Sunday, February 26, 2012

02_25-26_12 The Stanley - Estes Park, Co

Dave and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day on Feb 14th. Just never have. Instead, we celebrate on Feb 27th. Why? Because we can. And because it's the anniversary of our engagement...our engageversary. (Technically that is tomorrow, but work is in the way of our being able to celebrate).

This year, we celebrated by taking a mini-vacation to Estes Park, Co where we stayed in The Stanley Hotel. The Stanley is steeped in history and fun. From their website: "The Stanley Hotel, known for its architecture, magnificent setting and famous visitors, may possibly be best known today for its inspirational role in Stephen King's novel, "The Shining". The hotel has been featured as one of America's most haunted hotels and with the numerous stories from visitors and staff, The Stanley Hotel continues to "shine" today, as it did in 1909 when first opened."

Yes, the Shining. Besides the beauty and locale of the place, this may be what it is best known for. On channel 42 on the hotel tvs, The Shining loops 24/7. Lots of "REDRUM" and "Here's Johnny" can be heard throughout the hotel. Or, maybe just wherever Dave was.

We drove up in 66 degree weather excited at a chance to get out and hike. I was armed with my binoculars and bird book. When we arrived, it was clear that outdoor activities would not happen. Big wind, I mean, big, cold wind had arrived. By morning it was 21 degrees with flurries. The high peaks looked beautiful from afar. No doubt a miserable place to find oneself though.

We had a nice dinner in the hotel. The food was actually reasonable and delicious. We shared a caesar salad that gets the award from best in presentation (though a restaurant in Boulder maintains the title to the tastiest caesar salad still).

The hotel restaurant/bar have a very cool drink menu. Lots of unusual drinks with very unusual names. There was the "Redrum Punch" which we had (similar to a Mai Tai). Then we shared some spritzer drink (forgot the name). Delicious! It had champagne, fizzy water and Elderberry liquor. Yum.

We piddled around the hotel this morning and enjoyed a breakfast in the hotel. I had hoped that we could do one of the hotel tours. Sadly, they were full. They must be extensive as the last 1.5 hour or so. They cover the haunting of the place as well as the Shining stuff. Also, the place is associated with the Stanley Steamer so it goes over that. I have it on my list to go back for the tour if only for that.

After checking out, we drove to town thinking we may want to walk around. The big winds + 21 degrees even had Dave not wanting to get out of the car. While we didn't get out, we did see several Ravens and some Pygmy Nuthatches out and about which was nice.

We drove home slowly stopping in Lyons to enjoy a Chai Tea and goof off in the bike store. Then home.It was a really nice time and something we need to do more of. Now that we've left, I'll read up on how haunted the place is. I'm glad I didn't know before hand so I didn't manage to scare myself somehow.

I think a next fun mini-vacation will be to fly to Dulles and spend the day in the new Air & Space. I went there on my last trip to DC and it was awesome! Be fun to spend the night there and come home. I'll have to put on my thinking cap for more mini-vacation ideas.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

02_25_12 Parrot Portraits

Dave has been practicing some portrait techniques. Happily we have some beautiful models in the house. Thought I'd share some of his work and take the time to provide an update. Things are still not easy here with Ferne's death. They'll never be the same.

Henri is not too affected by it since he pretty much has a one track mine and it's "Callie Callie Callie Callie mate mate mate mate." He is a jovial bird! And we've discovered he does love having his photo taken. The first two photos posted here are Henri. He's 33 years old this year and slowing a bit. He has TIA frequently, but he has recovered from all of them so far. One of these times he won't though.

Henri is especially photogenic because a) he's beautiful and b) he's a ham. He sings and whistles and displays for the camera. A natural model. He can also be serene and handsome - as the second photo posted shows.

The next two photos are of Clover. She and Gabbie continue to be the two birds most affected by Ferne's death. Clover is definitely sad and lonely. All of her routines are thrown off. I take her to shower, but there is no joy in it. When she showered with Ferne, they hopped around and flapped their wings and just had the best time. It's like she doesn't know what to do without him. Even sitting on this plant for photos her sadness was clear. She's never sat there without Ferne. She's only talked a few times since he died. Both times she said "Hi Ferne" :(

Clover is a bit younger than Ferne - when she hatched, Ferne was already a part of her family. She's never lived alone and it's clear she doesn't like it. She's decided she wants to move in with Henri. I think a cage mate is important. Unfortunately, Henri will have nothing to do with that idea. He does not want Clover near him. It's sad because she keeps asking and he's clear the answer is no.

Gabbie is still sounding his 'call the flock' chirp for Ferne. (The next photo is Gabbie). He repeatedly has me carry him out of his room calling for Ferne for some time. He still does it on some days. When I leave the room with any bird, he is frantic. He's always been a very sensitive bird. With Ferne gone, he wants to hang out with Clover. Clover is clear that she does not want that. So Gabbie's time is spent half calling for Ferne and half wanting to sit (and be rejected) by Clover.

Taking photos of Gabbie is difficult. Having him on the plant and away from even one of the other birds upsets him. And it is clear in many photos. Today, I brought Clover in the room while Gabbie was on the plant. You can see his eyes in one photo when he first saw her - he is crazy about her. This secret love affair has been going on for years. Now he just knows Ferne can't stop him from being more obvious about it. It's sad seeing him rejected so much.

The next two photos of Grace. She's been the quietest since the bird hierarchy was blown up. She's a lot like Ferne in that she'll hang in the background while the attention hogs do their thing. She had a secret crush on Ferne her whole life. She's a sweet bird, but a little more subdued than usual. I can't imagine what they all think. The final photo is of Gabbie and Grace. Though they live together, it's always been a bro/sis thing. That hasn't changed.

I will try to post more blogs in the future. We've got some activities coming up, as well as a some travel. I'll do my best to get to my old blogging ways asap.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

01_08_2012 Ice Climbing in Rocky Mtn Natl Park

Yes, this is a little out of order, but better late than never! So, (Dave here dictating) since it's winter and cold and snowy, I thought I would try to embrace the season and go for my semi-annual ice-climbing adventure.

My friends Alex and Quinn (Peru buddies) already had a scheme to climb some ice at the base of Notch Top Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The specific area is known as Grace Falls. We made plans to leave Boulder about 6am. We loaded up the gang in my SUV and headed out. The forecast was for a cold and windy day so I knew it would be a "full value" day of ice climbing.

Temperatures dipped as low as -2 f on the drive into Bear Lake. One could see the snow plumes coming off the high peaks and ridges - no worries about the ice melting today!

To this point in the season, not much snow had fallen in the high country so we anticipated a fairly efficient approach hike. In the summer this 3.5 mile approach is just over an hour at a quick pace. But today, after half a mile or so of well packed trail, to our surprise we got into a quite a bit of unconsolidated and untracked snow that slowed our pace considerably.

For almost 3.5 hours we slogged away to the base of Grace Falls. Of course Grace Falls is completely shaded this time of year and we enjoyed our last rays of sun for the day before descending a short ridge and traversing to the base of the ice. My guess is that is was about 0 degrees, with 10-30 mph winds.

It was cold.

And the boys agreed with me. We chose a line up the center of the falls that would be about 200' of fairly steep ice. Alex took off on the lead while Quinn and I belayed and jumped around a bit trying to stay warm. It took Alex a while to lead the first pitch because it was so cold, then Quinn and I followed simultaneously on different ropes to speed things up a bit.

The name of the game was 'keep moving to stay warm.' Quinn led the second pitch up and over the Falls and it was still likely around 0 or 5 degrees. We decided to climb with our packs - to go up and over the Falls - and traverse to a ridge that we descended to meet with our inbound trail.

The views were nice but the weather conditions were pretty nasty. After about two hours of outward bound slogging "fun" we arrived back at the car. We did enjoy a nice moon rise on the hike out. We piled in the car, turned up the heater, and headed home after a full day of "type two" fun.

Now I don't have to go ice climbing again for a while. :)

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