When Travel Gods Smile – Part 2

Let’s continue our easterly trek …… Our stay in Montrose, Colorado, was way too short, but luckily the summer rain held off long enough for me to get in a few hours exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  This would be my third visit exploring this small National Park and I never tire of the view.  It’s like a mini Grand Canyon but instead of the various shades of red sand stone rock that’s common in the southwest, there’s an unusual blend of gray and black granite rock.Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

Moving on toward Gunnison, Colorado…..   Just off Highway 50 about an hours drive east of Montrose, the highway starts to meander along the Blue Mesa Reservoir.  This is the largest reservoir in the state of Colorado stretching approximately 20 miles long with about 96 miles of shoreline.

Elk Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

Elk Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

It was near the end of July and temperatures were expected to be in the 80 degree Fahrenheit range, and with no large trees to provide shade, we wanted the ability to run our air conditioner.  Thus, we decided to scope out a campground with electric hook-up (our generator will not power the A/C).

We pulled into the Elk Creek Campground, the only national forest campground along the Blue Mesa Reservoir with electric hook-ups, and started searching the campsite posts for an available site.  By the way, there are several private RV parks on the north side of the highway that offer full hook-ups.  We wanted to be near the lake.

Elk Creek Campground - Blue Mesa Reservoir

Elk Creek Campground – Blue Mesa Reservoir – west of Gunnison, Colorado

The task of trying to read each campsite pole with the dates quickly became daunting so we drove up to the visitor center to ask if any sites were available.  The ranger didn’t squirrelthink so, but informed us the camp hosts pretty much handle the campgrounds and we should check with them.

Just as we were turning to leave the building, she told us about a couple who pulled out that morning for a family emergency.  It was highly unlikely they’d be back, and we should verify with the camp hosts to see if we could have their site.

Bingo!  We lucked out and scored another great campsite which allowed us to visit Crested Butte, one of my favorite Colorado mountain towns.

Oh, how I wanted to linger around this part of Colorado longer, but responsibilities beckoned along with a campground reservation that I had made just a few days earlier.  I figured our good luck in snagging great available campsites couldn’t possibly continue, and since we needed a place to park for two weeks, I managed to reserve the only electric site still available at Lake Pueblo State Park for our time frame.  Whew, I breathed a sigh of relief when I clicked ‘reserve now’, but I did wonder what might be wrong with the campsite.

Site 313 - Lake Pueblo State Park, Colorado

Site 313 – Lake Pueblo State Park, Colorado

Upon our arrival, we were pleasantly surprised with our view from site #313.  Although it was sloped up and down to the left, it wasn’t a problem for us seasoned RVer’s (I still snicker being referred to as “seasoned” – kind of like a good steak, hehe!). I must admit,  Al and I have become quite proficient at leveling up the 5th wheel.  I knew exactly where and how to stack our Camco 44505 Leveling Blocks – 10 pack and signal Al to back up and stop.  I guess after four years of full-time RVing, we should have this figured out, huh.

A familiar view - For ten years, this was the view from my rear deck. Our sticks and bricks home was located four miles from this campsite.

A familiar view – For ten years, this was the view from our rear deck. Our old sticks and bricks home is located four miles from this campsite.

This would be a working stay!  We had a bunch of things to attend to during our time in Pueblo West.  This was our old stomping grounds and it’s still where we have a bunch of things in storage including our construction/utility trailer.  But first on the agenda was my flight from Denver to Chicago.

Al’s sister had recently moved to Denver from Rockford, Illinois, and we were looking forward to seeing her new place.  So the day before my flight, we took the two-hour drive up to Denver and spent the night at her place.

flyingThe following morning, Al dropped me off at the airport and while I visited with family in Illinois, he enjoyed some time with his sister.

Once again, the travel Gods smiled upon me and my flights, weather and visit were perfect.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Back in August, Delta Airlines had a serious computer melt down which caused massive delays across the country.  I was booked back to Denver the day after the melt down.  I was a tad nervous!  Between possible security lines at O’Hare Airport and issues with Delta, I arrived at the airport three hours early.  It took me a total of ten minutes to get through security.  That’s got to be some sort of record for fast airport security.  I literally walked right up, no line, set my purse and bag down on the conveyer, shoes too of course, and through and out I went.  I remember thinking, “Wow, did that just happen?”

MFlighty flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul (yeah, I needed to connect through MSP) left on time and arrived early and the same with my flight from Minneapolis to Denver.  I felt so badly for all the folks around me who had spent the night at the airport and were still scrambling to get a flight home not to mention the gate agents having to deal with distraught passengers.  It was an unfortunate mess for a lot of people.

Ok, ok… if you’re anything like me, you might be wondering why I didn’t book a direct flight from Denver to Chicago and back?  Well,  I could’ve if I had flown another carrier.  My original airline reservation was from Idaho Falls, Idaho to Chicago, Illinois and Delta was my best choice connecting through Salt Lake City.  Thus, I booked on Delta, and apparently Delta Airlines does not fly direct from Denver to Chicago.   I had to connect in either Minneapolis/St. Paul or Detroit, thus MSP it was.

Let me just say, it was a crazy six months for us with lots of twists and turns. I’ll eventually get around to sharing all the highs and lows of our adventures, but do note, overall it was mostly fun and filled with a lot of unexpected delights.

One of my favorite adventures occurred in mid August when we bid farewell to Colorado and said hello to New Mexico.  In most situations, timing plays a key role in how we feel about a place.  And after a very hectic month, we needed to find a spot to relax and regroup.

Aaahhh! Just what I needed to regroup and rejuvenate the soul - a fabulous hike!

Aaahhh! Just what I needed to regroup and rejuvenate the soul – a fabulous hike!

Our two week stay at Lake Pueblo State Park was anything but relaxing.  I was out of town for six of those days.  Al played handyman for his sister during my absence.  When I returned we cleaned and prepared the utility trailer to be moved, rearranged/sorted through things in storage, worked on our RV air conditioner and all the while Al was dealing with an injured back (he had been dealing with the back issue all summer long since the work camping gig 😦 )  Yep, we needed to find a place to chill and relax.

Camping in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Camping in Santa Fe, New Mexico

And we found it in Santa Fe…….  The travel Gods continued to smile upon us…..

Hmm, what’s on your Christmas wish list?  Al likes this GPS while I’ve been eyeing this pressure cooker!

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When Travel Gods Smile – Part 1

I had lunch with a friend last week, and she asked me, “How was your summer?”  Without hesitation, I enthusiastically responded, “I had the best summer”.  Initially I was surprised by my exuberant response, but as I continued to share our summer adventures, it became clear what made the summer so ideal for me.Grand Tetons

First off, I visited some places that have been on my must see list for a super long time, and second the travel Gods smiled upon us each stop along the way.  Quite frankly, our travels couldn’t have gone much better.  Sure, we were faced with some unexpected situations, but with cooler heads, solutions were easily achieved.

Bumble BeeI usually don’t like winging our travels during the most popular travel months of the year (July and August), but circumstances had us doing just that.

The upside – without the commitment of reservations, we were able to change direction and plans on a whim, which we did a lot.  We lucked out in so many ways. This post is about our travel route and the places we camped.  We snagged some fabulous campsites that helped make this summer one of our best since going full-time in the RV four years ago.  I’ll write up the things we did at each location in separate posts.

Jackson, Wyoming – From Ririe, Idaho, our easterly trek took us back to the stunning Grand TetonGrand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  Our first visit to this beautiful National Park was in the early part of the summer, and one visit was not enough… I hungered for more!

During our previous visit, we camped at the Gros Ventre Campground, and although it was very workable, I had concerns that we wouldn’t find an available site large enough for us during peak tourist season. I also wanted something with a view.

This was my home for 5 glorious days

This was our home for five glorious days. Photo taken the day we arrived. Two days later, the place was packed with fellow campers. One night we even had a tent pitched right behind our RV.

And oh my gosh, did we have a view.  After doing a little bit of research on Campendium.com, we decided to scope out the boondocking (free camping) sites in the area.  Normally, we like to explore back country gravel roads without the 5th Grand Tetonswheel in tow, but Al and I were in serious winging it mode and threw caution to the wind.

We arrived at the Teton National Forest on a Tuesday morning with no other campers in sight with the exception of one small domed tent.  Someone was doing a happy dance!

The gravel road was well maintained until we reached the designated camping area. We navigated slowly through some very deep rutted road before deciding on a little slice of land to call home.  Later that evening, we enjoyed watching the sunset as more campers arrived.Grand Teton

There continued to be a steady stream of new campers arriving well into the night. Most were tent camping or sleeping in their cars. We didn’t realize how lucky we were snagging that site or having the ample room to maneuver until we woke the next morning amongst a dozen new neighbors.

Many campers would move on the next morning while others stayed a few days, and by the time Friday night rolled around every square inch of available designated camping land was taken up either by tents or small RV’s. We even had a young man knock on our door and ask if he could pitch his tent right behind our RV. We didn’t mind and even enjoyed visiting with the him.  We were all there to savor the majestic landscape.

Each morning, I sat in bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.

Each morning, I sat in a warm bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.  Free camping at its finest. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside in mid July!

Yep, we got lucky snagging that site when we did and were able to call it home for five glorious days (five day max stay is posted and enforced).  Had we shown up a day later, we would’ve had difficulty maneuvering and wouldn’t have found a spot big enough for us.  Our good fortune snagging great campsites continued throughout the rest of our travels.

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

Interesting historical site - note the animal bones bottom left.

Interesting historical site – note the animal bones bottom left. Life in the west can be rough.

Since we did have a time obligation requiring us to be in Denver in early August, we ended up two stepping across Wyoming and Colorado….  quick, quick, slow, slow or other times it was more like quick, slow, slow, quick 😉

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

Craig, Colorado – Reluctantly we bid farewell to the Grand Tetons, and embarked on a long seven hour travel day.  As much as we wanted to linger in Wyoming, that time commitment loomed.  We arrived at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado on a Sunday evening and had plenty of nice sites to choose from.

We originally wanted to Elkovernight at the Walmart in Craig, but there are signs all over posted ‘No overnight parking’.  Al even confirmed with a store manager.

This northwest part of Colorado is known for excellent Elk hunting.  We even passed a herd of Elk grazing near the side of the road.   Could be too many hunters were trying to set up camp at Walmart and thus they ended any RV overnighting. Fortunately, the Yampa River State Park had plenty of room for us.

Rifle, Colorado – The next day was a quick travel day to a Colorado State Park I’d been curious about for years.  As many times as we’ve traveled Interstate 70 through Colorado and stopped at the excellent rest area near the town of Rifle, we never took the time to visit Rifle Falls State Park.  Now was the perfect opportunity to check out this lovely state park.

Rifle State Park - Rifle Gap Campground

Rifle State Park – Rifle Gap Campground. We’re by the water on the left.

Of course, I wanted to camp as close to the falls as possible, but wasn’t sure if that was possible.  There are two campgrounds at the Rifle State Park.  We stopped Rifle Fallsat the main park office for the Rifle Gap Campground where I was able to ask all my questions.

Turns out the Rifle Falls Campground, located further up the road, was full. Had we gone there first, we might have found it somewhat challenging to turn around.  Although the sites do seem large enough to accommodate most RV’s, they do not have a convenient turn around road set up.

Also, the paved road to the campground is a little narrow in spots.  Therefore, it turned out to be more ideal for me to drive just the truck to see the waterfalls.Rifle Gap Campground

We were given a very nice pull-thru campsite near the water at the Rifle Gap Campground. The camp host gave us the option of driving against the one-way so our door could face the picnic table, but due to winds we opted to park with the door to the south.  The next day I drove to the waterfalls for a little hiking and photography.  Stay tuned for photos on that hike!

Our next stop would be Grand Junction, Colorado.  The James Robb State Park Fruita Section is a regular stopping point for us.  It’s the perfect location for me to visit with my brother as well as get in some fabulous hiking.  Without a reservation, we knew snagging a campsite at this popular state park over a weekend would be highly unlikely, but we figured a couple of weeknights shouldn’t be a problem….. wrong!

Our good fortune led to us spending five nights here.

Our good fortune – we were able to spend five nights here.

We were able to get a site for only one night.  Apparently there was a fundraising concert being held the following evening in the day use area, and thus the campground was all booked up, but the ranger did recommend stopping by the next morning to see if there were James Robb State Parkany cancellations.

That morning, we hooked up and were ready to roll, but before doing so I stopped in at the office, just in case.

While the gal was checking the reservation book, I made polite small talk.  And then I heard the preverbal, “Sorry, no cancellations”.   Just as I turned slowly to exit with my head hung in a dejected feel sorry for me stance, the gal said, “Wait one second”.  She then radioed one of the rangers, and I overheard her ask, “Did we decide to open the group campground to the general public because of the concert?”

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

As my ears perked up, I was told, “If you don’t mind not having a sewer connection, you can stay in the group campground through the weekend”.  YES!  We even got to pick out which site we wanted.  Sweet!  Turns out this was indeed a rare situation proving once again, lady luck was certainly on our side.  We not only had a great campsite at the James Robb State Park, we enjoyed a nice concert.

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

After a wonderful six night stay in Grand Junction, it was time for us to move on down the road to Montrose, Colorado.  This would be a quick two-night stay so we decided to give the Elks Lodge a try.  We snagged the last electric site available.  Maybe we should’ve bought a lottery ticket (we didn’t).  But our luck didn’t end here……

LEGO Creator 31052 Vacation Getaways Building Kit (792 Piece)

Mommy does a happy dance!

It was the middle of September when we arrived back at the Cherry Creek State Park located near Denver, Colorado. We had an enjoyable and enlightening seven week sojourn that took us to the Midwest and back (I put a map of the trip at the end of this post). Family visits and exploring new territory made for a memorable trip.

Cherry Creek State Park

“Is that you, Ms. Ingrid”, the deer asked quizzically?

As pleasurable as the trip was, it was nice to be back in familiar territory and enjoying regular visits with our daughter again.  I was also relishing the full hook-ups.  After seven weeks of partial to no hook-ups, it was nice to be back in luxury.  Let the cleaning commence!

Colorado State Parks

We enjoyed a wonderful campsite at Cherry Creek SP and loved the neighbors

After getting caught up with chores, we found time to visit with old friends and connect with new.  Fellow blogger Larry, his wife, and sister-in-law were passing through the Denver area on their way back home in Tennessee. Larry and I have followed each other’s blogs for a while now. Thus, when the opportunity to meet up presented itself, we jumped at it.

Bloggers

Blogger luncheon – from left to right; Al, me, Pat, Bev, and Larry

Since we were camped at opposite ends of the Denver Metro area (well over an hour apart), we rendezvoused at the C.B. Potts Brewery in Highlands Ranch where the conversation AND laughs (and maybe even some Beer) flowed freely for nearly four hours.  Obviously, we all had a great time and now with both of us bloggers slowing down the travels, it’s time to get back in the kitchen.  Larry is always cooking up something yummy over at Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings and I can always use a little inspiration.

Daughter and I go for a hike in the Colorado Rockies

Daughter and I go for a hike in the Colorado Rockies

Ok, now for the BIG news…..  Before we left Denver around the end of July, our daughter, Ashton, had been talking about needing a change.  When she visited a close college girlfriend last spring in Texas, she started thinking about moving to San Antonio or Austin, Texas.  The thought came somewhat of a surprise to hubby and me considering she’s our little mountain goat who has always sworn she would never leave Colorado, but seems she may have inherited that gypsy gene after all.

Could this gal ever leave Colorado?

Could this gal ever leave Colorado?

So, there I was in northern Illinois visiting with my dad when the phone call from Ashton came in.  Hmm, it was an actual phone call versus a text message, which of course sent me into mommy worry mode immediately.  I hurriedly answered the phone, “Is everything okay?”  Ashton responded in an upbeat tone, “Yep, sure is.  I’ve decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona”.  SAY WHAT!

Ashton having a reflective moment at St. Mary's Glacier, Idaho Springs, Colorado

Ashton having a reflective moment at St. Mary’s Glacier, Idaho Springs, Colorado

In order to understand my utter shock you have to understand, during every visit to Phoenix that daughter made, she repeatedly announced, “I could never live here”.  To some St. Mary's Glacierdegree, she didn’t even like visiting, but considering her brother lived in Phoenix and we (her parents) spend a great deal of our winter in the area, she would visit to be with family, but always reluctantly.

I won’t bore you with all the ensuing calls, text messages, and emails that followed after her initial heart stopping announcement, but I would like to preface, not once did our daughter EVER ask us for our help or assistance regarding the move.  However, that didn’t stop hubby and I from going into parent mode and canceling our Upper Michigan Peninsula leg of our trip and returning to Denver a few weeks earlier than originally planned.

One of just many advantages to RV travel is the ease of changing plans.  A few clicks of the mouse here and a little research there and ta-dah ….. we’re onto Plan B which in this case included exploring South Dakota and eastern Nebraska on our return to Denver.  And if you all remember, Plan B turned out great!

Mommy does a happy dance!

Mommy does a happy dance!

Quite frankly, I was so excited for Ashton to embark on this new journey that I couldn’t wait to be a part of it.  I had recommended this move to her for the past couple of years and each time I even mumbled the thought, I was met with a rude dismissal.

Perhaps, she just needed a little time to mull the idea over.  Regardless, I’m one happy mom having both my children in the same city.  This year will have our family of four spending Thanksgiving and Christmas together for the first time in five years.

I’m still dancing, can you tell?  …..  Next up, the big move.

On our last day in Denver, we witness the eclipse

On our last night in Denver, we witnessed the eclipse

Eclipse

St. Mary's Glacier

Ashton and me – St. Mary’s Glacier, Idaho Springs, Colorado

Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day

Stinky Feet and a Bust

Whew!!!  The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, keeping hubby and me on our toes.  I’ll share more about our shenanigans in an upcoming post.  For today, I’ll focus on getting caught up on our travels.

Bayard, NebraskaIn my last post, we were working our way south through western Nebraska; America’s Heartland.  Much to our surprise, we found the prairies in this part of the country incredibly enjoyable.

As we meandered down Highway 385, there was virtually no traffic.  We took in the scenery and although mostly agricultural, the land rolls with the occasional rock butte.free campingThere’s a beauty to the land AND the hard-working people who call this place home.  The area is rich in farming and rich in history.  The iconic Chimney Rock served as one of the most recognizable landmarks for the great western pioneer migration in the 1800’s.Chimney RockChimney Rock is now a National Historic Site.  This slender rock spire rises over 300 feet from a conical base and can be seen from nearly 30 miles away.Chimney RockPioneers used Chimney Rock as a landmark to guide them along the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail.  The trails ran along the north side of the rock following the Platte River and continued on to Scotts Bluff, another important landmark.

Scottsbluff

The Platte River with Scotts Bluff in the background 20 miles away

Chimney Rock

It’s no secret that I’m not the history buff in this family, but I’m fascinated by the tale of those gutsy Pioneers.   This was, after all Indian territory.  As a matter of fact, the Lakota Sioux referred to Chimney Rock as Elk Penis, a name I find much more entertaining.  Indians, rattlesnakes, and harsh weather were just the beginning of the difficult journey west for those enterprising pioneers.  The fortitude and determination it took to embark on such an ambitious venture is astounding.  Many made it to their destination, and many did not.

covered wagon

my horse and covered wagon parked at the Bayard City Park

So while the Pioneers of the 1800’s could park their horses and covered wagons anywhere they saw fit, hubby and I need to abide by rules and laws governing where we can park our modern-day horse and covered wagon.

free campingFree overnighting with electric AND water…..

We find ourselves frequently using the site  Campendium.com  for camping reference and quickly noted a place to camp for the night.   We find the Bayard town park easily.  It’s located across from a large grassy picnic area in a small gravel lot with electric and water pedestals for 3 RV’s.  What a great find and it’s located only 3 miles north of Elk Penis Chimney Rock.

As much as Al and I enjoyed our free campsite, later that evening we accused each other of having stinky feet…. that is, until a gust of wind brought the rather light stench to one of sheer on assault.  Ah yes, we were quickly reminded that we were indeed camped in cattle country.  The next day, it was time to take our clean feet and move on!

By the way…  there were a total of four bloggers all traveling through this part of Nebraska within days of each other.  For a different view on the same area, I’ve attached a link to the other bloggers.  First up was Pam and John followed by Mona Liza and Steve, then us (although we didn’t visit Scotts Bluff), and lastly Nina and Paul.  I find it interesting to read four very different and distinct blogging accounts on the same subject.Morman Trail

Corn HuskersWe continued our journey south through western Nebraska. We could not possibly pass through Sidney, Nebraska, without a quick stop at the original Cabela’s store.   I love success stories and this is certainly a tale of the American dream.

Dick Cabela turned $45 worth of fishing fly materials into the number one outdoor retailer.  You can read the entire story here.

We also appreciate the RV friendly facilities found at most Cabela locations.  The Sidney store offers a couple of dump stations along with plenty of free overnight parking PLUS a campground complete with full Sterling, Coloradohook-ups for a nominal fee.

On to Colorado……

We pulled into the North Sterling State Park in northeast Colorado.  It was midweek with no ranger in sight and plenty of open campsites.  We drove around looking for a nice site with a view and noting any reservation notices on the site posts.  We pulled into site #6 which required a little creative leveling but nothing we couldn’t handle.  A mere two hours later, the camp host came by and reluctantly said, “I’m sorry folks, but I’m going to ruin your day.  I need you to move to another site”.  Apparently, the ranger failed to post the reservation notices that morning and this site was already reserved for the evening.  We responded in a very understanding manner.

North Sterling State Park

Site #49 at North Sterling State Park, Colorado

With the camp hosts assistance, we found a site that was available for that night and into the up coming weekend.  Within 30 minutes we were all set up in our new spot – site #49, which turned out to be equally as nice as #6 with even more spacing between sites and more privacy.

North Sterling State Park

Who knew we’d find white pelicans and herons at this lake in northeast Colorado.

That evening the camp host dropped by bearing a gift of the most delicious full SLAB of BBQ ribs that he had slow cooked all day.  Yum!  A little visiting over drinks ensued.

Pawnee National Grasslands

Where am I? Pawnee Buttes are in the distance on the left.

Pawnee National GrasslandsThe next day I was off on my adventure; an excursion I had planned a few months earlier and one not of interest to hubby.

I wasn’t optimistic about by sojourn to the Pawnee National Grasslands, but I was curious since a blogger recommended I might enjoy it.  I drove, and I drove…. down this gravel road and that gravel road.  I encountered one 18 wheeler after another.  At one point, I was sandwiched between two.  The cloud of dust was blinding at times.

18 wheelers at work - fracking all over Pawnee National Grasslands

18 wheelers at work – fracking occurring all over Pawnee National Grasslands

Pawnee National Grassland

You see, this is serious fracking country.  Beneath the surface of the Pawnee National Grasslands are oil and gas reserves that are being extracted.  The land is dotted with production facilities and evaporation ponds (the waters used for fracking turn toxic after use and need to be dealt with).  Not exactly fitting of the scenic category.SterlingIt took me awhile to find the trailhead to the famous Pawnee Buttes, but after a little Pawnee National Grasslandsmeandering down various gravel roads I eventually found my destination.  I spent 15 minutes looking around and talking to the cows before hopping back in the truck.  No hiking for me.  My interest had totally waned.

I wanted so much to like this place.  I tried really hard to find the beauty, but after 4 hours of driving one gravel road after another and sharing the dust with semi-trucks, I turned tail and headed home.  I would categorize this visit as a bust (aka failure, flop, fizzle, dud).  Don’t get me wrong, there is a beauty to the land and I enjoy communing with cows, but the industrial aspect took away from the experience.

Picnic area and trailhead to Pawnee Buttes.

Picnic area and trailhead to Pawnee Buttes.  A wind farm can be seen in the distance.

Perhaps birders might find this place of interest as the Colorado State Bird the Lark Bunting was flying around in abundance, or perhaps the western region of Pawnee NG offers something more photogenic, but the area I explored held little interest to me personally.

facilities like this, dot the landscape

facilities like this, dot the landscape

When I returned to the RV, hubby and I looked up reviews for the Pawnee National Grasslands and discovered the majority of the reviews were negative.  I’m glad I went with an open mind and read these reviews AFTER my visit.  Even though it was a bust, I’m still glad I visited.  Not all places in Colorado can be labeled majestic.

Let’s move on to Denver……Sterling

Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband, Slate
SPRI ES501R Xertube Resistance Band (Red, Medium)

 

A visit to an adult store?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s almost the end of July.  This summer is whizzing by.  Although we haven’t had any eventful excursions while hanging around the Denver, Colorado area this year, we have enjoyed our stay immensely.

Denver camping

Cherry Creek State Park – we’re in site #38

We found ourselves staying at three different and equally beautiful campgrounds this summer.  Our first stop was Chatfield State Park which I wrote about in my last post.  We then moved a little north to Bear Creek Lake Park.  I discovered this park last summer when my daughter took me stand up paddle boarding for my birthday.  You can read about the SUP experience along with a few other places we explored in and around Denver by clicking here.

camping in Denver

Bear Creek Lake Park Campground in Lakewood, Colorado

The campground at Bear Creek Lake Park is small, sits in an open meadow, and offers electric only hook-ups.

camping near Denver

Bear Creek Lake Park campground. We’re in site #47

This campground is the perfect place to stay while taking in a concert at the fabulous Red Rocks Amphitheater.  Don’t have concert tickets?  That’s ok because Red Rocks is an awesome place to hike and get in a serious workout.  It’s always open and free to the public, that is when a concert isn’t in session.  We never pass up an opportunity to hike at Red Rocks or get together with fellow bloggers’s.   Thanks ML for your photo contributions.

Bear Creek Lake Park has three small lakes to enjoy.  Bear Creek Lake itself is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.  Soda Lake offers a beach along with the ability to rent stand up paddle boards and kayaks.  There’s a third small pond lake for rental water skiing.  The hiking/biking trails throughout the park are wonderful and there’s also an equestrian center offering trail rides.  Bear Creek Lake Park was a great spot to call ‘home’ for a week.

Now before we move onto our third campground, allow me to share a fun little stop.  Between our stay at Chatfield State Park and Bear Creek Lake Park, hubby and I found ourselves traveling SH-470 routinely (a highway on the far southwest suburbs of Denver).  As we’d pass this architecturally interesting and large building with huge neon lettering saying Tipsy’s, I knew we had to stop and check it out.  And check it out we did.Tipsy's liquor worldlarge liquor store in Denver

 

 

 

 

Upon entertaining this ‘adult store’ (seriously, did you think I meant some other kind of adult store?), hubby and I immediately went in different directions.  I went to the champagne aisle while Al checked out all the beer.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in a liquor store that had a piano, a chess set, putting green, and huge fireplace.

A little strolling around Tipsy’s Liquor World and a few purchases later, our liquor cabinet in the RV has been restocked…. and then some.  With that accomplished it was time to move camp.

camping in Denver

Cherry Creek Reservoir

Our next stop was Cherry Creek State Park.  This park is a favorite with many and I can see why.  The reservoir is a serious draw for both boaters and anglers along with a marina for watercraft rentals.  Then there’s the extensive trail system, a wetlands area for birding, a model plan airfield, and a clay target shooting range.  And finally, a great location convenient to everything including downtown Denver and the airport.

The campground is large and offers full hook-ups for RV’s as well as non hook-ups for tents.  Most of the campsites are shaded with large, mature trees and the grounds are beautifully maintained.

Denver wildlife

wild turkey’s at Cherry Creek State Park

camping in Denver

the swim beach at Cherry Creek State Park, Denver, Colorado

Of course, my favorite is always the wildlife.  We had deer, turkey’s, and geese stroll through the campground regularly.  Near the marina, I spotted cormorants, egrets, pelicans and sea gulls.  On the opposite side of the lake is the swim beach where I stumbled upon some napping geese.

wild turkey

Miss Turkey decided to run for cover from the crazy lady with the camera.

We enjoyed our stay at Cherry Creek State Park so much that we already booked a two-week stay here in September.  Tonight we’ll join our daughter for dinner and in the morning we hit the road.  Where to next?  Here’s a clue about where we’re heading……corn on the cobb

Evecase Large Canvas Messenger DSLR Digital Camera Bag with Rain cover and Removal laptop and camera insert – Brown
Havana Golf Sun Hat (Medium (21-23″ circumference head))

 

Repeats are great!

The anticipation of pulling up jacks and rolling down the road to a new location is always exciting, but returning to familiar territory can be equally enjoyable.  There’s something comforting about revisiting a place.Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

our daughter, Ashton

This summer we find ourselves once again calling Denver home.  Last year we stayed in Westminster (northwest of Denver) at the Westminster Elks Lodge.  At the time, our daughter lived just a few miles away making it super convenient to hang out with her.  The location was also ideal to head into Denver regularly and explore the city, which we took full advantage of.

Last summer also included a few visits to Rocky Mountain National Park.  RMNP offers one majestic view after another with wildlife sightings almost guaranteed.  Gosh, how I love this place!

Elk in rutObviously, our main reason for returning to Denver for the months of June and July were to spend time with our daughter.  Last year Ashton moved to Highlands Ranch (south end of the Denver area) which meant the Elks Lodge in Westminster was no longer a convenient option for us to stay.

That was fine by me since the lack of views and high density parking were not my favorite.  Now, we had the  perfect opportunity to check out some lovely state parks.

Our first stop on the agenda was Chatfield State Park, located southwest of Denver.  We spent ten days here last year and liked it so much that we ended up booking a two-week reservation in the very same site for a June visit.  The views from my campsite were exactly what I was craving.

Denver, Colorado

the view out my RV door – site 74 at Chatfield State Park

I’ll jump at any opportunity to camp with a water view.   Add in wildflowers and wildlife…camping in Colorado

Denver, Coloradowell, it just doesn’t get much better.  Since, I’d been feeling a bit under the weather, this was the perfect place for me to lay low, recover, and enjoy the scenery.

During my working days, I was one of those people who would go on vacation and would need a vacation to recover from vacation.  I’ve never been one to lay at the beach or pool while sunbathing or reading.  Oh no, no lying around when there are things to do, sights to see, and adventures to be had.

Denver, Colorado

downtown Denver

To some degree, that hasn’t changed much.  Before we even travel to a new place, I usually have a list of things to see and do.  If nothing else, at least a trail map. That doesn’t mean we’ll carry out the items on that list, it’s meant as a rough idea of what an area has to offer.  The kids have plenty of travel stories involving their mom (moi) dragging them off in the rain to go zip lining in Maui or learning to ski in a blizzard.  No sitting around for this family when adventure awaits.

Denver, ColoradoThat said, I was really excited to return to Denver for the summer.  I had such a great time here last year that I compiled a list of places new and old to visit and even picked up the latest edition of 5280, a great magazine for anyone visiting Denver.

However, my health had other plans in mind and this summer I find myself joining the ranks of loungers near water reading.  Because I explored so much of Denver and the eastern Rockies last year, I’m actually enjoying the down time and of course it helps to be camped in some pretty awesome spots.

Chatfield State Park

Chatfield State Park, near Denver, Colorado – site 74

I really like Chatfield State Park …… mountains, water, wildlife, wildflowers, and sunsets.  The park was experiencing some serious flooding during our stay.  So serious that the western side of the park was closed, as were all the boat ramps.

camping in Denver

western entrance (Wadsworth Road) into Chatfield SP – the day use area is totally under water. The water is supposed to be on the other side of those trees. The trees should not be under water – picnic area and swim beach.

We even lost the ability for sewer for an entire week causing us to make a trip to Cabela’s to dump our tanks.  In other words, the park had no flush toilets anywhere, no showers, and no dump station.  We even experienced some power outages.  I felt badly for the staff as none of this was their fault and yet some campers and boaters were hostile.

camping in Denver

We’re looking at the swim beach, what’s left of it and the partly submerged restrooms. It gets worse!

Colorado State Parks

the same beach restrooms are almost totally submerged just a few days later. Check out the buoy’s in both photos.

Colorado State ParksFor us it was all part of the adventure and we were even refunded the difference between a partial hook-up verses a full hook-up.  I think it helped that we’re comfortable dry camping.

Paddlers were loving it.  With the boat ramps closed, the only boaters on the water were either kayaks, canoes, or those that rent a slip at the marina.  Even the weekends were quiet at this normally crowded reservoir.

Colorado State Parks

this is the main road heading toward the Wadsworth entrance turned kayak launch.

Colorado State Parks

the Platte River covers the main road toward the Wadsworth Road entrance

Roads and trails were underwater throughout the park.  This all took place the last two weeks of June, and as of this writing, the water has receded and all roads are open/assessable and all facilities are back in operation.  Colorado sure experienced an unusually wet May and June in 2015 making for a nice showing of wildflowers which Miss Hummer was loving.hummers

Chatfield ReservoirSo although I haven’t been out and about exploring much lately, my repeat stay at Chatfield State Park was great.  I relaxed outside watching the world go by, or rather hummers whiz by, I played around in the RV kitchen experimenting with some new recipes, we enjoyed lots of visits with the daughter, and even managed to fit in a little socializing.

Next up, we move camp over to Bear Creek Lake Park…….

To check out my first attempt at making Barbacoa click here.  And here’s the two latest additions to my library.

My Paleo Patisserie: An Artisan Approach to Grain Free BakingPlate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling

I never thought food photography would be so challenging. Let’s face it, anyone can take a photograph of a plate of food and post it on Instagram or Pin it, but making the food look like an appetizing morsel instead of tossed cookies takes a little more work …… as I’m finding out!

Colorado State Parks

I could get used to this view!

 

 

Is it worth the drive?

I’m going to wrap up my series of posts on “Top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns” by heading up in elevation.  Hold on, as the only road to get to Silverton, Colorado, is not for the faint of heart.

Silverton, Colorado

Highway 550 in southwestern Colorado

Silverton sits in southwestern Colorado and there’s only one paved road leading to this charming and historic town.  I need to put an emphasis on the word paved because this former mining town is host to some of the most fantastic 4×4 back country roads.  That said, you’ll need to know not to trust your GPS because if she recommends any other route other than Highway 550, you may find yourself traversing one of those high clearance, dirt, mountain roads, turned summer fun four-wheeling routes.  Many of those old mining roads are numbered, named, and recognized on maps, and trust me when I say you’ll want a “high clearance” vehicle traveling these back roads as deep ruts, rocks, and water are common encounters.

Highway 550

Highway 550 in southwestern Colorado

So to get to Silverton from the south, you’ll need to take Highway 550 from the town of Durango and travel about 50 miles north on a beautiful and scenic well maintained road.  The road twists, bends, goes up, and goes down as it meanders through the San Juan Mountain Range.  There are drop offs with Aspen treesguard rails or maybe not.

You’ll pass mountains, lakes, and streams and take in some jaw dropping beauty.  And when the wildflowers are blooming in July and August or the Aspen tree leaves turn golden in September….. oohhh …. my ….. gosh!!!  Let’s just say, it’s a sight to behold and photographs rarely capture the enormity of such a spectacular and stunning sight.

If driving mountain roads isn’t your thing, consider taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The rail route is even more scenic than the highway and the train pulls right into the town of Silverton.Durango & Silverton Train

SilvertonOnce in Silverton, you’ll find the town has a natural beauty that’s steeped in Victorian charm and mining history.  Gold was discovered here in the 1860’s.  The town was platted in 1874 and by the late 1800’s the main business section was built.

On the “other side of town”, is notorious Blair Street.   At one point, Blair Street was home to 40 saloons and brothels.   Many of the original buildings are still standing today and have been turned into quaint gift shops and restaurants.

Tidbit: During the mining boom, Silverton boasted a population surpassing 2,000.  Today the year round population is less than 700.  Although tourism has replaced mining as the current economic engine, conjecture is someday mining will return.

Silverton is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmark District.

Silverton, Colorado

It was a cool and wet September day when we last visited Silverton.

Silverton, ColoradoWith mining heavily ingrained in the area’s history, the back country is dotted with remnants of abandoned mines and ghost towns.  Have a high clearance vehicle?  The old mining roads are a blast to explore and remains my favorite thing to do in this part of Colorado.

The visitor center in the town of Ouray provides free maps and info to help you navigate the back country.  The visitor center in Silverton also has a lot of info but charges for some maps.

In Ouray (pronounced; your ray) there’s several businesses that rent Jeeps, ATV’s, and Razors allowing one to explore the high country at one’s own level and pace.  There’s also a few places in Silverton that offer rentals.  However, for those less experienced in high mountain four-wheeling, a guided tour might be the perfect option.San Juan mountains

During previous visits, Al and I have taken the Toyota Tacoma on a couple of the “easy” 4×4 roads.  The map info is very helpful in rating these roads and we wanted to start easy and work our way up.  We’ve taken “Last Dollar Road” to Telluride and “Owl Creek Pass” to Silver Jack Reservoir.  Although lovely and enjoyable drives, neither road took us above tree line and with the exception of a couple of rutted areas, a Subaru or CRV could easily travel these two 4×4 roads.

four-wheeling

The view along Last Dollar Road

For those of us looking for a true white knuckle Colorado experience, there’s Black Bear Pass.  I’m still working on hubby for us to rent a RZR and tackle this insane scary road, but I’m not averse to signing up for a tour with an experienced driver.  Actually the more I watch this video, the more I think that’s the way to go.

And speaking of white knuckle driving, I’ve shared the route from Durango to Silverton, now let’s talk about driving from the other direction.  Coming from the north, the 21 miles via Highway 550 from Ouray to Silverton, otherwise known as the Million Dollar Highway, is an experience in itself.

Million Dollar Highway

a part of the Million Dollar Highway

This two-lane mountainous highway can be a challenging and potentially hazardous drive due to narrow lanes, steep cliffs, and no guard rails.  There are some hairpin curves, elevation changes, and the road is shared with semi-trucks and brave RV drivers.

PoppyWe’ve driven Highway 550 from Durango to Ouray with the truck camper many years ago, but not with the 5th wheel.  It’s all about comfort level.  Northbound traffic gets the luxury of hugging the inside of the curves while southbound traffic gets to be perched on the outside edge.

Is it worth the drive to visit Silverton?  Absolutely!  The drive is an integral part of the overall adventure.  Regardless of which direction one travels from, the San Juan Mountains are breathtaking, and once in Silverton, the towns’ rough, rustic character easily transports a soul back in time.

Ridgway State Park

camping at Ridgway State Park

So there you have it – my Top 5 Favorite Colorado mountain towns;
Telluride – everyone’s favorite
Crested Butte and Grand Lake – my two favs (family memories play an important role in why they are “my” favorites) and then there’s Frisco and Silverton, each with their own unique draw, charm, and character.San Juan Mountains

Camping near Silverton? There are a bunch of camping options, however I can’t speak from experience. We’ve always camped at Ridgway State Park and driven Highway 550, aka the Million Dollar Highway, to Silverton for day trips with just the truck.  If you’re interested in a little more info on camping around Silverton, you can check out Amanda’s post here.  You can also find more camping reviews in western Colorado by checking out Nina’s blog here or my buddy Russ here.

We find ourselves returning to Colorado every summer and during each visit we discover more hidden gems.  I guess there’s more than one kind of mining when it comes to finding gems!Rocky Mountains

Frogg Toggs All Purpose Women’s Rain and Wind Suits, Cherry/Black, Large
Columbia Men’s Watertight II Packable Rain Jacket, Black, Large

Everyone’s Favorite Mountain Town

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado.  If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride.  There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy and how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?Telluride, Colorado

Telluride, ColoradoWe’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past three years and each visit was truly a joy.  First off, Telluride is beautiful.  It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs with the stunning 365 foot Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.

Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement.  By the 1970’s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism.  By the mid 1990’s, Colorado’s best kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.

Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have actually become more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals (including film festivals) and endurance events all summer long.  The outdoor recreation is fantastic and even offers extreme hiking: Via Ferrata.

Via Ferrata

Via Ferrate in Telluride. Photo courtesy of Wiki

Telluride, CO

Newer home styles seem to blend in well with the surroundings.

The architecture is a beautiful
blend of old and new that always
captivates my attention.

There’s a hiking trail that allows one to wander from town all the way out toward Bridal Veil Falls.

The houses passed along the way are unique and delightful.

Telluride, CO

love these 1800’s restored homes

 

Tidbit:  The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.Telluride, Colorado

This charming Rocky Mountain town located in southwestern Colorado is most definitely worth a visit and goes to the top of my list;  Top 5 Colorado mountain towns.  The town boasts a population of less than 3,000 and sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls

At the base of Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls in the far distance

We’ve enjoyed hikes to Bridal Veil Falls, shopped the Friday morning Farmer’s Market, and loved the free Gondola rides; a bonus not to be missed. Previously we’ve taken a back country 4×4 road to get to Telluride.  You can read about that excursion here.  We’ve eaten at several tasty restaurants, met fellow blog followers for a brew, and generally savored the vibe and beauty that is quintessential Telluride.  I can’t wait to return!Telluride, Colorado

Camping:  Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we’ve camped at Ridgway State Park, about an hours drive away.  The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RV’s alike.  Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds.  I did a post on the area a while ago and you can find it here.

Tee PeeMuch closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground;  Sunshine Campground.  We would love to stay here due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride.  It’s super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.  Unfortunately, we might only fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than our comfort level allows.

Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground and this place can accommodate just about anyone.

For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s, the perfect place to camp to really immerse oneself into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park Campground.  Nestled in a grove of pine trees along a creek, it’s within walking distance to festival venues, restaurants, and shops.  Obviously where there are trees, there are low branches and tight turning radius’.  Thus, not an option for us.  Once again, small RV’s have the advantage.  Note; during festivals this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.

And when it comes to other types of lodging, Telluride has it all.  Click here for more info and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise, you won’t be disappointed 🙂

Telluride Trails: Hiking Passes, Loops, and Summits of Southwest Colorado (The Pruett Series)
Sony WX350 18 MP Digital Camera (Black)

Grand but quaint

Let’s continue the journey on my “top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns”.hummingbirdColorado mountain townsToward the top of my favorites list is Grand Lake, Colorado.  We first discovered this charming little mountain town in the winter of 1997.  We were looking for an affordable place to take the kids on a winter ski vacation.

Now keep in mind, Al and I were bona fide flatlanders at the time with absolutely no interested in schussing down a mountain slope, but since the kids were young and would be growing up in Colorado, we felt it was important to expose them to the popular Colorado sport of snow skiing.  After all, what Coloradoan doesn’t know how to snow ski?  Moi !

Grand Lake Colorado

the town of Grand Lake sits at the shores of Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake

The slopes at Granby Ranch (previously known as: Silver Creek or Sol Vista) were highly recommended to us as a great place for beginners, and it turned out to be the perfect venue for the kids to take up the sport of snow skiing.  Al and I would put the children in ski school while he and I lounged around a roaring fire in the ski lodge exercising our arms by lifting mugs of hot chocolate to our lips.

The outside deck offered a perfect vantage point for me to photograph and video tape the kids in ski school.  As Al and I got more comfortable leaving the children in ski school, he and I would venture off (with the instructors knowledge of course) and explore the surrounding area.  Those explorations included lunch and shopping in the town of Grand Lake, about a 30 to 45 minute drive from the ski slopes.

snowmobiling in Colorado

snowmobiling the back country near Grand Lake, CO. Rocky Mtn National Park and the Continental Divide can be seen in the background. The Kamikaze duo of Al and Ashton on the left. The conservatives Logan and me (behind camera) on the right.

When the kids needed a break from the slopes, we’d rent a couple of snowmobiles in Grand Lake and make a day of exploring the back country at 9,000 plus feet in elevation.  Our preferred place for lodging for these winter excursions was at Snow Mountain Ranch, a fifteen minute drive south of the town of Granby.

YMCA of the Rockies

We rent a rustic cabin in the woods for Christmas celebration. Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado

Over the next ten years, this part of Colorado was where we would spend Christmas and ring in the New Year.  It became our family of four tradition and we had a blast snow skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, tubing, and snowshoeing.  The majority of the time, we would rent a rustic cabin at Snow Mountain Ranch, a great place for family fun – winter or summer.  There’s so many activities available at Snow Mountain Ranch as well as multiple lodging options, including a camping (summer only).

scenic towns in Colorado

Grand Lake is loaded with quaint shops, unique art galleries, and fun restaurants.

The town of Grand Lake is actually more of a summer tourist destination, and you’ll find several shops closed during the winter months.  Although snowmobiling is a very popular sport here, offering some of the best groomed back country trails in Colorado, the ski slopes are pretty far away, thus it’s not considered a ski destination.

Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake is the western gateway into Rocky Mountain National Park

What makes Grand Lake so popular during the summer months is the access into Rocky Mountain National Park.  Grand Lake borders Rocky Mountain National Park on its western edge.  Folks from around the world visit this beautiful part of America.

Grand Lake, Colorado

this photo of Al and Bear was taken in Sept. of 2008 at the lovely park along Grand Lake

The lake itself is also a popular draw for anglers and water enthusiasts.  Personally, I can’t imagine engaging in any activity that would require actually touching the water as the water temperature appears to always be COLD.Grand Lake, Colorado

I remember one time standing on a dock at the water’s edge and feeling a wave of coolness rise and sweep over me.  It felt like I had opened my refrigerator freezer door and was greeted by a rush of cold air.  Yep, that’s some cold water!Rocky MountainsAnother popular draw to the area is the wildlife.  The moose population over the past twenty years has grown substantially in this part of Colorado.  It’s not uncommon for a moose to walk down Grand Lakes’ main street early in the morning and Elk are easily spotted roaming throughout the National Park.Rocky Mountains

PikaThere’s several campgrounds in the area as well as plenty of other lodging options. However, we’ve never personally overnighted in Grand Lake, thus can’t speak from experience.

There’s three different routes to access the town of Grand Lake….

During the summer, a leisurely drive through Rocky Mountain National Park via Trail Ridge Road from the town of Estes Park to the town of Grand Lake is a memorable scenic drive with stunning views accompanied by wildlife sightings.  I highly recommend this drive, but keep in mind, this road is not RV friendly.

The route we often took during our winter excursions:  From Interstate 70, we would head north on Highway 40 through Berthoud Pass heading toward Winter Park.  Although fine for a regular vehicle, there’s no way Al would pull the RV UP this road.  The grade is such that it would put a tremendous strain on the engine not to mention all the switchbacks.ColoradoThe preferred RV route:  From Interstate 70, head north through the town of Silverthorne on Highway 9.  In the town of Kremmling head east on Highway 40 to 34 east.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying many visits to this charming mountain town.  You can read about one of my favorite day trips from Estes Park to Grand Lake by clicking here.  And if you’re interested in what others have to say about Grand Lake, you can click here for Lisa’s experience. (Lisa posted some great photos showcasing the area)

Next, I’ll finish up with my next two favorite Colorado mountain towns……

Merrell Women’s Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe,Beluga/Lilac,8.5 M US
Mediterranean Style Ms. Beach Straw Hat-style2

Top 5 Colorado towns continued

We’ve enjoyed our stay at the Chatfield State Park despite Mother Nature’s wrath. Colorado’s front range received a ton of spring rain and now with the runoff from mountain snows melting, the Chatfield Reservoir is at record high levels.  The flooding is so severe that the west side of the park is closed as are all the boat ramps.  To top things off, ALL sewer services within the park have been shut off.  That means, no RV sewer connections, no dump station, no restroom flush toilets, and no showers anywhere in the park.  Restroom buildings have been locked and lovely construction porta-potties placed onsite in lieu.  And I won’t begin to mention the power outages.

Chatfield Reservoir

Site B-74 at Chatfield State Park near Denver, Colorado

If there’s anything this RV life has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected and learn to roll with the flow and adjust accordingly.  And of course, a good sense of humor always helps.  So although we endured a few inconveniences during our Chatfield State Park visit, we still enjoyed our stay immensely.

ColoradoOne afternoon during one of those power outages, fellow campers were out and about checking with one another…. “Do you have power?”  During such an exchange, we ended up meeting some folks from Illinois.

As former Illinoisans, the conversation flowed freely.  The young couple, camping in a small travel trailer, were on a two-week vacation and wanted to see and experience Colorado’s finest.

Al and I did our best to answer their list of questions.  We offered recommendations on roads to avoid while pulling the trailer, keeping in mind this was their first visit to the Rocky Mountains.  Roads that Al and I are comfortable pulling aren’t necessarily roads we’d recommend for those less seasoned when it comes to mountain driving.

One particular question that had hubby and I torn – “What is your all time favorite, must see, Colorado town?”  (ah, a blog post(s) was born)  Al and I agreed it was a toss-up between Crested Butte and Grand Lake.  Both towns are beautiful in their own right and are very different from one another.  They both share plenty of charm, character, and beautiful scenery.

Crested Butte Colorado

the back country north of Crested Butte, Colorado

Mount Crested Butte, ColoradoWhen we moved to Colorado in the mid-nineties, Crested Butte was the first mountain town our family of four (plus doggie) visited.  I think Crested Butte will always hold a special place in my heart due to the special family moments experienced here.

One memorable trip occurred three years ago when I had a crazy idea to go tent camping at Lake Irwin.  I wanted to take the little truck (Tacoma) and explore some of the 4×4 back country roads north of Crested Butte.  Thus, we left the comforts of the RV behind and packed up the camping gear.

Crested Butte ColoradoLake Irwin is located west of the town of Crested Butte near Kebler Pass and sits at an elevation of 10,000 feet.  Somehow that elevation thing didn’t register properly in my mind when I set up this excursion.

Since this was in the middle of summer, I knew the temperatures would still drop substantially during the night, but I never imagined they would drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thank goodness, hubby brought an extra sleeping bag to throw over us.  Even poor Bear was shivering during the night until I covered him with my sweatshirt.

Crested Butte

Exploring the back country north of Crested Butte

Crested Butte ColoradoIt was mid July and the Wildflower Festival was in full swing.  No coincidence there.  The trip was planned with the wildflowers in mind.

Crested Butte relishes the title of “Wildflower Capital of Colorado”.  Although according to locals, the drought conditions of 2012 lead to a dismal display of wildflowers.  No matter who we talked to (merchant, waitress, gas station attendant) everyone apologized for the pure showing of wildflowers and asked us to please come back next year.  Regardless, the countryside was and is stunningly beautiful.  The town of Crested Butte is filled with charm and character.  Mount Crested Butte is a little further up the road and this is where the ski slopes are located.  Even though the 1980’s architecture at Mt. Crested Butte is lacking in style and character when compared to downtown Crested Butte, it’s still worth a stroll around and there’s new updates yearly.

The back country north of Crested Butte is not to be missed, but strolling the town of Crested Butte can also be pleasurable.  Of course, there was a little T-shirt shopping involved during our visit (a habit of mine). Not wanting to leave Bear in the vehicle, Bear shopped with us and was welcome in most stores.

wildflowers in Colorado

back country road north of Crested Butte – Slate River Road

To read more about Crested Butte, visit our 2012 excursion – click here and here.  We revisited again in 2013 and I share a little more info here.  I wonder, with all the moisture Colorado has received this year, if the wildflowers won’t be in abundance and offer a stunning show for this year’s wildflower festival.  Who’s willing to check it out for me?  I’d go, but I already have commitments 😦

Crested Butte Colorado

camped at Chatfield State Park

Camping?  With a tent, truck camper, or small trailer there’s a bunch of options to choose:  from the Blue Mesa Reservoir to Crested Butte to National Forest back country.  With a bigger RV the list quickly dwindles.  With our modest 31 feet, we could fit into a few sites at Lake Irwin providing one such site was available.

There does seem to be wildflowers in Coloradosome free boondocking off-road 730 (Ohio Pass) just south of road 12 (Kebler Pass) which we would consider, but it does require traveling gravel roads to get there.  Washington Gulch Road also has some spots.

When we returned to the area in 2013 with the 5th wheel, we stayed at an RV Park off Highway 50 near the Blue Mesa Reservoir (west of the town of Gunnison).  During that visit, we spent some time checking out more campgrounds.  You can read about those camping options here.

For any first time Crested Butte RV visitor, I would highly recommend staying in a park off Highway 50 and exploring the Crested Butte area WITHOUT the RV first.  We all develop our own level of comfort when it comes to roads and parking conditions.  Al and I find the camping accommodations around Crested Butte to be a little more challenging than we’d like with the RV, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t work for you.

The stunning scenery in this part of Colorado should not be missed.  Crested Butte is definitely at the top of the list when it comes to “must see” places in Colorado….. it’s a favorite.  Up next, we’ll visit Grand Lake.


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