015 - colorado
Updated: Sep 27, 2018
Black Canyon of the Gunnison: April 3rd-5th
After two weeks among the red rocks of Utah, we really enjoyed the change of scenery that Colorado brought. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is, as we also have never heard anything about it before, a very underrated park. Compared to the thousands of people coming in and out of the Utah National Parks every day, the Black Canyon is glad to have the few visitors a day. Maybe this is due to the season not yet having started, however we really enjoyed the different atmosphere that came with the untrampled park.
After the obligatory five rounds around all the open loops of the very empty campground, we found the spot that we liked. For a shy 14 dollars a night we even had an electric hook-up, so we were able to turn on the heater without feeling bad about the battery usage. Because on our drive into the park, we got surprised by a couple of light snowflakes.
The next day we walked the (strangely long) one-mile trail along the rim of the canyon to the visitor center, watched the 15 minute information video with the four other interested tourists and came out a few facts smarter. We gawked over the extremely dark, somehow intimidating canyon from the viewing platform and filled up our water bottle before heading back on the same trail along the rim to pick up Henry. We then drove along the canyon to a variety of different viewpoints, which all showed the canyon from new perspectives. At the very end we began a short walk, not glancing at the distance chart, and soon realized that it might be a longer hike than we had expected, before we decided to cut it short and turn around. Our bodies still had to adjust to the high altitude. Our impressions of the canyon however, remain only positive with the beautiful canyon and snow capped mountains in our memories as well as with the very very starry nights that came with the cold and clear night sky. What an idyllic introduction to the wonderful state of Colorado.
Aspen: April 5th-6th
We spent the next day driving through a beautiful luscious green valley with small coal mining towns along the way. Our destination, Aspen. It was my wish to add this stop on our journey, because my parents got married here back in 1985, and I haven't been back myself since 2004.
Unfortunately, we came exactly in between the two seasons. Winter season ended and summer season had not yet started; so the campgrounds were all still closed, most roads were closed beyond a certain point, and there was very little happening in the small ski town. Nonetheless, we took our time strolling through the streets that woke distant memories for me, before sitting down at a sunny outside high top in the local Aspen Tap, where Mattia enjoyed two new beers and I overate on the plate of Nachos that we ordered.
We had acquired a few possible overnight spots at the chamber of commerce, but after checking them out, we decided to continue our drive down to Glenwood Springs instead. There we joined a few other RVs on the Walmart parking lot and ended our day with very delicious Chinese noodles from the restaurant around the block.
Boulder: April 6th-9th
The drive from Aspen to Boulder was longer than most of our previous drives but Henry also had to slowly climb two incredibly high passes on the way, thankfully not complaining one bit. Somewhere in between we passed the very hip and cute Idaho Springs, with tons of nice restaurants, bars, and of course the matching people. We spent a good half hour walking up and down the main street, stretching our legs and we both grabbed a homemade ice tea on the way back to Henry.
In Boulder we treated ourselves to a spot at the fairgrounds for only 20 dollars a night, which also included an electric hook-up. This allowed us to catch up on our blogs and even create some videos, which we otherwise never have power for. We ran some errands the next day; explored every shelf at Target, filled up our propane and shopped at Goodwill. We also hit the outdoor mall on Pearl Street, which we were both very surprised by. Hippies, awesome stores, and delicious restaurants at every corner grabbed our attention. We took up the opportunity and ordered a beer and appetizers at the first good restaurant we came across. We spontaneously decided to stay an extra day at the fairgrounds so we could use our time and be productive, in other words, to work on our content, which sometimes in between feels nice as well.
Rocky Mountain National Park: April 9th-11th
After spending a few days in the city, we were ready to clear our minds again. We noticed that this creates quite a nice balance in our trip. If we spend too much time out where reception is a myth and hiking everyday is possible, our minds get tired and overwhelmed. And the same goes for spending time in a city or where the internet is super fast. So after spending a day in Aspen and four in Boulder, the Rockies came at exactly the right time.
On our way into the park we spotted a herd of elk wading through the water and after a quick stop at the visitor center, we saw our first bears. Usually it's quite easy to spot them, only because there are more cars parked around that area than usual. So we joined all the other hunched over tourists at the edge of the forest and quietly watched the black bear mother with her yearling a few yards in.
At the campground we made a good use of the fire pit and cooked our steak, chicken and potatoes over the fire. We sat around the fire for quite a bit and curiously listened to the dutch family next to us, what seemed like, telling ghost stories. I had never until that moment, really wished I could understand dutch. The stories told, first by the eldest son, then the father, and finally the youngest, sounded very entertaining and intense, judging from the others reaction.
The next day we took on the hike that passes the four mountain lakes; bear, nymph, dream and emerald lake, each more stunning than the previous. About two steps into the hike, we already walked in the snow. The lady at the visitor center after all, had recommended chains for our hiking boots, which we humorously declined. And after passing the third lake, we sank in knee deep. But luckily, we are used to these kinds of hikes from Switzerland and managed without a problem. At the very top, we watched a couple of daring chipmunks and a very idiotic guy who thought walking on the ice into the very center of the lake is a good idea. Even his friends seemed uncomfortable watching him from the shoreline, continuously telling him not to go further. But he pushed his luck and on his way back he fell in about hip deep, wetting his cell phone and hopefully learning the lesson. On our way back, Mattia used every opportunity he got, to slide down steep parts in the snow, scaring every other hiker around who clearly had no idea what he was doing.
Back at the campground we ran up the hill next to us after hearing some howling in the distance, and discovered a huge herd of about 150 elk in the meadow behind the campground instead. We ate chili from the lodge for dinner and went to bed trying, but miserably failing, to hide our excitement about our next destination.
Walden: April 11th-13th
We were en-route to Walden, the moose capitol of Colorado. But besides the moose, we had other, very good reasons, to visit this small otherwise pass-through town. We were meeting up with our friend Tara and my parents. Tara whom we know from Sanibel, because she used to work for the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (and our entire family spent some time volunteering there), happens to be the head ranger at the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Walden.
As we drove into the one main road of the little town, we instantly recognized our "meeting" spot by the big moose. We parked Henry next to the massive iron statue and sat down on the porch of the cafe behind it. About three coffee refills in, my parents pulled up in their rental Jeep and Tara was already with them. After another coffee and a beer for my parents, we followed the Jeep to the refuge where Tara lives in a small but efficient house together with her Lab Tug. For dinner, we decided to go out for Pizza and Tara took us through the back gravel road of the refuge as a treat. Pizza in a log cabin might not be typical, but it tasted great. Back on the refuge we scouted for moose coming out at dusk and hit he jackpot right in front of Tara's house when we returned.
The next day we got spoiled with pancakes and fresh coffee for breakfast before going on another dirt road through the refuge with the destination of Steamboat Springs. On our way we truly got a feel of the refuge after seeing tons of pronghorn antelope and three coyotes. We walked up to the Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat and on our way back we noticed that the rear tire on Tara's Jeep was loosing air. We tried the first Conoco that we saw with no luck, (they did not have time for a quick tire fix on a Saturday afternoon) and headed to the Jeep dealer in town instead. The guy at Steamboat Motors told us upon our arrival that they were having their weekly Saturday BBQ at the very moment but that he could fix the tire within the hour for only 25 bucks (there was a nail stuck in it), free lunch included. We gladly accepted, each ate a delicious burger and headed to the nearest brewery on foot. After the tire was fixed we strolled through the main road in Steamboat, ate the most delicious pralines from a Swiss shop and added a stop at the grocery store before heading back to the refuge.
We cooked delicious pork chops for dinner and watched another 5 moose graze in the meadow below us from the very top of the hill next to Tara's house. We ended an already perfect day with a night cap and John Wayne's Rio Bravo.
In the morning, Tara cooked us scrambled eggs with pronghorn antelope sausage, which she slaughtered herself after it got caught in a fence, and we said our very difficult goodbyes. My parents were heading south from here, to Aspen, and we are of course northwestbound.
Thank you Tara and Tug for you're very welcoming hospitality and hopefully we will see you sooner than later. And thank you Mom and Dad for meeting up with us once again, and Dad for taking pictures when we didn't.