This might have been the sister trip, but it quickly became Taco’s fat camp. When you’re normally 6 pounds, an extra pound is a lot.
Jul 28th • 2015
(A quick side note: The title of this post references a line from “The Last Battle” by C.S. Lewis. The longer quote reads “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”)
Our time among the red landscape of Moab came to a close all too soon. The morning following our adventure to the Delicate Arch saw us returning again to Arches National Park. We only had a couple of hours before the heat would become intensely dangerous and our KOA equally so. Okay, so that’s a total exaggeration, but the KOA at Moab was less than hospitable. I was half worried that a late checkout would have them burning our tent.
But onward to Park Avenue.
Park Avenue is a “steep” descent into a beautiful canyon with formations akin to the buildings along Park Avenue in New York City. The lower trailhead is right on the entrance road, a little over 2 miles into the park. It’s one of the easier hikes in Arches but still allows for up-close contact with some spectacular formations.
And so our time in Moab ended as it began…encompassed by red rocks and the desert heat.
So…fast forward about three hours to Colorado. The transition from desert to the forest was rather abrupt even with the hundreds of miles cushioning the change. The dry heat relented slightly, softened by mountain breezes and an abundance of shade.
Our first few minutes after setting up the tent were spent lounging in folding chairs, enjoying the shade, and hoping for a cool night. The campground was very clean with simple bathrooms. (Toilets only, no showers.) We snagged the last site which wound up being for an RV.
Before calling it quits for the day, we gathered our packs and set out for the short hike through the state park. I had made a promise of waterfalls to Adri as penance for dragging her through thousands of miles of desert.
First along the trail, we explored limestone caves. They’re not incredibly deep, but they are large enough to climb into.
Courage, while not graceful, did try to play mountain dog. I forget that she’s not a young pup anymore. For any future excursions, we’ll need to train a little better.
Above the falls of the state park, there sits a large pond. Taco decided to leap into the water with no invitation. From that point on, he smelled really bad. We called him “Swamp Butt” for the remainder of the trip.
Colorado is just freakin’ pretty.
Courage…more of a mountain dog than a desert dog…and good at neither. But she’s cute.
The trail dumped us back near the campsite and right beside the three waterfalls.
From Rifle Falls, we headed north into the state, toward Steamboat Springs. Michelle had an old friend there who was more than excited to show us around, get us to a good campsite, and more.
She took us first to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The mineral water pouring out of the mountainside cooled to around 104° by the time it reached the pools, of which there were many. There was plenty of space to relax and enjoy the warm water.
We also had the fun experience (and luxury) of a creek running alongside the spring. If the spring got too warm, we could sit a while in the much colder creek, and vice versa.
The road up to the springs was a little concerning. Unpaved and narrow with some sharp turns, I couldn’t imagine braving this in the middle of a snowy winter. I would need chains. And a 4WD. So basically, I would need a different car…not sure the CRV could do it.
The Final Campsite: Dry Lake Campground
North of Steamboat Springs, on the Buffalo Pass Road in the Routt National Forest, the Dry Lake Campground is a quiet and beautiful place. The views were amazing. The setting in general was just peaceful and quieting.
At several points, it seemed as if a nearby thunderstorm would ruin the evening, but aside from a few sprinkles, we escaped unscathed.
That night we cooked a feast. Partially to welcome Rachel (Michelle’s friend) and also to eat through supplies before the trip ended. I should have taken a picture…because it was awesome. Grilled corn, salad, hot dogs and beans, and more. We even had dessert. So…if you need a trail chef, I’m open to applying. But only if you’re camping in ridiculously beautiful locations.
Our last morning in Colorado began with a hike further into the Routt Forest to reach a large stream. We needed to clean dishes and the campground offered no amenities aside from a very simple toilet.
I mean, seriously? Colorado?! It’s like scenes out of a movie up here.
Around 11 AM, we reached the campsite and began the slow (sometimes scarily-fast) descent through the Rockies, into Denver, and onward to the flatlands of eastern Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri. I-70 heading east over the Front Range is no joke with its steep grades and sharp curves.
Our drive came to an end approximately 25 hours later when we arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. (We had intended to spread the drive over a couple of days, but at a certain point, you don’t want your soul to be sucked dry by the boring stretches of nothing in Kansas. And Missouri. Why do people live there?!?!?!)
So…I’m left planning for future trips westward…perhaps longer stays at individual parks.
But I’m also trying to figure out what life choices I can make that will leave me with a winter house in the Keys, a summer house in the Rocky Mountains, a holiday home in Montauk, a ranch in Moab, and enough money to see the world on either side of the USA. If someone can squeeze a flat in Paris as well, I’d be thrilled.
I’ve heard jokes about living in vans down by the river…but that might be my best option.
I already miss everything west of the Mississippi River. Except for Kansas and Missouri. I do not miss them.