Colorado & Utah hiking

I attended Explore DDD in Denver again this year, after enjoying the conference and Denver itself so much last year.

This year I took a couple of days off work before the conference, and planned a road trip to do some hiking in the area. I made it to one of the parks near Boulder, five national parks in the area, and a quick hike near Colorado Springs on the way back to Denver.

It was a fun week of hiking (89 km) and driving (2,261 km), with a little planning required:

Boulder Open Space

First up was Chautauqua Park in Boulder, CO. A couple of colleagues based in Denver/Boulder recommended hiking here, and I’m glad I listened.

The route below is a combination of the Royal Arch Trail, First and Second Flatiron Loop and the Green Mountain Loop.

The hike had amazing views of the Flatirons & Royal Arch:

Rocky Mountain National Park

I visited the Rocky Mountains National Park last year, but as you can see from the earlier post linked above, the weather was a little different this time.

I was lucky enough to drive past a fairly huge elk chilling very close to the road.

Most of the hiking I did was in the Bear Lake area, on the Emerald Lake and Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge trails.

The mountain lakes & aspens were spectacular:

There was a very friendly marmot up near Sky Pond, though he was probably just looking for food:

Arches National Park

Sunday saw me driving from Boulder to Arches National Park in Utah, through Grand Valley.

The Devils Garden trail was amazing, with the 88 meter Landscape Arch a highlight.

Canyonlands National Park

Next up was Canyonlands National Park. I stayed near La Sal on Sunday night, which made the Needles section of the park a better option than heading back north to Island in the Sky.

The Chesler Park Loop was one of the highlights of the whole trip. The landscape looks other-wordly at times, and it was a lightly trafficked trail.

Mesa Verde National Park

After staying in Cortez on Monday night, I visited Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is best known for the cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans.

I managed to get in early and score a ticket to a guided tour of Cliff Palace, a dwelling built around year 1200.

Other than the Cliff Palace tour, the only hike I did here was Petroglyph Point, which passes a large petroglyph panel. The carvings were likely made around the same time as the cliff dwellings were built.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The final national park I visited was Great Sand Dunes. This was a rushed visit, but I wanted to make a stop in the park to see the contrast of sand dunes and mountains. In my mind dunes belong in deserts or at the coast, not at 8,200 feet elevation in the foothills of mountains.

Zion National Park and Las Vegas

Last weekend a I took a couple of days off to see some of the western United States, with a visit to Zion National Park and Las Vegas.

Zion National Park is absolutely stunning. We did a couple of hikes, the first was to the peak of Angels Landing, a 454 m high rock formation (total elevation 1,760 m). The trail was built in 1926 and is cut into solid rock most of the way. It’s only 3.9 km to the top, but it felt much longer given the elevation and the temperature (it was about 40 °C).

The photo below was taken from somewhere near the start of the trail, Angels Landing is the peak in the foreground of the photo on the left side.

The view from the top was worth it though!

Given how hot it was on the first day, we set out a little earlier for our second hike to Observation Point. The line for the buses into the Canyon was already quite long, so we took the opportunity to walk the Pa’rus Trail to the second bus stop.

I’m glad the buses were full, as the Pa’rus Trail provided some amazing views along a fairly flat and safe path. It was nice to have a casual stroll and look around without needing to worry about veering off the track!

The walk up to Observation Point runs through Echo Canyon Passage, which was a nice change of landscape and the canyon walls also offered some protection from the sun.

Observation Point itself made the hike worthwhile, it’s a great vantage point for almost all of Zion Canyon.

We were all flying out of Las Vegas, so on Sunday afternoon we drove back to Las Vegas and explored there a bit. It was roughly what I expected - lots of bright lights and tacky touristy things 🤣. The Fountains of Bellagio were pretty impressive though!

Travel posts

Sometime in the next couple of days I’m going to publish a bunch of back dated posts about travel I’ve done recently (or in some cases not so recently). A lot of these posts are taken straight from emails I sent to family and friends at the time I did the actual travel, I decided to post them here as email is where keystrokes go to die.

This is a bit of a departure from what has been the norm on this blog so far, and for those following via RSS I’ve introduced categories and separate feeds for the Software/Tech category and the Travel category in addition to the existing feed containing all posts. If you’d rather not hear about travel posts, please update your subscription :)

Technically, the only interesting part of this is handling the images I wanted to include in the posts. I’ve included a few images in the past, but never in a large quantity.

I use Google Photos/Drive for all my photos, and originally tried hotlinking the photos from there. If this was supported it would have been the best solution, as I wouldn’t have to duplicate the photos and it would be easy to include them (though some of them are quite large). Unfortunately (though unsurprisingly) Google Photos/Drive doesn’t support hotlinking, and any direct links to images expire after a while.

The next option was using the Google Drive ‘embed’ functionality, which involves inserting some HTML into the post which will load an IFrame. This worked, but:

  • it looked a little clunky on desktop and didn’t scale well on mobile
  • a Google IFrame means Google tracking cookies
  • performance was poor - loading all the images on one of the travel posts using this method resulted in a whole load of extra requests:

I ended up committing them into the Git repository that backs this static site, but that does mean the repo size is going to grow a lot more than it should. As it’s just me working on this repo though, I can always use git filter-branch as a last resort if I do want to move the images elsewhere. To avoid bloating the repo too much and to keep loading times low I did fairly aggressively reduce the file size with ImageMagick:

mogrify -sampling-factor 4:2:0 \
  -strip \
  -quality 85 \
  -interlace JPEG \
  -colorspace sRGB \
  -resize 50% \
  -auto-orient
  *

The final change was adding lazy loading using Lozad.js. Thankfully I include almost all the images on my site using a custom Jekyll include so I just had to include the library and change one file to get lazy loading across the board.

Brown County State Park & Nashville, IN

Last week was my final week staffed in Cincinnati, so I finally got my act together, booked an Airbnb and drove across to Brown County State Park in Indiana. I’ve been meaning to go there for a while, as according to MTB Project and Singletracks the state park and surrounding areas have some of the best trails in Indiana.

I wasn’t disappointed - the state park is amazing. Miles of well maintained trails (gravel, downhill flow, technical sections/rock gardens) coupled with amazing views made the trip worthwhile.

Washington DC

I’m at the airport about to head back to Cinci after a couple of days in the US capital.

It was a good trip, though I almost missed my flight thanks to leaving a bag at security and only realising when boarding had already started. The 1 km run to security and back while wearing boots and wondering if I was going to make it got my heart rate up!

The moment I left the airport in DC a motorcade stopped all the traffic which I guess is a fairly regular occurrence here.

On Friday night I walked about 8 km from my hotel past the Marine Corps memorial, around Arlington national cemetery (you’ve probably seen this in movies ­ rows and rows of white tombstones), across into DC, to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, north to the White House, past the treasury and to a local pub for a nightcap. It’s crazy how close all these attractions are. While I was outside the White House a guy next to me said to his mate, not too quietly, “I think I see Donald standing at the window in his underwear, crying” at which point I burst out laughing.

The big green area between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington monument is called the National Mall extends even further east to the US capitol building. Its surrounded by museums, monuments, memorials and other federal buildings.

On Saturday I caught the Metro and started at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum which someone from work recommended, it was filled with really cool stuff. There was also a fighter jet simulator there which would roll upside down and everything, it was pretty great! It was a short run but I think I’d have made myself sick if it was too much longer.

The national art gallery was on the other side of national mall, so I went there next. There was lots of … art. I appreciated a few things but I can only handle so many portraits of stuffy old white dudes. The oldest painting I saw was from 1247, and there were loads of pretty old sculptures. There was a painting by da Vinci and more recent names I know like Andy Warhol.

From there it was a short walk to the United States Capitol, which is the most impressive building around. I was able to go inside the rotunda, but the full tours were all booked out.

The Library of Congress is reachable from the Capitol via a tunnel, so I went there next - another super impressive building. Jefferson was apparently a big reader and his collection of books was there, they weren’t all dated but some were super old.

Another Metro ride home and a run closed out Saturday. Managed 9km at just over 12 km/h (with a few stops for stretching and photos) despite the temperature sitting at around 30°C. Theodore Roosevelt Island was really nice.