Guest post by L8dybug
Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
Flew into Colorado Springs and drove past Pike’s Peak jutting up on the horizon in the splendor of the late afternoon Colorado sunshine. Enjoyed a 3 hour drive to San Luis Valley with my friends. The Spanish Peaks, Blanca Summit, shadow-laden mountain ranges and the vast acres of ranch land were hypnotic. It was surprisingly green due to unusual amount of rainfall this spring. If I had been playing travel bingo I would have been able to check off elk, dear, wind turbines, cows, horses, miles of railroad tracks, wooden sand-fences, and a gazillion telephone poles. The pink sunset was the perfect ending of my first day out west!
We got up early and drove around the Del Norte area, then headed north with extra camera batteries and car chargers for a day of sight seeing and photo opportunities. Driving through the San Juan Mountains, and stopping to do a little hiking at Treasure Falls and stand in awe of Poncha Springs Valley overlook was quite the photographers’ delight! The Great Continental Divide Trail , the Rio Grande National Park, and Colorado’s vista was captivating. Unfortunately we arrived too late in the day to tour the mine or visit the Mining Museum in the historic town of Creede, but we got to shop in neat little galleries and artsy stores and walk around the quaint old buildings. Plus we got to peer into one of the most unique fire stations I’ve ever seen—it’s carved right into the mountain! I think we could have easily spent an entire day there. Daylight was barely making it up over the mountain peaks and we were running out of energy, so we headed south; it was a nice, full day and we were grateful for the heavy duty Explorer that got us safely up and down and all around central Colorado. No problems sleeping that night!
Coffee, donuts, horses, kids, band music and home town floats paraded up and down several of Monte Vista’s streets to celebrate America. The patriotic environment was stirring. It was a great kick-off for the 94th year of Colorado’s oldest professional rodeo, called Ski-Hi Stampede. We drove past humongous walls of stacked 1 ton bales of hay, crossed over the Rio Grand River a couple times, admired colorful fields of potatoes in bloom and golden acres of canola on our way to the Monte Vista Fairgrounds. Sitting in the stands watching cowboys and cowgirls of all ages strutting, competing, falling down and holding on was really entertaining—and the horses were gorgeous too! The afternoon bucked its way towards the dinner hour as all the events finished up with a stampede of humans heading for their favorite fair food booths, games and carnival rides. It was a fun day in the wild wild west—completed with a good caramel apple with nuts, fair fries and elephant ears! (The cotton candy went home in a bag for later!)
We packed water, elk jerky—really yum and munchies for the road trip to the Royal Gorge, stopping for little town visits, and points of interests and shopping along the way. There was a fire in the Gorge area a couple years ago, so the visitors center and attractions were all new structures—including the 2 ziplines across the Gorge itself—which sadly, we did not get to ride due to the wind! They have really made the park accessible to all and have plans for a lot more expansions. We stayed overnight in Colorado Springs so I could catch my early flight out. It was a really fun-packed couple of days—-and I vow to go back just to ride that zipline!!!
Traveled in July 2015