Saturday, September 1 seemed like a good day to visit the local Strasburg museum. Unfortunately, the museum’s last day for the year was August 31. I would think they would want to capture the Labor Day weekend traffic. Then again, the people who operate the museum may have needed a vacation after their summer work and before they settled into their fall and winter activities.
Although we could not go inside the buildings, we wandered around the place reading the signage and looking at the outside displays. I even managed to take a few photos through windows.
Still itching to spend some time in a museum, we drove to Limon, Colorado. There wasn’t much to see on Interstate 70 between Strasburg and Limon except the Great Plains. Miles and miles of wheat, corn, and hay fields dominated the land to the horizon and windmill farms covered the small hills that rise above the grasslands.
It was a slow day when we arrived in town. Although we could see that businesses occupied some storefronts, many of the buildings sat empty. No cars lined the streets making us think we had landed in the Twilight Zone.
Our greeting by a docent at the Limon Heritage Museum train depot eased our fears of having landed in another dimension. The docent explained that Limon was once a hub for freight and travelers. When the interstate was built, the town began its slow death. “No one wants to live in Limon anymore,” she said, although she seemed happy to live there.
An F3 tornado tore through the city in 1990 destroying most of the downtown business district. Due to the brick construction, the depot still stands today even though the tornado tipped several train cars on their sides. The docent also gave us a brief history of the depot and invited us to look around inside and view the train cars outside.
Besides the depot, a warehouse type building houses artifacts and other exhibits. Sunflowers and other bee and hummingbird attracting plants filled the garden in front of the building. I’d love to have such a colorful plot in our yard. It would be my little contribution to improve the environment by providing a place for bees, hummingbirds, and maybe a few butterflies to rest and gather their fill of pollen. Somehow, I believe all the effort to establish such a place would fall to ruin when we are traveling.
For a town with a population of fewer than 2,000 people, we found the museum well organized and the artifacts presented professionally and recommend anyone traveling on Interstate 70 to make Limon, Colorado, a stop on your route. They are open 7 days a week between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
We drove around town, including the residential areas, before leaving town. Most of the homes showed pride of ownership in their well-kept yards, fresh paint, and newish roofs. That was a switch from some of the little towns we’ve seen. I wondered if the residents are happy with the situation preferring the rural atmosphere, or if they preferred more restaurants, shops, galleries and such to move in as an attraction for tourists to visit. If the museum had still been open, I would have gone back and asked the women at the museum.
I’m glad we took the time to drive out to Limon. We learned more history of the railroad and the town at the center of the crossroads for freight and travelers passing through. The roads that intersect the town include Interstate 70, U.S. Highways 24, 40, and 287, and State Highways 71 and 94.
Next up, we move to Colorado Springs for six days, checking in at an RV park near Garden of the Gods.
Jon and I wish everyone a healthy, joyful, and prosperous 2019. Thank you so much for joining us on our journeys. We appreciate all of our followers, their likes, and comments.
Now, back to our travels in Colorado during August and September 2018.
Our short drive to the Strasburg, Colorado KOA on Wednesday, August 29 was clear sailing with very little traffic. The campground, often typical for RV parks, was near a railway and a freeway. Neither of these transportation infrastructures bothered us too much, to our delight. Besides, after numerous phone calls the day before, we were grateful to procure space in Strasburg on the Labor Day weekend. Shame on us for not making reservations earlier, but we had completely forgotten about the holiday. Retirement is such a joy!
Suburban sprawl has hit the small farming community of Strasburg with new housing developments going up, including some with a good amount of property included. The best restaurant in this town of 2,500 was the Patio Café. The good food and friendliness of the servers and patrons compensated for the lack of charm on the outside.
We drove around town and found a few fascinating old buildings. I liked this one for the colors and geometric shapes.
The Historic Strasburg Inn did not look like it was still in operation. On their FaceBook page, there is a photo from 2016 with the name of the place stenciled on the white sign. Now it is a blank slate.
We wondered how long this log cabin had been standing. It looked like it may have started out small and then expanded. The garden and winding pathway to the door is what drew me in.
Then there was this commercial building with little figurines and other trinkets embedded in the rock wall. I could have stood there for an hour finding all the little treasures that someone painstakingly cemented into the wall.
We spotted an old tractor and piece of farm equipment in a field next to the railroad tracks. It would be nice if it ended up in a museum somewhere.
On Friday, we made the hour drive to Boulder. Our objective was to visit the Chautauqua Park National Historic Site where we could enjoy the outdoors, take a hike, and maybe eat lunch at the dining hall. The City of Boulder purchased the 80 acres of land over 100 years ago to be used as a Chautauqua. What is a Chautauqua? We didn’t know. Merriam-Webster dictionary lists Chautauqua as “a stationary or traveling institution that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries providing popular education usually combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, or dramatic performances often presented outdoors or in a tent.”
Boulder’s Chautauqua began its life in 1898 as a Texas summer school for teachers. Through the efforts of the City of Boulder and the Colorado Chautauqua Association, the property has been in continuous operation since it began. Today the park offers lodging, concerts, cultural events, education programs, and recreation.
Situated at the foot of the Flatirons, the Chautauqua property contains a variety of trees that number over 500. Along with the native Douglas fir and spruce trees, there is an array of maple and oak plus other species. I can only imagine the wonderful color show the trees produce when the seasons change.
We picked up the McClintock Trail near the auditorium, then transitioned on to the Bluebell Trail to the ranger visitor center. We walked along a slightly rocky route under tree limbs that intertwined overhead.
The shade kept us relatively cool in the 80-degree weather. For half of the hike, we only encountered one other person. Then a few people here and there until we got close to the trailhead where we encountered quite a few people making their way up the hill.
Afterward, we checked in at the Dining Hall for a scrumptious lunch. I had some kind of fondue dish that included ham and fingerling potatoes and poached eggs on top. Although the eggs were cooked through and no juicy goodness spread throughout the rest of the ingredients, the dish was still yummy.
How wonderful for the Boulder community to have such a special place to visit and spend time. With so many activities offered, the Chautauqua is a place people can return to throughout the year. We would have liked to have stayed longer.
A road above Chautauqua that leads into the mountains is a nice drive to see some awesome views of Boulder.
On the way out of town, we stopped at the Dushanbe Teahouse in downtown Boulder to take a photo. Boulder’s sister city Dushanbe, Tajikistan, created the teahouse as a gift. The building is a work of art made by artisans in Tajikistan using skills that date back 2,000 years.
Inside, the ceilings and columns are hand carved and painted. Carved plaster panels and copper sculptures also contribute to the design elements. Eight ceramic panels adorn the exterior. The artist sculpted the panels, cut them into smaller tiles, and fired them in Tajikistan. Then the tiles were shipped to Boulder where the artist positioned them in place.
Photo of teahouse
The teahouse serves breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner Monday through Friday and brunch, tea time, and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations for tea time are required 24 hours in advance and are probably needed for other mealtimes, too.
A trip back to Boulder was definitely in our future when we pictured ourselves sipping tea and biting into tiny sandwiches and other delectables at the Dushanbe Teahouse.
We nixed any plans to return to Boulder or head into Denver during this visit to Colorado when we hit the freeway from Boulder back to Strasburg. Friday afternoon was not a good time to head out of town with the thousands of commuters making their way home in the suburbs. Our one-hour drive into town took us two hours to return.
During the rest of our Labor Day weekend, we stayed close to base camp, relaxing and completing chores. We did, however, find a couple places to explore that didn’t require a drive to the population centers. Stay tuned for the next post.
We had reservations for three days starting August 26, 2018, in Lyons, Colorado, so we packed up and left the western side of the Rocky Mountains behind. The Trail Ridge Road through the tundra was as stressful as we had imagined. The lack of barriers between the road and the steep cliffs seemed like certain death so I kept my eyes alert for a vehicle that might fail to negotiate a curve and slam into us. We felt a little better once the terrain turned to subalpine and forests, even though we had to navigate through 15 and 20 MPH hairpin turns.
On the east side of the Rockies, we noted teepee piles of brush, branches, and logs a few yards from the road. Although the park service does not remove most of the dead lodgepole and ponderosa trees killed by the pine beetle, they do gather up any trees that pose a threat of injury or death to people and burn the piles during the winter when the risk of a forest fire is at its lowest.
LaVern M. Johnson Park in Lyons, Colorado
The LaVern M. Johnson Park campground turned out to be a good choice for a place to stay outside of the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. We learned of the location from campers we met earlier on our trip and felt lucky to have snagged a spot. All of the RV parks closer to the Rockies laughed at my inquiry about sites. They had been booked for months.
Besides RV sites, the Lyons park offers tent camping with concrete slabs, picnic areas, and playground equipment. Sandstone cliffs and the St. Vrain Creek border the park on three sides. Add in the large shade trees and visitors have a perfect place to escape the heat of a hot summer day.
Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
The next day, we drove into the Rocky Mountain National Park, left the truck at the park-and-ride, and took the shuttle to Bear Lake Nature Trail. With the guidebook in hand, we set out on the trail that surrounds the lake. The booklet explained in detail each item designated by a numbered post and was worth the price of $2.00.
There is no fishing allowed in Bear Lake. Once considered extinct in 1937 due to overfishing and toxic waste from mining, greenback cutthroat trout now thrive in Bear Lake after efforts were made to reintroduce the species in 1975. The State of Colorado adopted the greenback trout as its state fish in March 1994.
Aspen leaves already turning yellow
A close-up of bark on a mature Douglas-fir. While the bark on young trees is thin, smooth, gray, and covered with resin blisters, mature trees are about 2-1/4 inches thick and have a cork look to them.
The eyes on aspen trees designate where limbs were once attached. Aspen self-prune the shaded lower branches which allows the upper branches to reach for the sun. These eyes look droopy to me.
At the end of August, wildflowers still bloomed along the trail.
Sprague Lake, a shallow 13-acre lake, also had a trail that surrounded it. Although there were a few information signs, there wasn’t a guidebook. While the weather was perfect at Bear Lake, in the afternoon it turned cold and windy at Sprague Lake. We rushed through the trail, scanned the information signs, took a few pics, and headed back to the shuttle stop.
Abner Sprague, who homesteaded in the area, created the lake by damming a stream. This provided recreation for guests at his resort which operated from 1910 – 1940.
Discovery Center and Historic Moraine Park
Our final stop was the Discovery Center where they have informative exhibits explaining the geological forces that created the unique terrain and the animals that inhabited the area eons ago. The valley in the photo below sits across the street from the Discovery Center. It’s hard to imagine the valley dotted with lodges, stores, cabins, a golf course, and a post office. When the National Park Service purchased the property in 1962, they removed the structures and the meadows revegetated. Fifty-six years later, there’s no sign of the Historic Moraine Park where visitors once stayed and played.
On our way back to base camp, we stopped at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew in Estes Park. The large portion on the pulled pork platter with coleslaw and green beans gave us enough food to enjoy our meals again the next day for lunch. It was as good the second time around as it was the first.
Boulder, Colorado, and Pearl Street Mall
We were able to poke around Boulder for a few hours one day when we drove into town to pick up a few things. I shook with excitement when I walked into Mike’s Camera. The multi-story building was filled with all manner of photographic equipment and paraphernalia. The building must have been ten times the size of Mike’s Camera in Dublin, California, near where we live. Apparently, Boulder is where the company began its business in 1967. I was almost embarrassed to walk up to the counter and ask for such a small purchase as the little rubber goody that wraps around my camera’s eyepiece. Had I stayed in that store much longer, I would have ended up spending money on things I wanted but really didn’t need.
Next, we headed to the Pearl Street Mall where we walked around looking for a place to eat lunch. We settled on Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar and were not disappointed.
Shopping, dining, and art appreciation are activities enjoyed at Pearl Street Mall.
Several outdoor art objects are strategically placed throughout the plaza.
We wished we had more time to explore Boulder, Colorado, and the surrounding area. There was so much more we wanted to see and do. The Museum of Boulder at the Tebo Center, Fiske Planetarium, Boulder Farmers’ Market, Boulder Creek Path, and the Celestial Seasoning tour are all places we would have liked to visit. Hikes and trails nearby would also have given us plenty to explore. Ah, perhaps another time.
Next, we find a place to settle for the Labor Day weekend, which we didn’t realize had arrived on the calendar.
We finish up our time at the west end of Rocky Mountain National park with a visit to a historic site, an encounter with a group of elk, a walk in a valley, and lunch in Grand Lake.
Holzwarth Historic Site
A short 1/2-mile walk from Timber Creek Campground brought us to the Holzwarth Historic Site. The Holzwarth site became part of Rocky Mountain National Park when the park service obtained the property in 1974.
John and Sophia Holzwarth, both immigrants from Germany, operated a saloon and boarding house in Denver while caring for their five children. When World War I and prohibition made it difficult to earn a living, John homesteaded a piece of land in the Kawuneeche Valley on the west side of the Colorado River in 1917. Over the years, he built cabins for guests transforming the property into a guest ranch known as the Holzwarth Trout Lodge and eventually increased the family’s land holdings to 800 acres.
Continuing the family business into the 1950s, Johnnie, their eldest son, recognized that horseback riding and sightseeing was more popular than fishing. He added a lodge, dining hall, more guest rooms, and a barn creating the Never Summer Ranch.
The park service began purchasing other dude and guest ranches that lined the road leading to the national park increasing its footprint. Johnnie refused to sell the original homestead that started the family’s successful business after seeing that the park service tore down everything, hauled it away, and let the land return to its natural state.
After reaching an agreement to maintain the property and the buildings as a historic site, Johnnie finally agreed to sell in 1974.
Today, VIPs (volunteer-in-park) greet visitors from June through the beginning of September to tell the Holzwarth family story. They also give visitors a glimpse into the history of a homestead life, and what it was like to visit a dude ranch back in the day.
We walked into a cozy two-room cabin. One room contained a stove, a small table, a cupboard for dishes and food, and a work shelf with bowls served as a sink. The second room contained a queen-sized brass bed. What more does one need after a day of fishing? A bathroom perhaps? Remnants of outhouses stood a few yards from the porch, which had a wonderful view of the Colorado River.
I’m glad Johnnie Holzwarth held out for the promise that the park service would preserve his family’s property for future generations. Otherwise, this piece of history would have been lost. How disappointing it would be to read a sign that says, “this happened here once upon a time” and find no evidence that it existed at all. I much prefer to gain insight into history through experience.
I don’t think it necessary to retain all of history for future generations, but a nice sampling is definitely worthwhile for us to learn how people lived years ago.
One morning, we woke to Elk grazing their way through the campground. They managed to stop traffic on the road and ignored the campers gawking and taking pictures as they ambled through the grass.
I found it comical when they sniffed around our neighbor’s trailer and campfire ring. They must have been looking for a taste of the s’more’s the family roasted up the night before.
Coyote Valley Hike
The Coyote Valley Hike turned out to be a leisurely walk in the valley. We met a ranger volunteer and stopped to talk with her awhile. She told us that the mountain pine bark beetle infestation happened ten years ago and the beetles had moved on. The lodgepole pine trees most affected had reached the end of their lifespan of 90 to 100 years at the time of the infestation. Small trees reaching for the sun between the dead trunks and limbs was a sign that a new forest would soon replace the dead one.
The Colorado River Glacier carved out the valley which measures 20 miles long. Remnants of glacial ice still occupy the east-facing valleys high in the Never Summer Mountains.
Recent history saw the Utes and Arapahos hunting in the valley until the 1870s when a mining boom pushed them out. Homesteaders tried their hand at ranching after the mining boom ended in 1886. In the 1920s, tourism brought fortunes to the homesteaders who operated the dude ranches, providing places to stay including meals. The valley has now returned to a more natural state.
We made a run into Grand Lake to refill the truck, a propane bottle, and gas can. Then we searched for a restaurant for lunch. The Blue Water Café turned out to be a good choice. They served a chicken avocado sandwich on a toasted croissant with crisp lettuce and sweet tomatoes. The side salad, topped with tomatoes, cranberries, and cheese, was equally delicious. The ranch dressing was one of the best I’ve had. On the thin side and packed with herb flavoring, I wished I could have taken a bottle home.
Grand Lake is the largest natural body of water in Colorado and part of the Colorado River headwaters. The city, established in 1881 and incorporated on June 23, 1944, sits at an elevation of 8,369 feet. Once an outfitting and supply depot for mining settlements, it is now a tourist destination. Wikipedia lists Tim Allen, the actor, as a notable resident who married his wife Jane Hajduk there in 2006.
Mountain Food Market and the People of Colorado
A trip to the market followed our lunch. It was such a tiny little store with every nook and cranny crammed with merchandise. The narrow aisles made it difficult when more than one basket wielding shopper was searching for items to buy. Even so, everyone was polite, saying excuse me and trying to get out of each other’s way.
It seemed like everyone we had encountered in Colorado had smiles on their faces and positive polite attitudes. Could this be because we had mostly been in rural and recreation areas so far? Would things be different closer to the metropolitan areas?
Next up we head to Lyons, Colorado, about 20 miles east of the park and 17 miles north of Boulder.
It’s rare that we take off for a new destination without some idea of where we will stay for the night. Without a reservation or multiple options, it feels like a gymnast is inside my stomach flipping, flopping, twisting, and turning during the whole trip. Thursday, August 23, 2018, found us in such a predicament as we headed for the west entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.
I could barely enjoy the view as we drove through Rabbit Ears Pass where patches of dead trees broke up the healthy forest covering the mountainsides. There were only 98 sites at the only first-come-first-served campground on the west side of the park.
The sign at the Grand Lake Entrance showed no vacancy for the first four campgrounds listed. Then the last campground, Timber Creek (first-come-first-served), showed vacancy. Yes! Now we only had to worry about finding a campsite for our 30’ fifth wheel. Would the sites be big enough?
All of that worrying turned out to be for naught, as it usually does. We managed to squeeze into a perfect spot, paid the fee, and settled in for three nights.
We had plenty of daylight left to commence with exploration. First stop, of course, was the Kawuneeche Visitor Center for maps and information about hikes. We didn’t plan on any strenuous hikes at elevations of 9,000 to 12,000 feet. Even though we had been in high elevations for almost a month, we still suffered from shortness of breath at the slightest exertion, the occasional headache, or dehydration. Sticking with the shorter and flatter trails would keep the more serious symptoms of altitude sickness at bay.
Accessible near Grand Lake a few miles outside of the park, Adams Falls turned out to be our speed at a distance of .6 miles roundtrip and an elevation gain of 79 feet. Lodgepole pines had fallen like pick up sticks along the trail, cluttering the forest floor. It looked like more than a good raking was needed to prevent a catastrophic forest fire.
Grand Lake Lodge
Grand Lake Lodge was our next stop. The lodge was either established, built, or began operation in 1920 or 1925. Three different signs listed three different dates. It’s a beautiful old lodge with wood beams and floors. A huge fireplace dominated the middle of the lobby with a bar on one side and a restaurant beyond. Seating on the porch was popular for its view of the lake.
Our destination for the morning was the Alpine Visitor Center. Yeah, right. To get a parking place requires an early rise, something we rarely manage, or a long wait in line until someone leaves. We kept on driving to the Tundra Communities Trailhead. Information signs along the 1.3-mile roundtrip trail with an elevation gain of 260 feet explained the topography, detailed the plants and animals that live in the tundra zone at 12,000 feet and how they adapt to the cold temperatures. We came prepared for the cold donning our base layers, sweaters, jackets, gloves, and knit hats. The difference in temperatures from 9,000 feet to 12,000 is significant, especially when the wind is blowing.
I had heard of marmots before, but never had the pleasure of meeting one in person. This guy must have been a lookout because we heard him screaming from the parking lot which was about a half mile away.
The tundra is similar to a desert in that it doesn’t look like much from a distance. Get down close to the ground, though, and it comes alive. All of the plants are miniaturized in the tundra. Some flowers are so tiny they’re hard to see. They stay low to stay warm and their little faces track with the sun.
Some alpine plants contain an antifreeze type chemical that converts sunlight into heat. Hairs also protect the plants from the ultraviolet radiation that in the tundra is twice what it is at sea level.
It looks like someone came in with a skip loader and deposited piles of big rocks and boulders on the hill. The rocks actually were churned up; forming rock streams, strips, garlands, or polygons; when moist soil repeatedly froze and thawed.
An icy wind howled across the tundra cooling my left side as I made my way up the hill even though my right side was comfortably warm. On my way down the hill, my right side took the brunt of the wind. It was hard going, but oh, what a view. We envisioned a stressful drive pulling the trailer across the ridge after seeing the road from the top of the mountain.
Strange mushroom-shaped rocks at the top of one hill looked out of place. The darker rock is schist which formed from sand, silt, and clay at the bottom of a long-ago sea. Magma pushed its way up from deep in the earth, cooled into granite forming the white mushroom stem. Erosion finished the masterpiece and continues to shape and mold the formation.
A little girl wanted to race across the field. Her father pulled her back. The girl cried and tried to wiggle out of her father’s arms. It could take 500 to a thousand years for trampled tundra to repair itself. Everyone must stay on the asphalt trail. Toddlers don’t understand.
On our way back to base camp, we drove by the Alpine Visitor Center. There were even more cars lined up to find a spot to park. From the road, I saw a hill where people walked up and down. It looked like we didn’t miss much. We already completed our walk, viewed the tundra up close, and marveled at the views.
Trail Ridge Road
Driving along Trail Ridge Road we stopped at a few pullouts to take in the views. A portion of the Never Summer Mountains is depicted below. They are the only volcanic mountain range within Rocky Mountain National Park. With a length of 10 miles north to south, they form a section of the continental divide near the headwaters of Colorado River.
More of our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park coming up next in Part 2.
Our drive on Sunday, August 19, 2018, from Craig, Colorado, to Steamboat Springs only took us about 40 minutes. The scenery along the way that filled the windshield included canyons, green pastures, grazing cows, and rolling hills.
Where’s the Steamboat?
No actual steamboat has ever resided in Steamboat Springs. The story goes that trappers named the spring from where they heard what sounded like a steamboat. The city later adopted the name when it was incorporated in 1900. The economy originally rolled along supported by ranching and mining. In 1913, Carl Howelsen, a Norwegian, introduced ski jumping by building the first jump on Howelsen Hill, now part of the Howelsen Ski Area. A winter carnival soon followed and is the oldest continually operated ski area in the state. Founded by Jim Temple and John Fetcher, the Steamboat Ski Resort opened in 1963 and is now the largest employer in Steamboat for the population of nearly 13,000.
With a 2-bedroom condo offered at just under $500,000 and many single family residences going for over $1 million, this resort town is not an inexpensive place to live. I suspect many of the condos and residences are second homes for people who drive or fly in to enjoy the skiing and other winter activities.
Adventures in Laundry
Laundry day, usually a boring activity, turned out to be a challenge in Steamboat. After setting up and eating lunch, I strolled over to the Steamboat Springs KOA laundry to check out the facilities. They had four washers and six dryers crammed into the corner of a building. Really? Why would they have six dryers if they only had four washers? It seemed like a waste. Two women had the machines filled with their clothes and another woman waited for her turn. It was going to be a while before I could squeeze in and I really needed more than four machines.
A quick search online showed a public laundry not too far away. The pictures online of rows and rows of clean and modern machines promised a better facility. Sadly, most of the machines had “not working” signs on them. Water seeped out from under one machine. Congregated around folding tables and one of the doors, a group of hippy-dippy type young people gathered around a guy playing a ukulele and singing. With the young people sporting dreadlocks, baggy pants, and ill-fitting shirts, and the distinctive odor of ganja hanging in the air, Jon and I were transported back to 1967. I had to silently laugh when I saw one of the guys pulling on a pair of jeans that had not dried yet. Hey, I remember pulling on wet jeans and letting them dry while I wore them. Oh, to be young again. Well, maybe not.
Fish Creek Falls
We sought out the Fish Creek Falls trail to start on our first full day of adventure. The accessible trail to the lower falls is only a 1/4 mile, so easy peasy even at an elevation of 7,440. The trail continued for another 5 miles, but it was a bit treacherous. Another ½ mile was enough for us.
Yampa River Botanic Garden
The Yampa River Botanic Park was next on our list. It took us a few tries to find the place. The instructions said to turn on Emerald Park Lane, but the actual street sign said Emerald Park Way. We finally saw the soccer field and knew we were in the right place. We were flabbergasted that a botanic garden thrived in a place that receives snow 7 to 8 months out of the year.
A butterfly garden inside the gate contained echinacea in full bloom with bees, moths, and butterflies whirling around and landing on the flowers.
Rocks terraced on a small hill create pockets for a variety of plants and flowers to grow and flourish.
Plenty of benches throughout the park are strategically located for a view of the plant and flower displays. We picked a bench that overlooked a pond where cattails and water lilies bloomed.
Then we wandered around the pine forest and found a few hideaways to explore.
I wonder how many people visit Steamboat Springs every year and never realize there is a botanic garden growing with such bounty. It is truly a wonderful place to visit.
Downtown and The Shack Cafe
After the botanic garden, we ducked in and out of a few of the shops while we searched for a place to eat. I had expected the stores in the downtown area to consist of brand name upscale shops one might see in a ski resort, not so. It was a nice surprise to enter the independent establishments with unique offerings.
The Shack Cafe closes for the day after lunch service, but we managed to make it inside before they flipped the sign over. A French dip and a side of sweet potato fries for me and a bowl of chili and salad for JT satisfied our hunger pains.
Steamboat Lake State Park
After Jon nursed a headache one morning and an hour’s worth of rain passed over, a drive to Steamboat Lake State Park occupied our afternoon. This state park looked like a great place to stay with stunning views of mountains. There are 113 campsites and most can accommodate large RVs and some are pull-through sites. Only electric hookups at some sites, with no water or sewer. One loop had a nice restroom, laundry, and store at the marina. Deer grazed and strolled through the sections of the campground that were less occupied.
Vista Nature Trail
The highlight of our time in Steamboat was stumbling upon the naturalist-led hike on Vista Nature Trail followed by a gourmet lunch at the lodge. Our objective for the day was a hike along the Vista Nature Trail, but when trying to find its location we learned we had to take the gondola to the top of the mountain.
When we arrived to purchase our tickets, the offer for the hike and gourmet lunch was too good to pass up. The hike turned out to be led by not only the naturalist, Katy from Yampatika, but also Mark Bass a Steamboat Resort ambassador and a woman from the botanical garden.
Each of them added a unique perspective to the hike. Katy talked about the geology of the area. Mark talked about the history of the town and ski resort, and the woman from the botanical garden pointed out which plants were edible and which were poisonous. We even had a chance to taste huckleberries, which pack a sweet punch in a tiny berry.
Even though it was mid-August, wildflowers still bloomed at the top of the mountain, much to our surprise.
We managed to pick a good time to visit Steamboat Springs. Prior to our arriving, smoke filled the skies. A little rain cleared out the smoke leaving beautiful blue skies and puffy clouds.
We would have stayed longer in Steamboat if the KOA hadn’t been booked solid for the weekend coming up. There was much more for us to explore. Perhaps we will make our way there again to spend more time.
Although we were sad to leave, we looked forward to making our way to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Our next stop in Colorado was a two-night stay in Craig starting August 17. We checked in at the KOA, which was an older RV park with new owners. They had already renovated the restrooms with new tile. The train tracks bordering the south end of the RV park gave us pause. Sounds of a train rumbling by in the middle of the night and disturbing our sleep didn’t seem like fun. As it turned out, the tracks only function as a spur line and no trains traveled the route during our stay.
Our drive from Fruita took us along the Colorado River on Interstate 70 east then we headed north on Colorado state route 13. While wide and shallow in some spots, the river moved swiftly in other places. A local from Grand Junction told us the river’s level was the lowest he’d seen since the mid-eighties. The low level is probably not a good sign for the Zonis and Calis that rely on the river for recreation, farming, and drinking water.
Verdant valleys with orchards, vineyards, shade trees and green grasses fanned out from the river. On the other side of the freeway, the terrain was more desert looking with yellow grasses, short shrubs, or just rock. The mountain cliffs continued to tower above the valley floor with a plateau here and there.
With a population of approximately 9,000, Craig serves as the Moffat County seat. A drive through town revealed a city in transition. While many of the residential streets contained well-maintained dwellings with tidy yards, other homes had slipped into disrepair. The downtown area was similarly checkerboard with businesses that looked like they had been around for years, others fairly new, and still others abandoned, like the Safeway grocery store. The City Market, however, stocks just about anything a person might want or need.
Some people consider the City of Craig as the Elk Hunting Capital of the World. Signs and posters on business property welcomed the hunters to town. We saw a group of elk trying to cross the road and plenty of pronghorn grazing in fields around town.
Other draws to the city include the Museum of Northwest Colorado and the Wyman Museum. June would be a good time to visit Craig. That’s when the city holds a Whittle the Wood Rendezvous chainsaw carving competition & festival. Several examples of past entries and winners occupy space in the downtown area.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado
Open year round, except for holidays and Sundays, with free admission, the Museum of Northwest Colorado is a great place to visit. I liked the wide aisles, display signs, and how neat and orderly the artifacts were displayed.
For instance, artifacts included a set of spurs once owned by Ann Basset, the queen of the cattle rustlers. The posters near the displays tell the stories of not only the artifact but also the owner and how the item came to the museum.
A whole room is dedicated to the western cowboy where saddles, spurs, and weapons are arranged.
Other displays included an entry from the June 2008 Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, mining equipment, stagecoach model, and information about prominent residents of the area.
The detail of this carving caught my eye. It amazed me to think it was created with a chainsaw.
Archie Smethurst was a stage driver and proprietor from 1904 – 1906.
Downstairs are posters of graduating classes dating back to the 1900s along with yearbooks that serve as a great resource for genealogists filling in the gaps of an ancestor’s past.
The Wyman Living History Museum
While the Museum of Northwest Colorado preserves the artifacts and legends of the old west, the Wyman Museum is an eclectic assortment of memorabilia collected by Lou Wyman since 1949. A military tank takes center stage in front of the museum entrance.
Outbuildings consist of an old barn, blacksmith building, schoolhouse complete with a three-stall outhouse, and a general store.
Also, on the property is Sherman Park, which contains a pond for fishing, a large population of leopard frogs, cattails, and other marsh grasses and plants. There is also a section dedicated to archery shooting.
Inside the museum, visitors find automobiles, a hearse, military memorabilia, farming implements, and equipment, old boat motors, mining display with tools and much, much, more.
The guys from American Pickers, the reality television program produced by A&E Television Networks and the History Channel, filmed an episode at the Wyman Living History Museum which aired with the title “One of Everything” on April 23, 2018. Take a look at the episode to see more of Lou Wyman’s collection.
That concludes our time in Craig, Colorado. A great place to stay for a little peace and quiet and a slower pace. Stay tuned for our next stop in Steamboat Springs.