Royal Gorge Bridge and Park and Pike’s Peak Mountain

9/23/16 (Friday) in Monument, CO (Colorado Heights Resort-ROD)

We’d have preferred to stay home and relax some more but the weather appeared to be headed for windy, cold conditions beginning this night, so we decided it would be best to enjoy these sites today, before the weather made it too hard to do. So we left at 8:30, after getting fuel in Monument. We ended up driving 212 miles, so that was a good plan. We arrived at Royal Gorge just before 10. Guess what? They open the visitor center and start selling tickets then! It’s a bit like Disneyland in that we had rights to many activities with our ticket purchase. The lady was very nice, giving us credit for being senior (over 60) and military, so we paid $19.00 each.

As the lady suggested, it’s best to take the Aerial Gondola across the Gorge first, I think because the lines will get really long fast. It’s only 19 months old, largely because this whole operation was burnt down in July of 2013 from a forest fire. It’s amazing how much they’ve built since then. Great views, especially if you sit away from the doors that let you in, near the large window opposite them. What with reflections (and we didn’t get to sit there), our best views were from the bridge, so those are the one’s I’ll share.

On the other side are all of the attractions except for the Visitor Center. If you like an adrenaline rush you can ride the Skycoaster or Cloudscraper by ZipRider, both cost extra, beyond your ticket. With the Skycoaster you swing under the support, a free fall at 50 mph, to hang momentarily 1200 feet above the Arkansas River.

royal-3

Skycoaster

We’d both tried a zipline on our last cruise. It was fun but we didn’t feel the need to try this one over the Gorge. So, on our way to Tommy Knocker Playland we saw some goats. As you can see, they weren’t Big Horn, but they were wild. At the playland we rode the carousel. It was small but we had a fun time.

royal-4

Goats.  Someone else was sure they were deer, I think because they were rather large for goats.

We enjoyed their movie at the Plaza Theatre about the bridge over the Gorge. It was built in less than a year, in 1929. Soon all sorts of attractions were added, including an Incline Railroad that went from the top down into the Gorge. Unfortunately in June of 2013 a forest fire raged here, destroying everything that wasn’t stone. By the next year, June of 2014, they’d rebuilt most of the attractions except the Incline Railroad and a western town.

royal-5royal-6royal-7royal-8

Then we walked on the Bridge to the other side. It’s got wooden planks where you walk. We were thinking maybe because it was built back in 1929 (it’s been restored since then). Maybe because they are lighter than another material. Several got burned in the fire but otherwise the Bridge survived.

royal-9

The Bridge. Notice the many steel cables making up the one cable. Visitor Center at the right.

royal-10

Colorado State Flag

royal-11

The Royal Gorge. Note the Arkansas River and next to it the railroad tracks.

Where the Inclined Railroad would reach the bottom of the Gorge.

royal-12

Endpoint of the Incline Railroad.  We think.

View from the other side

royal-13

Luckily we’re not afraid of heights and thoroughly enjoyed our walk back to the Visitor Center. That last photo is of a water clock. We had our picnic lunch near there. It was great until a gust of wind blew John’s potato chips all over!

royal-14

View of Bridge from Visitor Center

royal-15

royal-16

Water Clock

Next we drove to Pike’s Peak. Cost: $12/person. NOT a national park or forest. At the point you cross the gate. It’s quite a steep, twisty drive up those 19 miles to the top but worth it. Just be sure to use your lower gears going up and then down. At about a third of the way down a guy even checked our brakes! They were fine, largely due to John staying in 1st and 2nd gear and stopping periodically for his picture taker. We were once again lucky to arrive when the foliage was at it’s fall peak. Unfortunately, I was supremely frustrated trying to photos of the bright yellow aspen. They were best when backlit but those situations happened when there was no turnout to stop, or the view was out John’s side. Sigh.

It was super cold (48 degrees) and windy at the top. You could barely stand up in the wind.  You can click on an image to make it larger, so you can read it.

On our way down:

pike-8pike-9pike-10

Posted in Colorado | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Moving on – to Monument, CO

9/22/16 (Thursday) in Monument, CO (Colorado Heights Resort-ROD)

We left at 9:30, to miss the commuter crush in Denver. The TV was showing a bad accident on I-25 there, at 8:30, that they figured would take ½ hour to an hour to clear. Thankfully, all WAS clear, except for a few congested spots. A camper I’d talked to earlier said that it was best to hit Denver after 9:30am, 11 would be better. He said to stay in the 2nd lane from the right. That worked well. Traffic was heavy pretty much the whole way. I-25S went from 4 lane to 6 lane to 8 lane, so we kept to the right accordingly. He also noted that you never know, you could get through in a ½ hour or 3 hours. After downtown we came upon more really tall buildings: Centennial, another town that just continues from Denver we think. Smog or fog the whole way through. The photo on the right is their Mile High Stadium.

We arrived around 11:45, got settled in and just plain relaxed with our books and TV. In the evening we treated ourselves to a movie at home, from the files our son Justin copied onto John’s hard drive.

This campground is nice in that it’s ROD (free for us), with full hookups and just off I-25, near some nice sites to explore. Of course, it’s also the right distance from our last spot. On the negative side, there’s a lot of traffic on I-25, so you hear it at night. We parked at the back of the park (farthest away from the noise) in N9, so we slept through it okay. Our site is also good for TV reception but most of the park is heavily treed. Verizon service is good and WiFi is available. Sites are pretty level, with some for larger rigs. The roads in the campground are narrow and twisty. It is on a hill. Warning: Once you’ve registered you drive up and left (one way streets) where a tree is so close it likes to clip mirrors. I was worried watching how very close our whole RV passed by, missing it by inches. Another negative that may last for some time is the heavy construction happening just on the other side of their back wall. Noise all day. It looks like they’re moving earth for a housing development. Oh, also this is after Labor day so their restrooms are closed, as well as activities. You can use the restrooms located in the Adult Lodge near the office.

Posted in Colorado | Leave a comment

Rocky Mountain National Park

9/21/16 (Wednesday) in Fort Collins, CO (Horsetooth Reservoir, South Bay Campground-$37/night (County of Larimer Dept of Natural Resources)

Since we were a good ways from the park, we took off before 8am. What with more construction on CR 38E, then the curves of Hwy 34, it was after 9 when we arrived at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

hwy-34

On the way we spotted a flicker (woodpecker) fly across the road. Lovely. Suggestions there: take the Trail Ridge Road and if you have time, visit the Bear Lake area, where there’s lots of hiking. As we were talking to the ranger, he got word that the parking lot there was already full (9:12am), so it seems the best way to go there is via the park shuttle. We really just had time to enjoy the Trail Ridge Road, which traverses an actual ridge of the Rockies for part of its route. Luckily this is also peak foliage time, something we hadn’t really thought about. I took lots of photos, naturally, but I’ll try to limit how many I post here.

rmnp-3

rmnp-4

Rock Cut

rmnp-5

Alpine Area-note how the rocks seem to flow like a stream? It’s due to water freezing and thawing in the soil.

rmnp-6

Mushroom Rocks. As softer rock is removed by the elements, the harder rock leaves different shapes.

rmnp-7

Pika. The only animal we saw in the Alpine area.

rmnp-8

Lava Cliffs

rmnp-9

Alpine Visitor Center-the highest in the US at 11,750 feet. The logs are to keep the roof on when the winter winds blow up to 100 mpg.

rmnp-10

rmnp-11

Poudre Lake at Milner Pass

rmnp-12

Never Summer Mountains

 

Posted in Colorado, National Parks (NPS) | Tagged | Leave a comment

Moving on – to Fort Collins, CO

9/20/16 (Tuesday) in Fort Collins, CO (Horsetooth Reservoir, South Bay Campground-$37/night (County of Larimer Dept of Natural Resources)

We left at about 10 since it’s a short trip. Leaving went smoothly, backtracking on the frontage road to the place where we’d originally exited. Not very long on the road a truck kicked up a rock that chipped the windshield, just below where John looks. Not a small chip, but it is less than a quarter in diameter.

We took I-25S to exit 265 (Harmony Rd). That road is 6 lanes through town (Fort Collins), then you continue straight on a county road (38E) which soon is a newly paved road going up into the hills. At one point we had to stop for construction (one lane traffic). In the photo below, notice that the white truck in front is laying down the asphalt while the yellow rig with the men is spreading and leveling it.  Cool.  We turned R at the “South Bay” sign (for both reservations and no reservations campers). They have a beautiful, brand new Horsetooth Reservoir Information Center that was closed when we arrived, but we saw a lady inside and went in anyway. We could go to our site (S-6), then tell the camp host (S-26) we’d arrived. He actually drove by us as we were unhooking (just past the Information Center) and later checked us in, so we never even had to walk to his site. Arrival: 11:15am.

construction

The campground is up in the hills, overlooking the reservoir. We had nice views all around us, including the spot where the vehicles have to stop for the road construction. Our site was FHU (50 amp, 60psi water) so it cost $30/night + $7/night vehicle entrance fee. It was not all that level, although it WAS a pull through, spacious with a small tree, picnic table and fie pit. We had Verizon service (4G) and open skies for the TV. We chose this campground because it was fairly close to I-25 and we’d rather drive our car on mountainous Hwy 34 to Rocky Mountain NP than our motor home.

Later we took a little walk down to the reservoir, getting a nice look at a Blue Heron, working on a tasty snack.

heron

Posted in Colorado | Tagged | Leave a comment

Moving on – to Cheyenne, WY

9/18/16 (Sunday) in Cheyenne, WY (Terry Bison Ranch Resort-PPA)

There are railroad tracks close to Lewis Park and they were running all day. Thankfully, we heard none during the night until 6:30. Unfortunately, mother nature decided it was time to throw her weight around-with lots of gusts of wind for much of the night. When we got up we checked our weather report. Strong winds (fire advisory) that get stronger (with gusts to 50 mph) during the day. The next days would be less windy. We could stay a day longer at Lewis Park than planned and not have to drive in the worst winds but after considering many factors we decided to move on today.

Grateful that our slide toppers (awnings) were not terribly affected by the wind, we were able to bring are slide in without incident. On the road before 8:30. That was quick considering that we weren’t going to leave until 10 or later because we only had 79 miles to travel. We went on I-25 S, the wind was blowing mostly from the west. Then they added cones for 9 miles, just for an extra challenge. To think we figured this would be our easy trip!

trip-2trip-3

We arrived by 9:45am. We apologized for being so early but they weren’t upset and our reserved site was ready for us. Yay! After getting settled in, I got my many loads of wash started, then used their free WiFi. John worked on various computer projects. Nice to have FHUs at last. It took until after supper for my loads to finish, with sheets to do tomorrow. We took a very short walk to the bathrooms and spent the rest of the evening watching TV. John got very frustrated because he couldn’t record shows like normal.

UPDATE: I forgot to share info about this campground. When you approach (exit 2 off of I-25), you’ll go on a frontage road for 3 miles. As you near the campground you may see a small herd of bison (they own more – 2500), then 6 camels. They also have horses, giving horse trail rides on their property as well as a train tour near the bison. You’ll see an iron work arch (1st entrance), but use the rock arch (2nd entrance) marked “RV”. Follow the fence, turning right, in front of the fake town. You’ll see all the RV’s parked before you. They are parked like sardines with open skies so there is little real “ambiance”. There is 4g Verizon service but the open skies are deceptive. As noted below, the TV signal is weak. Also they have free WiFi but that is really weak. They have clean restrooms and laundry behind the registration/gift shop, open 24 hrs. They have FHUs, good 50 amp power.  It’s expensive for what you get, I think: $42/night+tax.  Only 1 night on PPA discount allowed. Warning: If you choose the southern frontage road (left out of campground), it turns to a gravel road for about 7 miles.  

6/19/16 (Monday) Day to Relax

I washed those sheets and did light housecleaning. I did a special cleaning of Miss Journey’s headlights. Then, using a Chicken Taco Mix that our son Justin had shared with us, I cooked in our Instant Pot, using it as a slow cooker. It did a fine job. After lunch we called friends and relatives to connect. We solved a couple problems: John talked to a “DISH” technician who was helping our next door “neighbor”. He found out that this area seems to have a weak signal, plus our satellite may not have locked on well yesterday due to all the wind. Also, we were only getting SD signals some of the time. Resetting would bring up the HD channels. His last suggestion was to check that all our connections were tight after all our travels since we left Spokane. Then John went to get DEF (for our RV) at the nearby Flying J. I managed to pull down an MCD shade that had eluded all our efforts to shake it loose since we were in Spokane. Yay! Too quiet of a day to make a separate posting.

Posted in Wyoming | Leave a comment

Moving on – to Wheatland, WY

9/17/16 (Saturday) in Wheatland, WY (Lewis Park (city) – donation)

Since we had over 200 miles to go today, we were on our way by 7:45, south on WY 120 until Shoshoni when we turned east onto US Hwy 20. Believe it or not, the US Hwy was more narrow than the State Hwy. Both were 2 lane, but the land was quite open, so it was easy enough for others to pass us. This route was really open, even more like West Texas. The good thing about 2 lanes in Wyoming is there is very little traffic. John spotted a pronghorn in the distance, in time for me to get a nice look. We learned at the Buffalo Bill Center that they are not antelopes but a unique species, “the last living member of a family that evolved exclusively in North America.” We even spotted a few oil derricks. Just before our rest area was the town of Hiland: population 10.

After fueling up at the Flying J in Casper we were on I-25 S until Wheatland. We saw signs for 80 mph speed limit on the freeway.

An address for Lewis Park that could work with your GPS is 14 Recreation Drive, Wheatland, WY. When you see this sign, continue on that road. The RV sites are on the left, back in. Each shares a pedestal with 2 power boxes with 30/50 power. No potable water. When leaving there is a dump site with non potable water. They only ask for donations. You will face a lovely large treed grassy park with restrooms. We arrived around noon. Of the 16 possible sites, we were the only ones here all day.

trip-3

After lunch John got busy cleaning our windshield and front levelers while I took a nap. We found a grocery store, Thrifty, but decided to wait until Cheyenne to buy anything. Beautiful day for relaxing.

Posted in Wyoming | Tagged | Leave a comment

Moving on – to Shoshoni, WY

9/16/16 (Friday) in Shoshoni, WY (Boysen State Park – $17 /night)

We weren’t in any hurry because it should just be a 2 hour drive. A camper was talking with a neighbor of ours, so we joined in. He was looking for a power/water spot to open up, so we told him we would be leaving soon. Thus we were on our way by 9:15. It was all on 2 lane highways (US Hwy 14 to WY Hwy 120 S to US Hwy 20. Decent roads.

After September 15 the Wyoming State Parks don’t take reservations, it’s first come, first served. So there aren’t really any check in/check out times either. The landscape was pretty similar; sagebrush with hills. Sort of like West Texas but with hills added. They call it Wyoming Prairie. Once we passed Thermopolis we entered Wind River Canyon. Pretty. Then 3 tunnels (14′ clearance) shortly before Boysen SP. The first sign for a Boysen campground is RIGHT after the 3rd tunnel, on your right, for a small park. If you turn in there, stay to the left of the Park sign for adequate room to turn right into that Park campground (Lower Wind River). Just a little ways beyond is a 2nd campground (Upper Wind River) and that’s where we stayed. It was larger, with grass and shade trees along with gorgeous views of the canyon on both sides. The Shoshoni River runs past both campgrounds. If you miss these first 2 there are 2 more (Brannon and Tamarisk) but they don’t look nearly as lovely – very open and dirt surroundings. These all are DRY campgrounds. We didn’t notice any dump station or place to take on water, but since we were only staying one day that was fine. They DO have a camp host, if you have questions. We had sandwiches for lunch and fired up the generator for our traditional “Fish Friday” supper. We enjoyed a lovely walk around the area – checking out the earthen Boysen Dam south of the campground. This was a beautiful, peaceful place.

Posted in Wyoming | Leave a comment