Friday, March 25, 2016

Denver March 2016 Blizzard

On March 23rd, the metro Denver area received a "surprise" blizzard.  In Castle Rock my car was buried under 12-14 inches of snow, drifts were up to my waist, schools and the library were closed. The wind was howling above 55 MPH in gusts.  Driving was nearly impossible.  I-25 south of town was closed just like I-70 at Denver and I-25 north to Wyoming.  The eastern plains were battered too. Most of Colorado was under a Winter Storm Warning that became a blizzard warning as the day progressed.  At one time 130,000 people were without electrical power.  Temperatures were below 30 degrees.  All in all, not a good day for hiking or doing anything outdoors.
That's a spring storm.  Spring Storms sneak up on you and change quickly, especially in the mountains.  I prefer hiking in the fall because those storms move slower and are not as severe as the spring storms can be.  The same goes for hiking in the eastern US too.  In the spring, beware of sneaky, strong storms that can catch you off guard.  They won't show up in the forecast as anything more than cold weather, or maybe a light snow and then, bam!  You find yourself stranded on an Interstate highway with dozens of other drivers worrying you have enough gas to keep the heater going or spending the night on a cot in a noisy emergency shelter, calling family and telling them not to worry.
My short video above was shot from inside my home looking out of my balcony.  I was thankfully off work today and didn't have to commute into town.  Remember to always pack a blanket or two in the car for winter and spring trips, plus snacks and water to drink. If you live in the inter-mountain west, or far north, never leave home without a warm jacket, gloves and a hat until well into May.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Preparing for an active summer

Hiking in Colorado
Several days a week this winter I have been exercising indoors, preparing for an active summer season. Though my plans are still in progress, I see myself in the outdoors a lot this summer. I hope to backpack and bicycle in the Colorado high country, and need to develop my body to handle the trips. I need to be in shape for road trips too and keep my health good in general.
Four days each week, I do 50 crunches, 25 push-ups and 20 squats, plus 15 minutes of stretching my legs. My leg muscles have always been tight, and now they are tighter.
On alternate days I go the gym where I live, ride the recumbent bicycle and lift weights on the machines. I started bicycling 30 minutes a day during January's cold, now in March I ride harder for 20 minutes including a 5 minute cool down. I setup a manual workout, either a series of climbs or on-off wind sprints. On the weight machine I do ten sets of ten bench presses, pausing a few moments between each set. I also perform a rowing and a bar pull-down exercise with differing weights. My goal is to increase muscle mass and tone and to strengthen my core.
My plan has been working for me, and while I keep increasing weights and duration's a bit weekly, I am sleeping better, standing straighter and climbing stairs easier. My weight hasn't changed much, but you can now see the muscles in my arms and abs. My work is at a sit-down job indoors, so I get up every 30-40 minutes and walk around the building.

Pavement ends on Ridge Road in Castle Rock last summer
I live at 6300 feet of elevation, so I still get out of breath climbing stairs. When I used to live here and bicycle centuries weekly, I was still out of breath on stairs. I climb stairs daily at home and work and weekly when volunteering.
My good weather plans for April are to leave the gym behind and begin a 2 day per week hike while wearing a day pack for 5 miles each day, and increase the miles as summer approaches. I also plan to dust of my bicycle and begin riding that on local bike trails, alternating with hiking one to 2 days weekly. I plan to increase the mileage, days and training time on the local hills to be able to ride a metric century (60 miles) easily by mid summer.
No superlative goals yet, but I am getting rid of my winter flab and am toning up for a busy summer in Colorado, planing to be able to enjoy the great outdoors!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Walking Time in Downtown Denver

Looking downstream along Cherry Creek Trail
On some winter days, the weather is so warm in Denver, you start to think you are living somewhere else. Then you step into the wind, or see the mountains to the west and shrug your shoulders at the dream.
It was 71 degrees one weekend day last week, overcast and breezy.  A "shorts" winter day, with just about everyone in town outside, enjoying it. Some went as far as sleeveless tops and running shorts, others with their winter coats open or slung over their shoulders. On the trails, bicycles were thicker than walkers, whooshing by close enough to feel them.

It is clear enough to see the bottom of Cherry Creek
I had 45 minutes to spare today, and walked along the Cherry Creek Trail through downtown Denver. Flanked by Speer street on both sides, the creek bisects the paired 4 lane road through the center of town. Once I descended a ramp to the trail, the street noise all but disappeared. The sound of the rushing creek was soft and soothing. Couples, lovers, friends, families, co-workers and solo walkers like me moved along with the water. Bicyclists whooshed by in both directions. A couple bicycles carried wireless speakers blasting music along with them, the Doppler Effect raising up as they approached and falling back down as they passed you. The sky was hazy gray overhead, with few spotty clouds and occasional blue spaces. Ducks swam both up and down the stream with children transfixed on them, parents hanging on to their charges tightly.

Just one of the many bicycles on the trail today
One of many No Camping signs
Camping along the trail must be a problem, as signs saying "No Camping" were everywhere. However, the homeless population was along the sidewalks above the trail today. I walked a couple blocks from where I parked to the trail, crossed Speer and hiked downstream to where the bicycles and walkers split, with a trail on each side of Cherry Creek for them. Here I turned around and hiked back up the gentle slope. I paused under a few bridges in the shade to listen to the water running over the stones and marveled at the modern, straightened creek. Imagining how it appeared before Mayor Speer commissioned the road construction to restrain the creek and create this lovely inter-city park, I remember reading how Denver began at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the Platte River. Back then, a couple large, fallen Cottonwood trees were the only natural bridges across the creek, and most everyone used them to go back and forth. Horses and the few wagons just forded the creek at various spots. Four or five log houses, some with canvas roofs and all with dirt floors were the only permanent homes then, the others were tents and tee-pees. Looking up at the high rise buildings that make up Denver today, it is not too hard to think we may have lost something along the way. Here's a link to Denver History.

I wish Denver would look at a different way to handle storm water than pouring it into the creek
Many bridges cross Cherry Creek along the trail
I left the Cherry Creek Trail a block early and walked around some of the historic buildings along the way back to work. My little 45 minute walk through downtown Denver had been pleasant, reminiscent, and fulfilling.

These sound breaks are pleasant
Maps are HERE. To get there, drive to downtown Denver. Park along Speer Boulevard, safely cross the street and walk down one of the ramps to the trail. The creek grade is very gentle, so pick your upstream or downstream direction, and walk. Do carry water with you. I suggest parking near Confluence Park and walking along that section into town and back. There is a Flagship REI store near there that has a coffee shop inside the historic building. Rental bicycles are available near the trail. I saw many people riding rental bikes this fine day.