Rocky Mountain High - Part 6

Mark Walker MWalker at
Tue Aug 13 00:27:03 EDT 2002

Well, these reports are getting pretty stale by now.  The trip has been over
for over a week - but what the heck - I've still got a few adventures to
report on.  
This adventure took place on Sunday, July 28th - and took my son and I
through Teller County and all the way around Pike's Peak.  We got an early
start, and had time to do a little sight seeing - so we chose to drive
through the old mining towns of Cripple Creek, Elkton, Victor, Goldfield,
and Independence.  If you're ever visiting this part of Colorado, and you
have some extra time, I strongly recommend this side trip.  These towns are
fantastic.  The whole area is right below the 10,000 ft. level - which is
easy to forget, since it looks like it might be more like 7000 ft with all
the high peaks surrounding it.  This must have been one tough place to live
during the Colorado gold rush of the late 1800's.  I suspect they get a
pretty severe dumping of snow each and every winter.
Cripple Creek has gambling casinos.  I'm not much of a gambler (with
anything other than my life and family stability), but I can tell you that
if I were, I'd be way more likely to visit this place than I would Las Vegas
or Atlantic City.  The casinos are small - they're in what used to be
saloons, banks, and mercantile shops (the original buildings).  Hitch up ol'
Lightening, play a few rounds of poker, then mosey on up to the bar for a
cold root beer - my kind of gaming.
The mines throughout this area are also interesting.  Several of them are
still operating, while others allow touring.  This is the sort of thing I
would have spent a lot of time playing around with had I not become so
re-anamored with butterflying.  I'm just an old Blondie (the "Good") at
heart, having spent many hours playing the gun slinging, cigar-smoking
cowboy out in the deserts of southern California in my youth.  Don't' tell
anybody - I wouldn't want anybody to think I was weird.  I didn't have a
horse or any guns (but I did partake in the evils of Swisher Sweets, the
tobacco of choice for sneaky adolescent Clint Eastwood wannabes).
By 10:00 a.m. we were already on our way on unpaved roads - heading for the
high ground on the south side of Pikes Peak.  At Clyde we drove up the
forest road towards Sheep Mountain.  Unfortunately, the road is completely
barred (as in chain-link fenced) at Seven Lakes - a Colorado Springs
municipal water reservoir.  The fence and gate are on account of the low
water tables.  It seems that when rain doesn't fall, they don't appreciate
people recreating in their limited supply of drinking water.  Makes sense to
Oh well - we decided to get out and go for a hike instead.  We quickly
gained in altitude and found ourselves in some outrageous habitat.
Unfortunately, it was getting close to noon by the time we got to the best
hunting grounds (alpine meadow at around 11,000 ft) - and the thunderheads
were looming all around us.  We were hiking in shorts and T-shirts, and the
falling rain felt good on our flesh.  The rocking thunder claps made it all
the more dramatic.  My son was the one who pointed out that it may not be
such a good idea to be walking around in this extremely high and exposed
terrain with nothing but long metal sticks in our hands.  Hmmm.  Now why
didn't I think of that?  Why have I never had this problem before, with all
the lepping I've done in rainstorms?  The answer wasn't very encouraging -
it seems as if I've never even considered it!  Benjamin Franklin would be
very disappointed in me.  After having just narrowly been missed by
lightening in 1978 while studying Nuclear Power Generation for the U.S. Navy
in Orlando, Florida, you'd think I'd know better.  On that occasion, while
wielding my behemoth HP calculator, the hair on my head stood straight up -
but at the last minute the electric field chose an alternate ionization path
through a lightening rod on a nearby building, which took the full brunt of
the discharge.  Phew!
Oh well, I guess it takes the wisdom of a 16-year old to direct the
feeble-mindedness of cranky old men.  We turned around and headed for the
shelter of our rental car.
By the time we started driving down Gold Camp Road towards Broadmoor (and
the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame), we managed to find ourselves in a
bit more sunshine.  We even found a few species active - including the very
common and gorgeous Lycaena rubidus (Ruddy Copper).  This bug is not badly
named.  The males, when fresh, are as orange as oranges, and luminescently
so.  For some reason, the hue reminds me of 50-50 bars (ice cream bars made
from 50% vanilla ice cream and 50% orange popscicle).  Of course, after a
day on the mountain, just about anything reminds me of food. 
Other butterflies sighted on this highly recommended leg:
Colias alexandra (Alexandra's Sulphur)
Nathalis iole (Dainty Sulphur)
Lycaena rubidus (Ruddy Copper)
Agriades glandon (Arctic Blue)
Plebejus icarioides (Boisduval's Blue)
Speyeria aphrodite (Aphrodite Fritillary)
Speyeria mormonia (Mormon Fritillary)
Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak)
Limenitis weidmeyerii (Weidemeyer's Admiral)
Epargyreus clarus (Silver-spotted Skipper)
Mark Walker.
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