Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Letter 23 Colorado, New Mexico, Home

Wednesday, Sept 8 we landed in Riverview RV park in Loveland where we found two nights at half price with Passport America, then 2 more nights with Good Sam’s discount, which ended up averaging the same price as the state park.

Thursday, Sept 9 we slept in, did our nine loads of wash, and ate at El Pueblito, 1499 W Eisenhower Blvd. Olivia had Chicken enchiladas with hot green sauce, Wow, might even be better than Tachitos. Olivia hasn’t had Mexican food since leaving Texas and was she ready!

Friday, Sept 10 we heard from Dolores and Mike that his heart had acted up. They had moved in to Boyd Lake State Park on the other side of Loveland from us. He finally gave-in to go to the Dr and they admitted him to the hospital. His heart had a rhythm problem. Shock treatment was scheduled on Saturday to get his rhythm back. We made our Wal-Mart trip and other errands. Then we shopped for a generator, since we will need one for our Alaska trip next year. It was frustrating as we don’t have a desirable place to store one.

We visited Mike in the nice McKee hospital here. He was in good spirits and wanted out!

Saturday, Sept 11 We had a disturbing email from Teenya about Fran, one of her girl friends. She was with Teenya and other friends for “girls night.” Fran fell while wading in the shallow surf near Rockport and instantly went limp. The girl friends called 911, rescued her from the water, and started CPR.

We drove in to town and called Teenya. The news was not good. She had suffered a severe asthma attack and there were no brain waves. Then we called Dolores and found Mike’s shock did not help and they wanted to keep him 72 hours and try shock again in combination with other medications. Delores had gone to the trailer to do the wash. We followed her and helped with some moral support and advice along with “call us” if we were needed. Then we visited with Mike at the hospital. They were canceling their reservations in Rocky Mountain National Park and when Mike gets out, head to Texas. They were both very disappointed.
This was not a good news day.

We bought groceries and some firewood and were ready to head to the Rockies the next day.

Sunday, Sept 12 was a better day as we found our old camp-spot minus a couple of trees so we now could see Long’s Peak from our spot. This is Olivia’s favorite mountain as you will see during this next week. She shot a picture from the National Park visitor’s center that actually shows the
“Key Hole” in the bottom of the saddle on the right.
The next day Olivia’s cousins Johnny Redd and Janet Cole drove up from the Denver area and had lunch with us. We enjoyed their company, brief as it was and promised to join them for dinner at Janet’s on Friday night.

During our five days stay in Moraine Park Campground in the National Park we roamed daily to see
elk in rutting and hear their buggling. It was fun to watch the stongest bull elk with the prettiest antlers trying to keep up with his cows and keep the lesser bulls away from them. He was a busy elk.

The skies were clear and the front range made a good picture. Starting with
Longs on the left and tallest, then Storm peak, one we don’t remember then McKinley, Taylor, Otis, Hallets, and Flattop. For years Olivia has tried to get all of them in one picture.

One day we drove up the Old Fall River Road. It is a journey on an historic roadway built between 1913 and 1920. It was the first motor route to cross Rocky Mountain National Park. In the nine miles we traveled from montane meadows and woodlands through subalpine forest to the tundra.

This road remains much as it was in 1920. Also as Olivia found it in 1961 when she walked down the road while it was closed to auto traffic for a few years due to damage. Two years ago when we visited RMNP this road was closed due to snow, but this year there had been little rain and no snow.

Following the steep slope of Mount Chapin, the numerous
drop-offs and
hairpin turns of this narrow dirt road, demanded a leisurely pace.
All of the original construction was done by 38 convicts from a Colorado State penitentiary and carried two way traffic. After Trail Ridge Road was built it was designated a one-way route. Fred was glad it was one-way. He couldn’t imagine meeting anyone on this road! Bless his heart Olivia believes he is actually getting use to driving these roads.

We stopped to view Chasm Falls, a waterfall of about 25 feet with stones revolving in a whirlpool carving a pothole at the base. We didn’t venture into the steep canyon to see it, but wished we could have. It was just too rugged.
We passed the evidence of an avalanche where trees were leveled during the winter of 1985 and rock slides have left scars on both sides of the canyon.

Further on we saw retaining gabions built to prevent road bed damage resulting from excess water runoff, freezing and thawing. In 1953 a massive slide caused such extensive destruction that Old Fall River Road was nearly abandoned.

Above us we saw
Rock Spires sculpted by a weathering process called frost-wedging, occurring when water running into cracks in the rock freezes and expands, breaking loose pieces of the rock.

This little canyon called
Canoncito made a pretty view looking east just before our stop where we caught a view of the
Alpine Visitor Center, our destination at 11,796 feet above sea level. Prevailing winds from the west create huge snowdrifts 20-30’ deep. This part of the road is the most difficult to open each spring. Clearing snow here was so arduous that it was one more reason to develop a new route across the park. At the
summit, we could look back down the Fall River valley and get a few glimpses of the road we had just traversed. Don’t miss the switchbacks in the middle right. After a stop at the top we headed back east over the tundra, a land of no trees, on Trail Ridge Road, stopping at the
Rock Cut for a picture of Long’s peak through the Rocks.

Each night we headed out to watch the
elk in various valleys or “parks.” The grass is so high that sometimes we could not see the elk’s legs. Tourists stopped all along the roads causing
“Elk Jams.”

One evening we were surprised to see
eight coyote’s attempting to cross our path. Three made it across before the tourist stopped to watch and scared them off.

Another day we drove over to
Bear Lake for a view of Hallet’s and Flattop that is pictured on the Colorado Quarter. Then we stopped
at Sprague’s Lake for another view of both mountains. Our last night the sun seemed to tell us
goodbye with a beautiful sky through the trees and over
Long’s peak.

Friday, Sept 17 we had to relinquish our favorite camp spot to another camper, due to the reservation system. Just what happened to “squatter’s rights?!” However our next stop in Golden offered reunions with the Redd’s, Anne Dubinsky and Renee Helmstead.

Our drive south from Estes Park gave us our last and closest view
of the East Face of Long’s and our first good look at the
yellow aspens. We looked forward to more later around Leadville. This highway stays about 9,000’ and was a little more adventure than Fred wanted with the trailer behind.

The road base was good, but it went up and down and around and around. The last downhill canyon even caused the breaks to get hot.

We found our next spot at Dakota Ridge RV park where Renee is working and we parked in one of the last four available spots. We gave “Daisy” her head and drove to Janet’s new home in Superior, Colorado where we enjoyed visiting with
her brother Johnny, father John & his friend Johnnie, husband Mark, sons Ryan, Erick, Michael and girlfriend Tish. Janet makes a mean Chicken Spaghetti and everyone ate voraciously.

Saturday, Sept 18 Anne Dubinsky came to our park and took Olivia to see where they now live. They are renting a great house with a wonderful

view overlooking Denver. Before moving to Denver, Anne was the Teen Court Coordinator for Lewisville, Texas and they enjoyed each other then and now. They took in a nail salon where Anne pampered her nails and Olivia treated her toes. It will be nice when they move back to Texas.

Renee spent the evening with us after she left her work job in the office. Dakota Ridge RV park is at the north end of
Dinosaur Ridge. We reminisced about our shared travels and the sad loss of her husband two months ago.

Sunday, Sept 19 we put ourselves in Daisy’s hands to find the
Applewood UMC and we really think they are hiding their light under a bushel. Daisy really had to know where to go, we would have never found it without the GPS. It was really worth the visit with this congregation. They were soooooooo friendly. Their pastor was on a trip with her prior church to Scotland so to recognize that one of their young ladies (about 10) entered playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipe and she didn’t miss a note. The choir was excellent singing the last verse of the hymns in harmony. The children’s sermon included recognizing their birthdays and that child also put money in their little church bank. It was also announced the 4, 5 & 6 grade group had drawn names of adults in the congregation to get acquainted and interview.

We were invited for coffee and fellowship, but Fred had the “Cowboys” on the brain as they were starting imminently. Unfortunately when we arrived at the trailer and tuned in the Fox network they had not chosen to air the Cowboys. Olivia left to run errands and Fred to try to keep up with the boys via internet.

Renee was relieved of her job and had walked her cute dogs we went to La Tapatio for a great Mexican food feast. Again we enjoyed our visit with her and gave her custody of our grandson Daniel when she moves to Mesa to workkamp for a park there. Mesa is not too far from where Daniel lives in Tempe. Renee is a bundle of energy and we wish her the best in moving her motor home rig by herself.

Monday, Sept 20 we moved to Leadville anticipating free camping in a closed but not locked forest camp on the upper end of Turquoise Lake, but when we asked in the Forest headquarters we were told we couldn’t camp there but yes to park on the boat ramp
parking lot on the east end of the lake. The boat ramp was closed so there was very little traffic and we met two singles - Rachel in the last van called “Moonbeam” and Dave from Wisconsin. Both have spent the summer “boondocking” in Colorado. Rachel has madeover a van to fit her needs. We were all on the edge of
of Turquoise Lake.

Dave told us how to view Mount of the Holy Cross by going north to Red Cliff then up to the top of
Shrine Pass where we walked 1/4 mile to the view of the valley with golden aspen and the Mt of Holy Cross. Most of the year the vertical cut is filled with snow along with a lateral cut, making a cross in the mountain. Olivia has heard of this mountain
most of her life and this is the first time she has seen it. Too bad the snow was gone this summer.Later we found a picture behind glass of the mountain with snow.

At the top of Shrine Pass we could see
Copper Mountain ski slopes and mountains even further east, probably around Breckenridge.

The Shrine pass road intersected with I 70 and we took it west over Vail Pass to Vail where we took pictures from the
freeway of the aspens. Two years ago the Aspens
were still green so it was a treat to see the

Turning south on Hwy 24 we saw color at the town of
Minturn and again at the mining ghost town of
Gilman. We enjoyed this drive two years ago and found the aspen here just as pretty as then. Go to www.harringtontravels.blogspot.com to see the aspen from then. We overdid the pictures then so are trying not to repeat all the beauty this year.

Back in Leadville we prowled a
block of their old buildings visiting the old hotel with unique shops.

Wednesday, Sept 22 we awoke to a cloudy sky so we decided to wash, hoping for the sun to come out later in the day.

We went into town and did our wash then invited two of our neighbors for soup. One of our neighbors was Rachel and something major happened in her life last year so she converted a van into her home complete with refrigerator, microwave and all the conveniences and hit the road. She had stayed all summer in Colorado and only paid for six nights. Colorado has a lot of boondocking sites and she had taken advantage of them. The other neighbor was Dave. He was from Wisconsin and had also been boondocking in Colorado all summer. His rig was a 22’ self contained trailer. He was a fisherman and regularly caught enough fish to eat. He also lived off the land with wild blueberries, raspberries, leeks, and mushrooms along with the fish.

Olivia put on a pot of soup and boiled it hard, even tried the pressure cooker and it was finally done enough to eat. Just about dark the clouds lifted enough to see
Mt. Massive covered with fresh snow.

Thursday, Sept 23 we said goodbye to our friends and headed south in an occasional drizzling sleet.
We drove south to Buena Vista with clearing skies viewing aspen on the lower elevations of
Mt Elbert, Colorado’s tallest mountain at 14,433 and snow on top. We drove into the mountains to our favorite boondock along Cottonwood lake viewing
two layers of Aspen trees along the gravel road. As we arrived another little cloud came over with a little sleet. When that cleared we set up and then headed out to drive to the top of
Cottonwood pass. The aspens were all decked out in gold like two years ago. We saw
Mt Yale in the background.

Backtracking north to Independence Pass where all the high elevation was full of golden aspen. When we reached the top of
Independence pass there were
snowy peaks all around us. Gorgeous!

Two years ago when we were here we drove to the town of Aspen but missed Maroon Bells, so we drove on over to see them again with
aspens trees lining the valley drive.

The sun was setting behind the bells so our pictures aren’t very good, but it was still so pretty. We have to go back there. This was the most glorious day of this trip. Up two passes over the Continental divided with snow on the peaks and aspen in the 10,000’ range. At the end of the valley were the Maroon Bells which form a backdrop that epitomizes what the Rocky Mountains are all about. Mirrored in the waters of Maroon Lake, the Maroon Bells tower like massive sentinels over the valley. The mountains’ red color and distinctive bell shape led earlier explorers to give Maroon Bells their name. From
left to the
lake and to the
red cliffs covered with Aspens. What more can Olivia say. This was her favorite day of the trip. We will have to find a campground in the Maroon Bells area for our next visit to Colorado.

On Independence Pass going back
east Olivia caught the road at the narrowest. This is one reason there are warning signs for the pass to avoid taking any rig over 35’. Don’t worry Fred wouldn’t dare tow the trailer over this pass, so next time we will have to go the long way around to see the Maroon Bells.

By the time we arrived back to the trailer it was dark and we went to bed as soon as we had eaten. The next morning was clear and beautiful and we hated to leave this wonderful
boondocking site on the side of the road on Cottonwood lake which
mirrored the Aspens on the other side of the road. Jo Atkins we expect a response about this campsite. We thought of you and all the others that liked to sleep with one foot in the water!

Friday, Sept 24, we moved south to an old favorite of Muddie and Cecil’s where we had been anticipating staying over the weekend to rest and recoup by the beautiful Conejos River at Aspen Glade forest camp. We visited them at the campground when our girls were little.

We noticed two tires on the trailer didn’t look right and stopped north of Antonito at a tire place. They agreed, but didn’t have the correct kind for us.

As we approached Antonito, CO we stopped at the Forest Service headquarters to check things out. Oops! Aspen Glade had been closed for the season. The Ranger was nice and told us there were two possibilities. Elk Creek Trail head in a pasture and another campground 15 miles up the Conejos. We opted to find the trailhead, but missed the turn and ended up going all the way to the top of La Manga pass. The aspens were in
four colors, light and dark green and light and dark gold. It was a five mile climb with no level stretches. By the time we reached the top, Fred was fit to be tied! He did not want to drive back down that pass. There were a couple of camping possibilities, but he didn’t like those options either. Finally after a brief rest, we drove back down and found the right road and squatted at the trail head along with others.

Saturday, Sept 25
, During the early morning the refrigerator went off due to low trailer batteries. What to do? Since we weren’t in the beautiful Aspen Glade, we decided to head for our next destination, Taos. In Antonito, Olivia looked up the 1911 Jewelry Factory where a lot of her turquoise jewelry had come from when Muddie traded oil paintings for jewelry in the 60’s. She found the owner had died and his wife had sold the building. She did leave an
old tree trunk covered with turquoise. The new owner was very kind to show us his restoration of the upstairs hotel rooms and told us the Navajo Indians who had worked here years ago had agreed to come back and work in the front room. This will be interesting to watch in the future.

We drove south to Taos where we stopped at a big tire place and found two new tires. We were told one of the old ones had a broken steel belt. And we were lucky to have made it that far. Thank you God for riding with us.

We had stopped at one RV park north of town and they were full for several days so while the tires were being worked on Olivia made contact with Kat Pruitt, Kathy Estes Pruitt, one of her classmates and lifetime friend. She gave us several names and Olivia tried the internet finding a place to stay for several nights. Kathy called back and invited us to supper. How nice!

After we parked, set up and took showers we found our way to the
Pruitt’s new home, a nice one level two bedroom home with two living areas. They have been in this house about two years and have made it their comfortable home. They had a wonderful meal of fresh vegetables and pork chops. Yum!

Sunday, Sept 26 Olivia picked up Kathy and they attended the
Pueblito United Methodist Church where Kathy and Pat attend while Fred and Pat watched the Cowboys play. This building started out being a bar, then a filling station before the church bought it in 1960. Their joking slogan is "come and get a fill up." The pastor was originally from Kansas and wore a waist length braid down his back. It was a very impressive service with a pot luck lunch afterwards.

Kathy works Sunday afternoon and Mondays in one of the swanky dress shops on Bent Street in the busy parts of Taos, so Olivia dropped her off and went to a arts & crafts fair in the park across the street. Then she visited Bryan’s store next to Kit Carson’s museum where she found her Mickey Mouse Ring several years ago. They have a lot of beautiful jewelry and Indian wares, but nothing struck her fancy today.

Monday, Sept 27 we slept late then challenged ourselves to cleaning the trailer for storage when we arrive home. We did some deep cleaning and wore ourselves out. Later we drove into town and watched a man at the grocery store roasting Hatch chili’s to make the peeling come loose. They were selling a plastic tow sack full for $14.95 and roasting for free. We watch while several customers came out with their bags full to be roasted. It was a good deal and we wished we could use that many.

Our taste buds couldn’t stand it any longer. We invited our neighbors, Butch and Cindy from Wisconsin to join us on a trip to
Orlando’s for Mexican food.

Tuesday, Sept 28 Olivia had a beauty shop appointment with Nikki to have a hair cut similar to Kathy’s then Kathy picked her up for a little underground Taos shopping. Supper was back at Orlando’s for a final fix of New Mexico food with Kathy, Pat and son Matt as company. This had been a very enjoyable Taos visit.

Butch & Cindy invited us to see their plush rig custom built for those Wisconsin travelers. It certainly had all the fancy stuff anyone could dream up. We would love to run into them on another trip or visit each other at their homes.

This is the last of our blog for this year. We hope you have enjoyed it. We leave Taos on Wednesday, Sept 29 and hope to be home Friday.

Let us know if you want to be included next year as we head west and then "North to Alaska."

Please let us hear your comments or news at olivia@bobheck.com or fredharrington@yahoo.com