Into the canyons of Colorado

10 Oct

 

After a day of rest we were refreshed and so was the weather, still IMG_1216cold the rain had disappeared and we had blue sky again. Robert had found information on some old trains in Douglas downtown area so we stopped by on the way out of town to visit. I am not a train enthusiast but I found the diner car (called Silver Salver) which reminded me of an overgrown Airstream trailer, fascinating, not only that the tables were full laid for a meal but the beautifully preserved bar area at one end and beyond that a fantastic kitchen. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for the folk catering in such confined quarters, very hot I think, but they had more space than some modern restaurants!

Our enforced break had given us time to look at destinations for the next week or so. We have a booking in Colorado Springs on Tuesday 13th to get some outstanding warranty issues sorted and could meander towards it we thought via the Rocky Mountain National Park. Not wanting to travel too far each day, we average around two hours and somewhere between 80 and 120 miles, we decided our next overnight would be in Wheatland then down to Laramie. Robert liked the look of the nice twisty road through the mountains to Laramie and it proved to be very pretty, with views of the mountains in the distance. Laramie unfortunately did not appeal in the same way and after a brief stop at the local Safeway we carried on, crossing the state border into Colorado, passing through Walden, “capital of the moose”  to overnight in Gould, breaking our average by driving 160miles!

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Pumpkin display outside Safeway in Laramie.

Moose watching is best at dawn and dusk, dusk here is now around 6.15pm, so after a quick cuppa we decided to drive a few miles up the road to see if we could be lucky enough to spot one of the 600 moose in the area. We called at the closed visitor centre where a large replica moose was all that was on offer, then drove on a little further to sit in a pull off for about an hour with no luck, we did see a couple of mule deer but that was all. It was very cold overnight and we were up early and on the road. The visitors centre opened at 9 and we were their first customers. We chatted to the ranger there, got a little more information on what to look for and got back on the road scanning the willow beds as we went along. Within a few miles we had to stop for road construction, the flagger chatted while we awaited our turn to pass through the road works, he was cold and was contemplating the forecast snow and maybe a day by his warm fire instead of freezing on the highway. He IMG_1267eventually waved us on and we passed other workmen replacing the markers at the side of the road which indicate where the snow plough should work up to. Just as we emerged from the far end of the road works a huge bull moose crossed right in front of us, not only surprising us but the road crew too.

 

 

 

 

Our onward journey took us along highway 14 one of the States scenic byways, it certainly was beautiful, the remaining aspen leaves very yellow against the green conifer anIMG_1276d rocky mountainsides. We stopped by a small river and strolled down to the water to try photograph the scene. Some of the pictures we see can only be captured in the mind, photos can’t do justice to the real beauty of the countryside.

 

We were now a day ahead of where we had thought we would be and arrived in Fort Collins thinking we might have a chance to spend a couple of days there. Having gathered information from the Chamber of Commerce we took a wander around the old town in the sunshine. There are several micro breweries in the town and ideas were hatching with the beer drinker on sampling a few! We were even able to sit outside for a cup of tea around three thirty in the afternoon when we arrived at the campground it was so warm and sunny, however the forecast that evening did not bring good news.

Overnight was forecast to be very cold and next day would see snow arrive, the weekend also was due to be wet and snowy, Rocky Mountain Park looked like a bad idea. We thought moving a bit further south we should be OK and set off just after 10am, the snow had already started to fall in Fort Collins. As the day wore on the snow got thicker, the main roads were wet and clear but, the ground around was quickly getting whiter. Some of this was due to the fact that we were at around 5,300ft above sea level, most of Colorado is over 4,000ft and it had many areas 10 – 14,000ft!

I made a quick phone call to Cottonwood RV in Idaho Springs, the very helpful owner informed me the roads were dry there, fifty miles down the road, I could not quite believe the weather could be so different, however we pushed on. Driving down Interstate 70, just west of Denver, the fog was very thick, snow falling a little and blowing across the road, but, yes the road was dry. We turned off the interstate onto the local road and drove a mile and half along a small canyon road to the campground which was situated behind the owners lovely wooden home. We were given a warm welcome and we apologised for bringing them the snow which was now falling quickly! Soon we were sitting indoors, heaters on, eating a candle lit tea and watching the snow fall outside on quite a perfect picture of mountain cabins.

Having missed out on his brewery crawl Robert was quite pleased to discover that Idaho Springs had its own micro brewery with pub attached. We hoped, if the weather allowed to walk the mile and half into ‘downtown’ for a look around. Friday morning was very cold but bright and after a while the overnight snow was completely gone, however this was to be a short respite before another storm on Saturday. We set out around eleven on our walk in winter boots and, my last years Christmas present from Elizabeth of fingerless mittens got its first airing.

The old town buildings all dating from the late 1800 and early 1900’s are mostly well preserved, this was a gold rush town and this year has celebrated 150yrs of the first gold strike!IMG_1291

 

We walked the main street, down and then back to the ‘Tommyknocker brewpub’ where we ordered spinach and artichoke dip with garlic bread and parmesan and garlic french fries for lunch. Robert chose 5 samples from the 10 listed brews on offer and I had my first taste of root beer!

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Both food and drink went down well, the dip was very tasty and as this was our first indulgence in chips in weeks, they were thoroughly enjoyed! Root beer? – well, it was OK, perhaps a little sweet for my taste and I probably wouldn’t run back to order another one, but if you don’t try you don’t know!

Further along the main street we eventually found the Visitor Centre and looked around their interesting displays about the gold mining, how the land is now being restored and some local history and artefacts. These included the first fire engine, built by local men after the pub burned down as they realised how unprepared they were for fire! The reality was a house burned down too, the pub caught fire from the house, it was loosing the pub however which prompted the men to action. Why does that not surprise me?

On our walk back we passed a water wheel, part of the gold mining past, presently decorated for Halloween to look like a pumpkinIMG_1294. It was built by a guy called Charlie Tayler who attributed his good health to the fact he never kissed women or took baths – would the women have kissed him anyway, I wonder! The locals are proud to have restored the mill to its present condition and the bronze statue and plaque along with the wheel have a fund for their upkeep for the future.

 

The sun was now quite warm and the mittens were long ago tucked in the pocket, I took off my jacket too and enjoyed the sun. This is typical of weather here it seems it changes very quickly and tomorrow could be as different again, even as I type the temperature has dropped to 6 degrees and the clouds are building above the mountains to our left. This is why we still maintain the no plans regime, we will do tomorrow whatever we feel like and the weather allows.

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