"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Weathering Boyd Lake and Rocky Mt. National Park

This is the most "winter" weather we've had to cope with since we left Illinois four years ago. We're coming up to about a month of cloudy, cold, wet days in New Mexico and now in Colorado. Call us spoiled, but we sure appreciate the sunshine and mild temperatures that this kind of traveling offers us. Well, "into each life..." and all that, and now I'll gripe no more, because you know what you sometimes get with rain?

For a week at Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland, CO we had a beautiful spot overlooking the lake...

...and were treated to some exciting skies. 

Boyd Lake is a really nice park, with lots of open space, miles of trails to walk and bike, and well cared for facilities. It has electric only hooks-ups, with two water spigots per loop for filling up, and one large, well-placed dump station. It's not close to the highway, so it's quiet, but it is close to Loveland and Fort Collins - two thriving communities where all your polymorphous fantasies of consumables  can be fulfilled.  (By the way I want to recommend JAX, a super-duper store for anything outdoorsy, plus clothes, pet supplies, hardware, etc.  I want to move here so I can go there once a week.)

Boyd Lake State Park only has one significant drawback as far as I'm concerned (if you don't mind paying for showers): the curved pull-through sites are kind of tight for a big rig. It's hard not to drive over the grass while trying to position yourself, and in our circumstances, that made a big muddy mess.  Oh, and another occasional issue: when the wind is blowing from the northeast, the park can get strong unpleasant odors from the cattle feed lots across the lake.

Loveland is a perfect location from which to explore Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), and we did so a couple of times.  We didn't intend to do it twice, but we woke up one morning to blue skies and sun on the Rockies, so we had to go again.

The road from Loveland to RMNP is Rt. 34, or Big Thompson Rd., which goes through Big Thompson Canyon. In 2013 there was major flooding here, and evidence of how the Big Thompson River scoured the canyon is still visible throughout its length.  Here's a shot of a landslide at one bend in the river. 

 In several locations small cabins are still barely holding on even two years later. I'm sure a clean-up job this big takes a long time.

Despite the damage, the canyon is still beautiful in most places.

After about 30 miles Rt. 34 takes you right into Estes Park, the gateway to RMNP. 

The historic (and "haunted") Stanley Hotel is the visual linchpin of the town.

There are several routes to take out of Estes Park to explore RMNP, but the one that goes west over the highest mountains was still closed with snow. We headed southish on Bear Lake Rd. and ended up at Bear Lake, which was still pretty snowbound.

Then we drove as far as we could on Trail Ridge Rd. to Rainbow Curve where there are great views on clear days. The day we were there is was kind of hazy.  The altitude really zonked me out. I begged out of getting out of the car with, "Just let me take a little nap."

The second time we went to the mountains, on the sunny day, we drove south on Rt. 7. Our first stop was Lily Lake.

The road passes along the base of Longs Peak (the bare one in the center I believe), which is one of the most visible peaks from Loveland and after which the town of Longmont is named.

After Rt. 7 skirts around Longs Peak it then gives you a great view of Mount Meeker behind the quaint Chapel on the Rock, or Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel.  The surrounding land is still recovering from the 2013 flooding. Thank goodness the Chapel is on that rock, or it would have been washed away.

In the tiny town of Allenspark we stopped so I could get a cup of coffee at the also tiny Meadow Mountain Cafe, and I couldn't resist what was probably one of the best cinnamon rolls ever. Their breakfasts looked great too.

We ended our drive on that singular sunny day passing through popular Boulder Canyon where we saw lots of rock climbers and hikers among the rocks, and making one final stop at the Foothills Community Dog Park just north of Boulder. What a great park, with uninterrupted views of the Front Range! (Thanks to my Bring Fido app for helping us find dog parks where ever we go.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Over the Royal Gorge

Despite very wet, cold and windy weather, we tried to do some sight seeing while in Colorado Springs. One of the "must do" places in the area is Royal Gorge, and the Royal Gorge Bridge that crosses the Arkansas River, near Canon City.

The bridge is part of a privately owned and operated park that offers many ways to see the Gorge, including zip-lining and the Sky Coaster, neither of which we opted to experience. 

No, that's neither Rick or Lenore up there on the zip-line

We chose the gondola, which while not death defying, did offer some great views.

One of the most interesting things about this park is that it was completely destroyed by a wildfire in 2013. The fire actually jumped the gorge and burned everything on both sides, yet left the bridge intact. Only some of the wooden boards that form the road over the bridge were burned. 

Since the fire, the company has rebuilt the Visitor's Center and a few other buildings, the gondola, the zip-line and the Sky Coaster.  The Grand Re-Opening was May 8, 2015.  We were there just a few days before and there was lots of activity getting everything ready.

Teeny tiny gondolas near the top of the gorge

Looking back at the Visitor's Center from the gondola

The price of admission is about as steep as the walls of the gorge, but includes as many walks across the bridge and rides on the gondola as you want. There is a film about the fire and a small museum of related artifacts.  
Royal Gorge Bridge cable

 The Visitor's Center has a really lovely cafe with great views from its balcony. There's even cozy seating around a fireplace on the deck if the wind chills you too much.

Visitor's Center

It is a truly dramatic gorge and worth a visit. Canon City is an interesting historic and tourist town as well. It's also a very scenic drive from Colorado Springs. We even got a little sunshine along the way.

View across the bridge from the Visitor's Center

Colorado Springs and Roots Report

It's been almost a week since we arrived at Cheyenne Mountain State Park outside of Colorado Springs, and it's been a whopper of a weather week. Fellow full timers and bloggers Hans and Lisa, of Metamorphosis Road are here too and they just did a great job of summarizing and describing, so I'll refer readers to their post, appropriately entitled Wet and Wild and Beautiful.

Rick, Lenore, Lisa and Hans at Bristol Brewery

We've had lots of rain, thunder and lightning, wind, hail, snow and clouds for our week here. 

The trails have been a little too muddy to hike much. The mud here is clay-like - thick and sticky. Within minutes you've got an extra pair of heavy clay boots. Some of the higher trails are not too bad.

We never know what we're going to wake up to next. 

Some mornings we even see Cheyenne Mountain above us.  (Yes, it's the location of the fictional Cheyenne Mountain as in Stargate and the actual Cheyenne Mountain as in NORAD.)

We try not to let weather change our plans too much, so we put on our Alaska gear and did some sightseeing. One stop was the Garden of the Gods, just outside of Colorado Springs.

The park is free, dog friendly, and heavily visited. We had a hard time finding any parking even with the volatile weather.

Rain and hail started just as we were leaving. 

The Western Roots Report

My great aunt Lula and great uncle Roy Davis (on my mother's side) lived in Colorado Springs for many years, so it was one of those places we visited on our family summer road trips out west. I knew that they lived on Tejon St. but had only a general recollection of what their home looked like. I remembered it as a three story Victorian home, with a porch, some typical architectural detail and a side driveway. I recalled the back yard distinctly, having played in it a lot, but wouldn't be able to see that from the road.  We drove up and down Tejon St. one day, but I couldn't identify the house.

After doing some research online I found a website about the Old North End Neighborhood with a list of historic homes. The Roy A. Davis Home was one of them, and it gave the exact address! So on our next trip down Tejon St. we found the house.

It was just as I remembered it, once I saw it.  The Old North End Neighborhood has been preserved beautifully. The inside of this house was what I remembered most vividly though. It had been dark, and decorated in typical Victorian style with velvet upholstery; heavy, carved wood furniture; Oriental rugs; and fringes on the lamps. The most remarkable room in the house was Uncle Roy's library. He was a hunter, forged in the image of Teddy Roosevelt.  His library was filled from floor to ceiling with animals that he had shot. I believe there was every mammal and large bird in North America somewhere in that house, and most were crammed into that spooky library. There was even a bald eagle soaring frighteningly over the main staircase.

Roy A Davis

My Aunt Lula was a social worker, and did disaster relief work for the Red Cross.  I believe these pictures of her might have been from somewhere in the South after a flood. 

"On a wrecked beach where all kinds of wreckage washed up" - Lula Hall

Lula Bob Hall, circa 1914

Lula Bob Hall, circa 1914
I also found an article online from the Colorado Springs Gazette, 1967, that announced a civic citizenship award presented to Roy A. Davis for his contribution to the community over the years. He apparently was a member of the Colorado legislature, belonged to all the local clubs (Rotary, Elks, Old Fellows, etc.) and was a great promoter of social welfare programs. I imagine Lula and Roy may have met through their community welfare work. 

But this is how I remembered Aunt Lula and Uncle Roy from our visits to Colorado Springs.

Lula and Roy Davis, circa 1960, Colorado

Next I'll report just one more sightseeing visit here before we move to the Denver area, if it hasn't been washed away in the rain and flooding they've been having.

For now I'll close with this nice picture that Metamorphosis Lisa took of us after dinner.  Thanks Lisa!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Two Unique RV Parks: NRA Whittington and Sand Dunes Swimming Pool

Sometimes we stop at campgrounds for unusual reasons. Mostly we're looking for nice big sites, comfortable amenities, good views, a dog park, walking trails, water, interesting towns nearby, and all that. But I found two RV parks that piqued my interest for completely different reasons. 

First, the National Rifle Association Whittington Center, near Raton, New Mexico.  

The main entrance to the NRA Whittington Center. Those are flags of all 50 US States.

There are cabins and an RV park on the property, very similar in style to a state park. It's primary function however, as you might guess from it's name, is as a comprehensive and high quality shooting range.  While both Rick and I are in support of the Second Amendment in principle, we are not gun enthusiasts by any means.  We are not NRA members, and have no particular position on the NRA.  We were mainly curious about the place. 

Entrance gate and offices

The Whittington Center is an impressive 33,300 acre property in the volcanic foothills of northern New Mexico. It is backed on one entire side by hills and mesas, giving all the ranges a safe bumper, or safety zone, or whatever you call it.

One of the many shooting ranges that we could see from our site.

The directory.

Another shooting range.

Clay pigeon range, I believe.

Another shooting range

The views in every direction are grand and there is lots of wildlife to see as well. We saw large herds of elk, deer and pronghorn. But we didn't see anyone shooting anything on any of the many ranges. We were just one of a few RVers and that was about it for activity at the Whittington.  

Our pull-through site with great views

"Home, home on the range"

Another view from our site

They offer multi day classes in many kinds of shooting skills, and access to the ranges for NRA members. I don't think we'd come back to this location just for the RV Park, but sport shooters or gun enthusiasts might find it an ideal spot. 
Our next stop was the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool and RV Park, a very remote location 23 miles from Alamosa, CO. We came for the hot pools. They have a very nice campground with three sections for partial hook-ups (water & electric), dry camping and tent sites. 

The laundry/bath house was near new and super clean, with two full, very comfortable, warm, private  bathrooms with showers.

Everywhere there is evidence of the hot springs that feed the pool. The place is surrounded by wetlands created by the springs, with abundant small wildlife living on and in the water. The water that comes from the water spigot at the RV site is hot. All the grass and trees are irrigated by the fresh warm run-off from the pools. 

Oh, and the whole place is very dog friendly. Dogs are even allowed in the pool and picnic areas without a leash, and can swim in the warm run off streams (below), though not in the pools themselves. Big extra points for all that.

Again, we were practically the only folks in the campground for most of the week.  Not so at the pool though!  It was hopping with the local folks, from morning 'til night every day of the week. Bus loads of kids came from the local schools for lessons. Mature folks came to swim laps and exercise. Families with kids of all ages came in the evenings and on weekends. We did find a nice quiet time between the adult lap swim and the open swim, between 9-10 AM most mornings.

The main pool was olympic-sized and divided width-ways into three sections for diving, lap swimming and shallow playing. 

The water was kept at about 100 degrees. It comes out of the earth at about 108 I believe, and is cooled by various sprinkling methods throughout the day, depending on the air temperature. 

The run-off from the constantly filling pool is used for a little stream, waterfall and water slide.

There are also various recreational facilities, such as basketball and volley ball courts, and plenty of lounge chairs and picnic tables.

In this protected area there is a large therapy pool with jets, a good restaurant... 

...and a wading pool for kids.  There's even a swim suit spinner. (Ever seen one of those? That's it just off the right side of the above picture - about the size of a drinking fountain.)

They just opened an adults-only section called The Greenhouse, with four hot tub of various sizes and shapes, a sauna, and a refreshment bar (non-alcohlic at the moment). Everything about the whole place was clean, freshly painted, well maintained and demonstrating thoughtfulness for their customers. The pools are open year round and must be a real blessing for cold locals in the midwinter months.

As an extra added bonus, there were great views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes National Park, with dramatic skies reflected in the surrounding ponds almost every day. 

The Sangre de Cristos reflected in the nearby warm ponds of the protected wildlife areas.

Virga over the Sangre de Cristos

I really like finding some variety in the ongoing stream of RV parks we live in. I've heard of a dog resort RV park called Four Paws Kingdom Campground in Rutherfordton, NC. What a great idea! How about an animal rescue place? Or a zoo? Or a zip-line, sky-diving and climbing wall center? Or a craft or photography school? A riding stable? A snorkeling RV park?

Does anyone know about other unique RV parks? We'd love to hear.