Chatfield Reservoir – Denver, Colorado

I can once again find west. All I have to find the mountains and I know which direction I am pointing. It makes a Colorado boy feel like they are home. During the summer, another part of home for a person that grew up on the south side of Denver is visiting the place where all of our water comes from, Chatfield Reservoir. Any time I came out here to visit, it meant that I had reached the farthest spot in the south west portion of the metropolitan area. There were a couple of buildings past the waters that were collected here, but they were highly restricted areas owned by Martin Marietta, but a lot has changed since I have been back. The boom in the area has caused housing to spring up all over the place, but nothing has been able to touch this treasure because long ago, the ones in charge decided to give this big plot of land state park status.

It has always held the distinction of being one of Denver’s playgrounds during the summer months. There are other reservoir that people flock to depending on where they are located in this ever-growing city, but for those of us on the south side, it was always Chatfield. The water rises and lowers depending on how much rain the state is getting, and when I went out there, it was the deepest I have ever seen it. Most of the time the man made beaches would stretch past a line of cottonwood trees, but the water had reached the roots of these trees. Apparently, Colorado has received an excess of rain this year, and all of the reservoirs are reaching the same levels. It was almost as if the dry weather that Colorado usually gets was traded to Oregon this summer for its rain.

People are taking advantage of this fact this year and Chatfield was also a lot more crowded than I remember it being. It could also have been that it was a long holiday weekend and people were getting in their last hurrahs before heading back to work the next day. I hung out at the Roxborough Cove where many kayakers and paddle-boarders come to spend the day. There are a lot of places along the coast where people can set up their day camps as they go out on the water and come back in for a little bit of time. Most of the people bring their own boards or kayaks, but they are available for rent as well. I would suggest to reserve them ahead of time because they are not always available if you just show up. They even have instructors that will give you a couple of pointers before yo shove off.

This is not the only activity that happens at the reservoir. Many people bring their motor boats out and spend the day on them. There are a bunch of no wake zones, mainly Roxborough Cove and the Gravel Pools, but motor boats can still slowly make their way into these areas even though I rarely see that. Most of the time they come out to speed around the center of the water as they take people out waterskiing. Or they look for the deeper parts of the reservoir where they can catch a few fish as there is always a good amount of them in the water.

Some people take the trip even further and make plans to spend a couple of days there. There are some campsites available. I haven’t used them in a long time, and I remember them not being that great. They do have all the facilities that a camper could need, but the rest of the city is always around you and the shrubbery does not lend itself to a beautiful landscape. But if you are there to get to the water quickly in the morning, it is a great option to have.

Chatfield Reservoir is a great getaway spot for a hot summer’s day. It is not far from anybody living on the south end of Denver, so there are always people flocking to this spot. There is a fee for anybody wishing to bring their car in, but they let bikes and runners just blow past the check-in station. It beats sitting around the house all day and it brought back many memories by making it out there again while also seeing how it has grown and matured over the years. It will always remain a staple of southwest Denver, and I can’t wait to get back there again some day.

Sparks Lake, Oregon

As my time in Oregon started to come to a close, I took the opportunity to get out on one of its many lakes one last time before I am able to get back out here. I am pretty sure that it will be in a year, but I have said stuff like that before and was disappointed in the results. I also don’t see another world wide catastrophe happen again any time soon that would cause me to delay this plan, but at the same time I understand that I need to make the most out of the moments while they are still available.

This time I went behind the Sisters and up by Mount Bachelor, one of Oregon’s premiere ski resorts, to check out one of those lakes. There are many lakes in this area, and I have been to Elk Lake before even though that was many years ago, so I decided to check out the other big lake they have out there, Sparks Lake. This is one of the more popular lakes in the area, and is one of the ones that allow motor boats though they cannot travel faster than ten miles per hour while out on the lake.

I was really surprised that they allowed motors out on this lake, and I didn’t see anybody out there with one while I spent the day there. The lake is sprawling and it is rather deceptive about the area that it covers. I entered on the eastern side of the lake, and the water was not that deep over there. In fact, there were many times that I was worried that I would beach my kayak as I tried to navigate through the weeds and the rocks that were all over the place. I couldn’t imagine how difficult this would be if there was a motor attached to the boat. I think most of the people that were out there thought the same way, and that is why the whole lake was covered with canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards.

Once I got over to the other side of the lake, the depth changed and landscape changed drastically. There were many places over on this side where I could not see the bottom, and there were a lot of little tributaries that I could explore. The coastline of the lake was also covered with lava rock that gave for many interesting formations to stare at and ponder. As I looked closer at the coast I could also see a yellow line where the pollen in the area showed where the height of the water reached recently. It shocked me to see that the water in the lake was easily a foot or two below where it usually rested. It explained the problem that was occurring with other side of the lake and why the water was so shallow. It also reminded me how dry Oregon has been this year, and makes me worried about what might happen in the next couple of months if they do not start getting some rain.

That did not stop the wildlife making its way to the lake. You have to look carefully in this picture, but beyond the ducks, there are a couple of deer grazing on the edge of the lake. I tried to get a little closer to get a better picture, but as soon as they heard me creeping closer, they dashed off into the wilderness. I am sure that on any given day out there, the opportunity to see the wildlife is always present which just adds to what this lake has to offer.

Sparks Lake is a treasure, and a great place to go out kayaking on. Just to warn you though, I have been told that it gets rather busy during the summer and it might be hard to find a place to park. It is also a little more rustic than other lakes in the region, but there are plenty of places to camp, and if you get there early enough you should be able to stake out your own spot somewhere along the shore. The road in has not been groomed recently, so if you are going out there, you will want to go with an SUV or truck though I did see a couple of sedans struggle up the path just fine. It will probably be really busy during the Fourth of July weekend, but after that, it is a great day trip if you find yourself in Bend or the surrounding area.

Clear Lake – Central Oregon

Tucked up in the mountains of Central Oregon, you will be able to find all kinds of lakes. Most of them have some sort of camping around them and a lodge where you might be able to get a couple of quick supplies or a bite to eat, and usually rent some equipment to take out on the lake. The lakes are used for different reason, so when you look at which one you would like to spend a day at, look to see what activities they allow at the lake, so you are not disappointed when you get there.

One of my favorites is Clear Lake. It is about six miles down Highway 126, off of Highway 20, just a little east of the Santiam Junction. It will get some crowds during the weekends, but nothing so extensive that you will want to avoid it altogether, and if you can make it during one of the weekdays, you can find your own little corner of the lake, even during the hotter summer months. The lake lives up to its name because the lake’s water is clear. Most of this is due to two things, the winter run off always filtering into the lake from cavern water from the surrounding mountains, and the restriction of any motor vehicles allowed on the lake.

Because of this, you are left with beautiful clear water that in most of the places allows you to look all the way down to the bottom of the lake. It gets a little deep in the middle of the lake, making it impossible, but for most of the lake, it is fun to see the life down there, and the many trees that the lake has gobbled up over the years. Because of the clear water, some scuba divers come out to explore the lake, and it threw me a little bit when I was paddling by and saw the bubbling coming up a diver from below me. There are a fair amount of fisherman also on the lake, usually paddling by in rowboats that are available at the lake’s lodge. Most people bring their own kayaks, or paddle boards to enjoy on the lake and there are various places to put them in the water with the parking lot on the western side offering the best spot.

Besides all of the fish, there are a lot of opportunities to see wildlife out there. I have been told that on any given day, you can see bald eagles or osprey, and it is along the path where many herds of deer travel throughout the year. Just because the opportunity exists does not mean that you will always see the more exciting wildlife. I was only able to see fish jumping out of the water, and a family of ducks, but it is always fun to keep my eyes open to see if I will spot something else.

There are many other lakes to explore in Central Oregon, but for the time being, Clear Lake could easily rank highest among the ones I have been to, and it might be hard to find one that can beat what this one has to offer.

Elephants in the Morning Mist – Khao Sok, Thailand

I am not usually the type of person that likes to get up early in the morning while I am on vacation, but I was not really given a choice today. The plan was to get up early to travel to one of the more iconic spots on this vast lake, and it was worth the annoying ring of my alarm. Khao Sok looks completely different in the morning. The clouds hang low over the hills creating a misty atmosphere that I originally thought could only be seen in a Hollywood movie about this part of the world. I wondered what it would have looked like during the rainy season, or if the clouds would have dipped down even further, making it impossible to see anything at all.

Being on a boat in Khao Sok National Park is also an amazing experience whether it is in the heat of the afternoon, or early in the morning. The water instantly cools you off, and there are so many nooks and crannies to explore in the mountains. It is fun to find the explore the dramatic landscape and find the place for the perfect picture. Of course, the guides know these spots already and will take you there, and most of the time they know how to rotate boats in and out so it appears that you are the only person on the lake, but there are a couple of places where the boats get a little packed in, but with patience you can still find that perfect shot.

The place we stayed in also had kayaks that we could take out on to the lake anytime that we wanted to which gave us a little more freedom to explore, though they told us not to wander too far away from the place. One of the things about Khao Sok and the surrounding area is that a storm could roll in at any time and catch you unaware. While we were there, we got to witness two of these storms. One of them came rolling in while we were lounging around the dock, swimming and kayaking. We were close enough to find shelter quickly. But the other one caught us while we were on the bigger boat looking for the perfect evening shots. There was not much we could do but rush back to our resort while holding the life jackets over our heads to try to stay as dry as possible.

Needless to say, it did not work very well.

It just meant that we got to spend more time on the boat in the morning. And we were lucky that we did because as we started to make our way back to our resort after enjoying the sunrise, someone with an eagle eye caught a glimpse of an elephant on the distant shore. Breakfast was going to be delayed for a little bit because we had to go check out these rare sights to the park.

Khao Sok does have a multitude of animals that run around through its forests, but most of them remain hidden, and it is only once in awhile where they venture out to the places where humans can witness them. If you are around during one of those rare instances, you go out and enjoy it.

What looked like one elephant far away turned into a family of elephants enjoying their morning breakfast. We sat there and watch for awhile as they munched on leaves and tore down trees, but after a bit, we decided to get some breakfast of our own and give them some privacy.

After our breakfast, we could still see them as they got in the water a moved a little further down the coast to get closer to us. This is where the kayaks came in beautifully. We hopped on one, paddled out to where they were and enjoyed their presence for a little bit longer before they wandered back into the trees.

These kinds of experiences have been what has made this place such a wonderful one to visit. I know we have been pretty lucky so far with the experience, but I am sure that whoever comes out here will get to collect their own stories to tell. It is why that it is regular destination for many Thai people, and a must add to an itinerary for people thinking about making their way out to Thailand.

Thanks Autocorrect – It’s spelled Railay

It may only be a small outcropping of land on the southern tip of Thailand with only a handful of resorts on it, but it is one of the biggest tourist spots in the country. The pictures that are often shown of the country often include at least one from this location. Yet when I type in the name of this country into Facebook to share photos with my friends, the geniuses of grammar and spelling that put together their algorithm want to tell me that it is spelled Railway. In fact, it will often change it for me because they believe so much that this is what I wanted to say, but this is not where I am at. I am at Railay, Thailand.

Railay is a must see stop if you ever come to Thailand. It is located in the Krabi province, and even though it is part of the mainland, it can only be accessed by boat because of the huge cliffs that surround this stretch of land. You might have to wait a bit to get on one of these boats because they will wait until they have enough passengers to make sure that the trip is worth their time, but they only need a total of six to make it happen. And if you are traveling down here by car, there is an old parking lot that you can pay 200 baht at to make sure that your vehicle is secure.

But once you get there, the worries that you brought with you in your car get left behind quickly because you get lost in the views of this tiny resort town. It doesn’t matter where you turn, there is something new and exciting to see. They have huge cliffs that attract many rock climbers from all around the world. There are cave that have been dug into their limestones that can be explored. They have many beaches that you can lay out on, or even rent a kayak for a couple of hours to explore the tiny islands that pop up all along the coast. There is even a charming downtown area with nice bars and restaurants, and guides that will take you out kayaking or rock climbing.

It is a great town with lots to see and do. It is one of Thailand’s greatest tourist spots that people should know about including the fine people at autocorrect. It has been one of my biggest struggles while living in Asia. Many of the locations that I wish to texts about or post on Facebook are unknown to people out of Asia and the spelling of them is being constantly changed on me because some computer program is trying to tell me what it is I meant to say.

Either way, Railay is an amazing place and should be one that is written down on everybody’s bucket list. Just make sure that this list is not being kept on a computer because you will look at it later and wonder why you would want to go to the Railway before you die.

My Own Paparazzi – Around the World Day 16

The problem with writing a blog series about my experiences while I take the time to circumvent the globe is that I am the one always taking the pictures, so rarely am I in the pictures. You get to read about my experiences, but sometimes it is hard to make the connection with the moment and the person who is having it. At the same time, I am not going to hire my own camera man to walk around with me to take pictures so I can share them with you. Yes, you would benefit, but I would always be in this constant weird place where I someone would always be lurking around the corner so they could record my life.

This is part of the reason that I enjoyed the experience I had on my last full day in Lagos. Christine and I went on a kayaking tour around the coast line to see the rocks up close and sneak into some of the caves along the way. The danger to cameras while doing this is obvious. A wave can come along, and sweep it into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Even if it just falls into the water, being soaked in salt water can’t be good for any piece of electronics. The company that took us on our voyage understood this, and had their own camera man come along to take pictures of us as we went along that we could use as we saw fit when we got back. Granted, it was like the old days where we had to wait until the next morning before we were able to access them, but it is okay in this age of instant gratification to have to wait for things a little while.

There was another added bonus that I didn’t even think about. We got to enjoy the moment without having to record it for prosperity’s sake. This is another problem that many people don’t realize in the age of digital cameras that can record every moment and share it instantly with everybody that we know. We are so concerned with taking picture of what we are doing instead of just enjoying the moment. Go to concerts and you will see people holding up their cell phones so they can record the whole show instead of just enjoying the music. Go to any tourist spot, and there are tour groups shoving each other out of the way so they can get the perfect picture. Even while going out to dinner, people need to take picture of the food before they eat, and take selfies of themselves enjoying it, instead of just enjoying it. You can’t take a picture of the taste. You are just going to have to savor it in your memory. So why do you need a picture of it?

Now, I am not saying that you should quit taking pictures. It is a fun hobby that I enjoy. I like thinking of the composition of each of my shots and what I can do to make them unique and tell a story at the same time. And they are a great way to preserve the moments for all time. All I am saying is to keep it in perspective. You do not need to take a picture of every moment you live. Sometimes, it is better to just enjoy the moment because that memory will be more vivid than any picture you ever take. And you will find that you enjoy the moment more that way.

This is what EZRides allowed us to do on that kayaking trip. It was fun to explore those caves, and I got to sit there a moment longer to marvel at the rock structures I was looking at instead of quickly taking a picture so I could move on to the next marvel. I got to listen to the guide explain how the cliffs were formed and about the beaches we traveled by. I got to enjoy the moment for what it had to offer, and because of that it was easily the best kayak trip I have ever taken. It changed my perspective on things. I now wonder if I should put the camera down from time to time and just enjoy the moment for what it is.

This blog post was written without the knowledge of EZRides, and I highly recommend their service if you ever find yourself in Lagos and want to go kayaking. You will enjoy the experience.