Friday, April 17, 2009

Visiting Colorado

We have only lived in Colorado a few years but were just south in New Mexico for many years and visited this state several times.

Starting on the southern border there is one of my favorites - The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We have ridden it several times and there is beauty each time. I like early spring the best when the snow is melting in the high mountains. The Animas River runs high with lots of currents and makes it so much more dramatic. But then the fall ride is gorgeous when the aspen trees are turning gold. The summer is a blast because 9 times out of 10 you can get caught in a brief thunderstorm and if you are in an outside car, getting a shower is a bit chilly!

One year we stayed over night in one of the Silverton hotels. And be prepared - that town is a few thousand feet higher than Durango, so a light jacket is advisable even in summer.

Also down south is Mesa Verde and the 4 Corners. It is the only place in the US that 4 states come together. You can put your feet in 2 states and your hands in the other 2 states and be in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah all at the same time.

Mesa Verde is the protected ruins of an ancient Native American Pueblo culture. Multi storied adobe (bricks made of mud), have survived all these centuries. It is a most humbling sight to see, when we complain about our inconveniences.

The Great Sand Dunes - also south and are a fun thing to see and run around on. Just huge piles of sand in the middle of the nowhere surrounded by open prairie and scrub brush.

West side of the state - The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Beautiful country and even better to camp. Lots of streams for fishing too.

Grand Junction is the nearest city to the Colorado National Monument. It is a drive through - self guiding park with all sorts of odd shaped rocks. I would not recommend taking a large RV on those narrow roads.

If you are on the west side in the summer be sure to stop and get some fruit. That area is known for its produce. The peaches are like the ones you remember as a kid - full of flavor and juice that runs down your chin.

Now north - we have not investigated that area very much but have been to Estes Park and driven the loop up and over Rocky Mountain National Park to Grand Lake. Breathtaking in 2 regards - the views are unbelievable and the air is thin because of the altitude.

It is not unusual to see elk roaming the streets in Estes Park. We rode the tram within the city limits that offered a great view without going into the National Park. The kids were throwing snowballs in July!!

Denver gets a lot of attention and justifiably so, since it is the capitol of the state. Unfortunately we have not ventured around the city very much, to offer any suggestions. We have been to the Denver Merchandise Mart buying things for our eBay & State Fair/Craft show business.

Colorado Springs is where we live and 65 miles south of Denver. The Air Force Academy is here and on any given day as you drive on I 25 in the morning you are likely to see several parachutes falling from the sky and gliders being pulled by their tow plane and the released and just gliding silently to earth.

Pikes Peak is on our western horizon and overlooks the city. There are 2 ways to get to the top - drive with a lot of switchbacks - and I mean a lot or take the cog railway. It is vertical incline car that climbs to the top, several times a day year around. The song America the Beautiful was inspired by the view from the top and there is a plaque commemorating it.

We have seen deer, marmosets, elk, big horned sheep, all sorts of birds but are waiting to see a bear! Again this is a time where you want to bring a jacket just in case and more likely than not you will need it. When we were there in July it snowed for a few minutes while we were on top.

Pikes Peak is over 11,000 feet above sea level and it is recommend by professionals that anyone with breathing or heart problems do not go up there.

The Olympic Training Center is also here for various sports. The city is approximately 6000 feet above sea level, so athletes come here to expand their lung capacity. Many other sports and athletes come to train here on occasion too.

Garden of the Gods - Just like the sand dunes this is a garden of rocks in the middle of a prairie landscape. Also a drive through park with many pull offs and hiking trails.

Rodeo Hall of Fame - a museum dedicated to all those rodeo cowboys and cowgirls.

Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs are 2 little cities to wander around the quaint shops.

And if the RV needs any work done visit Pikes Peak Travel Center on Platte Ave. They are friendly, helpful and will not gouge you.

Did you know Colorado has more micro breweries than any other state?

And last there are only 3 towns where gambling is allowed. Cripple Creek west of Colorado Springs and Central City & Black Hawk which are next to one another. They are north of 170 and west of Denver. All 3 are old mining towns and have the flavor of the old west. And once again these are higher in altitude and can be chilly.

I have not talked about the high country or skiing or any of the winter sports because as I write this with RV'ers in mind those areas are not places to go with big rigs and should be explored in warmer weather when the threat of snow, ice and avalanches is over.

Of course there is plenty more to see in Colorado and many byways and off the main drag things to see. Have fun exploring, but watch the western sky for summer thunderstorms that might have some hail especially if you are out hiking.

This is a beautiful state and we still have lots to see and enjoy - hope you do too.

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