Thursday, 23 July 2015: Last round of golf, last hike

Written 27 July 2015

David and I headed off to the 9-hole golf course again, and again we played around twice. We moved much faster this time and finished in less than the regulation four hours.

As soon as we finished, we called Jack and Jan (our phone got lots of bars from down in Estes Park but not a one up on the mountain at the Y), who set out to meet us for lunch. We chose a restaurant called Molly B's on two criteria—it had a dog-friendly outdoor area and it had grilled whole trout boned at the table (which I hoped to persuade the waiter to go away without boning). I double-checked the menu on line for all the usual pitfalls—yes, the trout was served at lunch as well as dinner; yes, it was deboned after cooking; etc. On line, the place was described as a standby where locals went for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

When we got there, although the dog-friendly outdoor seating was in fact available, the trout had vanished from the lunch menu and, furthermore, even at dinner, was boned before cooking. Drat. I hate false advertising! Turns out the "old standby" had been purchased just a few weeks earlier by new people who really didn't know what they were doing yet. They seemed entirely unconcerned that no one had bothered to update the website.

game oysters As always, though, I had chosen a backup. I ordered two starters, the "game sampler" (described as "smoked elk, bison, and mountain-man mix" in turn described as a mixture of elk, venison, bison, and antelope) and the rocky mountain oysters with a "tangy chutney." Not mentioned in the description of the sampler was that all of the above were sausages. The sampler is shown at the left. Clockwise from the the top left, bison, venison, mountain-man mix, and smoked elk. Filling out the plate are a couple of kinds of marginally interesting cheese, some crisp sesame crackers, and a little conical dish of stewed blueberries. The sausages were good, although one of them (the elk, I think) had a little too much jalapeno in it.

At the right are the deep-fried mountain oysters—the byproducts of livestock-gelding operations. They were not at all as I expected. I thought they would have a texture like other glandular meats, like sweetbreads, kidney, or brains, but they were flat slices, a little leathery, and their flavor was dominated by the breading. As far as I could tell, the "tangy chutney" was that sweet red-chili Asian dipping sauce, straight from the bottle.

David had an elk burger, medium rare, which he pronounced quite good. Jack had a regular beef burger, I think, and Jan had a grilled chicken-and-cheese sandwich, which didn't look very interesting. I wouldn't go back there.

After an afternoon back at the cabin, where David and Jan spend some time going over the last spreadsheets involved in settling their mother's estate, Jan and I set off for the Y campus again, for our last wildflower stroll, scheduled for 5:00 through 7:30 p.m. at Bear Lake, in the National Park. Most of our group of 14 was made up of one extended family—several siblings, their spouse, and their children. While we waited, we struck up a conversation with a grandmother from Boulder and her granddaughter visiting from Orlando. Jan had volunteered to be one of the drivers, so we took them in our car, and the extended family divided themselves among two other, both large SUVs. Jan knew the way, so the guide rode in the lead car, and we brought up the rear.

sign map The expedition consisted of a 20-minute drive up into the park, a leisurely stroll all the way around Bear Lake (less than a mile), and a 20-minute drive back down to the Y. Unfortunately, the usual wild-flower guru was out sick, so Dave, our substitute guide, concentrated heavily on the trees, which were his specialty. He simplified things by revealing that the conifers are way easier than most places—just two firs, two spruces, and three pines (plus the junipers, of course).

These signs mark the trailhead for the Bear Lake walk. I only agreed to go on the gentlest hikes, and this one was ridiculously gentle—the whole thing was wheel-chair accessible!

Mahonia rose 552 Along the trail, I spotted many small specimens of Oregon holly grape, what used to be called Mahonia (shown at left; I think it's been moved to genus Berberis now, with its close relatives the barberries). I wasn't sure it belonged there, but Dave the guide said that as far as he knew it was native.

At the right is a particularly nice shot I got of one of the many wild roses we passed, both on this hike and elsewhere in the area.

Again, yellow composites were everywhere. Dave showed us arrow-leaf ragwort and arnica, but we saw many others, large and small.

Rocky Mountain maple bluebells At the left here is a Rocky Mountain maple, and at the right a cluster of what everyone was calling "bluebells," although all the websites and books I've checked call them "chiming bells." They do look a good deal like English bluebells.

I didn't get very good photos of the conifers, but along the way Dave pointed out their various features. Cones that stand straight upright, then disintegrate, losing their bracts and leaving just the central stems of the cones standing up on the branches characterize the subalpine spruce. The Engleman's spruce's small cones hang downward. The Colorado blue spruce has large cones hanging downward.

pussytoes? marigold I don't know what this flower at the left is, and I didn't get a chance to ask Dave. I call it "pussytoes," for lack of a better name, because it looks like something by that name that I used to see in my youth. Maybe it's something called "alpine everlasting"?

At the right is a marsh marigold. I was skeptical of Dave's identification of it, because every "marsh marigold" (of several different species) I'd ever seen was yellow, but sure enough, a little web research reveals that it's (Caltha palustris var. alba), the white marsh marigold.

view view Here are two views from the path as we circled the lake. From various perspectives, Dave (whose great love is serious wilderness hiking and who has walked all over all of them) pointed out features called Chief's head, Spear head, Glacier basin (with a glacial knob in the center), Long's Peak, Meager, Long's pagoda, Storm, and Lady Washington.

Jan tells the story of how horrified she was when she cheerfully agreed to let her son Jeff (just turned 14) go off with a group of friends to climb Long's Peak only to learn later that it was over 14,000 ft and require some rather technical climbing! The group did have adult supervision, and they set off at 4 a.m., to be sure to be back down off the peak before the afternoon storms came up.

Dave also explained how to tell lodgepole pine (small, tightly attached cones; two needles per fascicle) from ponderosa pine (two or three needles per fascicle and the characteristic odor of vanilla).

I saw a vibernum in flower and fruit and many other tiny flowers I couldn't immediately identify (anybody want to look at my photos and tell me what they are?), but soon we had to pile back into the vehicles and head back toward the Y. The extended family weren't going back that way (they were staying in Estes Park), so Dave transferred to our car for the ride back.

elk elk At the gate to the Y campus, we stopped to join the group eagerly snapping photos of this handsome elk, who was calmly devouring a small willow tree in a hollow just below the road. We had just been taught that elk are grazers, but this one was definitely browsing. Perhaps he had a headache (I would, with those antlers to lug around) and wanted the aspirin precursor from the willow bark.

The Orlando granddaughter's phone had run out of battery, and she was heartbroken not to be able to take photos, so Dave pulled out his brand new smart phone—a gift from his grown children that he was just learning to use—and took a video, which he then, with Jan's to show him how, e-mailed it to the grandmother on the spot!

admin home again After dropping the others off at the hiking center, Jan and I swung by the administration building to check out of the cabin, so that we wouldn't have to brave the rush in the morning. At the left is a view of its vast main hall, which houses a snack bar as well as the administrative service windows.

Back up at Bear's Den, here's David, being kept company by Zorro while he reads his Kindle. By prearrangement, the guys had already made dinner off the various leftovers in the fridge. I combined a few more to make supper for Jan and me. A frittata of leftover braised zucchini, cooked chicken, and cheese and pasta with garlic, oil, and Parmesan. The fruit crumble was gone, but a few oreos remained.

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