"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods

What a wonderful place this is. So much to do that I am sure we will have to return and with my good friend Mary living here it will be a must. Mary and I lived together for 3 years when we were just out of college in Iowa City. Two of those years were with our friend Trudy. If you want a good chuckle you’ll have to picture the three of us; we all are about the same height from 4’11” to 5’1”. We took a lot of teasing but boy did we have fun. We ran together, went on ski trips, hiking trips to Colorado, camping trips and just plain had too much fun. I was even with Mary when she met her now husband Kevin. We were all at the 1980 Final Four Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. The Iowa Hawks made the cut that year and Mary talked me into camping out all night for tickets. She was working nights as an RN at U of I Hospitals and I was working days as a hygienist. What a crazy time. It is so much fun to have some time with her again. 
Siamese Twins
Tuesday, John and I hiked to Garden of the Gods, about half mile from the campground. We had been here before with our kids, so some of it looked familiar. It was also a little bit like a piece of Sedona plopped down in Colorado Springs. The only thing I don’t like about this park and hiking here is the horse poop. They have lots of trail rides and the poop is all along the trail so that you have to really watch your footing to avoid it and for me that takes some of the fun out of the hiking. It was a very nice day so when we came back several hours later we just sat outside with a little wine and dinner.
Cadet Chapel exterior

Organ loft of Protestant Chapel
Wednesday we headed to Mary’s house to pick her up and head to the Air Force Academy. This is one of the things we didn’t do the year we brought the boys here. Did you know there is a High School on the property? It’s not just a base school either, it’s just one of the area high schools so you would see school buses coming in and out. Recently they shut down part of the area to military personnel only and what’s interesting is the high school is in that area. Not sure how they handle that but it is so new that Mary took us to the South Entrance to find out that now visitors must enter only at the North Entrance and then when she tried to take us through the loop to see the high school we were turned away at another check point for the same reason. She asked the young man guarding the gate about it and he said the policy is fairly new. We were able to go to the visitors center & Cadet Chapel. The Chapel is beautiful. The main chapel is a Protestant chapel but there is a Catholic church area in the basement along with a Jewish and Buddhist temple. All are absolutely beautiful areas. This building won a lot of architectural awards and it is easy to see why. 
Catholic Chapel

Buddhist Temple

Jewish Temple
After our tour we took Mary back to the trailer for her to check out our home. It made for a nice relaxed visit. This also was John’s birthday (the big 60) and so we met Mary’s husband Kevin for dinner at Amanda’s Fonda just across the street from the park for dinner. It was a great day.

Janie & Mary
Kevin, Mary and John(birthday boy)
Thursday was an at home day of laundry, groceries etc. Sometimes it is hard for people to understand that when you live in your rig at some point all those things have to be done, even though it was a beautiful day and we were surrounded by all these great things to do. 
Friday Mary called and was taking the son of a friend to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and invited me along. Marcus is in the 3rd grade and had the day off from school. 

Mary and Marcus being checked out by the giraffe

Don't you love that tongue?

This is a great little zoo built on the side of the mountain. They have a great giraffe exhibit but I think our favorite of the day were the river otters at feeding time. Marcus made it fun too; we laughed at how when we arrived he wanted to see everything as fast as he could but by noon he was dragging up the hills. I so remember those days with my own boys. If you are in the Springs and like zoos you should check this one out.
This guy would kiss your hand if  you put it up to the glass.

Today we are going to hike to downtown Manitou Springs and do a little shopping and then later meet up with Mary and Kevin to check out a couple micro-breweries. The weather today and tomorrow is suppose to be a little iffy so it may affect what we do. No matter, like I said at the beginning, we will be back. So much more hiking and biking in the area and a few other attractions we won’t get to this trip.

Happy Trails.......................

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lathrop State Park, Walsenburg CO

View from our site at Lathrop State Park
Snow at the top of Wolf Creek Pass
Saturday we left Durango and headed East. Our destination was Lathrop State Park near Walsenburg CO.  On this route there is one big obstacle, Wolf Creek Pass, its summit is 10,857 ft with significant 7-8% grades. This is the highest pass we have yet to tow on. The truck now has a high performance transmission and an exhaust brake all installed to help us with just such places. So it was time to see how the truck would do. It definitely tested the truck but using 2nd gear and on the steeper parts just slowing down made everything run smoothly. One cool thing that came with the Banks system is a monitor that monitors just about everything on the engine. One of the things John watches is the exhaust gas temperatures(EGT). When it get too hot it beeps at you and lets you know to let up on the throttle. It did beep at us a couple times and just made us aware it was time to slow down. The truck has plenty of horse power so it would be easy to go faster but this way we know when it is a good time to back off. We took a little break at the top in a parking area across from Wolf Creek Ski Area. I remember this spot from the times we came and skied this are of the state. This is the most snow we have seen all year. The decent went very smoothly and soon the most challenging part of the trip was over. There is one more pass but it was a piece of cake.
Another view from our site.
We arrived at Lathrop Park mid-afternoon and there were still plenty of places open. All the sites are non-reservable until May. Since it was the weekend most of the sites with the best views were taken but the one we found was pretty good. The park is on a Horseshoe Lake and there is a walking/biking path all the way around the lake, a little over 2.5 miles around. I think we would have liked to have stayed longer but I made reservations in Colorado Springs so two nights were all we’d get. This is definitely a park I would come back to and if you find yourself on I-25 in southern Colorado I recommend you make a stop here.
We made the short trip to Colorado Springs and the Garden Of the God’s campground. The site is typical RV Park with close sites and more like a parking lot with hook ups but it is convienient to the things we want to do. It is nice to have FHU for a little while too. There is a bike trail that we can get on and bike or walk to Manitou Springs and we are within walking distance of Garden of the God’s. Its hot today but we are still going to head to the park to do some hiking. We’ll have to take a lot of water with us. 
Tomorrow is John’s birthday; maybe I’ll get him to write something about turning 60. Hard to believe I’m married to such an old man. :)
Happy Trails.........................

Friday, April 20, 2012


A beautiful last night at Navajo Lake. Golden hour lighting!

I’ve been really lazy about writing the blog this week. Sorry, but been out having fun.

Thanks Bill and Char for a great week!
We left Navajo Lake and our friends on Tuesday. On the Sunday before we left, we all took a ride around southern Colorado. Checking out Bayfield and Durango. It was a beautiful drive and in the process we decided to make our next move to Durango and a park called Alpen Rose. It is more expensive than we usually do but it is a nice park and near the things we wanted to check out.
Starter Hotel, a real gem.
We have really enjoyed Durango, it has a wonderful downtown area. On Sunday we had drinks at the Strater Hotel with Bill and Char and fell in love with this town. I have been in Durango previously when I was young and my family came to Purgatory to ski. Purgatory is now Durango Resort. This also is the home to the Durango to Silverton narrow gage railroad. We went back and forth on whether or not to take a ride. Right now it only goes to Cascade Canyon. Well, the budget won out and we decided to keep that ride for another time when we can go all the way to Silverton.
So instead we wandered downtown and checked out  craft brewery. On Wednesday it was Carver Brewery. We did like the brews and lunch but our server was not very well educated on the brews which was evident when he delivered our beer and thought John’s stout was the brown ale I ordered. If you’ve ever seen the head on a stout you’ll know why I knew right away and traded John. John wasn’t feeling very good so we headed home early and relaxed the rest of the night.
Ska Brewery, Durango CO
Thursday we decided to find the Ska brewery that got excellent reviews online and as a bonus found it was close to Home Depot which we needed to visit. This is a brewery only so we each tried one and they were excellent. John also found a t-shirt he liked and since his birthday is next week we bought it as his birthday gift. The waitress here recommended a place downtown for dinner so after Home Depot we headed back downtown. Lady Falconburg’s Barley Exchange we enjoyed a wonderful lunch/dinner and if you are in town I’d check it out. You can tell a lot of locals eat here.
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde NP
Balcony House
Now after 2 days of eating and checking out craft brews it was time to be more active. One of the things high on my list was going to Mesa Verde National Park. So today we drove the 36 miles to the park and we are so glad we did. This is a beautiful and fascinating place. The cliff dwellings are impressive and if you are able I would highly recommend the Cliff Palace Ranger tour. It only cost $3 each and was worth it to learn the history of this area. We also did a couple short hikes and wanted to go on one of the longer hikes but by the time we checked out the Spruce Tree House, Sun Temple and the museum we simply ran out of time. The weather was perfect and it was a wonderful day.
Tomorrow we are going to take off and head to Lathrop State Park near I-25. Our friend Bill says it is a wonderful little park and for awhile yet it is all non- reservable. This will put us a little closer to Colorado Springs. The drive tomorrow will take us over Wolf Creek Pass which I hear is 4 lane now but will be the highest pass we have towed on but I think we are ready and it should be fun. :)
Happy Trails.......................

Friday, April 13, 2012

Navajo Lake State Park New Mexico

View from our site at Navajo Lake

We left Cottonwood Arizona on Monday morning and drove to Gallup, NM. We knew we would need to break up our drive to Navajo Lake so decided to do a Walmart stop. We don’t do those very often but sometimes it just makes sense. We went in and did some grocery shopping, I got my hair cut and then there was an Applebee’s close enough to walk to. A noisy night but all in all an ok stop.
Our sites sits at the top of the hill overlooking the lake.
Tuesday morning we took off and arrived at Navajo Lake State Park to spend a week camping with friends we met last year in Tucson. The site we reserved was a pull over that is just barely big enough. Char was already there, and with her and I helping we were able to get the rig where we needed it. The spot is tight but the view makes it worth it. This park does not have the big open spaces we have experienced at the other NM state parks but it is a beautiful lake. There are lots of houseboats on this lake and you can tell it is a big fishing lake too.
Char and Bill spend a lot of time at this lake as they live close by in Farmington. They also have an Excel 5th wheel and in fact it is the same year and model as ours, a 2010-RSO. Bill is still working for a while but Char is already retired. They are on the way to becoming full timers for a while and then extended part timers. We have had a lot of fun getting to know each other better and checking out the similarities and differences in our rigs. I think we are most amazed at the differences since they are the same year and model.
We haven’t really done much except enjoy the park, workout and lots of visiting. I keep meaning to get a photo and then we get talking and I forget but I will definitely get one before we leave. Bill and Char have traveled a lot in this area and Colorado so we picked their brains on what we should do from here. After lots of discussion we decided to go up and camp in Bayfield for a 4-6 days next week and then go on to Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods. I have a close friend there so hopefully I will get to see her too. Bill just came across this area with their rig so was able to give us a great overview of Wolf Creek Pass and the rest of our trip. I did reserve a week at Garden of the Gods when I found out that until April 30th their winter rates are still in affect and the price is much better, just $165 a week vs $245 or more starting May 1st. Our week is April 23-30, just sneaking it in.
The rest of our time here will be dictated by the weather. A system is coming in starting tonight that could bring in some rain and maybe even some snow. This park is at over 6000 ft elevation, so if it gets cold enough we could see some of the white stuff. We have a few ideas for things to do but it may be a time to just hang out in the rig; time will tell. The good thing is, it should warm up starting Monday and Tuesday so any snow shouldn’t last long. This is a more unsettled time of the year so we are trying to build in some flex time to get where we are going. Mother nature has her own agenda most of the time and we will be doing some mountain driving so we will play all our moves by ear, always watching the weather. 

Happy Trails.............................

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sedona, Prescott, and some down time.

Fay Canyon

Been pretty lazy the last couple of days. I think all of our running around caught up with us and we just needed a little down time so I am finally sitting down to let you know what we’ve been up too.
View from mesa at top of Doe Mountain
John liked the bark on this tree
Thursday we headed to Sedona to do a little hiking and check out the town. It definitely is a beautiful area. The town is nestled in the lovely red rocks. We stopped at the visitor center to get the scoop on some hiking and get a map. The guy we talked to recommended Doe Mountain and gave us maps and directions. I had some suggestions from friends too but this one sounded like one we’d enjoy. We followed his directions to where we thought the trail head was but didn’t find it we went a little further and found a parking lot but the trailhead was for Fay Canyon. This hike looked pretty easy so we were there why not take it. It was a very nice hike and at the end of the rail we met a couple who spend a lot of time in Sedona and they had a real hiking map and saw that the trail head for Doe Mountain was just a little further down the road so  back to the parking lot we got in the truck and this time actually found the trail head. This hike was definitely more challenging with lots of switchbacks all the way up to the top of the mesa. What a beautiful view from the top. You can walk across the mesa and view the red rocks on that side too. The climb is only .7 miles but it is all uphill. It is rated a moderate hike and I’d agree with that assessment. Glad we did this one. There are so many hikes around here you could be here a month and not take them all. We thought we’d come back another day but we ran out of steam and didn’t make it back. guess we will just have to visit the area again.
Once we were done hiking we decided to check out Oak Creek Brewing, we hate to miss out on a local microbrew. it was a bit of a challenge finding a parking place but we finally did. The brewpub is in a shopping area so we also checked out some of the shops on the way in. This is a very busy place, maybe a little too busy for our preferences. We made it into the brewpub and ordered there brew sampler called “The Seven Dwarfs”. It is nice that they give you enough in each sample that we were able to share. The brews are ok, not as good as many of the other microbreweries we’ve been to but we always enjoy the experience. We also got a couple appetizers and I have to say their crab cake appetizer is delicious. Time to head back.
Friday we visited Prescott. We were here last year when we drove up from where we were staying Cave Creek. This time it really was more of a shopping trip. They have a brand new Trader Joe’s so I got a few thing I forgot when were there last. We also had to get to Hobby Lobby because I had some thread I was missing for my next project and John needed a few things at Home Depot.  it was lunch time when we arrived so we headed to the town square and a brewpub we had been to last year. The Prescott Brewery is very good and we feel the quality of the brews are far better than the one in Sedona. So lunch and shopping made for a good trip. we decided to take the scenic road back and hopped on 89A. It is a curvy mountain road but a beautiful drive. 
After the week at the Grand Canyon and hopping around this area by the time Saturday arrived all we wanted to do was relax. So that is what we’ve been doing. We did do our workouts both days but after that John watched the Master’s Golf tournament and I read and worked on my cross stitch. Sometimes you just need to slow down and enjoy. When we were at Home Depot we found a hummingbird feeder and John had a plan to mount it which worked like a charm. so while I was out relaxing I did get to watch a couple hummingbirds. 
A beautiful sunset at Dead Horse Ranch
We’ll have to visit again someday and do more hiking in this area. We really like it here. Its a little bit desert and a little mountain, nice combo. Tomorrow we are off to New Mexico again. Our destination is Navajo Lake State Park up in the Farmington area to camp with Char and Bill that we met last year in Tucson. They have an identical rig so the twin rigs will be planted there for a week. Tomorrow night we will probably only make it to Gallup and just do a Walmart night. Hope everyone had a Happy Easter!
Happy Trails.......................

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Word verification

Last night before my last post, I switched over to the new blogger format. Today I went in to change a couple settings that Rick talked about on the comments, (went to embedded comments), when I checked the settings it turns out when I made the switch it turned the word verification back on. Got it turned off again, I think. Sorry if it popped up for anyone, it is such an annoying feature.

Happy Trails.........

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grand Canyon to Cottonwood

Snow! Can you see John and I in the reflection?
Sunday we did our last hike at the Grand Canyon. We picked up the Rim Trail where we left off at Bright Angel lodge and headed on foot this time for Hermit’s rest. It was a much cooler day and pretty breezy but we just dressed warmer and headed out. It turned out to be a beautiful hike, I think this part of the rim trail has some of the best views. We made it to Monument View and hopped on a shuttle back to the trailer. Not too long after we were back and relaxing, we looked out the window to find snow flakes falling. The snow got a lot harder and the wind picked up and for about an hour it looked like winter outside. The snow stopped as quickly as it started leaving about enough behind to cover all the grassy areas but the roads stayed clear. We have seen a few flurries over the winter but this was the most snow we have seen in two years. 
View from our site
Monday it was time to move on. It was cold hitching up but within no time we were on the road headed to Cottonwood AZ and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. We chose this as a base to checkout the Cottonwood, Sedona and Prescott areas. We’ve read about the area and we looking forward to some good hiking as well as the quaint towns of this area.
Jerome AZ
Tuesday morning we drove into Old Town Cottonwood for breakfast at the Red Rooster Cafe. It was excellent. Then it was time to find a laundromat and we found a very nice clean facility on Main Street. Its always good to get that chore over with. On the way back to the park we noticed the sign for Jerome just 11 miles away. Instead of heading back to the park we headed to the old mining town of Jerome (glad we weren’t pulling a trailer up this road). I have read about this place in a couple of blogs and it was fun. It really sits on a steep hill and has a great view of the valley. Lots of little shops kept us entertained and we stopped for lunch at the Mile High Grill. It was ok, not great but it was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. I have to say we were surprised how many people were there on a Tuesday afternoon. It was definitely a busy place. Someone told us there are still spring breaks going on.
Can you see the Great Horned Owl on the nest?
This morning after our workouts we headed out to do a little hiking in the park. We wanted to hike along the Verde River and maybe a couple of the lagoons. Our map of the park has some of the hiking tails but definitely not all of them; it took us a while to figure out which way to go but we finally found the trail we were looking for. One of the bad things about this trail is they also take horseback trail rides along it so you are constantly stepping around horse poop. Along the river we stopped and talked to another RVer who was out looking for birds. We walked together for awhile and were treated to a Great Horned Owl sitting on a nest and then a little further another bird that he though was an Osprey; didn’t know they had those here. Once we got to the Lagoon we also came upon a Blue Heron that seemed comfortable around people. He was right next to the trail and wouldn’t fly away until you were right by him. Made for some good photos. It was a nice hike and I got photos of three cool birds. I’d say that’s a nice day. We finished it off with a fire this evening, which for me always makes it a great day.

Tomorrow we are headed to the Sedona area. Checked with a friend who use to live there (thanks Lu) and we will do some hiking and check out the microbrewery there. I think its going to be another great week.

Happy trails.............