Monday, October 22, 2007
Meanderings of a Texas to Colorado Trip Part III
We slept late and got up to a gorgeous day. The wind was blowing, with only a few clouds over the mountains. Can barely hear the shooting range in the far distance, the Cherry Creek State Park is unique in having one on the opposite side of the campground. In places you can see surrounding suburbs and buildings, but from our campsite only mountains. Given the location, it is very popular, though the park is regulated as to not let in too many people at one time. Can get a quick tan, as the sun beats down. The family came over and we enjoyed a sandwich picnic, then threw some softballs. A camp host just down the way has a Travel Supreme similar to the one we had years ago that we took to Alaska. When he was explaining about the tricks to using the water nozzle, I couldn’t resist telling him about the time that we went up a steep old logging road in the wilds of British Columbia. Our truck overheated and a tow truck just happened to be coming from the other direction. He was able to tow our truck, then our fifth wheel to the nearest town, Lilloett, an hour and a half away. An IT guy that installed satellite systems for the nearby Indian reservation was kind enough to give us a lift to town.
From Denver, we moved on to Estes Park. Our campground there was the same one we stayed at eight years ago. The view of the mountains was just as beautiful. We told the office staff about how we had strung a long cable to their recreation room to get a dial up connection back when it was under different ownership. The wireless connection operated only part of the time, likely due to the number of RVers using it. We played chicken foot till the late hours. Chicken foot is a form of dominos. A lot of fun and easy to learn. That night the wind blew especially hard. Thought that our RV was going to topple over as we got rocked around. Can see that winter is approaching fast. The campground is closing for the season in a few days.
The first day in the Rocky Mountain NP we drove up to the Alpine Center but found that it was closed. Being the last day it was to be open for the season, we were disappointed, but got some snow photos in. The colors in the park were so vibrant, with yellows, reds, greens, oranges, all sharp and crisp in the high elevation. Late in the day on Monday we started seeing elk herds. Could hear them in the distance, and sounded like whales. The biggest elk we saw was about a 12 pointer, next to his harem by some park cabins. Late the next day, we saw several elk walking through downtown sampling the flowers and window shopping. Some were walking down the middle of main street when a young elk came running after them, making a little squeak as he ran. Before we left on Tuesday, we headed back into the park and hiked around Bear Lake.
We then headed back towards Denver, taking a scenic route through a deep canyon that followed a river. Several of the motels had already closed for the season. The next day, we traveled to Golden, touring the Coors beer facility. A big operation, the intricate process is explained on how beer is made during the free tour, with three free samples of different brands given at the end of the tour. There are plans in the works for a merger with Miller.
We also toured the Pioneer Museum, and walked along the riverfront to watch kayakers. Bought some blackberry wine in the old Foss General Store which sadly has closed the general store section and just sells liquor. When we came through 8 years before, the store had a unique selection of western apparel and general store merchandise. The next day, we moved to Moutaindale RV Campground, a remote campground between Canyon City and Colorado Springs. Saw signs warning of bears, but didn’t see any. The sky at night was tremendous, and we could see the Milky Way clearly and stars that we don’t normally see. There is a private outdoor hot tub where you can soak and view the stars at your leisure. When coming back from town, we would see a couple of big bucks along the road. The wireless connection was rather slow or nonexistent at times possibly due to router configuration, which seems to be a common occurrence in many campgrounds. There was an area that had wired Internet workstations with fast speeds.
Visited Royal Gorge bridge, the world’s highest suspension bridge. Formed by the Arkansas River, the span was built as a tourist attraction. As we walked across the bridge, we could feel the sway and marvel at the construction. Some of the ties that make up the bridge had rather large gaps in them that got our attention. A friend and former boss of mine, Ron Forsythe, in his first flight as passenger in an F-80 jet fighter back in 1963 when he joined the Air Force Academy, had a thrill ride as it flew under the Royal Gorge Bridge. As we got to the bridge late in the day, all the local attractions were closed. We ate at the Gooseberry Patch, one of the better restaurants in the Canyon City area, recommended for their range of menu selections.
Spent a day driving up to the old gold rush mining towns of Victor and Cripple Creek. Getting there was an experience. Phantom Canyon Road is mostly a dirt, washboard road with steep drop offs, with an ascent of 4,550 feet. Took us over 2 hours to go 22 bumpy miles, with beautiful views along the way. We drove through two mountain tunnels and an original steel bridge from the late 1800s days when the railroad ran along the route.
The Cripple Creek area was one of the most productive gold mining areas ever. Many relics from the period are part of the scenics. Many of the towns have casinos, which have revived interest in the area. There are several historic byways, but be aware that some are 4wd only. Our return trip to Colorado Springs was paved, recommended for those who don’t crave a more adventurous path. On traveling back to Texas, it was mostly uneventful, as we took an alternate route through New Mexico. We plan to return to explore more. There is a lot more to see.