Thursday September 22, 2016
We left the Quality Inn in Colby in a dense fog. We bought gas and headed west on I 70 with only about 80 miles left until we reached the Colorado border. Flat land and we assume it looked similar to yesterday – every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of the base of a wind turbine. As we neared the border we checked the altitude – we were at about 3,500 hundred feet so we had been climbing consistently since Colby which was around 2,500. The highest peak in Kansas was Mount Sunflower (appropriate name) at 4,039 about 20 miles to our south – we could not see it of course.
The fog began lifting a little as we stopped at the Colorado Welcome Center about 20 miles into the state. The terrain still remained flat with a few rolling hills as we continued to Limon where we would leave I 70 and head south to Colorado Springs. As we continued west the fog gradually lifted. After leaving Limon on US 24 we began to have some great views off to the west – Pikes Peak! Ben remembers reading the pioneers would travel 2-3 days to reach the mountains after they first saw them from the plains. I remember distinctly the view from a high point in Denver when attending a conference there some years ago before I had ever traveled in the west – the stark difference in looking east to the flat plains and to the west to the Rockies…. It is quite the dramatic change in terrain and in altitude. Beautiful today with clear blue skies!
Our plans were fairly fluid – we had some things we wanted to do in the Colorado Mountains and most of them were not in Colorado Springs. Ben had spent 2 days here several years ago with his scout troup on their way to Philmont Scout Camp. Their reason for staying the two days in Colorado Springs was to acclimate to the higher elevation before continuing on to Philmont and a hiking adventure. We wisely or unwisely said – “Let’s just continue on into the mountains as we did not think the “red rocks” here were going to compare at all to the ones we would see in a few days in Utah. We wanted to see the Colorado mountains and the Aspen trees which we had hoped would be in their glory…the folks at the visitor center confirmed for us they had begun turning about 10 days ago…...so off we went on through Colorado Springs on US 24 headed to Cripple Creek. We skirted around Pike’s Peak and continued through the touristy Manitou Springs, Woodland Park, and Divide. The aspen, green fir, and mountain rocks were outstanding.
At Divide we headed to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. This was a quite unique national treasure. In the formative ages of this earth – this valley had been a lush redwood forest and valley. It was covered by a volcanic eruption that buried the huge redwoods up about 15 feet. And all the insects, animals, and plants were fossilized. Today this area has some of the best preserved fossils and petrified wood to be found in the world. We ate a late lunch here and watched a very good film. We also took a couple very short hikes.
I was really beginning to feel strange – woosy and short of breath. The altitude was getting to me – we were at nearly 9,000 feet and had been at 2,500 this morning. I immediately began drinking lots of water – but still did not feel great. We continued on about 20 miles to Cripple Creek. The scenery was fantastic. High mountains with the Aspen and Evergreens with meadows turned a golden color with fall. There were many small farms and homes throughout the area. We passed 2 lama ranches and many with cattle, horses, and goats.
We rounded a curve at about 9,500 feet and we arrived at Cripple Creek – an interesting gold mining town that continues to mine gold but has also one of several towns in Colorado to legalize gambling. We arrived about 3 and drove directly to the RV site we had selected. Hospitality House and RV Park is a high end Bed and Breakfast with RV park behind it. The building was the Teller County Hospiital built in early 1900’s and restored some years ago as a quite unique Bed and Breakfast. The setting is beautiful with high mountain fields behind us. The town and exploring would wait for tomorrow. We checked in for 2 nights and continued to drink water and do nothing for several hours. By suppertime I was up to getting my “kitchen” organized, prepared brownie muffins in the toaster oven (a first and pretty tasty) and warmed the remaining half of our country fried steak dinner from Colby for our dinner. The activity was all I had in me for the evening – we read books and watched a movie.
Poor Photos for today - best I can manage - am better but still not 100% but wow do we have some great views for tomorrow! The internet connection here is very slow hope for better tomorrow or the next day to catch up!