, I will leave Lex at home just because I don’t want to take him and leave Bailey at home. Bay doesn’t like being left alone and he is just too old to go on hikes like this any more. But given the situation today – I had to take the Lex-maniac with us.

The three of us arrived at the trailhead for the Kipps loop trail around 11:00AM. Of course Lex was just so eager to go. He wanted out of the car and on the trail immediately. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t going to let him off leash. We hit the trail and through it was warm today – in the 40s and 50s, we realized we were in for a tough hike. The trail winds through a lot of open range land and the wind had drifted snow across the trail and packed it to the point that it was like walking across very rough cement. But occasionally the snow would give way and we would post hole through the snow and get lots of snow down our shoes. The hike was beautiful as we walked through the rangeland and began to scale a series of low hills. As we climbed the hills the hiking became more and more difficult, but the view across the hills and the plains was simply gorgeous. The climb was well worth it. After almost 2 miles we made the decision to turn around and head back to the car. In the spring once the trail is clear and dry I am sure we will do this hike and do the entire 8 mile loop. As we walked back to the car we came across a party of 6 people on horseback. Throughout the hike Zack had been holding Lex’s leash. As we neared the horses I made sure I had hold of the leash. I didn’t want Lex to take off and spook one of the horses. Zack of course had to ask the people if he could pet their horses. They were very accommodating and stopped the horses so he could stroke their faces. He was petting one of the horses when the horse decided to let out a very loud nay. Zack jumped a mile. I thought he was going to jump out of his skin. After he realized the horse wasn’t being mean or anything he was ok with it.

After the horses we just prodded on through the rough trail. It was tough and by the time we got back to the car we were muddy and feet were pretty well soaked. We were tired and we were just glad to be back to the car and headed home. All-in-all it was a tiring but good weekend with my boy. I love my Zackie so much and we both really enjoy the adventures that we have. I can’t wait for us to have even more! On a totally and complete different note – I have found a little hobby that I am going to start in 2009. As those of you who follow this blog know – I love to go hiking in the “open space” areas of Colorado. In 2009 I am going to start a new website dedicated to listing all the open spaces of Colorado and the trails within the open spaces. My plan is to hike everyone of these trails and write a review of the trails on the website I start. I’ll be working in January to contact every county in Colorado and get a complete list of their open space properties and all the trails within them. It will just be something fun to do and it will give Zack and I an added incentive to get out and hike! We hope everyone has had a great last weekend of 2008! Thanks and peace to all!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmas Day's Walk

Christmas is always such a wonderful time. The day in and of itself is magical in the fact that it is the one day out of the entire year where much of our world, at least in the western, Judeo-Christian world, comes to a complete grinding halt. There are hardly any stores open for the day. There is very little traffic on the roads. I so love the peace and quiet that comes with Christmas! To me Christmas is always a day to get out and walk, hike or ski. This year my desire to be outside and take a long, thought producing walk was very strong. Zack would have nothing of it. I cannot blame him. He just received a ton of toys for Christmas, so he wanted to stay at home and play with them. I wasn’t about to force him to go out and walk with me. I let him stay at home with Nancy – his grandmother – my late wife’s mother.
I journeyed out for my walk late in the afternoon. My destination for the day was the East-West Regional trail in Highlands Ranch. Now Highlands Ranch isn’t necessarily my favorite place in this world. It is large development that has grown from nothing in 1988 to a home for over 100,000 people. Each year, the bulldozers and earth movers scrape away more of the open rangeland and turn into tracts of homes. It is hard for me to see acre after acre - home to wild animals and beautiful plants turned into roads, shopping malls, houses and all the other accoutrements of our modern world. The East-West Regional trail is a new trail that will eventually span much of northern Douglas County running from Highlands Ranch to at least Parker. So far only 6 or 7 miles of it have been built in 2 separate areas. I was going to walk on the section that starts at trailhead near Daniels Park. The sun was already beginning to set by the time I started on my walk. The wind was very strong and I was glad that I had an extra jacket in my car. The hike itself was good as I had the whole area pretty much to myself. The trail follows a high ridge that is up above Highway 85. This ridge marks the western most terminus of the Palmer Divide. Once you descend down this ridge into the valley below the land is relatively flat until you hit the foothills of the Front Range Mountains about 7 miles further west. To be honest the hike was nothing particularly special based upon the terrain and environment. But what was special was the time it gave me to think and enjoy my own thoughts locked away in my head. I am sure if anyone had seen me I would have seemed to have been in a fog – but it was exactly what I needed on this magical day of days! I hope everyone’s holidays are going well and are very enjoyable! Peace to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Magic of the Hidden Mesa

Saturday morning dawned very bright but very cold in the Front Range of Colorado. Despite the chill in the air and the brisk breeze, Zack and I were determined to get out and do a new hike. Our destination for today’s hike was Hidden Mesa Open Space in Douglas County. Hidden Mesa is located about 7 miles to the south of Parker, Colorado near the old town of Franktown. This open space was created to build a buffer between the growing towns of Parker and Castle Rock. The centerpiece of the open space is a series of high mesas that rise up from the Cherry Creek flood plain and mark the start of the Palmer Divide. The Palmer Divide is a high outcropping of mesas, bluffs and hills that rise about 2000 feet above the plains on which Denver and it’s suburbs are located. The Divide provides a natural separation between Denver and Colorado Springs to the south. We arrived at the parking lot for the open space around 11:20AM to find that we were the ONLY people there. No other cars were there. We had the entire 1200+ acres of the open space to ourselves – how cool!!
After suiting up in all our cold weather gear we started our hike through the low flood plain of Cherry Creek. After walking for ½ mile we came to a bridge by which we could cross Cherry Creek. The creek was actually frozen over and Zack decided that he just had to go out on the ice. This provided me a great opportunity to teach him about the dangers of walking on the ice. I showed him how weak the ice was and how easy it is to fall through it.
After crossing the creek we entered prairie dog country. For the next ¾ of a mile our walking was accompanied by the constant chirping of literally dozens of prairie dogs. They clearly were not happy with our presence! As we began the twisting climb up various gulches and ravines the prairie dog colonies were left behind and we entered a landscape filled with copses of small oak trees and pines. There was a picnic table situated in one of these copses and after we brushed the snow off of it, we sat down and enjoyed the view. After that we resumed our hike we experience something absolutely magical. As we wound up the trail through a number of ravines and gulches we were stunned to see a herd of elk coming down from one of the ridges crossing the trail right in front of us and then running up the side of another hill. There must have been 20 - 30 of them. It was amazing to see! They were running fast as I guess they were startled to see us. Once they got up on the top of the next ridge they all stopped and just watched us. As they stood there watching us they were breathing heavily and had huge amounts of steam rising from their noses and mouths and hanging over them like clouds. We must have stood there for 10 minutes just watching them. Zack was so captivated by what he saw. He was dumbfounded by the beauty of it. We clearly did not expect to have this kind of encounter. It was absolutely beautiful and wonderful. I am so glad that I was able to give Zack this kind of experience as it is not something that happens every day. After we saw the herd of elk we decided that our hike couldn’t get any better, so we turned around and headed back to the trail head. On the way back we were walking into a stiff, very cold wind. Despite how cold we got, we left Hidden Mesa with our hearts warm and alive from what we saw. If you would like to learn more about Hidden Mesa you can go to the Douglas County open space website. The address is: The topo map below shows the route that we hiked. Our route is illustrated by the red line on the map. Some of you might know this about me, but I am a RABID GPS fanatic. I use GPS devices to track each and every hike I take. It is just my own personal little hobby! Thanks and peace to all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There will be Blood

Like the Daniel Day Lewis movie today’s adventure involved lots and lots of blood. Yes - it was my blood and though it wasn’t particularly fun today it was for a good cause. I donated platelets today at our the local Denver blood bank - Bonfils. Today was a special donation day for me, as I achieved my 3 gallon pin. Imagine the gallon of milk in your refrigerator filled with blood and multiplied by three. That is how much blood I have donated to Bonfils over the last several years. My donation count should be much higher but I was excluded from donating for about 2 ½ years because of my travel to such exotic fun spots such as India.
The reason today's donation wasn't particularly fun was the length of time that I was hooked up to the apherisis machine. Given the amount of platelets they took off of me - two extra large units, I had to be hooked up to the machine for the maximum allowable time - 130 minutes. Sitting in the chair for that long without being able to move your left arm can be tough. Normally my platelet donations do not more than 100 minutes. But since they were going to take such a large donation from me - it took a long time. I am very passionate about donating blood. It is something that really takes no effort yet it saves so many lives. After donating a whole unit of blood or as I did today - two large units of platelets you walk away feeling like the king of the world. It is such an inspiring feeling to know that you have saved a life. At least it is too me anyway. I took my camera with me today to the donation. I managed to have the tech take a couple of pictures of me. Additionally, I couldn’t resist the urge to take a picture of the needle going into my arm and the actual bag of platelets that had been sucked out of me.
I don’t know if what I did today really classifies as an adventure or not. But it gave me that same feeling I have when I accomplish some great feat of physical endurance like climbing a 14’er or something like that. So I guess it will count as an adventure. Zack can’t take part in this adventure yet because he is too small, but he has said that he wants to try and donate blood when he gets old. I really hope he does.
Til later - peace to all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree - And a crazy dog!

Some of my most favorite things about the Christmas holiday season are the Christmas trees and the beautiful lights that are all over the place. I love the glow that the Christmas tree lights put throughout the entire house. I cannot stand to have my Christmas tree sit in my living room unlit. The first thing that I do as soon as I get out of bed in the morning is turn the Christmas tree’s lights on. Seeing an unlighted Christmas tree always makes me feel sad and depressed. It is like the spirit of the tree is gone and just a ghost remains when there are no lights. When it is a natural tree that is going to get tossed out after Christmas I think it was even worse when it sits there without the lights turned on. Given that we live in Colorado, we have an artificial tree. When I first moved here years ago, we would get real trees. After 2 years we quickly learned that real trees in Colorado were plain and simply fire risks. With the low humidity in Colorado, real trees tend to dry out and start dropping their needles within 10 – 14 days. If you are like me and like to have your tree up for 4 – 5 weeks, natural trees don’t work too well. This year marks a return to a tradition that we have had since Zack was a baby. We will have 2 Christmas trees in our house. The larger of the 2 trees is located in the living room. It is a seven-footer and it is decorated with over 2000 lights. It makes the entire house glow with beautiful colored light. We have hundreds of ornaments that decorate it and it takes usually several days to get all the decorations on it. The second tree will be located in our family room and it is a dedicated “Winnie the Pooh” tree. We didn’t put the “Pooh” tree up last year because I needed but buy a new artificial tree as the last one had broken. It is just fun having the trees up. On another note… I just had to add this video to the blog. I was sent a link to this video by a good friend. I laughed my ass off when I saw it. It kind of reminds me of my dog Lex. Hope you all enjoy! I find it funny the dogs name is Bailey. My Bailey is now a nice sedentary old dog - but he was once like this nut! Thanks and peace to all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Highline Canal

The Denver Metro area is a unique metropolitan area in the fact that it has literally hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. One of the most spectacular trails is the Highline Canal Trail. The Highline Canal Trail starts in Waterton Canyon in the far Southwestern corner of the metro area. Waterton Canyon is where the South Platte River emerges from the mountains and flows out into the plains. At the head of Water Canyon is a massive concrete dam called Strontia Springs that rises 240+ feet above the South Platte stream bed. From the dam, the South Platte flows 6.5 miles before exiting Waterton Canyon. About 2 miles before the South Platte exits Waterton Canyon, there is a small diversion dam that provides the starting point for the Highline Canal. The Highline Canal proceeds to run for over 60 miles until it terminates in the fields of Colorado’s eastern plains. During this 60+ mile journey, the canal twists and turns it’s way through many of the South Metro’s suburbs. Since the canal was built in the 1880’s it is lined with many large old, gnarled cottonwood trees. It provides a unique habitat for coyotes, fox, deer, other small mammals and snakes and the occasional mountain lion and bear.
For almost the entire distance of the Highline Canal there is a trail that runs right along side it on one of the berms that forms the wall of the canal. A hiker or a mountain biker can walk or ride pretty much the whole way from the mountains to the plains without ever having to go on a road (except at certain crossing points.)
I love walking or biking along the Highline Canal. I have some really great memories of Bay and me walking along there when he was a puppy. Though the canal goes though highly populated suburbs, there are many “horse properties” on either side of the canal. It was so funny to see how Bailey got so excited and scared by the horses. I always had to laugh - as he was scared of the horses but he always had to go and visit them. The horses would usually get annoyed at this "small" little dog and start snorting and whinnying. At that point he would get scared and go running off towards me for protection. Over the coming winter I hope to walk most of the Highline Canal Trail. Being the GPS fanatic that I am, I will keep track of each and every one of my walks/hikes so that I can prove to myself that I actually walked the entire distance. Anyone want to walk with me? Thanks and peace to all! PS - I must give credit for the photos. I did not take these pictures - I picked them up off of Flickr and other websites. I will be sure to take some pictures of my own of the canal as I walk it this winter.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Plans for Adventure.

My goals as a parent are pretty simple. I want Zack to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. I want him to be morally good and to respect people. I want him to be happy and as successful as he can be. (No - that doesn't mean I want him to be president of the US, a CEO or really rich. I want him to have goals in his life and I want him to be able to accomplish them.) Given the situation that Zack and I have found ourselves in, I really need to make tough choices about our future and how I can accomplish my goals as a parent. One of the choices I have made is I want to offer him many different and unique experiences. I think by giving him these experiences I will allow him to better understand the world, have a greater sense of happiness and to build his own plans for the future. Please do not think that I am totally absorded in my son's life to the detriment of my own life. I absolutely cannot lose sight of my own life, my own needs, etc. In particular I want to have a companion with me as I achieve these goals. Yes - I will have Zack with me, but I do want to have a FEMALE companion by my side. Along that lines I have been dating. Ultimately what is the biggest adventure for men - women of course! With all that said.... Here's a list of some of our plans for adventure in the coming years. 1. Drive from Denver to Anchorage Alaska on the Trans-Alaskan highway. 2. Visit Iceland and explore it's volcanos, hot springs and geysers. 3. Visit Mongolia and go on a horse riding expedition. 4. Go to either the 2010 World Cup in Brazil or the 2010 Winter Olympics in Calgary. 5. Hike the entire length of the Colorado trail from Waterton Canyon to Durango. (Also - hike the Appalchian trail and the Continential Divide Trail.) 6. Volunteer for a charitable organization and spending either Thanksgiving or Christmas helping out. 7. Learn a foreign language and become fluent in it. 8. Take a train ride across Europe from Paris to Moscow. 9. Travel across the United States from LA to NYC (or vice versa) on a Greyhound bus. 10. Take a "tramp steamer" (i.e. cargo ship) around the islands of Oceania. 11. Visit every National Park in the United States. 12. Hike, hike, camp, camp, travel, travel - see the world as much as we can an experience as much as we can. This list will grow and change over time. But it is a starting point as we conclude a challenging year. Thanks and peace to all!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fighting the Rhino

Zack and I have entered a tremendous battle. We are fighting a rhino. It is a desperate and fierce battle, but we are determined to win.
No we have not traveled Africa and are out on safari. Instead we are at home in our family room for this battle. The battle we are fighting is against the rhinovirus! Yeah - we have colds. Ok - so I probably blew it out of proportion in the first paragraph - just a little bit of writer's license. Zack has been hacking his lungs out for the last several days. He now has a full blown cold and I am starting the ramp-up towards a full blown cold. Oh well - I don't think there are going to be too many outdoor adventures for us this weekend. Instead I think we will mainly hanging around inside. We need to get the Christmas tree up and decorated and the outside lights put on the house. We do have some plans to hang out with Zack's friend Keelie and family. But Keelie is also sick - so we will see if that happens. On a fatherly note - I am very concerned that Christmas is only 20 days away. Oh my goodness - how am I very going to get all the shopping done that I need to do. I am not liking the fact that Christmas and Thanksgiving were so close together this year. We hope everyone has a good shopping experience this weekend as you get all your Xmas shopping done. Thanks and peace to all!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Adventures with DNA

Since our return from our Thanksgiving trip our adventures have been low-key. On Sunday we did NOTHING. Yep - that is right nothing. We sat around and watched TV all day. Zack played some video games and I watched football. Our special treat for the day was that I DVR'ed the whole Planet of the Apes Series on the Fox Movie Channel. So we have hours and hours of Roddy McDowell looking foolish in an ape costume to look forward to. It was kind of funny as Zack was actually very interested in the movies. Tuesday's adventure was all about DNA. Yes - I do mean deoxyribonucleic acid. No Zack and I are not trying to pull a Jimmy Neutron and clone ourselves! DNA was the subject of today's science club. Zack loves science club and we have to make each and every session. This evening's meeting offered the kids the opportunity to explore the orgins of life and how DNA came about and it's impact on life on this planet. Zack is a fanatic about physics and astronomy but biology has not been a strong interest point for him. One area in which he is interested in DNA. I think DNA interests him so much because of how it came about and how it is like an atomic particle in some ways. When I told him the subject of today's meeting he was like - COOL! Gary Berkowitz who is the illustrous "Dr. Science" did a great job explaining to the kids the theory of how DNA came about and how it has evolved. Gary is a Willow Creek parent and does the science club out of the kindness of his heart. Zack and I are already looking forward to the weekend. We'll have some great outdoor adventures to tell everyone about. Til then - Thanks and peace to all!