We left Sturgis earlier than planned, just two days into the actual rally. It started getting quite a bit rowdier than we cared to stick around for. Linda and Walter left to return to Florida, as they were expecting their first grandchild’s arrival. Doug and Kelly continued with us for the first portion of our Colorado experience. We decided to drive through Wyoming and stayed overnight in Cheyenne.
The following day we arrived in Estes Park and settled in. Estes Park is a quaint mountain village at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. We were excited as we drove into the park the following day. The park was celebrating its 100th Anniversary. We ascended via Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road, the highest major highway in North America and with every turn we were more and more breathless, both literally and figuratively.
We arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center, located in the tundra as it is above the tree line, (elevation 12,000 feet above sea level). The plants survive by conserving energy and they are very sparse and small. The 360º views of the surrounding peaks, canyons and forests were nothing short of spectacular. To the west of the Visitors’ Center is the Continental Divide where the watersheds flow either eastward toward the Pacific Ocean or westward toward the Atlantic Ocean.
John and Jackson also got to see this amazing mountain range from the perspective of the Visitor’s Center as Jackson was not allowed on the trail.
People claim that elk are just about everywhere, but even though we never saw any, we were pretty ecstatic upon running into a female moose by the side of the road, which according to the park ranger, is not a common occurrence.
While in Estes Park, we visited the Stanley Hotel. The Stanley is the hotel featured in the moving “The Shining”. It is beautifully appointed and the gardens are gorgeous, but it is still spirited.
We left Estes Park and drove to Central City/Blackhawk via the Peak to Peak Highway. We wanted to visit the historic Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs. As we left the RV Park, there was a sign which read Idaho Springs 8 miles. Going via the highway was at least 20 miles, so John opted to take the shorter route. The road was paved and looked fairly nice, until … the pavement was no longer and then it became gravel. Well, it could have been worse, it could be dirt. Once on the road, we were committed and could not turn around, so onward we continued. Then…. it did become worse, there was no more gravel, only dirt. The road, of course without guardrails, was very narrow as it winded around the mountain. We drove very slowly and were all extremely tense hoping for no oncoming vehicles. As it was, already one of our back wheels was pretty much hanging off this little dirt road. Kelly was so scared, she missed the entire drive as she was bent down on the floorboard praying. When we finally arrived at the end of the road and connected with a much larger one, we all needed both a bathroom and heavy drinks. We later learned the locals call that road “the OMG road”, and for good reason. We finally arrived at Indian Hot Springs where we enjoyed full body massages, outdoor jacuzzis and gender specific, bathing suit optional, geothermal caves. Now, that was certainly a unique experience.
After a few days of a little gambling and visiting Idaho Springs, it was time for Kelly and Doug to return back to South Carolina. We decided to visit the Royal Gorge Bridge in Cañon City, and watched some take the Zip Rider, the highest zip line in North America.
From Cañon City, we visited Colorado Springs. We stayed at a campground south of Colorado Springs where deer were daily guests during dawn and happy hour. They were so comfortable with the campers that they often wandered into occupied sites. During “happy hour” as soon as Jackson saw them he became very vocal. He barked so loud, as only beagles can do, that the manager paid us a visit asking us to please try to “keep the dog from barking”. Good luck with that! I asked the manager that when we made the reservations, they had assured us that they were a pet friendly park and that they never told us about having a herd of deer in the park and that it was only 5:00 o’clock, way before quiet time and that actually there is no way to keep a beagle from barking when deer approach our site and just stand there taunting him about 20 feet away. I informed him that Jackson is usually a very quiet dog and that he would revert to his normal behavior if he were to gently remove the deer. To this, naturally he said it was never going to happen. So after some back and forth banter, he then suggested that we give Jackson a “cookie” (pot), and that if we didn’t have one, he would be happy to provide us with one. I then asked him if could divulge who the complainers were and he only offered that it was an elderly couple. (Great – that eliminated probably only one couple). So I quickly suggested that perhaps “the cookie” would better serve the offended couple. It would certainly help them “chill a bit” and that he perhaps should offer it to them instead. Don’t fret, although this exchange appears a bit tense, it actually was quite humorous, as he just shook his head, wished us a good day, told Jackson to “keep it down” and never bothered us again. I guess he just sensed the simmering Cuban temper.
While in Colorado Springs, we visited Pike’s Peak, which is one of the 14ers (14,000 feet in altitude) in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. We opted to take the Cog Railway in lieu of driving the Pike’s Peak Highway. It was warm and sunny when the trip began however, upon arrival at the summit, albeit still sunny, it was windy and much cooler. Fortunately, we prepared accordingly.
We visited Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark.
We proceeded to the western part of the state and arrived at Grand Junction. Visited the Colorado National Monument, which we had never heard of before. It was actually a beautiful ride, with amazing rock formations and spectacular views
We moved on to Cortez, visited Mesa Verde National Park, where there are over 4000 archaeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings.
The Cliff Palace is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.
From Mesa Verde we drove to Durango and took the Silver Vista on the Durango and Silverton line. The ride to Silverton was absolutely beautiful. Although rainy and cold, Silverton, an old mountain western town was still a fun place to visit.
On a day trip we visited Four Corners and it was interesting, although somewhat disappointing. The Four Corners Monument marks the boundary between two semi-autonomous Native American governments, the Navajo Nation which maintains the monument as a tourist attraction and the Ute Tribe Reservation. Also, it is the only point in the United States where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet.
A few days later we drove to Telluride and met up with John and Ruthie DeJaynes, Heartland friends who live near Kansas City, Missouri. Telluride is a very affluent and incredibly beautiful ski town, framed by the San Juan Mountains where everything is within walking distance, and if not quite so, then the free gondolas will provide you easy access.
Our trip continued as we crossed the border on to Moab, Utah. While there we visited two of the “Great Five” National Parks, appropriately named. Moab is one of the cutest towns we have visited. Visiting the Arches National Park, home to over 2,000 sandstone arches, including the famous Delicate Arch, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park where the highlights of this area. I could not tell you which we enjoyed best as all have their own unique beauty. We vowed to return to Utah as we still have three more national parks to see.