Ahhh, Colorado

I remember hearing George Strait sing “Baby Blue” when I was in high school. Something about those lyrics, “Blue like the Colorado skies,” always got me in the feels, as my kids would say.

I didn’t really know what that meant; I had never been to Colorado.

Mountain path leads from our campsite on a ridge down to the creek.

When I was researching colleges and saw that two of my top selections for my major were in Colorado and Wyoming, it was a no-brainer. Sight unseen, that is were I was going. Sorry, not sorry, Cornell.

I don’t regret that move for a second. I’m a little sad that I moved away after eight wonderful, though hard, years. I can’t regret all the friends I’ve made and experiences I’ve had since, especially when I can return regularly for vacations.

Dispersed camping in the Rio Grande National Forest. We were 8 miles away from the highway on fire roads. We saw no one for three days. Although a herd of cattle tried to keep us from getting water at Hat Spring.

Sigh. It’s almost like going home, except better. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

In Colorado, I can explore, be a way from people, remind myself of what I like best about myself, commune with God and nature. 

The view from our campsite. We could see a waterfall and hear the roar of the creek well below the ridge. A ruby-throat hummingbird and his mate visited us multiple times a day, going so far as to taste my husband’s ear.

The last few times we’ve visited, my husband and I have taken our kids with, tried to show them why we love the wilderness.

Dispersed camping means hauling your own water in, which necessitates a good water filter. Also, there were no campfires allowed, but we’ve invested in a great butane stove, which we’ve even used for smores.

This year, we had to make a difficult decision. We planned to go to Idaho in August for our annual vacation, but that would have meant my husband flying one way and many hotel rooms coming and going.

We all know 2020 had different plans. By May, we decided Idaho was a lost cause for this year. We also knew that while we did not want to take a nasty virus to our favorite rural towns, we needed to escape the city and explore the wilderness for a bit.

The ghost town of Winfield once competed with Leadville with a population of almost 2,000 people.

We decided to visit my favorite place in the entire world, a beautiful mountain valley in the central mountains. We packed almost all our food and were the only ones wearing masks at gas stations and the two hotels we stopped at. 

Beautiful hot spring next to the highway. If I hadn’t looked up hot springs, we would have had no idea we were driving past.

With a bit of anxiety, we visited friends. We stopped at a hot spring outside of Aspen to show the kids how they just gurgle up. No stopping or even swimming allowed. Forest rangers shooed us away, but not before I got a few pictures.

We visited three ghost towns and searched for a fourth that appears to have disintegrated in the 20 years since I last visited it.

At the top of Independence Pass, between Aspen and Leadville, my husband and boys hiked a bit. An ankle injury prevented me from going far, but gave me the opportunity to take photos of minuscule alpine flowers. 

Alpine flowers are tiny. I played with my macro settings and am delighted with the way some of these turned out.
This still doesn’t capture the small scale.
These are even smaller.
Alpine plants are so delicate that they can take years to recover from being stepped on. I was disappointed there were no signs to stay on the trail on top of Independence Pass.
This was my favorite flower. It reminds me of a strawberry blossom.
Capturing both the tiny flowers and the mountain view with decent focus was impossible with my camera. Not even the auto-focus succeeded.

We dispersed camped in two different national forests. I love dispersed camping, but at least one of my children decided he does not. There are a few rules to follow when disperse camping. You must be so far from roads and water. You have to provide your own water. You also need to dig your own toilet.

The lovely penstemon was near one of our campsites.

However, usually, you don’t have to share your area with anyone else. In the good old days, 20 years ago, my favorite valley was a well-hidden secret. I knew it wouldn’t be any longer, so we timed our stay between Monday and Friday. Monday afternoon, we had a huge area to choose a campsite. By noon on Thursday, our area was filling up to the point that it was tough to find any privacy. We waved goodbye at 9 a.m. Friday, thankful to escape the crowd.

Nothing stays the same, does it? 

I’m glad we made the trip. Staying isolated is easy in the wilderness, much more difficult even in the small towns when others aren’t as concerned about a virus as you are.

Who knows when we’ll have the opportunity to go again? I hope we can aim for Idaho next year, but I suspect that Idaho will be out of reach for the next several years. 

I, and several friends, miss international travel this year. 

The wilderness beckons.

Travel safe. Watch out for one another.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.