Georgetown Loop RR and Silver Mine

Georgetown, CO – August, 2017 Jim is as much a fan of trains and mining as I am of fire towers and moose. So while exploring the mining communities west of Denver I read about a train ride to a mine tour. Well that was a no brainer!

The community of Georgetown, Colorado was once known as the “Silver Queen of the Rockies.” They had a narrow gauge railway that carried silver ore from the mines 2 miles uphill in Silver Plume. The railway and mines were shut down for 50 years but were reopened in the 1970’s by the Colorado Historical Society.

We stopped in historic downtown Georgetown for a quick bite before our scheduled departure. We couldn’t resist a café called the Happy Cooker and we were not disappointed. Jim’s French dip and my meatloaf sandwich were both exceptional.

We walked around the area admiring the many neat old buildings. Their firehouse is very distinctive and serves as the town’s historical symbol.

We then headed up the hill to the Georgetown Loop Railroad. We passed under a train trestle and Jim exclaimed “I hope we get to ride over that”. I was not as excited about the prospect. It soon became apparent that we would be traveling over it as a train came around the bend before heading to the station.

We picked up our prepaid tickets in the gift shop and headed for the platform to catch the train. We didn’t have to wait long until we were boarded and on our way.

The train ride is about 4 miles each way. Even though the stations are only 2 miles apart the tracks zigzag back and forth to keep the grade at an acceptable level, 6% or below. The path crosses the beautiful Clear Creek again and again.

In less than 30 minutes we pulled in to Silver Plume. The engine pulled away to take on water and then reattached itself to the other end of the train for the downhill return.

This took about 20 minutes and we had an opportunity to get off and visit their gift shop if we wanted. They also took on new passengers at this station as you can begin your tour at either Georgetown or Silver Plume. Finally we were back on the rails.

In about 10 minutes they stopped at a platform and those of us who had purchased a mine tour departed. Some people chose to just ride the train. The mine tour is optional or not an option for anyone with children under 5 or those who can’t handle the walk to and through the mines.

We had a brief safety talk and then the passengers broke in to separate groups for the 3 different tour options. We had chosen a tour that would take us 900 feet in to the Lebanon Mine. Everyone donned a hard hat and we headed underground.

The first part of the mine looked like this. The timbers were spaced close together until they got through the part of the hill with the smaller stones.

Once they reached bedrock they only shored up the ceiling where it was needed. The height of the cavern became much shorter and anyone over 5 ½ feet had to spend much of the walk hunched over.

Thankfully they had the hard hats so it wasn’t painful when one found a particularly short spot. I even bumped my hat on a couple low spots. When the tour stopped for a talk everyone was usually able to find a spot where they could stand upright and straighten their backs.

The tour was fascinating and incredibly informative! Much of the mine equipment had simply been abandoned when the mine closed. This scene is practically as they found it when they reopened the mine.

You see the ladder to the above tunnel but can’t see that there is hole in the floor to the lower tunnels. This winch was used to haul the ore from both to the ore carts. We were walking on the carts’ tracks now filled in with gravel.

In another side tunnel the hole down was closer and you can clearly see the ladder descending into the depths of the mine, now flooded.

Our tour was on the 3rd level of a 6 level mine. They are continually trying to open new tunnels to tours. They work over the winter when they are not giving tours. They expect this tour to be about 100 feet longer next season.

The mine didn’t close because they ran out of silver but because the price of silver dropped below an amount that made it profitable to mine. There was silver ore all over the place. The miners called this a dragon tongue.

It apparently means that there is another rich silver vein above it. Several of these have appeared since they reopened this mine. It’s not like you can just pick up the silver though. It is embedded in granite and has to processed to extract the silver.

They don’t anticipate the price of silver ever reaching a level that would make it lucrative to mine these veins in today’s economy. There are working silver mines in the area though. The tour operator said the Phoenix mine down the road does OK and supplements their mining profits with tours during summer.

After about an hour long tour filled with tons of information we were totally satisfied with our experience. We didn’t at all mind leaving the 40 degree mine and Jim especially appreciated being able to stand upright again. We were very happy with our choice of tours as the Extended Lebanon Mine Tour had only 10 participants. Each of the other available tours had at least double that amount which would have made it pretty crowded in the narrow tunnels.

We walked up the hill to the platform and stopped to visit their very gentle pet donkeys on the way.

Our train showed up very shortly and we boarded it for the brief 15 minute ride back to Georgetown. Of course, we had to cross the trestle for the second time but it wasn’t really bad as there were so many sights and sounds to distract you.

I highly recommend this tour if you are in the area and interested in trains and/or mines. I thought the prices were very reasonable. A train ride was about $26 and the mine tours were $11 to 14 more. You could upgrade any ticket to first class which let you ride in a covered car with windows for another $10.

The train ride was rather short but you got to experience all the facets of a train excursion without a serious commitment of time. When we took the Durango & Silverton train a couple years ago it took all day and we were a bit uncomfortable by the end of the trip. This train ride along with the mine tour took a little under 3 hours but we were plenty tuckered out by the end of the day.

We stayed at Dakota Ridge RV Park 35 miles away in Golden, Colorado. We paid $49 per night for a full hookup, back-in site with our Good Sam discount. It was an extremely nice park with a pool, which we never managed to get to, and a hot tub, which we finally visited our last evening there.

Hiking the RMNP

RMNP, Colorado – August, 2017 We were certainly enjoying our time on the western edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We took several walks in the area but a couple of hikes were our most memorable.

One weekday we hiked to Grand Ditch via Red Mountain. We parked at the Colorado River Trail Parking Area. The parking lot had been packed every time we passed it so I expected a popular trail with lots of company. Instead we arrived at 8 in the morning and were about the 3rd car there.

We hit the trail and didn’t see another soul for an hour or so. Then a couple caught up to us and trailed us most of the trek. On our way back down the trail we met a few more hikers headed up the trail and a couple guys that had been backpacking several days and were on their way back to civilization.

The day was very overcast and I was grateful we never got rained on. Most of the trail was a pretty steady climb. Parts of it were rough and rocky.

I had developed a fascination with the local mushrooms ever since I discovered these red ones were not exclusively associated with small men with beards.

This romp through the woods gave me plenty of opportunities to photograph them.

Jim started enjoying the hunt and pointed many of the toadstools out.

These little orange ones covered an entire hillside.

I seriously took a hundred photos of fungi.

Our walk was occasionally interrupted by a beautiful mountain pond.

We finally made it out of the woods and enjoyed a view of the surrounding mountains.

A short distance from there we came to the Grand Ditch. Apparently this is a water diversion project to bring snowmelt from the Never Summer Mountains to the eastern plains farmers. The result is plenty of waterfalls.

Jim is often a reluctant model in my shots.

I believe the exact words before this shot were “Where are you? Please get back in the frame.” I am grateful, he is so patient!

The hike to Grand Ditch via this route was 6 miles roundtrip. I must admit the hardest part was the trip down. Our feet and knees were screaming on the descent.

I wanted to do another hike of similar length before we left but Jim wasn’t feeling it. I weighed my options for a solo hike. I read the park’s literature on hiking in bear country and I appreciated their advice.

The 3 primary rules were; don’t hike alone, make lots of noise, and hike in the middle of the day. I’d prefer to have a hiking buddy but given the option between hiking alone or not at all, I’d rather take a hike. Make lots of noise I can manage. I have a bear bell, I’m not above singing to myself, and when I get tired of my own voice I will happily play music on my phone.

The rule I most disliked was hike in the middle of the day. I am a morning person. I’d much rather put in several miles before lunch. If I have to wait till later it’s likely to not happen at all.

So I considered their advice and chose a hike where, despite hiking alone, I was unlikely to be alone. I decided to hike the Green Mountain Trail to Big Meadows and return via the Onahu Creek Trail. We had never passed the parking lot for these trails without them being almost completely full.

According to the trail map it was supposed to be just over a 7 mile roundtrip but my GPS recorded it closer to 6 miles.

I arrived at the trailhead around 8 am on a Sunday morning and snagged the very last parking space. A couple were just hitting the trail in front of me and I lolly-gagged a little to give them a head start so as to not crowd them. I never saw them again.

The trail climbed steadily and I stopped often to catch my breath. Despite the very chilly morning, it didn’t take long for me to shed my down jacket, and shortly thereafter, my long sleeved shirt. The trail map looked pretty straightforward but the trail turned out to be a little more complicated.

There were several paths leading in various directions that were not on the map. And some of the distances were not entirely accurate. But in general it wasn’t terribly difficult to follow the directions and I was able to get to where I intended.

I didn’t meet another soul until I reached Big Meadows. Supposedly it is not uncommon to see moose here in the early mornings. But I was not hopeful on such a popular trail and shortly before arriving there I could hear people making quite the commotion from a nearby campground. It was still a pretty clearing.

I met a couple young fellows on the trail and basically asked them if they thought I was going the right direction. They agreed I was on the right track. Turns out most of the people I met, and presumably most of the cars in the parking lot, belonged to those who had hiked in to campgrounds for a night or several.

The first half of the hike was pretty uneventful and not terribly scenic. But once I reached Onahu Bridge which was, surprisingly, an actual wooden bridge, the trail got much prettier.

The trail criss-crossed Onahu Creek for the remainder of the hike.

I passed a half dozen other hikers that morning, not exactly as busy a trail as I expected. But I never felt unsafe and I enjoyed my solo hike immensely.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Grand Lake, CO – August, 2017 We treasured our time in the town of Grand Lake on the western edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). It was so convenient to slip into the park for a quick visit or for an entire day.

One of the most popular hikes from Grand Lake is Adams Falls. It is an easy half mile walk from a parking lot on the edge of town.

Our first foray into RMNP proper we saw a heard of elk in a field beside the road. We stopped for some photos. A storm was brewing and the wind was fierce. I had to lean on a sign to steady my shot.

They were a group of females and young’uns. I believe there was one young buck among them. See his little horns on the right hand side of the photo? On that same day I stared into the forest as Jim drove and saw a large buck with huge horns. I swear they stood at least 3 feet straight up.

We ventured in on a weekend thinking we would visit one of the sites close to the western edge of the park but couldn’t even find a parking space. Traffic was crazy so we turned around the first chance we got and hightailed it outta there. We returned on Monday morning and crossed the park on Trail Ridge Road. The views along the road were breathtaking.

We visited the Alpine Visitor Center at almost 12,000 foot elevation just as it was opening at 9am. Here is the view from their patio.

There are several elk grazing below that glacial ice. We climbed the Alpine Ridge Trail for more astounding views.

It was drop dead gorgeous in every direction.

And we had it pretty much to ourselves at that hour of the day. It was a bit chilly, around 40 degrees.

We briefly visited the eastern side of the park and checked out Estes Park. Then we drove back via the incredibly scenic AND rustic Old Fall River Road. It was a gravel road with one switchback after another. We had to back up to make several of the sharp turns. Soooo worth it!

We enjoyed a stop at Chasm Falls.

And found a quiet place to enjoy our lunch.

We continued on to where the one-way gravel road brings you back to the Alpine Visitor Center. Here is a view of the center from below. It’s that tiny rectangle to the right of the snow.

We passed through the almost full parking lot of the visitor center. The trail up to the ridge was now crowded with hundreds of people. We were very glad we had braved the chill and had those moments alone with the views.

Of Moose and Men

Grand Lake, CO I don’t know exactly when I became fixated on moose. Somewhere around 20 years ago I suspect. I have no idea what started it but my love for these beasts is not waning.

Despite this my affection seems unrequited. They do not seem to be a fan of me. I have had very little contact with the creatures.

I was sure we would see lots of them when we vacationed in Alaska in 2006. We rented a class C and drove all over the state for a week. We saw a lot of amazing things but not one moose until our last night in the RV.

We stayed at a park on the outskirts of Anchorage. We were told we would almost certainly see a moose there. Sure enough at dusk a couple ladies made their way down the highway and bedded down near the entrance to the park.

This was my one and only moose encounter up to this summer. And it just wasn’t the kind I was hoping for. It was not the same as spotting a moose, preferably a male with a huge rack, in the wild.

So you can see why I was so excited when we had our run in with the moose near Flaming Gorge. Ok it wasn’t exactly up close and personal. But it was a bull and it was in the wild.

Our next stop seemed to promise more moose encounters. The town of Grand Lake sits on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. We fell in love with this little place and ended up staying 2 weeks.

Our very first morning there we went for a drive in the nearby national forest. We spotted a bull moose in the trees on the side of the road. Jim turned the truck around and the moose had crossed the road and climbed way up a hill.

We also saw a large female nearby. After further driving we saw 3 more moose! A young male …

and two females.

They were pretty near the road so I was able to get several good pics.

Thank goodness we had such a positive early experience because we didn’t see any more moose the remainder of our stay. We know they were around, we saw moose tracks and moose poop. Jim was walking along a river and a fisherwoman said “did you see those two moose that just passed?” Nope, he did not. But that’s OK, because we saw 5 moose in one morning!

Despite not seeing more moose we did have a wonderful time. The town was just big enough with great restaurants and nice gift shops. We had pizza the day we arrived at Grand Pizza and it was so good we went back for more before we left.

We also went out to breakfast one Saturday morning. The Fat Cat had the most amazing breakfast buffet. The chef was English I think and every dish was outstanding. I know, 3 meals out in only two weeks, what were we thinking?!

I don’t think the calories hurt us though. We did plenty of hiking, mostly in the national park. I’ll share that with you in my next post.

The town of Grand Lake is on the shores of Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake. It is not overly crowded and moves at the slower pace that Jim and I prefer. It had everything we wanted and we didn’t have to share everything with throngs of people.

One weekend while we were there they held a regatta. They had races for kayakers, SUPs, canoers, and rowers.

Another weekend they hosted a free corvette show. There were at least a hundred corvettes on Main Street.

We visited Shadow Mountain Lake and checked out the dam where they release the lake waters and they continue on for a few miles as the Colorado River before backing up and becoming another lake, Granby. What we saw there got my fisherman pretty excited. The trout and salmon were going crazy trying to jump up that dam and continue their trek upstream, impossible.

We returned to the spot several times and Jim enjoyed the fishing.

He had some luck and we have some trout in the freezer.

This was the perfect area for us because he was entertained and there was so much for me to explore. I hiked along the east side of Shadow Mountain Lake which is part of the 3,100 mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This is a trail that, when complete, will travel along or near the continental divide from our northern border with Canada to its southern terminus at the Mexican border. It is currently only 72% complete and for now requires some travel on motorized roads.

The mile and a half hike beside the lake was a bit difficult because of the number of downed trees I had to go over, under, or around. There were about 20. I counted them on my return trip. But it was worth it. The lake views were outstanding and I ran across a deer and her fawn. They were a little skittish but in the end they decided I wasn’t a threat.

That trail continued on south of the dam and was less difficult. Jim joined me on it another day when the fishing was disappointing. He is so much better than me at spotting wildlife. He saw this osprey which was just a blob in a tree and I had time to get my telephoto lens out before he flew away.

I also walked many miles through the on-site campground, Green Ridge, chasing photo opportunities. The hummingbirds were plentiful but just won’t be still enough for a good shot. The chipmunks were a little more cooperative.

The lake was just gorgeous in the mornings.

We spent the first 10 days of our stay at Elk Creek Campground, an extremely nice, if a bit tight, RV park just outside the town of Grand Lake. We planned to stay 3 nights and then find a boondock in the national forest. But it was just so convenient there so when they said they had a cancellation and could accommodate us for another 7 days we decided to stay. Their daily rate for the full hookup site was $49 and the weekly rate was $309. It was definitely a splurge.

For our last three nights we moved over to our new happy place, Green Ridge Campground. We moved to the first come first served site early on a Friday morning. By early afternoon the place was packed. We paid $21 per night for a sight with zero amenities.

Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs, CO – August, 2017  Everyone we know personally in the state of Florida survived Irma with no serious damage. There is widespread flooding in Bonita Springs which is heartbreaking. Nearby Naples took the brunt of Irma’s winds. They don’t expect to have power restored for another week so I imagine it is pretty miserable down there without AC and for many no water or sewer.

Our trailer park in Bonita Springs had only a few trailers blown over but for the most part is OK.   Our daughter’s trailer is safe and sound and will wait for us to arrive this fall when we can sell it. So I am grateful to get back to my tales of summer fun.

We had spent most of the month of July in Utah and at the beginning of August we crossed in to the northwest corner of Colorado. We didn’t have any solid destination or direction planned for several weeks so we set our sights on Steamboat Springs. It sounded like a neat place with lots of fun things to do.

We stayed at Eagle Soaring RV Park seven miles west of town. They were booked for the weekend so we got a spot for Wednesday and Thursday. The sites were full hookup pull thrus and were $48 per night.

We headed to town to see the sights after getting set up on Wednesday. The Yampa River runs all along the western edge of town. They have an awesome trail system called the Yampa River Core Trail which runs 7.5 miles alongside the river. We stopped and walked a couple miles on it.

We enjoyed the walk which included a couple bridges so it zigzagged back and forth across the river. We stopped at the Steamboat Springs Art Council’s Gallery located in their historic 1908 train depot. And we discovered a half dozen of the town’s 150 hot springs.

You could smell the area’s stinkiest spring, Sulphur Spring, a good ways down the path.

This is Lake Spring, a pond created a long time ago to capture several springs in one basin and in more recent history turned in to a park.

This spring flowed directly into the river.

We also took a walk in Steamboat’s downtown shopping district. There were lots of interesting buildings, fun shops, and people. It was terribly crowded.

What we learned most about the town that first afternoon was that it was not a fun place to drive. There was one major road through town and several construction zones. The town was very congested and basically not our scene.  The fun things we thought we might do there sorta lost their luster when coupled with the traffic we would have to fight to do them.

The next morning we headed out early to check out the mountains to the east of town. The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest was full of possible boondock sites. We weren’t finding very good intel on the area and wanted to scout it out before hauling the 5th wheel up there.

We stopped at the national forest’s office in town right as they were opening. Each office offers a very detailed map for their forest. Many list every forest road in their division and tell you exactly where you are and are not allowed to camp.

Unfortunately you do have to stop in each individual office to get it. Since the forests are so large, they do not always have offices in a convenient location to our travels. It would be nice if they stocked maps for other nearby forests but that is not the case.

So we drove into the mountains with our map and started checking out the side roads for boondocking sites. We drove down a dozen roads and checked out two national forest campgrounds that were first come first serve. You just never know what you might find.

When we scouted our last site near Flaming Gorge there were tons of existing campsites but most of the roads to them were atrocious. In this area there were miles of very good roads but few existing campsites. It’s frowned upon to make a new campsite and the few places this might have been an option would have required a weed eater at least.

We finally found a feasible option on one of the last roads we checked out, Forest Road 296. There were a half dozen existing sites within sight of the highway. The road was a little rough in the beginning but became impossible after the first quarter mile. We would have liked some vegetation between us and the road but at least we would be some distance off it.

We pulled the trailer up early the next morning and started enjoying our new surroundings. About 5 miles up the highway was Dumont Lake and its campground. We would have liked to have stayed there but there were few suitable sites and all were taken. But it was an easy drive.

It was a very picturesque mountain lake.

Jim wouldn’t pose so I had to.

The wildflowers were extreme.

The mornings in the mountains were quite chilly, around 40 degrees if I remember correctly. So we spent some time driving down the long gravel roads and taking short walks. As soon as the sun was fully up it would warm up quickly though and by mid-morning we were usually shedding several layers.

I was surprised how little wildlife we actually saw. There were plenty of deer of course. Jim swears he saw a big moose in a deep ravine beside the highway early one morning while I was driving. There was no easy place to stop but we kept an eye out the whole weekend and never saw another.

We hiked one morning near that area but didn’t see any sign of moose. It was a beautiful hike nonetheless.

There were signs all over the place that said there were sheep herds in the area and to be cautious of sheepdogs. I guess they are vicious if they feel you are threatening their flock. One morning we saw three sheep some distance away when we turned on to our camp’s road.

We stopped the truck so I could get the telephoto lens out and take some pictures. Instead of running away, they started cautiously running to us. They must equate trucks with being fed.

Before I knew it they were right in front of the truck and allowed me to get pretty darn close to them. It appeared to be a momma and baby brother and sister.

They were so darned cute. When I advanced a bit too close they closed ranks to protect baby sister so I returned to the truck. Later from camp I heard dogs barking and saw more of their flock up the road. I hope they were reunited.

On our last day on the mountain I was determined to hike to the high point in the area, Rabbit Ears Pass. Jim’s feet weren’t up to the task so he dropped me at the trailhead and headed to nearby Dumont Lake to do some fishing.

I wasn’t worried about making this hike alone because I knew it was a fairly well travelled path. I didn’t expect quite as many fellow hikers as there were though. I guess I arrived at prime after Sunday brunch or post church hiking time.

I started the hike surrounded by hikers but soon pulled ahead of the pack. I like to attack a hard trail and get as much distance in as possible while I am still energized. I generally push as hard as I can to reach the end then I take it easy on the return trip. My destination:

Once I was away from the throngs I passed a dozen more hikers but generally had some solitude.

It was 3 miles to the pass and 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The last half mile was the hardest with much of the rise in elevation saved for the finale. The hardest part for me was dealing with the thin air at around 10,000 feet. I pressed on though primarily because I didn’t want all those people catching up to me and hearing how hard I was breathing! LOL

I finally reached the top and paused to catch my breath and take some pics. The rabbit ears themselves were not terribly interesting and too rotten to climb.

But the views were amazing.

Once I had rested a bit I started the relatively easy walk back at a leisurely pace. Jim got bored fishing the crowded lake. He said he almost caught a kayak and a paddleboarder. He hiked a mile and a half out to meet me.

We loved the few days we spent in these mountains. The weather was on the chilly side with lows under 40 and highs of 75. That meant we could enjoy campfires in the middle of the afternoon and wear our much neglected long sleeve wardrobe.

Our site was fairly quiet. There was one spot, about a football field away, that was always occupied by a parade of people. Otherwise we had few neighbors. Our first night, a Friday, a party did erupt just behind us. It started well after our bedtime so we assume it was kids, but we were surprised that we recognized all their music and that it was good. So we really didn’t mind so much!

Pagosa Hot Springs

Pagosa Springs, Colorado – June 2015 This is a lovely little town that was 60 miles out of our way but well worth the detour. They boast “the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring”. I have never been in a hot spring so this seemed like a good time. There are three commercial bathing options, one even had RV spaces, but I decided I didn’t want to bother unless I could go first class. So I splurged on the nicest option and even booked us a room at The Springs Resort and Spa. It was amazing and I highly recommend it if you are in the area or anywhere close. Here is a pic of the resort from across the river.

The Spring’s least expensive room is their classic king (or double) for $199 per night. It is in the oldest of their 3 hotel buildings which is closest to their pools. I was happy to get the last room they had at this price, on a Tuesday night. It was a wonderful room, very nicely remodeled. You don’t have to have a room to visit their pools. You can buy a daily pass for between $25 and $55 dollars. They also offer weekly and monthly passes. I recommend the $35 daily pass at least because it gives you access to the adult only area which is just so much nicer and less crowded. The price of the room includes access to all their pools 24 hours a day. You can also visit the pools the entire day on the days you check in and check out.

The resort has 28 pools spread over a beautifully hardscaped area along the river with tons of rockwork, pathways, bridges, stairs, and waterfalls. They have one large swimming pool and the rest are small to medium pools. They vary in temperature from around 92 to 115 degrees. They have a gentleman running around checking the temps and adding hot or cooled mineral water as needed and occasionally changing the signs on the pool telling you what temperature it is. People move from pool to pool as they desire cooler or warmer water. Many also take an occasional dip in the San Juan River which was 42 degrees during our visit. The water does smell of sulfur and I was afraid that would detract from the experience but we got used to it pretty fast and it wasn’t a problem.

We got there about noon and an extremely helpful lady checked us in and told us she’d call when our room was ready. She directed us to the bath house where we could change. It was a warm sunny day so we tried one hot pool that was 105 degrees and then headed to the large swimming pool that was a comfortable 98 degrees. It was rather crowded, mostly with children, and was as clean as you would expect a crowded public pool to be. I have to admit I wasn’t impressed yet so I suggested we go check out the adult only area they call The Relaxation Terrace. Up a flight of stairs and very close to the hotel rooms is where I fell in love with this place.

They have 5 pools there, fire pits, nicer furniture, and towel warmers heated by the spring water (turned off for the summer, but still neat). Part of this area can be seen in the extreme right of this photo above the waterfall.

This terrace is exclusive to guests of the hotel and those willing to pay for the upgraded day pass. There were never more than a half dozen guests there all afternoon. We went back and forth between a pool named Top O the Morning which was 98 with a waterfall feature, one named Twilight which was 105 and overlooked the above pictured waterfall and the river, and hanging out on the chaise. The room wasn’t guaranteed to be ready until 4 so I was grateful when they called to say it was ready at 2:30, especially when I got to the room and realized I’d gotten a bit more sun than I intended. We rested a while and soaked up the AC then walked across the river for an early dinner before returning to The Relaxation Terrace after the sun was lower and the area was shaded. There may have been a dozen guests there at that time but it never felt crowded.

The next morning we slept late (6:30 WOW). After some coffee n bagels we headed out to soak up some more mineral water before checkout. The pools don’t open to the public until 7 which is about the time we got there. We took a walk through the pools and they were pretty much deserted so we tried a few of them out that had been crowded the day before. We discovered another favorite named Waterfall. It was 105, right next to the river, and had a waterfall that gave an amazing back massage.

When it started getting a bit crowded about 8 we headed back to the terrace for a while and then finally agreed we’d gotten our money’s worth of mineral water and called it a day.

Besides the resort, the town has a lot going for it. There is a great riverwalk that was just about a mile long one way. We walked it the first day we visited town. They have a town park called Reservoir Hill. It has tons of trails crisscrossing it so you could create as long a walk as you want there. We wandered up and around it for a couple of miles before having lunch and checking in to the resort. They also have a cute Main Street across the river from the resort. The town really extends out along the highway for several miles in both directions with plenty of shops and restaurants.

We camped on Highway 160 about 10 miles from downtown at a park called Happy Camper. There were some boondocking possibilities in the area but we felt better leaving the trailer unoccupied overnight in a park. This park was not a bad deal at $34 per night for full hookups but I had been wanting to buy a Passport America (PA) membership and was waiting until I could book a campground using it so I would recoup the cost of the membership immediately. I joined on Saturday and paid my $45 fee. Then I went to the RV park Sunday and paid for 4 nights at half their regular rate. It came to about $19 per night with tax. I estimate I saved $68. I hope to save a lot more with this membership in the future but I’ve already gotten my money’s worth. PA has agreements with some campsites to give their members half off the regular rates. The campsites often put so many restrictions on the arrangement that it is hard to use, like they only honor it on weekdays, or in the off season, or for one or two nights. Surely I will have an opportunity to use it again in the coming year.

Durango & Silverton Train

Durango, Colorado – June 2015 The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a big part of Durango. When the train goes by people step out of their homes, hotels, and businesses to waive. It creates quite a stir. And this happens up to 8 times a day as the trains depart and return from their trip up the mountain to Silverton.

The 45 miles of track from Durango to Silverton were laid in the 1880’s to carry silver and gold ore out of the San Juan Mountains. The train has operated as a tourist attraction for over 30 years now. Riding it is an all day affair. If you catch the 8 am train you will not get back until after 5 pm. You can take a bus one way which is faster. You can also arrange to ride the train in conjunction with another adventure like horseback riding or zip lining. You can even arrange to get off the train in the middle of nowhere, spend a day, or several, backpacking and camping, and then hail a train to catch a ride back to civilization.

Jim is quite the train enthusiast so a ride on the train was high on our list of things to do here. We wanted to ride it when we visited many years ago but the price was well out of our budget then. We felt it was worth the splurge this time. A standard ticket is almost a $100. You get your choice of riding in an enclosed coach or an open gondola. Since it was supposed to rain that afternoon we wisely chose the closed car.

There are premium ticket options like a car with a narrator and cars with more comfortable seats and larger windows. They also offer special wine trains, brew trains, and blues trains, among others, throughout the year. I would consider paying higher rates for one of those in the future but none were scheduled during our visit and I understand they sell out months in advance anyway.

The ride up was fun. The tracks follow the Animas River most of the way and it was raging from snowmelt and recent rains.

At times the river was right beside us. Water even covered the tracks in places. Other times we were high above it.

The scenery was gorgeous! There were lots of beautiful waterfalls.

You are allowed to get up and move around the train, even encouraged to visit the concession car. Most of the cars have a restroom or two. The trip is 3 ½ hours up, then you get 2 hours to explore Silverton before you start home.

Silverton was a pleasant surprise. It had a plenty of shops and restaurants. We enjoyed an awesome lunch at Handlebars Saloon then walked down a couple of residential streets. We liked the unique architecture of many homes, the cute little churches, and the impressive public buildings.

We enjoyed the ride immensely and it was generally quite comfortable. If you get motion sickness I would suggest you take some medication before you go. You do get jostled around a bit at times. I felt a little altitude sickness but it didn’t last. It’s quite a bit colder in Silverton so be sure and bring plenty of layers. The day got a little long by the end but we were lucky to find interesting people to talk to on the trip down which helped pass the time. If you are in Durango and aren’t inclined or able to take the train, do at least check out their free train museum. It was quite extensive and included a lot of historical items beyond their train collection.

Getting High in Colorado

Durango, Colorado – June 2015 There is only one direct route from Delta to Durango Colorado but the road is a doosey. It has three very high mountain passes over 10,000 feet in elevation. This section of Highway 550 is part of the San Juan Skyway and the portion between Ouray and Silverton is known as the Million Dollar Highway. We actually considered the 8 hour alternative route since we did not have a good time the last time we drove this way because it rained cats and dogs and even hailed for a while. We weren’t sure we wanted to try it with the 5th wheel. But everything we read said to take it slow and it would be fine, so we chose a Monday morning with little chance of rain and off we went.

I’m very glad we did. It was an easy 3 hour drive. For me at least! Jim had to deal with the 7 percent grades up and down and back up again. And the 10 mph hairpin curves! The sign in this picture says it all.

I had a lovely ride with spectacular scenery. I love tunnels. The second one was interesting with a waterfall cascading over it.

Jim had to keep his eyes on the blacktop. There was no room for error. There are places where there is no guardrail, no shoulder, just a drop of thousands of feet next to the road. We will take this route again but try to avoid rain and we wouldn’t even consider it if snow or ice were a possibility. I understand they try to keep it open year round for those souls braver than us.

Durango was another town we had fond memories of from our family road trip 15 years ago. This might have had something to do with the fact that our family of 3 spent that 10 day vacation in a small tent and Durango was the one place that we splurged on a hotel room. I really didn’t remember much about Durango except wishing we could stay longer.

It is definitely worth a visit. The downtown has a ton of beautiful historic buildings and is still bustling. It has great shops (including five recreational marijuana dispensaries for anyone interested). We don’t have many reasons to shop these days but enjoyed walking down Main Street a few times and were entertained by the wares offered by the stores, the variety of people, and the pets. This town is very dog friendly and although we do not currently own a dog, we still love interacting with four legged furry friends.

Durango is very walkable with a 7 mile riverwalk called the Animas River Trail. It is paved and has many pedestrian bridges making it easy for locals and tourists to walk or bike to where they want to be. It goes through many parks and has lots of art and sculptures along it.

In addition to walking much of the riverwalk during our visit, we spent one morning hiking the first couple miles of the Colorado Trail which begins in Durango and travels 500 miles through the Rocky Mountains to Denver. We also drove 8 miles up Junction Creek Road to the Animas Overlook. There is a 2/3 mile paved path there with several picnic tables, grills, and beautiful views of the river valley below. It’s a great spot for a picnic. Jim cooked us an amazing lunch with hot sausages, potatoes, and green beans.

During our week in Durango we stayed the first couple days at the National Forest Service’s Junction Creek Campground. We were lucky to find an amazing site in the pines for 2 nights for $20 per night with the assistance of the most helpful campground host we have ever met. The campground does take reservations, which I would recommend, and has electric sites for $24. However, we found out we were going to have company for the weekend so we chose to splurge on a full hookup site at Alpen Rose RV Park ($45 per night) so we would have better access to town, cell service, and a pool. Of course, as soon as we moved it got rainy and cold so we never did get to use the pool. The park was really nice though and they had the most reliable wifi we have found of any park since we started full timing.

Delta Colorado

Delta, Colorado – June 2015 We drove a whole 39 miles south from our last camp to the town of Delta. The house we had last occupied back in Missouri was supposed to close at the end of the week and although we had signed the bulk of the documents at a title company before leaving Grand Junction, we needed to be reachable until the actual closing on Friday afternoon. There were still a hundred things that could go wrong between now and then and we did not want to be out of touch for long.

Delta kept us in civilization with 4 bars and 4G but nearer to the places we wanted to visit. Because we knew we had to sit tight for a whole week we chose to take advantage of the weekly rate at Valley Sunset RV Ranch. Most campgrounds weekly rate is equivalent to about 6 days at their regular rate. Valley Sunset’s rates were no exception at $25 per day or $150 per week plus tax. The park had about a hundred sights and all but about 20 appeared to be occupied by full timers. It was pretty well maintained though and a good value.

We were most excited about visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We had made a brief stop there on a family road trip 15 years ago and were smitten. If we hadn’t needed to stay in cell phone reach we would definitely have camped near it. As usual, things worked out for the best. Although we were still very impressed with the canyon, there really was not that much to do there. There were not many developed trails on the South Rim, and even fewer on the North Rim (a 2 hour drive away). I would like to go back and spend a couple of nights camping there the next time we are in Colorado. It is very remote and I bet the night sky is amazing.

I still love this place. It is like a mini Grand Canyon but in greys and greens instead of red hues.

We took the hike to Warner Point. It was a little over 1 ½ miles roundtrip with around 500 feet in elevation change. I was surprised how winded we got. This was our first hike at any sort of altitude and the 8500 foot elevation really made a difference. But the views were definitely worth it.

If you visit I recommend taking the time drive the East Portal Road. The Gunnison Diversion Dam is very scenic and you can walk down to the river below it.

The road down to the dam was fun. It is about 8 miles, paved, and has up to a 16% grade. I wouldn’t want to try that with the trailer in tow!

Wednesday we took a drive to Basalt, Colorado to some fishing. Google said it was a 2 ½ hour drive. We hoped to make it in 2 but with road construction we were lucky we made it in 3. The scenic drive alone was worth the trip. There were gorgeous waterfalls everywhere from the snowmelt. And we stopped to check out these strange ovens along the road in Redstone. They were used to make coke fuel from coal mined in the area in the late 1800’s.

Jim had a great time fishing the gold medal waters of the Fryingpan River just below the dam 14 miles upstream of Basalt. We expected crowds and were pleased to only see a half dozen other fisherman while we were there. They have very strict guidelines regarding what trout you can keep. He caught 3 trout; a brown too small to bother with and two rainbow which have to be released. One rainbow was probably 3 pounds and he was pleased to have landed it on a 2 pound leader. I rarely fish but enjoyed walking along the river while Jim did. I think he got the better workout, trudging around in soaking wader boots and fighting 14 inch trout.

Thursday and Friday we had to stay close to town because of the closing and then about noon Friday, when we found out the deal was done, it started raining and poured for two days. By Saturday afternoon we were so stir crazy we said to heck with the rain, threw on our coats, and drove to the Gunnison River for a walk. It was not one of our best hikes, but we were grateful for the fresh air.

Sunday dawned clear and sunny. We packed a lunch and headed to the Grand Mesa area, another beautiful drive. Our original destination, Island Lake, was still frozen over. But we found a group of lakes at a slightly lower elevation that were not. The fishing wasn’t great. I think the fish were still hibernating. Jim did get one bite and the fish snapped his 2 pound leader without ever breaking water so we’ll never know what he had on the line. We only saw one person catch anything, a small rainbow trout. So we took a hike. Some of the trails were still covered in several feet of snow but the trail around Beaver Lake was mostly clear. The snow melting and running into the lakes was beautiful.

It was a lovely day and a great ending to our week in Delta.

Grand Junction

Grand Junction, Colorado – June 2015 The beginning of my 5th month of full time RVing and the writing of my 20th blog seems like a good time for some reflection. When I started this adventure, and at the same time this blog, both were very much about experimentation. I didn’t know how living on the road would turn out (wonderful) or if I would have the discipline to write on a regular schedule while having so much darn fun (usually).

I wasn’t sure when I began writing how much about my personal life I wanted to make public so I kept it very anonymous. I’ve decided to loosen the reigns a bit on that anonymity and introduce myself (or I should say ourselves).

This is me, Deb, the D in in DJ’s Epic Adventure, and my husband Jim, obviously the J.

I still have a ton to learn about blogging and plenty of ideas to make the blog more useful and entertaining. But I feel the easiest way to learn is to jump right in and work at making it grow in the direction I imagine. If anyone has questions about the RV lifestyle feel free to comment and I will try to answer or write a post to address your question.

We plan to spend the month of June in Colorado. We have vacationed in this beautiful state before so we didn’t feel like we had to see the whole thing. In fact, we were most interested in spending time in a few places we really enjoyed on our first pass. But first, we had to take care of some business so we headed to Grand Junction, Colorado.

We arrived on a Thursday and planned to spend the weekend in a park. We chose Mobile City because it was $30 per night, by far the cheapest in town. It is actually a strip of RV sites in the middle of a large mobile home park. It looked a little rough and was in need of a good mowing, but the staff was extremely nice, the residents were friendly and quiet, and after 2 weeks without any digital TV signal the cable TV was much appreciated.

We enjoyed our weekend in this town. I love towns with funky random art and this town had plenty of it. A few of my favorites were this seahorse between downtown buildings:

A “Deluxe Spray-It Fire Rocketship” on a streetcorner:

And plastic sheep in the middle of a roundabout:

Grand Junction has a great downtown with lots of old buildings, interesting shops, and great restaurants. Lucky for us they were hosting a free art and music festival, with artists displaying their creations in the middle of the street and live musicians playing on 4 stages.

On Monday morning we kept our business appointment and then hooked up the trailer and headed toward the mountains.