Flat Ben Jr. arrived last week. After my botched outing with the original Flat Ben, I was so happy to get another chance to fulfill my nephew's Flat Stanley -inspired fun. For those of you not familiar with the Flat Stanley concept, it is based on a 1964 children's book by Jeff Brown. In the story, Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board by their Dad for putting pictures and posters on. Dear old Dad hangs it on the wall over Stanley's bed, but during the night the board falls from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep. Stanley survives and makes the best of his altered state, and soon he is entering locked rooms by sliding under the door, and playing with his younger brother by being used as a kite. Stanley even helps catch some art museum thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. But one special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope.
The Flat Stanely project was started in 1995 by a school teacher as a way to improve children's letter-writing skills. My nephew Ben, who is almost 9 (aren't kids alwasy almost some age?), initiated his Flat Ben Prooject by sending me a letter and a flat image of himself. If you ready my second Flat Ben post, the Original Flat Ben (OFB) met with a tragic fate in the mountains of Colorado.
This guy is designed to be better prepared for the harsh Colorado environment than OFB had been. He looks a lot like the original Flat Ben, but with a few styly modifications - star belly and polka dot hat, not to mention a gusseted crotch (don't ask me why....). Flat Ben Jr. (FBJ) is also laminated, which makes him both sturdier and waterproof, with metal washers on his feet.
FBJ started out his first weekend in Colorado with a nice soak in the Hot Tub with me and Jesper. OK - we didn't actually submerge FBJ.
FLAT BEN JUNIOR GOES MOUNTAIN BIKING
Saturday was slated to be in the 50s, pretty warm for January, therefore we opted to stay at lower elevations and go for a mountain bike ride. Keep in mind it's the middle of ski season and, as such, we hadn't been or our mountain bikes since early November. So what did Jesper and I decide to ride up and down Hall Ranch? Our Single Speeds! Of course, we brought FBJ along, tucked carefully into my camelbak.
Hall Ranch is huge open space park in Lyons, Colorado. It's made up of two kinds of rock formations; igneous rock formed more than a billion years ago and more recent, red sedimentary rock formations. What does all this geological mumbo jumbo mean? There are lots of rocks that make for challenging and rocky ride.
Lots of little critters make Hall Ranch home; ruby-crowned kinglet, golden eagle, great horned owl, Cooper's hawk, night hawk, mountain lion, elk, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, black-tailed prairie dog, coyote, fox, badger, bobcat and rattlesnake. All we saw on our ride that fine Saturday were some very fat praire dogs, but I know those other critters are out there!
The land used to be the home of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indian tribes before white man came along and took over to farm and quarry sandstone. No one lives there anymore except the county park caretaker and, of course, the critters I mentioned above. It is one of our favorite local places to ride.
We met up with friends Tracy and Jason for the drive to the trail head where it was a veritable reunion of many mountain biking friends, one of whom, Don, decided to head up the trail with us. We rode up the Bitterbrush Trail, which has lots of those igneous and red sedimentary rock formations; quite a fun challenge on the single speeds! My heart rate monitor noted a max of 190 bpm - ouch!
We rode up as a group, stopping after tough sections to find our lungs. Even though it was a tough climb up, I was glad I rode the SS, because I know I would have been hunkered down in my granny gear and riding slow as molasses if I had been on one of my geared bikes. On the SS, I had no choice but to ride at a decent clip or stop.
We arrived at the 6,500 foot "top", where the Nelson Loop breaks off the main trail and I got FBJ out from the camelbak for some photos.
Sign at the Nelson Loop to "prove" FBJ was there! (photo credit Jepser Kristensen)
FBJ up at the top of the Hall Ranch ride with our friends (photo credit Jesper Kristensen)
I tucked FBJ back into the safety of my HAWG camelbak for the super fun descent! I had almost forgotten how much I LOVE riding my mountain bike! Here's the GPS track from our ride, showing Long's Peak in the background. Can you believe I carried Flat Ben Jr. all that way!?!?!?
At the bottom, we were treated to an unusual group of riders heading up the trail. This photo makes me laugh just looking at it! I was too surprised to grab FBJ out of my pack for a photo.
A trio of full-suspension unicyclists heading up the trail!
We followed the mountain bike ride up with burritos from Qdoba and then a hot tub soak with Tracy and Jason. Not a bad way to spend the day.
FLAT BEN JUNIOR GOES SKIING
Flat Ben Jr.'s fun filled weekend was not over! After getting to bed early on Saturday (early in Boulder being 8:30), we loaded up FBJ and our ski gear for a trip to Copper Mountain Ski Resort. When I had asked my nephew Ben what he wanted FBJ to do, he said "go skiing", so I had to oblige. OK - we probably would have gone skiing anyway....
Eventually, the mines failed and the boom towns turned to ghost towns. I assume not much happened up in Wheeler Junction for quite awhile, but in the early 1970s Copper Mountain Ski Resort was built, starting small and growing to its current size of 2,483 acres. It is one of Jesper's and my favorite ski resorts. We like it because it seems to consistently get really good snow and it's got lots of different terrain, including some nice treed areas. Plus, we go to Copper a lot and as such have learned where to find the good stuff (i.e., runs with untracked snow and few people).
Sunday was supposed to be quite cold, but the day warmed and the sun shined through a cloudless sky. It was simply beautiful and, being that it was Superbowl Sunday, we practically had the place to ourselves. We went everywhere on the mountain that day! We hit Union Meadows on the far west side. We skied the groomers under the Timberline Express.
We skied a bunch of different runs in the middle of the resort - Ptarmigan, Hallelujah and the Enchanted Forrest.
We skied Wheeler Junction (how many of you were paying attention to the history lesson?!?!?!). We took FBJ all the way up the Storm King Tow Rope to gain access to the far east side of the resort and descended Park Place into the Spaulding Glades.
I think we got up to around 12,000 feet - pretty high for a little paper dude!
After skiing the entire mountain from side-to-side, we headed back down to Boulder, making it in time for a soak in the hot tub before hitting the sack at 8:15. All three of us, FBJ included were tuckered out from a wonderful weekend of mountain biking and skiing in Colorado. We live in a fantastic place!