John Oyler: Rocky Mountain High
I have just returned from a delightful trip to Colorado to visit my daughter Sara and her family. The official rationale for the trip was to see my grandson Ian perform in his high school play, “Clue.” However, the beautiful weather there encouraged Sara to take me into the mountains and soak up the magnificent scenery.
The first day we drove up Poudre Canyon. The Cache la Poudre, designated a “wild and scenic” river, begins near the Continental Divide at an elevation of 9,000 feet, then flows eastward about 80 miles to Fort Collins, dropping over 4,000 feet. The river is small, with perhaps half the average flow rate of Chartiers Creek.
It is hard to believe that it has been able to carve out such a large canyon. However, it has had 50 million years to find all the fractures and soft places in the Precambrian rocks. That is indeed a lesson in patience and persistence.
The next day, we drove south to Loveland and then west up Big Thompson Canyon. It has similar geology to Poudre Canyon, and is even more spectacular in several areas. Unlike Poudre, Big Thompson is lined with homes and vacation cottages. In 1976, 12 inches of rainfall in several days produced a flood in the narrow canyon that took 144 lives.
At the west end of the canyon, 7,500 feet above sea level, is the resort town of Estes Park. Famed as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, it is a tourist magnet, filled with shops and restaurants.
We then drove into a lovely valley called Moraine Park. Surrounded by mountains in every direction, the valley is the site of Sara’s family’s favorite campground. It is also home to a large herd of elk — there must have been 150 of them the day we were there.
We then drove north to Horseshoe Valley and the Alluvial Fan, a large area where mountain floods have deposited massive boulders over a large area in a pattern that, in a satellite photograph, looks remarkably similar to the delta of the Mississippi River where it meets the Gulf of Mexico.
Back in civilization, we had the pleasure of watching Ian play the part of Col. Mustard in “Clue.” The play is based on the popular board game of my youth. Ian played the part well; numerous folks in the audience told him they thought he was their favorite character.
Nora is now a ninth-grader at Rocky Mountain High. Next weekend, she and her mother are going to St. Louis with her soccer team for a tournament in St. Charles. Her next challenge is the tryouts for the high school basketball team.
Claire is in sixth grade at Webber Middle School. The past two summers, she has attended a creative writing workshop, with impressive results. Sara had me read Claire’s essay on the whale watching cruise we took at Maui last December. It was remarkably well done, would have been acceptable at the college level.
Despite a significant snowstorm on Sunday, I was able to get home comfortably the next day, full of gratitude that, despite my advanced years, I am still capable of traveling 1,300 miles to visit Sara and her wonderful family. Experiencing the magnificent Colorado scenery is an added bonus.