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Part 1 – Maroon Lake and Quandary Peak
A few years ago I spent some time wandering around the Rocky Mountains of Colorado generally exploring and climbing a few peaks. The picture shows the Maroon Bells from Maroon Lake near Aspen which was the start point of one of the hikes I did. The photos were taken on a cheap camera so while the views were awesome, the quality wasn’t but the highlights of the trip are all there to read about…
There is something rather surreal about sitting at breakfast and watching people dressed in breathing masks and carrying cylinders of oxygen as they butter their slices of toast and pour their coffee as though they are about to set out for Everest. My hotel by Colorado’s Lake Dillon though is at 9100 feet above sea level which is twice the height of Ben Nevis or about level with Eigerwand Station on the Jungfrau and a fair height to arrive at by car without the benefit of any exercise on the way up. After these men in masks came the raiders – those who had already had breakfast but had returned with doggie bags to fill with more food for the day ahead. If it’s free why not I thought – and picked up a banana and a couple of apples for later.
That day – which had dawned fine – I was bound for Glenwood Canyon which I’d been told was well worth seeing and much nearer than the Grand Canyon which would have taken a full day just to get to. Distances in America are in a different league to those back home with a hundred mile trip being “just down the road” and I knew that if I set off down Interstate70 I wasn’t going to be sat in traffic jams for half the distance. I also planned – if time permitted to see the Maroon Bells – two spectacular mountains of just over 14000 feet which are close to the ski resort of Aspen some distance to the West of here…
For a first outing in the Lakes in some time I decided on this nice circular walk from Wasdale Head around the 4 main valleys of the region that I’d planned earlier in the year as the winter storms raged outside… today though even the weather smiled on the usually damp and misty Western Fells on what was a long but satisfying day…
The topography of the western Lake District is so aligned that four of the seven main valleys converge on the relatively small area between Great Gable and Honister Pass. The advantage of this to the hiker is that these four valleys can be linked by a circular walk through some of the finest scenery in the National Park that is no more than a longish day’s outing in the fells… >>>Read rest of post
As I contemplate the map, looking for inspiration on where to head in the summer, it occurs to me what a big part the summer trips away played in my own childhood. There was little in the way of sitting on beaches for two weeks that many of my school friends talked of but we didn’t miss out there – with both parents from Barrow by Morecambe Bay the seaside experience was there for my sister and myself throughout the year at half terms and weekends. No – the Summer Holiday was always the Great Adventure.
The choice of where we went fell largely to Dad and I with Gill’s only concern being that there were horses somewhere nearby and Mum trusting to our judgement as we pored over the maps laid out on the kitchen table like some latter day mariners planning a voyage of discovery. Mountain areas were a firm favorite with Dad and I both wanting summit challenges while Mum was content with the picture postcard views. As long as there was pony trekking nearby we were onto a winner. The only remaining decision was whether to head north – which meant the Scottish Highlands – or south which meant a leisurely journey through the idyllic French countryside ending in the Alps or occasionally the Pyrenees.
North or South? This decision was always Dad’s; after all he was doing the driving and paying the vast cost of a ferry to Calais in the days before (relatively) cheap travel. As for me I wasn’t bothered by the weather and like Mum preferred it not too hot but Dad always longed for the sun baked lands of the South and if the previous summer had been one of wind and rain in the Highlands then France it would be. Usually the right balance of hills, horses and sunshine would maintain a status quo that kept everyone happy for most of the time though there were odd moments of discontent.
I recall the second time we headed overseas and the wall to wall sunshine of Italy that greeted us at the far end of the Mont Blanc tunnel. The Aosta Valley should have been perfect but rebellion was in the ranks as Mum claimed that ants were invading the tent. Now I do remember seeing a few ants around though I don’t recall them causing any problems but the result in any case was a move over the Col du Grand St Bernard to Switzerland. Here in the Rhone Valley in the green and wooded hills near Aigle it seemed everyone was happy once again. That was until Dad who was missing the Italian sunshine, pointed out that this area must get as much rain as the West of Scotland. I guess it was a bit damp and while the rest of us didn’t mind temperature in the sixties instead of the eighties he had a point.
I’d been happy with both locations being discouraged by neither ants nor rain but my turn was to come. The route back into France took us to a large organised campsite close to the town of Bourg en Bresse that I later dubbed The National Wasp Centre. Dad had the sun back and Gill got to go horse riding but no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t see the Alps from anywhere in the site and to eat food outdoors was to invite wasp attack!
I guess that overall though, the problems were minor and I can look back at this and all our family trips as great experiences. I just hope that I can give my own boys as much enjoyment through travel as I had. Now where was that map…