Just as with the State of Washington sign, I didn’t have any trouble finding the Colorful Colorado sign. In fact, I have had this photo for some time! For those who can’t figure this costume out, I’m John Denver and Annie is weed (Rocky Mountain High)!
If you have a fun state sign photo (taken responsibly), please share. Join the challenge.
Despite having lived in Colorado for the last ten years, I still had much of the state I wanted to explore in more depth. As a result, I spent the month of July, a small portion of August when I wasn’t on safari in Zambia, and most of September in Colorado. I drove just under 5,000 miles (4,982). Some of the mileage should be discounted as I had to get VANgo serviced in Durango for a new stove and twice in Denver for a propane leak, thus I was doing a little more driving than normal.
That said I visited many places including two weekends at our family ranch near Bailey, Colorado, a couple of days visiting friends in Winter Park, two weeks in Crested Butte, a week in Leadville, a week in Twin Lakes, a week in Buena Vista, a week in Salida, five days in Walden, a week in Minturn and Vail and a few days near Alamosa. I had hoped to spend some time near Telluride, but the main hike I wanted to do, Ice Lake, was closed due to the wildfires last year. Regardless, I spent most of my time hiking enjoying summer wildflowers and fall colors.
Campsites in Colorado
Disclaimer: Aside from the last paragraph, this section sounds like I’m whining, so skip over the pessimism if you like.
Of all the places I stayed in Colorado, sadly I can’t claim one campsite that I really loved. In Crested Butte, visitors must camp in designated spots on a first come, first serve basis. Reservations will be required at a later date. Most spots were very close together which isn’t a great option for my protective pooch, Annie.
I found one site by itself with the shade of a few trees and peppered with dried cow patties. It was OK, but any car driving by could see it, and one particular dog owner walked by daily with her off-leash dog that always bounded into my site.
Additionally, I received a warning from the rangers that I couldn’t leave my site unattended for 24 hours. I found this note rather annoying, as I never did such a thing. Just because I’m active, leave early and arrive back late, I shouldn’t be accused of not sleeping in a place I arrived on Monday to get!
Despite hundreds of campers on BLM land near Leadville, I was excited to find a somewhat secluded spot, meaning I couldn’t see anyone around me eventhough they were within 30 yards away. Unfortunately, another disrespectful dog owner left their poor, distressed dog at their campsite while it barked incessantly for hours. So much so, that many campers hollered at it.
Based on its barking sequence, I got the feeling the campers left the dog early morning to hike 14ers, came back for the afternoon and left it again around dinner time. Fortunately, I generally left in the early morning, so I only had to hear it from 6 to 7 am and then for a few hours at dinner time.
In Twin Lakes, I thought I scored another good spot, though a race was being held one day and others thought it would be great to park in my campsite despite a parking area being 100 yards away.
The campsite at State Forest State Park wasn’t bad, but I was hardly there as I got up early to hike and had to stay in town to blog as there was no cell service at the park.
Buena Vista and Salida
This trend continued in Buena Vista, where my “Occupied” sign, chairs and rug, and shower/bathroom tent didn’t dissuade somefolks from Alabama from also camping in my site despite others being available. The rogue rooster also posed some challenges as it kept trying to hop in VANgo and succeeded once! I had to move from this site, as it was way too much for Annie to endure.
We found another tiny site in the trees at Shavano Wildlife Area. While it was near other campers, I thought for sure it would be secluded enough. Nope, the neighbor’s dog visited multiple times a day. I patiently brought Zoe back to her owner, Carol, and warned that Annie isn’t always friendly. That along with the cache of a mountain lion kill (four big turkey claws, a dog paw, and a bird carcass), also didn’t get her to keep Zoe on a leash.
The good news was that some of the group camping with Carol were super nice and cool. They invited me over for games, walks, and circle. The group was filled with full-time nomads who had RV’s, airstreams, and vans. They spend most their winters in Arizona and travel north in the summer. They all have different backgrounds and were very interesting. Now I’m a proud member of the Music and Minds group! Hopefully, I’ll get to reconnect with them next summer as I will likely winter in Texas and Florida this year.
So, in all, because of the nice folks I met at Shavano Wildlife Area thanks to Zoe and Carol, I liked that site the best. Though being tucked in the trees, my views were limited.
Hikes in Colorado
It is hard to pick a favorite hike in Colorado. I enjoyed many, though I’m not sure they beat out any of my all-time favorites. The wildflowers in Crested Butte were remarkable! Hasley Basin Loop, Gothic Mountain via the 403 Trail, and Rustlers Gulch were probably the best. A kaleidoscope of colors blanketed the high sides and some of the flowers were close to shoulder high! There is a reason why Crested Butte is called the wildflower capital of Colorado.
Of the five hikes I completed near Leadville, the nearly 9-mile hike to Saint Kevin Lake was definitely the most rewarding. Not only are there other lakes to enjoy along the way, but the views at the top are lovely. The lake itself, with turquoise water and lots of trout is just beautiful!
Salida and Buena Vista
In the Salida and Buena Vista area, my favorite hike was to Iron Chest Mine. While I’ve always loved mine hikes, I had mostly been hiking for wildflowers, colors, or lakes, so hiking to a mine was a nice change of pace. Clambering up the rocky road which could have had jeeps on it at any time (but fortunately didn’t), wasn’t the most thrilling, but seeing the mining cabins, equipment, and distant mountains peppered with yellow aspen was quite the reward.
The trailhead is also located near the ghost town, St. Elmo, and I never tire of visiting it. I’ve been there at least four times. The old, very intact town is tucked beneath aspens by a creek, so fall is the best time to visit, especially since the off-roading activities die down a lot after Labor Day.
Vail and Minturn
I went to Vail and Minturn again for the fall colors this year. I still didn’t manage to hike the two hikes that were on my list due to a cold snap, threatening weather, and according to reviews aggressive mountain goats. Consequently, Pitkin Lake and Booth Lake will remain on my list.
Probably the best fall hike I did this year was the North Loop Trail. You hardly ever leave the aspen groves. That said, parking is limited, and it includes some highway noise. Additionally, there are views of town and there is no water, so while not my favorite hike, the fall colors won me over.
Overall, the hiking in Crested Butte was the best. But you really can’t go wrong there during wildflower season.
Towns I Visited in Colorado
As I mentioned above, I spent time in Crested Butte, Leadville, Buena Vista, Salida, Twin Lakes, Walden, Minturn, Vail, and Alamosa, all of which I have visited previously. I also visited Walden for my first time.
Clearly Crested Butte and Vail are nice because they are ski towns. As a result, they have a lot to offer including amenities like spas.
But for small towns, I really liked Leadville and Salida. I believe I’m drawn to Leadville, the highest city in the USA, due to its mining history. As many of my readers know, I’m fascinated by the folks who came west in search of silver and gold. I’m even more impressed with their abilities to work these harsh lands. Consequently, I loved driving the Silver King Route and riding the Mineral Belt Trail around Leadville, while seeing all the mining remnants.
As far as Salida is concerned, I really just loved its historic and artsy downtown. The county seat of Chaffee County features the largest historic district in Colorado. The restored buildings, selection of restaurants and shops, and the riverside park are extremely inviting.
Wildlife Spottings in Colorado
Thinking back, I don’t think I encountered one bear this summer. I saw a couple last summer, one within about 20 yards from me and Annie. Fortunately, she didn’t bark and the bear swiveled in a circle like a cartoon character in order to run away.
We did spot a couple of fox, several deer, marmots, pika, flying turkeys and four moose. Both the foxes were crossing the road while I was in VANgo, so it was hard to snap a decent photo, but they are fun to see.
Of course, Annie likes to bark at deer, so she woke me several times in the early morning when deer wandered into the campsite. I didn’t manage to see them all, but I know they were there! We also saw some on hikes and while driving.
The whole goal for visiting Walden, the moose capital of Colorado, was to spot moose. I was miffed when I was skunked four days in a row!! I extended my stay for an extra day because I was bound and determined to see them (ideally not on the trail with Annie since they hate dogs).
Lucky for me, I saw a mama and her baby at the trailhead parking lot. As I was photographing them, I heard a snap of a twig on the other side of the parking lot. While I didn’t see anything at first, the mama moose did. She rounded up her baby and headed out as a bull moose came into the scene. Unfortunately, the trees blocked any good photo opportunities of the bull moose, but the experience was exhilarating!
Food in Colorado
In keeping with my summary of Washington and Idaho, now is the time for me to write about food. Hmmm, since I’ve lived in Colorado for ten years, I wasn’t on an eating quest. I suppose Colorado is known for its green chili and beer, but my best meal was the Wagyu burger at Princeton Hot Springs. It was delicious.
Trials and Tribulations
Well, after my stove exploded in Washington, I couldn’t cook again until I got it replaced at the beginning of July. Unfortunately, the propane was still leaking, so Wanderful Wheels hired a mobile RV repair guy to fix it for me in Denver. He was excellent, but solder had dripped on the connector from the stove to the propane line, so until I got another new stove, I still couldn’t cook. That lasted until October!
My grey water tank clogged and overflowed. That was fun! It also gave off a terrible stench. But I managed to fix and clean that on my own. And I also installed a support bar in my toilet compartment as the bench was a little unstable. Whew!
I had a few more fender benders with inanimate objects while reversing at 1 mph. Not sure why I can’t accommodate for that plastic bumper in the back. I hit it on the one-foot camp post marking my campsite in Crested Butte. I couldn’t even see the post and all around it was a meadow!!
Then, at Princeton Hot Springs, with my friends in the car, I was backing up inch by inch to get my bumper as close to the high curb as possible since parking in the area was tight. I’m watching the back up camera carefully slowly going back when we hear a pop! We all get out.
The bumper isn’t near the curb. We couldn’t figure out what I hit. My tall friend pointed up. My backup camera hit the roof and the plastic casing shattered. I’ve decided everything on this Sprinter van is cheap except the engine. I’ve never had stuff shatter with a tap like I have on this vehicle. Even my phone screen is more durable!
Annie continued hurting herself as well. We’ve had an upset belly incident every month that always happens at night. Fortunately, they have decreased number and severity. If we make it five more days in October, we will have made it a month without an episode. Fingers crossed!
Additionally, she successfully gashed her chest and front right leg after she ran through a barbed wire fence at our mountain ranch. Once again, there was no way to bandage it, so I kept clean. Her war wound scars haven’t gotten her to settle down much. But at least since early July she hasn’t cut herself. She does get an occasionally limp on her front left foot when she over does it. As a result, she gets relegated to the leash for a few days.
Unique Sightings and Musings from the Road
Now I’m to the part where I had lots of unique sightings and musings from the road in Washington and Idaho . Perhaps because I lived in Colorado for ten years, not much surprised me.
Of course, I saw lots of cool mining equipment. Also It was a great year for red and white Alice in Wonderland mushrooms. Further, I loved the S’more Fuel sign in Twin Lakes.
The softball in the tree was unique. And I’ve never seen a mountain lion cache. It was a little creepy to find several big turkey feet, a bird carcass, and a dog paw buried near my campsite. Finally, seeing gators in Colorado is weird and the parrot hanging upside down and tortoises humping at the farm added to the oddities. And I can’t forget Cano’s Castle, it’s not often you see a house built from tin.
My only musings were:
- Windshield repair companies must intentionally spill rocks all over the Colorado highways. I swear you can’t drive in this state without getting a cracked windshield!
- I can’t believe I didn’t hike one 14er while I was in Colorado
- I finally got over 500 likes on an IG photo!
Fun Facts About Colorado
- While I said Colorado is known for its green chili, but I had a great burger, I didn’t know the cheeseburger was trademarked in Colorado.
- 75% of the land in the Continental United States above 10,000 feet is in Colorado.
- Colorado is home to the tallest sand dune in the USA.
- Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the USA.
- America the Beautiful is written about Pike Peak.
Thanks for following along with my travels in Colorado. My next stop is New Mexico before spending the winter in Dallas. ETB