Aside from really strong winds, our drive out of Colorado was pretty uneventful. I actually appreciated the scenery of Kansas and Nebraska after the dust clouds and tumble weeds of eastern Colorado. We stopped at Hunter Cove Park in Republican City, NE for one night. It was in the middle of nowhere, and off-season, so very quiet and uncrowded. It was nice to take a walk and unwind after a day on the road. The next day, we drove to Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines. It was also a nice, quiet place walk and rest.
We had reservations at Indiana dunes State Park, for the following 2 nights. We were watching the weather and they were getting torrential rain. The forcast looked terrible for the next 1 – 2 days, so we canceled our first night (losing about $25) and found a spot at Fisherman’s Corner near Moline, IL. It would allow us to make progress toward home, but still have decent weather. We were unable to tour the John Deer Museum because it was closed, due to the panndemic. We did have a great lunch in town and enjoyed walking and checking out the Mississippi River.
The weather forcast for Indiana Dunes was still terrible, so we booked a site at Starved Rock State Park, where the forcast looked good. It’s a beautiful park with many miles of hiking trails. We had a great day hiking and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather. We forfeited two nights of camping fees, but in return, we avoided torrential rain, had 2 beautiful weather days and discovered Starved Rock. It was a great way to wrap up our 38-day adventure.
On September 24, we arrived home, having traveled 4,760 miles. We absolutely loved our time in Colorado and it remains one of our favorite states. We had as much fun as we possibly could, getting there and returning home, discovering some very cool small towns and beautiful parks along the way. The RV is put away for winter, until March, when we will head south for a spring trip. In the meantime, we plan to head to Maui to enjoy our other favorite place. Aloha!
When we arrived in Creede, were were happy to see that we had chosen the best local RV campground. The Antlers is located away from the main highway on the Rio Grande River. At check-in, we were advised to eat at the Antlers restaurant because there are few places to eat in the area. We were also advised to buy supplies early, since almost everything closes at 5pm. Also, we should get gas right away, because the local gas station runs out of gas on busy weekends. The sites are very well cared for and have full hook-ups. All of the facilities are nice, including laundry, which we took advantage of. There is a lodge, cabins and restaurant with an outdoor deck and live music, where we had a fabulous dinner. We were fortunate to be there, as it was the last weekend the restaurant would be open, for the season.
We really enjoyed the town, where we had the opportunity to meet some of the locals, as well as a large group from Frankenmuth, MI, who were in town for a wedding. It’s a very small town with a handful of shops, restaurants and a hotel with only 4 guest roooms. We were told the town becomes nearly deserted in the winter. It is quite the bustling place during the daytime in summer, with many Texans owning summer homes in the area and people day-tripping from other towns. We met some wealthy ranchers from Texas at the Antlers restaurant. They told us they come to Creede to cool off in the summer. We toured the underground mining museum and checked out the annual, local car show, Cruisin’ the Canyon. It appeared that the event was the “last hurrah” for the season. We had some great mexican food at Kip’s Grille. Fortunately, the only place open on that fall evening was really good.
We stopped in Colorado Springs because it was on the way home and because a long-time customer of Dave’s told him to stop in at the local brewery, if we were in the area. We managed to book a site at Cheyenne Mountain State Park for one night. The park is located roughly half-way up the mountain and overlooks Colorado Springs. The view is especially beautiful at night. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is located farther up the mountain. We were joking about how the military personnel were watching us with binoculars and checking out Slushie (like they have nothing better to do).
Bristol Brewing company is only 6 miles from the park. Since we were only staying one night, and we had a lot of driving ahead of us, our only plan for the day was to meet up with Nikos and have a beer. Expecting to meet a friendly bartender at a typical brewery, we were quite blown away by the experience. Nikos is the director of marketing and advertising for a pretty large operation and he gave us the grand tour. Bristol purchased an old school to house their milling, brewing and bottling, as well as multiple tap rooms, restaurants, a coffee shop, distillery, outdoor space and more. The former art teacher at the school helped decorate the place. The former principal’s office is now the administrative offices. In the old gym, a band was playing and people were dancing. People were playing cornhole outside. We had so much fun talking to Nikos, tasting some great beer, and seeing everything. We even had some excellent Detroit Style Pizza. It was a great final day in Colorado.
We really want to return and see more of Colorado Springs. We would actually go back, just to go to Bristol Brewing Company.
We learned about Pagosa Springs from our late friend, Lee, who we met in Maui. He was a happy hour regular at the Hula Grill and Leilani’s. Lee’s long-time girlfriend, Cherie, owned an interval condo (timeshare) at the Whaler and they would spend about a month there every year. Lee was in his early 60’s was a self-employed geologist, working mostly in the western states and spending a lot of time at his condo in Pagosa Springs. He was a very nice, intelligent guy, but almost exclusively spoke about Pagosa. I thought is was so strange for someone to be in paradise, but continually talking about someplace else. We were very curious to learn for ourselves, why the place is so special. Sadly, Lee passed away unexpectedly several years ago, before he could retire and enjoy his favorite place full time. This post is dedicated to Lee.
Bruce Spruce Ranch
As we drove toward Pagosa Springs and then to Bruce Spruce Ranch, we were blown away by the beautiful scenery. There were no snow-covered peaks, but the landscape of mountains, the San Juan River, forests and the cattle ranches was stunning. We quickly understood why Lee loved the area so much. The ranch is definitely one of the most beautiful campgrounds we have been to. It was easy to overlook the tight spacing of the campsites, as the whole setting was so peaceful and gorgeous. It was nice that we had a day or two with no neighbor. Bruce Spruce is family-owned, has full hook-up campsites, cabins, a shower/bath house and two stocked trout ponds.
Our Pagosa Springs hikes
We did three major hikes in the area, The first started at the far end of a barely passable forest service road (about 7 miles in) and offered a pretty rugged trail and beautiful back-country scenery. The second, on the Continental Divide Trail, started at the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. There were deer, great views and some steep drop-offs. We ended that one after about 2.5 miles (over 1,000 feet up) at the top of the local ski area. The 3rd hike was our toughest at over 6 miles and climbing over 2000 feet. We encountered a couple of groups of elk hunters on that trail. I was wishing we had worn some hi-vis colored hats. On these trails we learned the hard way, that cheap hiking boots are not sufficient. Dave was wearing some light hikers and I was wearing some inexpensive boots from Cabelas, one size too big, which I purchased to accomodate a swollen foot. The soles were not sturdy enough and the size was too big for my good foot. Needless to say, our feet were toast and I destroyed a toenail.
Wolf Creek Pass
During our time in Pagosa, we drove over the 10,856-foot altitude Wolf Creek Pass several times. It’s very steep, with a 7% downhill grade, a hairpin turn and over 200 foot drop-off, heading from east to west. Fortunately, we would be towing our rig over it from west to east. Between 2015 and 2019, there were 47 semi-truck crashes on the west side of the pass, incuding three fatalities. There have been many passenger car accidents and fatalities, also. There are many postings all over the internet, warning of the dangers there. “Beware the Wolf!”. Once, while we were driving by, a we saw a vehicle being lifted from down the cliff. Our neighbor at the campground arrived one day in a class B camper van, with brake failure. She likely destroyed her brake pads, coming down the pass. Throughout our travels we have seen many vehicles with smoking brakes, while heading down a steep grade. Apparently, people from flat states don’t educate themselves on using lower gears in the mountains.
Town and Boss Hoggs
The hot springs resort area is near what appears to be the old historic town center. Clearly, the hot springs are the draw for tourists. There were pleanty of people at the resorts and even swimming in the river, even though it was pretty warm outside. There really was not a lot else in that part of town, except for a couple of shops. Another section of town, which seems was originally residential, is where you can find restaurants and a couple of microbreweries. A little farther out, near some strip malls, is where Boss Hoggs Restaurant and Saloon is located. This was Lee’s favorite place, which he often spoke about in Maui. He loved the prime rib, as he was clearly a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Cherie would often be in her condo, preparing a roast, while Lee was at happy hour. Going to Boss Hoggs was a great experience and we ate at the bar, as Lee likely would have. Dave loved the prime rib. I didn’t care much for the salmon, but the bartender had previously worked in Maui and knew some people that we know. We enjoyed the aloha.
While the town isn’t our favorite Colorado town, we did go to some nice places. We absolutly loved the mountains, scenery and hiking trails. I’m pretty sure Lee’s view in heaven looks a lot like the ranch land and mountains around Pagosa Springs. Aloha, Lee. A hui hou kakou.
We departed Ouray, taking the longer route, past Telluride and over Lizard Head Pass, to avoid the white-knuckle experience of towing over the Million Dollar Highway (US hwy 550). The summit of the million Dollar Highway is 11,018-foot Red Mountain Pass between Ouray and Silverton. The scenery is magnificent, if you can keep your eyes open. We have driven that route several times in a small rental car and that was scary enough. We certainly were not cheated out of beautiful mountain scenery, taking the tamer route. I recall being very happy as we traveled that day. Mountains, trees, rivers, sunshine……sigh… (can you tell I am getting my annual case of November cabin fever?)
Lightner Creek Campground is a private campground with full hook-up campsites. The photos online looked very inviting. We wanted to spend a day or two in Durango, since we were in the area and this campground is located about 5 1/2 miles from town. The area is quite scenic, but the campground is very crowded, with campsites very close together. The creek, located about 20 feet from our campsite, was dry. This might have been a good thing, considering the possibility of mosquitoes or snakes.
I was not comfortable with our neighbors. It’s not that I am judgemental about older RVs, or campers who may not be able to afford someting nice. I was mainly concerned with the fact that it appeared to be in disrepair and they ran their A/C continually. I was concerned about an electrical fire and their very close proximity to our site. We’ve read alot about RV maintainence and it is quite apparent to us, that most people do very little to properly maintain their equipment. Also, they had children and the youngest cried alot. We set up camp and decided to spend very little time at the campground.
We hiked some local trails and enjoyed a couple of afternoons exploring town. As we always do, we went to the Durango Train Station and were fortunate to catch some photos the train, again. The Historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been continuouosly operated since 1882. The train is used for sightseeing tours between Durango and Silverton. We have never taken the train because neither of us wants to sit on a train all day, but I believe we are missing out on some spectacular sights.
We have been to Durango may times, staying only a day or two. It was actually our first stop on our first Colorado trip, We always wished we had more time, but that was usually as we were about to fly home to return to work. This time, 2 days was enough, as we were heading to Pagosa Springs and some other new destinations.