Summer in Colorado Part II: Boulder, Colorado Springs and Walsenburg


There aren’t many places I’ve visited where I’ve said, “I could live here!”  Boulder is one.  However, Boulder real estate is offered at California prices.  Boulder was the perfect place to park and hang out with my niece, Theresa, from Florida. 

I parked at the Elks Lodge in north Boulder (known as NoBo).  It’s in a very nice neighborhood surrounded by open space and the Lodge had a pool! 

Boulder is a college town, so therefore it has all the wonderful things a college town has to offer…good entertainment, shops, museums, and great restaurants.  I ended up staying in Boulder for five weeks, but during that time I flew to Florida to visit my family.

Theresa and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was a rainy and foggy day.  I was so disappointed because that the only day Theresa had to visit the park.  She never did get to use her new hiking boots.  I did go back to visit the park after I returned from Florida and the weather was perfect.

RMNP Rain and Fog for Theresa and I

Theresa is a huge Broncos fan and took a tour of the Stadium in Denver. We stopped by the LODO area downtown to have lunch and walk around.

Theresa and I drove up to Boulder Falls and just a short walk took us to the base of the falls.

We also went to Red Rock Amphitheater to see Killer Queen. As you might think…they play Queen songs and the lead singer looked exactly like Freddy Mercury and they sounded great.  Unfortunately, it rained throughout most of the concert. It was still a really good time. Red Rock Amphitheater was deemed the best music venue in the United States and it was really beautiful!

Killer Queen Concert at Red Rock Amphitheater

Theresa and I flew to Florida together and I visited family for a couple weeks.  There are two new family members.  Theresa is a grandmother!  Her daughter, Arianna had a baby girl, Ashtyn, and my nephew Michael and his wife Lauren had a baby girl, Eloise.  It was Eloise’s first birthday. It was a wonderful visit and I honestly had a hard time leaving.


After returning to Boulder, I had a few more things to check off my list before heading south.

Of course, I had to visit the famous Pearl Street.  It’s a very popular area for shops, galleries and great restaurants.

I spent a day in Denver to visit the Museum of Nature and Science.  What a wonderful museum.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were the visiting exhibit. In addition, the Imax theatre was showing a documentary on Bethlehem.  I’ve always wanted to visit the Holy Land, not because I’m religious, but because of the amazing history of the region.  I’d like to visit Egypt too. I wish I had done it years ago before the turmoil we have now. It was a wonderful and educational day. I ended the day with dinner at Fish and Beer in the artsy, fartsy section of Denver called RiNo (River North Art District).  The food was delish!

I did make another trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and this time the weather cooperated.  I had visited the park when I was 19 years old.  I remember it being beautiful, but I hadn’t seen places like Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc.  In comparison, RMNP is not that spectacular, but beautiful nonetheless.  The one thing that was unique was hiking on the tundra at over 11,400 feet. It was slow going, but I made it! The main road through the park is Trail Ridge Road and is the highest highway in the US.

RMNP Hiking the tundra
RMNP – The Top of the World!
RMNP – Tundra at 11,400 feet

The Rocky Mountains form one of the world’s longest ranges, stretching almost unbroken from Alaska to south of the border.  RMNP preserves a small but important section of the Rockies. The altitude is so high the growing season is only six weeks long. I have loved spending time in the Rockies this summer.

Colorado Springs

My next stop was Colorado Springs.  Ralph and I visited the Springs a few years ago.  I decided to stop halfway to the Great Sand Dunes and see a few of the sites I missed the first time around.

I was parked at the Elk’s Lodge and it was only a couple miles from the Garden of the Gods so I decided to revisit.  It is a beautiful red rock area and a good place to hike.

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Garden of the Gods
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Garden of the Gods – Kissing Camels

I drove the 30 miles to see the Calhan Paint Mines. According to Wikipedia, the Calhan Paint Mines is “a unique blending of geological, archaeological, historical and ecological resources”. What makes it unique is the grassland and geological formations of hoodoos, colored clay and sandstone-capped spires. Archaeological evidence, such as arrow heads and stone dart tips, has found that there was prehistoric and historic occupation by Native American peoples as early as about 9,000 years ago. The clay was used in prehistoric and historic times to create and paint pottery and as paint for ceremonial purposes.

Paint Mines

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The small town of Manitou Springs is just a few miles west of the Springs.  While I visited Manitou I toured the Miramont Castle.  The castle was built in 1915 as a personal residence for Father Jean Baptiste Francolon and his mother. The castle changed hands eleven times before the Manitou Springs Historical Society purchased the building in 1976 and saved it from condemnation. It is a beautiful building to tour and acts as a museum on this history of Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is also where you can get the cog train up to the top of Pike’s Peak.

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Miramont Castle


I have a love affair with sand dunes.  Therefore, I could not pass up the Great Sand Dunes National Park about 60 miles west of Walsenburg.  I parked at       Lathrup Lake State Park just off I25.  It was a really nice state park with electric and water hookups.  The sites have a lot of privacy. It was only the camp host and me for most of my stay.  Nice and quiet.

It was a beautiful drive to the Great Sand Dunes and the weather was nearly perfect.  I understand it can be very windy through the area.  The Dunes are nestled against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and are North America’s tallest dunes.  The dunes formed by eroded mountains, then shattered by freezing and thawing, and tumbled by streams and winds. I did not hike to the top of the dunes.  It takes a couple hours to hike to the highest dune and I didn’t arrive until 4:00 pm.  I wanted to get there when the light was right to photograph the dunes. I’m so happy I took the time to visit.  I will also visit the White Sand Dunes Park in New Mexico.


Highway of Legends and San Luis Valley

In the late 1800s, while much of the state mined gold and silver, the southeast region mined coal. Linked with this region are many legends and folklore. Such as the lost gold vein with nuggets so big, one nugget could provide enough wealth to live for a year. There is also the story of George Simpson who saved Trinidad from an attack from the Ute Indians by distracting them with taunts. You can explore these legends by traveling the Highway of Legends byway. Beginning in Trinidad, you can follow the Cucharas River, traveling through Cokedale, Cuchara, La Veta, and end in Walsenburg.  The byway is usually open all year and is 82 miles long. From the byway, you can see views of the Spanish Peaks as you travel through the San Isabel National Forest. The Sandstone walls of Stonewall also decorate the area, giving a Spanish appearance. The dikes of the Spanish Peaks protrude from the sandstone walls. Here, the ancient legend of the Devil’s Stairs was born. Long ago, the Devil came out from hell to survey the world, choosing the Cuchara Velley as his entrance. He would climb the steps and sit on the twin mountains (Spanish Peaks), plotting how to make it his. God learned of this, and noticing the beauty of the mountains and valley, took it as his own. He forbade the Devil to ever enter the area again, but the Devil’s steps still stand. It was a beautiful drive and I kept thinking what a great motorcycle ride it would be.



Ludlow Massacre Monument

Being the Union supporter that I am, when I heard about the Ludlow Massacre I was very interested.  The massacre  emanated out of a labor conflict. According to  Wikipedia, the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 hapless striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, with the National Guard using machine guns to fire into the colony. About two dozen people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for having orchestrated the massacre.

The massacre, the seminal event in the Colorado Coal Wars, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 25 people, although accounts vary. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, which lasted from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the miners against coal mining companies in Colorado. The miners striked because of the dangerous, deplorable, working conditions.  They were paid In “company money” and could only spend it at company stores.

In retaliation for the massacre at Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of anti-union establishments over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. An estimated total of 69 to 199 deaths occurred during the entire strike. It was described it as the “deadliest strike in the history of the United States”, and it is commonly referred to as the Colorado Coalfield War.

The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described this as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history”. Congress responded to public outrage by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the events. Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour workday.

Ludlow Massacre Monument
Ludlow Massacre Monument
Historic Photo After the Burn

My time in Walsenburg was short but packed full of great activities.

My summer in Colorado came to an end.  I have to say I think Colorado is my favorite state thus far.  I love the Rocky Mountains and the way Colorado appreciates and preserves their history.  And, people in Colorado really love the outdoors.  I hope to come back some day in the future.

Now it’s time to move south to New Mexico and a bucket list item for me; the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  I’ve been trying to get there for three years and I’m going to make it this year!

Till the next time…

Telluride and Montrose, Colorado


I’ve always been curious about Telluride.  Over the years I’ve read about the great skiing and the many celebrities that have homes in the area.  Now I understand why. 

Telluride Pano

Telluride is a year-round paradise for outdoor activities.  It has a National Historic Landmark District with gourmet restaurants, boutiques and fine-art galleries.  Telluride, like many small cities on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, has its history in mining.  There is a wealth of colorful, Victorian houses and a charming main street lined with buildings with clapboard and brick facades.  Telluride’s history is equal parts refinement (translate to expensive) and Wild West.  Butch Cassidy robbed his first back in Telluride. 

A little known fact about Telluride is that in 1891 the world’s successful, long-distance transmission of alternating current electricity (AC) occurred at Ames, Colorado and Telluride became the world’s first city to be electrically lit.

Telluride is surrounded by towering mountains with the highest concentration of 13,000 to 14,000 foot peaks in North America.  The Telluride area is the best the San Juan Mountains have to offer.

Telluride hike 1
Hike above Telluride
Telluride Hike 3
Overlooking Telluride

I camped at Matterhorn, a forest service campground.  It was a beautiful, wooded campground located 10 miles south of Telluride.  I had a dry camping spot next to a creek for three days and then I was able to move to a full hook up site for the next four days.  This park has a seven-day limit.  I would have stayed longer, but for the limit.

I was only able to take one hike while in Telluride.  The altitude was kicking my butt! I hiked the trail to Cornet Falls and a portion of the Jud Wiebe trail that follows a ridge overlooking Telluride.

I took advantage of several of the wonderful restaurants and visited the Historical Museum that is located in the old military hospital. 


Telluride Historical Museum
Telluride Historical Museum




900 year old indian blanket
900 year-old Indian Blanket


Dinosour signDinosour bones

There are several mining towns in the area: some occupied and some abandoned. I drove to Ophir, a tiny mining town still occupied. The current residents (about 200) are often isolated in the winter due to avalanches for weeks at a time.  A rough dirt road passes over the Ophir Pass to Silverton.  Most of Ophir’s residents work in Telluride.

I visited Trout Lake and took the dirt road up to Alta Lakes, which passed through another tiny mining town, this time abandoned except for a small tribe of marmots. There is camping at Alta Lakes, but just for vans and tents.  The road up was rough and I had to put my CRV in first gear at times, but I made it with only scraping the bottom once!  I can see why many RVers like to travel with a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle. I’ve heard there are more dirt roads in Colorado than paved roads.  And, I have to believe there are more Jeeps in Colorado than all the other vehicles put together.

Trout Lake
Trout Lake
My cabin
Should I buy it?
marmot 2
Marmot Family
Ghost building
Ghost Mining Town
Ghost building 3
Ghost Mining Town
Ghost building 2
Ghost Mining Town
Alta 3
Alta Lakes
Alta 2
Alta Lakes
Alta 1
Alta Lakes

While driving into Telluride I noticed something on the west side of the highway, down in a canyon.  I finally decided to stop and check it out.  I was surprised to see a semi and trailer upside down in the canyon.  Then I noticed the guardrail was missing.  Some poor trucker went over the side!  Someone placed a cross, so I knew the driver perished.  I inquired in town and was told this happens frequently in the area.  The trailer was full of sawdust and the first attempt to pull it up failed.  The day I was leaving the area, they were going to close the highway and try vehicle recovery once again with larger equipment.  I would love to have seen that!  To say I was overly cautious when driving the RV through the mountains to my new destination in Montrose is an understatement.

Overturned Semi
Overturned Trailer

My last stop before leaving Telluride was the Elks Lodge.  The original lodge building is located on Main Street.  However, the building was sold and the rent raised so high that the lodge had to move to a new location.  It’s in a small building on a side street and is the cutest lodge I’ve seen to date.  I went in to have a drink and talked with the female bartender.  Shortly after I arrived, three of her girlfriends came in and I had a great time talking with the local women.  The most fun time I’ve had at an Elk’s Lodge yet!

Telluride Elks
Telluride Elks Lodge
Elk girls
Elk Women

I hated to leave Telluride…it is my kinda place! Nonetheless, it was time to move on down the road to Montrose.


My next stop was about 80 miles down a beautiful mountain road to Montrose and access to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  My friend Debbie Hayward told me about the park that she had visited on her six-month trip around the country several years back.  I was not aware of this national park before that. I stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge for ten days.

“No other North American canyon combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness and somber countenance of the Black Canyon”, Geologist Wallace R. Hansen. The Gunnison River drops an average of 95 feet per mile and carves the steep canyon.  The walls are an average of 2,000 feet deep.  The rock walls are only 40 feet apart at “the narrows”.

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Black Canyon
Black Canyon River
Gunnison River which carved the Black Canyon
Black Canyon view
Black Canyon

I took the South Rim Road and stopped at each of the seven overlooks. The road ends at Warner Point and then I took the two mile round trip hike out to the point for a spectacular view of the canyon.

Another day I returned to the park to take the drive to East Portal and access to the Gunnison River. It’s a five mile drive with a 16% grade down to the river. The river moves so swiftly through the canyon that it is unsafe to swim at East Portal.  The Crystal Dam controls the flow of the river.

The Gunnison Tunnel is a Civil Engineering Landmark along with the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and the Durango and Silverton Railroad. It is an irrigation tunnel constructed between 1905 and 1909.  The tunnel is 5.8 miles long and diverts water from the Gunnison River to the arid Uncompahgre Valley and Montrose.  Pretty amazing! river.

Gunnison Tunnel SignGunnison Tunnel

Gunnison Tunnel 2
Gunnison Tunnel
Gunnison River
Drive to East Portal
Gunnison River Bottom
Gunnison River
Car at bottom of canyon

Due to the fire north of Durango, I was not able to take the Million Doller Highway from Silverton to Ouray and Ridgway. I was able to drive to Ouray from the north.  Ouray is another picturesque, small mining town nestled in the rugged and towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains.  It’s located in the valley at 7,800 feet surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks.  Colorado is full of these cute mountain towns!  Ouray is also known for it’s sulfur-free hot springs.


Ouray Silverton Road
Thank goodness they’ve improved this road!


Ouray has a colorful history of mining, ranching, railroad and Native American history. It is a well-preserved historic town. Two-thirds of Ouray’s original Victorian structures are still occupied. The Ouray Historical Museum documents the history in 29 rooms in the old hospital.  The movie True Grit was filmed in nearby Ridgway and at the Courthouse in Ouray.

Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Building
Ouray Victorian Building

I visited the Box Canyon Falls, which was formed when the rushing waters of the Canyon Creek eroded a deep and narrow box canyon through fault-weakened limestone.  There is an easy 500-feet hike via a walkway and suspension bridge that leads straight into the belly of the falls.  The sound of the force of thousands of gallons of water a minute rushing eighty feet to the canyon’s bottom is deafening.

Box Canyon Falls
Walkway to Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon
Box Canyon Falls

The box canyon is an important bird watching area.  It supports one of the state’s largest populations of Black Swifts (a protected bird), which nest in the canyon walls and overhanging rocks near the waterfalls.  These small birds fly from Brazil to nest in the box canyon in the summer.

Black Swift


I enjoyed my day in Ouray very much!

Then it was time to move on down the road to Gunnison. 

Until next time…