Late Spring 2019 Tour

Week One – Kickoff

Aah! It feels good to be back on the road exploring these great United States. Between heart surgery and recovery for me, and sciatic nerve pain for Jon, we were ready to roll.

We pointed at the landscape that zoomed by as we left the Bay Area. “Look over there,” I said. “The hills were still green in the Tri-Valley. At the Altamont Pass they turned the color of a teddy bear.” Further on, the fruit and nut trees along Interstate 5 had already leafed out, and newly planted crops painted the San Joaquin Valley floor in patchwork fashion.

We stopped for the night at our favorite way station in Bakersfield, the Orange Grove RV Park. Dove calls, the chip-chip-chip of quail, and the trilling and singing of other birds welcomed us to the grove. Sure, we have birds in the Bay Area, but the abundance of birds nestled in the orange trees was like a chorus.

Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield, California

Guests are allowed to pick the fruit when in season so long as they don’t use ladders or climb in the trees.

It seems like we are seeing more and more solar panels in use where ever we go.

Solar Panels at Orange Grove RV Park

The next day, we continued oohing and aahing over the landscape. The sage, bristlebush, creosote, Joshua trees, and grasses colored the desert terrain green. Even yellow mustard still bloomed in the higher elevations.

A train of black tankers with double engines at the head, mid-train, and rear worked its way through Tehachapi pass. We wanted to know what the tankers held, where they were going, and where they began their journey. Our curiosity and taste for adventure returned quickly after the nine-month absence.

Lake Havasu City (LHC) came next so we could say hey to my sister Merri. Unfortunately, she had to work so we didn’t get to spend much time together during our three nights there. A breakfast meet-up at The Red Onion downtown and a quick goodbye at her place of business would have to suffice. We’ll have to make sure our next visit coincides with her days off.

A mural in downtown Lake Havasu City

One day while in LHC, Jon and I walked along the channel south of the London Bridge.

Lake Havasu City is home to replica famous lighthouses from across the United States. This one is of Currituck Beach Lighthouse constructed along the channel walkway.
The channel is a great place to boat and people watch
These little blackbirds are a common sight
JT taking a rest with the London Bridge in the background

We stopped in at Kokomo. A refreshing Mai Tai and a slice or two of pizza was the perfect snack.

Kokomo is not only a place to get drinks. You can play corn hole, drop a basketball in a trash barrel or jump in the pool for a game of volleyball.

Then we wandered about before making our way back to Rotary Park. It was a good thing the walkway included plenty of benches to sit and take a break in the shade. After almost a week of very little sciatica, Jon had trouble walking without pain for more than a few yards. We discussed turning back home, but he would not hear of it so we pressed on.

Love locks at the top of London Bridge
Trees are a welcome sight in 100-degree weather in Lake Havasu City
Closer view of the London Bridge

The weather forecast for May 19 predicted a high wind advisory for the state of Arizona and rain the next day in Cortez, Colorado, where we had reservations. We decided to skedaddle and called Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA for early arrival.

But before we left LHC, we stopped in to say goodbye to my Merri.

Bye, Merri. It was great to see you. Miss you already.

We made an overnight stay in Tuba City, Arizona, at the Quality Inn and RV park, and a quick stop at Four Corners Monument the next day.

Four Corners Monument
Photo op at Four Corners Monument

Then we arrived safe and sound at the KOA.

Site 46 at Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA
A bit of yard art at the KOA
View from the Cortez high school parking lot

Our decision to arrive early turned out perfect. Snuggled in our fifth wheel on Monday, May 20, we gazed out at RVers arriving, not in the rain as forecast, but in the snow. The freak storm surprised the park operators as much as it did us. sure got it wrong. It wasn’t until late in the day the app actually acknowledged that snow had fallen.

Three little cabins sitting in the snow
A bit of green among all the white

The snow stopped after about four hours. I zipped up my jacket, pulled on my knit cap, and slung my new Sony A6500 around my neck. I needed some quality time with my new camera. The smaller form factor and weight was my goal for purchasing new gear. A bonus was the 5-axis in camera stabilization. I wasn’t sure I’d like going mirrorless. But so far I’m quite pleased with the lighter weight and stabilization. I rarely use a tripod and have noticed an improvement in the sharpness of my photos. Editing the raw images also seems easier and quicker.

Canon Rebel T3i with Tamron 16 to 300 zoom lens versus the Sony A6500 with 18 to 135 lens. Which would you rather carry around?
Ice on a branch
The snow melted fast once it quit falling
Little yellow wagon in the snow
Playground at Denny Park
Denny Lake with campsites in background
From 90 degrees in Lake Havasu to 30 degrees in Cortez, Colorado

For the past few days, we’ve stayed close to camp because of the weather, but also because of the return of Jon’s sciatica. The week before we left on this trip, Jon’s pain had eased considerably with physical therapy and exercises. After being on the road for a few days, the beast struck again. His walks of a 1/2 mile to a mile have reduced to a few steps. Will acupuncture give him some relief? “I’m ready to try anything at this point,” Jon answered.

Stay tuned for the results and a little bit about Mesa Verde National Park, if we’re lucky.

Safe Travels

Cathedral Gorge State Park, Tonopah, Nevada, and Home Sweet Home

We continued our westward trajectory on September 16, 2018, the 55th day of our Summer 2018 Tour. Caliente, Nevada, seemed like a good distance to drive, except we didn’t get that far. Cathedral Gorge State Park popped up on the map so we decided to try it. With plenty of spots to choose from, we opted for paying $15.00 without electricity. We should have paid the extra $10.00.

Cathedral hills and water tower

After about an hour, strong gusts of hot wind blew and sand pelted the side of the trailer until shortly before sunset. As if the fifth wheel wasn’t dirty enough, a thick layer of sand settled on the floor, the dining table, countertop, and every available surface. All I could see was a full day of deep cleaning ahead of me.

Cathedral Caves

Once the wind died down, we were able to stretch our legs and explore a little before the sun settled in for the night. Cathedral Gorge State Park, consisting of nearly 2,000 acres once occupied by the Fremont, Anasazi, and Southern Paiutes, became Nevada’s first state park in 1935.

A stone water tower and restroom building built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) are no longer in use but still standing. The original picnic facilities continue in use today.

Water tower built by CCC
Restroom building built by CCC

The formations, composed of silt, clay, and volcanic ash, aptly contain the reference to cathedrals, with their tall spires and skinny slot canyons and caves. It would be a great place to play hide and seek.

Peek a boo.
Inside one of the cathedral caves

We took the Miller Point Trail which traveled up a canyon and through a dusty wash until a set of stairs appeared. The several sets of stairs took us to the point where we had wonderful views and watched the sunset.

On our way to Miller Point

Although the campground filled up with other RVs and tent campers, it was quiet outside. As the sky turned dark, and the campers across the road finished up their dinner, someone treated us to a little guitar music. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard a guitar while camping. In my younger years, it seemed like everywhere we went there was always someone playing guitar. Are people not interested in picking up the instrument nowadays?

Not much further.
Almost there.
Whew! We made it.
View of canyon and trail from Miller Point
Another view from Miller Point
Goodnight sun.
On our way back.

When I woke up to close the windows in the middle of the night, I witnessed a spectacular show of twinkling stars along with the Milky Way streaking across the sky. That was something I hadn’t seen in a long time and it almost made up for the sand storm mess.

The next day, we drove through Caliente on our way toward Tonopah, Nevada. Young’s RV looked like it might be a decent place to stay. They even had tall shade trees and grass. The cute downtown area contained stores, restaurants, and shops. There was also a railway museum undergoing renovations that piqued our interest. Maybe we should have kept driving the day before. Oh, well chances are good that we’ll make it back there someday.

We drove the Extraterrestrial Highway 375. A couple of buildings and signs referred to aliens. And in Rachel, Nevada, where only about 50 people live, the Little A’Le’Inn Bar advertised food and lodging, but we weren’t in need of either so we drove on. For miles, there wasn’t much else to look at except the huge cattle ranches and open range. Pinon pines, junipers, and sage popped up going through Oak Summit, then we dropped into Tikaboo Valley, where Joshua Trees grow. We stopped at a BLM site that included information panels about the trees. This valley is unique in that both types of the trees are present, the tall tree-like western (Yucca brevifolia) species and the bushy eastern (Yucca jaegeriana) species. I found it interesting that each species of tree is pollinated by a different species of Yucca moth.

Eastern Joshua Tree

Before we came into Tonopah, a group of hills looked like scoops of vanilla ice cream with crumbled Oreo cookies and caramel on top.

Yum! Vanilla ice cream topped with crushed Oreo cookies.

We were surprised to see a Tesla recharging center in Tonopah since we rarely see the cars in remote areas. It made sense once I thought about it though. The 7-hour 440-mile drive between Reno and Las Vegas on Interstate 95 puts Tonopah at about the halfway mark. The mileage range, depending on model and battery size, is 295 for the Model X to 335 for the Model S. The roadster, on the other hand, can make the trip with 180 miles to spare. (Mileage ranges obtained from Tesla’s website on February 8, 2019.)

Tonopah Information Center and Tesla charging station.

We settled into our site for the night at the Tonopah Station Hotel, Casino, Restaurant, and RV Resort. Boy, what a mouthful. I sure wouldn’t call it a resort, but for a quick stop, it fit the bill. RVs park behind the building on an asphalt parking lot with utility towers and trash barrels between each unit. The Tap Room at the Tonopah Brewing Company served up tasty BBQ and a nice selection of beer to satisfy any beer drinker’s taste.

Tonopah Brewing Company Tap Room

The next day we traveled through Yosemite, staying the night at Yosemite Pines, a campground nestled in a valley on Old Highway 120. It offered covered wagons, cabins, retro trailers to rent, RV sites of all sizes, and tent sites. Outdoor play equipment, a pool, trail around the park with exercise stations, and an animal yard that included goats, burros, alpacas, and chickens. It would have been nice to stay awhile, but that didn’t work out so we drove the rest of the way home on September 19, 2018, our 58th day on the road.

For those readers who like statistics, here they are for our 2018 Summer Tour:

  • Days – 59
  • Total miles driven – 4,723
  • Miles pulling fifth wheel – 3,414
  • Diesel Fuel – 419.4 gallons
  • RV Parks/Campgrounds – 18
  • States – 4
  • National Monuments and Parks – 4
  • Museums and Historical sites – 12

It is February already and my recovery from surgery is going well and nearing completion. We are both itching to get back on the road. But before we do, Jon has a few fifth wheel projects in the works and we have other tasks to complete that will keep us at home until at least mid-April. I’m hoping we’ll be able to fit in a short trip here and there before April, so stay tuned.

Safe Travels


Richfield, Utah

We found the Richfield KOA to be one of the best places we have stayed. Their shaded sites are so large they can accommodate a tow vehicle and a large toy hauler or motorhome with plenty of room to spare for a few ATVs. Since our rig is not large and we don’t tug along ATVs we enjoyed the extra room to move about. The park also has easy access to the miles of trails that wind their way throughout Richfield and the surrounding area.

Fremont Indian State Park and Museum

Besides the ATV trails there is the Fremont Indian State Park and Museum, and Candy Mountain within a reasonable driving distance.

Fremont Indian State Park and Museum

We started out by visiting the Fremont Indian State Park and Museum where we watched a movie about how the museum came about. It all started with the construction of I70 during the 1980s. The plan was to take down four of the five-finger range hills and use them as fill to build up the valley after diverting the river/creek.

The last of the five finger hills

When the crew began digging, they found an ancient Indian settlement consisting of several pit houses and storage facilities. Archeologists rushed to the area to document and preserve what they could. It turned out that this was the largest Fremont Indian settlement found.

A depiction of family life in a pithouse
Possible trapper attire and tools of his trade

The neighboring community did not want the artifacts to sit in a university somewhere and pushed for the state park. Their dream came true and the park preserves the history of these ancient peoples.

What a find this jar was. It was found upside down in a pithouse

The museum depicts life as it was including a mockup of a pithouse with a vent that brought fresh air in and a hole at the top where smoke escaped.

Possible meanings of petroglyphs

Cooking and work areas are also displayed. One of the most interesting objects was a recreation of remains that were found a few miles away. The recreation shows how the woman might have looked like when she was alive. A push of a button starts audio so visitors can hear her story and learn how tall she was, the condition of her teeth, the age when she died, and how she was buried.

Layers of time

Clear Creek Road and I70 run through the middle of the narrow park with trails on both sides of the freeway to explore the terrain and view petroglyphs and pictographs. When we finished in the museum, we ventured outside to explore more. a short drive on Clear Creek Road took us to panels where petroglyphs and pictographs have survived erosion.

Petroglyphs are carved into the stone and depict a story, the meaning of which has been lost over 500 to 1,000 years
Pictographs are drawn using some kind of coloring or pigment. These seem to represent blankets.
It’s amazing that these have lasted so many years

Across the freeway are caves and the Sevier River.

Sheep Shelter
The mirror in Sheep Shelter reflects a view of the ceiling where more petroglyphs are carved
I love it when wildlife poses for a photo. It sure is better than when they show me their backside.

This cabin is similar to what the Joseph Lott family may have built on this site when they settled here in the 1880s.

1880s cabin

The 100 Hands Cave caught my interest. When were they placed here? Why did they make the pictograph? Was it some kind of ritual? How long did the pigment stay on their hands?

100 Hands Cave

It’s a good thing the park protects this art with a wrought iron gate. Given the evidence that modern day artists had a mind to destroy this artifact, I can’t imagine what it would look like if not for the protection.

Close up of 100 Hands Cave

The last stop on our adventure at the Fremont State Park was the Jedediah Strong Smith Memorial. Yes, the same hunter, trapper, and explorer of the American West who traveled through the Great Salt Lake, Colorado River, Mojave Desert, California, and Oregon. To think of all the changes made since the 1820s when Smith roamed the west, it boggles the mind. I wonder what it will all look like in another 200 years.

Jedediah Strong Smith Memorial

Big Rock Candy Mountain

What attracted us to Big Rock were the mountains that looked like cakes dripping with yellow, white, and caramel icing. Volcanic activity is what gave the mountains their colorful feature. Different types of minerals produced different colors.

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Besides the mountain, hiking and ATV trails and access to the Sevier River are also available.

Big Rock Candy Mountain across the field. On the far right and middle of the photo is the RV park under the cluster of trees

The Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort offers places to stay in an RV Park with about 30 sites including water, sewer, and electricity; eight suites in the lodge; and 12 converted train cars in the Caboose Village. It looks like Big Rock Grill and Smokehouse serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At least as I write this.

Caboose Village from across the river

Piute State Park

No, I did not misspell the word Piute. Although the park was named after the Native Americans who lived in the area at one time, the state legislature decided to change the spelling. I’m not sure why they would want to do that.

The park was abandoned when we visited, most likely due to the low level of water in September. The reservoir is used for irrigation purposes, so I guess it was all used up. I’m not sure how fish could remain alive in the reservoir at this low level, though. The water was quite murky, as was the runoff.

Low tide at Piute Reservoir. This is the boat ramp.

The park sits on the Sevier Plateau and contains a portion of the Piute Reservoir where anglers can try their luck for a trophy-sized rainbow, cutthroat, or brown trout. A boat ramp and day-use shade shelters are also available.

Day use shade cabanas

The park is quite primitive, including the campground. Only pit toilets are available and there is no water, so be sure to bring what you need. There are also three ATV trail systems accessible from the park.

Looking south across the Piute Reservoir

Next up we continue our trek west toward California.

Safe Travels

Montrose, Colorado, and Black Canyon at the Gunnison National Park

Decision time had arrived. Our original plans were to hang around Mesa Verde for a few days or a week and then drop down into New Mexico, staying on the road until the first part of November. Except one of those life-happens-as-your-making-plans moments popped up on the day before we began our Summer 2018 Tour.

When my cardiologist broke the news that it was time to repair my weakened mitral heart valve, I thought I could push it off until April or May. After spending a month and a half on the road, I realized it was best to get the surgery over with as soon as possible. The worry hung over me like an anvil and I needed to get out from under it. We cut our trip short and turned the truck for home on September 9, 2018. But that didn’t mean we weren’t going to stop to see a few more sights along the way.

Preferring the back roads, we took the scenic route heading west on U.S. 24, making a left at U.S. 285 and continuing to U.S. 50 toward Montrose, Colorado, passing through Monarch Pass. The colorful hills and forests kept us alert during our 4-1/2 hour drive.

The hills begin their fall displays
San Isabel National Forest
Dillon Pinnacles and Gunnison River in Curecanti National Recreation Area

We checked in at Black Canyon KOA, a nice campground with large spots and plenty of shade trees. Our focus for staying in Montrose was to visit the Black Canyon at the Gunnison National Park. Established as a national monument in 1933, Black Canyon became a national park on October 21, 1999.

South Rim

The park features a 7-mile road along the south rim with 12 overlooks where we found differing views of the canyon and the river 2,000 feet below. Some of the overlooks were more popular than others, especially with the tour buses. If we missed an overlook going one way, we caught it on the return trip.

Tomichi Point View toward the east
View from visitor center

While at the visitor center we noticed what looked like a natural bridge. When we asked one of the rangers about it, he said, no. Not a bridge. He had never seen it before and guessed the rock recently fell and wedged itself between the pillars. It was cool to think we were one of the first people to have seen this phenomenon.

I dub thee Fallen Rock Bridge

The Painted Wall was definitely a do-not-miss overlook. The cliff stands 2,250 feet above the river. The stripes on the wall consist of pegmatite, a type of granite containing quartz, feldspar, and mica.

Painted Wall with photographer
Painted Wall with Gunnison River
Spires in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

When we arrived at the High Point overlook, we were ready to stretch our legs on the 1-1/2 mile Warner Point Nature Trail. The pamphlet led us through pinyon pines, juniper, Douglas fir, and Gambel oak trees.

We kept our eye on the storm brewing across the valley. Luckily, it stayed east of us during our entire walk.

Keep eyes on any storm
View of Uncompahgre Valley from Warner Trail
View of Adobe Hills and Uncompahgre Valley from Warner Nature Trail
Warner Nature Trail – Fall is rushing in
Warner Nature Trail and greener pastures thanks to the Gunnison Tunnel

East Portal

The East Portal road is the access route to the Gunnison River, Gunnison Tunnel, Gunnison Diversion Dam, Crystal Dam, a campground, and picnic area. It sounds like a lot to see after reading that list, but everything is contained within about a mile, so not really. And a chainlink fence with concertina wire on top prevents anyone from getting near the Crystal Dam. Take note that the road includes a 16% grade and numerous switchbacks. Vehicles over 22 feet long are prohibited.

East Portal Road switchbacks

Water diverted from the Gunnison River flows through the Gunnison Tunnel, built between 1905 and 1909. I marvel at the engineering it must have taken to blast through rock to create the 11-foot by 12-foot tunnel 5.8 miles long through the granite cliffs of Black Canyon. Starting at opposite ends of the mountain the workers met in the middle using a heading and bench system. First, a heading was cut out of the rock at the top of the bore then cut down six to eight feet, leaving a bench of seven to five feet. Then they cut deeper into the rock and eventually removed the bench portion. President William Taft dedicated the tunnel on September 23, 1909.

Gunnison River from 1/2 way up the East Portal Road

The tunnel is not visible, however, a pump house containing a 5-hp pump and a flat surface under the water is.

Gunnison River Diversion Dam
The dam at end of East Portal Road
Gunnison Tunnel and Diversion Dam Parking and Picnic Cabana

All of our sightseeing must have been too much for us (I mean Jon) to cook dinner while in Montrose because we ate out twice in the short time we were there. First up was the Horsefly Brewing Company. We both opted for the fried shrimp basket. I had sweet potatoes fries with mine, and Jon chose onion rings. A crisp cold Hefeweizen washed it all down.

Horsefly Brewing Company

Check out the barstools at the end of the bar on the right.

Horsefly Brewing Company

Mi Mexico served bargain margaritas for $3.00 when we stopped in for an early dinner. While a bargain price wise, the restaurant did not skimp on the volume or taste. The taco/enchilada lunch special filled our bellies and did not disappoint our taste buds.

Next up we leave Colorado behind and head for Richfield, Utah.

Safe Travels


Colorado Springs, Colorado

Moving day arrived on Tuesday, September 4, 2018, the 43rd day of our Summer 2018 Tour. We checked in at Garden of the Gods RV Park in Colorado Springs for five nights. We had no problem whatsoever getting reservations. In fact, the RV park never reached full capacity during our time there. We must have entered the shoulder season, that time before and after peak season.

Pikes Peak

Speaking of peaks, the campground sat nestled below the foothills of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, and only three miles from Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Manitou. Unfortunately, the railway had closed due to the need for repairs. Their website now says they plan to reopen in 2021. I hope we are able to make a trip there when the railcars once again traverse the steep grade to the top of Pikes Peak.

Watch your step

Of course, had the railway been running, we would have missed the beautiful drive up the mountain and the many W turns. Vehicles can only drive so far up the 14,115-foot mountain due to the ongoing construction at the top. Parking and shuttles are available at two locations. The first is at the 7-mile marker and the second is at the 16-mile marker. We opted for the 16-mile marker. The less time I spend in the back of a crowded van on a twisty-turny road the better. Motion sickness is not my idea of fun.

Parking lot and shuttle pick up

When we first arrived at the top, cold seeped through to the bone of my face and legs. Why did I not wear a base layer under my jeans? After a trip to the bathroom and a spin around the gift shop, I walked out onto the back patio and it didn’t seem so cold even though the ground was covered in snow.

View from the visitor center and silent railway

With all the construction, melting ice, and snow, we walked gingerly to avoid falling on our butts on the muddy walkways. The need for reconstruction was evident in the condition of the bathroom and gift shop. I’m sure it had been at least 30 years since the building last saw upgrades.

A few people (not pictured) hadn’t planned ahead, wearing flip-flops, shorts, and no jackets or sweaters, in the slushy snow and mud. Crazy.

Railway and buildings at top of Pikes Peak

The views from the peak were the best part of our trip and we saw that the cog railway ended conveniently at the back of the visitor building.

View from Pikes Peak
This photo shows switchbacks in the form of a W on Pikes Peak road

Miramont Castle High Tea

We missed out on tea at the Dushanbe Tea Room in Boulder, so when we saw that Miramont Castle in Manitou served High Tea we called for reservations. They serve the goodies different from what we have experienced in the past. Instead of displaying all the food onto a tiered serving tray, each course comes separately. We started with scones. Then a dish of fresh fruit with strawberries cut to look like a tulip flower, spiraled grapes stuffed with blueberries, and melon balls of cantaloupe and watermelon.

Fresh fruit served icy cold.

Next came the sandwiches. I liked the fig and chicken Paninis the best. The pickle and mayonnaise sandwich was not as tasty, but I ate it anyway.

Dessert was an assortment of bread pudding, yellow cake with buttercream frosting, and a salted chocolate caramel truffle. I can’t believe I ate it all along with a pot and a half of two types of tea.

Yummy goodness
Two choices of tea included

Before and after our reservation, we had time to poke around the castle. Contractors Angus and Archie Gillis constructed the building in 1895—adding a wing in 1897—using plans developed by the owner, Fr. Francolon, and his father.

Solarium Photo 1

The 14,000 square foot home features 40 rooms, some of which are eight-sided. There is also a sixteen-sided room, a solarium, and arched doors and windows. There are nine separate architecture styles represented in the construction including Queen Anne, Romanesque, English Tudor, and Moorish. With two-foot thick walls made of native green sandstone, indoor plumbing, and electricity the castle was ahead of its time.

Solarium photo 2

Fr. Francolon came to Manitou for its popular healing waters and clean air hoping to restore his failing health. His mother arrived from New Mexico in July 1893, bringing four French-speaking servants because she did not speak English.

Bedroom 1

It is believed that the Francolons left for France unexpectedly in 1900 taking valuable artwork with them but leaving furniture. They never returned to Colorado.


The Sisters of Mercy, who operated the Montcalme sanitarium nearby for the treatment of tuberculosis, purchased the castle in 1904. After a fire in 1907 destroyed Montcalme, they moved their operation to the castle until 1928 when they discontinued their treatments.

Bedroom 2

The property then served as a boarding house for the wealthy and a retreat for clergy. It stood vacant until 1946 when it was sold to private owners. Manitou Springs Historical Society purchased the castle on February 17, 1976, and began restoration. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1977.

Example of Moorish architecture?

Besides a photo gallery, there are five other exhibits throughout the castle including history and displays about the Manitou Volunteer Fire Department and Pikes Peak International Hill Climp, which will hold its 97th Race to the Clouds on June 30, 2019.

Garden of the Gods

We visited and returned to Garden of the Gods a few times during our stay. Our first trip was to the visitor and nature center where they have interactive exhibits on geology, wildlife, and history of the park. On subsequent trips, we hiked one or more of the trails.

View of Garden of the Gods from the visitor center

The city park, registered as a National Natural Landmark, has free admission. Highlights include red rock sandstone formations that attract over one million visitors each year.

Kissing Camels

Fifteen miles of loop trails intersect as they wind their way around and through the formations, giving hikers, bicyclists, and horses plenty of places to roam around the 1,364 acres.

Hikers yield to horses

Perkins Central Garden trail is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers along its concrete paved 1.5 miles. The city only allows climbing in certain areas with a permit.

Siamese Twins – Hello out there
Central Garden Trail

We have Charles Elliott Perkins and his family, William Jackson Palmer, and  Colorado Springs to thank for public access to these unusually shaped rocks.

Cathedral Spires

A portion of Garden of the Gods was included in 480 acres of land Perkins purchased in 1879. When he died in 1909, his family gave the land to Colorado Springs with the stipulation that it would be a free public park.

Steamboat on the left and Balanced Rock on the right

When Palmer died, he donated his Rock Ledge Ranch to the city. Today, Colorado Springs parks and recreation staff operate and maintain the visitor center and park.

No, Jon. You won’t fit through that crack.

Old Colorado City

We happened upon a huge farmers market at Bancroft Park in Old Colorado City. The colorful canopies, mouth-watering aromas, and friendly people laughing and talking was a delight to see. Had we known about the market we would not have loaded up on fruits and veggies the day before.

Bancroft Park Farmers Market

Lunch is what we were after. Bon Ton’s Café looked like a good bet and we were not disappointed.

Bon Ton’s Cafe – a great place for breakfast and lunch

We both had coffee and the apple streusel pancake. It was so huge it covered the entire large plate. There was no way we could have eaten more. Well, perhaps Jon could have.

Then we spent about an hour scoping out the historic buildings.

This 1904 public library has been in continuous use as a library since it opened.
This cabin, built in 1859, has had many lives, even as the capitol of territorial Colorado in 1862.
Example of architecture in Old Colorado City
Old Colorado City in reflection

It was nice to settle in Colorado Springs for the few days we were there. We had plenty to see and do without driving long distances. This we appreciated after our stays in Strasburg, Lyons, and Rocky Mountain National Park. We saved other attractions for our next visit when we have more time.

Safe Travels


Strasburg, Colorado, and a bit more in Boulder

Happy New Year One and All!

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.

Patio Cafe in Strasburg, Colorado

We drove around town and found a few fascinating old buildings. I liked this one for the colors and geometric shapes.

Commercial Building

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.

Strasburg Inn no longer in business?

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.

Log cabin house

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.

Rock wall building
Detail of rock wall building

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.

Chautauqua Park

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.”

Chautauqua Arbor

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.

Wildflowers still in bloom

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.

JT consults the map

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.

McClintock Trail

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.

This tree isn’t letting a little erosion ruin its life
Bluebell Hiking Trail going uphill toward the Flatirons
Bluebell Hiking Trail going downhill

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.

Chautauqua Dining Hall
View from Dining Hall

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.

Overlook of Boulder and the Baseline Reservoir

Dushanbe Teahouse

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.

Dushanbe Teahouse entrance

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.

Side patio of Dunshabe Teahouse showing artistic panels

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.

Detail of crafted panels at Dushanbe Teahouse

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.

Safe Travels

Lyons and Boulder, Colorado, and Rocky National Park East

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.

Day use parking lot and RV park at LaVern M. Johnson Park

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.

St. Vrain Creek at LaVern M. Johnson Park
Tent site at LaVern M. Johnson Park in Lyons, Colorado

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.

Hallett Peak framed by the trees

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.

Douglas-fir bark

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.

Aspen eyes
Longs Peak (14,259 feet) is shown in the upper right quadrant of the photo
The pile of rocks is a glacial moraine left behind by a glacier

At the end of August, wildflowers still bloomed along the trail.

Heartleaf Arnica

Sprague Lake

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.

Sprague Lake and Hallett Peak
Sprague Lake

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.

Historic Moraine Park

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.

Enjoy great food at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ in Estes Park and Lyons, Colorado
Wood Arch Bridge crosses the St. Vrain River

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.

Boulder County Courthouse

Shopping, dining, and art appreciation are activities enjoyed at Pearl Street Mall.

Pearl Street Mall Scene

Several outdoor art objects are strategically placed throughout the plaza.

“Hearts on a Swing” by George Lundeen
Boulder Bookstore
Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar
Pearl Street Pub & Cellar

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.

Safe Travels