20200808 Rocky Mountain Hotter and Hotter

I’ve dropped the ball! Getting ready to write about this year’s trip (2021) I realized I hadn’t yet posted last year’s trip! Last year’s trip (2020) to Rocky Mountain National Park was Mama Bear’s maiden voyage. Mama Bear is my brand-new Coachmen Galleria Class B motorhome. My friend Karen Brown came along for a bit of backpacking and a bit of RV glamping. There were wildfires burning in far west Colorado, giving the entire park a smoky haze. The park was limiting visitation due to Covid 19 so we were expecting empty trails, socially distanced campsites and more wildlife than usual with the lack of people. None of this was the case!

We started out with high expectations. All went well on our first day on the road until around mid-day I noticed one of the tires wasn’t registering pressure on the display. Pulled over as soon as possible and discovered the driver side outside duallie was flat. And it’s 102 degrees. Oh joy. We were somewhere near Henrietta, Texas, out in the flat flat flat Texas plains between Fort Worth and Amarillo. Now, I carry in my wallet at least three roadside assistance accounts, but for some reason I decided to scrabble around in the Galleria documentation for something. I found a Forest River roadside assistance plan included in the purchase of the vehicle. I called, they dispatched Ken’s Tire Service and three hours later we were rolling again. While waiting I called ahead to our Amarillo stop and confirmed no problems coming in late.

With the exception of the flat tire, the normally deadly dull drive from Houston to Amarillo passed quickly with two old friends catching up after months of isolation. Karen turned out to be the BEST co-pilot, navigator, research assistant, tour guide, travel agent, flight attendant, cocktail waitress, chief cook and bottle-washer ever!

Mama Bear at Oasis RV Resort in Amarillo

We rolled into Oasis RV Resort in Amarillo about 8:30 at night. I’ll never be heading for Amarillo as a destination in itself, but for a quick overnight on the way to Colorado, this is my go-to. Nice big, wide, flat concrete pads, full hook-ups, pool, spa (Covid restricted for now). Right down the street from my favorite truck stop to fill up/stock up/air up before heading out in the morning.

I’ve always loved the second day drive, watching the Amarillo plains start to carve out, foothills pop up, the desert begins to give way to a bit of vegetation. At Texline you suddenly realize you’re finally out of Texas, and a hot minute later you’re in Clayton, New Mexico. A hop and skip past that and you’re climbing Raton Pass, the mountains begin to rise, the Hallelujah Chorus starts playing in my head because now I’M IN COLORADO!!!!!!!!!

A quick stop at my favorite converted Pizza Hut in Walsenburg and we were off to the mountains!

I loved the drive from Walsenburg to Salida last year so much I wanted to duplicate it again. From Walsenburg, we took US69 through Westcliffe, Colorado 1A to Cotopaxi and US50 to Salida. This night was planned to be unplanned. We purposefully made no reservations. Sure enough, we landed in the Four Seasons RV Park near Salida, full hookups right ON the Arkansas River headwaters. There’s a constant stream of rafters, kayakers and paddleboarders coming down the river right at our feet. Fun to point and giggle and wave. The children are the best, they get so excited when you wave at them from the bank! The standup paddleboarders provide a bit of comic relief. I had no idea anyone used paddleboards on moving water.

The next day we pressed onward to Grand Lake, through some absolutely magnificent scenery. In Grand Lake we had reservations at the Winding River RV Resort. Unfortunately, they were repaving the road and we had to drive around in circles for an hour waiting for the driveway to be clear again. Winding River was put on my list of places to bring the family back, but unfortunately it was wiped out by a forest fire just months after our visit.

The next morning we emptied the fridge, shouldered our packs and took off for the Lower East Inlet backcountry campsite. This was Karen’s first backpacking trip, so I planned it for less hiking and more camping. The goal was to camp Tuesday night, dayhike to Lone Pine Lake on Wednesday, and hike out on Thursday. We didn’t quite make it to Lone Pine before we ran out of time, but we had a lovely hike in the mountains and that’s a destination in and of itself.

Thursday we drove Trail Ridge Road over to Moraine Park for some car camping.

We were unable to hike at Bear Lake due to size restrictions. (trailhead parking must be under 24 feet) By that time we’d gotten word that Suki was doing poorly at home, so we changed plans and headed to Colorado Springs where cell signal was better. Karen found us the delightful little Pike’s Peak RV park in Manitou Springs and a fun Segway tour in Cheyenne Canyon.

Fun over, it was time to head home. Once again the drive flew by in the company of a dear friend. All too soon we were home and back to reality. But kisses from Rick and slurps from the dog girls made it all better!