A Visit to Crested Butte, CO

Some places we visit will always hold a special place in our hearts and Crested Butte, Colorado is one of those places. We moved to Colorado in the mid nineties when our children were young, and the first Colorado mountain town we visited was Crested Butte.

This former flatlander from Illinois was awe-struck with the majestic snow-covered mountains surrounding Crested Butte. Our family of four was immediately smitten, and subsequent visits to this lovely Colorado mountain town ensued over the years.

wildflowers in Crested Butte ColoradoAlthough our first visit to Crested Butte was during the winter, Crested Butte is every bit as much fun during the summer as it is in winter. The town may be known for its awesome skiing and winter fun, but summers offer a whole slew of other activities. As a matter of fact, Crested Butte is considered the birth place of mountain biking. Although, I‚Äôm sure there are plenty of folks that might disagree with this statement. There’s an ongoing debate about where mountain biking originated ūüėŹ

This quaint little mountain town is also considered the Wildflower Capital of Colorado and home to the Wildflower Festival held each July when the mountain meadows are covered in blooms. Once Al and I became empty nesters, we skipped the winter excursions to the mountains and focused on embracing those summer get aways.

Lake Irwin Campground Colorado Crested Butte Keebler Pass

Lake Irwin Campground, near Crested Butte Colorado and Kebler Pass

A memorable trip

July 2012 – It‚Äôs three o‚Äôclock in the morning and the dog is shaking and can’t seem to get comfortable.¬† He‚Äôs laying in the tent on a blanket¬†near my side of the air mattress and he is clearly cold.¬† I grab my hoody¬†and cover him, and he falls back to sleep.¬† I‚Äôm glad one of us can¬†fall asleep so quickly.

After tossing and turning for a bit, I decide to step outside for a moment.¬† I reluctantly throw off the two layers of sleeping bags and¬†scurry to the foot of the air mattress¬†to put on my shoes.¬† No need to throw on clothes, since I’m already fully clothed in sweatpants and sweatshirt.¬† It‚Äôs cold at three in the morning camped at 10,000 feet in elevation …. as in 36 degrees Fahrenheit cold and this being mid July ūüėĮ

I’m not sure whose idea the tent camping excursion was considering we had a new 5th wheel sitting on the side of our house. Okay, it was my idea! We were such newbies at the time with the RV that we weren’t comfortable pulling it to the Lake Irwin Campground near Kebler Pass. Plus, there were only a couple of first come first serve campsites that we felt we would comfortably fit into.

camping near Crested Butte, Colorado at Lake Irwin

Our campsite at Lake Irwin near Crested Butte, Colorado

I quietly unzip the tent and crawl out. I‚Äôm immediately awestruck with the most incredible vision while my face is assaulted with a blast of cold air.¬† The stars and crescent moon are so vivid and bright that I have no¬†trouble seeing around the campsite.¬† I stand there taking in the incredible beauty surrounding me before I‚Äôm reminded as to why I‚Äôm standing outside the tent at three in the morning …. and shivering.

Hmm, I contemplate the walk to the restroom down the road. This is serious bear and mountain lion country.¬† Since I have no inclination of being some animal’s midnight snack, I quickly take care of business at the edge of our campsite. I continued to linger outside admiring the sky before the cold has me crawling back into a nice warm bed.

After what felt like only thirty minutes of sleep, I’m woken by a very restless Brittany Spaniel. It‚Äôs only 5:30 in the morning and I‚Äôve decided to rename my sweet little Bear‚Ķ..‚ÄĚdamn dog‚ÄĚ.¬† (ya know, I love my Brittany Spaniel and wouldn‚Äôt trade him for the world, but he wants a walk at fricken 5:30 in the morning in the fricken cold while it’s still dark outside). Al remains sound asleep …. grrrr!

camping at Lake Irwin near Crested Butte Colorado

tent camping at Lake Irwin near Crested Butte, CO – July 2012

Damn dog and I go for a stroll, not venturing too far from our campsite.¬† I‚Äôm the only two-legged creature out and about.¬† Did I already mention we‚Äôre camped in bear and mountain lion country?¬† I‚Äôm on alert!¬† ‚ÄúHurry up, damn dog‚ÄĚ.¬† Finally with his ‚Äúbusiness‚ÄĚ complete, we return to the warmth of sleeping bags and try to catch a few more winks of sleep.

By seven o‚Äôclock, the sun is rising and I hear other campers in the distance.¬† Al awakes and informs me how great he slept (damn husband).¬† In a not so pleasant voice, sleep deprived wife tells damn husband and damn dog, ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going into town for breakfast.¬† I need a cup of strong black¬†coffee‚ÄĚ.

McGill's Crested Butte, Colorado for great breakfast and coffeeWe drive aimlessly around Crested Butte looking for a place for breakfast.  Eventually, Al has me pull to the side of the road and stop. He jumps out of the truck and walks over to a pretty blonde lady watering flowers.

He and blonde lady chuckle in a flirtatious engaging way (do I really care? NO … need coffee).¬† When Al hops back in the truck, he proceeds to tell me to drive up Elk Street three blocks.¬† “Blonde lady says¬†McGills serves a great breakfast”.¬† It was indeed a good breakfast, BUT the coffee was amazing and just what I needed.

A full tummy and two cups of coffee later, we‚Äôre back to ‚Äúdear husband‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúadorable Bear‚ÄĚ.¬† I love my boys! Al and I discuss exploratory options for the day, but first I need a little retail therapy.

Crested Butte ColoradoWe enter a T-shirt shop. Al and Bear head over to the counter where Al strikes up a conversation with the young man behind the counter. We love the fact that this town is so dog friendly that Bear is able to go with us everywhere except inside restaurants. 

We’re the only ones in the store and during the course of idol chit-chat with the shop clerk, he notes we drive a Toyota Tacoma. He drives a Toyota 4-Runner, sister to the Tacoma lol, and immediately recommends a backcountry scenic loop drive that we must experience.

We’re given a complimentary map along with a few pointers and warnings from this knowledgable local. Two t-shirts later, we hit the road heading into the backcountry … ready to explore.

dog friendly Crested Butte Colorado

Crested Butte is very dog friendly. Bear went everywhere with us.

A scenic drive

We head up Slate River Road, just north of the town of Crested Butte.  As expected, the pavement ends quickly.  We pass some beautiful homes early in the journey.  As we start to climb in elevation and the road starts to narrow, we see campers , ATVer’s as well as local wildlife.

Slate River Road Crested Butte Colorado

Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte backcountry 4x4

local wildlife – Moooove!

mountain homes near Crested Butte Colorado

Beautiful mountain homes dot the landscape near Crested Butte

A little further into the remote landscape, I finally start seeing some wildflowers.¬† Up to this point I wondered, ‚ÄúWildflower capital¬†of Colorado‚ÄĚ?¬† Say what?¬† The drought conditions severely affected the display of wildflowers during the summer of ’12. Even though the wildflowers weren’t impressive, the scenery was spectacular.

I usually drive during these exploratory excursions to maintain marital bliss, but more importantly to control photo-op stops. Yeah, I can go a little overboard with the photo-op stopping which can get a tad annoying for a non photographer ūü§ó Besides, Al says he likes being chauffeured¬†around by a pretty lady.¬† Awe, ain‚Äôt that sweet!

Slate River Road Crested Butte Colorado

Slate River Road – two-way traffic on this one lane road

We continue up Slate River Road.  It’s narrow but in good condition. This one-lane road is meant for two-way traffic which is why we like driving the Tacoma in lieu of the F-250 while exploring mountainous backcountry.

We pass the turn for Washington Gulch Road¬†and continue toward Schofield Pass.¬† The road gets narrower and more precarious. I can’t imagine two vehicles fitting on this road.

As we come around a blind switch back, we encounter¬†a truck loaded with people heading toward us.¬† The pickup truck is colored lime green and set up kind of like an open air safari vehicle with bench seating in the rear. “Oh dear! We are going to need to pass each other!”

I need to back up and get us as close to the side of the mountain as possible (thank goodness, I have the inside).¬† The other truck and I both pull in our outside mirrors and we slowly pass each other within inches. He‚Äôs the one on the outside edge and I can see his tourist passengers are wide-eyed and a tad nervous. One slip, and down the mountain they roll.¬† Once we successfully passed each other, the driver waves and comments, ‚ÄúThanks, we got‚Äôer‚ÄĚ, and the passengers started clapping.¬† Since this is¬†Wildflower Festival week, there are all kinds of additional tours, vehicle traffic and activities planned throughout the week.

Schofield Pass Mt. Baldy Crested Butte Colorado

Near Schofield Pass and Mt. Baldy – over 11,000 feet in elevation

We‚Äôre on the other side of Mt. Baldy¬†now and we stop for a much-needed break.¬† The scenery is breathtaking.¬† Al checks his phone and is shocked.¬† ‚ÄúIt works!‚Ä̬† No cell reception at the Lake Irwin campground, but it works up here.

This stretch of road is tame and easily navigated. Wish it had all been like this.

After a few photo-ops near Schofield Pass, we retrace that ledge of a road back to the Washington Gulch turn, all the while I pray I won’t have to pass anyone.  That would put me on the outside edge … yikes!  Fortunately my prayers are answered, and we don’t meet another vehicle for quite some time.

Washington Gulch Road Crested Butte Colorado

Washington Gulch Road – we saw more wildflowers along this stretch

Washington Gulch Road does present its own challenges with a small creek crossing, but nothing the little truck can’t handle. We also noticed a few RV’s boondocking off Washington Gulch Road.

(We were such RV newbies at that time, that we couldn’t imagine pulling our brand new RV to any of the boondocking locations we saw. Now? Piece of cake and we wouldn’t give it a second thought. But then again, our RV ain’t so new anymore … as evidenced by the dings and scratches and as one person recently referred to us …. we’re “seasoned” RVers ūüėŹ)

backcountry roads near Crested Butte Colorado

What a great Day!

We had such a fabulous time exploring this stunningly beautiful landscape that I would highly recommend this excursion to anyone with a high clearance vehicle. However, please check at the local visitor center in the town of Crested Butte for up to date road conditions, and do note, there are some areas where the road is literally cut into the side of a mountain causing severe drop-offs. Thus, I don’t recommend it for anyone with a fear of heights.

For a more tame backcountry excursion, we enjoyed driving Route 12 from Crested Butte to the tiny town of Paonia. Paonia is a small community with wineries, lavender and agricultural fields. No four-wheel drive needed when we took this drive in July of 2012. Please verify and double-check road conditions before embarking on this remote stretch of road over Kebler Pass.

Quaking Aspen at Kebler Pass

As Al and I continued to explore Colorado’s backcountry near Crested Butte, we take in the sights and sounds of the stunning terrain.  We travel from open mountain meadows, through scented pine forests, and pass through densely populated aspen groves.

Aspen Trees Keebler Pass near Crested Butte Colorado

Kebler Pass – forest of Aspen trees

The unique sound of quaking Aspen Leaves lures us in. The sound has us wondering¬† if there’s a gentle waterfall in the distance or is it merely the fluttering of aspen leaves?

This particular grove or colony of aspen trees along Kebler Pass is aspen treederived from a single seedling and spread by means of root suckers.¬† New stems in a colony may grow as far away as 130 feet from the parent tree. It’s kind of like there’s one mommy tree and all the rest of the aspen trees are children. Fascinating!

An individual tree can live¬† 40-150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony can live for hundreds of years. Legend¬†has it, the aspen tree can drive off evil spirits.¬† An aspen stake was believed to be one of the few weapons suitable to kill a vampireūüßõ‚Äć‚ôāÔłŹ

Colorado is synonymous with this famous white-barked tree, adorning golden leaves in the fall.  Colorado gold comes in many forms. Beautiful golden leaves dotting the landscape and the peaceful sound of quaking leaves are just a couple more reasons to love Colorado!

Aspen grove at Keebler Pass Crested Butte, Colorado

driving through an Aspen groove at Kebler Pass

Colorado gold

Colorado Gold in the fall.

For Coffee Lovers

After three days and four nights of tent camping near picturesque Crested Butte, it was time for us to break camp and head home, BUT first, we needed (or rather I needed) to have breakfast one more time at McGill’s to drink up some more of that yummy coffee.

breaking camp at Lake Irwin campground Crested Butte Colorado

Al breaking camp – it was fun, but I missed the comforts of the RV

Al is not normally a coffee drinker and when he does drink coffee he sticks with one of those designer concoctions like a macchiato or mocha, but after trying my cup of black coffee, he ordered a cup for himself ūüė≤

Camp 4 Coffee Crested Butte ColoradoWhile the waitress was refilling our coffee mugs, we mentioned how good the coffee was. She was quick to share the name and location of the local coffee roasters and the blend McGill’s uses.

With that said, we couldn’t possibly leave town without a visit to this coffee roaster.¬†Camp 4 Coffee is a locally owned Crested Butte business and has a cute little shop¬† just down the road from McGill’s.

There was no way I was leaving town without a bag or two of Camp 4 Coffee.  I purchased a couple of pounds of the Sledgehammer roast and a pound of the Blue Mesa blend which is the blend McGill’s serves.

Can you believe, after thirty plus years of marriage, I turned Al into a coffee drinker thanks to Camp 4 Coffee. He still prefers those designer coffee concoctions, but when I splurge and buy a special roast, he’ll join me in drinking his coffee black. Wonders never cease!

Yep, Crested Butte, Colorado remains one of our favorite mountain towns and holds special memories for our family!

Monarch Pass Colorado

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Dome Tent
Camp Propane Grill/Stove
Yellow Mug

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The Back way to Telluride

Stopping in at a local visitor center is the perfect way I like to start exploring a new area. The first time Al and I camped at Ridgway State Park was the first time we experienced this part of western Colorado, and I couldn’t wait to dive in and explore.

Lost Dollar

Last Dollar Road – back way to Telluride, CO

And by diving in and exploring, that meant taking the roads less traveled. One of the activities that is super popular around the town of Ouray, Colorado, is 4×4 back country travel. If you don’t have your own 4×4, there are several businesses eager to rent you a Jeep, ATV, or UTV or you can sign up for a guided tour. Free maps are available noting these back roads with a designation from easy to difficult.

This is another reminiscing post about our travels to western Colorado. Although, I will truly miss a Colorado excursion this summer, new adventures await here in Arizona.

Roads less traveled

It was July 2013¬† ….¬† Al and I review the¬†atlas and peruse all the information we picked up at the¬†Ridgway State Park¬†visitor center.¬† From the state park to the mountain ski town of Telluride should¬†be about a one hour drive¬†if we stay on the main roads.¬† Al and I talk about it, and contemplate our route. “Hmm, we have all day.¬† What‚Äôs the hurry?” one of us asks.

Telluride

This southwest part of Colorado was a buzz of mining activity in the 1800’s.  Even Telluride’s logo is that of a miner’s pick.   This mining activity created a multitude of back roads throughout the picturesque San Juan Mountains.

Today these back roads are available for Jeeps and OHV (off highway vehicles).

Some of these back roads are assessable by regular automobiles, but most require high clearance, and others demand four-wheel drive capabilities.  The roads might be gravel, dirt, rock or any combination of the three.

Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road ‚Äď this road is classified as ‚Äúeasy‚ÄĚ

The back way to Telluride

My little red four-wheel drive Toyota Tacoma should be able to handle most of the roads we were interested in and researched.¬† Al and I err on the side of caution and pick a couple of ‚Äúeasy‚ÄĚ roads to explore …. one of which is called the ‚ÄúLast Dollar Road‚ÄĚ.¬† As far as mileage goes, this is a shorter traveling distance to Telluride than taking the main roads.¬† However, time wise it would be double.¬† Obviously, we won’t be driving this road at¬†60 miles per hour.

Last Dollar Road

some ruts were a little deep, but no problem for us.

For the most part, it was an easy drive even though there were some mud puddles from the storms the day before.  The visitor center publication was informative, spot on, and we were glad to have read it before hand.  Some of the ruts, mud, and water would definitely present a problem for a vehicle without a high clearance.  We encountered no problems, and the drive presented some amazing scenery complete with wildflowers.

Telluride

Telluride

Telluride

It was the end of July and the wildflowers were starting to wane, but I was still thrilled with the tufts of color here and there.

Telluride

The drive from Ridgway State Park to Telluride took us about two hours and that included all the photo-op stops.¬† I didn’t think that was too bad considering the slow speed that the road necessitated. It was a beautiful drive that I would do again in a heartbeat. Plus it wasn’t too challenging of a drive and was relatively easy to navigate.

I might venture to say, mid July and mid September would be the two most perfect months to explore these back roads. Wildflowers in mid July are at their peak and fall colors mid to end of September are at their peak.

TellurideOnce in Telluride, we stopped at the visitor center in town to gather up some local information. Al always likes to ask locals for lunch recommendations.

We found ourselves at a kind of sports bar housed in an old house off a side street.¬† It appears to be¬†a favorite with locals.¬† Lunch was good, but nothing special, and I’m not sure I’d return, especially with so many other restaurants to try.

After lunch we headed over to the gondola station for a ride up and over the summit to Mountain Village.  The folks at the visitor center highly recommended this. Pretty cool that the ride is free considering other mountain towns in Colorado charge upwards of $25 per person for their gondolas. The Gondola here in Telluride operates year round free of charge and is a common form of public transportation for workers, school children, mountain bikers, hikers, and of course, tourists.  Oh, and it’s pooch friendly too.

On the way to the gondola, we encountered a farmer’s market and quickly took notes as to some potential purchases we should make before heading home.  A grocery list quickly formed in my head!

Gondola

 

Once we arrived at the gondola, we noticed all the mountain bikers and hikers. The Telluride side of the mountain is pretty steep while the Mountain Village side appears to be more moderate.  That’s where these two young mountain bikers were heading.  They’ll disembark at the summit and ride their bikes back down toward the town of Mountain Village.  We also saw quite a few hikers doing this as well.  There appeared to be very few hiking or biking down on the Telluride side of the mountain. Too steep perhaps!

Telluride

Telluride

With our ‚Äėtourist‚Äô day coming to an end, we picked up some goodies at the local farmers market held on Friday mornings during the summer months, and promised each other future visits to this¬†beautiful mountain town would be a must.

For our return drive to the RV, we took the highway back to Ridgway State Park and arrived about an hour later.  I’ll admit, even the scenery via the highway was lovely, although not quite as beautiful or adventurous as taking the Last Dollar Road but lovely just the same.

It was a great day exploring amongst some breathtaking scenery and we couldn’t wait to tackle another back country road.

Telluride

Al and me at Mountain Village – love the European feel

Another back country road

From our campsite at Ridgway State Park, I had an unobstructed view of unique rock formations known as Courthouse Mountain and Chimney Rock. My curiosity was piqued and I once again scoured the maps and information that I’d picked up at the visitor center.¬† The map indicates there’s a back country road labeled as easy that will take me closer to this mountain range.

Ridgway State Park Colorado Site 3

We catch County Road 10 just a couple of minutes south of our camp at Ridgway State Park and head east toward Chimney Rock.  The road is wide and gravel and no four-wheel drive is necessary. We pass some of the most beautiful ranches with unbelievable views.

Ranches near Ridgway Colorado and Owl Creek Pass with Courthouse Rock in the background

Somewhere along this stretch is the field where they filmed John Wayne taking on the bad guys in the movie ‚ÄúTrue Grit‚Ä̂Ķ. reins in teeth and guns a-blazing.

Ranches near Ridgway Colorado

We continue our trek up and over Owl Creek Pass toward¬†Silver Jack Reservoir.¬† Although the road is gravel, it’s in great shape and easy to negotiate. This is the perfect¬†Owl Creek Pass Ridgway Coloradodrive for anyone who has a problem with altitude because it doesn‚Äôt go much above 10,000 feet in elevation and there aren’t any sheer drop offs for those with a fear of heights.

It’s a great excursion easing oneself into the remote countryside. However, the views aren’t nearly as spectacular as the other mountain passes. Much of this road meanders through forested land.

Silver Jack Reservoir and Campground is about a 21 mile drive from Highway 550 and not the preferred route for RV’s.¬†¬†The easier route to take for campers would be from the town of Cimarron off Highway 50.

Silver Jack Lake near Ridgway Colorado

Silver Jack Lake, Colorado

The Silver Jack Campground sits in a forest of Aspen and Pine trees in the¬†Uncompahgre National Forest.¬† Some of the sites are large enough to accommodate our 31‚Ä≤ Fifth Wheel, but there’s no internet service.¬† We couldn‚Äôt even get one bar on our phones¬†ūüė¶¬†We didn’t find the¬†reservoir to be easily accessible, finding only one road leading down to the water‚Äôs edge.¬† There were, however, numerous hiking trails.

Owl Creek Pass, Colorado

Back road near Owl Creek Pass, Colorado

This was another great driving excursion offering us some beautiful scenery and solitude.

Still on my list

Our time in the area was over before we knew it, and I still had a few more back country excursions on my list. Unfortunately, those roads will have to wait for another time…. there’s Imogene Pass and Engineer Pass, but the¬†Yankee Boy Basin¬†Road remained at the top of my list. It’s classified as moderate and four-wheel drive is highly recommended.¬† We shouldn‚Äôt have any trouble¬†driving Yankee Boy Basin with the Tacoma, but it would be a more challenging drive than¬†Owl Creek Pass¬†or Last Dollar Road.

Mid July, when wildflowers are blooming, would be the perfect time to visit and do a little high country hiking at the end of this out and back road – that is, if I think I can handle the high altitude.

Columbine flower Colorado's state flower

For those of us looking for an “extreme” Colorado adventure, check out this video of Black Bear Pass. This is the one pass vehicle rental companies will not allow you to drive with their equipment. If you do not have your own Jeep/UTV or you don’t feel experienced enough to negotiate this treacherous pass, but are still interested in experiencing this adrenal filled excursion, there are tours available in the town of Ouray – something that’s on my bucket list.

Black Bear Pass is a one way single lane road starting from just outside of the town of Ouray and traversing¬†up and over the mountain into the town of Telluride. The road is only open starting sometime in July and closing sometime in September. Because there have been fatalities, (ya know – folks rolling off the side of the mountain) there are talks of closing off access to this high country pass. So knowing that, would you be interested in such an excursion? I’m game, if you are!

Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue – John Muir

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Hiking Colorado’s Western Slope (Falcon Guides)¬†

The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go T-Shirt

RVing in Colorado

This will be the second summer in a row that we won’t be spending any time in Colorado… sigh! I love Colorado and called it home for over twenty years. Once we sold our Colorado home and moved into the RV full-time, we still continued to spend our summers meandering around the state, that is, up until last year.

Cherry Creek, Colorado

The RV has allowed us to explore and see parts of Colorado that we never had the opportunity to experience while living in our sticks and bricks house. And while we aren’t returning to Colorado this summer by choice, that doesn’t mean a part of me isn’t missing it.

We arrived at our summer ‘home’ in Prescott, Arizona on the 1st of May and were quickly reminded how weather in the high country likes to surprise us with one last winter storm before giving way to spring.

Our home for the summer in Prescott Valley, Arizona – photo taken May 2nd ūüôĄ

Our first full day in Prescott Valley brought inclement weather in the form of rain, thunder, hail and sleet. Al and I chuckled as the loud sound of hail pummeling the roof of the RV made having a conversation impossible. After five minutes, the hail stopped leaving in its wake a thin layer of white covering the landscape which fortunately melted quickly. And also fortunate, the hail was small in size and caused no damage.

This spring storm reminded me of Colorado and made me smile as fond memories flooded my mind. With that said, I thought I’d do a little reminiscing by sharing with you one of my favorite mountain towns in Colorado. Here’s a blog post I wrote a while back….

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. Plus, 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

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past few years and each visit was truly a joy.  First off, Telluride is beautiful.  I mean, drop dead gorgeous. It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs along with the stunning 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.

I love the architecture in Telluride. Each structure is one of a kind. There’s a beautiful blend of old and new which captivates my attention and appeals to my taste. There‚Äôs a hiking trail that allows one to wander from town all the way out toward Bridal Veil Falls allowing a visitor to admire the houses along the way …. each unique and attractive.

Telluride, CO

I was in love with these houses – restored 1800’s

Trivia:  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 favorites list.  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‚Äôve enjoyed hikes to Bridal Veil Falls, shopped the Friday morning Farmer‚Äôs Market, and taken the¬†free Gondola ride – a bonus not to be missed. We‚Äôve¬†taken a back country 4√ó4 road¬†to get to Telluride which I call the ‘back way’.¬† We‚Äôve eaten at several tasty restaurants,¬†met fellow bloggers for a brew,¬†and generally savored the vibe and beauty that is quintessential Telluride.

Where to eat in Telluride

We’ve eaten at several restaurants throughout town but our personal favorites are eating at the local farmers market or Smuggler’s Brewery. At¬†Smuggler’s Brew Pub,¬†they serve up a great burger along with some tasty brews. Al always orders a beer called “Debauchery“. With its 10% alcohol content, it’s served in a brandy sniffer in lieu of the normal beer glass. With Debauchery’s high alcohol content combined with Telluride’s near 9,000 foot elevation, one drink is usually hubby’s limit, especially if I’ve planned lots of walking afterwards ūüėĄ

Telluride, Colorado

Camping near Telluride

Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we’ve always 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 in western Colorado.

Tee PeeMuch closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground;  Sunshine Campground.  The campground is super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.

We would love to stay at the Sunshine Campground due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride, but unfortunately, we’d barely¬†fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than our comfort level allows, but this campground is perfect for smaller RV’s.

Further down the road is the¬†Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground, and this place can accommodate just about anyone, but finding an available site might prove to be difficult. It’s a very popular place.

 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.

Lodging in Telluride

And when it comes to other types of lodging, should camping not be your thing, Telluride has it all.  Check out this guide for more information on planning your visit to Telluride, one of my favorite Colorado mountain towns, and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

With so much natural beauty along with an abundance of things to see and do, it’s no wonder Telluride could easily be referred to as ‘everyone’s favorite mountain town‘.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away – Maya Angelou

(affiliate links)
Hiking Colorado: A Guide To The State’s Greatest Hiking
 Adventure Awaits Wall Decal Stickers

Mountain Lake Forest Landscape Wall Decal

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 РFor 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 ūüė¶ )¬† 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!

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 ūüėČ

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 РReluctantly 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 Рwe 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 Рsite #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)

 

Re-calculating mid stream

canadian geese It‚Äôs an early Saturday morning as we wind our way through Denver. We‚Äôre perplexed by the amount of traffic on the roads at seven in the morning on a weekend. Don‚Äôt you people ever sleep in? Ah, with so much beauty and recreation out their front door, it‚Äôs obvious, it’s time to play….. that’s what we do!

A mere thirty minutes east of Denver, we practically have the road to ourselves. With the RV pointing east, there’s no longer a view of any mountains, just a long stretch of openness in front of us. As we pass sprawling ranch land and cattle feed lots, our emotions about this excursion are mixed. That’s kind of the norm for us as we rarely relish trips back east even though we do look forward to reconnecting with family.

As we enter Nebraska, the land gets flatter Рabout as flat as a Monopoly board and the agricultural land is divided off into similar parcels. America’s Great Plains can be harsh and unforgiving land. There’s nothing to stop the winds from blowing snow in a sideways direction or a spring storm turning into a deadly twister, not to mention the extreme temperatures.Interstate 80

While we meander down the road, we take in our surroundings. We appreciate our comfy cushioned leather seats versus a hard saddle. We appreciate the climate
covered wagoncontrolled truck cab versus the open air exposed seating of a covered wagon.

The air is thick with 90% humidity and an equally hot temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius). Yep, we appreciate the modern-day comforts of air conditioning along with our version of horse and wagon.¬† I can’t imagine the perils encountered while crossing this land a hundred years ago.

The¬†route from Colorado to Illinois is a drive Al and I have made more times than we can count.¬† However, this is the first time we’re making the¬†trip with the RV in tow.¬† Past trips were always done¬†with just the¬†vehicle and most times the 1,100 mile (1771 km) journey was driven in one very long day.¬† We’d hit the road around 5:00 a.m. in the morning and arrive¬†at our destination¬†at about 10:00 or 11:00 at night. We always dreaded these days.corn fields

Today was different.¬† We didn’t dread the drive or the day.¬† I found myself snapping photos out of the truck (the majority of photos turned out blurry, of course… love that delete button).¬† The plan all along was to make it to Omaha for the night, with a backup of stopping sooner if we weren’t up to driving 550 miles (885 km).¬† There’s comfort in knowing we can stop anytime we want and take a nap in our own bed.¬† Comfort in knowing we have a well stocked fridge and freezer for healthy meals.¬† Comfort in knowing we don’t have a schedule to maintain.¬† And comfort in knowing we are foot loose and fancy free.¬† Ah, the freedom of the open road.field of corn

We find ourselves engulfed with a sense of calm and adventure and enjoying the scenery unfolding in front of us.¬† This isn’t the in your face jaw dropping beauty we see in the Rocky Mountains.¬† Discovering this beauty requires a little digging…. figuratively and literally.¬† This is America’s heartland.¬† This land feeds people around the world.¬† Images of backyard barbeques, apple pie, and little kids running around are conjured.¬† It evokes a sense of home.

The nearly nine-hour, 550 mile drive to Omaha was pleasant and uneventful.  The two new audio books purchased for the drive remain sealed.  Al and I found ourselves talking about our plans for the next seven weeks instead of listening to books or music.  In so doing, we changed our mind about our journey about as many times as a teenage girl changes her outfit.  To say we were re-calculating is an understatement.

Cabela's

Our horse and covered wagon. We spend the night at the Cabela’s in Omaha, Nebraska

Before pulling into our parking spot in Omaha for the night we finally decided once we’re in Illinois, we’ll visit a state park for a couple of nights not far from where Al grew up.¬† As a matter of fact, the last time Al visited Starved Rock State Park¬† was during an¬†elementary school field trip.

Next up we’ll share whether or not Starved Rock State Park lives up to all the hype; voted number one attraction in the state of Illinois.corn fieldsInfo on our overnight stop in Omaha, Nebraska.¬† When Al and I are hightailing it from point A to point B, we usually look for a quick, safe place to overnight.¬† For such a¬†short stay, we usually won’t bother with a campground or RV Park.¬† We’re self-contained and comfortable dry camping¬†/ boondocking.¬† Wal-Mart of course is a popular option that we’ve taken advantage of many a time especially when we need to stock up on supplies anyway.¬†¬†Another option, one¬†we¬†prefer¬†is a¬†Cabela’s¬† store parking lot.¬† Although few and far between, we’ll check¬†anywhere along our route and make notes as to¬†any possible stores.¬† Many of the newer stores not only have a designated RV and truck parking area, they also offer a dump station and fresh water.

32 BridgeAl was once a preferred Cabela’s shopper receiving this sporting goods stores’ hard cover catalog.¬† So it may be free overnighting for most people, but for us???¬† ūüėܬ† Even our daughter wore her Cabela’s hat to the Luke Bryan Concert, which I initially thought was inappropriate until I realized Luke Bryan is not only a Cabela’s spokesperson, he has his own brand of product line sold at Cabela’s; 32 Bridge.

As we pull into the Cabela’s in Omaha, we quickly look for the sign pointing us in the direction of “RV Parking”.¬† It doesn’t take long and we realize this is a popular spot with semi-truckers.¬† We find a spot off to the side, away from the rumbling truck engines, and are quickly joined by two more RV’s.¬† Of course, an in store purchase was made before calling it a night.¬† The Omaha Cabela’s does not have a dump station but does have fresh water and has super easy access on and off Interstate 80.

Cabela’s in Colorado – along Interstate 25 (easy on, easy off), there is a new Cabela’s north of Denver and another to the south.¬† Both have dump stations, fresh water, and designated RV parking, all free of charge ….. unless wife buys a new pair of shoes!
Teva Women’s Kayenta Strappy Sandal, Vega Purple, 9 M US
Browning Men’s Buckmark Gold And T-Shirt Black X-Large

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!