Colorado Adventure, Early 2013
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Tom Ballard Photography
Here is the memory shot of me and my
ole buddy Bob Pankey, who in 1986
introduced me to the world of
backpacking. That trip damn near
killed me as I recall, but it also started
something that is still going on to this
day, and hopefully for many years into
the future. To do this, a person has to
have a sense of adventure, they have
to stay in good health, and they have
to be prepared to deal with whatever
comes their way. On this page, you
will find the story of a reunion
adventure / backpack trip that Bob and
I started June 24, 2013, and arrived
back home on July 4, 2013.
Colorado Adventure in June/July 2013.
If you have been keeping up with my adventures for any amount of time, you know that the action
part of my adventures is just a part of the bigger picture! And, this applies to the adventure I am
going to share here, which was a trip to Colorado in the later part of June and the early part of
July. To be more precise, I left home for this adventure on a Monday morning, June 24, 2013, then
returned home on the evening of Thursday, July 4, 2013. These dates describe the length of the
adventure, but leaves out the adventure of the adventure.. So, I will try to fill that part in with some
well chosen words, plus I will share what I call “memory photos” taken while on the trip.. For
anyone who may have forgotten why I do this, here is the short refresher. Back about the time I
started looking for adventures to do, I found that even though thousands of people go on
adventures, they seldom share anything useful from those trips. This means that when I came
along and tried to put my adventures together, there was little to work with.. Very little written
material was available, and even less photo coverage was offered.. This meant that I was going to
be reinventing the wheel all the time... What to do?
What to do was go out and do my best to have a fun time, record as much as I could about the
adventure, then when back home, clean all the info up, put it in some kind of usable order and
share it, so that another person like myself could benefit from it... Or, as I have found, if the people
cannot actually do the trip, they can read the text, watch the photo show and make believe that
they were there! Which, is perfectly OK.. In years to come, that is exactly what I will be doing as I
review my stories and photos when my body will no longer take me there...
This adventure came to life on Monday morning, June 24, when I drove away from my home base
and headed to my travel buddies home. There I would pick him and his gear up and we would head
west, with plans to visit southern Colorado for a few days, then head up into the mountains for a
week of backpacking.. From there we would make a few other stops, then return home at the end
of a two week adventure... But, it all started many years ago.. My travel buddy and I first met in
1974, when fate brought us together by way of both being employed at the same place of
business.. Now, all these years later, we are both retired from that place.. But, it was back in
August of 1986 that this friend from work introduced me to backpacking, when he invited me to join
him, his son, and two of his sons friends for a backpacking trip in the Rawah Wilderness, in
northern Colorado. I went, I liked it, even if it damn near killed me, and I have been doing the sport
ever since.. That said, I did go on several more trips with this fellow, Bob Pankey, and his son, and
various friends and at various times, but then I started going solo, and continued in this manner for
most of the years to follow.
As always, time changes everything, and that is the case in this story. As the years went by, my
buddy Bob retired and focused on a life that was mostly related to the grandkids. While he was
doing that, I was logging solo adventure miles. Many of them you can read about on my website.
However, as the years went by, Bob and his wife Jeanne, stayed in touch by way of Christmas
cards, etc... Then in late August of 2012, I was camping in the Silverton, Colorado area, with new
friends, Terry and Tammy, that I had met there the year before. For the three of us, this was a
reunion trip.. My newest friends Terry and Tammy, are just the best of people.. Met them in the
campground where we returned to for our reunion.. Having been there several days, and needing to
get back home, etc, Terry and Tammy were packing to go home when I got an email from my
friend Bob, who had learned from my emails and SPOT messages that I was in the state. He and
his wife Jeanne were, at the time, staying in a time-share in Pagosa Springs. It would seem this is
something they love to do and is a repeating adventure for them each year.. They stay in the area
for a couple of weeks each fall and indulge themselves in the healing properties of the famous
“Springs” in Pagosa Springs.. Been there many times, and it is great fun, so I can appreciate their
migration back here each year!!!
That said, Bob, having learned of my being in Colorado, sent an email to me, and in it he
announced the location of he and his wife and suggested I come by and share in the fun they were
having!!!! Sounds good to me as Terry and Tammy were leaving, and I was not sure where I was
headed next, though I knew I would be staying in Colorado until the end of September. For the last
several years, I have made it my thing to do to be in Colorado each fall to watch the aspens
change color!!!!!! Awesome sight to see..... So, Bob's offer came at just the right time.. I called
him, told him I had just gotten his invite and that the timing was perfect as I was saying goodbye to
Terry and Tammy and needed a new place to go... With that, Bob said come on down, and I did..
After saying goodbye to Terry and Tammy, and wishing them well, I headed for Pagosa Springs,
where I spent the next three nights or so with Bob and Jeanne...
While with Bob and Jeanne, Bob and I elected to do a dayhike, and we did.. While on the day hike,
north of Pagosa Springs, Bob announced that he had not backpacked in Colorado in at least 15
years and really missed it. And, he said he would like to try it again! I suggested that he do it. He
was interested, but not sure about getting it done, as he is not so much into the solo thing as I am..
I think I mentioned that he and I might try a trip the next year... He indicated that sounded like a
good option, and we left it at that...
After my time with Bob and Jeanne, I toured the state until the end of September, then returned
home, where did other things needed to be done, to include packing for my first trip overseas,
which would be starting in the later part of October~! So, I cleaned up the mess I had made on the
Colorado trip, shared the trip story and photos, then started going crazy getting ready for the
Europe trip, the story of which is on my website now. But, through all this, I kept the thought in
mind that Bob wanted to try backpacking again, even though he is now 74 years old!!! He claims
that is an issue, but I think not!!!!!!!!
The rest of 2012 was taken up with a range of activities, then came the spring of 2013, and I
started looking for things to do. One item of interest to me was a trip to China that I found on the
internet. And just when I was ready to commit to the plan, I discovered my passport was too near
the end of its life to be used for a China trip..!!! Oops!!! So, I had to order a new one.. Now, what
to do while I wait. This is when the backpack trip with Bob came back into my thinking process... I
sent him and email and suggested we go, and do it ASAP.. He replied that I should come to his
home and we would work out a plan. I did go there, I ate dinner there, we worked out a plan, and
got his wife's approval.. We were gonna go!!!!!! Now, we just had to wait for him to find all of his
gear, as it has been a long time since it was used, and it was scattered throughout the
property!!!!!!!! He said, give me a week to get things together. I did. At the end of the week he was
ready, and we checked our calendars. We could leave on the 24th. And, we did.
At 0700 on the morning the of the 24th, I arrived at Bob's home and found all of his stuff stacked in
a pile and ready to go! We loaded it all up, said goodbye to Jeanne and off we went... I could just
stop this part of the story here, and then restart it in Colorado, some 1200 miles away, but that is
not how things happen in my world. In my world, there are other friends scattered across the
country and it is the right thing to do to stop and see them as I travel.. In this case, my best friend
is Kathy, who lives with her hubby Dave, in Kansas City, MO. It is a rare occasion when either of
us pass up a chance to stop and visit the other when we are traveling.. It would not be acceptable
for me to pass her place on my way west. At Kathy's invite, we arranged to be at her place in time
for lunch with she and hubby Dave. Kathy had heard me speak of the fellow who got me into this
hobby, but did not have a face to go with the name.. This was the chance to make that happen!!
Bob and I arrived at Kathy's around 11:30 AM, did the basic social visit, had a great lunch,
exchanged some stories, then started making our excuses so that we could get back on the road..
I think we left Kathy's home at 1:00 PM.. Was a really fun visit, and now she has a face to go with
the name she has heard so much about over the years.... Having said our goodbyes, Bob and I
head west, in my little Honda Accord.. It has been to Colorado so many times, it could almost go
there by itself.. I think it thinks Colorado is its second home! But, of course it has been many
places!!! It took me on the Criss-Cross of America in 2010.. The story is on my site... Bottom line
is, we are headed west, which should be of little concern, on a normal day, but not this time. We
are getting reports of fires in the Pagosa Springs area. The fires themselves are of unknown
danger, but the smoke from the fires have been causing problems. In fact, we hear that the road
through Wolf Creek Pass is closed.. If that is the case, we will have to go south to Chama, NM, to
get around it... We will monitor.
Our first day on the road ends in Goodland, Kansas. We have been driving all day, we have been
watching the sun makes its way across the sky and we have agreed that we would drive west,
going towards the sun until it was about to disappear for the day, then we would call it a day, find a
hotel, and settle in for the night. We pull off the road into Gooland, park in a safe place next to a
gas station. Not having a clue as to where to stay, I call my concierge service that helps me when I
travel. I tell them where I am and that I need a budget type room for the night. In less than a
minute, they had found and recommended the Days Inn hotel just across the street.. I am not sure
why, but for some reason, there was a bit of confusion about me being at the correct location.
Most likely this was my fault!! No matter, the helper actually stayed on the phone with me as I
drove across the street, parked, and went into the hotel and up to the front desk. It was there that
I handed my phone to the person behind the service desk, who then spoke directly to my concierge
person, who made all the official arrangements for us. In short order, the deal was done and we
had a room for the night!!!!!!! I love it.. This service is provided by my Visa Signature credit card. If
people have this card and are not using this service, they are missing out on a great deal!!!!!!! I
have used it many times in my travels.. The helpers are there 24/7 to take care of you, and they do
a great job!!!!!! And, there is no extra fee for their help... How can you do better than that!!!!!!!
This morning it is June 25 and day 2 of this adventure. There is a little snack breakfast in the lobby
which Bob takes advantage of, but I on the other hand go to the car and get the breakfast foods I
brought, canned chicken and pineapple. I have to have protein to live.. Trying to live on the cereal
and bread stuff is something I cannot handle.. We pack the car, check out and take off, we are
Somewhere outside of Colorado Springs, at a point in our travels where we have to decide if we
are going west through Wolf Creek Pass or taking the loop south, I call the forest service in
Pagosa Springs. They tell me the Pass is still closed and that we have to
to take the southern loop to get to Pagosa Springs. This means heading for Chama, New Mexico..
After our lunch there at Subway, a place of business I visit often, we head south, and soon come
into the mountains.
It is in here somewhere that we finally find something for me to take a photo of.. We have come to
a wide place in the road known as Fort Garland, Colorado. Just another sleepy little place it would
seem, but just after arriving, I see a photo op and have Bob to stop. Now it is time to get the
camera out and start recording our adventure. On the side of the road where we are parked is an
old abandoned cafe, with the name of UTE CAFE painted on the front of it.. Just the sort of place a
person like me would want to take some photos of, and I did!
Next photo spot on our trip was in Antonito, Colorado, where we discovered the northern end of the
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Not sure of its past, but now it and others in the state are kept
alive for the enjoyment of tourists who love trains!!! I have been on several trains in the state, but
so far, not this one... That said, we stopped at the station and did the tourist thing by taking our
memory photos.. Leaving there, we head for the Cumbres Pass, but along the way we stop to take
scenic photos of the hill country. It was at one of these stops that we met two fun people, who
were on a cross country drive from the east coast, where the man had just been discharged from
the Navy, and the two were now headed back to California, where his girlfriend was a school
teacher. She had flown to the east coast to make the return drive with the boyfriend. You will meet
them in the memory photos. I think I got their names correct, as Mitch and Miranda. I have
misplaced my notes!!! Shortly after leaving this young couple, we arrived at the Cumbres Pass,
took the tourist photos and headed south again.
After we left the crest of the pass, we noticed something very unusual, the aspens in this area
appeared dead!!!!! The leaves were still on the trees, but they were a silver color... I took the
memory photos of them, and we moved on.. Later in Pagosa Springs, we were told by the forest
service that the damage was caused by a worm. A bag work, I think I was told.. They had photos
of the critter. At any rate, it would seem the condition was a temporary thing, and that the leaves
would be regrown after the worms had gone through their cycle and moved on... So, I guess these
trees will be here this fall for the golden color change, but they looked wasted for now!
In Chama, we found the southern end of the railroad, and stopped just long enough to get grab a
few memory photos, then we headed north towards Pagosa Springs and the fire. Actually, we
never saw any fires, but it was not long after leaving Chama that we started seeing the smoke from
the fires that were burning in the mountains above the springs. At several points along the way, I
stopped and collected memory photos, which will be shared here. Also, we stopped at a neat little
lake outside of Pagosa Springs, where I have taken photos before. The better part of this lake is
the red barn that is near it and makes for some neat photos, when the light is right.. Got my photos
and headed into town.
For info on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Train, use this link:
In town, we head straight for the Wyndham Resort, where my buddy has reserved a time share
for us for three nights.. He says we need a few days to acclimate to the higher altitude before
going on our pack trip.. Truth is, he is correct.. Many times in the past, due to time limitations when
we were still working, we drove hard to get here, hit the ground and took off.. Was hard going from
500 feet MSL to around 9000 feet MSL. The acclimation period is the way to go.
Inside the resort, we announced our arrival and we are soon in the care of their concierge, Ashley,
who is here to make sure everything goes well and that we are happy customers.. She spends
some quality time with us, making sure we know where everything this is, providing us with
suggestions for things to do. Of course, having been on the road for two days, I am ready for food.
With the help of another lady in the office, we are referred to the Bear Creek Saloon, downtown,
where there is supposed to be some great burgers!!!!!! We will find out after we get moved into our
We get moved in, we find everything in order, and now we are ready for some big burgers, but
first, I have to get some sunset photos from our balcony, which has a really neat view of the lake
behind us... After the lake photos, we are gone. Off to Bear Creek we go, and arrive just in time to
get our order in before the grill closes at 9 PM... the lady who greets us and takes our order is the
lady who seems to be the hardest working person I have met in ages. For beginners, she is very
attractive, she is friendly, she moves at 90 miles per hour, and it would seem she works or studies
all the time. I did get a couple of minutes to visit with her, after talking her into a tourist photo.
Turns out, she has a young son, her family owns a local antique mall, where she works each, day,
plus she tends bar here and waits tables, etc.. And, if that is not enough to keep her busy, she is a
college student, working on a business degree!!!!! Made me tired just listening to her schedule!!!
But, the bottom line here is that the burgers we got this evening were just the best!!!!!! And, if you
are ever in town and do not go here for burgers, you are missing out on one of the best
experiences you can have in Pagosa Springs! And, if you do not get to meet Amber, the best
waitress and hardest working person in town, you have really missed out on a neat experience.
Make sure you go to Bear Creek when Amber is working there!!!!!!!! To learn more about this great
hamburger place, use this link: http://www.bearcreeksaloon.net/
With the burgers and very cold beer consumed, it was time to get back to the condo and plan for
tomorrow's activities. I have another friend, who I met north of here, in the mountains, last year
while backpacking.. I will be contacting him for a reunion while we are here. To see the images of
this day, use the link below.
2013-06-26, Day 3 of this Photo Adventure in Colorado.
This will be our first full day in the Pagosa Springs area.. I have sent an email to my buddy Paul,
who lives outside of Pagosa Springs. In reply, I get a message that says to call him.. I do. He
suggests we all get together and do a hike this day! Sounds great. We agree to all meet at the
resort office, and we do. This is around 12 noon, I think. Bob had been talked into a promotional
event to attend this morning, and did. For the 45 mintues or so, he was given a gift card to use as
he pleased. However, he turned it over to me to use for expenses on the trip, etc.. But, we were
out of that meeting at 11:30 and met Paul around 12 noon. I have several family members and
friends who are much smarter than me, and I often wonder why they stay around but they do..
And, many of these better minds are people I have met in the mountains while on my trips.. This is
the case with Paul, who has a PHD in soil!!! Never knew such a thing existed until he and I met last
year, but it does exist and he is an expert in the field. In fact he started his own company, worked
hard, made his money, then when it was time to leave, he gave the company to his employees, the
people who had been a large part of the companies success.. Great story here!
Paul and his constant companion, CD, short for Continental Divide, had arrived at the parking area
just seconds before we did.. We did our introductions, then Paul offered his plan to go north of
town to Four-Mile trail head and do a nice little day hike! We all agreed, climbed back into our
motor cars and headed out. About half way to the trail head, we were confronted with a problem..
The trail head and trail that we planned to use for the day as closed due to fire!!!!!!! Now, what to
do!!!! Paul and Bob reviewed our options on a local map, and chose a new hiking location west of
town, towards Bayfield. With that decision, we backtracked to town and headed west. Some 20
miles west, we turned north at the Piedra River and drove about 6 miles on dirt road to the Sheep
Creek Trail Head.. Here we left the autos and started down the trail to what I would learn to be the
trail to some hot springs!
As we drove into to the trail head, a rather large helicopter crossed over above my car and went
down into the canyon below. Strange to see, but given there was fire in the area, and possible
water in the creek below, maybe there was a connection.. Later we would learn that yes, there
were helicopters coming to this creek to get water for the fires....
The day was hot, the trail was dry and dusty, and there was the lingering smell of smoke in the air.
Not bad, but it was there. However, we continued on down the trail to the creek below, which I
believe was the Piedra River. First sight of the creek also included a person wading in the creek,
apparently taking advantage of the cool water. Later we would get to meet this person, who, as it
turns out, was still there, following a class that had been presented on survival in the wild. We
talked at some length, then I moved on to catch up to Paul and Bob and they had gone upstream to
find the hot springs. Later I would meet up with the person who had been wading in the river.
Dressed in earthy type clothes and using a burlap sack to haul material, I asked if I could take a
photo of them. They declined..
As I was rushing along to catch up to Paul and Bob, I almost ran over another hiker coming down
the trail. And this one is one to share stories about. The person I have just met is a very attractive
blonde that appears to be in her late 30's, maybe early 40's.. No matter, she is fairly young and is
out having a good time.. What I noticed right away was that she was wearing a gun on her hip, just
like a cowboy from the wild west days!! I asked if she were a park ranger, and to this she replied
no. So, of course I had to ask about the gun, as it is not the norm to find women in the woods
carrying a gun... Turns out, this young lady is a school teacher from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
She and her hubby own a place in Pagosa Springs, where they vacation, but hope to move to at a
time in the near future. The gun is on her body as a compromise with her hubby. He was still
working, she wanted to go hiking, he says she is not to go unless she carries the gun.. So, the gun
became a part of her hiking gear for the day.. Actually, she tells me she is well trained to use it,
has all the proper permits to carry it, etc.. And, yes, she knows how to use it... As we talked, I
asked if you knew about the SPOT satellite transmitters like I carry, so she can stay in touch with
family and friends. She said no, and then got a sales pitch from me on how she absolutely should
have one!!!! Then, while talking, she said she had to get going to get to her next location on time.
Two things I regret, one is that I did not get photos of this lady and her gun, and I have now
misplaced my notes, so I do not have her name handy, but it was fun to have met her and had the
trail visit. I get as much fun out of visiting with people on the trail as I do seeing the mountains!
After I a bit, I catch up to Bob and Paul, but they are coming towards me. They have already been
to the hot springs and are returning. However, they agree to return with me and show me around.
Cannot say I was impressed with the springs.. In fact, I can hardly imagine why people would even
bother to come here. When you see the images, you will understand. The springs are more like hog
wollows than places to soak in the warmth of the water. Maybe it is mineral water, I do not know,
but it was no inviting to say the least, however, it would seem a lot of people come here for the
experience, whatever that means!!! I looked the place over, took the memory photos, and we left.
On our way back to the car, we met two young men who were carrying walkie talkies and headed
downhill at a fair clip. They did stop and talk for awhile. Turns out, they were firefighters from
Arizona, and had come here to help with the forest fires. They had gotten a report of campfires
down by the river. We reported we had not seen or smelled any, but may have overlooked some...
After our chat, these fellows went on down to check for sure!
Finished with the trip, we all headed back towards town. At the highway, we all stopped and
chatted, at which time I invited Paul to join Bob and me on our upcoming backpack trip. He said he
was interested and would let us know. With that we all drove off. Since Paul leaves west of town,
he turned off to his place, as Bob and I continued on to town and to our condo. Then after a short
stop there, we headed into town for dinner at Subway!!! However, that was not enough for Bob, he
wanted desert. In this case, he wanted to go to the local Sonic, that he is familiar with, and get a
milk shake! So, this is how we ended this day, by going to Sonic and polishing off a couple of XL
milk shakes. They are half price after 8 PM!!!!!!!! To see the memory images for this day, use the
2013-06-27, Day 4 of this Colorado Adventure
It is now Thursday and tonight is our last night in the condo. Tomorrow morning, we head off to the
trail head where we plan to park the car and spend the next six nights being real mountain men,
backpacking and living in the wilderness. The wilderness this time is the Weminuche, an awesome
place to be for backpackers... Lots of great trails!
This morning we are up and at it, doing our breakfast, returning emails, etc.. But, in the end, our
task today is to get everything ready for leaving tomorrow. I have laundry to do, and we both have
a lot of packing to do, as it is proper to totally unload all the gear, start from scratch, and repack
the backpack as it should be for the trip. Once packed, we will be good to move out, go to the trail
head, and get on the trail, with little lost of time.. And, by packing here, instead of at the trail head,
we have more time and better space to get everything in order.. It is also a time to double check
everything. Almost always, there is something that needs attention.. And, this time is no different..
While Bob is packing, he discovers that the fuel bottle he brought is leaking fuel!!! This is not good.
We have nothing with us to repair this, but later, while we are in town, we shop for a solution. We
needed to go to town anyway, as we needed to visit with the forest service about our hiking plans.
In town, we went to the forest service office, presented our plan and was told it should be okay as
there were no known fires in the area we were interested in, which was just north east of the
Vallecito Reservoir. With our plan approved, we set off to find a new top for Bob's fuel bottle..
Turns out, there is none to be had in this small town. However, at someones suggestion, we went
to the local auto parts store where Bob was able to purchase a new O-ring that would fit and seal
the bottle.. Job done! Also during the day, got word from Paul that he had decided to not do the
trip with us. He said he had just been on this particular trail not long ago and was not motivated to
do it again this soon, however, he would like to come into town this evening and have dinner with
us, and visit a bit more before we left town.
With all the packing done, we contacted Paul, he came into town, and the three of us went to Bear
Creek for our boys night out dinner... Dinner was good, except for Paul's special. He got the
evening special which was prime rib.. For the price you could not expect much, and that proved to
be true.. It was not much! Should have stayed with the burgers!! But, we ate, had good
conversation, then went outside, to find the air full of smoke!!!!!!!! There had been some earlier, but
now there was lots of it.. The wind had changed and now the town as filled with smoke... However,
this did not stop us from going for a short walk to check out the springs and to see more of the
smoke.. You will get an idea when you see the memory photos!
After the smoke walk, I invited Paul to join us for a milk shake at the Sonic, which he accepted..
And, being the frugal mountain men that we are, we waited until after 8 PM to go to Sonic for the
evening treat.. As you will recall, milk shakes are half price after 8 PM... Now, with the shakes
completed, and the well wishes said, we called it a night. Paul and CD headed home, Bob and I
returned to the condo to finish our packing for departure tomorrow morning. To see the memory
photos for this day, use the link below:
2013-06-28, Day 5 of this Colorado Adventure.
This is the big day, this is the day we will get on the trail!!! We are up early, get our business done,
triple check the condo for left items, go to the office, check out, and get on the road.. We have
about 40 miles of driving to get to our trail head. To get there, we will go to Bayfield, go north to
Vallecito Reservoir, circle around it, then take the road that will deliver us to the Pine River Trail
Head. This is the point where we plan to drop off the car and head out on foot for the next 6 nights.
But, things are not looking good as we drive to the trail head. Smoke, and lots of it was still in
Pagosa Springs this morning when we left, and it has not improved much since we left.. Now as we
approach the trail head, the smoke is as bad here as it was anyplace we have been. And, the air is
full of ash, as you will see in the photos, as the ash is getting all over my lens as I take photos
during the drive to the trail head.. Before arriving at the trail head, we had alread begun to think this
trip was in trouble...
As we drove into the trail head parking lot, we could see up the valley that was to be our hiking
path for the next couple of days, and right now, it was packed with smoke! Just standing in the
parking lot was bad enough. And, while we were standing there trying to weigh our options, a local
law officer arrived and started to visit with us.. From him we learn that conditions were most likely
not going to improve in the near future, and more likely they would get worse. The air was dry and
smoke filled, the trees and the earth were bone dry, the trail that we could see was just powder,
etc... The local fellow said that although the trail was not closed, there was a high chance of fire to
start here any time, most likely from a lightening strike. If that happened, everyone up here was in
trouble. And, there were lots of people up there somewhere in the woods, as the parking lot was
nearly full of cars. I would have not expected anyone to have been interested in going on the trail at
this time, but a middle aged couple arrived, got their packs, and headed off up the trail... I hope
they had fun, but I cannot see how that would be possible.. Bob and I decided this was not
something we wanted any part of and we left. Just where we were going was unknown, but it had
to be away from the smoke as it was really getting to our lungs and eyes..
Having left the smoky trail head, we drove west with intentions of turning north in Durango. In
Durango, we stopped at Subway again, ate lunch and discussed our options, again. We had been
thinking of going directly to Estes Park, but the holiday weekend was headed our way, and we
were concerned about all the people being in the park for the holiday, so we decide to try a trip
close to Aspen, one that I had done earlier, known as the Four Pass Loop. Beautiful trail that could
last us for a week. So, with that we had a plan. After leaving Durango, we headed north through
Silverton, Ouray, and then towards Carbondale. And it was in Carbondale that the light of day
came to an end on us. We had to find a place to spend the night. We had found a state
campground by the river on our way here, but Bob did not like it as he did not think it would be a
good place to set up his rainfly and bivy sack. So, we passed up the campground and arrived in
Carbondale. It was here that I called the concierge service again and asked for help. They found a
room for us at the Econo Lodge just outside of Glenwood Springs. After making the arrangements
for the room, and having instructions for how to get there, plus having the address plugged into the
GPS, we took off..
You would think that two adult men with our skill sets could surely find a hotel that is on the side of
the road just miles away.. But no.. Did not happen that way. We were to take exit 105 I think it
was. However, Bob and I got involved in a religious or political debate about computer speed, or
something, and missed the turn off.. Next thing I know is that the GPS is going nuts and telling me
things it should not be telling me. Translation, we missed the turnoff. The next exit is at exit 97. We
will be driving 7 miles to get to a turn around place, or a total of 14 miles to recover from a missed
exit!!! But, all is not lost, we get to the correct exit, then have to make multiple attempts to find the
entrance to the hotel. The designer of this place must have been having a really bad day. They hid
the entrance the way my grandparents hid Easter Eggs! You had to work to find it!!!!!!
But, it worked out. The place was really nice, it was close to the highway, and the people behind
the desk were just the best. When I asked about certain things in the room, such as extra towels,
they went and checked, and added extra everything.. So, I can highly recommend this place,
assuming it stays the same..
We moved our stuff into our room, got settled in for the night, did our emails etc, and made ready
to go to the trail head which will be just north of Aspen, Colorado. Has been quiet the adventure
this day.. To see the shared images from the day of adventure, use the link below:
2013-06-29, Day 6 of this Colorado Adventure
Today is again our big day, it will be the day we get on the trail. And, the air has now been clean
since about the time we left Ouray. However, as we traveled north in the area of Delta, the car
showed the outside temperatures to be hitting 102 degrees at times.. This might be bad for
backpacking, unless we can get high enough in the hills to find cooler air.. We think we will. And,
we did. As we got closer to the trail head, the temps were much cooler than they had been
yesterday.. Now, it is worth noting that in here somewhere, Bob has made the decision that we will
not do the Four Pass Loop, but rather a shorter trail that leads up the side of the mountain to a
lake by the name of Willow Lake.. On the map it looks like a good choice, with woods for shade,
and a stream not far away. This is what you get if you just glance at the map. Closer inspection
might have told the bigger story. But, we arrive at the trail head, which is not the trail head I had
used when I was there, but one a few hundred yards down the road. This was going to be new to
me.. In short, we get our gear together, which takes forever with me, plus I have to set up a tripod
and get the memory shots, etc.. However, with all that, we finally leave the car around 10:30 in the
morning. But, we have to stop at the checkin station, fill out a form and get our trail pass. This is a
free thingie you need if you will be gone overnight. I get the pass, fill it out, attach it to my pack,
and off we go..
OK, so, now we are on the trail. Then something meaningful became obvious, this trail is sloped
rather steep, somewhat like the top of your house! And, the water is not next to the trail, but rather
at the bottom of the canyon below us. You could toss a rock into the water at several points along
the way, but that falls short of giving you the right mental picture. The stream is about 200 feet
below us. We are way up here, the water is way down there!!!! We will not be getting water out of
this stream anytime soon... Had we taken the original trail, we would have been on flat ground and
walking beside the creek, only feet away, but we are going to make this work...
The day drags on, we meet people, people meet us, etc, but the hill is forever in front of us. Finally
at 12 noon, I say we are stopping for lunch, and we do, right there on the trail, or at least beside it.
We do our little food bar lunch and prepare to pack up and leave when two ladies come down the
trail, with two large dogs running along in front of them. Before it was all over I thought I was going
to have to whip one of the dogs and give the owner a thrashing. This big old dog came running off
the trail, over to where I had my stuff, and stepped all over my camera which I had in a bag lying
beside the pack. I ran the dog off once. The lady did not get the hint, then the dog returned to do it
again, I started screaming at the dog to leave. The ole gal still did not get the hint and did not
leave. Amazing.. Tried to be nice to her, but was damn glad to see her and her dog leave.. Some
people just do not understand how much trouble their best friend causes.. People like her and her
dog leave a bad taste with me...
We did survive the dog attack, and moved on up the trail. At some point the trail did flatten out a
bit, and we had high hopes we were going to have easy walking for awhile, but it did not last long.
Then, it was uphill again. At around 4 PM, I saw the first place that looked as if it could possibly be
used as a campsite. Everything else was steep and rocky! So, we checked it out. But, the question
was, was there a better place just up the trail a ways. I left Bob and our gear here to secure this
location, if we needed it, and I headed on up the trail to see if I could find a better place.. After
about a mile, I gave up and returned to where I had left Bob. This was going to be our home for the
night as I could not find anything better.
We settled into the routine of finding flat spots for the tents, and getting set up for dinner. Finding
flat spots was not a problem, but getting down to the water with the water bottles and the filter
was a bit of a challenge. That said, I got it done while Bob set up his sleeping system. With water
on hand, we fired up my stove and boiled the water needed for the evening meals. Mine is a moon
food pack that just needs hot water to bring it back to life, but Bob brought something from the
store that needs to be cooked. Some kind of rice thing he found back home.. Mine was easy, I
added two cups of hot water, closed the package, waited 15 minutes, then ate dinner. Bob on the
other hand, set about to pour the contents of the package he had into a pot, bring to a boil, try to
simmer on a stove that does not simmer, then proceed to eat.. Not sure what was going on, even
though I was watching him while I ate, but when it was all over, I had finished my dinner and was
sitting there watching Bob try to decide what he was going to do with all that rice stuff he had
cooked up!!! He had consumed about half of it when he declared himself full.. Now, he is trying to
give the rest to me!! Not me, I have had enough for the night, but I reminded him that he had to eat
it to get rid of it, as it would attract bears if he kept it~!
To be honest, I do not know what happened to the rest of Bob's dinner, but as I sat there and
watched, he proceeded to return the uneaten product to the bag from which it had come, then he
cleaned his cooking devices! Then, he closed up the food bag, gathered up his other gear and
headed back to his sleeping area. Maybe some day he will tell me what happened to the rest of his
dinner!!!! Was afraid to ask!!! But, the day was a good day in spite of the challenges. We had a
nice place to camp, we had dinner and drinks, the weather was nice, and now, it was time to get
some rest. I am not sure at this point if we will be going up the trail or down the trail, come
morning.. Will check that with Bob when we get up... Right now he is hurting and is refusing to take
an ibuprofen or the like.. Says he does not take that sort of thing! So.. Off to bed we go!! To see
the memory photos for this day, use the link below:
2013-06-30, Day 7 of this Colorado Adventure...
I am sure the mystery is about to drive you nuts, wondering if we go uphill or downhill this morning..
Well, wait no longer. At breakfast, while sitting around our hot coffee and tea, Bob announces that
we are going downhill, back to the car. He has had enough of this hill climbing business, and so it
is.. We are headed back to the car when we leave this camping spot. And, as I recall, we leave
around 10:30 AM... The trip back to the car was a nice stroll, with little new material to see or to
share.. Then around 12 noon, we take our lunch break, listen to the creek below, and finally get
back on the trail. Around 1:30 PM, we are back at the register station, where I write on my form
that we have returned and will be leaving the wilderness. We find everything in order at the car, so
we load up our gear and head out.. By this time, we have talked about our options several times
and Bob has now decided he wants to go to Rocky Mountain National Park, even if it is a holiday
coming up.. We can deal with it... So, off we go.. We know we cannot make it to Estes Park this
afternoon, but we can go in that direction, and we do.
Somewhere around 5 PM, we arrive in Dillon, Colorado. We are sure at this point that we need to
find a place to stay for the night. Now here, it looks as if we will be needing a room. So, I make the
call to the concierge people again. This time I ask for a room in or near Dillon, Colorado. After a
long wait, we get a suggestion for a room, but it is way more than we want to pay, so I ask for a
campground. This means more waiting. Finally we get a suggestion. There are a few in the area,
but all are full, etc.. So, I ask for any campground within 100 miles. Turns out there is a KOA in
Central City, some 50 miles away, for 34 dollars and they have a site open. We take it.. With that
we are back on the road and headed for Central City. The campground was neither easy nor hard
to find, but a big confusing, however we found it, got checked in and rushed to get set up before
dark got to us.. Now for the fun part, this place sells pizza!!! Which means we had pizza for dinner!
We each got one.. I ate mine right then and there, but Bob ate only part of his and saved the rest
for later!.. Now, full of pizza, we can call it a night! For the memory images for this day, use the link
2013-07-01, Day 8 of this amazing Colorado Adventures
We are up really early this morning. Not something I had planned, but as it turns out, the KOA is
right next to a busy highway and these locals get out and get going early, like around 0530 or
so!!!!!! I woke up early, but did not get up early, however it was still early by my normal standards!
Given that I am up, I do my protein and pineapple breakfast, plus coffee, etc... And, when I go to
the office, where I am able to get free coffee. I think they wanted a dollar for it, but their wifi was
out last night due to some tech issue, so I told them I should get free coffee in exchange. They
agreed... Having finished my coffee and having my gear and my travel buddy all packed back in
the car, it was time to head for Estes Park.
Had a really nice little drive as we headed north, finally arriving at Rocky Mountain National Park.
We got in free on Bob's old man pass, then headed for the campground to see if anything was
available. Wrong.. Nothing on this side of the mountain was available. There were some sites
available on the west side near Grand Lake, or that area, but nothing on this side. Then we tried
for a backpacking site, something we could hike to, but, again, nothing.. There was actually two
sites available. One was 8 miles away, and the other only 5 or 6 miles away, but the ranger
wanted to meet with both of us if we chose the second option. He wanted to know that we had
bear spray and knew how to use it, as there were only 23 bears left in the park and two of them
were causing problems at the campsite we might be going to.. We chose to pass on this action.
With that we were given suggestions for private camping outside the park. This is where we
For years I have been coming to this park and have been driving past a huge campground just
outside the park entrance. Why I never stopped there and asked for camping is beyond me, but
today, I need help, so started searching for the entrance to the campground. I find it, I find the
office, and I find people inside eager to help with camping. As it turns out, they have lots of
camping sites open. Pick the one you want! How much easier could it get! Right? Well, nothing is
easy when I am around.. First off, I tell the lady behind the desk, Susan, that I want a site close to
the bathroom. Not concerned about the view, just want to be close to the potty and the shower.
She suggests either 8 or 10, both of which are open. She will hold my name while I go look. I go
look, I think 8 is the best and come back to secure it, and I do, for about 34 dollars.. But, when we
went to check the site, someone with one of those big, super big, SUVs was parked in our site..
So, when we got back, we had to ask management to go to the site and run the people off that
had the big overgrown truck. As it turns out, a couple had a big trailer in a slot close by. There was
little room for the big trailer and the big SUV, so the fellow stole our site, which had a shade tree,
no less.. But, the manager run him off, and we got the spot.. But, with that done, now I ask Bob
about our plans for the next few days. He is not sure but thinks we are going to be cutting this trip
short so he can get home to a family reunion that his son will be attending for the first time in years,
due to a problem with the son's wife, soon to be ex-wife.. But, no matter we will be here at least
one more night, so I suggest we claim our site for two nights instead of one. Bob agrees, and off
we go to the office. This should be easy, I paid for the first night, he will pay for the second night,
then we will be even and get on with our life.. But, no...
We get back to the office, Bob goes in to pay for a second night. After some time he returns. We
are not going to be in the awesome site number 8 tonight, we will be moved to site 11.. Why,
because it is open for two nights in a row, 8 is not.. So, we go check out number 11.. In a pinch, it
would work, but it is not prime. So, back to the office we go. This time I tell Bob he has to get 8 for
tonight. When he returns, he has number 7 for two nights.. Now what.. According to him, 7 is close
to 8 and is open for two nights. Not good enough for me.. I send him back with instructions to get 8
tonight and 7 tomorrow night! He is not so sure about this as it means he will have to take down
and move his rain-fly. I promise him I will do all the work, just get this done. On this trip in, he does.
We are supposed to have 8 tonight and 7 tomorrow night! Perfect! With that we are set to go..
Now, there is still daylight left and we want to do some hiking, so we are off to find the trail, which
we learn means we will be go to a parking lot, then ride a shuttle bus to the parking area at Bear
Lake. Because of work on the highway to Bear Lake and the congestion at Bear Lake, shuttle
buses are the only way to go from 0900 to 1700 each day..
We arrive at Bear Lake, do the tourist walk around the lake, plus a short side trip to Nymph Lake,
then head back to the campground. Tonight we will munch on food we brought. I think Bob will be
eating the pizza he had left over from last night, I will be having beans and corn chips, topped off
with beer! What an exciting day!!! Tomorrow, we do the big hike, which means we have to get up
early so we can drive our car to Bear Lake before 0900, which is when they close the road to
private autos... To connect with the campground we used, which is very nice, use this link: http:
//www.elkmeadowsrvpark.com/....... To see the images from this day, use the link below:
2013-07-02, Day 9 and the last day in state for this Colorado Adventure.
Very early this day, I am up, showered, dressed, fed and ready to go, plus I have taken my tent
down, as we will be moving to site 7, just feet away, tonight when we get back..
The same goes for Bob, we both are up early and ready to go, but we do not go fast enough. By
the time we get on the road to Bear Lake, the rangers are already turning people off the road and
into a shuttle parking area. So, park and shuttle is how we get to Bear Lake again this day! Not a
problem, but not what we had planned... Parking at Bear Lake if very popular, the parking lot is
small compared to the number of people who want to park there, so, the lot fills up early, then the
rangers have no option but to make people park their cars in a mass parking area and take the
shuttle. This may sound restrictive, but the buses are nice and they come by about every 15
On the ride up, I met a fellow name Keith Prichard from Richmond, Virginia, I think it was. He was
a retired newspaper editor who for the past 7 years or so has come to Estes Park and lead day
hikes for the YMCA. I did not even know they had a YMCA here, but he assured me they did and
that it is was large!! Very large in fact. As we talked, I come to think this YMCA was a large resort
of some kind. It had hundreds of rooms and cabins available, and at a premium rate!!! Plus, you
have to reserve early to get into one of the units! Go figure, you learn something new every day..
As it turns out, I would meet Keith several more times this day as we would be on the same trails...
As I exited the bus and my feet were once again on solid ground, I was met by one of the most
friendly fellers I ever met in the park. This man's name was Bob Greeley. Forgot where he was
from, but said he had been a preacher for years, then turned to banking, and then finally he
retired.. How much of all that is the truth is left to your imagination.. Maybe all of it was true, but
here is the deal, Bob tells me he is something like 87 years old, is married to a lady here in the
park who is his age, and they have been married for something like 64 years~! If I have my facts
straight, remember I misplaced my notes, he and his wife Ellen, have been volunteers here in the
park for 27 years.. Maybe it was 17 years, but either way, it has been a long time that they have
been giving their time to the people who visit the park, and they know the park well.. Got to visit
both of them for a good long while.. Talked to Bob first, then later met his wife Ellen. You will meet
them in the photos!
From the point where we met Bob and Ellen, it was uphill to the rest of the lakes we would visit this
day. First was Nymph, then Dream, then Emerald.. You will be amazed at the water show we saw
at Emerald!!! Yep, someone did a little swim thing for us while there. Not sure how they could
stand it, as the water is just barely above freezing, but... However, we saw a very similar thing
happen later at Lake Haiyaha, where three people actually took the cold water dive. In the share
images, I show you the best from that event. You will have to see the expression on this one
fellow's face when he hits the cold water!!!!!!!! There really is not much to tell about todays hike,
except that we visited Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, where we had lunch, then headed
over to Lake Haiyaha, then returned to the shuttle station and caught the bus back to our car which
took us our campground!!!
By the time we had reached our campground, I knew I could eat a cow, hide and all, which meant I
needed information and a recommendation for the best burger in town. I stopped at the office and
explained my issue. Without hesitation, I was advised to go to a place called Smokin' Dave's, just
down the street a bit.. And with that, I was off.. Must have been goooood advice because the
place was full... And, there was a waiting list to get in.. If they have a waiting list, you know it is
good and I want in, so I put my name on the list, then Bob and I started the waiting process. The
host has indicated the wait might be 15 minutes. It turned out to be closer to 45 minutes, but the
time went by and we were in..
Maybe all the servers are good, but ours was the best. Tonight our server was Peter. I asked for a
recommendation for a good dark beer. Not sure what he brought, but it was good.. I think it had a
Hawaiian name of some kind!!!!! Who knows, but I know I liked it.. Bob is not one to consume such
pleasures, so I think he had a soda or some other kiddie drink... Real backpackers drink dark
beer!!! Well, this one does anyway!
Ok, so we got my beer, and we placed our order for some burgers and fries. Peter recommends
the sweet tator fries, cooked extra crispy, and served with cold slaw! I took the suggestion, and it
turned out great!!! But, while we are waiting, we get Peter to do the memory photos with my
camera. Turns out he was really good with it... Guess he gets a lot of requests to take memory
photos here! And, it is not long after we order till or meals arrive.. Best description of mine was
that it was yummy!!! Might not have gotten a whole cow as planned, but it was good!!! So.. Keep
this place in mind when you are in town and hungry for a burger... By town, I am speaking of Estes
Park, Colorado, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Elk Meadow Campground. To learn more
about this great hamburger and BBQ place, use this link: http://www.smokindavesq.com/
Back at the campground, I help Bob get his sleeping system set up and ready for the last night in
the area. Was a beautiful day, had a great hike, followed by a great dinner, and now here we are
with an awesome view of Longs Peak, and a sunset cloud hovering just above the peak..
Perfect!!!!!! Today, I will use images to tell you about our day, more than using words. I hope you
enjoy the set.. I can warn you that it is a large set, so be prepared!!! And, as with all my sets, you
will notice a lot of very similar images. These are included for a reason. For you, test yourself, try
to pick the one you think would be the best to keep and to let go! Have fun!! Tomorrow, we head
home. To view the images from this day, use the link below:
To close out this story, we were up early the next morning, July 3, 2013. We packed the car, said
goodbye to the view of Longs Peak and headed home. I had set the GPS to take us back to Bob's
home, and to avoid the toll roads.. That worked great for avoiding the Denver toll roads, but before
long I found myself out in the middle of nowhere, but still going east, which is towards home.
However, this is not the route I expected!!! Finally I stopped the car, checked the map against the
GPS, and discovered we were going to be taking the northern route across Kansas, instead of the
I-70 route that we normally take.. So, I adjusted the setting in the GPS, and off we went. In short, I
think the GPS took us on a mostly southern path until we reached I-70 somewhere around
Burlington, then we headed east again! Not the recommended path to take, but we did get to see a
lot of very flat land.. So, if you are interested in seeing such country, try taking the backroads in
eastern Colorado, it is the opposite of what we saw in the Estes Park area.. Odd how two places
so close together can be so different!!!!
When it came time for us to get off the highway for the evening, we were in Junction City, KS. It
was here that we pulled off the road, called my concierge service again and asked for a room. We
got one, at an Econo Lodge. The first one we got was pretty neat, but this one was the bottom of
the pile! It got the job done, but barely... So, do not stay at the Econo Lodge in this town, unless
you have no other options!!! But, the fun did not end there. I was hungry for another burger, which
means we need help. The man at the hotel desk suggested a place that turned out to be closed,
maybe for the holiday thing! But, I found a local policeman, and asked him for the best place to get
a burger. He told me the best one was just around the corner, so off I went, only to arrive just as
the place was being closed for the holiday!!! We are not doing too good on this burger hunt! But we
know the main part of town is not far away and we head there. And, I have entered “Subway” in
my GPS. It says there is a Subway in town, now we have to find it before the place closes. I
assume that will be 9 PM, as many do. But, as we arrived in town, we found streets blocked off for
a street fair that was taking place! OK, so we have to find a way around this and get to Subway
before it closes, in just a few minutes by my estimation! We find the Subway just minutes before 9
PM.. I jump out of the car and rush to the door to get in before Subway closes, or else I am going
to be eating food bars for dinner this night! Then, to my surprise, the sign on the door says open til
10 PM!!! Super, we are in luck!!!!!!! And, Subway becomes the winner of the dinner deal again for
me!!!!! I should have bought stock in the place! Bob was not as hungry as I was this evening and
chose to pass on the Subway option!!! I guess some people can handle just so much of a goooood
thing! :-)) We have eaten a lot of Subway products on this trip!!! I think he prefers the Dollar
Burgers at McDonald's, but after seeing him eat one of those earlier, I could not bare to watch it
happen again. That is not real food!
With dinner eaten, we find our way around the fair and back to the hotel, where we catch up on
emails and then call it a night! Tomorrow will be the last leg of the trip home, and we will arrive on
the 4th of July!! I may be spoiled, but when traveling and staying in hotels, I like a hot shower in the
evening and again the next morning. Most hotel rooms these days supply only three towels for a
room with two beds.. Not sure who worked out the math here or the logic behind their thinking, but
for me, I want a dry towel in the evening and another for the morning!!! Most hotels will provide the
extra towel if I ask, but not this place!!!!! The room only had two towels for two people and when I
asked for the second one, they asked how many people were staying in the room, then refused to
give me an extra towel!! They said I could come back in the morning if I still wanted one then.. Do
you think I would recommend this place or ever think about going back there????????????
The next morning, the 4th, we were up early. Bob went for the snack breakfast, but I passed on
that and just had coffee. Might have had a food bar, but do not remember. Whatever it was, we
checked out and was about to leave, when I discovered the data card from my camera was
missing!!!!!!! UTTTT-OH, this is not good.. So, the search is on.. I go back to the front desk and
get a card to get back in the room to hunt for the card. NO CARD.. This is not good. I go back to
the car and start to go through my gear. When I opened my laptop, there lay the SDHC card on the
keyboard!!!!!!!!!! Saved! I had been using the card last night and had made the really nasty mistake
of not putting it back in the camera! Having found the card, I returned the key to the desk and we
were soon on the highway! Somewhere along the way, we stopped and had lunch, probably a
Subway, then headed home. As I recall, we arrived at Bob's home around 1:30 PM. His wife was
waiting to give him a big hug when he got out of the car!!! On the return trip through Kansas City, I
had passed on stopping by Kathy's for a second visit as we were fast tracking to get back home.
However, I did call her and explained the situation. Not an issue, we will catch up next time! I think
she and hubby Dave were going to sit on their deck and savor the day, relaxing!!!!!!!!
We unloaded Bob's gear, then I was off and back on the road for another 45 minutes of driving.
You might think this is where it all ends, but no, there is more fun!! I get home, I unload the car, and
take a nap. At the end of the nap, I still have time to drive back across town to a place near Bob's
home where I can join my camera club and do photos of the evenings fireworks! And, I do.. The
images from this fireworks show and the ones the following night, the 5th, can be seen on my site..
Both shows were very good.. I think you will like the images, if you have not already watched them!
Thanks for doing this adventure with me.. Not sure where the next one is going to be, but options
are being considered! So get ready to go again!