We reserved one night at the state park near, Colorado National Monument. The temperature was in the mid 90s that day, so we were happy to have a scenic drive rather than hike. We spent a couple of hours exploring the beautiful park. Driving toward the park, you would never expect to see such amazing views. The road was a bit scary at times. Driving through, I kept wondering, “Who ever came up with the idea to build a road up here…???” It is quite the civil engineering wonder. It would have been nice to have a little more time, but we made the most of it. We had a great day there and it was definitely worth the visit.
Late afternoon, we went to the town of Fruita (pronounced froo tuh) to have a cold beer and get some dinner. It was really too hot to cook and we were tired from traveling and touring the park. The town was pretty quiet, but friendly. People actually said “hello” when they passed us on the sidewalk. Dave had been dreaming of Hot Tomato Pizza for months and it did not disappoint.
The campground was very quiet and well maintained. We had booked our site when the reservation window opened, six months prior to our arrival. That allowed us to score one of the full hook-up, pull-through sites, which is always great for a one-night stay. We would definitely camp there again, if in the area.
While we were staying at Heaton Bay, we scouted a section of I-70 over Vail Pass, since we knew it was very steep. We decided to avoid towing through that section of highway get to Redstone, because the road was under construction, with a bumpy surface , a lane closed and a high speed limit. The alternate route was less steep, still very scenic and took us over Tennessee pass. We didn’t know what to expect in the Redstone area, as we knew there had been rockslides and mudslides recently. There were crews in the area, cleaning up and working on repairs, but it wasn’t a problem for us.
Redstone Campground is located in the White River National Forest, about 15 miles from the nearest main highway. Our site had water and electric. There is no dump station, but there is a station at a nearby water treatment facilty. The sites are well-spaced and ours felt really private. Each site included a “bear box” to store all food and items with any scent, for campers in tents or pop-ups. The Crystal River, great for swimming and fishing, runs along the edge of the campground.
There is a mile-long hiking trail from the campground to the historic town site of Redstone. We walked it the first day and explored the town and the Redstone Inn. There are a couple of stores, a church, a small hotel, and some very cute houses. There is also a bar advertising Detroit Style pizza (another Detroit connection), owned by a Grand Rapids company.
Following the recommendation of the friendly campground hosts, we drove to Marble, one day, to get some excellent barbeque. The Crystal River Valley area is very popular with OHV and ATV enthusiasts. The parking lot in town was full of people with trucks and trailers, unloading their ATVs and heading out for the day. Since we arrived before Slow Groovin Barbeque was open, we decided to walk around town. The town is even smaller than Redstone, but we stumbled upon Marble Mill Site Park, where a trail leads through the town’s historic marble mill site. Marble from this location was used for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Lincoln Memorial, the Denver Post Office, the Montana State Capitol building and more. We made it to the barbeque place, to buy a couple of pounds of brisket and smoked salmon before the ATV lunch rush. Later that day, we had excellnt brisket and salmon tacos and stocked our freezer.
The remainder of our four days there, we went for a scenic drive, enjoyed a quiet afternoon at our campsite, did some hiking, and spent a day in Carbondale. In Carbondale, we did laundry and went to a microbrewery, where we met a couple from Telluride. She was originally from Dearborn, MI. The waitress was also from the Detroit area. It was a Sunday and hardly anything was open in town. We were surprised as we were expecting it to be a lively, fun town.
Overall, we loved the Redstone and Marble area and really appreciated being away from traffic and noisy highways.
Crossing the continental Divide at Tenessee Pass, formerly a World War II training ground for United States Army troops of the 10th Mountain Division. It’s now the location of a memorial to them.
We planned 6 nights at Heaton Bay Campground in Silverthorn, CO, because it was located near Frisco, Dillon, Breckenridge and Vail. There is a lot to do and see in the area. We were thrilled to see our campsite, the prettiest in the campground, and knew it would likely rank as one of our all-time top 5 most scenic campsites. There was a little distant road noise from I-70 and Dillon Dam road, but it was more quiet at night.
We were exhausted from the long drive on bumpy I-80, but forced ourselves to check out Dillon, our first night. We enjoyed part of a reggae concert in town and had a beer at Pug Ryan’s brewery. The two bar tenders that night, were from Detroit. We exchanged stickers and discussed our favorite places. One of the guys was talking about his upcoming wedding. I am mentioning this detail because a couple of days later, we were in Breckenridge, at the Gold Pan Saloon and we ran into the same guy, who was there having a pre-wedding meeting with his fiance, which would be taking place at the Gold Pan. Coincidentally, a friend of theirs started talking to us and he used to live in Maui and knows many of the same people we know. It’s a small world.
We hiked every day, except for the day we rode our bikes. It was really nice to slowly acclimatize and start with easier hikes and work our way up. Unlike Dave, who is completely unaffected by altitude, it takes me about a week to adjust to it. In the past we visited Colorado for 5 – 7 days and Dave would insist on some epic hike within the first 24 hours, sometimes climbing a 14,000-foot peak. Sometimes I could do it and other times I could not.
We visited many of the nearby towns. We really liked Frisco, which is a small, walkable, scenic town, though we didn’t care for the road construction and traffic heading into town. Breckenridge is no longer the small mountain town it was when we first visited. It now seems to be over-developed. You can no longer see the mountains from any place in town and it is crowded with traffic and people. We enjoyed Vail Mountain Village on previous trips, when it was a fairly casual place. It has become far more upscale, with high end jewelry stores, spas and upscale restaurants.
The highlights here were the campsite, hiking trails, bike paths, Frisco and meeting people from Detroit and Maui.
Note: I was planning to post as we traveled, but had little internet and cell service after leaving Heaton Bay.