Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Winding Down

We have been here at Lathrop State Park since late May and now we have only one more weekend to work. We will be leaving just after Labor Day. We will miss our great site. We have great views, privacy, quiet.

We will miss our cute cottontail rabbits.

And the hungry humming birds.

And certainly the deer in the yard.

We won't miss checking for mice every morning.

Or goat heads. They are the seeds of a nasty plant that grows around our trailer here. These wicked seeds look like pictures I have seen of kidney stones, but smaller. They stick on the bottom of our shoes, then we track them inside. If we forget to clean them up, we find them with our bare feet later. That is no fun.

We won't miss the constant threat of hungry bears. For the past few weeks, that has meant I am afraid to go outside after dark, even to get in our basement. I am putting smelly garbage from dinner into the freezer until we can take it to the trash the next morning. We love seeing bears when they aren't too hungry and they aren't too close to our home. We don't want to encounter them looking for food right here.

When we are parked in one spot for quite a while, there is always a lot of stuff to put away before we can drive down the road. We have started by putting away stained glass pieces we hang in the windows and John's carved figures that sit on the desk.

There are outdoor mats, the BBQ grill and stand, wheel covers and chairs to put away. And the basement to re-organize. We have three days off this week and next Tuesday to get this done, so it won't be that hard. But we are getting anxious to move on, to take a few months off from volunteering. It is time for a change of pace.

Friday, August 26, 2011

History in Ceramics

This is our third summer volunteering at Lathrop State Park. We thought it was about time we drive to nearby Trinidad and check out the Ceramic Mural at Mount San Rafael Hospital. It was designed by Sister Augusta Zimmer, S.C., a native of nearby Lamar, CO, and for 33 years a member of the faculty of the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, most of the time as chairperson of the art department. Although she often worked in glass for her mosaics, this one she designed in ceramics to better reflect the natural colors of the area.

Dedicated in 1980, it measures 28 ft by 12 ft and depicts of history of the Trinidad area. As you can see from this photo, the trip was well worth our time.

In this section, you can see a stage coach that brought travelers here on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail, some of the early nuns who operated the hospital from 1889 to 1968, and the railroad that helped local coal mining grow.

This depicts the Bloom Mansion, first owned by Frank Bloom, who built the commercial aspect of coal mining to a thriving and growing business. That house is now operated as a museum by the Colorado Historical Society. John and I helped pack away the contents of the house as society volunteers several years ago. The building was in need of some serious repair at the time.

Not far from Trinidad is the Ludlow Monument, dedicated in 1918 in remembrance of the "Ludlow Massacre" in April 1914 when 10 men, women and children were slain by militia troops during bitter labor strife in the local coal mining industry. That monument is shown in this section of the mural.

It is often amazing the fine works of art and fascinating museums you find in small towns around the country. We are so glad we took time to check out this mural.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Anyone who is in the eastern half of the country or watching TV during the past few hours knows that there was a 5.8 earthquake in Virginia that shook things up all along the coast. What many don't know is that Colorado had a 5.3 quake just before midnight Monday. It was centered near Trinidad, Colorado, which is 35 miles south of Lathrop State Park where we are.

We were sound asleep and didn't feel a thing. Apparently, there were some aftershocks. We heard on TV that Colorado had experienced 13 earthquakes in the past 24 hours. We are glad we are in Colorado and not on the East Coast.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cat People

We are cat people. Yes, we like cats. We love cats. We miss our two darling cats, who both died in the past year. But that isn't what I mean when I say we are cat people. Cats like routine; they don't like change; they like lots of quiet. So do we, especially routine.

And what is our routine? John wakes up early, turns on the coffee, surfs the internet, reads blogs. I wake up an hour or more later, veg out with my coffee. Then we read the Bible and pray. Next comes exercise--a walk or run one day, weight training the next. Then we go about the business of our day, whether that is volunteer work or travel or playing tourist. Most often, by 3 pm we are settled back at home. Soon it is cocktail time--either a glass of juice or a mixed drink. We watch the 4 pm Bret Baier program on Fox News--perhaps recording it on the DVR and watching it a little later. During that time I prepare dinner and we eat about 5 pm. In the evening I surf the internet, read blogs, then read a book. John watches some TV, then goes to be early.

Such a routine. How do we do it and lead our gypsy life-style? Our routine goes with us, wherever we park our home. Usually, only volunteer work that lasts till 4 or 5 pm or later interferes with this routine.

All of this explains why we were so exhausted Sunday when we returned home. Thursday evening we had company; Friday and Saturday we were busy with family and friends and we weren't at home. Our routine totally went out the window. Don't get me wrong. We really enjoyed all of these events. It is times like this that enrich our lives and provide experiences and memories that will last for years. However, on the whole it is routine that old f #*%& (old folks) like us prefer.

After all, we are cat people.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another Reunion

We were reminded again this weekend that it has been 50 years since we graduated from high school. In June, we attended my 50th reunion. I was one of 908 to graduate from South High in Denver in 1961. This weekend we attended John's reunion. He was one of 54 in the class of 1961 at Douglas County High School. Today the county is booming and there are nine high schools. In 1961 DCHS was the only one.

Friday evening we had a get-together at the Eagles lodge in Castle Rock. And Saturday we had a dinner at the beautiful new Douglas County Events Center on the fair grounds. We had both lived in Castle Rock for nearly nine years in the 1970s and 1980s, so there were some people I knew. And, of course, John knew all his classmates--at least after they reminded each other of their names. We didn't have name tags, so it took the little reminder sometimes. Here is the group we sat with at dinner.

The 26 members of the class that made it to the reunion posed for a group photo.

John was one of seven members of the class who had attended school together in Castle Rock for 12 years. They, too, had their picture taken.

We also had some good family time over the weekend. After the gathering on Friday night, we drove to Littleton and spent the night at our son Eric's house. That evening and Saturday we enjoyed seeing family. Our granddaughter Kylie, age 11, and now in middle school, explained this hair covering by saying she wore it as a fashion statement.

Grandson John, age six and in the first grade, is playing football this fall. His team is the Patriots.

Our daughter-in-law Liz's dad and his wife dropped by, so we all had lunch together on their patio. It was a beautiful day to be outside.

It was a great weekend and very busy. We returned to Lathrop exhausted, but glad we had been able to attend the reunion and see our family.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Visit With Friends

Bob and Lindsay spent last night here at Lathrop State Park on their way to a weekend gathering in Westcliffe. They knew we were here and we knew they were coming, so we agreed to pool our food and share a grill. We laughed, talked, shared and ate for nearly six hours yesterday. Our conversation went on till the sun was gone and the mosquitoes were out in force, so we finally brought some lawn chairs inside the RV to continue our visit.

We have chosen to live on the road in our RV full-time. We don't focus on spending time with the new people we meet. We are really quite private and quiet people--introverts. After working careers that put us with people a whole lot, we enjoy this privacy. However, once in a while, it is so good to be with people we have known for a long time and who really know us. It is good to share memories and experiences with people who understand where we have been. And when they are RVers who understand our current life style, it is even better. It was a great evening.

On a different note, it has been over five weeks since my knee surgery. For at least two weeks, I have been able to do all the walking I wanted to. Last week, I jogged four steps and said, "No, I'm not ready for that." But so far this week, I have run 1/4 mile on Wednesday and 1/2 mile today. Granted, it was in intervals of 100 or 200 steps, but it was running. My knee is doing fine. My knee may be up to a three mile run before my heart and lung capacity are up to snuff. But it is really good to get back to running.

Monday, August 15, 2011

More Concert-going

Yesterday, we again took advantage of the railroad pass that John won last year from the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. We took the train out of La Veta, up to Fir, for another concert.

But before we got to Fir, we passed the spot where a train car spilled barley several years ago. In late summer and fall, before they go into hibernation, bears need 20,000 calories a day. This year, because of drought, there is very little natural food available. We were delighted when we saw six bears as the train climbed the pass. Here are photos of two of them.

On the way back down the mountain in the afternoon, we only saw one bear. In the past two years we have seen a bear here in the park each year. We haven't seen any this year. But that doesn't mean they aren't around. They frequently go dumpster diving at night. One evening, between 9:30 and 10, one of the rangers found one at a dumpster. He had loaded his shotgun with bean bag shells and shot the bear. It ran away. But it hasn't stayed away. It just waited for another day. Even more scary is the fact that the same ranger saw a bear at about 6 pm last week. It had already tried one trash dumpster. That is before dark and it wouldn't be at all unusual for a camper to walk to the trash at that time of the evening.

The Whistle Stop, a barbeque place in La Veta, serves lunch at the concert site. Since the location is accessible only by rail, I asked them how they got the food there. They drive up early in the day in this old van, which is equipped with wheels that run on the rails.

Our train to the concert was pulled by a diesel engine, but the train that came up from Alamosa was pulled by this steam engine.

Sid Masters was the opening performer at yesterday's concert. He is really funny and sings country-western music, much of which he writes himself. We enjoyed his singing.

This couple twice got up to dance to his music. They were really good.

The featured act of the day was a group called "The Rifters." They sing sort of folk music. I could picture them in a small coffee house, singing without the amplifiers. Maybe that's where they were 30 years ago. They were good, too.

This was the finale, "The City of New Orleans" sung by Ed Ellis, president of the railroad, and Sid Masters and The Rifters and three other performers who happened to attend the concert.

It was hot and sunny all day when we attended a concert at Fir in July. Yesterday it was cool, cloudy and windy. Most of us were pretty bundled up for an August afternoon. We were at 9400 ft above sea level, of course.

Friends and Pot Luck

One day last week, just before we headed out for a bike ride around the park, an RV pulled into our driveway. We were delighted to see Joe and Muriel, friends from our days at St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Cherry Hills Village. They were returning to their home in the Denver area after a trip to Chama and Santa Fe, NM, and stopped by to say hi. We had fun chatting for maybe half an hour, before they headed for home. Unfortunately, the photo I took caught Muriel with her eyes closed, but it is the only one I took. We were so glad they came to see us.

Thursday evening was the annual staff and volunteer appreciation picnic here at Lathrop State Park. The park provided the meat, beverages and eating utensils. We all brought dishes to share. John, the park manager, was both the BBQ cook and master of ceremonies. As I took this picture, he was talking about the rewards of helping park visitors enjoy their time here. (We agree with his thoughts about that.)

Karen office manager, distributed gifts to all the volunteers. The gifts were a small thermos, a water bottle or a lunch bag. John and I each chose a thermos.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

They Can't Hide Here

Southern Colorado along Interstate 25 is not densely populated and the local county sheriff's offices aren't large and life is probably fairly quiet for Colorado State Troopers in this area. But yesterday and today they have shown criminals that they can't hide by coming to this part of the state.

The big headlines came today when Walsenburg and Huerfano County deputies captured the "Dougherty Gang," two brothers and a sister pursued from Florida to Georgia and on to Colorado. They were spotted in Colorado Springs, then in Canon City, and today a CSP Trooper saw their car in a gas station in Colorado City. To learn more about this great capture, check out this story from the Denver Post.


(I hope you can find these stories. I am having trouble getting the links to work in this blog.)

Then read this story from the Denver Channel 9 web site.


Not only was it a bad day to drive south on I-25 for these fugitives, it was bad for the many motorists and truckers trying to navigate the same highway. It was closed for hours. When we finished our laundry late this morning, we planned to drive to the north end of town where the trio was captured. The line of trucks and cars going south on the main drag through town must have been about a mile long. We later heard and saw that the interstate was closed.

Yesterday the CSP, with the help of Pueblo and Huerfano and Las Animas County Sheriff's deputies, arrested two people who had stolen a car in Pueblo County. The high-speed chase began in Pueblo County, sped through Huerfano and ended south of Trinidad. The two suspects ran from their car and were pursued by officers and eventually a canine unit. You can read a little about that event in this story from the Denver Channel 7 web site.


All in all, it has been a good couple of days for law enforcement in Southern Colorado. All of this action passed only three miles east of where we are camped. It makes us feel proud of Colorado law enforcement--and a little safer from the bad guys.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Can't Anyone Build a Campfire?

It sure didn't look like it this weekend at Lathrop State Park. As we cleaned the fire rings in our 103 camp sites, we found a huge amount of only partially burned logs. We didn't have much wind or rain over the weekend, so our only guess is that the campers this weekend don't have fires very often and they didn't know how to get a really good fire going.

They also didn't have any idea how much wood they would use over the weekend. Since we not only clean out the fire rings, but also pick up all the unburned wood people leave in their sites, we did a lot of lifting in addition to all the shoveling John did cleaning out the ashes.

Just look at this dump truck load. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see unburned wood on the left and the partially burned wood and ashes in the middle.

In addition to all the split firewood the campers didn't use, would you look at the chunks of un-split wood? How on earth do people think that will burn? At times, we see people put a six-foot log in the fire and find it won't burn. And campers often bring old two by fours and other used wood from home. Then they leave it for us to pick up.

In addition to the usual glass, aluminum and plastic in the fire rings, we also found some new litter today. It included a baby bottle, a collapsing fork, and a aluminum wire grill. Do they forget these things or decide they are too dirty to use again. I imagine one family was driving down the road with a fussy toddler and wondered what happened to the bottle.

Each weekend, the personality of the campers changes. Since the school year is about to get in gear, we didn't see many families with school-age children this weekend. They will be out again in force for one more summer camping trip over Labor Day. I wonder if the people camping this weekend were out for the first time this summer. They realized summer was almost over and they had to use the camper or tent at least once.

What will next weekend be like? We can only wait and see.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Goin' On a Bear Hunt...And Other Critters

Remember this photo I posted last month? It is the foot print of a bear.

Southern Colorado has been in a drought for at least a year. That means there isn't much food available for the bears. But they know where to find food beyond berry bushes--trash cans! A couple of weeks ago we saw the first two dumpsters raided here in Lathrop State Park. This week the bear, or bears, got into one dumpster Sunday night into Monday, then another Monday night into Tuesday. That second dumpster wasn't far from where our RV is parked. Last night it was another one in the campground.

How do they get in? Bears aren't stupid. See the lid of this dumpster? Mr. or Mrs. Bear climbed up on top and stood on it. That pushes the lid--which is supposed to be bear proof, note the bar across the top front--down so the bear can reach in and remove trash bags.

If you need even more evidence of how big and strong the bear is, just look at this pile of scat (poop) left near one of the dumpsters. My cellphone gives you an idea of how large the pile is. That was one big--or full--bear!

Here is the lid of a dumpster the bear got into sometime last month. You can still see the dent that was left.

As if bears weren't enough, this morning one of the park employees was out early on a bike ride in the park when she saw a mountain lion in a popular picnic area, headed to the water for a drink. She turned around and went back the way she came before the large cat finished taking a drink.

A few hours later I was out helping John with fire pit cleaning. I looked down at the ground just as I stepped on a snake. I gasped, jumped away and looked again. It didn't move, so I stopped holding my breath. It was obviously dead. I waved to John to come over a take a look. As he approached, my "dead" snake slithered away. Yikes!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Youth Corps Gets It Done

This is the third week the Mile High Youth Corps has been working here at Lathrop State Park. The Youth Corps hires young people, ages 18 to 24, to learn skills and perform public service. To learn more, click on the name of the organization above.

The corps has a contract with Colorado State Parks. Here at Lathrop this year, they have been clearing out dead cedar trees and removing non-native Russian Olive trees. One weekend, John helped haul out the cedar trees they had cut. Before they begin their work with chain saws, the crew stretches to prevent pulled muscles as they work.

Here you can see the pile of cut dead wood and the dump truck loaded with more wood.

As John dumps a load of wood, you can get an idea of how much they have cleaned out around the park. And this was just their first week here.

Both men and women are a part of Youth Corps. The crew at Lathrop had 10 young male members and a woman crew leader. Here Annie is helping load the dump truck.

In addition to working with chain saws, one day the crew members spent several hours pulling noxious weeds in one area of the park. Talk about back-breaking work!

The group works for 10 days at a time, then gets four days off. Most days they work all day, but there is an education component to the program, as well. So some days they work half day and attend classes the other half. They camp out in tents at the work site. They really appreciate being at Lathrop, where there are hot showers available every night. Sometimes they are in remote locations and don't get a shower for 10 days straight! We thought about the group last night, when it rained for hours. That makes it hard to cook outdoors and makes sleeping in a tent rather unpleasant.

The Youth Corps provides income for the participants and teaches them skills that will help them find another job when they complete there time. And the work they do benefits their community. Mile High Youth Corps is part of AmeriCorps, Click on the link to learn more about this national program for adults of all ages.

Rain Update

As I posted last night, we had a good rain yesterday. In fact, it rained lightly and steadily until 9:30 and sporadically later in the night. This morning, the world outside our window sparkled. If you enlarge these photos, I think you can see the raindrops clinging to the plants. It sure is better than the dust we saw there before!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Cool, cool rain!

After two + months here at Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, it is finally raining! For hours! For the past two weeks or so, dark clouds have passed by every afternoon or evening. Each day it would sprinkle for a few minutes. It has been in the 90s most days for several weeks.

Finally, today, we had a downpour about 4 pm. That meant our satellite TV didn't work--no Bret Baier on Fox at 4 pm. But we need the rain so bad, we didn't care. This part of Colorado is in a severe drought. But it is now 7:45 pm and it is still gently raining. Yea. Maybe Horseshoe Reservoir will fill up a little. Then the temperature dropped into the 60s by 5 pm. Great! Maybe things will green up a little and our air conditioner will get a break.

I just saw some photos on the web of wild flowers in the northern part of the state. We haven't had any here.