Monday, June 30, 2008

Day trip to Mount Evans

Yesterday (Sunday) we took a trip out to Mount Evans.
Mount Evans is the road into the sky. Drive from 8,700 to 14,240 feet to the summit. You will pass through 3 life zones, passing ancient trees, lakes and forest to the land above timberline. It can be 90 degrees in Denver and 40 degrees at the top of Mount Evans. Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep will greet you as you climb to the top of the world. , the highest mountain in the Rocky Mountains.

Mount Evans is normally closed for most of the year, due the amount of snow and unpredictable weather, especially in winter.
The Mount Evans pass is now open, and Chris and I decided to take a trip up to the peak and go on a little hike up to the summit.
The weather was stunning, hot and sunny. The trip up to Mount Evans was stunning, all the snow had melted and all the trees were green and blooming.
View of one of the lakes on the way to the summit
Some think ice on the side of the mountain, and a crazy cyclist on his way up

Another half frozen pond

As you approach the peak, the road get narrower and all you see is shear cliff edges, a little close for comfort. The temperature also drops dramatically to around 45 degrees F.
View of the cliff edge from the car

Being above 14,000 feet, the air is thin and you can feel it. Climbing up to the peak took a little effort. But well worth it. The views from the summit were amazing!! Views of the snow capped mountain and Lake Echo were stunning.

Proof that we did it
A cool pic of Chris "flying" at the summit

On the way down, we stopped off at Echo Lake. This lake is frozen for most of the year, and is rather eery to look at, the one point still frozen and ice floating in the water.

Echo Lake

Heading back down the mountain started taking it’s toll, and I got a little altitude sickness with a massive headache. I always thought that the warnings about altitude sickness at this height was ridiculous, until it happens to you. We did get to see some mountain goats on the way down, which was great, because you do not see that much wildlife in the parks, they seems to be very skittish.
The allusive mountain goat

But what a awesome day, now planning our next camping and hiking trip.

SA Day in Denver

The South African community in Denver is very large. There is also a rather cool club, where they organize bring and braai’s and other get togethers through the year. Chris and I went to one last Sunday at the Chatfield Park. It was great meeting other South African’s. Some of them have been living in Denver for over 15 years.
One guy from CPT runs a pub called TUSK, which we will go to some time.
At the end it was great to have a “BRAAI” again and have a good laugh and chat in Afrikaans.
We met a few nice people who we will def meet up with again.

Life in Denver

I know, I know, I have not updated the blog for a while. Sorry! But a girl, trying to create a new life for hereself is a busy job.

I can not believe that it’s almost 2 weeks since we’ve been back in Denver. It has been crazy to say the least, so you’ll forgive me for not writing.

So what have we been up to? Well, we spent our first week searching for an apartment. This was rather mind boggling, viewing apartment after apartment, causing confussion at the end of the day as to which was which. Eventually Chris and I decided on a lovely 2 bed/ 2 bath apartment in Littleton, right next to the Racoon Creek Golf Course. What amazes me about apartments here are they all come fully equipped with Washer, Dryer, Dishwasher, Microwave, Stove. I esp. love the mandatory dishwasher! We also have our own gas fireplace for those chilly winter days.The area where we are living is very green and beatutiful. With the Golf Course next door and a big park with a lake across the road, view of the mountains, you feel as if you have escaped the hustle bustle of the busy city. The Fairways at Racoon Creek (that;s what our spot is called) also has a heated pool, a heated spa tub, gym and a business centre.

Entrance to our Apartment

The Lounge with the fireplace


Entrance Hall

Main on suite bathroom

We were very excited about signing our lease, until yet another curve ball got thrown our way. Before we are allowed to sign, they need a Excel Gas account, Renters insurance and a bank guaranteed cheque. Well, at this stage I burst into tears, nothing was going to be easy and this was just another hurdle in our quest to fit into the American society.
After a good cry and Chris trying his best to console me in the middle of the shop, people staring at me is if I have lost the plot, we eventually managed to get the Excel account, the renters insurance from our very understanding Insurance Agent and were all ready to sign and move in.

It was probably the easiest move I’ve had. My worldly possesions suming up to the grand total of 4 trunks, and a couple suitcases. Now it was time to go shopping, a new bed, TV, sofa, kitchen stuff, bathroom things ….. and the list goes on. It’s kinda fun buying everything from scratch.
Chris and I have also had fun checking out the garage sales. A flower vase for 25c, a cooler box for $1, almost new Ski Boots for $10 (worth $150) and ski poles $5 (worth 10 times that), a almost never used Lexmark fax, scanner, printer for ……$10.

Anyway, apart from the shopping, Chris and I have enjoyed the park just across the street. They play baseball there in the afternoons, people are always running, walking their dogs, playing soccer and the list goes on. The local cheerleading squad were also practicing their routine the other day. On Thursday evenings they have band playing in the park. Everyone packs a picnic basket and goes down to watch, such a stunning atmosphere.

Summer is here, and it is HOT!!! Thank goodness for the central aircon, otherwise you would battle to sleep. With this kind of heat it is difficult to imagine that in a few months time we will have snow to deal with. Crazy.
However, as they say, if you do not like the weather in Denver, wait 15 will change. So true. We were in our way back to Evergreen from the city centre, and you could see the weather turning right in front of you. The clouds looked a very eery. Next thing it is cold and windy compared to the blistering heat you felt earlier on.

The eery clouds moving in over the mountains

Chris and I popped round to the Racoon Creek Golf Course to hit some balls. WOW, it was great to be out on the course hitting balls again, and both Chris and I are dying to have a game of golf soon, hopefully next week before we get crazy with work.

Chris and I have also been job hunting. It is interesting here, that most jobs are advertised on Monster or other job sites, and no-one really goes through a recruitment agency. We have had tons of companies, Insurance and Wealth Mngnt co. who have contacted us. Were not that desperate yet (-:

Chris has had some meetings with a few people here and it’s looking positive for him. I’m meeting with SAP in Houstan this week, so will see what happens there. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park to Denver

Well, who could believe that we have now reached the end of our roadtrip and are back where we started 3 weeks ago. It all does feel surreal and I marvel at what we have seen and done in such a short time.

We left the Rocky Mountain National Park for a fairly short drive (3 hours) back to Denver. Estes Park just outside the Rocky Mountain national Park is a very quaint, touristy mountain village and you have to spend some time wondering through all the different stores and streets.

A shop selling precious stones and rocks, very interesting

There is a river running right through the village and it has a wonderful ambiance about it. It must be just as stunning in winter with all the snow about. The deer and elk wonder through the town and gardens, oblivious to all the human activity around them.

Driving back to Denver was like the final stretch on a marathon. I felt excited and eager to see my friends and actually craving some sort of familiarity, even if if was for such a short period before we left. Having your clothes in a cupboard instead of a suitcase is going to be a great change. The drive from the Rocky Mountain's back to Denver was stunning. You got to see the beautiful rivers running through the mountains and canyons and beautiful trees all in full green for summer.
Some facts of our 3 week roadtrip:

1. Mileage covered - 4300 Miles (6920 km)
2. States crossed - 7 (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, California, Arizona)
3. Hotels slept in - too many to remember (-;

So, where to from here, I am sure everyone is keen to know.....

Well, considering the high cost of living in California, Chris and I have decided to try settle down in Denver for a while, to get our foot in the the door regarding employment and networking, and try out our skiing skills for a year or 2,from there we will look at perhaps moving to San Diego. I am sure we are in for a BIG shock when winter arrives, having to learn how to drive in the snow, scraping ice off your windscreen etc. but also looking forward to all the new things it has to offer.

Check out how amazing Denver is and what is has to offer:

Who knows, perhaps we become addicted to skiing and rock climbing and we don't want to leave.
I must say a big thanks to our friends, Fred and Lorraine, for all your advice and guidance. They have travelled all 50 States and had a wealth of knowledge which they have shared with us, as well as offering us a place to stay, when we needed it most. Thank You!!

Last but not least, A big thank you to my darling husband. You have the most amazing kind heart, the WORLD of patience, and such a positive attitude. Thank you for putting up with my moody days, my wacky ideas and at times, bad navigation skills. I have had the best time and without you, it would not have been the same. I look forward to our next adventure together.

All we know, is life's a journey, not a destination and you must enjoy every moment. You never know what life's going to throw your way.

The story's not over, now we start a new chapter, finding a place to stay, job hunting, new friends and hobbies. So, stay tuned for the next chapter of my life, my faithful blog readers....


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Salt Lake City to Rocky Mountain National

We are now entering our last leg of our trip, and I must say, I'm looking forward to putting down some roots and having my clothes in a cupboard instead of a suitcase.
We left Salt Lake City and headed towards Rawlins in Wyoming, which would be our pit stop for the night, before we continue onto the famous Rocky Mountain National Park.

The landscape is very pretty and you have wonderful green mountain ranges leaving Utah, before entering Wyoming.
Wyoming is typical cowboy country, and you have miles and miles of vast landscape, dotted with cattle farms here and there. You can actually picture the modern day cowboy movies.
Rawlins was, well, how do I describe it, small, with one horse, no actually, he got shot, so nothing actually. At least the hotel, Comfort Inn, was very comfortable and probably the newest addition to this small place. I had to laugh, we went out to the local Pizza spot for dinner, and Chris asked for Ice Tea. The lady said that they did not have any, and when we looked at her funny, beacuse we could see that they did, she asked again, and then realised he wanted Ice Tea and not Arse Tea.

I must say, some places (San Francisco) battle to understand our accents more than others (Denver). Like the word Diet, they just could not understand what we were asking for and I had to spell it out more than once in San Diego and San Francisco. But every now and again I get the comment that they just love our accents, so it keeps us entertained.
The trip to the Rocky Mtn National Park was lovely. Again, rolling green hills, vast landscapes and we even spotted some game, Prong Horned Deer. There were also hundreds of Prairie Dogs (dassie like creatures) continuously running across the roads. We did well in missing all but one, which was standing in the middle of the road and literally ran under the car, which Chris could not miss.
The Arapaho National Park which you drive through just before you get to the Rocky Mounatin National P, is stunning, lots of streams and rivers flowing due to all the snow melt.
Grand lake just before the Park

I was really excited about seeing the Rocky Mountain Nat Park, imagining the Park teaming with Deer and Moose, and the odd Bear, I suppose similar to what you would do ito game viewing in the Kruger.

Well, even though the Park is stunning, you REALLY have to look for the game, and the speed limit is 45 M/Ph (approx 72 Km/Ph). Needless to say, I am not sure what game you're supposed to see while speeding through the park at that rate. If you try and drive slower, you have 10 impatient cars up your rear, really painful.
However, having said that, the Park is stunning and worth seeing. The main activity is hiking, so it's well worth it to put those hiking boots on and see the Park on foot. We did see a pair of Elk, and a Moose. Not all bad.

As you reach the peak of the Rocky Mountain Range, where you are just over 11,000 feet, there was still thick snow about. I could not believe how high some of the ice ridges along the road was, and it's also pretty chilly up there.

A frozen lake towards the peak of the Rocky Mountains

A wall of ice next to the road, the car is half the size of this.

Chris and I stayed in a sweet little Inn in the town, Estes, just outside the Park, called Alpine Trail Ridge Inn. Everyone is so friendly here and the homely restaurant next door serves the most amazing Apple Pie.

View from the Alpine Ridge Inn

What's great is the Park is only approx 2.5 hours from Denver, so it's perfect for a weekend getaway, to go hiking or camping, which is what I think we will be doing allot of.

From here we head back to Denver where our trip ends and life as we all know it starts.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lake Tahoe to Salt Lake City

I was defintely sad to leave Lake Tahoe. I will definately be back for a visit.
We had a VERY LONG day driving ahead of us, just over 9 hours driving. The drive leaving Lake Tahoe was lovely, ito scenary, but soon after the landscape became monotonous.
Landscape between Nevada and Utah

What was interesting is that we drove through 3 States, leaving Lake Tahoe in California, entering Nevada and then into Utah to get to Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City was nothing to what I excpeted it to be. I'm not actually sure what I expected, this being the HQ of the Mormon Community.

About 100 miles from SLC, you start seeing this massive salt pan, which is actually part of the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt lake is the largest lake in North America and is 1000 sq miles (2590 km). You can see salt mills closer to the city.

View of Salt Pans from the road

The Great Salt Lake just before SLC

Utah and SLC is renowned for it's great skiing. The 2000 winter Olympics were held here.

The first Mormons came to SLC in 1847, tyring to find refuge from persecusion in places like Illinois. Today Utah is 80% Mormon, and mostly a dry state, i.e No Alcohol. However, SLC was very viby and very big. I noticed allot of young people, and young families. They have this amazing mall, which again has every brand name under the sun. There were artists drawing on the main walkway, and they also have music in the square on certain evenings.

We had a great meal at a fish place in the square and just loved the warm evening temps and seeing everyone out on a Friday night.

I found this amazing bargain on, for the Sheraton in the city centre, for only $80, where the normal fee actually goes for $200.

View from our hotel room, you can see the snow capped mountain in the distance

San Francisco to Lake Tahoe

Up bright and early, I had the bags packed, the car ready to leave our crappy hotel. Also, I could not wait to get to Lake Tahoe, which everyone told me was amazing.
The drive to the lake was about 4 hours and very scenic.
The lake coming into view

Lake Tahoe is probably one of the most beautiful places I have seen in the US. The Lake is massive and the most amazing aqua blue and emerald green colour. The lake is surrounded by mountains and Alpine forests. Lake Tahoe is the 2nd biggest lake in North America. We managed to find a hotel right on the edge of the lake. It even had a fire place, which was nice and cozy.
View of the lake from our hotel

The clean air and beautiful setting makes you feel all energetic and excited. There are tons of things to do, ski, snorkel, kayak, cycle, run, golf and much more. Chris and I headed off to rent some bikes. The guy gave us a route which takes you into the forest, along to historic sites of cabins built 150 years ago. We then headed of through a reserve, where they have built a glass tunnel under the river, where you can walk through and watch all the fish and other creatures swim around.
There are warnings all over the place that this is bear country, so we kept looking out for a fuzzy bear, but thank goodness we did not see any on our ride.
We then headed off to another lake, called “fallen Lake”. It was almost closing time for the bike rental place, so we headed back, but I could have cycled all day long.

In winter time, this place comes alive with Skiers. There are Ski sloes all around in the mountains surrounding the lake, and by the sounds of things, this place gets lots of snow in winter.

I was sad to leave and could have stayed there a whole week.