Part 1 of 2: Bicycling in Grand Junction, Colorado

Never been to Grand Junction, Colorado so all the more reason to add it to my travel plan! Isn’t that what travel is all about? Mix in favorite locations with new ones and your adventure continues! Thanks to conversations with two couples I met on the Riverfront Bicycling Trail, I learned about this area. I met them at different locations so I counted those moments as breathers on my bicycle ride.

This day was my non-driving day; I have them every so often to offset long driving days. So I bicycled the Riverfront Trail from my campground on the eastern side of Grand Junction to Fruita, a mountain biking town I always heard about, on the western side of Grand Junction. The bicycle path parallels the Colorado River. On one side, the path passes parks, a wildlife refuge, a disc golf area, a golf course, red rocks in the distant hills, and of course the river with some floating rafters. There are plenty of benches to sit and contemplate the world. On the other side, the path has an industrial look with businesses and future real estate being developed. One area had Airstreams as Air BNB’s. I also bird-watched as I cycled along.

Air BnB’s are in all shapes & sizes!
Colorado River & Colorado National Monument in background.
Great blue heron flew back & forth between 2 locations on the river.

I spoke with a “walking-on-the-trail” couple who grew up in Grand Junction, stayed 54 years. I walked with them while we talked. She is planting trees and supporting work for 9 more miles of bicycle trail. He is a city government employee. We talked about the new housing/condos to be built within the next 3 years on what I previously referred to as industrial. He agreed with my assessment of Grand Junction to become a road bicycling magnet and Fruita a mountain biking magnet. He said the snow plow was out only 6 times this past winter, it does stay cold, and they have many days of sunny, blue skies. This is high desert, 4500 feet elevation, and not as touristy and expensive as places like Glenwood Springs. Some inversions in winter, but 245 days of sunshine making it the sunniest city in Colorado. We talked about the homeless people; they are here as in many places I visited. There is a long way between this western city and any other place so I am not sure where homeless go in the winter.

Another “bike-riders-on-the-trail” couple were really fascinating. They are local realtors and been here for 20 years. He made a funny comment, not believing he would stay in what he thought was an ugly place. But he eventually found the downhill skiing and especially the cross-country skiing on the huge mesa here good. Plus the road & mountain bicycling opportunities and time on the Colorado River a surprise. We talked about housing. He pointed to the million dollar house locations, close to the foothills of the national monument; however; there is housing at all price tags. As in any town, finding what works is the challenge. Another interesting point was use of the local Walker airport. They go through TSA checks, onto the airplane quickly to fly to a hub. They catch their next plane with ease compared to going to the big city. Interesting!

In the closing miles of my bicycle ride, I stopped at a mountain biking course where young riders were competing. Wonderful seeing young people outdoors and active. At another location, I watched a quarterhorse competition. Many horse ranches are on this side of town. Tomorrow, I continue exploring.

I wanted to get out on the course too! Looked like fun!
I cannot ride a horse to save my life. In my estimation, these riders were fantastic!

Days In Idaho

After bicycling in the Couer D’Alene, Idaho area, I drove through Montana to visit with my friend and her husband for a few days in Ashton, Idaho. They own a beautiful log home and across the river from their land is a good-sized waterfall! It is country-living … quiet all the time, often a starry night sky, some misty mornings, and other mornings with sunny blue summer/fall sky allowing time to enjoy cups of coffee on an east deck and then their west deck as we watch natural grasses and trees sway in the breeze and an osprey or bald eagle fly by … simple beauty and relaxation! My friend shared the Idaho specialties: trout, potatoes and chokecherry jam into meals I will never cook during my van travel, so I loved it all.

Home sweet home!

It is always wonderful to be outdoors! Upon my arrival, we floated down Henry’s Fork of the Snake River , each in a pontoon boat for more than a couple of hours. The river current was moving right along. No amount of rowing would allow us to row against it when wanting to touch base with each other, so we simply went with the flow! An osprey with a fish within its talons and at least 3 bald eagles were seen. We did not get to wet with the white-capped waves or hitting any rocks in our path. The car and trailer had been shuttled to our endpoint; so easy to enjoy the activity.

Putting in at the river.

Places to visit:

I never visited this part of Idaho before, so we took walks at Mesa Falls State Park and saw the Lower and Upper Falls. Photos below of them; the Upper Falls with the rainbow. We noticed a sign posted warning of bears in the area. No problem for us as that was not where we would take a longer hike. 

Lower Mesa Falls
Upper Mesa Falls

We went on to Harriman State Park. As a New Yorker, I recognized W. Averell Harriman’s name. In 1902 this land was a cattle ranch where wealthy easterners retreated in summer. Railroad magnate W. Averell Harriman and his brother in 1977 donate the ranch to Idaho. There are more than 15,000 acres of land with many trails. As we walked a trail it was obviously used also by mountain bikers and equestrians. It would be a great place for more exploration.

Harriman State Park is also wildlife refuge.

When I mentioned T.A. Moulton’s barn in Wyoming’s Teton National Park to my friend, she knew a bike ride we could do in that area. We drove from ID to WY and started our ride under an overcast sky. The Teton Mountains were not the clearest, but we had hours to let nature take its course. We could view them at various spots on our ride.

The first 15 miles of the ride were okay, except the coffee place did not open till noon. Otherwise, we tackled the hill ahead of us, did miss seeing 30 buffalo cross the road, and photographed what we thought was the famous barn. The final 4 miles of our 22 mile ride was with a strong cross-wind! With my  handlebar and rear bike rack packs, it was like the cross-wind was hitting a wall. I had an upper body workout holding the bicycle up. We were thrilled when back at the car to load the bikes into it.

After lunch we decided to drive back to the Mormon Row area, with hopes the Teton Mountains might be clearer. We decided to drive down Mormon Row, a gravel road, photograph a few other places, and it is not till later we realize we now truly have the correct barn to label as the T.A. Moulton barn! Thomas Alma Moulton moved to this area in the 1900’s, spent 30 years constructing this barn, and it is the only structure from his homestead still standing!

T.A. Moulton barn

Things I learned about Idaho…

  1. The northern panhandle of Idaho is literally separate from the southern part of the state. That is why I had to drive into Montana to get to my friend’s southeastern ID home. There are no roads from north panhandle to southern part, only 4 different national forests.
  2. Ashton, ID is the largest certified seed potato growing area. While you could grow your own store-bought potato with eyes/sprouts, you may introduce potato disease into your soil which are difficult to get rid of once there. Thus certified seed potatoes are the way to go.
  3. License plates have a code in the first number/letter or two indicating the county a person lives. As a result, when one waves to another while driving by, it is easy to see if the person is from your own county.
  4. Ashton, ID is in the northeast corner of a large valley in this state. I never thought about the valley since I was either heading for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River for white-water rafting or road bicycling in the northern panhandle.

Other Idaho photos:

Idaho sunrise
I
One of many ospreys seen in ID.
One of many bald eagles seen in ID
Teton Mountains
Teton Mountains

Hot Time Along WA & ID Stateline

Last night was my first of three nights camping in Spokane Valley, WA. It was a hot 94 degrees during the day with every piece of technology reporting “heat advisory”. I left the air vents in the front windows of the van, plus the side door open with screening, and even the back doors open with screening till it started to rain. After 11pm the air temperature was finally about 73 degrees. It dropped to 60 degrees by the time I was up in the morning.

Knowing my history with heat, I decide to cycle about 15 miles and turn around before the heat in my first full day here got to hot. I love cycling right out of my campground and onto a trail. I cycled the Centennial Trail east, thus Washington into Idaho. I recognized some of the trail as I did bicycle it years ago.

Water is an issue in this area. Signs on the trail are informative about water issues and the area’s history. 

I was glad I followed my bicycling plan. I turned around about 15 miles and stopped for lunch at the 23 mile mark. The trail does have some toilets, benches, picnic tables and bike tools along it, and you pack out whatever you pack in. When I finished my lunch and readied to cycle the last 7 miles or so, a couple of heat advisories were flashing on my Garmin. Good idea to be done with this ride real soon! Finally, 31.6 miles … yeah and done!

Fortunately yesterday afternoon and this day, I am watching Serena and Venus playing at the US Open. Isn’t technology amazing! I love tennis and have missed my playing time during the pandemic and these months. I also love watching quality tennis and there are many fantastic matches being played at the US Open.

Day 2: No Bicycling today….

I expected to be bicycling both full days while visiting Spokane Valley. How is it the daytime air temperature is high here as in Arizona? No wonder the animals are moving north? I was reading about wildlife photographers now traveling to northern Canada for larger herds to observe and photograph, especially as the elk begin their rut.

I decide to go birding … surprise! I saw on eBird a mention of a bird I may not already have, so I head to the Saltese Flats Wetland Area in Spokane Valley. Three miles, two hours later, no new birds. Here are a few birds:

Looks like a young American coot.
Wilson’s snipe
Greater yellowlegs

The US Open Tennis is now playing as I write this. Serena is in a third round match. I decide to watch this match in air-conditioned, available wifi, environment and not in my van using my phone’s hot spot. The challenge was the library parking, per a city ordinance, is only 2 hours. Fortunately the library staff told me where I can park for no fee. At the table next to me is a homeless woman sleeping. I do not know what services are available for the homeless in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. An affluent community and like many places in the USA people are struggling financially and emotionally. I think this woman is familiar to the library staff as they have allowed her to sleep here and charge her phones for more than 3 hours now and the library closes in a half hour. I wonder where this woman spends her night? She has her bags with her. I wish her safety and some amount of success with hopes there is support for homeless in this community.

I have a 5.5 hour drive, if non-stop, to Three Forks, Montana tomorrow.

Part 3 of 3: To the NW edge of the USA!

Olympic National Park is huge and definitely needing more than 3 days to visit it all on our NW edge of the USA. On this day I drove to Cape Flattery. Between where I was camping and the cape, I stopped at a few viewpoints. The town of Sekiu overlooks the Strait of Juan Fuca. Many marinas, fishing boats and people out on the water, along with gulls and cormorants. 

There are eight Native American tribes associated with the park. For my visit to Cape Flattery I needed to purchase a recreational permit to park in the lots and hike in the area. The Makah tribe live in this area. There are many signs to remind visitors of the importance in purchasing a permit so the trails are maintained. From the trail head to the ocean is a .6 mile hike through tall trees, much vegetation and on wooden pathways in some sections. 

Tall trees and everything is green.
Along the coast at the cape.
Weathered limestone leaves sea caves under the cape.

There are gray whales, sea otters and a variety of birds along the NW edge of the USA: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The lands and waters are managed and protected by Makahs who work with the sanctuary to protect the waters and coastline.

I drove to ShiShi Beach further down the coastline. Arriving late in the day made me realize there was no way to hike the one way 2.5 mile trail to the ocean. I wanted to be back in daylight for my long ride to the campground. I had stopped between the cape and here which burned up time. Here are photos of the area. Many backpackers were about to start their hike to ShiShi Beach to camp for the night.

Coastline just north of ShiShi Beach

On my 3.5 hour drive back to the campground, I stopped at a couple of the Discovery Trail trailheads. If I had more time here I would have bicycled some of the segments of the trail. Eventually the trail will be 130 miles long from Port Townsend to LaPush. LaPush is the beach I visited a couple of days ago on the Pacific Ocean. Someday I will return and visit more areas of Olympic National Park. Tomorrow I am on my way to visit a Seattle area friend.

Remember the cougar info when back to bicycle ride in the area.

Bike and Bird Watch!

When I travel, bicycle riding an area new to me is simple joy. This is the main reason I built an area in my van for my bicycle and gear. Plus, cycling gets me from one place to another faster than walking. The downside to cycling, especially when  birds are in the area, is to observe them while pedaling, especially those flying overhead. I often take time to slow down and observe them. So far, no bicycle accidents while birding!

(This reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a guy wearing the other day, “Sorry I am late, I saw a dog”. A shirt appropriate for me, “Sorry I am late, I saw a bird”. I wonder if anyone makes that shirt?)

Recently I was bicycling around Mission Bay in San Diego, California. The eleven mile bike path winds through parks and passes nearby housing and resorts so an 8 mph bike speed is recommended. Many people were at the beaches, the playgrounds, on the water in all kinds of watercraft, and also pedaling various wheeled vehicles on the bike path.

I like the bike rack!
Paddleboards and boats of all sizes were on the bay, plus swimmers at beaches.

Most of the bike path is not near the bay water’s edge; however, a short section parallels the San Diego River estuary. I saw 3 birds standing on a construction roll where bridge work was happening. The birds were the same type of bird but I could only say they were herons. I photographed them, identified them later in the day, and they were little blue herons! Another new bird for my life list!

They look like herons… but which species?
Little blue heron
I moved closer to photo this bird with hopes it would not fly off.

Most funny moment on this bicycle ride: seeing a jogger with his dog wearing large, sport, mirrored sunglasses! Important to protect eyes! What a fun bicycle ride with a new bird observed and photographed!

Aliso Creek Bicycle Path & My Observations

I started my bicycle ride from the Aliso Wood Canyon Nature Preserve in Mission Viejo, California. I love stopping by one area of the creek because I know I will see birds.

Sure enough, there was a white-faced ibis, snowy egret and mallard with 6 chicks! They were so cute following their mother down the creek!

White-face ibis
Snowy egret
Mallard with 6 chicks

Then I decided to bicycle ride more miles in the other direction from the visitor center. I was surprised to see this warning sign as it was not here last year:

Always read warning signs!

What was bringing the mountain lions to the area’s trails. Usually healthy wild animals will stay away from humans. Something obviously changed in the past year.

As I rode the landscape changed. Apparently a wildfire had come close to the water treatment plant in the area and the hillsides were burned. No doubt this was the reason mountain lions were being displaced and now within eyesight of humans hiking and bicycling on the wilderness trails. 

Fire burned area
No place for an animal to shelter or find food

My last visit I did cycle one mountain bike trail here. This time though I decided I did not want to be solo rider on the trail. I would not be making enough noise to let a mountain lion know I was in the area. As wildfires burn more acres of land, wildlife will be displaced. Are you doing your part to reduce wildfire risks? No one, humans or wildlife, want to lose their homes. Do what you can to protect your community.

MO’s Katy Trail for Cycling, Part 2 of 2

The next day I bicycled from McBaine access point to New Franklin and back. I started earlier this day; it was hot and I really appreciated shady sections on the trail. I loved listening to the birds. The indigo bunting and northern cardinal were the two birds most often flying across the trail in front of me and impossible for me to capture in a photo. Since my bicycle makes noise as I slow it down, plus I have no kickstand or fast access to my camera, it is a wildlife photographer’s nightmare. As a result, I stop, get off my bicycle, spend 15 minutes at a location to view birds in the area, and maybe get a photo. Often I wished I had my zoom lens; these birds hid deep in the trees!

Caution signs along the trail.

I did ride through a short tunnel on this trail. A sign: “Caution, falling rock, do not stop on the next .25 mile of the trail” were posted. Each time I saw these signs I’d look up the bluff’s wall and wonder, is this my day to be knocked dead by a rock? We take all kinds of risks in our lives, some more calculated than others. Sometimes a rock can come careening down a mountainside, as one did when my partner and I were in Colorado. Fortunately no one was hit. Other times you hear of a person enjoying lunch and being killed by a tree limb falling on her head. Wow! Life is like that … unpredictable, unexpected, keeps us on our toes! We can try to control what we can, but otherwise my philosophy is live in the moment and enjoy it while you can.

There are many historical signs along the trail, but I was intrigued by this gnome on a stump. The gnome is measuring the actual depth of flood waters that reached this spot in Rocheport in 1993 when there was a flood! The people of this town did not give in to the river. They rebuilt and the gnome is their mascot and part of a memorial to the McDermott family who had a home here.

See how high the water was?

I love meeting people when I travel. One couple and I talked about their bicycling adventures on the C&O and GAP …. future trails on my to-do list. They were planning to bike the entire Katy Trail trail and bike back to their starting point. However, between the heat, humidity and price gouging from places along the trail, they were contemplating a shuttle from the endpoint to their start. (I did pay $2.15 for a can of soda and from their info prices seemed to be high on everything.) Another woman was walking the trail; I passed her by with a “hi” and wave. We met again at my turn-around point which was where her car was parked. We got talking; she is a cancer survivor; moving from St George, Utah to Virginia with her partner whose family lives in Ohio. They felt Virginia would be closer to his family. I asked, how was it that she was here in Missouri on this day? She had a horse, found a place here for it to be cared for, and they allow her opportunities to stay at the place and visit the horse. Great! As I rode away I thought we really should not need reminders of how fortunate we are when we have good health, opportunities to travel, and supportive family and friends … but I did ride away thinking about all of that. Every person I meet has a story and I always want to hear it. Most often, there are lessons to be learned and/or reminded with moments of reflection and gratitude in my own life. Yes, life is good; I am grateful!

This day’s ride: 37.62 miles accomplished with no flat tire! I could have ridden an additional connector: the 8 mile MKT Trail from Columbia which connects with the Katy Trail, but I chose not to this time. There are future plans for another loop south of the Katy Trail to eventually connect with this one to create a loop. That would be an interesting trail too. Now time to truly head home.

MO’s Katy Trail for Cycling, Part 1 of 2

2500 miles driven eastward; now continuing westward with bicycling time to be part of my agenda! Missouri’s roads allowed me time away from the highway interstates as I drove to bicycle trailheads. I built my van’s interior wrapped around the concept of storing my bicycle under my bed platform and yet no bicycle ride had happened thus far. I decided for my return drive across the USA to stop at a couple of trail segments along Missouri’s famous rail-to-trail, the Katy Trail. The Katy Trail stretches across most of the state. It is 237 miles with half of it paralleling Lewis and Clark’s path up the Missouri River. This trail is America’s longest “rail-to-trail” project and enjoyed by hikers and bicyclists, locals and visitors. 

Katy Trail

As I pulled my bicycle off the sliding drawer in the van, along with the front tire and gear, advantages and disadvantages of the set-up became clear and may be worth rethinking another time for my loading of it all. Anyway, I cycled down the trail from Hartsburg access point and at 1.13 miles from the van I had a FLAT tire! Darn it! Fortunately it was the front tire. I flipped the bicycle over and patched the hole since I did not want to use my spare inner tube so early in the ride. A couple stopped, asked if all was okay, and we continued to chat while I patched the tube. They were going the opposite direction from me and mentioned a detour ahead. Apparently water was flowing over the trail and cyclists were getting wet feet. Another guy rode by and asked if all was well … yes, and almost done!

Flip bicycle back over and ride!

I rode to the detour sign and decided I did not need wet feet. I turned around, rode 11 miles in the other direction. So many birds were chirping! There is nothing easy about birding while cycling. Beyond enjoying time to take a good photo of a bird, I sometimes need one to help me identify the bird. Despite the challenge, I think I identified 17 different species in the 3 hours I was riding. Most numerous bird was the northern cardinal!

American redstart

Oh, did I mention it was 92 degrees! Freaking hot and humid! My body was not used to this temperature; it was in shock since this entire trip I usually had 55 degree weather and only the last couple of days 80 degrees. In this 90 plus degree weather, I worked at keeping my body fed, hydrated, and in shady areas while birding. 

The mostly flat trail is hard-packed sand, crossing creeks on nicely built bridges, paralleling the Missouri River, passing conservation areas and agricultural lands, with benches to sit and relax, and overall a pleasant scenic ride. There are a few businesses on the trail, such as the Missouri River Relief and campgrounds, but overall this section of trail has few amenities. I cycled 23.3 miles this day.

Boat henge!

Bicycling the Shoreline of San Diego Bay

Cooler air temperature draws me to the San Diego area a few times per year and sometimes the birding is excellent. This day I wandered by bicycle along San Diego Bay’s shoreline past areas I had not spent time before.

Leaving my Chula Vista campground, I bicycled parallel with the San Diego River, through an industrial area and naval entities. (San Diego is a naval city.) I’m riding a bike path at the start, then bike lanes past marinas and the Seaport Village which is touristy. I continued cycling along the shoreline. In the industrial area I saw hundreds of Dole containers arriving … with no doubt …. all forms of pineapples, and in the tourist area, many statues and some historical ships. I stood below these huge ships: “Star of India” and the “USS Midway”, both with history of their own. I read tributes at many statues recognizing military service from all armed forces. The “Cancer Survivor’s Park” provided excellent info which I’ll share in my next blog post.

USS Midway
Star of India

Yes, I saw some birds: terns, pelicans, pigeons, sparrows… but today was my slow day and seeing people enjoy the outdoors in ways not particularly my interest. The huge cruise ships, solo paddle boarders and every watercraft in between reminded me of personal previous sea-sickness! They were not pleasant memories, but to see the sunlight bouncing off the water on this day, I was good! I continued cycling to a lunch stop at a shady picnic table. This will be my turn-around point even though I contemplate riding further to Point Loma, but that is not to happen today.

People here are wearing masks and socially distancing in the touristy areas, thanks to it being a requirement! All of us outdoors can enjoy the sea breeze with hopes the Covid viral numbers go down.

The airport is across the road from where I am eating my lunch of cheese, crackers and hot green tea. (The tea is my usual mid-morning snack break so I brought it along today.) As I watch these planes land and take-off, I hope my air travel returns by 2022. I still have so much of the world to see! In the meantime California here I come!

Another Bicycle Ride!

It is ridiculously hot here in Fort Collins, CO but I decided to get an early start on a bicycle ride. It was a wonderful ride on the Poudre Trail 12 miles one way and in adding some local roads it became a 33 mile ride.

The signage on the bike path was wonderful especially since there were many twists and turns. I also liked this sign:

I rode west from the campground on the bike path and saw 3 red-tailed hawks, Canada geese and some gulls. Many other cyclists were on the path, along with walkers and joggers. The area on this side of town was beautiful!

The bridges for this bike path are beautiful and as you would expect, built over the Poudre River. Another bridge I saw had chairs for people to sit on. Of course finding a good rock in a river to sit upon is available too.

I do want to mention I did not see many homeless people in this town. Maybe because I was not in the downtown area? I did see a few washing themselves at the river and then returning to their car. I never felt any anxiety while riding the paths or the local roads.

At one end of the bike path I took a turn to check out a fish hatchery and Lake Watson. I spoke with a birder who pointed out the American pelicans and I also saw a common merganser.

Once I completed the bike path in both directions I rode a local road because it had a bike lane. Many cyclists were there too! When I was back at the campground I took a shower and was hungry! I decided to try a widget for the JetBoil that allows me to cook with other pots or pans on it. I decided to make black bean, cheese and tomato tacos. Yum!

I took a very short drive through historic Fort Collins downtown and decided to keep driving to Greeley, CO. In the 45 minute drive I saw plenty of agricultural land, cows, sheep, goats, and derricks pumping something. One huge facility in this town is Greeley’s Beef Plant and trucks were lined up to bring in the animals. I stopped at a brewery since my original thought was to have dinner at one; however, it was to hot to think about food. I did buy a can of Weldwerks Brewing Company’s porter to have back at the campground. I am not a fan of it and enjoyed my Deschutes Black Butte Porter instead with nice cold cottage cheese! Now there’s a first on that meal! It hit the spot!