"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Ahh, Perfection in Colorado

Buena Vista, Colorado

With the rain coming any minute we were eager to get to our favorite boondocking spot.  Since the ground here is packed and crushed granite instead of dirt/mud, we knew we'd be able to drive on the unpaved roads without worrying about getting stuck.  It's also flat here.
You'll pass through a meadow first with grazing cattle and plenty of Pronghorn.

Our favorite spot was taken so we drove further back than we normally do.  We found a nice spot tucked back in against a small ridge just as the rain started to fall.  
Our "drive way".
It was a pretty unlevel side to side, but we made it work.
View from the top of the small ridge above us.

So peaceful out here.
Looking towards Buena Vista you can see the peaks of Mt. Yale and Mt. Harvard in the distance. What makes this spot so scenic is that you can see several of the 14K Collegiate Peaks from here.
So where is this favorite site of ours?  It is between Nathrop and Buena Vista, west of Hwy 285 in Colorado.  It's still an area at the top of our list to have property at some point.  The area we are at this time is at 38.6759N  106.16330W.  To get here from Hwy 285, take CR270 and you will drive through some ranches.  You will pass through 2 gates and CR270 will become CR272.  This is well marked.  You will enter the San Isabel National Forest just past the meadow.  There are a few sites immediately along here.  The second one on the right is our absolute favorite.  Like many other boondocking areas, this one is getting more popular and can get pretty full.  This time we drove further back and turned left.  This road will eventually take you to Browns Creek Waterfall Trailhead where there is room to circle back if you can't find a site.  You'll be at 8900' elevation.  Come with empty tanks and full water.

What was nice about this spot is that it's a short walk to Browns Creek and the trailhead.  Hurley and I hiked around the creek each day.

We had 8 days here with plenty of time to visit the Farmers Markets in Salida and Buena Vista. Salida which is about 20 minutes south is much larger, but still a small town.  Salida has plenty of restaurants, breweries, distilleries and shops in a very vibrant town.  There are biking trails along the Arkansas River, rafting, fishing, museums and plenty of entertainment to keep you happy. Buena Vista is a very small town with a lovely park, eateries, and a funky vibe that sits near the same river about 10 minutes north of our boondocking spot.  So much outdoor fun in this area!  There is even a 1 screen drive-in on ranchland that runs during the summer.

Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista.
Since we didn't have any big plans, we just relaxed and got used to the much higher elevation.  It turned out that the next night was the last night the neighborhood drive-in was open. Jungle Cruise was playing so off we went.  Thankfully the rain stopped and it was a lot of fun as we hadn't been to a drive-in for 25 years or so.
The Comanche Drive In sits at 8000'.  The highest elevation drive-in.  It was built in 1966 by John & Pearl Groy and has remained a family business since.  It sits out in the field of their ranch home.  It is one of 335 in the country and one of 8 in Colorado.  $10 per vehicle.  It's open every night during the summer and weekends only weather permitting spring and fall.

A few days later Hurley and I hiked part of the 6.2 waterfall trail up Browns Creek.  It was a hot day and the trail was a bit too much for Hurley at 13 1/2 years old.  I never made it back up to the end but it was nice just to be on a mountain trail again. A hike I'd like to do another time.
Through the pines and up over the treeline gets you a nice view of the valley below.

We made it to 9300 feet and then turned back.  It was a nice 4 mile hike.
The fullmoon was rising as we headed down to Salida for some beer tasting and dinner.
First up was Soulcraft Brewing that was new to us.  It was a nice evening so we sat out on the patio.
The beer was good and so were the wings and fries that we split.
We walked around town and looked at the changes since we were here last.  I was surprised that so many of the shops were still open and thriving with Covid.  As many other towns have done, they closed off the main street to cars and made lots of cute outdoor dining patios.  We stopped back by our favorite pizza place, Amici's for a drink and a couple slices of pizza.  Thin crust with arugula, tomatoes, feta and spinach drizzled with olive oil and balsamic.
On the other side of town, across from the river sits Tenderfoot Mountain up Spiral Drive.  This hill has the "S" on it which also has an alternating red heart.  Really cute.  We have biked up this mountain and we also have a geocache that we hid called "Nice View from Behind".  The summit sits at 7517' and has a lookout.  From up here you can see the Collegiate Range, Sangre de Cristo Range the river and the town below.  Gorgeous!
"S" for Salida
Salida puts on an amazing Farmers Market for a small town.  This year though, we noticed it was much smaller.  We still bought some amazing Jalapeno Cheese Bread, fruit, veggies, cheese and goat milk soap.
This is a view of Tenderfoot Mountain with Spiral Rd leading up to the lookout.
The view looking down at Salida with some of the Collegiate Peaks in the background.
Main Street closed off to traffic.
A cute outdoor sitting area at one of the cafes.
Another new to us brewery was Tres Litros which Steve really liked.
We brought our water jugs with us so we could refill them for free at the new Visitor's Center.  We waiting in line behind this trailer with the cute wheel cover.
Dinner was Grilled Italian Sausages, fresh Tomato salad and some sauteed veggies using the Golden Beets from the farmers markets.  How colorful is that?
We enjoyed a nice bottle of Portuguese Red that our RV friends Mario and Ellen gave us back in Florida.

For dessert we made Bananas Foster.
A nice fire outside finished up our day with a beautiful full moon.  Next we will visit some nearby ghost towns that we haven't been to before.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

From the Plains to the Mountains - Colorado

Lamar, Colorado
Lamar Elks Lodge 

Aaaaah, Colorado, how we've missed you!
It's been a couple of years since we were here last and that was a quick visit.  Once again we had to shorten this years visit from three months to just 3 weeks.  Our main reason for this trip was to see my neighborhood friend who moved here recently and then to visit our very favorite area.
We haven't seen mountains (real mountains) since March.  Before we get to Colorado Springs though we have to drive through the plains on Hwy 50.  Just after crossing the border from Kansas we saw a sign for one of the Japanese Internment Camps.
I didn't know that there was more than one.  We've visited the partially restored camp in Manzanar, CA along I395.  A must-see.
Not much remains here except the foundations and a small information center.  You can drive all around but the roads are a bit sandy and we were pulling our 5th wheel at the time.  I could see by satellite that there was enough room to get us to the informational pull-out but we didn't want to try our luck on the rest of the roads.  It would've been nice to drive around and go to the cemetery.

Lamar, Colorado
Lamar Elks Lodge
Our first stop was in Lamar, Colorado.  A three hour drive from our campsite in Kansas and 1/2 an hour over the border.  The town is small with not much to do or see so we spent a couple nights at the Elks Lodge.  Since it was County Fair Weekend we were happy to get a spot.  Just one other couple here.  This lodge sits on a golf course.  $10 W/50a.  We had a drink inside and one of the staff gave us a tour around and told us about the history of the area.  As expected, it's still hot and windy.
There was one unusual site in townLamar's Petrified Wood building started out as a gas station, built by lumber dealer W.G. Brown in 1932. The building walls and floors are constructed of large pieces of petrified wood over 175 million years old and thus claims to be the oldest structure on the planet.
This one beam is a tree trunk.  You can see "Built by W.G. Brown" carved into it.
And that concludes our visit to Lamar!  Exciting, right?  Finding campgrounds in Colorado Springs is almost impossible.  Normally we would've boondocked but the few roads up the mountains don't sound too doable for a rig our size without scouting them out first.  Plus we need strong internet.  There are very few campgrounds and they tend to be very expensive private parks.  I had called the Elks Lodge there a couple of months back to check on their facilities.  They don't take reservations but assured me they are never full.  Well when I checked back last week they said they are completly full and have people waiting in the parking lot for others to leave so they can take a spot.  Well that's a bummer!  We decided instead of spending a week in Colorado Springs we'd stop at one more tiny town along the way and spend 4 nights.  That put us in Rocky Ford. 

Rocky Ford, Colorado
Rocky Ford Elks Lodge
Rocky Ford, Colorado Elks Lodge.  $20, W/50a and dump.  The same train track that runs by Lamar, runs past here too.  Oh joy.  It worked out fine as Steve was working during the week and I wasn't seeing my girlfriend until Saturday.  We spent the next couple of days making tons of phone calls trying to find a spot in Colorado Springs to stay.  There are a couple of state parks within an hour but all were booked.  KOA, booked.  The few private parks I called, booked.  Seems with school about to start everyone was out for their last hurrah.  FINALLY, Steve found a private park for us for 2 nights.  Their last one.  Lucky us.
While in Rocky Ford we walked around the town looking at their murals, old buildings and stores.  They are known as the Melon Capitol.  Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Watermelon fields are everywhere.
Our first day we stopped at one of the many fruit and vegetable stands to get some tomatoes, peppers, onions, peaches and MELONS!  Steve grilled some chicken stuffed with peppers and cheese which went nicely with a tomato/cucumber/onion/feta salad.
The peaches were so good we went back for more.  We had so many I crushed them in a bowl and added some aged peach balsamic, froze them in ice trays and then put the frozen cubes in baggies.  They make a great compote to put over chicken and pork or use in oatmeal and yogurt.

We found an electronics place that could re-solder a wire on our booster.  We will need this at our next stop while boondocking.  We also ordered 3 new truck tires but they can't get them in before we leave so they'll be delivered to Durango where we'll stay after our next stop.

A short 2 hour drive brings us to... the mountains along Colorado Springs!  So excited to see them but not so excited to be back in traffic.  We've been almost exclusively on 2 lane backroads from Texas to Florida to Indiana and here to Colorado.  Wow is Colorado Springs big.  With a population of 677,000 it is much bigger than I thought.  We are just south of that and our campground is tucked into the foothills at 6400 feet elevation.

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Golden Eagle Campground
I'm glad Steve was able to find this campground as I thought we'd have to miss my friend and move on.  Golden Eagle Campground, $55, FHU, #451.
The entrance to the park has a very sharp, uphill turn.  Our next challenge was that the pull through sites had a large berm to drive over to enter.  We weren't sure we'd make it without bottoming out, but we were ok.  The campground could use a little TLC, and some grading/paving, but it had nice surroundings.

Our old neighborhood back in the 60s.
Me top left, Roseann bottom right.
Saturday finally came and I met up with my friend, Roseann, to hike at nearby Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  It's been at least 15 years since we last saw each other. Since I'm not used to high elevation I didn't want to go much over 8000 feet.  I found a nice trail called Sundance Loop which kept us under 6400 feet.

Sandance Loop is 4.3 miles that brought us through the meadows up to some juniper tree lines.

This is one of the best marked trails I've been on.  Signs with trail names color coded to a map with GPS coordinates.  How could you get lost?  Well, either we were talking too much or we missed a couple signs as we had to backtrack a few times. I think they left out a few signs.
Grand Peak

Besides the wildflowers, we had a Bull snake join us on the trail.  He was a big boy too!

Looking down at Colorado Springs.
Another view of Grand Peak and the valley below.

After our hike we cleaned up and Roseann and her husband, Gene, joined us at our campsite.  They brought some sub sammies from Jersey Mikes and we cut up some of our Rocky Ford melons and enjoyed a campfire and great company.  So much to catch up on!

It was time to move west along Hwy 50 following the Arkansas River.  The drive from Pueblo to Salida is very scenic.
The train tracks on the other side of the river wind through the valley.  

We passed by rafters and fishermen.
The rocky canyon walls were gorgeous.  It rained lightly off and on during our drive.

Before you knew it we were at our favorite boondocking area in our favorite part of Colorado.  Read the next post to see exactly where that is :-)

And back in Pebble Beach, California our Meatball is enjoying the vintage BMWs at the Concourse d' Elegance.  His Daddy has restored several.

I think this Ferrari was his favorite though.