Thursday, October 29, 2009

The first snow

Today marks the first major snow of the year, with a winter storm warning in effect for Denver all day today through to 6 PM tomorrow. It's been a chilly, wet summer and it so far the fall and winter seem to be following that track as well. Alas!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aloha Lizzie

My sister has arrived safely in Hawaii, beginning her year stint at the Surfing Goat Dairy. Interestingly enough, it has been exactly a year since MY trip to Oahu, so I thought it would be a good time to dust off a few pictures that never made it on the blog. Of course, these are all from Oahu, and she is on Maui. I guess I'll just have to visit so I can get some proper Maui photos, and some beach time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Argo Gold Mill

Last weekend Liz, Jen, and I went to Idaho Springs for a look at Colorado's mining history. Perched on the hillside above the town sits the Argo Gold Mill, a structure dedicated to breaking down gold bearing ores to extract the precious minerals inside.

Ironically, the first stop on the tour is the Double Eagle Gold Mine, a small hard rock mine that never really produced much of value. The mine is a great way to start the tour though, as it really gives you an idea of how the miners worked.

The real reason the mill was built in this area was the Argo Tunnel, originally called the Newhouse Tunnel after the man who built it. The Argo Tunnel is a 4 mile bore that goes under the mountain all the way to Central City. There are dozens of mines between Idaho Springs and Central City and most of them connect to the Argo Tunnel. The tunnel performed two vital functions. Firstly ground water was able to drain out of the mines through the tunnel and into Clear Creek in Idaho Springs, obviating the needs for expensive pumps. The tunnel also allowed the miners to drop their ore down instead of up, and move it via small mine trains to the central ore processing point of the gold mill.

In 1943 four miners working a load in a mine connected to the Argo tunnel set off a powder blast, and opened a passage to an adjacent mine that was NOT part of the unified network. This mine had been abandoned in the 1920's when it's pumps could no longer keep up with the influx of water in the deeper tunnels. The full mine's worth of water poured into their shaft, killing the miners and scouring the Argo Tunnel of its supports, tracks and equipment. In fact, an ore train was shot out of the tunnel and across the valley by the force of the waters.

This disaster, combined with the US government ordering all miners to work only on minerals necessary for the war effort signaled the end to the operations of the Argo Mill and tunnel. However, the tunnel still performs one of it's functions impeccably, draining water out of the mines above, though now that water is heavily polluted, and must be cleaned before it enters Clear Creek.

The Mill sat empty and abandoned until the 1970's when it was purchased, added to the National Historic Register, and opened to tourists. It's really fascinating to see this piece of Colorado's History up close, and though many of the large grinding machines are gone, you can still get an idea of the effort that went into extracting gold from the tons and tons of Rocky Mountain ore.

At the bottom of the mill there is a small museum, and part of the museum shows how certain minerals fluoresce under ultraviolet light. I took the opportunity to have some fun with long exposures and my zoom lens.

The final stop on the tour was a chance to do some gold panning. It was a little tricky at first, but once I got the hang of it I managed to find a few flecks of gold at the bottom of my pan! I was surprised and a little proud to see the glinting specks amid the mud and sand. We got to put our gold in small baggies to bring home, a fitting souvenir from our day in the Colorado Mineral Belt.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Bit of Downtown Denver

I've been downtown with my camera on several occasions over the past few weeks, so I present a grab bag of photos from the Core.

Monday, October 19, 2009


For some time I have wanted to do a corn maze, though I had never had the opportunity. Well this year I made sure to make the time to get lost in the Maize, so to speak. Our group went to the Denver Botanical Gardens Maze, located south west of the city. The Maze is in the shape of a T-Rex this year, though from ground level you can't really tell.

We had a lot of fun, eating corn dogs and trying to find our way through the dinosaur in record time. It took us about 30 minutes or so to make it, which is much faster than the 60 minute average time. I had a lot of fun, though I do sort of wish the corn had been a little higher and denser, or perhaps the maze more complex as I felt it was all almost too easy.

Near the maze is a series of old ranch buildings, complete with rabbits and chickens. I liked the house as the 'summer kitchen' separated, just in case there was a fire! Though I didn't take a photo of the house, so the windmill must stand in.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Return

Since my plans for Sweden fell through I have been pondering my next move. One thing I decided was that I needed to keep up my unbroken streak of a trip a year. Another consideration in my decision to take a trip, any trip, is that I have a brand new passport that needs to be broken in.

While I did have a one way ticket to Copenhagen in my possession, in the end I decided to head back to Japan for a while. It is now over two years since I left, and I have a lot of friends and places that I miss.

I want to wander the streets of Shinjuku, drink draft Asahi with my mates, eat metric tons of Okonomiyaki, see Fushimi Inari, and so much more. I've missed the people, places and foods of Japan since I left, and I've decided it's time for another visit.

I do feel a little bad because I always try and visit new things when I go on vacation, so I'm trying to fit in a week or so in China while I'm in the area. This will both let me add a new city or two to my list and let me see another good friend who is now living in Shanghai. Though of course Japan, and Kanazawa, comes first.

I'll be gone from the 5th of November to the 5th of December, so I leave in exactly three weeks. It feels good to be excited again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dressy Bessy

A few weeks ago I got the chance to bring my camera to a concert by local band Dressy Bessy. It's rare to have a show I feel like I can bring my expensive camera too, so I was really excited about the chance to shoot a concert. I took over a two hundred photos, of those, here are a few of the best.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Manitou Dwellings

After Seven Falls and a very tardy lunch, we swung by the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. While the ruins themselves aren't as impressive as the complex around Mesa Verde, the privately owned Manitou Dwellings let visitors actually enter the buildings

This made for a much more hands on, and enjoyable, excursion. Getting to explore the buildings was very fun and most fascinating. Entire families would live in single rooms that made my old Japanese apartments look spacious by comparison.

I had a lot of fun in this room, kicking up the dust and trying to photograph the light spilling in the combination door/ window.

The cliff dwellings were a most worthy stop, a lot of fun for a history buff like me, and of course they offered a great spot to shoot photos, including one of my trademark panoramas.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Seven Falls

A couple of weeks ago Jen and I headed to Colorado Springs to kick around for the day. The Springs really is a great little day trip from Denver, with a lot of museums, historical sights, and plenty of natural beauty.

One of the tourist traps there that neither of us had ever visited was Seven Falls, named for the seven water falls that descend the canyon. While there was an air of exploitation around the place (3 gift shops!) the area was undeniably beautiful, and the hike up the stairs to the top of the falls was exciting.

While I don't know that I would ever go twice, I was really happy to get Seven Falls marked off on my list of "Things to See in Colorado." We had a really fun morning there, and had a great time wandering about and shooting photos, which is a fairly typical weekend around here.