Madison Blue Springs State Park – Potters Delight (Attempting the Courtyard)

Breathing Gas– 32% Travel / 100% Deco
Max Depth
– 71ft
Avg Depth
– 70ft (Shallower, but we used 70 for deco)
Visibility– 30-50ft
Water Temp– 72F
Dive Time: 127min

Met with Stacey at her place and carpooled up to Madison Blue Springs State Park.  The water was clear, flow was reasonable, and in general it was just a great day to dive there.  The only downside was the heat, which makes the setting up time in a drysuit not too fun.  We swam to a tunnel near the end of the gold line, went down it, and turned after we found ourselves in a complete silt out.  Backtracking, we finally got on the potters delight jump, and made it to Rocky Horror where the slate is, then turned the dive, as Stacey’s drysuit had flooded.  Deco was uneventful, and it was still a fun dive regardless of the fact that we didn’t get to the Courtyard as planned.

Aug 16 – Drive from Estes Park to Walden, CO. via Colorado State Forrest

Frustrated by our lack of Moose viewing, we hit up google, and found out that Walden, CO was supposed to be the “Moose Viewing Capitol of Colorado”, so we google mapp’ed  from Estes Park, CO to Walden, CO.  A bit discouraged by the fact that Walden is over a 3 hour drive from Estes Park, but even more upset that we hadn’t seen moose, we weighed our options and got on the road before sunup.  Just as I was wondering if I was too tired to be driving, I looked up on a rock face and saw several big horn sheep!  The sheep we had searched all over for in the park were right along side the road!

We drove through perhaps the most beautiful scenery of the trip on the way to the Colorado State Forrest.  We took side roads, and all sorts of places that we were told Moose hide, all with zero luck.  We finally decided to give up searching on our own and drive towards the moose visitor center, where we saw two moose, one decent sized male, on the side of the road!  They were very skittish, and kept their distance, but just seeing them was exciting.

We then went to the visitor center, where they told us to take a trail by  the lake, however there were tons of children and pets, which we guessed was the reason why there were  no moose in the area at that time.  We were both starving, so we went towards Walden to get food.  Now, I’m not sure if road signs measure distance as a crow flies, or the path a vehicle takes, but our gas light had just come on, and let me tell you, that was the longest 22 miles in my entire driving life!  I just KNEW we were walking, as the gas light was on forever, while we had no cell signal.  Since the iPhone’s GPS works off of the data network to receive the maps, we couldn’t even tell how close we were getting!

On the way back, we saw one more moose (the one you see in the gallery), but she was in a severely overgrown area, so we couldn’t get much closer.  We did get to chatting with a fellow photographer, who was local to the area, and showed us a shortcut back to Estes Park, that cut almost 45 minutes off of our drive home.

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Aug 14 – Early AM looking for Moose, then Trail Ridge Rd.

Inspired by our late afternoon success in seeing a moose, we decided to wake up before sunup, drive all the way across the mountain, and back to the Colorado River Trailhead as well as the other small trails around that area.  We went all the way to the park’s exit, and didn’t see a single moose while driving, so we turned around, and one walked right out in front of us!  This female wasn’t very photogenic, and we really had to struggle to get a good shot, going back and forth as she would attempt to hide herself.

After a few hours of moose hunting, we decided to go back to trail ridge road to try our luck at sheep again.  No such luck.  On the way back to Estes Park, we stopped near the Continental Divide, where we spotted what we thought were the same Elk that held us hostage yesterday.  We were talking to a local photographer who was commenting how odd it was that the Elk were shedding velvet so early in the year…and then it happened, two elk started fighting!  You can see the photos in the gallery. This was very cool, as we weren’t planning to get to see elk fighting this early in the year, and we were somewhat bummed that school prevented us from waiting a few weeks before making the trip!

We took an afternoon nap, and then headed back into the park before sunset in order to find a big horn sheep.  We headed over to Sheep Lakes, but on our way spotted a fox that you see in the gallery.  Unfortunately, once again, the big horn sheep didn’t show up at Sheep Lakes.  The park has a great visitor center in this area, that keeps count of sheep, as well as what time they show up, male/female, etc.  We looked at the sheet, and no sheep had been spotted in almost a week.  On the way out, we saw another large male elk, and took a few sunset photos that you see in the gallery.

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Aug 13 – Trail Ridge Road, Bear Lake, Colorado River Trailhead and more…

Today we decide to take Trail Ridge Road. It’s a one way dirt road that goes across the mountain.  As soon as we got off the main road, we encountered construction at Chasm Falls, and were told that it would be 15 minutes before we could pass, so we decided to take the short walk down to see the waterfall.  As we got close to the Alpine Visitor’s Center (where the trail ends) we encountered a few Elk, including one big Mule.

Once we finished with Trail Ridge Road, we headed back down to Bear Lake, where we took a hike along Flat Top Mountain Trail, and then cut over (and down the steep area of the mountain) towards Fern Lake Trail, which was much easier to follow, as it’s not nearly as steep, and is much wider.  We actually thought the Flat Top Mountain Trail was animal made, until we looked at the map, it’s that narrow.

Once done with that, we were told of Moose sightings near the Colorado River Trailhead, so we headed that way as the day grew late.  We hiked all over, in overgrown bushes, over logs that served as bridges over the creeks, and only saw one female Moose.  We decided that we would try our luck in the morning, and headed back west towards the Estes Park side of the Park.

On the way back, we stopped at the “Continental Divide”, where there was a rock face where big horn sheep were rumored to be earlier in the day.  Since we had nothing else to do the rest of the night, we decided to get out and take a look.  Now, since we had time to kill, we were hiking towards the rock face so we could get closer for good photos.  We took a trail that lead up the side of the rock face, and spotted some elk.  We decided to pause and keep a close eye out, just taking photos as they were eating, with several of them, including large males, laying down.  Within minutes, other people spotted them from the road, and began yelling at them to get them to look up so they could get a better photo.  This scared the elk, and they headed towards us, forcing us to remain still for almost an hour before we could go back to our car!

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Aug 12 – Flying to Denver, CO then the drive to Estes Park, CO

Today we had to be at the airport by 7:45, where we had a 4 hour nonstop flight to Denver, CO.  Once in Denver, we used the local bus system, which has a really cool integration with Google Maps (click).  So, using the Google Maps app on my iPhone, we were able to figure out our bus route, and purchase tickets at the counter before leaving the airport.  We took the bus to the rental car agency, then grabbed lunch.

After lunch, we took the scenic byway to Estes Park, Co. and checked into our hotel.  We were both exhausted, but  decided to go ahead and register for our week pass at Rocky Mountain National Park, and took a drive up to the higher areas of the mountain hoping to find elk.  Much to our surprise, we found several.

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