September 13 – 16
We headed off from Rocky Mountain Park this morning aiming for Colorado Springs for a couple of days before a longer stay at Great Sand Dunes. Really, we are just biding our time for peak aspen color in the Gunnison area. We avoided I-25 and opted for a slower drive through the mountains. Listening to the news at home before the trip made it sound like all of western Colorado was burning, but traveling through very little evidence is seen. Our drive today was very nice. Plenty of changing aspen at the highest elevations, say 8500′ and above. Lower they are still only just beginning to show color. Another week should put us in a great position to see the hight of fall color. It should be fun.
We stayed at the Golden Eagle RV Park south of Colorado Springs. $30 per night, but it is away from the town and highway and very quiet. We needed laundry done and fortunately, because of the rain the past day or so, they had reopened it. The drought here is real. The fishing pond at the RV Park is a mud puddle and everything is bone dry.
Some changes were evident since our last visit. The road is now paved all the way to the top. Before it was paved only to about 10,000′. The road was always good, this just made it easier and a little cleaner to get out and in the car for pictures. The only part inexplicably unpaved was the very top parking area and visitor center. Still dirt, er mud and snow. Maybe it just never clears off long enough to pave.
Anyway, we made it to the top and did notice the difference in the ability to breath. Mary was light headed and headachy and in need of food – at least that was her excuse. Lunch was had, not good, but it didn’t make us sick, and we watched from the comfort of the cafe as the cog train arrived and disgorged it’s 40 or so passengers.
At the entrance to Pikes Peak, they warn you to have 1/2 tank of gas for the journey. We arrived with 1/4 and thought it would be plenty. Lets just say it was enough – juuuuuuust barely. My little gas light was lit for the last 5 miles down. But once leveled off, it also went off. I probably had a gallon or so to spare. Plenty right?
Sunday we visited Garden of the Gods. This is sort of a big community park but quite spectacular with lots of red rock spires jutting out of the forested landscape. We got a later start than I would have liked. I got another print accepted into the member show at Newspace Gallery in Portland, and had to get it assembled and FedExed off. Yes, I brought my prints and framing stuff, mats and shipping box along just in case I was accepted. So that took a while.
But we eventually got there. It was warm and getting warmer and it being Saturday, lots of people. I didn’t mind so much here though. It’s kind of fun seeing who comes out to use their park. Climbers are big here, families, young couples, tourist, all seem to enjoy the place. Saw a couple of other photographers working doing family portraits and weddings and prized locations.
By noon we’d had enough and found a cool spot for lunch. We decided to do a longer drive out to Cripple Creek to check out the scenery. Bad idea. 40 miles in Mary found what she thought would be a shortcut across the mountain back to Colorado Springs. We stopped at a visitor center to confirm the route, then immediately got lost. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson and had a full tank of gas for this – NOT. Then our basic relationship flaw reared it’s ugly head. Mary’s penchant to give up and go back, and my bullheaded need to finish what I start. This created an unenjoyable experience until there was no choice but to return – again with less than 1/4 tank. But until then, it was pretty nice! Lots of great scenery.
It was a very quiet drive back 60 miles home. When upset with each other, we have pretty much learned to not say anything until we cool down. That and a couple of Cuba Libre’s afterwards helped immensely. We decided we each were to blame somewhat and succeeded once again to never go to bed angry with each other.
In the morning, we packed up and headed out for Great Sand Dunes.