Friday, July 3, 2009

Ever Upward!

Wednesday morning they rose with the sun and hit the trail early. First on the agenda was a visit to Central City, a small mining town which had been enjoying a revival of sorts in the wake of gambling reform. The Halls were surprized to find the town nearly abandoned; but coming out of the Central City Opera House, Mr. Hall encountered the Hon. Ron Slinger, mayor of Central City. After a brief interview, they learned that a water main had burst in town, forcing the newly opened casinos to close temporarily, and on the eve of brand new statewide legislation allowing 24 gambling and higher betting limits! The mayor, while exceedingly cordial, was clearly in a pickle, trying to salvage the tiny hamlet's endangered source of revenue. They wished him good luck and set their sights on the road again.
The next stop on the way was Nederland, CO; tiny in scope but known to a growing community of partygoers as the home of Frozen Dead Guy Days. Several years ago, a Norwegian immigrant, facing eviction and imminent deportation, told her sad story to a local reporter and the little tale made network news. It seems she had run out of cash, and as hard as that was for her, it was proving more problematic for her father Bredo, who had been frozen cryogenically and whom she was reverently keeping stored on ice, on the premises. When the story hit the wires, support came from several sectors, one of which was the Tuff Shed company, who provided her with a Tuff Shed all her own, to keep him in. Winters being long and apparently bereft of entertainment for long stretches, the hometown folk devised a little celebration called Frozen Dead Guy Days about seven years ago, and it had been gaining steam every since. Too late in the year to witness the spectacle of coffin races, slow motion parades and "Grampa" lookalike contests, Mrs. Hall was nevertheless intent on seeing the town and its wacky inhabitants. To her supreme disappointment, the town was mostly made up of aging hippies and artists, and barely acknowledged any sign of FDGD around town. She did find some help at the visitor’s center. While unhappily informed that they could not actually go see the Tuff Shed where Grampa was “chilling”, they did manage to pick up some wonderful old tourist posters and a commemorative tee shirt and coffee mug. Ticking that curiousity of her list, they grabbed lunch and continued northward.
Master Erick was the perfect tour guide and had the flight plan down perfectly, Just before entering Rocky Mountain State Part, the little band pulled into Estes Park, nestled in a valley between the foothills and the Rockies. Anxious to stretch their legs before the journey upward, the Halls stopped at the historic Stanley Hotel, where the film “The Shining” was made. After a quick stroll around the grounds, the group was off again.
It had been 85 degrees in Boulder and went as high as 89 in Denver that day, but as the Halls ventured higher in the park the temperatures began to drop. It was 65 when they reached the first overlook, around 10,000 feet. Fending off a light breeze and a few showers, the Halls peered over every precipice to admire the view. Eventually, they passed the treeline, and to Mrs. Hall's amazement the landscape, though wild and open, was covered with multitudes of little colorful flowers and little scurrying creatures. At 11,000 feet, they began to really feel the effects of altitude and strolled a little more slowly around the outcroppings. Glaciers filled the valleys and shown in the sunlight; Erick joked that he managed to get a bunch of jaded New Yorkers to come over 1500 miles just to see more snow. Even in July there was considerable snow on the ground and it was curious to see tourists, posing for pictures and having snowball fights in the parking lots. By the time they reached the visitor center at the top, they had reached over 12,200 feet. The temperature was a bracing 49 degrees, and while the last few steps up to the overlook beckoned, the Halls enjoyed the view from a window in the information booth. It was hard to tell whether their lightheadedness came from the altitude or the scenery- the mountains were so breathtaking, they could have stayed all day. But dinner was calling them back to Denver, and the merry band took one last look and headed home. Next episode: Downtown Denver and the Brown Palace! Stay tuned!

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