We’re on the move! Just as things began to cool off in southern Utah, making it the perfect time to be there, we pulled up stakes and headed east. We spent one week shy of six months there and most of our two years on the road in the Southwest, so we dusted off the old route plans, made some adjustments, and went jacks up.
In what seems like another lifetime, when we thought we’d be heading south from our NPS job in Wisconsin right about now, I’d made reservations for us to winter in Florida. Because such plans often require up to a year’s worth of lead time, I kept them in place, figuring we’d cancel only if/when it became absolutely necessary. Even though there is still uncertainty across the country, we have several other friends who are traveling safely, TBG’s shoulder is almost completely thawed, and we decided we no longer had any reservations about our reseRVations.
Our first stop was just an overnighter at a six-site USFS pullout in Salina, UT. As we drove around the loop, it looked at first as though all were taken, but TBG’s keen eye spotted the fire ring and picnic table at the very last space on the loop. Good thing because I had no real plan B.
A section of The Great Western Trail runs through the camp area, but it didn’t look all that great.
Instead, we took a long morning walk on the gravel roads.
Colorado is one of those states that, as long as we’re on the road and as long as we have friends/family there, is going to keep popping up in our travel tales. It’s also sort of in the middle of things when you drive cross-country, so it’s hard to circumvent on certain routes.
Not only was this not our first time through Colorado, it was not our first time in Fruita. Way back in 2007, we did some mountain biking there as part of a larger pre-RV Southwest vacation.
We didn’t do as much biking this time, unfortunately, but we managed to pack in a lot for only four days.
The day of our arrival was still clear, but the smoke from the fires further west was hot on our tail. The park has several trails, and we started there with an evening walk, discovering a zillion tiny toads bouncing all across the trail in the marshy area. There were so many, and they were so itty, I can’t guarantee we didn’t inadvertently squish any.
Another walk the next morning was followed by an afternoon bike ride around the park’s Highline and Mack Mesa Loop Trails.
We only did one hike outside the park. We had considered hiking at the nearby Colorado Nat’l Monument, but being a good-weather Sunday, we decided to try a trail a little closer and, we hoped, less crowded.
It was an easy loop trail, completely free of crowds, with some nice scenery, but to be honest, we are so ready to feast our eyes on something a bit less rocky and canyon-y for awhile. The best part of this hike was the abundance of dazzling collared lizards.
Near the end of the hike, as we gazed across the canyon, I espied two unnaturally square openings in the far canyon wall. We couldn’t quite tell what they were, so I zoomed in with my camera and we examined the photos when we got home. Speaking of homes…
On our last day, while TBG worked on replacing Essie’s house batteries, I slung on my backpackable kayak and headed down to the lake.
When I was resting between paddles, I noticed some park workers taking photos of what seemed to be a nondescript tree. Upon further investigation, I saw this happy couple about 10′ up and not shy at all about having their portrait taken.
A long time ago, before I even knew TBG, I became good friends with one of my 911 coworkers, Tristan. Among other things, we share a love of critters, gardening, and cooking. When she decided to take off to live and travel full-time in an RV, I thought she was stone-cold crazy. Since then, the ways in which our lives have paralleled and flip-flopped is crazy. While she was gallivanting, we were enjoying our mini-homestead, and now that we’re nomads, she and her husband, Lee, have been happily tending their little ranch in Crawford, CO. The standing invitation to visit finally became a reality, and we arrived for a whirlwind three-day stay. As too often happens when we connect with friends, we didn’t take nearly enough pictures. That’s a good thing while visiting, but a sad thing once we’re apart again.
Our first afternoon/evening was spent visiting on the porch, meeting the critters, and digging in to a fantastic meal Tristan had prepared of prime rib, scalloped potatoes, and greens.
We were welcomed to park on their property, but because access was a very long, very rough dirt road, we put down at the nearby Crawford State Park.
We neglected to get a photo of Essie in her site, but we spent little time in the park overall anyhow. We were happy for its nearness to our friends’ place, but it wouldn’t have been a destination unto itself otherwise.
The next morning, I went out with Tristan to milk their only remaining doe, Snowflake, while TBG cheffed up his signature breakfast for everyone. I was a very slow milker, and even though Snowflake was pretty patient, Tristan finished up much more quickly. After breakfast, we headed out for a walk with their mini-donkey, Burrito (who I shall henceforth call Breeto) and two of the goats, Snowflake and little bleating Pearl, who was sad because her mom had just been sold the day prior.
T & L’s property actually backs up to Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P., and although you can’t see into the main canyon, you get a pretty nice view nonetheless — better when wildfire smoke isn’t obscuring it. We had planned to all go for a hike in the park proper, but the view-killing fire haze put the kibosh on that idea.
It should surprise no one that we encountered several baby prickle frogs along the way.
On our final full day together, Tristan used the dinner leftovers to start us off with a delectable breakfast of prime rib and goat cheese omelets, fresh-baked sourwheat bread, and fried scalloped potatoes. Breeto objected to having to wait on the porch while we ate.
Once our food had settled, Lee and I took Breeto on a long walk up to the neighbor’s so Lee could water their garden in their absence, and Tristan & TBG set to work making a variety of cheeses.
Breeto didn’t want to walk back with us, so Lee unharnessed him and said he’d find his way back down the road later, which he did! On our walk back, Lee and I formed a union with me as the president, and we did a march-in when we returned, demanding milkshakes. When you “demand” such things at Tristan’s house, she doesn’t fool around.
That evening, we dined on my Zuppa Toscana with more sourwheat bread, and had Tristan’s Green Tomato Cake for dessert. Before we left the next morning, T & L drove out to the state park to say goodbye and send us off with bread, cheeses, cake, and some live houseplants. It was such a wonderful thing to be able to catch up with our dear friends after all this time. Thank you, Tristan and Lee, for your hospitality and friendship. We’ll see you again someday in Idaho!
Our next leg was a long drive for TBG to get us to another dry USFS campground, Prospector, in Dillon.
All we did that evening was a short walk around the quiet campground because we had a rendezvous the following morning with family for a hike and pizza.
In 2016, TBG and I motored to Idaho Springs in our first RV to meet my brother and sister-in-law at her family’s cabin. I even wrote a very engaging blog post about it here. Hee. On that trip, TBG, my brother, and I attempted a hike that we had to scrub halfway through due to an incoming thunderstorm. I suggested to this side of the family that if they headed west from Denver, and we headed east from Dillon, we could all meet in the middle and complete that hike then reward ourselves with pizza. That’s exactly what we did.
It is not a long hike, but it does start at just under 11k’ and gains from there to almost 12k’. I chose it to give those of us lowlanders a chance to enjoy the trek without falling out.
While we didn’t get stymied by lightning this time, we did get spit on by a bit of sleety snow near the lake. It was good motivation to get back down and get our lunch.
We headed into Idaho Springs for Beau Jo’s Pizza, a local favorite my first SIL had taken us to in 2016, and it was memorable enough for us to recommend to the other side of the family.
We’d called in our orders before heading into town, and aside from the fact that when I went in to pick ours up, they hadn’t put in my order, but once we all finally got our pies, we were happy, happy, happy.
Al fresco pizza pies in Heritage Park, Idaho Springs.
It was a hurried visit, but a great time doing our favorite thing with a bunch of our favorite people. Plus pizza!
Though we didn’t get to spend more time with family, we did have more time to spend in Dillon as well as more hiking to do. The overnight temps left frost on the car (and made sleeping glorious) but things warmed up to “just right” by the time we hit the trails.
Trees, log bridges, and the sound of cascading water hearkened back to the hikes of Old Home.
Willow Creek Falls
We finished our time in Dillon with one more hike, again hoping to spot a moose.
Our goal here was Lily Pad Lake, a hike during which other reviewers claimed to have seen moose. There is a shorter, easier way to the lake, but perhaps you haven’t met us.
While this was a fine hike and a good workout, the hum of the highway was ever-present, and other hikers taking their breaks around the lake’s perimeter were loud. The bright, changing leaves and the near-perfect hiking temps saved us from any regrets.
We capped off the day by getting our flu shots, then returning home to find the propane fridge wasn’t working properly. Good thing we’d also picked up some groceries on the way home, too! We got it going, and it stayed going overnight, so we didn’t lose anything, but we had to plan a stop to have it looked over on the way to our next destination.
TBG miraculously located a guy in the town of Elizabeth who could give the fridge the once-over, and it was hardly out of the way at all. The repair guy lived on a beautiful spread in the country, and while he and TBG figured out the problem, I walked around the gardens and petted the dog and cats. Rough, eh? Fortunately, there wasn’t anything majorly wrong, we paid the nice man for his time, and we were sent on our way with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. Best vehicle repair experience evah.
Our last stop in Colorado was at the only commercial park the right distance from our last which we needed for a few days of clean-up from dry camping. Shady Grove Campground is small park in the middle of a small town with almost nothing to do. It does have a grocery store that actually looked decent when we peered in its windows on an after-hours walk. There is a tiny senior center building, a little post office, two churches, some completely dilapidated houses, some pretty nice-looking ones, a big new high school, a tiny park, and a huge co-op grainery. You can walk the entire town in less than an hour, maybe less than a half-hour if you’re power-walking. The most scenic part of the town, in our opinion, was the old row of abandoned downtown businesses.
We did little else besides one evening walk, one pre-sunrise walk/run, and laundry. Life requires such attentions.