Wednesday, July 31, 2013

St. Louis & The Kentucky Horse Park

Today had more diversions and adventures, but the same amount of miles so it was a bit crazy!  I even left the campground a bit earlier which I thought would help, but it didn’t really!

My first stop was about 150 miles down the road – the St. Louis Arch! I’d been to The Arch once before, on our way to Heavener, OK on a youth group mission trip in 1991 or maybe 1992, I cant’ remember.  We stopped, got out and walked around, but couldn’t go up because it would have been a 3 hour wait or something. I drove past without stopping when I moved to Oklahoma in 1997.  My plan today was to stop if I could find parking and get my passport stamped and keep moving. 

Finding parking was easy!  The NPS website clearly spelled out where to park and I easily found the area by following the signs to The Arch!  I did have visions of the Grizwold’s when they took a wrong turn in St. Louis and found themselves in a questionable neighborhood being relieved of their hubcaps, but it was 11am so I figured I was safe!  I parked Roxy right under the interstate bridge, just a few feet from the Mississippi River, and walked up to the Arch. 

P1140628River boat on The Mississippi


It was a cloudy day and there weren’t many people there, as a result, they were selling ticket for the 11:35 tram tour to the top and it was currently 11:29!  WOW! No waiting!  Even though this was going to make my stop take longer I purchased a ticket and headed up.  They actually had room for me on the 11:30 trip up so I got booted to the head of the line!  YAY for being single! I rode up with a nice family – 3 little girls and Mom and Dad.  The pods to go up are teeeny.  They seat 5 (one of the girls was a baby) and it’s quite cozy. It’s almost like being on a ferris wheel, the pod rocks a bit as it curves around to get to the top.  You can see out the door the whole way up – so you can look at the steps and the inside of the arch.  Once at the top it’s very narrow with tiny windows to look out.  There wasn’t much to see today because of the clouds.


View to the east


View to the west

The sign inside said we were were 630 ft up!  Wow, only 630???  I could see where I’d parked Roxy!  I only spent a few minutes at the top before heading down.  The trip down was faster than the trip up! 



The whole arch is a tribute to westward expansion, I thought it was like the Space Needle and had been built for the World’s Fair!  Silly me! Inside the visitor center was a great exhibit about Lewis and Clark! I think I want to follow their trail sometime – they went up through Missouri into the Dakotas, across Montana and Idaho and out the Columbia River!

It was almost 1 before I got back on the road after a quick “stand up” lunch (ate in my van…down by the river!!!!) and I still had about 300 miles to drive! 


Indiana & Illinois were dreadful.  No exits.  No billboards.  Just corn.  Indiana did throw in some curves and hills and astronomical fuel prices in an attempt to add interested, but it wasn’t quite enough.  It was kinda nice having the road mostly to myself!  Just set the cruise and go!  Not sure what I’m going to do when I get back to Northern Virginia and have to share the road with a million people. 

Eventually I reached Louisville!  Way back when Dad and I were hiking Wilder Gulch near Vail Pass we ran into some people who were from Louisville and when I told them I had to drive through Louisville to get home they told me to stop at Heine Brother’s Coffee and produced a business card that would get me a free drink.  I’m not sure who this guy was and what connection he has to the chain but he did say “We” roast our own coffee.  It’s all organic and fair trade!  I decided that sounded interesting so I planned to stop.  I’ve kept track of the free drink card for 3 weeks and it would figure that I lost it between this morning and this evening!  That was ok, I didn’t need coffee at 5:00 (or rather 6:00, I crossed into Eastern Time!) in the evening.  I did buy a bag of “Mocha Java” to sample!

While I was stopped at Heine Brother’s I’d also planned to stop at a grocery store to grab a few things I was out of and needed ASAP.  There was a Wal-Mart “Neighborhood Market” right by the coffee shop so I ran in there.  It was now almost 7 and I hadn’t had dinner and I still had an hour to go to get to the campground I was aiming for!  I debating turning the generator on in the parking lot and heating something for dinner, but that was going to make it later when I got into the campground.  I decided that backing into my site while there was daylight left was more important than dinner and pressed on.

I’m camping at the Kentucky Horse Park outside of Lexington.  When I was 12 I went through a “horse phase” like many pre-teens.  I took riding lessons at summer camp (Camp Mohawk in Litchfield, CT) and then took riding lessons when we moved to Cincinnati, until my allergies to horses got to be too much and I quit riding.  During my horse phase we took a day trip from Cincinnati down to the Horse Park!  I remember touring the barns and seeing all kinds of horses!  I’m excited to be here again, although I may not go check out the horses this time!  We’ll see…I still have 330 miles and many more diversions along the way tomorrow!

I did arrive in time to get a site and eat dinner and walk the entire campground before it was too dark! It’s a big, busy campground and I managed to select the perfect site without knowing what I was doing!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I’ve been dreading Kansas, assuming that it was like Nebraska – dry, barren, hot, dusty, with nothing interesting.  Boy was I wrong!  Kansas is actually quite interesting, and the landscape is more like Iowa than Nebraska!  Lots of farms, windmills, rolling hills!  There seem to be lots of interesting towns with quilt shops, yarn stores, antiques, National Historic Sites, Presidential Libraries etc.  Either Kansas is more interesting or they sell it better!

I stopped at the first rest area and took a quick walk – got in a 1,000 steps!  Then I stopped at Wilson State Park near Russell. I got off at the exit before I was supposed to and took the “scenic route” in.  Kansas is NOT flat!  There were many steep sections and tight curves getting to the park!  The park was very nice!  They had a bunch of campgrounds, all near the water, a marina, a boat launch, swimming areas, and one trail to hike!  The trail was only about a mile long and while it was well constructed and had great views of the water, it was very overgrown in places and could use some trail maintenance!  I also walked through one of the campground loops before making some lunch.  I was there for about an hour and that was all the time I really had to spare so it was back in the van! 

I stopped for fuel near Salida, KS and then got focused on the drive – I’d only gone about 150 miles and still had about 300 to go!  My focus paid off because before I knew it I’d gone about 250 miles since I’d stopped and was in Missouri!

I was very close to stopping in Topeka.  Topeka was where Brown vs. Board of Education happened and there’s a National Historic Site to commemorate it and I wanted to stop.  I knew that stopping would mean either getting in very late to Columbia, MO or stopping sooner making tomorrow longer, but I decided it might be worth it.  I also didn’t know anything about where the site was or what parking would be like.  I could see that we were in downtown Topeka and navigating cities is always harder for me than navigating mountains.  As fate would have it I missed the exit!  I decided that it just wasn’t worth it to try and find it, so I’m already planning my next trip out west, through Kansas. 

I paid a toll (the only toll I’ve run into so far…what a change from driving the east coast) on the Kansas Turnpike and got a quarter back in change – it was a Kansas quarter!  Just luck or are all the quarters at toll booths in Kansas Kansas quarters? 

Tonight I’m camping at Cottonwoods RV park near Columbia, MO.  I was unsure of where I was going to end up tonight until I saw the sign on the highway to this campground! I’d been considering going another 40 miles to a state park or another commercial campground thinking that the only option here was a Wal-Mart!  The campground is a bit far from the highway, wasn’t exactly easy to find, and it’s kinda cramped, but I have electricity and it’s safe! I was able to get in all my steps! There was even something good on TV this evening!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Heading East

Even though I kinda didn’t want to, it was time to say goodbye to Colorado and head back east.  It’s almost August, I’ve been gone since the end of June, I’ve missed 4 weeks of my CSA, I do have some other stuff I want to do before school starts…so home I must go. 

On the way out here I was very focused on getting to the destination each evening and didn’t stop for much and then when I got to the campground in the evening I was busy trying to get in my steps and explore the park.  This time I’m going to try and take a different approach, there aren’t as many state parks on route so I’m staying commercial campgrounds or maybe a Wal-Mart or Cracker Barrel, so I’m going to try and stop during the day and visit a state park and walk or take longer breaks throughout the day and drive a bit later into the evening (not stopping at 3 or so)

It was chilly and raining this morning, making it very hard for me to want to get out of bed, let alone drive back to Virginia where August promises to be hot and muggy. 

It was after 9 before I left Glenwood Springs – I slept in a bit and then it was complicated getting all unplugged, topping off the water tank, getting off my leveling blocks and packing them all away and finally dumping my holding tanks!  I said goodbye to Mom and Dad, who were heading back to Dillon for about a week to see friends and pay the bills and stuff, and pulled out of the campground. 

Luckily I had about 150 miles of mountains to go through first!  I-70 did not disappoint! I got to drive back through Glenwood Canyon- got to see all the places where we biked yesterday.  Then we climbed to Vail Pass!  It was long uphill and sucked a lot of diesel. I’d been toying with the idea of going around the Eisenhower Tunnel and going over Loveland Pass, but when I saw how much fuel it took to get up Vail Pass and how cloudy it was I decided to just stay on I-70. 

I pulled off at a scenic overlook near Georgetown and considered having lunch, but it was raining and icky and I thought there’d be another rest area option, but there wasn’t.  I ended up having lunch at a mall outside Denver, which wasn’t quite as scenic. But I was able to walk around a bit and get in about 1,000 steps! It ended up, however, being the last good option! There weren’t even any rest areas after Denver!  I guess Colorado used up their allotment of Rest Areas in Glenwood Canyon! LOL!

After Denver Colorado looks a lot like Kansas.  Flat farmland.  In my head Kansas started after Denver! I stopped for fuel and a walk around the Flying J in Limon and other than that it was was just straight driving past big cornfields and farms!

I’m staying at High Plains Camping in Oakley, KS.  It’s a nice campground, right off the highway, large sites, plenty of room to walk and get in my steps – not quite big enough for a good walk so I had to do laps!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Biking in Glenwood Canyon

It’s rather appropriate that I spent my last day in Colorado doing my new favorite sport, biking!  I’d wanted to rent another hybrid road bike and was hoping for a different brand so I could try one with different features, however, none of the bike rental places in Glenwood Springs offered hybrid road bikes for rent.  (We did happen into a bike store last night and I got to test ride a purple Giant brand bike which was considerably more affordable than the Specialized one I’d ridden in Frisco!)  I ended up with a “comfort” bike that was similar to the bike I want, but not really.  It was much heavier and had “turny” gears instead of the “clicky” gears that I’ve decided I like.  It was a nicer bike to ride than Mom’s, but not what I’m hoping to buy. 

When we got up this morning it was rainy and cold.  We’d made a reservation for a bike rental and shuttle to the top of the canyon at Canyon Bikes, but we hadn’t paid anything so we debated not going, but decided that we didn’t have anything else to do, and usually the weather changed in a few hours and we thought it would be worth the risk.  We were the only folks who had signed up for the 10:15 shuttle to show up! 

On the way up the shuttle driver told us things to look out for and he also told us that in all his 30 some years in Colorado, it had never rained *all* day!  The sun even started poking out of the clouds just before we arrived at the trailhead!

The shuttle took us 16 miles up the canyon from Glenwood Springs and we’d get to ride down!  The trail, like the Vail Pass trail, went right along I-70! Along the way there were several rest areas, that were also I-70 rest areas, with trails and stuff!  I wish other states would build a recreation network within their rest areas, it would be really nice to be able to pull off for lunch and take a 2-3 mile hike or ride my bike!

When we arrived at the trailhead it was cloudy and not raining!  We headed off down the trail and quickly realized that it wasn’t nearly as steep as Vail Pass and we actually had to pedal!  The path ran right between The Colorado River and I-70.  It was impossible to forget that I-70 was there, as promised, we were constantly either under it or next to it.  It was kinda freaking riding next to it because we were going opposite the traffic yet we just had a fence separating us from the cars, trucks and large RVs zooming by!  The canyon was lovely though!  Big steep rock walls! I never would have been able to see it all driving! And the river was neat too…we got to watch rafters and kayakers make their way down!

We wanted to stop and hike to Hanging Lake, however when we got to the trailhead it was raining and then when we tried to eat lunch the harder rain came! We decided to just ride and forget the hike! 

There’s a Hot Spring pool in Glenwood Springs and we were thinking that it would be nice to soak on a cold rainy day.  We had to ride past the campground to get back to Glenwood Springs so we stopped to get our bathing suits and towels, and to eat lunch.  While we were eating the clouds parted and the sun came out!  Our shuttle driver was right! 


Almost back to Glenwood Springs – view of where we were kayaking yesterday

We rode down into Glenwood Springs and decided that it was way too hot for the hot springs (and it wasn’t cheap to get in!) so we’d just keep riding the bikes.  We rode over to the park we’d taken the kayak out at last night and that’s how we discovered the Rio Grande Bike Path that went to Aspen! 


The Colorado River near where we took the kayak out yesterday and the beginning of the Rio Grande Bike Path

We decided to head down that for a little while.  We ended up riding out 5 miles towards Cannondale & Aspen and then we turned around.  This bike path was built on an old railroad bed and had a very gentle grade!  It was also right beside the road but this was just a 2 lane road and you had views of the mountains! One of the mountains looked like it had ski runs on it so I’m guessing that was Aspen!  We rode back and took the road right through downtown Glenwood Springs and discovered an outdoor store that we had to check out!  Then it was back to the rental place to return my bike. 

Dad, who’d been riding his own bike, decided to ride uphill back to the campground while Mom and I went to the grocery store to stock my van for the trip east. 

It was another “high” mileage day – we rode 28 miles together and then Dad got an extra 3 coming back to the campground!  28 miles!  And I still don’t really “feel” it…I’m not overly tired and I don’t feel like I put in that much effort!  When I get home I’m going to be checking out bike stores (turns out there is one about 3 miles from my house! I can walk there!) and figuring out which bike, bike rack, helmet, etc to purchase!

After dinner the rain started again!  Hopefully it will cool things off for my last night in Colorado! I’ve loved the chilly nights and they will likely be few and far between as I head east.   Tomorrow night I’ll be somewhere in the middle of Kansas!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Kayaking the Colorado River

We left Fruita this morning headed for Glenwood Springs!  It was the first time I’d driven east since June!  It was about a 100 miles from Fruita to Glenwood Springs along I-70 so I’m thinking of the next 2 days as hitting the snooze button on the trip home!  I’m heading east, but not quite yet. Dad says that I-70 from the Utah border to Denver is the prettiest stretch of highway in the whole US.  Today I got the 1st half of that, Mon I’ll get to drive the rest!  One last hurrah before Kansas.

Glenwood Springs is back in the mountains!  It’s a wee bit cooler here, although this afternoon was hot!  And the mountains are big and it’s not a desert! We are staying at a resort and they have tons to do!  Ziplines, rafting trips, bike shuttles up Glenwood Canyon. 

We were debating going on a rafting trip but I thought the Sea Eagle could handle the river and wanted to try floating it down.  The problem was that Dad didn’t have an appropriate boat for whitewater rafting.  We investigated renting a ducky for him but it wasn’t going to work.  We then decided to do it ourselves.  We could launch the kayak right in our campground and float to a boat ramp in a city park in Glenwood Springs.  We talked to a guy in the campground why said this section of the river was perfect for an inflatable kayak – just some light Class II rapids in a few spots. 

We decided that we would see if we would both fit in the Sea Eagle – it was made to hold 2 people, but we only have one seat. 

We hauled the Sea Eagle down to the boat ramp and inflated it!



(I apologize for my crazy outfit! I look like I belong on the side of the highway directing traffic around a construction zone! LOL!)


Almost all inflated!


After we got it inflated we hauled it to the water.

The actual launching was quite humorous.  

We got the boat in the water and Dad got in.  Then I went to get in only I tripped on a rock and went for a swim! The water was cold! Finally I got in the boat, but we were stuck on a rock!  So I got out to push us off.  Once we were off the rock I climbed back in the boat, only to have Dad start yelling about his pants getting wet!  I thought he’d closed the drain plug and he thought I’d closed it!  Both of us got out of the boat dumped the water out then closed the drain plug.  Meanwhile all the people on the shore were getting their money’s worth in entertainment! LOL!

Finally, we were heading down the river!


The float was nice! It was only a few miles and there were some spots with rough water.  We got stuck on one rock, but it wasn’t too hard to get off!  The other stuff the boat just floated right over!  We did hit one wave pretty hard and I got soaked but it was ok!

We were almost to the end when the thunder started rumbling!  It was loud and echo-y in the canyon!  We paddled a bit faster! 

We made it to the take out spot before the storm got bad! In fact, the storm never really got bad!


Very cool to have our own boat that will float us down the Colorado River!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Colorado National Monument

Mom has a book Top Ten Everything National Parks – it has top ten lists for all sorts of things you’d find in National Parks.  Top ten historic lodges, top ten parks for winter sports, top ten day hikes with a twist.  When we were getting ready to go to Black Canyon of the Gunnison I pulled the book out to see if that park was on any of the top ten lists.  It was on the top ten canyon hikes list.  Then next item under Black Canyon was Colorado National Monument.  I’d never heard of it so I read the hike description.  Apparently, Colorado National Monument was a canyon, with rock formations similar to the ones you’d find in the Utah parks – Bryce, Zion, Arches, etc…  Who knew?  And with a name like Colorado National Monument you’d think it was a statue or something boring.  When I read the hike description we decided we needed to check it out, so we plans to take 2 days in Fruita and see what this monument was all about. 

Rim Rock Drive

We arrived in Fruita around noon and after lunch we ventured into the park to drive the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive.  We’d seen the red rocks and hills from the campground but had no idea that that was the monument!  We were pretty amazed to see the steep canyon walls, rocks formations and colors of the monument!  Mom and Dad said it was a lot like Utah, although Dad later looked through all his pictures and said that it wasn’t at all like Utah!


The first part of the canyon had large “sticky-upy” things that looked like hoodoos all through it.



P1140541The other part of the canyon was more walls and valley!

We got very lucky in that there were storms building and while nothing was near us there were clouds in the sky that would periodically block the sun!  It was hot, but with the sun shaded and breeze it was rather pleasant. We also got lucky because we were there in the afternoon and the sun was behind us, which meant it was hitting the canyon at a better angle for picture taking!  We weren’t shooting into the sun and the sun was a bit lower in the sky!

Monument Valley Hike

There were lots of hikes in the park, but I’d talked to a Ranger at the visitor center who said that the Monument Valley Hike was a good one – it was also the one that the Top Ten Book had mentioned! We decided that Mom could drop us off at the top and we could hike the 6 miles down to the bottom and Mom could pick us up. We’d stopped by the lower trailhead and set it as a “favorite place” in the GPS so she’d be able to easily set a route to it.

Because it was going to get so hot we wanted to be hiking by 8 am! This meant leaving the campground by 7 am!  I did get to see the sun hitting the rocks on the monument from the campground as the sun was rising!

P1140559It was great getting such and early start because the first mile or so was nice and cool!  We were hiking by about 7:45!  We started at the Coke Ovens overlook on Rim Rock Drive and spent the first mile switching back in the canyon to get to the canyon floor.  We had views of the Coke Ovens formation the whole time.



The canyon we were switching back in.

After we reached the canyon floor we moved along at a faster pace and the view changed more frequently!


Space Needle Rock (my own name, I think it looks like the Space Needle in Seattle!)


No name





We also saw some desert plants and animals..




I’m so glad we hiked this trail down rather than up!  You all probably know by now that I rarely say that!  In this case by the time we finished it was 11:00 and the sun was out in full force.  I’m so glad I didn’t have a steep uphill mile at the end in the blazing mid-day heat!  Also the last mile of the trail was rather boring and that would have been the 1st mile when it was nice and cool in the morning, I would have hated to waste that lovely time on boring stuff!

Colorado National Monument is a neat place!  It was a total surprise to all three of us and we are glad we stopped!  I did enjoy the hike & the different perspectives on the canyon (top & bottom), even though it was hot as blazes and it confirmed for me that I as much as I’d like to check out the “canyons-and-rocks” parks of Utah it’s going to have to wait until I can go in the fall or spring, it’s just too hot to hike in the desert in July!

Too more pictures check out my 2 albums on Google +: Rim Rock Drive and Monument Valley Hike

Thursday, July 25, 2013

James M. Robb Colorado Rive State Park, Fruita

I’m going to experiment a little here and put some events in non-chronological order but rather grouped by type.  While in Fruita,CO we visited the Colorado National Monument and I’m writing a separate post about our time there.  This post will be about all the stuff we did before and after our time at the monument. 

We left Ridgeway mid-morning on Thursday to drive to Grand Junction/Fruita (they are are very close together).  We were heading to the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park so I typed that into Google Maps and looked at the roads and figured out the best way to get here.  My way wasn’t exactly the same as Dad’s directions from Streets and Trips, but I figured there were multiple ways to get to the park.  Dad and I didn’t really compare notes or discuss it, we both just figured that since we’d both looked it up, we’d find it.  I left Ridgeway before they did and got enough ahead that we didn’t see each other again. 

The scenery this time wasn’t so great.  We were out in the western part of Colorado, which looks a lot like the eastern park, which looks a lot like Nebraska (or Kansas)…so you know, nothing but dust.  There were a few mesa’s thrown in here to add some interest.  Along the way there was a “Reeder Mesa Winery” that I almost had to stop at (my middle name is Reeder – long story for another time) and it was even spelled right!  I didn’t think to stop until I was past it! 

Soon I arrived at my turn off and headed into Grand Junction.  I was approaching a very industrial section of town when I saw the sign to the state park.  hmmm…wasn’t looking so scenic.  Or even safe.  hmmm…  I pulled into the park and there were no directions to the campground.  Didn’t even appear to be a campground.  hmmm…  So I went in the office to ask about it. 

Turns out, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park is comprised of 5 different parts, all in the Greater Grand Junction area but separated by as much as 50 miles.  The place I needed to be was west about 30 miles! There was no way to get google maps to tell me where the place I wanted was! It would only give me the one location for the State Park. The Ranger at the park gave me a map, that wasn’t clear at all, and promised there would be signs. I found my way to I-70 and headed west to exit 19.  I was 19 miles from Utah!  I was tempted to drive another 20 miles and turn around, just to check Utah off as having been there!  Thankfully there were signs to the park and it was very easy to find.  I did give the lady at the entrance station an earful about not being able to find the place.  She wasn’t interested in hearing it and said that it was clearly explained on the reservation confirmation.  I think that if there’s more than 5 miles between the different parts of a park they all need to be their own parks with their own names!

It is very hot over here in the desert!  We are at a lower elevation (5,000 something) and the sun is intense.  In the campground no one is out except for very early in the morning and just before and after sunset.  Both nights Dad and I were able to ride our bikes in the campground, but only after the sun went down and the temps cooled a bit. Otherwise you just hear the hum of air conditioners running 24/7.  When I woke up sweating at midnight, I finally succumbed and turned on the AC for the first time since I left home a month ago.  It never even got down to the forecasted 63* last night.

After we finished at the monument on Friday we went into Grand Junction to explore.  We hit REI – I was hoping to look at bikes but they don’t stock them at this REI store! boo.  Then we discovered Main Street Bagels!  They have all homemade baked goods and use local ingredients!  We got some awesome cookies and Mom got some bagels! Next was a Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s type store called Sprouts.  It was pretty good…small, with not a very good selection of stuff. 

After shopping we headed over to Fruita’s premier pizza joint – The Hot Tomato.  It was a small establishment, but it was hopping!  Very busy and the pizza was very good!  In the parking lot I saw a car that had an oval black & white sticker on it that said “WTF, Welcome to Fruita” LOL!  It also had another that said “MILF, Man I Love Fruita (if you don’t know what MILF stands for google it…it’s worse than WTF).   Later we saw the WTF sticker on 4 other cars and a store window!  Lucky for me the local Walgreens was able to hook me up with one for my sticker table!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lower Blue Lake & Ouray Hot Springs

This morning dawned cold and rainy!  That was a surprise!  It’s not been rainy at all, unless an afternoon storm whips up.  Dad and I were planning to hike to Lower Blue Lake today (which is right on the other side of the ridge from Yankee Boy Basin) one of the main reasons to hike up there was to enjoy the views probably not going to be so good on a rainy day.  Weather forecasts around here are a crap shoot though, no one knows what it’s going to in the mountains so even though the forecast called for showers and storms all day we headed out anyway.  We figured that if we got out there and we were miserable we’d bail, it was an out and back hike (rather than a loop) anyway. 

We were going to have to commit a cardinal sin of hiking…we were heading out without a good map, without any map in fact!  We couldn’t justify buying a $12 map so we could hike one day! Someone needs to start a “map rental” business where you can use a map for $2  day or something!  We’d googled the trail and found a great description of it that Dad printed and we took with us.  We also figured that the trail was popular and would be well worn and heavily signed.  We were right!

On our way to the trailhead we had to drive through the small town of Ridgeway and the sign said “Home of the Grammy Awards”.  Hmmm…  I had good cell signal there so I googled it.  According to Wikipedia, the actual Grammy award, the trophy that the winners take home, is made right here in Ridgeway, Colorado!  Who knew!  Also, Ridgeway has the only stop light in Ouray County!  One stop light!  For the whole county!  Considering how many hours of my life I spend sitting a stop lights at home, a one stop light county sounds pretty good!  Wonder if Ouray County Schools are hiring?  LOL!

The way to the trailhead included about 10 miles on a dirt County/Forest Service Road.  This road was tamer than the road to Yankee Boy, but more remote! There were no mines along this road! A few miles in a bear ran across the road!  A small-ish black bear!  We’d heard that there were bear around here, but we weren’t sure there actually were any…there’s at least one!

At the trailhead it wasn’t raining too much – it was cloudy and cold, but just a light drizzle.  There were a number of backpackers coming down – this trailhead leads to some good backpacking places.  We headed up.  And up.  And up.  The rain actually stopped, the clouds cleared for a little while.  The sun kinda came out, but it was mostly cloudy all day.  This was fine by me!  I’d rather it be cloudy and cooler than hot and sunny!

P1140413P1140414  This trail goes into Yankee Boy where we were yesterday!

To get to the Lower Blue Lake it was 3.3 miles with bout 1,400 feet of elevation gain.  I thought that this was going to be easy. I mean compared to Flattop that was 4.4 miles and 2,800 feet of elevation gain, this was a walk in the park!  Wow, was I surprised!  The up was very steep in places and there were a ton of switchbacks.  It seemed like it went on forever.  I thought we’d never get to the lake.  Occasionally we’d get views of Mt. Sneffels (one of the 14ers) and other nearby peaks, but mostly the trail was in the woods until the last mile or so, and even then there weren’t many views. 



Finally we reached Lower Blue Lake!  It was turquoise!  Just like the glacial lakes in Banff and Jasper in Canada!  The banks of the lake were filled with wildflowers! It was pretty nice!  When we arrived the sun was shinning and there was blue sky!  We settled down on a log to eat lunch and I was thinking I’d take my boots off and wade in a little after I ate.  By the time I finished eating – maybe 10 minutes – the sun was gone, the clouds were back and the wind had kicked up!  It was cold!  No wading in the lake today! 




There were almost as many wildflowers at Blue Lake as there were at Yankee Boy!


There are 2 more “blue” lakes that we had the option of visiting today – one was a half mile up the trail – with 500 more feet of elevation gain and the other was a 1/4 mile beyond the 2nd one.  The guy who wrote the write up said you needed to go another 1/4 mile past the 3rd lake to get the best view.  That would add 2 more miles to our trip, and a lot more steep “up”.  Also it was getting cloudier and colder by the minute.  We decided to enjoy Lower Blue Lake a bit more and then head back down. 

The guy who did the write up we had said that you got a commanding view of Mt. Sneffels from the western bank of Lower Blue Lake.  We took out the compass to see which was the western bank.  We were standing on it.  So where was Sneffels?  Turns out, it was behind a cloud! 

P1140459Mt. Sneffels is back there!

The trip down seemed to go faster than the trip up!  It was all downhill, but it wasn’t so bad!  Usually I hate going down, but this wasn’t so bad! The clouds that had been building at the lake broke up and we got some good views of the mountains on the way down!



After we got back to the campground and had dinner we drove in Ouray to visit the Hot Springs pool!  This was a very nice hot springs pool!  The pool was huge and a bunch of different “zones”.  There was a warm shallow zone, some cooler shallow zones with sprayers for the kids, a deep area that wasn’t very warm and a lap area that wasn’t very warm, and a hot area, that was toasty.  Dad and I hung out in the hot area and watched a thunderstorm build over the town. There were several loud rumbles of thunder, even a bolt of lightning high on the ridge above town, but they didn’t clear the pool! I was watching the lifeguards and I could tell the were talking about it, but they never cleared the pool.  The storm went right around Ouray, I think the lifeguards knew that it would likely go around! After a little while in the hot area I went over to the lap area to swim some laps and then got back in the hot area!  It was very nice!

After our swim we went back into Ouray, Mom had been looking in the shops while we swam and she had stuff to show us! One of the stores she took us too was right next to Mouse’s.  Yes, I had another Scrap Cookie!  This time there was a small one on the tray so I got that one!  It was just as yummy as yesterday only a better portion size!  YAY!  I’ve enjoyed my 2 Scrap Cookies but I’m kinda glad this is our last night in Ouray…it was going to become a habit!

Too see more pictures check out my album on Google+: Lower Blue Lake Hike

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yankee Boy Basin & The Million Dollar Highway

12 years ago Mom and Dad took a car trip through Colorado and they sort of followed the same route that we are taking.  While staying in Ouray they took a Jeep road (which is what you do in Ouray – drive Jeeps down rocky roads) to Yankee Boy Basin and they have been raving about it ever since! It was the best wildflower show my Dad had ever seen!  So, today, I was going to get to go out there!

We headed out from the campground around 9:30 and drove through Ouray and to the road to Yankee Boy.  Immediately after turning off the highway the road turned to dirt and there was an old “rescue” truck parked right as you went in!


The road wasn’t bad at all, just a typical gravel road.  There was lots of mining going on along the road and there were big piles of gravel every few miles.  It didn’t have the “backcountry” feel that I’d thought the area had from reading descriptions online.  Mom and Dad said that the road had been improved since they’d been there and that when they were here before it was rough the whole way in.



After a few miles we came to a fork in the road and thought we should keep going straight rather than bear right.  Almost as soon as we did things got interesting.  There was a bulldozer re-grading a portion of the road and it was really steep and really soft – I didn’t think we’d make it, but the bulldozer pulled over and we went right up.  Next we had to ford a creek.  It was shallow and the Jeep went easily, however, Mom and Dad didn’t remember this part at all.  We let the folks who were behind us pass us and when they did we asked if this was the way to Yankee Boy – they said it was and showed us their map – which was the same as ours – out of the Ouray Tourism “magazine” we’d picked up!  Not really for navigational purposes.  We continued along until we came to another fork and the folks ahead of us where stopped trying to decide.  I hopped out to run back and ask the folks in the car behind us if we were heading to Yankee Boy.  We were in fact on the wrong road!  We were heading to Governor's Basin!  We turned around and headed back to the spot where we were supposed to have gone right instead of straight. 

The last part of the road was rough!  Big rocks in the road, tight turns, dips, it was slow going!  Soon though we saw the twin falls!  These falls supposedly are the inspiration behind the graphic  on the Coor’s Beer cans.  We got out to look around, walk and take pictures before driving the rest of the way to the end of the road. 



Soon after we got back in the car we came to a spot with a very large rock in the road and a large rock on the side.  We weren’t sure we could get the Jeep through…but Dad inched the tire up on the big rock and over we went! The next obstacle was a big puddle!  We couldn’t tell how deep it was (I offered to wade into it so we could tell) and other cars were stopped there so we turned around and went back to a larger parking area to have lunch!



After lunch and tea on the rock Dad and I walked up to the end of road (sort of) and up another road to where we had a view of the whole basin! The wildflowers were amazing!  Not a huge variety, but hundreds and thousands of them!  I tried to capture it, but failed!

P1140372Mom enjoying tea after lunch! Yes, we brought the “real” mugs! LOL!




As much as I might like to have stayed and walked around more we were also planning to drive The Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Silverton and it was getting late so we had to head down.  It was also getting very cloudy and looking like it might rain. 

The Million Dollar Highway was just as scenic – big mountains, views of Ouray, Red Mountain Pass!

P1140406Looking down on Ouray

P1140408Surprise waterfall at an overlook along the Million Dollar Highway

P1140411Red Mountain

Soon we arrived in Silverton, which reminded me of the Alaskan town in Northern Exposure. Motorcycle Dude from Black Canyon of the Gunnison had recommended Handlebars Restaurant and Saloon so we ate there!  What an eclectic fun place! The waiter was funny and they had all sorts of funny signs all over the place!  The food was good too! It was mostly a ribs & burgers place, but they had a California sandwich that was very good!

After dinner we wandered the t-shirt shops on Main Street in Silverton before heading down to Ouray. 

On the way through Ouray this morning I spotted an Ice Cream Parlor, so we decided to pass on homemade Peach Cobbler and homemade Bread Pudding at Handlebars since we were full, and head for ice cream in Ouray.  Well, as has been the pattern, the ice cream place in Ouray didn’t have very good flavors.  We found another place that we thought might have peach cobbler (I’d asked Siri and she came up with some reviews…it got very complicated), but they didn’t.  Finally we tried one last place that was a coffee shop and made their own chocolates and also had ice cream (according to Google Maps…I’d give up Siri at this point!), Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee.  They had satisfactory flavors of ice cream, but they also had “Scrap Cookies”.  When they make their chocolates they have scraps.  They save the scraps and bake them into cookies!  So the cookie might have bits of toffee, truffle, caramel, nuts, etc… Who knows?  Each one is different!  I decided that a Scrap Cookie would be better than ice cream since you can get that (almost) anywhere and these cookies were unique to this store!  It was YUMMY!!! Although it was very big & I didn’t save half for later!  It was worth it though!

Too see more pictures see my album on Goggle+: Yankee Boy Basin & The Million $ Highway