We often meet people in our travels that boast hitting 40+ states in their first year, or traveling 20,000 miles in six months and just last month we saw a news story on the local TV station about a family heading out in an RV with a plan to hit 49 states all within a year. And, all we can say is more power to them!!
While it’s a lofty goal, it’s just not a pace that in any way is exciting to us and it’s also an example of how everybody does this differently, and that’s totally okay!!
This was reinforced for us recently with our whirlwind adventure with Kennedy covering just shy of 800 miles and three National Parks. Add in an exhausting work trip, Greg still nursing his knee, and temperatures in Vegas that resembled (hell) nothing like we had ever encountered before, we were ready for a little slower pace, in a climate that we could walk three feet and not break a sweat! We were in search of chill (both pace and temperature!!)!
Life is all about balance.
You don’t always need to be getting stuff done.
Sometimes it’s perfectly okay,
and absolutely necessary,
to shut down, kick back, and do nothing
Our original plan was to swing by Capital Reef National Park to complete the great Utah five, but temperatures there were higher than we were looking for and we weren’t looking necessarily for something to do. It’s also rare that we had a block of time where we didn’t have plans or had work scheduled, so we were in a little of a quandary of what to do or really, where to go. Knowing that we our next scheduled stop was outside Durango, we pointed the bus in that direction and drove, watching the outside temperature gauge, waiting for it to get into mere double digits.
So, about 500 miles later we found temps in the low 90’s and an RV park, so in we pulled. Ute Mountain Casino RV Park in Towaoc, Colorado—right outside Cortez--would be our home for a couple nights…maybe longer, who knows! We had no idea about the area, but we did see billboards about their seafood buffet so we knew we would hopefully eat good that night!! And, after getting set up, we hit the casino for the buffet, where we had to wait over an hour. Along with the wait, we were a little disappointed to find out that the casino didn’t have a bar…..what!?! How could that be!! Well, the casino/reservation was dry so no alcohol. (Not that we needed to have a drink, but it was a better/cheaper option than hanging out at the machines!!) I would say it was poor planning, but since we didn’t really have a plan, can’t even say that! Overall, it was a decent buffet, not the best, not the worst, but for a town with a population of about 1000, and $19.99, it was what you would expect!! (Savings tip: At casinos, usually there is some value in signing up for their Player’s Card. In this case, we saved $8.00 on our dinner!!)
We ended up staying for four days, and the majority of the time we spent tackling a few projects, doing some grocery shopping and just hanging out. From a sightseeing perspective, we did muster up the energy to hit the very touristy Four Corners and check out Mesa Verde National Park, which is in Cortez.
Four Corners is basically that--the corners of where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado meet. It's located on tribal land so $5.00 a person to wait in a long line and eventually stand in all four states at once. All four states have a row of souvenir stands as well.
The long wait just to get a picture....
As we were standing in line, a guy told us that according to google maps, this isn't really the place where all four corners meet, but since there's no other monument or designations anywhere else, we're going to say we were in all four states at once!!
Next up was Mesa Verde National Park, whichis home to some of most spectacular and well-preserved cliff dwellings in the United States and definitely some of the best that we have seen. The area was home to Ancestral Pueblo people for over 700 years (from AD 600 to 1300). The park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.
We just spent a few hours exploring the park, and will back in the area with our friends David and Sharon in a couple of weeks so hoping to make another run through the park and maybe even get in a hike or two.
Caught this little guy chomping on some juniper berries!!
With some more unplanned time on our calendar, some good boondocking was calling our name, so we found a couple of options at a higher elevation which we set out to explore. It was a week before the holiday, so we knew we needed to get a jump on it to find a decent place. Our first spot we looked at was between Durango and Silverton, but it was already fairly crowded, so we continued on to the quaint little town of Silverton, which had been recommended to us by our friend Debbie.
This is the whole town
The weather was perfect, mid to high 70’s and after checking out a couple of areas, we were able to score a decent spot in the San Juan National Forest at Kendall Campground, right outside of the town. It’s located on FR-585 and along the road there are four free camping areas, some random pull-offs for tents and small campers and at the end of the road, South Mineral Campground, a pay campground. The area where we ended up was fine, especially with a pending holiday weekend, but not the “can’t see your neighbors” boondocking spots that we prefer, but hey, it’s free, so not complaining!!
Our first spot wasn't great for solar, so as soon as there was some movement, we found another spot!
Our second spot was a lot better, even though by the weekend we had a couple of neighbors closer to us!
We continued with our chillaxing and after a few days we were ready for some activity, so we decided to rent a jeep for a couple of days to explore some of the trails. The town, which is maybe ten blocks by five blocks, really caters to the four-wheelers with several businesses doing rentals and certain streets designated for OHV's. We rented from Silver Summit RV & Jeep rentals and they were great to work with and gave us several ideas for trails to hit and even gave us some maps, which we remembered to bring with us on our adventure. See….you can teach an old dog new tricks!!!
The first day we hit the Alpine Loop scenic byway which starts at the cool ghost town of Animas Forks and takes you to Lake City and then back to Silverton. As simple as that sounds, it’s a pretty crazy trail, that takes you over two passes--Engineer and Cinnamon Passes--both with incredible high country scenery that include river meadows, alpine tundra, lots of old defunct mines and a few ghost towns. The wildflowers were just blooming so in another week or two it’s going to be even more incredible.
We drove through several small streams
Some of the passes were still closed due to snow. Luckily this was open, but wow...the snow!!
Someone wanting to show off the capabilities of their land cruiser
Hobie at California Pass
Wildflowers starting to bloom. Ice lake still iced!!
Animas Fork Ghost Town
Marmot, these guys were everywhere, but just had a hard time capturing one (in a photo).
Lake City was a little over the half way point for us and a perfect stop for an afternoon snack and some ice cream. It was another cute small town that had a quaint downtown with a handful of shops. There’s also a pretty nice lake there (guessing that may be how it got its name!!) which is probably worth exploring more at some point. Have to add it to the list!!
On day two of jeeping, we took Ophir Pass to Telluride. It was a shorter trek than the previous day, which was good because we had to have the jeep back by five.
Yes, that line in the mountain is the road!
Just kept hoping that no one was coming from the other direction.
Ophir Post Office (The town has a population of 167)
We got to Telluride just in time for lunch…..coincidence? I think not!! Even though there were lots of restaurants to choose from, we grabbed a quick gyro at a little food stand downtown, which was perfect!!
Such an awesome downtown
Part of the Fourth celebration in Telluride was centered around the arts. Many artists were out in the town painting.
Hobie found a place to hang out. Not sure he was too happy!!
Telluride appears to be another town that is definitely on the list to explore in some more detail and hopefully we’ll have the chance to do that in a couple of weeks.
Before we took the jeep back, we attempted to go to Clear Lake, which was on the same road as our campground.
Road was closed with snow, but great photo op!!
After a few days of rough riding, we were feeling a little roughed up so we made a trip up the million dollar highway to Ouray and checked out the vapor caves at Weisbaden Hot Springs. The cave is located under the mountain, below the main lodge area. The main vaporcave is fed from a spring that emanates from far below the mountain and is captured in an eighteen inch deep soaking pool that ranges in temperature from 107 to 109 degrees. Ahhh….so nice! They also have an outdoor swimming pool, which is fed by the coninously flowing waters of the natural mineral hot springs and the temperature of the pool ranges from 99 to 102. Even cooler was while we were soaking in the swimming pool, it started to rain…so that was kind of awesome.
It's a lot better than it looks, we promise!!
The town of Ouray. All these towns are so cute!!
I mentioned that we drove the million dollar highway to get to Ouray. Well, the rumors are true; this road is crazy!! While it’s incredibly beautiful, it’s also incredibly scary. It’s about 25 miles of hairpin turns, crazy curves and narrow lanes that are cut directly into the sides of mountains. There are also a couple of ghost towns and dilapidated mines along the drive as well, so a beautiful and interesting drive! And even after a few days of narrow jeep trails, it was still scary!!
One of two tunnels
Second tunnel, with a waterfall feature.
Bear Creek Falls
Remnants of an old mine
A couple of buildings from a Ghost town
When we ended up in Silverton we had no idea that the town was known for their annual Fourth of July celebration, so it was quite a pleasant surprise and bonus to celebrate in the cute little town we were calling home for the week! And with a lot of forest fires and the dry climate in many of the surrounding areas, Silverton was one of the few places that ended up having a fireworks show!
The Fourth of July celebration started with a perfect small town parade….
So the kids loved this....adults, not so much.
See, look at the kids. They're waiting for more!!
And then we made our way to a nice little outdoor bar while we anxiously awaited the much touted duck races..... It was a great way to kill a couple of hours!!
Very intense conversation! I think it was about the odds of the duck races.
We had five contenders in the duck race, but somehow none of our cute little ducks were first (or second....or third...) to cross the finish line, but it was mass chaos, so I’m not sure if they really know which duck crossed first!! We're calling it Duckgate as I'm pretty sure that the duck that crossed the fine first didn't even get scooped up.
The calm before the chaos
DuckGate...Seriously, how could they even tell!!
And more proof of Duckgate. Two lone ducks that made it past the net!
After the duck races we went back to the rig for a bit and then made our way back to the downtown area for the fireworks. We parked in a big dirt parking lot, totally expecting to pay five bucks or something to park there, but no, it was free….awesome!! Love small towns!!
The town put on a great firework show and of course, there was a beautiful mountain backdrop for the show!!
It was a fairly impressive show and it was pretty cool place to take part in a small town holiday celebration!
Overall, between our time in Towaoc and Silverton; it was perfect. A perfect place to kick back, a perfect place to relax, a perfect place to do a little sightseeing! Ahhh....unplugging is good!! Now on to our next adventure!!