Getting HIGH in Colorado

Pikes Peak

We arrived early to Pikes Peak RV park in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Troy checked in and they gave us lot number 55. I guess it wasn’t a lot, but a parking space surrounded by some gravel. We just so happened to be setting up our camp at the same time as a 40 foot fifth wheel with three pop outs was setting up camp right next to us, or basically on top of us. These WONDERFUL people had two, small yappy dogs, and they set up a pen for them outside so that everyone could enjoy them. Once we were set up we left and headed to Pike’s Peak.

When we arrived at Pike’s Peak, just a short drive up the hill from where we were camping, they took our money and asked us to make sure we had at least a half a tank of gas. They gave us a map. There were several points along they way to stop and get acclimated to the elevation, including two gift shops. We stopped at every point along the way. We were still on the look out for marmots, but now we were also looking for Big Foot!

PP 4

When we reached the first gift shop there was a little chipmunk that was running back and forth through the gift shop. He would climb up into the stuffed animals, he would let people feed him and touch him, and he would run outside into the woods. He was just putting on a show.

PP 3

At one point on the mountain you are not allowed to drive any further. You have to park your car, and take a bus the rest of the way to the top. Once on the bus, the drivers can tell you and show you a little bit about the area. Our driver on the way up spotted these bighorn sheep on the side of the mountain.

PP 2

When we arrived to the top it was really cold. There was a huge temperature difference from the bottom to the top. I think it was around 47 degrees at the top that day and 77 degrees at the bottom. While you’re climbing the mountain in your car it feels like your swimming down towards the very bottom of the deep end in a swimming pool. You know how you’re under water and there is all that pressure, but it is so quiet? It’s like that. When I was at the top of the mountain I felt like I had taken Nyquil. I just felt soo tired and run down. The guy who sold us donuts up there told us that they have a hard time keeping employees because people don’t last. He said that on his first day he passed out, lol. As we went back down the mountain in our car there was a point where the Rangers checked the temperature of our brakes to make sure they were not too hot. Coming down the mountain you can smell the cars getting hot and burning rubber. After the brake check though I fell asleep. I was exhausted.

Garden of the Gods

After we were off of the mountain it was still really early so we decided to go to the Garden of the Gods since it was really close by. We drove through pretty quickly. Many of the rock formations are roped off, but you can still hike the trails to get to some of them. We really weren’t in any shape to do that at this point. TJ just wanted to climb rocks. So, we climbed some rocks that day and came back and climbed some more rocks on another day, but didn’t really hike any trails here.

The area around Manitou Springs is full of cottonwood trees. We left our shoes outside of the RV and left towels on the picnic table to dry overnight, and the next morning they had the white cotton from the trees all over them. I had to shake everything out or dust everything off. The cotton from the trees floats through the air similar to a light snowfall. It’s quite interesting. One night our wonderful neighbor’s dogs yapped ALL night so Troy turned on beach sounds for us to fall asleep to. I finally fell asleep and dreamed that the cotton from the cottonwood trees was getting into my mouth and causing me to suffocate. I woke up gasping for breath. Crazy, huh? Troy said that the next time he’s not going to play beach sounds, but rather barking dog sounds, lol!

Manitou 1

Rocky Mountains

Also, while in Colorado we went to the Rocky Mountains. This was really interesting because where I’m from we don’t study all of the ecosystems that are found there, and it was interesting to actually SEE them and not just hear about them. While we were there we also got to see quite a bite of wildlife. This is where we FINALLY saw a marmot up close!!! We also saw lots of elk and tasted elk jerky. TJ tasted fresh water from one of the waterfalls as well as carved his name in ice. The tundra at the top was absolutely beautiful and interesting to learn about. The grass was so green and the flowers were bright yellow. You can see waterfalls, ice on the top of the mountain, pine trees and lots of wildlife. Scenic overviews are what make it possible for anyone to be able to get great views of the Rocky Mountains. As we were driving through the Rockies whenever we would drive near a scenic overview with a car in it we would start scoping out the area around it to see if there was something interesting to see like a moose or an elk. Our windows were down because the weather was perfect as we drove upon a scenic overview with a car parked sideways. We all peered out the windows and were flabbergasted when we saw a woman’s bare butt. She was squatting to pee! AAAGGHHH! I can’t get that image out of my head. Not such a great view.

Manitou Springs

That night we went back into Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is kind of like a smaller version of Gatlinburg with a hippie vibe. We got some ice-cream, checked out a couple of the shops, and then found out from some of the other tourists that there were seven springs located around the town that you can drink from. Each spring supposedly has a different taste. We were able to find three of them. I had also heard about a penny arcade. Some of the games were really old and fun to check out, especially for a penny! They also had nickel and dime games. The boys were having a blast. It was interesting to see what people thought was entertainment back then—a monkey clapping cymbals—compared to what we think is entertainment today.

 

Advertisements

It’s NOT So Lonely At The Top

Great Sand Dunes National Park

We were headed to Manitou Springs, Colorado, but we were making a stop at The Great Sand Dunes National Park. There is nothing here but sand dunes. The cool thing is that you can rent a board so that you can sled down or board down on your feet. It seems that people who ski in Colorado come here to practice in the summer. When we got here it really didn’t look that big to me and the dunes didn’t look that large. However, when you start walking out into the dunes you begin to feel real small. It starts off flat, but then it turns into a hill and the incline gradually increases. You can choose to hike the incline or take a much longer path with less incline. My goal was to get to the top. Sand is difficult to walk in and especially hard when you are at a higher elevation than you are used to. We all took calculated steps, frequent breaks, and drank plenty of water. At one point though the incline became increasingly steep. I remember counting my steps. I was only able to take 10 steps at a time and then 5. I would plop down in the sand with exhaustion. The wind was also blowing the sand everywhere. My eyes were watering and my nose was running. I was out of breath. I was not about to stop though; I was soo close. I was guessing as to how many more steps I had to get to the top. When I reached the top I looked around and saw more dunes, taller dunes on the other side. A few minutes later a lot more people joined us at the top. We all spent time talking with each other, and listening to the radio. (someone brought a radio) Finally, we wished them well as we headed down. Obviously, the trip down was a lot easier but we were exhausted. There was so much sand in my shoes that my feet were actually coming out of them. The Great Sand Dunes is one of my favorites. One must have determination and perseverance to hike these dunes to the top and back. You might find sand in your clothes and shoes forever, but that will be a lasting memory of your day here.

 

 

There Are No Secrets In Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park

After visiting Capitol Reef we had a short drive to our next camp site which was actually located in the Mesa Verde National Park. This was interesting because it was primitive camping. Luckily, the weather in Colorado was cool. When we arrived they told us not to leave any food out at all, but to keep all food in our cars when not using it because of the bears. YIKES! We were able to choose any site we wanted in the primitive area that wasn’t already taken. The road to this area was a one lane road and most of the sites looked like they had not been mowed. I’m guessing they were letting nature take it’s course. The park rangers keep saying, “Protect and preserve.” I’m guessing that is what they were doing. We found a nice spot near a bathroom and dumpster and set up camp. We ate dinner, and then we went to a Ranger-led informative talk about bears. Afterwards, we took showers and did some laundry. The showers are not coin-operated anymore. We were told by Troy’s parents that they used to be. The laundry facilities were large and actually nice. While we waited on the laundry we played cards and ate candy. When we finally made it back to camp it was SO cold! We all bundled up in our blankets and sleeping bags. It dipped down to 47 degrees that night.

mesa 1

The next morning we got up and packed up camp and headed towards the park. By the time we reached the visitor center the only tours they had left that we were interested in going on were the Cliff Palace tour. The Balcony tour was available, but we weren’t interested in crawling though an 18″ hole for 12 feet, ugh! The tour was approximately a mile long, and a park ranger led about 55 of us through the Cliff Palace cliff dwelling. It was a nice hike and somewhat informative, but I was a little disappointed. I thought that we would be allowed to go into the cliff dwelling to actually see the rooms where the ancient people lived and interacted, but everything is roped off now. We were only able to look at a kiva up close which they described as a place where the ancient people may have eaten dinner/gathered. At the visitor center they have a ton of artifacts that have been found in areas surrounding Mesa Verde that are on display, and are also catalogued. It’s fun to imagine at one time people were living in these dwelling using these artifacts. The Ranger told us that the ancient people were only about 5 feet tall at that time. He also told us that the ancient people of Mesa Verde left the area because they overworked the lush land. In case you didn’t know Mesa Verde means green mesa. They may have moved on to another area and blended in with another group of people. It’s interesting to hear their stories and it makes me wonder what kind of stories people will tell about us one day.

Hiked It! Liked It!

Cannonville

After visiting Bryce and Zion we were in for a little drive to our next location. We didn’t know at the time that it was literally in the middle of nowhere. It was a nice KOA campground in Cannonville, Utah in the mountain valley.  Everything was at least an hour away. Luckily at this campground we were able to use a fire ring to cook with. The bathhouse was also small with only two bathrooms for boys and two bathrooms for girls and then there were two co-ed shower rooms. We were so exhausted after hiking Bryce and hiking through The Narrows at Zion that we did absolutely NOTHING while we were here.

Holiday in Moab

Since our reservations ended up being in the middle of nowhere we changed some things around, and headed towards the KOA Holiday which was in Moab, Utah and closer to some other places that we wanted to visit. The ride there was interesting with many small towns along the way. We had seen many small towns like this before, but I became interested and started to look the population up of some of these small towns. These towns are so small that the population of Marysville, the one town we went through is 406! The whole town is within eyesight. We also saw a cow in the road for the second time. As we were driving through the mountains I noticed the towns will mark the mountain that is in their town with the first letter of their town’s name. What I found out is these are called hillside letters or mountain monograms. They function as symbols of school pride and civic identity, similar to water towers and town slogans on highway “welcome” signs. Also, while driving through the mountains the speed limit is 80 mph. On the way to Holiday we stopped by the San Rafael Swell which is basically a bunch of rocks that have formed, and now some of them look like the Flintstone’s house.  It’s actually pretty neat. When we finally arrived to the Holiday KOA it was really nice with an inground pool and hot tub. There were different sized cabins and different areas were shaded from the sun with canopies and trees. We were taken to a nice, oversized spot with several trees for shade. We could see the mountains in our view as well as the sun going down. We weren’t allowed to use fire rings here so I fixed the boys a healthy Velveeta skillet meal, yummo! The shower situation was co-ed bathrooms and showers. I didn’t like that, but we were only there two nights. The next day we went to Arches National Park. This was one of the places that I wanted to visit, and although we were still tired from our strenuous hikes in Bryce and Zion I’m so glad we didn’t miss Arches. It was one of my favorites. You are able to drive to many of the arches and then, if you choose, take a hike to get an up close look at each arch. I don’t know how many arches are at this park, but there are a lot! Also, some hikes to the arches are a lot longer and strenuous than others. We didn’t go to every arch, but chose what we thought were the coolest arches and went and saw those. There is pretty much NO shade on these trails, and they suggest each person carry 2 liters of water with them when hiking. We learned real quick to have water at all times with us. These arches are really phenomenal, and it’s amazing to think that they were created naturally over a long period of time. If you look closely you can see that some of these arches will not be around for much longer because they are eroding away. In fact, the thin one below has already started losing large pieces. However, you can see the formation of new arches and windows in the rocks throughout some of the different parks. It will just take many years of erosion for them to form fully.

The next day we went to Capitol Reef National Park. This place reminded me more of a pioneer village. Capitol Reef has been a home to people for thousands of years. There are petroglyphs etched in rock walls to tell the stories of a time long ago. These images are life size on the rock. The ranger told us that each image is about 5 feet tall. Also, the person who carved these images on the rocks had to climb quite a ways up. These are kind of like are billboards. They were trying to convey a message of some sort.

CR 7

There are also orchards of apples, pears, peaches, cherries, apricots and more which were planted by Mormon pioneers. The cool thing is that the fruit orchards are still there and thriving. Visitors to the park are allowed to eat fruit from the orchards for free while they are in the orchard or pay a small fee to take some home. Obviously it depends on what season you go as to the fruit you’ll be able to harvest. Apricots were ripe and falling off of the trees the day we went, yum! Troy and TJ had never had one before. I ate until my stomach hurt. As we were going from tree to tree we kept seeing poop and finally found to culprit, a mule deer. These deer are everywhere! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve almost hit one. TJ threw it an apricot and it spit out the pit and ate the rest.

Capitol Reef is also the first place we saw signs for the marmot. At that time we did not know much about them and asked a Park Ranger. Apparently, they are a rodent similar to a beaver that lives in the alpine climate. We looked hard that day trying to find one, but were unsuccessful.

CR 5

See It All In Utah!

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. -Confucius

Needless to say we slept in a little bit after driving 13 1/2 hours the previous day and arriving later into Cedar City, Utah. We were excited to finally be here and wanted to get started hiking. So, we ate some cereal real quick for breakfast, packed up, and left for Bryce Canyon National Park. I knew I wanted to go here because I had done some research before we came however I didn’t know specifically which hike. When we arrived at the park we decided on the Moderate Navajo Loop trail. Navajo Trail is one of the more popular trails and we combined it with the Queens Garden Trail which made it a longer loop. We saw Thor’s Hammer and took a stroll thru Wall Street, a slot canyon.

Bryce3 Here I am at Thor’s Hammer which is almost the highest point. It looks out over all of the mountains and desert and sky. I kind of lost it here. As I was hiking, and even while we were driving, I was observing all of these magnificent things in nature. Some of these things are around me everyday, but I just don’t take the time to notice them. Anyway, I enjoyed making it to the top in my OWN time.

The next day we went to Zion National Park which is nearby. Troy wanted to do the hike known as The Narrows. The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. This gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes just twenty to thirty feet wide, is one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park. We each had only brought one pair of tennis shoes for the trip and wouldn’t have minded getting them wet in the river, but did not want to hike in wet shoes for the rest of the day so we had to rent shoes. The boys already had walking sticks and it was highly recommended to have a walking stick so I had to get a walking stick as well…I’m SO glad I did. Sometimes, the currents in the river were quite rough and at times the water was above my knees. There is this one rock in The Narrows that everyone gets a handful of mud and then slaps it on the rock. Here you can see all the hands on that rock.

mud hands   mud hands 1.jpg

It was definitely an experience, but I’m not sure I would do it again. The Narrows is a trail that is 7 miles in and 7 miles out. We didn’t walk all the way in because we wanted to go to Angel’s Landing, another trail. I would guess that we walked about 10 miles though. By the time we took our rented shoes off we all had red calloused rings around the tops of our ankles and our feet were like nasty prunes. Terrible on the pedicure. We walked up to the entrance of Angel’s Landing but were not able to hike it because we were running out of daylight. In all we hiked a total of 12 miles, and we were feeling it. We saw lots of deer, a mountain goat, and the squirrels are so tame that they chase after the people.

river walk   narrows

the narrows 1.jpg

There aren’t any bugs at all here. The hottest temperature during the day was 102 degrees but you don’t really sweat and the night time temperatures drop to around 45-50 degrees. I really enjoyed the Cedar City KOA we stayed at because the bathrooms were really well lit and they always had a radio playing 90’s hits. While we were there Troy washed the laundry and met an Australian couple who wanted to know about Wal-Mart. They don’t have anything like it where their from… you can get your groceries, your nails, an oil change, eat at Subway, get your hair done, fill your prescription, get some eyeglasses, etc. They were amazed, lol!!

Until next time…

Are We There Yet?

The world belongs to those who persevere. -Nathaniel Branden

We left New Mexico at 5:15 Monday morning for what we thought would be a 13 1/2 hour drive to our next destination, Cedar City, Utah. To save on time I stayed in my pajamas because I was just going to get back in the car and fall asleep anyway. Several hours down the rode we needed gas and had reached this gas station that also had a Native American store attached. This is where I got dressed and brushed my teeth, and we also looked around the little store. About 30 minutes later we were headed out again. We were hungry, but you have to understand that there is nothing for miles and miles and miles. It is literally a desert. Luckily I had packed some food and snacks in a laundry basket so we ate chips, Twizzlers, and granola bars. Several hours later at are next stop for gas we were hungry for REAL food. The gas station just so happened to have a Subway restaurant. Subway is the one restaurant that you see more that any other fast food restaurant around here. However, none of us really like it. Anyway, I went inside to order us food while Troy was TRYING to pump gas because we were hungry. The wi-fi at the gas station was hit and miss so the credit cards weren’t working properly at the pump. The cashier told Troy to keep trying over and over again. So, 30 minutes or so later we were headed out again. Somewhere along route 66 as we were driving there was a stop where you could see the world’s best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth.  The meteor crater is the result of a collision between an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour and Earth approximately 50,000 years ago.

Meteor

Troy and TJ were fascinated, but I honestly thought it looked just like a hole in the ground. I think from this point we still had about 6 more hours to go and I just wanted to get there. We drove probably about 3 more hours and then stumbled upon Horseshoe Bend. I had hear about it, but didn’t know it was on the way. Troy asked if I wanted to stop, and I’m am so glad we did. I would recommend this to anybody. It is one of my favorite things we have done so far. You do have to walk quite a ways uphill in sand to get there. I didn’t know this otherwise I wouldn’t have worn sandals. Also, we were there just before the sun was beginning to set and it was still hot. We didn’t take any water with us. That would be my second recommendation. The view is literally breathtaking. I’m not sure if that’s because the air is so thin or because of the dangerous drop offs. I was seriously afraid for my life here. This is one of those places you will never forget.

Horseshoe Bend 2

It was a great place to stop off and I’m so glad we did. I’m sure we spent a couple hours there. So, we jumped back in the car and persevered onward and through the tight curves in the mountains to FINALLY arrive at Cedar City, Utah at about 10:00 that night. What a LONG day.

The Land of Enchantment

Sunset Carlsbad As soon as we entered New Mexico it was if we had entered another world. It is similar to Texas in that it is very flat and has the oil rigs spread throughout. It also smells like oil every now and then. You will often see the trains rolling through the open just like Texas. However it’s different because New Mexico has deserts and prairies but also has plateaus and mesas which make for a really cool skyline, especially at night. There are not a lot of houses there, but mostly people living in trailers and even train cars!! EVERYONE here drives a truck. New Mexico doesn’t have the hustle and bustle that I am used to in Florida. There is NO traffic, NO lines at the restaurants, NO police on the roadways—just a go at your own pace kind of place. Although, I will say it is important to make sure you have gas because gas stations are few and far between. The weather was perfect when we were there. The wind was always blowing, and the high was about 80 degrees and the low temperature was about 50 degrees. While we were here we were able to observe a lot of wildlife. There are actually rabbits everywhere you look, we saw 2 different tarantulas at our campground, bats, a desert centipede, mule deer, really large flying bugs, birds that made a grunting sound and woke me up, and we heard a coyote. We stayed at a KOA that reminded me of a ranch. It was surrounded by a fence with cacti on the inside of the fence. You could see the plateau’s and mesas off in the distance as the sun was setting behind them. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.  The next day we toured Carlsbad Caverns and came back to the Caverns that night to watch the Bat Flight. The bat flight is when you get to see all of the millions of bats that live in the cave come flying out to go hunt for the night. It was AMAZING! I think that was cooler than the cave. We left at 5:15 the next morning for our next destination. Let me just say this, if I had to choose song lyrics to describe the day it would be Shakira’s, “Try Everything.”

I won’t give up, no I won’t give in

Till I reach the end

And then I start again.