Posts Tagged With: Manatee Springs

One Week Down!

Hard to believe it has only been a week since we started on this adventure. This part of the trip is a little bit “off the grid” as we don’t always have easy access to WiFi in camp, nor do I expect to have it in Rocky Mountain National Park.  (Did I just see Bear Grylls??)  I hope folks are enjoying the updates and pictures, although I hear grumblings from my family that we might be overdoing it on the microbrewery samplings. We really aren’t big beer drinkers, but there are so many more craft breweries than we are used to back in Georgia, it just is fun to try a flight and sample some really good brews. And their food selections are pretty unique, too.

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Mountain dog Benji

Time for some shout-outs for family birthdays: Happy Birthday to Courtney and Craig!

So we arrived at noon at Cheyenne Mountain State Park at the base of the mountain that houses the NORAD underground complex. Beautiful state park with very nice campsites that are level, partially paved with a gravel tent pad. We look out on the valley across lower Colorado Springs and Fort Carson (and yes, we hear taps each day).

Looking out over the prairie

Looking out over the prairie

We made camp and quickly headed out to two important spots: US Air Force Academy and the US Olympic Training Center. The Air Force has an amazing campus and with a great location. The chapel is a must-see structure that has this beautiful stained glass glow inside. Very inspirational. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon on campus.

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Chapel

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Stained glass inside chapel

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Chapel

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Jackie Wins Gold!

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Team Handball Men’s VP

Back in town we found the USOTC where about 16 years ago (has it been that long?) I spent some time with the US Men’s National Team for team handball. Sometimes a combination of van driver and chaperone during training and then sidelines statistician and assistant during games. I was also manager for the Pan Am Championships at a time when relations with Cuba were still tricky and their “coaches” were definitely watching for defections. Cuba had a strong handball team and was always pretty dominant when they competed.

I showed Jackie around the training center, but much has changed since I was there. The dorms and cafeteria have been upgraded and several of the sports train at locations off-site. But there was excitement building for the summer games in Brazil.

Cheyenne Mountain has been fun for spotting some new wildlife. We watched some prairie dogs along the entrance road, scurrying in and out of their burrows. Birds in the area that catch your attention are the Scrub Jay and Black-billed Magpie.

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Scrub Jay

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Mule Deer fawn

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Look out Benji!

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Prairie dog

Magpie

Black-billed Magpie (even cooler in flight)

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Jackalope?

We were walking Benji around camp after dinner and suddenly came up to a group of three mule deer – a doe and two fawns from this year. They were curious about Benji, but he was definitely NOT interested in them and was pulling at the leash to get out of there. We watched them stroll through the camp without a care. On our trip to Garden of the Gods we saw another trio bounding through town along the interstate. Since the males are in rut, there is a lot of movement of the large hooved critters all through the area. Saw a report of a bull Elk butting a car in Estes Park (and left some pretty big holes in the side of it).

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We also had a great view of the eclipse and blood moon, even though catching it with the camera was not too successful. I will post what I shot, but the best part was actually during the total eclipse when the moon really did look a dark orange/amber color.

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Next day we combined Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs, all at the base of Pikes Peak. Garden of the Gods was darn busy, but not surprising since there is an easy, paved trail through the main portion of the park. There are great sightlines all around the park, where the rock formations are just incredible. One hike up to the Siamese Twins was a good workout. At that spot a line of horseback riders was making their way up over the rocks and around us. Pretty cool.

Manitou Brewery

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Lunch was in Manitou Springs (you guessed it, another craft beer brewery) – a town that is quite the gift shop mecca, but you still get a sense of the heady days of Gold Rush fever. We wound our way up to Cave of the Winds for a hike through the cave and all the formations of stalagmites and stalactites.   Barb and Tara would appreciate that there was no belly-sliding and nobody whacked their heads, although the total darkness moments really were weird. Returned down the mountain and back to camp for a change in the weather. A front blew through (and I mean rockin’ the van type blowin) to leave us with cooler weather and some overcast skies today.

Seven Falls Restaurant

Rainbow trout

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Today (Tuesday) we spent the morning at the Broadmoor Hotel and Seven Falls. The falls are a narrow gorge that is really beautiful. The creek that runs through it overflowed pretty bad in 2014 (14” inches of rain in an hour), so the owners sold to Broadmoor and it was redone and reopened. Gorgeously done and crystal clear water. After a mile walk in, we climbed the stairs to the top of the falls for a great view. We skipped another set of stairs that led to a viewing area and instead took the elevator, but it was plenty of exercise, even just going down the steps. Note to self: remember to always carry both camera lenses and bring the selfie stick.

We need to do laundry today and stock up on a few more provisions before we head out tomorrow to Estes Park. That one is going to be a long haul and we will need to get an early start. Showers and storms are predicted for tonight, so we want to secure everything in camp and get as packed as possible.

It seems that something with the convection/microwave oven isn’t quite right and not sure I can resolve this. No heat from the microwave and the convection oven stops every two minutes or so. Checked all the circuits, tried to troubleshoot, but we may be down to the propane grill outside and LP range/oven inside. Jackie used the oven last night, so that at least works. Not sure why the microwave decided to quit.

Off to Rocky Mountain National Park then….

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No-Manatee Springs

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Oh, yeah, the Manatees WINTER here (are they from New York?) So none of them are around this month. Otherwise pretty wild times here in Manatee Springs. I think maybe we made a wrong turn and ended up in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. First night in camp we had nearly a dozen deer walking through the campsite (I think our guys from home sent out a text message to be on the lookout for us) and on a walk to the spring we had two sharp-shinned hawks swooping and perching near us and two pileated woodpeckers flying to a tree trunk in front of us, making their way up the trunk.

Then when we were on the boardwalk along the Suwannee River we heard the barred owls hooting like back home and the huge Gulf Sturgeon jumping out of the water. We are told they can get up to several hundred pounds, but don’t feed in the river (just knock out a few boaters every season, seriously). Of course I didn’t have my camera.

The camp is nice and quiet, but swimming hole/spring is pretty busy with daytime swimmers. The water is crystal clear, 72 degrees (bracing) and has a pretty swift flow. Not much underwater except catfish and a few bass and sunfish. When paddleboarding down to the Suwanee River we passed a small gator, later spotting a 7 foot one just off the mouth of the spring in the river.

On a bike hike this morning we found a gopher tortise who scrambled into his burrow (good thing Jackie took that field class in South Georgia to learn about Indigo snakes and gopher tortises. She said rattlers and others share the burrow). This time I had my camera with me and we spooked a barred owl, caught up with another sharp-shinned hawk and just had a nice (hot) ride. A dip in the spring took care of that! later in the day I spotted a swallowtail kite and a bright yellow warbler that turns out to be a Prothonotary warbler.

Friday we travel to St. Augustine to meet up with my brother and his wife and hopefully to have dinner out with the Brownlees. Benji and Merlin say hi.

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Gopher tortise in his burrow. Probably a foot in size.

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Sunset view as the springs reach the Suwannee River.

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Banded water snake, probably was 4 foot long.

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Got the Pileated later on…

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