Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vail, Part I

For our last weekly hike before I start my new job next Monday (huzzah!), I decided to go all out and take the kids to Vail. I had no idea just how much of an adventure this would end up being... (cue foreshadowing organ music).

I paid the $20 to take the Eagle Bahn Gondola up, which Zak and Taryn were pretty excited about.

The view of the Sawatch Range from Eagle's Nest, with the Mount of the Holy Cross towards the left.

We took the mile-long Lower Fireweed Trail to Mid-Vail, and Zak snapped this shot of the Berry Picker Trail which split off and headed down the mountain. Even though it was all downhill, Berry Picker's 4.6 miles seemed a little long for the kids (cue foreshadowing organ music again).

The vegetation was just amazing, especially compared to how dry and brown it is here now. The lush green meadows were liberally sprinkled with colorful wildflowers like Fireweed, Heartleaf Arnica and these Indian Paintbrush.

A couple of Clover blossoms.

I think this is a Greenish Blue, but I'm going to have to ask my go-to guy Mike Fisher to be sure.
UPDATE: Mike says it's actually an Arctic Blue or Mountain Blue, and I always defer to his expertise.

The last third of Lower Fireweed went through some terrific dense forest. The kids actually read some of the U.S. Forest Service educational signage!

Mid-Vail was virtually empty when we got there, so we relaxed for a bit on the Vista Bahn Express chairlift.

Zachary Dandelionseed never got the pub of his cousin Johnny, but he worked just as hard to spread his favorite plant.

The focus is a little soft, but this insect was just way too weird not to include the shot. It seemed to be some kind of fly or bee, but I can't find any definitive ID anywhere. Mike's going to have to come through for me twice this week.

UPDATE: Mike comes through again, pegging it as a large tachinid fly. A little further online research revealed it to specifically be Adejeania vexatrix.

We didn't see many birds and no mammals -- not even chipmunks. But this Gray Jay did check us out.

My questionable attempt at artistry. I took this upside-down on my back while the kids stood in front of a totem pole.

A ladybug climbs a blade of grass.

When we first arrived at the top of the gondola a Vail photog was taking pics of people at this overlook, and he told one girl to jump up and hold her arms out. I really don't know why. But when we got back, the kids had to try it.

A really nice 2.2 miles and it was time to hop back on the gondola to head down the mountain. Or so we thought... (third use of foreshadowing organ music, now bordering on overkill)

More to come tomorrow!

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