Colorado – May 2014

Sunday – May 25, 2014

It’s been a busy year and this was our first opportunity to get away. The plan was as follows: fly to Denver to visit Linda’s friends, Maira and Matt before spending just under a week hiking and camping in a few of the many National parks in Colorado. We spend the next two days and nights having quality time with our friends in Denver attending a BBQ, getting a tour of downtown and Red Rocks and watching kayakers at the whitewater play park in Golden. Tuesday morning we said goodbye to Maira and Matt and depart on another 1000 mile adventure. From Denver we head southeast with a number of destinations for the day.

First stop of the day is the small artist community of Salida in Colorado’s High Desert to eat lunch and visit a few art galleries. From there its a short drive south to Valley View Hot Springs – a private natural sanctuary owned by the non-profit, Orient Land Trust. It spans a large number of acres, has about a dozen natural soaking pools, several miles of trails and best of all the entire area is clothing optional. We spent several hours hiking naked and testing each of natural pools. The views are spectacular given its elevation of 8000-9000 feet. In the late afternoon we drive further south to our final destination of the day – Great Sand Dunes National Park. We spend the remaining hours of daylight hiking around the giant sand dunes. At dusk we pitch our tent, make some dinner and watch the last light of day fade into darkness.

The next morning we do a little more hiking around the dunes before packing up and driving five hours west to Durango. We had planned our trip so that we would spend one night in a hotel in Durango for two reasons – we’ve heard so many great things about it and it’s on the short list of places we are considering retiring in. Durango does not disappoint. It offers everything that outdoor enthusiasts like us crave – a whitewater play park, thousands of miles of trails, winter sports and a large outdoor community. Of course these outdoor amenities come with a hefty price tag as we found out from out visit to a local real estate office. That being said we really love it here and for the time being Durango definitely stays on the short list.

During breakfast in the hotel we meet a German family who turn out to be from a suburb of Hanau, Germany that I grew up in. Small world. We talk for about 30 minutes before wishing each other a safe and pleasant journey. We spend the morning and early afternoon doing some additional driving in and around the outskirts of Durango before continuing our journey west to Mesa Verde National Park. As we register for a campsite we’re told that a bear has been spotted in the campground within the last week. Alas, we didn’t see or hear it that night but I’m pretty sure a mule deer was chomping on the grass just outside of the tent for a good portion of the night. We also toured the Pueblo cliff ruins with a rowdy bunch of Brits. We finish off the night by attending a ranger led slide show and talk about the Civilian Conservation Core.

Thunderhead on the Horizon

In the morning we leave Mesa Verde and drive northeast to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Here we’re also told that bears have been spotted in the campground but once again we’re skunked and didn’t get to see one. We go on a couple of short hikes around the visitor center and end the evening at Sunset Point watching the sun set into the hills beyond the canyon. The following morning we’re up super early to watch the sunrise over the eastern cliffs high above the Gunnison river. It was really cold but the sunrise was absolutely gorgeous. We return to camp to quickly eat breakfast and break camp. The goal for day is to do the intense hike to the Gunnison River at bottom of the canyon. Once again we’re not disappointed with the 1800 foot near vertical decent over 1.5 miles down a narrow gulley and skree field. We made it to about 30 feet from the river where we were forced to stop due to the large patches of poison oak – I’m extremely allergic. After a 30 minute rest watching the water splash through the rapids I jokingly said to Linda that we should try to make it up in the same amount of time it took us to get down – one and a half hours. She gladly accepted the challenge and off we go. We made it too but later that day it would end up costing me as I would be suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Could have been the altitude as well. As we drove into Leadville, Colorado I was feeling pretty sick. After downing a Gatorade and a bag of Doritos things were a bit better but the thought of camping our last night in Colorado wasn’t extremely appealing. We end up staying in a roadside motel in Vail.

After breakfast the next morning we drove the last of our 1000 miles back to Denver for the final stop before heading to the airport – the Counter Terrorism Museum. We didn’t have time for a visit when we first arrived in Denver, but were told that it was not to be missed. It was a great way to cap off another incredible trip.

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