Friday, December 11, 2020

St. Mary's Glacier parking - who really owns what?

If you're an old timer like me, parking at St. Mary's Glacier these days is a thorny issue. The local HOA/landowners closed all street parking and put in very crowded $5/car parking lots, along with threatening tow-away signs. They did it, obviously, to try to manage the huge numbers of people who visit these days. And the porta-pottys are really needed.
But the hikers who don't clean up after their dogs and the the ones who break glass all over the place have really made the place ugly and stinky. All of which makes the enforced parking more awful.

Here's what I've been doing since the late 80's: I take a direct line to St. Marys (blue line on the map below) that I call "The Elevator" — 800ft horizontal by the map with 300 ft of elevation gain (36˚ average). The hike is gorgeous and quiet and smells like a forest.

The problem is that the no parking signs say that little scrap of road at the start of the elevator is closed OR ELSE. Older USGS topo maps and the current Forest Service topo maps say that road is on Forest Service land which would mean it can't be closed by the HOA. That would make it a typical dirty trick to prevent people from having access or using public land – essentially a way to appropriate and privatize a public asset. I've seen it many times before.

Here's the official Forest Service online map of that area:

So this all looks good for parking there until you pull up the Clear Creek County online ownership map:

Uh oh. WTH! The road's not Forest Service? So maybe the HOA can call the tow trucks...

In fact, a whole bunch of things look very odd indeed: the "roads" shown on the left side of the main development area are rugged, steep, high clearance, low range gear 4WD roads. And a whole bunch of these plots are basically rocky cliffs with no realistic way to ever develop them. And what's the deal with that Columbine mine plot up top there? The debris pile isn't even on the property. Really? What gives?

google maps satellite view:,-105.6418074,2560m/data=!3m1!1e3

Clear Creek County GIS mapping:

US Forest Service topo maps:

USGS Topo map, Empire CO Quad (which doesn't show ownership boundaries):

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fall colors in the neighborhood

I loves me some eye-searing leaves. Walking past, the colors are so intense you can feel them radiating at you. Might just be the heat reflecting from the sun...nah. I tell you, you can FEEL the colors on your skin.

October ski - put a fork in it!

Signed, sealed, delivered. Right out the back door.

Time to get the kids real XC skis, I think.

the excellence of adjustable poles

but first: snow angels

second: snowman

then skiing

we shall call him "Juniper Breath"

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 - September ski - we're not proud, we hit St. Mary's again

Our ski oracle said to rejoice - new snow had already hit the Northern Rockies and even graced Steamboat and A-Basin with some skiable (for us) snow. Our oracle said: wait and yee shall be rewarded with convenient, though, thin, fresh pow. Believe! Have faith!

HA! Our oracle is always saying things like that. We know it's always better to not wait until the end of the month and stress over what's supposed to be a fun outing. We took a school holiday and tagged our September ski at St. Mary's Glacier. Again. When you're hungry, even a fast-food burger tastes good and St. Mary's did not disappoint: lumpy and dirty on a lovely warm Fall day. Bonus: Fall colors!

our new BFF secret parking spot

we ski up the gully around the corner

We had a great ski.

The drive back, however, was just horribly, painfully, slow owing to a car ahead of us on 93 bursting into flames. Road closed. Go back, go around Rocky Flats (we were almost to 128 - it would have save an hour), wait in line at every light. Countless light cycles before getting to turn...ouch!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

2017 August ski - St. Mary's Glacier once again provides

A ski rack on the car in August — we're legit.

it was busy

I imagine that if St. Mary's Glacier had a voice it would sound like Quasimodo: "Do you find me REPULSIVE?"

pleasant skiing

N is loving it!

T hams it up with a slushy last slide in
Put a fork in it! August, done, uuh!

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 - the Eclipse

Excitement was mounting...our party took two positions on top of the nearby outcrops; both with great 360˚ vistas.
plates holding the glasses makes it better for kids

the sun was coming through clearly - three sunspots easily visible

so cool

sunsunglass selfies

hope the clouds don't get thicker


still looking not too bad...

the wall of darkness comes

And here it is in slideshow form:

360 degree sunset colors:
And almost just like that it was over.

Camp life continued for three families. The rest reported 10-12 hour drives back home.

kids love those inflatable couches

The next day we packed up camp and rounded up the last traces of our occupation. We can honestly say that we left the place cleaner than when we found it thanks. You might think that's impossible, weren't we in a pristine area untouched by people. Oh no. Some yahoo(s) had left cans and bullet cartridge cases and broken glass up on one of the ridges. So when we policed the area and picked up every teeny tiny piece of foreign debris, we were making sure that our camp was indeed cleaner than when we got there.
and then we left
out traffic the day after the eclipse - can you say "Zip?"
Photo notes and lessons learned. The eclipse photos (and most others) were taken on a Panasonic/Lumix GH5 camera. The eclipse lens was a modest telephoto, 35-100 f/2.8 which is a great lens though a little short for this purpose. I originally thought I'd use a technique dubbed "Drift mode' which is simply this: to avoid futzing with a camera, you set it to take a high resolution video of the event which you can use to pull still photos from later. This takes advantage of the camera's ability to shoot 4k video. But then I heard that the GH5 can actually shoot 6k video (!) so I did that instead.
What I later figured out was that since I was never going to use the video as video, I should have simply done everything as long sequential photo shoot, taking a frame once a second (10 minutes at 60 photos per minute would have been 600 frames). Examining sun photos later also showed that the RAW files were much better than the JPEGs so I should have shot the sequence in just RAW + low rez jpeg. As far as audio, the winds picked up and the 6k audio is dominated by that. I could have simply recorded audio with another device like my phone. Live and learn.