Wednesday Sept 21
I expected Kansas to be boring having heard cross country tales of Kansas and Nebraska having so much sameness. Instead, by sticking to secondary freeways (Rts 36 & 50) we got to see a great deal. Roadside banks were covered with a 'new' bright yellow flower which a little research turned up to be a Maximillian Sunflower. Sunflower is the state flower of Kansas.
Equally ubiquitous are the wind farms and parts of the huge wind turbines. We drive past one area that had acres of parts! Fields of turbines follow in Spearville Kansas.
Near Dodge City, we pass
acre after acre of feed lots brimming with cattle being fattened before the kill. Once in Colorado, near the southern town of Lamarr we encountered a solid mile long of feedlot after feedlot, filled to capacity. This is no small farmer operation but a corporate one. No signs! We pull into the John Martin Reservoir State Park outside of Lamarr where we choose the upper campground on the reservoir. It is deserted except for us, all the electric sites being below the dam. Alone, we watch a spectacular sunset followed by thunder storms that flash and light up the sky for hours to the south.
An hour later, I understand why it is deserted - thrips & mosquitos invade our space. Armed with a Citronella candle and a fly swatter, I declare war. Hours later and over a hundred dead bugs littering our surfaces, I concede as somewhere the little buggers are getting in the van and the task is never ending. We sleep with the high pitched zings in our ears.
Thursday Sept 22
We are in SE Colorado and heading for Denver today and an evening with my other Kentucky cousin Bobbi Walker. Since it is only a 3-4 hr drive, we decide to take the long way thru the Rockies. From Salida north, every mile gets better! We peak at Leadville (literally) where piles of lead stacked to their 'angle of repose' line the road at 10,200'.
Our destination in Denver is Walker Fine Art, Bobbi's gallery of fifteen years. She specializes in abstract paintings and sculpture, installations and corporate art. Her dedication to her dream coupled with her determination, never-quit attitude, and masterful layered marketing has paid off! I'm in awe at the pieces she has on display. One artist has cut and dipped in resin books into three pieces unlike anything I've ever imagined!
Working closely with her artists, Bobbi's counseling has paid off for both parties. This is the kind of relationship most artists yearn for with their galleries. Bobbi is a size one powerhouse who lights up any room she walks into. She is an active participant in the Denver Art Community and her gallery is declared one of the Top Ten in Denver!
We stay overnight in her home of 25 years, an art-deco era building with original woodwork, chandeliers and pewter door knobs! We walk to an excellent restaurant where we dine al fresco.
Friday Sept 23
More nostalgia in the morning for me as we head to Boulder where I attended college at Dear Old CU - Univ of Colorado - from 1966-1970. We drive thru the campus that has augmented by over 5 times! I recognize little but the lovely sandstone they use for all the buildings. I knock on the door of the Pi Phi House, my home for Soph- Senior years. I'm let in and allowed to freely roam the three stories of this, the largest Pi Phi house west of the Mississippi. Little has changed but for updates to the baths and kitchen area. The girls are super friendly and I talk with several for a while.
Our destination today is Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
As we travel along the 3/4 loop of the park road, we are in awe and Collin remarks that it is every bit as grand as the Road to the Sun in Glacier National Park.
We find a campsite at Timber Creek CG on the west side of the park. A front is coming in as we wander across the meadow to the Colorado River's beginnings. It is the rutting season for the elk. We hear the haunting ethereal bugling of multiple elk across the valley as we wander along the stream.
As we approach camp, we encounter a small group of five elk just 15 yds from the CG. No one else in the campground notices them and we tuck away our private memory.
Saturday Sept 24
We awake to a 3" dusting of snow, thankful for our cozy tiny home and our warm night's sleep.
Our intention of driving back thru the park, perhaps stopping to hike, is dashed with the news that the pass at the summit at 12183 is closed till the weather lifts and thaws the icy roads. We've already booked a second night at Timber Creek CG so we head out to make a larger clockwise northern loop to get back to the town of Estes Park. It's cloudy with intermittent soft flurries or sleet and patches of sun. And it's spectacular! The turning of the aspen leaves is at its peak! Elk are everywhere.
Our northern loop thru Walden and Marshville is through the Poudre (Poo-der) Canyon - a 90 mile ride of extraordinary scenery. Not the dramatic peaks of the Park but a luscious fertile landscape of cascading streams, rocky cliffs and brilliantly colored aspen.
Once back in Estes Park we find it filled to capacity. We luck into a parking spot and a table with view at the Sun Deck Restaurant where I wax poetic over the fresh trout almandine and fried onion rings.
Too late to try to return to Timber Creek CG on the west side of the park, we chance that the Full Aspenglen CG might have a cancellation due to weather. The nice woman at the CG tells us there is one tent sight reservation cancelled and we go to see that indeed our van will fit perfectly!
Once settled, we hike upward along a horse trail to a vista of the valley on the other side.
Sunday Sept 25
Up early, we drive thru the southern part of the park to Bear Lake. It's early enough that the roads are not chocked full and it is a spectacularly sunny day at a crisp 40 degrees. I long to paint but we are going to cover a lot of miles and a lot of mountains today. We spot a coyote carrying a deer or elk femur.
Once out of the park, we head down to Golden, then south to Evergreen and over the Kenosha Pass. Apparently the word is out that there is a spectacular display of aspen at the pass as the line of cars coming from the west side is over 20 miles in length! Thankfully we're going the other way! It is a great patch of Aspen but truly we've been seeing comparably awesome spectacles the whole day. We turn west again in Buena Vista to go over the Cottonwood Pass at 12,126. We see a hiker I speculate may be attempting the Continental Divide Trail, one of the big 3 (with Appalachian and Pacific Crest) and reputed the most difficult.
All waters run eastward from this side
and west from this side.
At the 'base' of the divide is Taylor Park Reservoir where we find a fabulous campsite overlooking the reservoir. I count 26 peaks in front of us of the Elk Mountains!
Collin calls his dear friend Bernie in Sequim WA and tells him how much he loves Colorado and, had he known of this wonderland, he would have moved here 30 years ago! We have been talking all day of the idea of moving to Colorado.