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

A Little Girl Time

Colorado State ParksI just love waking up to a sunrise over water.  This was my view from our campsite at St. Vrain State Park, Colorado on Sept. 8, 2014.  Not a bad way to start the day, eh!

coffee with a view
I enjoy morning coffee and a sunrise at St. Vrain State Park, Colorado

I couldn’t wait to throw on some clothes and go for a morning stroll.  The waters were calm and the birds were chirping.   Yes, I do love camping near water.Colorado State ParksColorado State Parks Colorado State ParksI strolled around the state park taking in the still beauty of the morning.  It turned out to be a wonderful day filled with explorations and ended with dinner over at LuAnn and Terry’s place.

Thank you Terry and Lu for a lovely evening and to LuAnn for a very tasty meal.

It didn’t take LuAnn and I long to reconnect.  We first met here online as fellow bloggers a couple of years ago and then met face to face in February 2013. We were quick to set up a girls day, but our plans needed to be flexible due to the fickle weather.Colorado State Parks I’d been wanting to explore Chautauqua Park in Boulder and when I made mention of this park to Lu, she was game.  We were both really looking forward to a hike but we awoke to a rainy and dreary morning.  The weather forecast was for more rain, but as we were ready to head out on plan B (shopping at an indoor mall) the skies cleared.Boulder trailsWe took full advantage of this window of opportunity in the weather and set off on the trail at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado.  The trail was a steady uphill climb heading ever so closer to the base of the Flatirons that had me winded due to my nonstop chatting.

Flatirons Boulder Colorado
the Chautauqua Park trail is a steady uphill climb – a view of the town of Boulder and the red roofs of the University of Colorado can be seen in the distance

Boulder ColoradoSince we weren’t sure what the weather was going to do, we opted for a short stroll that day instead of a serious hike and of course, these two shutter bugs had to stop for plenty of photo ops.  Those are the Flatirons in the distance.Flatiron Boulder Colorado After our lovely stroll, we headed over to the Flatiron Mall for a little shopping and lunch.  It turned out to be a day of plan A and plan B.  Yes, it was the perfect girl’s outing that was over way too soon!Flatirons Boulder Colorado Patagonia Lightweight Travel Sling Black The SAK Iris Cross-Body,Black,one size

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Our trek continued deeper into Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  This park is located about 16 miles northwest of the town of Golden and less than an hours drive from downtown Denver, yet feels miles and miles away from anything.Golden Gate Canyon State Park

While driving Mountain Base Road, we had stopped at several of the picnic – trailhead pull-outs to take in our surroundings.  Hubby was loving the pine scented air while I was ogling the mountain wildflowers.

Colorado State Parks
95% of the park has paved roads. This is the road to Aspen Meadow Campground

Next stop; the campgrounds.  We drove through the Reverend’s Ridge Campground checking out the sites.  Since it’s located in a pine forest there aren’t any mountain views from the campsites, but the large paved sites make up for any lack of view.  This campground is laid out beautifully offering sites with electric geared toward RV’s and none electric sites exclusive to tents.  The tent sites have nice level pads.

Colorado State Parks
A drive thru site in loop E

Camping fees are $22.00 a night with electric and $18.00 a night for non-electric.  Since this is a Colorado State Park there’s an additional vehicle fee; either $7.00 a day or the yearly pass for $70.00.  Al and I always get the yearly pass for both trucks, which allows us unlimited access to all Colorado State Parks.  The pass is vehicle specific and is applied to the windshield.  The second vehicle is charged a reduced rate and there’s a discount for those of a certain age.  Yep, hubby qualifies for the ‘Aspen Leaf’ which also saves us $2.00 a night on camping fees.  Ah, an upside to being old… LOL.  Shhh, don’t tell him I said that 😉

Colorado State Parks
another site in loop E

I’d say the RV sites are long enough for any size RV.  My only concern would be the width in regards to all the trees and RV slides, mostly those RV’s with opposing slides. But with a little strategic maneuvering, I’m sure she’ll fit.

That said, this is a campground Al and I would really enjoy staying at, but be warned….. there is no cell phone or internet coverage…. nada, zilch, nil.  Consider this time to walk away from the ‘devices’ and enjoy all this gorgeous scenery.Golden Gate

This little girl proudly carries a caught fish over to her dad
This little girl proudly carries a caught fish over to her dad

There’s nearly 35 miles of hiking trails within the State Park.  Some of the trails are for hikers only and others are multiple use: hiking, biking, horseback riding.  Fishing is allowed in any stream or pond within the park, but does require a Colorado fishing license.

I was particularly interested in the park’s brochure: Discovering Historic Places.  This part of Colorado is rich in mining history dating back to the 1800’s.  The Golden Gate Canyon State Park offers hiking trails to the remains of some former homesteads.

On our hike to Dude's Fishing Hole we pass the remains of The Belcher Barn on the left
Al and I opt for a quick hike to Dude’s Fishing Hole and along the way we pass the remains of The Belcher Barn.  This hay barn was built in the 1890’s.

Another trail we hope to hike would take us past The Bootlegger’s Cabin. There are no records of when the cabin was built or by whom.  The fact that barrel hoops and coiled copper tubing were found nearby leads one to believe that this was probably a shelter for bootleggers making illegal whiskey during the 1920’s.Bootlegger

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is definitely a great place to camp with a lot to see and do not only within the park but within an hours drive in any direction from the park.  Downtown Denver is easily accessed via vehicle or for those anti city drivers, the Light Rail can be taken from the station in Golden.  Golden offers its own array of fun stuff which I’ve blogged about in the past. You can read about it here and here.

The town of Boulder isn’t far from Golden Gate Canyon State Park via Highway 72. Rocky Mountain National Park is a scenic one hour plus drive to the north and Mt. Evans is a one hour drive to the south.

Fishing in Colorado
Dude’s Fishing Hole

Just remember, this is Colorado and that means the roads go up, down, and sideways….. miles are irrelevant, it’s all about how much time it takes to get from point A to point B and whether one needs Dramamine or has a fear of heights.

Welcome to my little slice of paradise!Colorado State Parks
Coleman Deck Chair With Table

From plan A to plan B

We were out the door by 6:30 Saturday morning.  I had packed us a picnic lunch, threw sweatshirts in the backseat of the little truck, and had our route all planned out.  We stopped for gas to top off the tank.  I always like starting out with a full tank of gas before embarking into virgin territory especially when heading into the mountains.

The drive into the mountains via Interstate 70 west out of Denver went smoothly. Although, there did appear to be more traffic than one might expect at this time of the morning.Mt. Evans

The day’s destination was Mt. Evans.  My daughter and I visited Mt. Evans last year and I was eager to share the scenery with hubby.  As soon as we exited the interstate in the town of Idaho Springs, I knew something was up; there were way too many pedestrians and cyclists for this time of the morning.

Mt. EvansA mere mile north on Highway 103 and my fears were confirmed…..  a cycling event  and therefore the highest paved road in North America was closed for the event.  Bummer!  Looks like we won’t be taking highway 5 to the top of Mt. Evans 😦

However, I’ll admit I wasn’t too terribly disappointed as the weather didn’t appear very agreeable; gloomy skies and cold temps with storms threatening.  We definitely would’ve needed those sweatshirts especially at the top of Mt. Evans; 14,265 feet in elevation.

That’s the thing about Colorado, if you don’t like the weather in one spot you can drive a mere thirty minutes in another direction and go from 80 degrees Fahrenheit to a cool 50 degrees and Saturday mornings temps near Mt. Evans were closer to that 50 number than the 80…. burrrr.  It’s been hovering in the 90’s all week in Denver so this felt very chilly to me and my bare legs.Mt. Evans

Oh well, since plan A didn’t work out it’s onto plan B.  I had never driven Highway 103 from Echo Lake to the town of Evergreen; an alternate route for picking up Highway 5 up to Mt. Evans. The last thing we wanted to do was drive back the way we came knowing the event congestion would just increase with every minute.

Colorado State ParksWe were so glad we ventured via this route.  The scenery was beautiful and the road was in excellent condition.

We even detected some possible boondocking locations.  We’ll need to check with the Arapahoe National Forest for the rules and any other pertinent information.  We know we’ll attempt a return visit to Mt. Evans sometime in the next few weeks and this is the route we’ll take….  I-70 to 74 to 103/66 to 5

It was only 8:00 in the morning with our plans for the day foiled. I just couldn’t bring myself to return home.  I had to think of a place for a picnic……..

Last week, I received a question from a blog follower wanting to know if I’ve ever been to Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  I knew exactly where this park was located.  We’ve spent some time over the past two summers camped around Denver and I had every intention of previously checking out this State Park, but never got around to it.  Her inquiry was just the nudge I needed to explore, as my interest was equally piqued.  The next day, with camera in hand, I explored Golden Gate Canyon State Park and immediately knew I needed to show this place to hubby.Golden Gate Canyon State Park

So here we were, driving back towards Denver on a Saturday morning after our failed attempt to visit Mt. Evans with an unopened picnic basket when Golden Gate Canyon State Park pops into my mind.  I wanted hubby to see this park anyway, thus this was the perfect opportunity.Colorado State Parks

From the town of Golden we headed north on highway 93 then turned west on 46.  We meandered along this 2 lane curvy road at about 30 mph dodging weekend cyclists here and there (Coloradans love their outdoor activities – share the road!).  After about sixteen miles, we turned onto a small road heading toward the campgrounds.  Mountain Base Road has a 19% grade and some switchbacks.  Therefore, RV’s of any kind aren’t allowed and need to stay on highway 46 and continue to 119 to access the Reverend’s Ridge Campground.Golden Gate Canyon State Park

As we slowly made our way deeper into the state park, we stopped at several trailheads to take notes for future hikes.  The road was lined with wildflowers which had me wanting to savor the moment.  Al was lost in his own thoughts as he was deeply inhaling the scent of the pine forest.Golden Gate Canyon State ParkPine trees, Aspen trees, snow capped mountains in the distance, endless hiking trails, and wildflowers…. yep, the perfect place for a picnic.  But first we wanted to check out the campground.

Would this be a place we’d like to stay?  Stay tuned…..
Coleman Broadband Quad Chair with Cooler, Red

Better Late Than Never

We finally hit the road.  We’re about three weeks behind our originally planned departure date, but hey better late than never.  The weather could present some problems necessitating the need to be very flexible in our plans.RVing

RVing
unable to put slide out all the way – boulders

Our first day on the road, we opt for an easy two-hour drive.  First stop; Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.  The weather is cold and a bit windy.  The camping season is over in the State of Colorado as temps drop and winter approaches.  Private campgrounds are closed and most State Park campgrounds are closed as well with a few exceptions.  There’s one loop in the campground still open at the Dunes.  However, with the exception of one restroom, all water in the park has been shut off.  Night time temperatures drop well below freezing.

I did my home work prior to our departure, thus we have plenty of water on board.  We run the forced air heat keeping our storage compartment, water line, and tank heated.  The park website says the campground can accommodate up to a length of 35′.  Hum, truck and fifth wheel measure over 45′.  Al and I concur, “Oh what the heck.  I’m game if you’re game.  Let’s see if we can fit’er in”.Great Sand Dunes National Park

It’s a tight fit.  With the aid of a shoehorn, a little grease, and backing back and forth a million times, we finally squeezed into a site.  Thank goodness there was only one other camper in the campground, allowing us to pick  a spacious spot (spacious if you’re a tent).  There was only two or three options total that would work….yikes!

We have a beautiful view of the dunes from our rig, but due to our late start in the day, the sun is already setting.  We’ll explore a little in the morning before hitting the road again.Sand Dunes

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located off US Highway 160 in southern Colorado about 240 miles south of Denver or 245 miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The dunes are the tallest in North America and are nestled against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountain range.  A favorite pastime of visitors is to climb these massive dunes and sled down.

San Isabel National Forest is host to an abundance of hiking, four wheeling, or horseback riding trails.  I wish we had more time to explore, but we have a snowstorm to outrun.  This is definitely a place we look forward to revisiting and taking our time exploring.  However, we will park the rig at the nearby San Luis State Park, which will accommodate our length with a bit more ease.Sand Dunes

RVing

Conflicted…

RVingI have been faced with some challenges lately.  I find myself conflicted between responsibilities, obligations, doing the ‘right’ thing, or doing what I want.  As a wife, mother, daughter, and friend, I quite often put myself last – AFTER everyone else.  I think it’s a common thread among most women.

As I ride this emotional rollercoaster, hubby maintains a cautious distance assessing whether it’s Jekyll or Hyde he’s dealing with.  Feeling somewhat safe, hubby finally comments, “When is it your turn, Ingrid?  Don’t you think it’s time to think about yourself?  Time to put YOU first?”

Ah,but the guilt.  However, the events of this past year have worn me down….taken a tole on me mentally and physically.  I need to recharge……reboot.

We all deal with life’s challenges differently.  Some people pray or perhaps meditate.  Some folks turn to food, drink, exercise, or any number of other vices.  For me, it’s a combination.  I never did quite get the meditation thing down, but I have been known to pray.  A Betty Crockergood hike followed by a large helping of chocolate works better for me than any bottle filled with Zoloft or Wellbutrin.

So that being said, I went for a hike alone this morning in the State Park.  Just me and a lone coyote strolling while soaking in the warm sun and gorgeous blue sky.  I left the camera and headphones behind.  I needed to think and perhaps have a good cry.

I returned home after my stroll in the State Park and whipped up a batch of brownies.  After devouring half of these decadent treats ….clarity.  The clarity I was seeking.  Clarity without guilt (guilt after eating these brownies is another story).   A weight was lifted (although physical weight was added due to over indulgence of calories).   I’m not sure if it was the fresh air, the serotonin laced chocolate, the spent tears or the combination, but it did wonders for my mood.  Hubby has even removed that special vest he’s been wearing.

I now know what I have to do and what I want to do…clarity….no longer conflicted  🙂RVing

Lory State Park

Lory State Park

Just twenty minutes west of Fort Collins sits Lory State Park.  The park covers over 2500 acres of beautiful terrain consisting of unique rock outcroppings, grassy open meadows, shrubby hillsides, and ponderosa pines.  The park offers a variety of activities such as hiking, backcountry camping, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing.

There are twelve clearly marked and mapped trails.  Our first stop is Waterfall Trail for a short stroll to what we hope will be a waterfall.  What we discover is a small trickle of water.  The snow melt isn’t significant enough just yet, thus a mere trickle.  After a little laughing and joking we return to the truck and drive up the road a piece.

son and daughter hiking Lory State Park

We take the road to the far end of the park.  We contemplate the Arthur’s Rock Trail but opt for the Shoreline Trail which takes us toward Horsetooth Reservoir.  The trail is clearly marked and easy.  The red sandstone is a striking background to the grassy meadow.

As residents of Colorado for over fifteen years, we’ve learned to always keep an eye on the sky.  Colorado rates second in the country when it comes to lightning strikes, Florida number one.  Therefore while hiking in Colorado, it is prudent to pay attention to the weather and to the sky.  Weather here can change abruptly and severely and since the ominous clouds are starting to roll in, we head back to the vehicle and call it a day.

If you’re in the Fort Collins area, I would definitely recommend a day trip of picnicking and hiking at Lory State Park.  The drive to get here is also worth seeing.  Allow plenty of time to stop along the way.  You won’t be disappointed!