Rocky Mountain National Park, CO: 8/14 – 8/24/20

We have been to Estes Park several times before, but this visit was different.  Estes Park means family since this is where Scott’s dad lived since 1995.  The last time we were here was in March of 2019, when we spread his dad’s ashes in Rocky Mountain National Park.   This time we did not see family.  And, because of Covid, entry into the National Park was limited between the hours of 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.  You had to go online to purchase a daily pass with a two-hour time slot that would provide you entry.  Ninety percent of the day passes were sold out months prior. The remaining ten percent of the passes were posted on line (recreation.gov) 48 hours in advance.  So, at 8 a.m., you would sign on to purchase a pass for two days later.  The problem was that they were mostly gone is a matter of seconds.  We ended up getting four passes that gave us entry on Monday, 8/17, from 3 – 5 p.m., Wednesday, 8/19, from 2 – 4 p.m., Thursday, 8/20, from 3 – 5 p.m., and lastly, Sunday, 8/23, from 12 – 2 p.m.  Not ideal times for summit hikes. We didn’t learn until Tuesday that we could enter the Park before 6 a.m. or after 5 p.m., but you still needed a day pass posted on your dashboard to avoid fines if caught. This process was certainly new for us. Like everybody else, we made the best of it. Below is a sampling of our visits into RMNP.

Fern Lake Trail, Hiked 8.7 miles, 1,490’ elevation gain, 3:20 hours
Fern Lake
Start of Mount Ida Trail. Poudre Lake at left.
Summit of Mount Ida 12,880’ – 10 mile hike, 2,402’ Elevation Gain, 5:52 hours
Coming back down. Goodbye Ida.
View of Mount Ida (far center and right) from Trail Ridge Road

After Mount Ida’s hike, we took it slow and easy the next day with an easy, relaxing hike.

Cub Lake Trail, 4.6 mile hike, 551’ Elevation Gain, 2:08 hours

We had a pass to get into RMNP for 12-2 p.m. on our last day in Estes Park. We decided to drive through the park and take the kayaks out on Grand Lake, which is just outside the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is on the eastern side. It was mostly cloudy and only in the mid-seventies. There was a small group already hanging out, and we could see another kayaker in the water.

Getting ready to unload the toys.

We only lasted about 40 minutes on the water. It began to sprinkle and the skies became quite dark. We rode back to shore, got the toys back in the truck and the sun came out! We sat and talked with a couple that had just arrived with their inflatable boats and were actually going for a swim. They were from Michigan. LOL. That water was far too cold for my liking.

We left Grand Lake and entered the western side of RMNP for the ride along Trail Ridge Road to get back to the other side. We stopped briefly where we had sprinkled Scott’s dad’s ashes last year. It was here that we met a massive friend who took my breath away. Literally! We walked down a small path into the woods and found ourselves standing not 20 feet from a bull elk. We were standing behind a scrawny, little bush about 5’ tall, when this big boy stopped eating and looked straight at us. When he finally turned his gaze, Scott gave me the hand signal to start walking back towards the car. OMG!! Of course, we had left our phones in the car. So, Scott took my phone and walked back down the path to find our large friend. He is my brave boy.

It was time to say goodbye to Colorado. On our last night in Spruce Lake RV Park, there was an elk party going on. A parade of elk decided to walk around the campground. This is not unusual this time as year since the rut season is about to begin.

Behind the trees to the left was a hidden gem.
The Big Thompson River – My private swimming pool just 20 steps from our trailer.
Dinner at Bird & Jim’s

Next stop, Montana, the Big Sky County.

Summit County, CO: 6/22 – 7/2/20

We were here back in the winter of 2018 for six weeks. We stayed at Tiger Run, the only year-round RV Resort in the area. The purpose for our visit this time was to speak directly with the office manager to insure that we would be able to reserve a site for ten weeks this coming winter ski season.

Breckenridge takes on an entirely different look during the summer than in the winter. They had record snowfall back in the winter of 2018-2019, and there was white stuff everywhere.

February 2019
June 2020 – New Season, New Rig
Double Rainbow

Behind Tiger Resort is a section of the CDT and the Colorado Trail. This trail is for both bicycles and foot traffic, and dogs are also allowed.

We reached a point where you can get a clear view of Breckenridge Ski Mountain on the left.

Once we were nestled up high into the mountains, we saw a moose grazing in the fields.

She even blocked our path on our way back. We had to hang out for about five minutes with two bicyclists until she moved off the trail. Don’t mess with moose!

We left Tiger Run Resort at $110.00/night (full hook up but with no resort amenities due to Covid19) and we were able to get a site for two nights at Prospector Campground in Dillon for $24.00 (dry camping, beautiful, semi-private location).

This campground is located on Dillon Reservoir. There are a few other campgrounds on the lake.

“Dillon Reservoir, sometimes referred to as Lake Dillon, is a large fresh water reservoir located in Summit County, Colorado, south of I-70 and bordered by the towns of Frisco, Silverthorne, and Dillon. It is a reservoir for the city of Denver, and its waters are under the control of Denver Water.”

Swimming is not allowed, however motorized and non-motorized boating is permitted. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get our toys out on the water this trip. We did, however, get in a few hikes. Sniktau Mountain was only 3.66 miles, but the elevation gain was 1,276 feet. It took us 3:27 hours as I needed to make many stops as we headed up. We began at over 12,000 feet and my Asthma lungs were challenged.

Popular trail as many lost items were on display.
Far left is A-Basin – middle is Keystone – Zoom in to white caps in background to see Breckenridge

I took a video about a third of the way up. At the very end, Scott is sitting on the trail above me.

This is just after the first of three “false” summits. The wind picked up and it got pretty chilly.
Pointing at the marker on the summit.
The tunnel on I-70 heading to Breckenridge.

After a tough hike, we stopped at the base lodge at A-Basin for a cold drink.

A few days later, we returned to Gold Hill Trail No 79 Colorado Trail. This trailhead is a few miles up the road from Tiger Run RV Resort.

We snowshoed here during the winter of 2018/2019. It looked completely different.

There had been fire damage to parts of this area back in 2000 that we were not able to see with the winter snow cover.

You can see runs at Breckenridge in the far distance.
Bushwhacking our way back to the trail.
View of Dillion Lake

It was time to begin the job of packing for what was to be a two-week visit back in New Jersey. Due to Covid19, I was no longer comfortable with flying home. So, my wonderful husband said he would drive me back.

We found a storage facility in Bayfield, Colorado. Goodbye Columbus! Crossing our fingers that you will look the same when we return.

Medicine Bow Mountains, CO: 6/17 – 6/22/20

It was time to boon dock again. We left Fort Collins and drove west on 14 along the Cache la Poudre River. We found a perfect spot just off Laramie River Road, with a stream behind us.

When we left around 2 p.m. for a short hike, there were two moose, a cow and her calf, walking down the road. I grabbed my phone and was able to catch one of them before they retreated down to the river. It looks like we have some neighbors.

There are several trailheads off Laramie River Road, which is why Scott chose this location. We drove a few miles to the trailhead for Trail 177. We hiked 4.35 miles round trip to three lakes: Lost, Laramie and Twin.

There is a wide, gravel road to begin this hike.
#1 – Lost Lake
#2 – Laramie Lake

At times, the trails was difficult to follow, but I followed my guy through the soft, muddy grasses.

#3 – Twin Lakes
Beaver Dam on Twin Lakes

Our next hike would be our LONGEST EVER together. We hiked 14.29 miles round trip on West Branch Trail, which follows its fork of the Laramie River up into the Rawah Wilderness ending at Island and Carey Lakes. It took us almost nine hours through snow and overflowing trails as a result of snow runoff. Total elevation gain was 2,635 feet.

Here we go.
Crossing over the Laramie River to continue the hike.

There were sections of the trail that were flowing with water from snow melt. We had to hop on rocks and walk on logs to cross over. I slipped and one foot went entirely into the cold water.

The trail quickly went from this…
…to this

There was mostly snow on the trails for the next TWO miles to the lake.

Are you coming darling?
Are we there yet?
Island Lake wasn’t the only thing frozen. Time to add layers.
This is what summer can look like in Colorado!
The reason they call it “Island” Lake.
Beautiful shot, Scott!
A view of Carey Lake.

With wet, cold feet, we tackled our way back through the snow. It was a pleasure to finally get back on a dirt trail. Only FIVE more miles to get back to the truck. We were two tired puppies at the end of this hike. We both slept like babies that night.

The following day, we felt refreshed but decided to take a shorter hike. We drove to Cameron Pass and bought a day pass to Colorado State Park for $9. You can buy an annual pass for $80 and get into all of the state parks, but we didn’t think we’d actually get to many more state parks.

It was already after three when we started this short hike. While it is only 0.8 miles to reach Agnes Lake, it is all switchbacks going up. Once you reach the lake, there are accessible, partly-snowy trails to walk around half of the lake.

Looking down at the lake.
Zoom in dead center to see our furry friend on the rock.
Scott told me to walk across the log onto the ice so he could take my picture. Right.

On our last day boon docking in this area, we took an 11-mile bike ride on Laramie Ditch Road. The ten-foot wide gravel road gradually rose in elevation. On one side was a huge drop off to the meadow below. On the other side was a man-made ditch that connected runoff from the mountains to the Cache La Poudre River. This was part of an expansion project near the start of West Branch Trail. We passed and stopped to admire several waterfalls that were feeding into this newly created ditch.

It wasn’t long before we reached the end of the road.

Time to turn around. It started raining on our way back down, but the rain soon subsided. It is very normal this time of year to have rain/thunderstorms in the afternoon. Tomorrow, we will say goodbye to our peaceful solitude and return to civilization – complete with WIFI and a cell signal. Off to Breckenridge!

North Sterling Park, CO: 6/14 – 6/17/20

North Sterling State Park is located in the northeastern section of the expansive state of Colorado. It is just east of the Pawnee National Grasslands.

The campsites are spread out, but there were no trees to separate one another. We were not on the water side, but we were directly across the road from the water. After we got settled, we took a walk up the road to a trail that spanned the perimeter of the large reservoir.

Looking back at camp.

Later that evening, Scott took a walk back up the trail to catch some sunset pictures.

On his way back down the hill, he caught a brilliant shot of the campground. Look at those storm clouds! If you zoom in, you can spot our white truck behind our fifth wheel with the toys still attached to the back.

The temperature was over 100 degrees when we arrived early afternoon. While it did cool down a bit overnight, it was still quite warm. This was not the type of place where I wanted to hang out in mid June. It was way too hot and I missed the beauty and the summer temperature in the mountains. That evening, we watched a lighting storm. It was pretty amazing.

Even though we did get out on the water with our paddle board and kayak, we had come here for one purpose only. Scott’s dad passed away in January of 2019. He wanted to spread his dad’s remaining ashes somewhere special. Scott was born and raised in Colorado. When he was young, his dad would take him hunting in Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, which is not far from where we camped.

Scott recalled how they used to stop at the Ranger Office to sign in and receive a spot assigned solely to them. The office was closed, due to Covid19, but Scott seemed to think that Site 8E was the last time he was here with his dad. So, off we went in search of Site 8E. The place was deserted. There was a two-foot electrical fence that we had to climb over. I chose to stay back on the road and allow him some time alone.

The next day, we drove through Pierce, CO, so that I could see the house where Scott lived in from Grade 8 – 12. He said it looked quite different from what he remembered.

Tomorrow, we head to a KOA in Fort Collins to do laundry and catch up on chores.

Golden, Colorado: 6/11 – 6/14/20

We had just left Buena Vista and were going over Kenosa Pass when a warning light came on in the truck. The coolant level was low, and Scott knew that we would not be able to drive straight to Sterling without checking it out. So, we quickly googled the closest campground in the area. We were lucky to find a place in Golden.

Dakota Ridge RV Park is located in a small suburb, Golden, just outside of Denver. It is a popular spot for travelers that want to be near the city and the mountains. They have a number of amenities including a beautiful pool. Unfortunately, the pool was closed due to Covid19. Scott reserved it for three nights since we didn’t know how long it would take to get the truck serviced. We were still waiting for a phone call back from the Chevy Dealer.

This RV Park is also located directly opposite from a biker’s hangout, Dirty Dog Roadhouse. The next day, Scott drove the truck to the Chevy Dealer roughly eight miles away. Unfortunately, he was unable to get a ride home from Uber or a cab. Nobody was answering the phone. It took him about two hours to walk back. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I decided to walk across the street to the bar/restaurant to pick up some take out dinner. I will say that some people (like me) were wearing masks inside the restaurant, but it was a completely different scene outside. I had never seen so many motorcycles in one place at one time.

You can see our trailer across the street.

Our trailer is to the right of the yellow building behind the fence.

When Scott returned, we ate our dinner while listening to live music.

The bar/restaurant is open seven days a week until 2 a.m. During the summer, there is live music on the stage seven days a week. I find it hard to believe that a popular “family” RV Park would be located next to this type of place. I asked the manager before we left who was there first. The woman emphatically said that the RV Park was there first.

We only stopped there because of truck issues and most likely will never go back. Once was enough.

The truck was ready the following day. It was loosing coolant and it needed to have a few hoses replaced. Simultaneously, the water pump on the trailer broke on the same day. Fortunately, Scott picked up a new pump for $125 at a RV store. He was able to do the replacement himself, which saved a nice penny. Everything had to be removed from the storage area, so that he could play with all the hoses.

If you are planning to purchase an RV in your future, I highly suggest that you only do so if you have a mechanical mind or a lot of money. Things do and will go wrong. Trust me.

Buena Vista, CO, Boon Docking: 6/4 – 6/11/20

We drove to Collegiate Peaks Campground in Buena Vista with the hope of getting a site for a few nights. There were a few spots open for just Thursday night, but they were completely booked for the weekend. (I guess that the masses are beginning to tire of social distancing.) A few miles down the road, across from Avalanche Trailhead parking lot, we found a BLM spot near the stream. It was a bit tricky backing into the narrow, uneven spot, but Scott made it happen. Unfortunately, we took up three campsites. There were still more sites open for more boon dockers.

The next morning, we drove to Cottonwood Pass and took a short walk up the Continental Divide Trail. There were still remnants of the white stuff on parts of the trail. As we got higher in elevation, the snow was much deeper in spots.

The view opposite of us at the start of the trail.
Here we go.
The brown, dirt trail suddenly changed to this.

It wasn’t long before I refused to go any further up. We were just out to take a “walk” which was turning into a “get your feet are wet” hike. I encouraged Scott to climb alone up to the high point. Then I filmed him.

This was before he went further up to the high point and out of my sight

On the way back down, we encountered some deeper snow. I like when I am following Scott and am able to take a candid shot.

At least I could follow in his footsteps, even though it was slow going for both of us.

Two days later, we took another ”snowy” hike to Ptarmigan Lake. During the summer months, snow covered trails are to be expected in Colorado at higher elevations.

This is a relatively easy six-mile hike to the lake. It was a perfect hiking day with temperatures in the 50’s and mostly sunny. As we gained elevation and got closer to Ptarmigan Lake, it became windy and there was snow covering parts of the trail. It also became a bit colder.

We finally arrived at the mostly frozen lake.

We stopped to rest and eat some lunch, but it wasn’t long before we had to move again to get warm.

I had had a headache for two days and was feeling under the weather. I believe that it was a case of mountain sickness. The fresh air has a way of making you feel better, but I was a bit cranky in the beginning. That evening we had some visitors! My nephew was driving cross country from San Diego to New Jersey. As he travelled through Colorado, he visited a friend in Salida, which was only about 30 minutes from Buena Vista. The next day, we met Pat and his dog, Harley, for lunch. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was for me to see family again.

Later that day, Scott and I hiked up the Colorado Trail from the Avalanche Trailhead, which was located across the street from our campsite. We couldn’t leave the area without at least walking on part of it.

It got very cold that evening. This is what we woke up to the next morning.

The snow was gone by mid-morning. After five nights of boon docking, our next stop was the Buena Vista, KOA to take care of business.

Scott was up early to capture some sunrise pictures.

Our trailer is dead center.
Mount Princeton is dead center.

Time to head northeast to Sterling, Colorado.

East Fork of the San Juan River Boon Docking: 5/31 – 6/4/20

At this point, Colorado had begun to lift more of their restrictions due to COVID19. Restaurants were permitted to open as long as they followed strict guidelines. As we passed through Pagosa Springs, we decided to stop and have lunch. We dined “outside” at Tequilas Pagosa and enjoyed looking out at the place where we had honeymooned years ago.

Pagosa Springs Resort & Spa

I have to admit that it felt weird to be eating and drinking at a restaurant, but we enjoyed it! About 30 minutes from Pagosa Springs, we found a perfect place to boon dock along the San Juan River off East Fork Road. There are several dry camping spots scattered along this river and they are all free.

You need to see the aerial view to see how special this spot was.

We both slept soundly enjoying the constant sound of the rushing water just outside our windows. In the morning, I found my perch where I could enjoy my coffee and the view.

The trailhead for Coal Creek Trail was a short walk down the road. We hiked 5.72 miles round-trip with 1,797’ elevation gain.

The next day we took a drive along East Fork Road to Silver Falls. It was a short, steep hike to reach the vibrant falls.

We crossed the East Fork River and continued on East Fork Road. On a few occasions, we had to drive through one to two feet of water. One such crossing was Quartz Creek.

On the way back, I took the wheel. It is exhilarating to drive through water.

The next day, we hiked Coal Creek Trail again. This time, we made it to the top of the ridge. In total, we hiked 8.93 miles with an elevation gain of 2,933 feet. The trail is partially shaded by the many evergreen trees, with switchbacks that slowly gain in elevation. Although, some sections were a bit steep.

Signing In
Lush Grenery
Remnants of Winter
Lunch at the Ridge

That evening, we were relaxing in our chairs when a forest animal came to visit. This was a first for me. The skinny creature looked hungry. We were surprised that it came so close to us. He ran away before I had a chance to.

Zoom in …

The next morning, it was time to get ready to head out. I offered to get up on the roof and sweep the many pine needles off the top of the three slides.

On to Buena Vista!

Mesa Verde National Park, CO: 5/29 – 5/31/20

From Durango, it was only 70 miles west to Mesa Verde National Park. They had partially reopened the park on May 22, and we were fortunate enough to get a site in Morefield Campground in Apache Loop.

After we got settled, we took a drive and stopped at Montezuma Valley Overlook. We parked the truck, and Scott began to walk down a dirt path. In past years, it was much wider and known as Knife’s Road. The road was narrow and steep, and the instability of the soil made it difficult to maintain. Today is is a short walking path to breathtaking views.

After dinner, we took a short hike up Knife Edge Trail. The trailhead was located a few hundred feet from our site in Apache Loop.

Scott was ready with his camera to catch the sun set.

Waiting patiently for the sun to set.

There are two main roads that take you through this National Park. Chapin Mesa Road is open year-round, and Wetherill Mesa Road (which is open May through September, weather permitting) was closed due to COVID19. Although none of the ranger-guided tours into the dwellings were in operation, we were able to take a self-guiding hike. Petroglyph Point Loop Trail is 2.4 miles round trip, with many sections of rock steps and cliff edges.

About a mile and a half in, we came across the old etchings in stone.

It was a warm day, but there were several cool spots where we were shaded from the hot sun. Below is a view from the top.

Next, we decided to hike down into the canyon via Spruce Canyon Loop Trail, which was also 2.4 miles round trip. It was a pleasant hike down into the canyon…

…followed by an unpleasant hike back up. It was HOT and there wasn’t any shade to be found, just high grass along a very narrow path tickling our legs. We didn’t see any other hikers…I wonder why. Below is a view of the canyon below us.

Near the entrance to both trails, there was a paved trail where you could see the Spruce Tree House. This was the closest we would get to it.

We got back on Chapin Mesa Road and continued to Mesa Top Loop, a self-guiding auto tour of 600 years of Ancestral Puebloan architectural development. There are short, paved walkways, most of which are wheelchair-accessible.

The last stop on Mesa Top Loop was Sun Temple.

We were in awe of these homes and how much still remained. I wanted to climb through the window and run around inside, but there was a sign clearly indicating that trespassing was strictly off limits.

View from the window

The last loop off Chapin Mesa Road is Cliff Palace Loop, which leads you to Cliff Palace and the Balcony House. Tour tickets are required, but they were not for sale. We just stopped and admired the view, while Scott snapped a picture of Cliff Palace.

I snapped a picture, too.

In the morning, we will head east to Pagosa Springs.

Durango, Colorado: 4/17 – 5/29/20

We left Arizona and headed to Durango, Colorado. We decided to hunker down there and not travel around with Covid 19 ever present. All National Parks had closed down as well as some State Parks, but we knew of an old KOA that was sold and purchased privately that was going to open up on April 17. When we purchased our new fifth wheel in Amarillo, TX, we stayed at the Oasis RV Resort. We learned that those owners had purchased the KOA outside of the city of Durango on Hwy 160. They changed the name to Oasis RV & Cottages Resort and officially opened on April 17, 2020. We were their first customer! They took a picture of us as we pulled in late afternoon on the 17th. Google “Oasis RV Resort Durango Photos” to check it out.

The new owners have invested a lot of money to reshape the campground and make it a “year-round” facility. One of the new additions was a new Pickleball court. We were fortunate to see the progression.

They poured the cement during our first week here. We played on the “unpainted” concrete court without a fence or net for the next two weeks. We spent a lot of time running after the balls. Last week, they installed the fence. They plan to paint the court at the end of the month. We will be gone, but at least we were able to play while using our Superman eyesight to call the shots. Of course, there may have been some cheating going on with regards to the kitchen.

We came here to practice social distancing, and pretty much only took hikes and bike rides during the week. We hung out at the campground on the weekends, totally enjoying the sport of Pickleball. And, I was fortunate to be able to Zoom yoga classes daily.

Oasis RV Resort is located 10 miles east of the center of the town of Durango, and a short drive to great hiking and biking trails.

Here are a few mountain biking areas to check out.

Horse Gulch

It is rated as difficult, but not all of the trails fall under that category. The initial ride up a dirt, rocky road took my breath away. We learned to take it really slow in order to sustain its continual grade upward. Once you reach the top, there is a trail map with several options.

Three Springs Trail

Three Springs was less than a ten minute drive from our campground. There is a practice area for beginning riders. Then, there are two easy loops that are fun, flowing trails. It’s a great place to improve your skills and gain confidence. I know that I did.

Sale Barn Trailhead

The trails here are intermediate to advanced, with a lot of different loop options. Here is a view along one of the loops. Our campground is located on the far horizon.

There are several hiking options within a short drive from Oasis RV. Over the course of six weeks, we hiked a total of 110 miles with a total elevation gain of 21,323 feet. Here are some photographs from these hikes.

View of Durango from Smelter Mountain
Vallecito Creek Trail
Vallecito Creek Trail … Time to turn around
The Colorado Trail at Gudy’s Rest
Our Four-Legged-Friend, Maya, getting a drink.
Castle Rock Trail
Castle Rock Trail … An hour later…
Haflin Creek Trail
Hanging out on Missionary Ridge Trail after hiking Red Creek Trail
Chimney Rock National Monument
We made it!
Walked three miles up the road to Chimney Rock. Took a different path back down.