Camping in Colorado – off the grid

Doesn’t my little tent look cute? If you decide to take up camping be sure to pick a tent that is quick and easy to set up.

My sister-in-law, Tami, reserved a nice primitive camp site for us up on the north end of Elevenmile Canyon and we had several nice days camping, relaxing and catching up.

This is a famous area for trout fishing, so although we do not fly fish, it is fun to watch the fishers. And my brother caught a nice trout on his first cast!

The weather was pleasant and cooled off to 53 at night (so am glad I brought my down comforter along with my sleeping bag). Mark and Tami just brought one sleeping bag to use as a quilt but after the first night decided to invest in a second bag from a trading post at the bottom of the canyon.

This section of the Colorado Midland Railroad was completed in 1887 and ended service in 1918. This campground has been here since the 1930’s after the railroad project was abandoned. Ice was harvested from Lake George which was created when the Platte River was damed at this spot to store water for Denver. “Trains, Tunnels and Trout” is the title of the tourist brochure touting that this is the largest abandoned railroad project the largest reclaimed railroad bed in the world.

We also meandered down to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument to check out some fossils and petrified wood. Although interesting, I would not recommend that it was worth the $25 entrance fee but was free for all of us with my Senior Pass.

Pike’s Peak

Had a fun last full day with my brother and sister-in-law. They are great hosts!

I went out early and filled up with gas as the supply was spotty last night and this morning and I wanted to leave Pueblo with a full tank tomorrow.

Went for a walk on Pueblo’s River Walk which is a lovely area that I first discovered when my mom and I were here six years ago.

Tami was our driver up Pike’s Peak. We had tried earlier in the week to book a ride on the cog railroad but they were booked for the whole rest of the week so we decided to drive.

Tami is a good driver and I was able to take a lot of pictures. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. We were lucky weather-wise as we were back down the mountain before the shuttle busses to the top stopped running.

After we got back down we took a leisurely stroll through the shops at old Colorado City.

Even Driving Days are Scenic…

I was not in a rush to leave my campsite this morning so I laid in my tent and listened to the river for quite a while. I heard a car at some point and when I eventually left the tent I saw that the hiker who planned to stay here tonight had left me a little note. so I left her a note and an apple.

The other day as I drove through Hanksville I noticed a little restaurant that serves street tacos. I love street tacos and I wish I had not just eaten. So, when I drove back through today I made a point to stop here for lunch and I was not disappointed! Not only were the tacos delicious but this is the first day of my online class and they had excellent Internet for me to check in with my new students. Fun little restaurant with excellent friendly and informative employees.

Don’t you just love serendipity? The nice thing about solo traveling is that you tend to interact with others who share interesting destination information. There’s been a lot of that on this trip and a couple days ago I was chatting with a woman who told me when I pass back through Grand Junction I should make a point to stop at the Colorado National Monument. I have never heard of it but I took her up on her advice and I’m so glad that I did it! What a glorious diversion from my interstate driving today.

Complete with tunnels, earthquake fault lines, amazing views, and free admission with my Senior Lifetime pass I thoroughly enjoyed this national treasure.

I love traveling to other countries and experience their culture, sample their food, admire their architecture, and learn from my experiences, but I have to say I think the United States can’t be beat by the diverse nature of our natural wonders. This huge, yet drivable, country never ceases to amaze me and I never run out of areas to explore.

Waterfall day!

Calf Creek lower falls

My daughters friend Mitch, hiker extraordinaire, encouraged me to hike Ione gulch but because it was 17 miles long and 98° today I opted for a shorter hike. So thank you Mitch, hiker extraordinaire, but I am just a walker LOL On my trip someone else told me about calf Creek Falls hike and I decided even though it was hot I could handle that today if I kept thinking about the waterfall as my destination.

Red sand trail
Some of the trails were white sand.

My campground is lovely I’ve got a huge site to myself. No cell service as I’m surrounded by stone and no Internet or electricity. But it just seem like a perfect way to finish my day. On an average dry hot day this is the water you have to drive through to get to the campground so I’m not sure if they just close it when it floods?

I had several tent spots to choose from behind mine and the river was behind me.
My tent site was just over this bridge.
The river runs over the road into the camp site.

I’d read that the hike was mostly on sand and so I wore my zero sandals instead of my hiking shoes and I was very glad I did that. It would’ve been fun to just hike barefoot but the sand was way too hot for that! It was 98 while I was hiking so that icy cold water at the falls building amazing!

I’m writing this in the tent tonight and will publish in the morning. The temps have cooled off perfectly to about 70 and I think it’s going to get down to 65 tonight so good weather for sleeping in a tent.

I drove into Boulder Utah to get cell phone service so that I could let my children know that I am OK. I don’t have many pictures of the drive but I did pull off a couple times in the turn outs that they thankfully have plenty of and made sure that I got back to the campground before dark so that I didn’t have that challenge. I am a nervous driver when the road have huge drop offs on each side. It was incredibly scenic though and if you’ve never driven Scenic 12 bypass you should definitely check it out sometime. I think it’s 122 miles long or something like that.

I’m going to be doing a lot of driving tomorrow heading back to Colorado so I am not sure what is on my travel agenda I guess I will be as surprised as you are!

Bryce Canyon encore…

Staying right along Scenic 12 Byway was a perfect choice for me. Close to Bryce Canyon but an opportunity to drive along this fantastically beautiful highway for a few days.

Since I am in the area I returned to Bryce Canyon this morning. Saturday is not a good choice for beating crowds but you don’t have to worry about road construction.

The other day when I was at Bryce I hiked some trails that I have not hiked before because it was mid afternoon and I wanted to be in the shade but today I went directly to Sunset point which is where I tell everybody to begin their Bryce Canyon adventures. Bryce Canyon is my second favorite national park (after Yellowstone) so I have a lot of good things I can say about it. An excellent introduction to the park is to hike the Navajo Loop at Sunset point. It’s less than a mile and a half total, whether you go down to Wall and back up the same route or down loop around and come back up past Two Bridges. Either way you’re going downhill first and then uphill. The views are breathtaking, though, and you’re right in the mist of the hoodoos so even if you have small children with I think they will be in awe. I heard one little boy tell his parents “ can we just stand here a little bit longer… I’m just soaking it all in!”. Like the little boy I took a leisurely hike down and up and definitely soaked it all in.

Since everyone seems to start at Sunset point you may not find a parking spot there. There is a rim trail from sunrise point to Sunset point so that’s an option as well and that’s what I ended up doing today. I parked at the lot at sunrise point and then I hiked across to Sunset point, about half a mile if I remember right. There is also a free shuttle that doesn’t run as frequently as a shuttle at Zion but it does take you to all the main points. If you want to ride the shuttle all the way through Bryce Canyon national Park it’s about a three hour ride.

Everywhere you look In certain areas of the canyon everything is rock. It’s hard to imagine how anything could grow but yet it does. There are lots of very healthy looking evergreen trees. It’s amazing the length of these trees have gone to to prosper. Some are growing in full sun with exposed roots and others are growing between huge rock walls where they have to reach great heights to get sunlight. certain areas of the canyon everything is rock.

I rested in the middle of the day and then came back to the park to hike some more in the late afternoon early evening. I hiked quite a ways along the rim and then I hiked the Queen’s Garden near Sunrise Point. If you have aspirations of being a photographer you should come to Bryce Canyon. It’s really difficult to take a bad picture when the rock is so red the sky is so blue and the trees are so green!

From this angle I thought these rock structures look like lions facing each other.

I hate driving west when the sun is in my eyes so I waited until the sun was setting. That’s also a great time to view wildlife in a national park. There’s not a lot of wildlife in Bryce Canyon but there are quite a few deer and some of them are wearing collars with tags.

Shuttling and hiking through Zion

Zion has scenic drives but not a lot of parking places for the number of people that visit the national park each year. So a number of years ago they limited accessibility to the scenic drives to a shuttle bus service which is free within the national park. They said the parking lot within the park fills up by mid morning so you need to get there early. I got there at 7 AM and it was full. Their definition of mid morning is clearly different than mine! I parked just outside of the park at a private lot for $40 for the day. I’m sure there were other options but that just seemed easiest. The young family of four ahead of me realized they didn’t have their masks with, which we were required to wear on the shuttle bus even though the adults were vaccinated. I had some disposable masks in my car and a cheap buff that I gave them. I have a huge supply of masks so it felt good to help them out.

You can drive straight through the park you just can’t drive up on the scenic route so although it’s disappointing to have to take the shuttle bus because you can never quite see views as well as from your car, there is a lot of scenery to soak in on the main road and driving through the 90 year old tunnel that exceeded a mile in length was one of my highlights of the day. It was very dark as the only light was a couple of openings to daylight in the middle and there are some reflectors in the median and along the walls. I really liked it!

Entrance of the tunnel

I rode the shuttle bus halfway up the scenic drive and got out at the stop for the grotto. without looking at my brochure or paying attention to which trail I was on I started walking up a trail to Angel’s Landing. I later discovered it was listed as one of the 2 most strenuous trails in the park (The other one because it was 9 miles through a river …. that would have been too long for today but better than walking uphill on all those switchbacks). I don’t regret going on the hike because it was very scenic but it brought to my attention that I am not in very good shape and an 8 mile day hiking in the mountains is very different than an 8 mile day around Mason City. At the end of the hike you have to use these metal ropes as kind of a ladder to help you up the last part and when people started telling me about that I realized this is probably a good time for this old lady to turn around and head back downhill!

Here is a picture looking down at some of the switchbacks that I walked up.

I hiked several other shorter trails, to the lower Emerald Pool, between Grotto and Zion Lodge, and the start of the Narrows trails. And I ate a burger and fries for lunch at the Zion Lodge. Since I had been camping and brought food from home this is actually the first time I had paid for a meal since Ames.

I stretched out under a tree and laid my head on my backpack and shut my eyes I thought I would rest a little bit and then this guy ran up and head butted my shoulder! I’m guessing perhaps people are ignoring the signs that say there’s $100 fine for feeding the squirrels. It was an interesting way to wake up!
This portion of the river was surrounded by stone embankments so, like many areas in Zion, created perfect acoustics for echos. I heard kids hooting during the day to hear their echo and I wish I was a kid so I could do it myself! And this particular area there was a little boy dropping rocks the size of his fist on to other rocks and it was a relatively quiet sound but when it reverberated the echo sounded like thunder in the distance. A cool phenomenon!
There wasn’t enough water for a full-fledged waterfall but it was cool to be under this area where there was a little bit of water and a lot of mist above us. A welcome way to cool off on a 95° day.

If you’re curious about an update on the license plate game I only added one new state today, Connecticut, because I was on the shuttle or hiking all day and didn’t really see very many cars.

Woke to the Smell of Bacon

It was a glorious morning because I love waking up in a tent. I can hear the birds singing and I heard a rooster crowing. I woke to the smell of bacon which is perfect because I didn’t have to fry it and I didn’t have to eat it.

Capitol Reef National Park

Drove back to Capitol reef this morning and hiked the Natural Bridge Trail. not exactly sure what the differences between a natural Bridge and an arch but there were a couple of little ones and then a large one about a mile or so uphill. Definitely worth the hike. I met some interesting people and we shared some travel ideas.

Natural bridge in Capital Reef

It was only a couple hour drive to Bryce Canyon but there was a lot of road construction. I pulled over at the first opportunity to hike before I actually got into the official entrance. I hacked up to see Mossy cave and the waterfall. The cave wasn’t really a cave it was more of a mouth of agave or I guess maybe a small grotto. The waterfall wasn’t really a waterfall either it was some remnant of an effort to irrigate years ago by building a canal I think. I’m glad I hiked up there though because there is a big group of young people having so much fun in the stream in under the waterfall it was great to see.

The last time I was at Bryce Canyon I fell in love with the national park! It was a family road trip and we had gone to the grand Canyon first. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon before and had not done any research and did not realize you could only walk around the room without prior arrangements made up to two years in advance. Also, not only was I underwhelmed by the canyon itself but I was extremely anxious about how dangerous it looked and I was worried that the kids were going to goof around and fall into the canyon. Apparently I kept saying don’t fall into the canyon! My children did not find this helpful and my son who is probably seven at the time kept saying “duh mom!!” Then he and his sister started thinking of all of the other things that obviously did not need to be said. When they got back to the car they drew a little cartoon book of me saying things such as “ don’t step in front of a car, don’t drown, don’t fall into the canyon” and Stick Figure Kyle‘s response to everything that Stick Figure mom said was Duh, Mom! Which was also the name of the book. My expectations were pretty low that year by the time we got to Bryce Canyon and I did not know a thing about it but the red rock was gorgeous and the hiking trails were safe and trails were plentiful and we had a great time. I’m glad I was able to go there again today.

For all of you that keep insisting I need to wear a hat I hope you’re happy because my head is sweltering and I look like a homeless person!

After I had gotten through the road construction and I drove the extra 10 miles to the hotel and freshened up a bit and then went back to the canyon and did some hiking. It was pretty warm this afternoon so I am mostly hiked in the tree line wilderness area and it was very pleasant.

I stayed until evening and took a lot of pictures around the rim looking down into the canyon from various vistas.

I’m heading to Zion national Park tomorrow and then the next day will come back and do some more hiking at Bryce Canyon as I am staying in the same hotel centrally located for a few days

P.S. 10 states left a find in the license plate game. Unfortunately they are all states east of the Mississippi so they will have had to of driven a long way to get here.

June 29

I was not going to write another post today but just wanted to say that I got home safely before noon today. Stayed in Mitchell South Dakota last night and went to see the corn Palace this morning. I woke up early so the lights were still on. I did not realize it even had lights but it was pretty interesting to see you so I thought I would write one more post and share that. If you’re looking for somewhere free to visit enroute to the Blackhills you should definitely check out the corn palace in Mitchell South Dakota. I first visited it as a child and my dad pulled off the interstate saying there’s something here I want you to see they decorate this all with corn and other grain. I was so impressed that my dad knew about the secret place and that it was free and that it was all made out of corn. I’ve probably been here a dozen times since but never when the lights were on. It’s an impressive display with exhibits inside.

I never did find Rhode Island. Creative memories to be grateful for and lots of time to reflect. Yes, I will admit that it is good to be home. However it’s much easier to socially distance with strangers then with family and friends. I want to thank all of you for your comments and supports and likes. You really make me feel like I’m not traveling alone and it means the world to me!