Sandy and Dan's Colorado Trip
I thought this was the best way to open this travel page which is a short narrative about our recent trip to Fort Collins, Colorado to visit my brother Dale. Of all the pictures we took of the beautiful and interesting places we visited in a few short days I think this HP Digital Camera picture sticks in my mind as the beauty of Colorado. But before I get ahead of myself I will tell you a little something about how the trip started.
Our trip began as a failed attempt to go visit our son Gary in Missoula, Montana. We had earned a free train ticket through the use of our charge card over the past year. Our original plan was to buy an additional ticket and ride the train to West Glacier, Montana. Along the way to making this happen Gary applied and accepted a position with Target Stores in Boise, Idaho. The Amtrak train does not go near Boise so we decided to try another route.
We had last visited Dale some 15 years ago and decided it would be a great way to use the ticket and have some time with him. We picked up the train in Osceola, Iowa, which is 45 miles South of Des Moines. After a slight delay getting on the train we had a very comfortable ride to Denver where we picked up a rental car for a short 60-mile drive to Fort Collins.
For those of you who haven't ridden on a train lately I will mention that it is not the trains of old that go clicky-clack all the way. The cars are double-deckers with two seats on each side. We sat near the stairs, which proved to be a bit of a distraction, while we tried to sleep.
The door you see connects to the next car and is the only way to get from car to car. The lower level has restrooms and other compartments that do not allow passage between cars.
We had about 20 cars on our train and 3 engines pulled us. There was a dining car and a lounge as well.
Although the ride was comfortable we had trouble sleeping and the only train available left Iowa at 9:00 PM, so it was a very long ride to say the least.
Dale had helped us arrange a motel very near his work place and we got together for dinner at a Thai restaurant where we planned our stay. Dale had arranged a day off to allow us a long weekend of sight seeing at some of his favorite spots in Northern Colorado.
Our first activity was to take a 4-wheel drive road in the Jack Creek area. This photo shows the road we came up in the snowy weather. Sandy and I have never traveled off-road before and enjoyed the ride. We were happy that Dale was an experienced driver and felt very safe on this adventure. We still can't believe the humps and bumps we crawled over during the ride up and down the mountain.
As we drove up the mountain we could see the snowfall from the day or two before and then it began to snow rather heavily. The clouds hung low but we did enjoy this view from the top.
This is the trailhead which takes you from the end of the road to the top of Baker Pass.
Since the weather looked rather threatening we turned around and headed down the road we had just come up. About halfway back to the blacktop road we stopped at Teller City which was a ghost town from the late 1800's. This was a silver mining settlement that is now just a wide spot in the road. The cabin that Sandy and Dale are investigating is probably not from the actual silver mining days but does remain as a marker for a city that once bragged of 1300 people with a 40 room hotel and a newspaper.
As you can see in this picture by the time we reached this point the snow had stopped and the sun broke through. It was a very quiet beautiful place to enjoy a sandwich before heading down the mountain to Fort Collins. As we got closer to Fort Collins the clouds moved in and we had a thunderstorm complete with pea size hail. Incidentally, some parts of Denver received 6 inches of hail from this storm and experienced considerable storm damage.
Since the weather put an end to outdoor activities we checked out the restored downtown section of Fort Collins, after all what would a trip be without some shopping? Dinner that evening was at the Rainbow Cafe which is a wonderful vegetarian establishment. Dale has adopted a total vegetarian diet so we got a chance to enjoy a type of food we have never had before. The menu did include some chicken dishes so Sandy and I found something we enjoyed as well.
The next morning brought clouds and some rain as we left the motel. I was sure that we were destined for a day of shopping or playing with the computer (I'll let you guess what I had in mind). But Dale assured us that the weather in Colorado always has a way of changing and the trip to Estes Park and The Rocky Mountain National Park was still a real possibility. The rain ended before getting to the park and we watched the clouds tease us with spots of blue but no real sunshine until later in the day.
We found that Trail Ridge Road was closed for the winter but Dale took us to one of the most beautiful places on this earth as a substitute. This is Bear Lake in the park and provided a very nice walk around the lake over a snow and ice covered trail. It was FANTASTIC! No we weren't suffering from altitude sickness, the air was cool and crisp with new snow on the trees and was just great for a short hike.
You see all our vacations to these parts of the country always come in the middle of the summer when everything is green. This is something we never get to see under normal travel conditions. This is a very popular place and normally you need to take a shuttle bus to get close to the place. The morning we were there a couple was getting married beside the lake, how beautiful. By the way the bride wore a beautiful ankle length dress with hiking boots.
This is another view of the lake with the low hanging clouds and snow covered mountains.
What a breath taking view.
Other sights this day included this beautiful stand of aspens that had managed to hold onto their leaves through the winter like weather. We missed the prime color but sights like this gave us a hint why everyone is crazy over the fall season in the Colorado high country.
Our next stop was at the Moraine Park Museum that was closed for the season. We had a wonderful view of the mountain ranges and took this picture of a cloud-covered Longs Peak. Dale and his friends have climbed this 14,000-foot peak but we will stick with this view. Us flat-landers can't imagine climbing to the top of such a thing.
We had lunch in the park but unfortunately the weather was not as nice, but at least the rain had stopped and we able to eat beside a creek that ran through the park. When we left the park we headed back to Estes Park for some shopping, Sandy just knew that there was a teddy bear needing a good home. And she was correct. On our ride back to Fort Collins we came across this group of aspens that were brightly lit by breaks in the clouds. Unfortunately this picture doesn't pick of the brilliance they displayed.
That evening we joined a couple of Dale's long-time friends for dinner at the Charcoal Broiler (sorry Steve, I just had to tell everyone) which Steve Frawley told us was the best place in Fort Collins for a good steak dinner. He was right, but I promised not to tell anyone, so I won't. It was a good end to our short stay, good food and good conversation with fun people.
Sandy and I got to meet another of Dale's friends the following morning. We visited his studio where Karl makes the most beautiful pottery. It is totally unique work that reflects the rugged beauty of Colorado. The photo below shows the vase that we purchased as our last souvenir of the trip. Karl is working on a web site so when it is up I will offer a link so you can see the wonderful things he makes.
We said our good-byes and headed back to Denver to pickup the train for our return trip. Of course we did kill a little time in a few antique stores along the way, just browsing since we had no room in our carry-on luggage. Dale was a great host and showed us sights we would never have seen so to him we say thank you. And to Steve, Bob, and Karl (if you see this) thank you for adding a final touch to a great trip.