The Third and Final Chapter
in the Saga of Dooley's Summer
Anyone who's been paying much attention to us knows that the previous two blog posts have been from the possible perspective of Dooley the Demented. I don't quite understand how he learned to type, but he's always been a little bit... different. If you know what I mean. Definitely odd are another couple of words that would work here.
Some of the good news from the dog's perspective is that we've been heading south for some time now. We started in Northern Colorado near the Wyoming state line. Some would call it a border. Especially those to the north of it. Anyhow that's where we spent most of the summer. But October came around again as October is wont to do. And it got cold. And we left. And the photos in this post were mostly taken in the extreme southern part of Colorado, near a couple of mountains known as the Spanish Peaks. There are a few taken in Northern Colorado, and a few taken in Texas, and I've lumped them all together here in one massive post to clear them out of the system so we can get back to tropical mode again. I apologize for the huge mob of over 60 photos. I figured those who just want a couple of photos can easily just look at a couple photos. And those who like to keep up with Dooley and his travels will have a lot more to work with here. Don't worry, this will not be the new standard for blog post size. I hope you like mountains.
We've been exploring the Rocky Mountains quite a bit this year, electing to spend just about all of Hurricane Season off island. I realize that these past few posts might be a bit confusing to people who first find this blog based upon search terms like "Caribbean" and" Reef". Not too many people would do a search for tropical scenes by typing in "aspen grove". Yet, this is where we have found ourselves a lot lately.
This post is also a little disjointed due to rushing at the end to get it all together and "out the door". It was basically put together while traveling through four states, too. That would be Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Confusion. All in the Procrastination.
This is the kind of stuff Dooley and I have had to write about for the past four months.
That's changing pretty quickly. These will be the last images from the USA for a while. We'll try to get it all out of the way and clear the decks for some tropical scenery. But in the meantime, this is what we have to work with.
We let Dooley do his thing because he had a lot to say about it all. Not all of it good, either. He's an opinionated little quadruped, for sure. I know we've all often heard how it can be 'best to let sleeping dogs lie'..... but what's the conventional wisdom about blogging dogs with a loose grasp of reality??
We've done everything we know of to make the little critter feel comfy in the USA. But he's an island dog. He moved to Providenciales when he was knee high to a cat and has spent his entire life at temperatures above 70 degrees F. Life much above 7,000 ft. elevation doesn't really seem to agree with him. We took him up to the tree line at around 11,000 ft, and he said he'd rather have the rustiest fire hydrant on Provo than all the trees in Colorado. That shows you what he knows about it. There are no fire hydrants on Providenciales. Rusty or otherwise.
We've driven him to some real pretty places up in the hills, too. Roads up near the Continental Divide, places with sweeping vistas of distant mountains. He was consistently unimpressed.
We thought maybe he'd enjoy the trip more if he was able to go for a swim. I made a special effort to find places with water. We found plenty of beautiful, crystal clear mountain trout streams high in pristine alpine meadows and forests.
He sneered at it all. And a sneering Jack Russell Terrieriest with an attitude is an ugly thing to live with. I sure could have used even a small barracuda right about here to cheer him up. Even a little baby barracuda would do it. Anything dangerous with teeth. But nope. Nothing like that here. He was disgusted when I told him the fish up here eat bugs. Guess we can forget the Trout Almondine Alpo.
La Gringa is a geographer and my early background is in geology. So the two of us are fascinated by what we see in the mountains. I am particularly interested in these igneous, intrusive rock 'dikes' that are spread throughout this entire region around Silver Mountain and the Spanish Peaks. There's one of them in the center of this photo. It looks like a corroded vertical rock wall. Huge thin ridges running along the backbones of these mountains.
We stopped along the road to try to get a better shot of one of them, but I apparently triggered the digital zoom feature of the camera. So I got the photo, and it looked okay on the little viewfinder LCD on the camera. But when I finally uploaded it I realized that it's pixelated and blocky. This is why I never use digital zooms. Normally. In this case I guess I could blame it on the altitude. Lack of oxygen. Stupidity. Some combination thereof. I do want to mention that after seeing this shot I bought another camera with a 20x optical zoom. Too late for this post, though.
Anyhow, here's a distant dike.
When I look at that I start thinking of what it would be like to have a property on the south side of one of these. The dike would block the cold northern winds and the sun would warm it from the south.
We just had to get closer to one of these. And fortunately that's not hard to do. This is the Ashipapa Arch. Cut right through one of the Spanish Peak dikes. The dog peering out the window is NOT driving the truck. He does like to pretend that he is.
This next one is an arch of a different type. A log railroad trestle. I liked the scene for some reason. So we stopped for a photo and to read the sign. We wondered what it would be like to be under a log bridge with a freight train full of coal doing seventy miles an hour a few feet over head.
We wondered, yes. But we didn't hang around to find out.
We've loved seeing some of the beautiful mountain streams in the Rockies, and in the Sangre de Christo range. Crystal clear, babbling brooks and rushing creeks. There's nothing like this in the Turks and Caicos Islands, of course. But then, Colorado has no beaches to match even the worst of Providenciales.
We've noticed something about Dooley. He's almost totally uninterested in swimming in fresh water. I'd even say he's exhibited a mild aversion to it. We've exposed him to a number of rivers, creeks, brooks, lakes, and ponds. He typically takes a few sniffs, looks around a little bit and then wants to move on. This is a beautiful little lake high in the mountains. He wouldn't even stumble down to the edge to take a sniff. He would rather bemoan the scarcity of lizards to chase.
This is the same babbling trout brook we tried to get him interested in earlier.
This is a larger lake at Trinidad State Park, which is much lower, "down" around 7500 ft. He wouldn't even consider it.
I threw a stick in the water, hoping Dooley would fetch it. He looked at me like I was crazy. He just wanted to head back to camp.
So we essentially gave up on the swimming idea. The water was way too cold for us, anyhow. We've got stuff in our refrigerator that's warmer than this.
We decided to drive the truck up into a few mountain passes just to get a fresh look. We managed to get into a lot of places that neither of us had ever seen before. A totally different experience from the islands.
Every time I saw a good view of one of the dikes we had to stop so I could try to get a good photo. . The dike in this photo forms the ridge of this entire mountain. These bony granite backbones give this entire area a character we haven't seen further north.
The view south into New Mexico from up near the tree line in the Spanish Peaks:
We're looking down into Billy the Kid territory from here. Kit Carson wandered these hills. Jim Bridger. I know some of you will know what I'm talking about. Bent's Fort is a couple days ride east of here.
Dooley showed less and less enthusiasm for running around at this altitude. I think he'd rather admire himself in the side mirror. Guess I'd better start calling these wing mirrors again before we return to the Turks and Caicos.
We saw a lot of really interesting places. Many old homesteads along the way, with quite a few that are sad ruins of lives and dreams that must have once flourished in the crisp mountain air. Now deserted and dilapidated.
Time after time we've seen that while the timbers dry out and rot away the stone work remains. A tribute to the mason, and perhaps some lessons for those of us who would follow. I know it's probably impossible, but when I see things like this I think there's still hope for this place if someone wanted to save it badly enough. This location is on good bottom land, with a pasture and stream running just a few hundred meters away. All the reasons that someone built this a hundred years ago are still valid. I wonder what happened. People get old, and children grow up and move away to their own lives I suppose. Maybe we're sailing next to them in the Caribbean. Who knows.
Old ranches are everywhere, evidence of dreams that just didn't quite pan out in the long run. I bet it was fun while it lasted, though.
Have you noticed how many arches we've driven under in this post? That doesn't happen much in the islands. This whole experience was hugely different for all three of us. I can't think of an arch to drive under on Providenciales. And not many bridges to go over, either.
This foundation was a thriving home, in a wonderful spot up high in the mountains. It just needs a few hundred thousand dollars in lumber. Or logs. And someone who doesn't much mind being trapped by heavy snowfall for ten months of the year, I suppose. This is starting to sound like the background for a Stephen King novel.
It's autumn in the northern hemisphere and we were in the mountains just as the trees started to show their fall colors.
So cold that there was still snow on the ground from a small storm that blew through three days earlier.
One of us couldn't wait to get back to the trailer/caravan. He insisted on wearing his sweater and warming up before any further expeditions. The wimp.
We spent almost a month of the summer "boondocking" on private land in northern Colorado. Boondocking refers to camping without any water, electric, or septic connections. Living totally off the grid. We liked it quite a bit. We did have some challenges obtaining fresh water and we had to come up with electricity on our own but it was all manageable. We took a shovel and a pickaxe and chopped out our own level camping spot, modifying the terrain as needed.
We spent a lot of time this summer just hiking around. Exploring the rocky terrain around our little camp. When we started looking closely around the base of this large boulder things started getting interesting.
There was a lot of organic debris scattered around the area near this rock. Bits and pieces of small animals that had been killed and consumed. Large animals, in some cases. Skulls of domestic cats in others. One of us was extremely interested in this area. He didn't care much about history, or geology or sweeping vistas, but bones are something he can really get his teeth into, so to speak.
I had mentioned earlier that we spotted a large mountain lion (cougar) on this property one evening right at dusk. I mean, a really big cat. And now we think we know where it lives. Right at the base of that big rock. In this cave.
We had thought that Dooley would do his usual yapping and acting the certified fool around this cave, but he did not. He was quite cautious. He wanted to explore it, but he was sniffing the area and moving really carefully. He's smart enough to recognize big cat odor mixed with the blood of several other species. It wasn't hard to convince him to head back to camp and spend the afternoon watching a squirrel through a closed window. Did I mention he's a wimp?
I might be a little wimpy myself when thinking about what's out there watching me while I'm stumbling around in the dark. Cats can see a whole lot better than I can. And this is a big cat that obviously likes meat. It's bringing down hundred pound antelopes without much trouble. We haven't been able to get a photo of "our" cougar yet, but while I was getting a flat tire repaired I saw a similar one that had been stuffed and mounted to the wall of the tire garage. This mount looks just about exactly like the one we saw streaking toward these rocks one evening. Except ours was bigger, faster, and meaner. Ours is better fed, and smart enough not to have gotten shot.
We were still thinking that there was a slight chance that what we saw streaking through the bushes that night could have been a coyote. We heard them almost every night. But after seeing this dead couger we realized that it was in fact almost exactly what we saw. The furry puff at the end of the tail, the shape of the head. And the basic fact that it's really not that hard to tell the difference between a running feline and a running canine. And seeing this pretty much confirms that the local habitat is right. We have no further doubts about what we're dealing with, here.
Dooley seemed to lose some of his enthusiasm for rock climbing after seeing the carnage around that cave. Did I mention we found two other caves with similar conditions? We decided to limit our nighttime excursions until we looked into this a little more. We figure Dooley forgot all about it, anyhow.
We found him some nice, calm, safe animals to watch for a change. No threat here. These don't even have horns. Or more importantly from a small dog's aspect, fangs and claws.
He soon settled back into his normal routine in any case. Lap dog/nap dog without a care in the world.
I've mentioned we were camping off-grid here. That leads to some interesting DIY stuff. (Just when you'd thought I was free of the DIY). We use a 200 watt solar panel and a 2KW Honda generator for power when we need it. And we do need it. For example, see this tailgate workshop below. Not quite the same as my former workshop in the garage, is it?
This little project was to use the generator:
To power the soldering iron:
To extend the power wires:
To a small 12 volt compressor:
So that I could connect the compressor to the two big batteries at the front of the trailer and still reach the leaking tires in the middle. Another morning project. Finally got that tire fixed about a month later. You know, at the shop with the mountain lion on the wall.
You will probably have noticed the small portable fire pit we've been using in the mountains. We intend to build a more permanent installation once we figure out the best spot but for now the portable one is working out well. We have it in a jumble of glacial till sitting just downslope from the campsite. Dooley has already claimed it. He plays games on the rocks. Steely eyed mountain dog. Yeah, right.
Here's a better photo of the little area where we've been spending our evenings while boondocking. Dooley has some strong opinions about this setup, but basically he loves the heat of the fire on a cool evening. Or at least that's what I think he was talking about. Who knows, with this dog.
We took our sails to Colorado with us. No kidding. We had about a three foot tear in our main sail. We had tried to get it repaired on the island, taking it to a local upholstery shop. And they tried to fix it. Really, they did. But upholstery shops are not really all that tuned into sail repairs. We would not have tried to use the sail with their patch on it. So we took it to someone in Boulder Colorado to fix. No kidding. A parachute repair facility. And they did an incredible job on the repairs. We also had them remove the maroon colored sun screens on the sails and install new blue ones. The S/V Twisted Sheets will have a new look when we get the sails back on her. A new blue to match the blue bottom paint. We both dislike the color maroon.
We picked the sails up right before leaving Colorado. We hauled them to Texas with us, still working out the best way to ship them back to the islands. Two full sized sails made things a little crowded until later when I eventuallty managed to make some room for them in the back of the pickup truck. One if us in particular was a bit nervous riding around on a stack of slippery sail cloth Dacron.
You know, I've read that after a while pets start to resemble their owners. Oh Lord, I hope this isn't happening here.
Next he's going to want boots. I might go for a hat, but I'm drawing the line at boots for him. I told him boots are useless on a sailboat. He can buy his own boots. The little freeloader.
He had his chance, too. We took him shopping in Texas at a big store that had just about everything a ranch dog should want. The little wimp refused to even get out of the cart. Said his feet hurt. It's impossible to buy boots for a dog that refuses to even try them on. Oh well. Back to flip flops on the beach, I suppose.
And we did swing down through Texas for a couple of weeks before leaving the USA. We spent a week at Mineral Wells State Park, for example. Wonderful trails there. We plan to go back someday when we have more time. How many times have you said that in your life?
That could be the subject of another blog entirely, but since we're supposed to be getting back to the tropics I'm not going into details of it all here. I will post a few images to give you an idea of the sensory overload this poor dog has had to deal with. And with Texas, it's not just the sights and sounds. It's the entire culture.
For example, La Gringa took this photo in downtown Fort Worth on a very recent Saturday morning:
Dooley promptly threw away his antler collection, and says he's going to upgrade. While I applaud his newfound respect for the Longhorn (said while standing with hat over heart) I don't have a clue where he plans to store them. Or just who he expects to carry them around for him. We might possibly have room for one set on the pickup truck. If he wants more than that we might need to buy either a fireplace with a mantle, or a Cadillac.
We visited a nice farm while we were visiting family in the Dallas area. This caused us some issues when it became time to leave. I'll show you just a few of those images and then we'll be all done with Dooley's Summer Holiday.
This is a view from the farmhouse, looking out toward the gate and a small bridge over a stream. Please remember this view for later reference.
Dooley was in love with the place immediately, of course. He was on a leash most of the time in Colorado. The leash was off here. I thought he was going to dislocate his nose from investigating all the new odors on a farm.
People reading this years from now won't know what I'm talking about, but people reading it now might remember the torrential rains that central Texas got after the massive hurricane Patricia came apart over Mexico. This area received almost 10" of rain overnight. We were there for that overnight, and supposed to head down to Houston the next morning. We were delayed.
Remember the nice little driveway and small bridge over a little creek? That wasn't the case the next morning. The bridge had disappeared underwater. And it was still rising at this point.
We placed a rock at the edge of the water, and by noon we could see that it had receded a bit. We knew we had plenty of ground clearance with the F-250 Ford, but the water was murky and we couldn't see the edges of the small concrete bridge. We did not want to deal with the complications that would arise if we drove off that bridge into deeper water. So we decided the prudent thing would be for me to wade out ahead and feel for the bridge with my bare feet while La Gringa and Dooley drove the truck behind me. Of course the dog was concerned, as he always is when one of us is in the water without him.
It really wasn't all that complicated. Wade along until my toes were on the edge of the concrete. The dog continued to whine and come up with reasons to go back to the bunkhouse for a snack and let the flood water recede further. But we had a time crunch. The forecast was for more rain.
I just stood in the middle of the bridge and La Gringa aimed the truck right at me. Lined me up with the road behind me. Slowly, of course. Maybe aimed is the wrong word here. But it worked just fine.
Can you tell that by that third photo of me in the water it was starting to rain again? We had to get out now or stay another day. We left.
Dooley might have been a bit panicky, but it was nothing much for the rest of us. Couldn't have gone smoother.
We had a hair raising drive down to Houston, about five hours of blowing rain and people accustomed to driving 80 miles per hour. We're not accustomed to 80 mph. And after that trip, I'm not sure I'll ever be accustomed to 80 mph again. At least not in anything without wings and a propeller on it.
We had a few days in the Houston area to visit with family and take care of some last minute business. Walt Green had folded our sails up for us after he fixed them in Boulder, but he's primarily a parachute guy and we like to 'flake' them a certain way. And since we decided to carry them back to Provo in the airplane with us we needed them to fit into some rolling duffel bags.
We found a good spot in a nice sheltered back yard. And this, oh my readers, is how we flake a sail. What do you think of the blue replacing the old maroon? There is a photo of the maroon in this post from last February. It's the second image in the post, if you're interested. We much prefer the blue.
Unfortunately La Gringa discovered one of the minor aggravations to life on the Gulf Coast. They have these really annoying little things called Fire Ants. One of them isn't really much of a problem. The real problem is that there are millions of them. They build little homes like this:
And they build fast. That anthill was constructed within hours of when the rain stopped. La Gringa stepped on several of these anthills, not knowing any better. And these ants greatly resent that. Medication was required. Tequila may intensify the effect. That's one of the reasons why it's so popular in Texas, I suppose. The tequila, I meant. The ants themselves are not really all that popular.
Well, that's pretty much it for this post. I realize that it's uncommonly long, but we covered a lot of territory since the last one. We haven't done much with sunrises or sunsets lately. I think that's largely because the best moments of those are obscured by mountains or trees. We did keep an eye out for interesting meteorological moments, though. Like this low level rainbow hugging the horizon off towards Cheyenne, Wyoming.
And this is a sunrise while we were up at our remote camp:
And I know that some of you other tropics-lovers (and you know who you are) will be happy to know that this is where we posted this blog from:
Yep. We're back on the island of Providenciales, staying at our favorite local resort Harbour Club Villas. There have been a few changes here since we left in late June. Notice the salt blasted shrubbery, for example.
So the next post should be back to the tropics. If it isn't, there's something amiss. We're getting ready to launch the boat. And the sails made it back okay. We've got them under guard here at the Villa. He's become attached to them. I hope he'll let us put them back on the boat.
Please stay tuned. More to follow.