Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our Colorado Experience

Once again we were on the open road after leaving Four Corners - heading southeast in New Mexico to Interstate 25.  Unfortunately, the winds were starting to pick-up and we were tired after a long day of travel.  Right outside of Santa Fe, we pulled into a Rest Area – no slides out for this evening – to stay the night off the road because of the heavy winds.  The next day we got started and headed north into Colorado - Rocky Mountain country - picking Pueblo as our next destination. 

Time to get the RV settled in for a few days!  The Escapee camping listed Haggard’s RV Campground in Pueblo West and that is where we headed to set up home.  The campground is owned by a very special couple, Nancy and Matt, who definitely make your stay extra special.
Matt & Nancy Fetty

Everyone is family here, so please check it out if you are in the area, as we would highly recommend this campground. Click here to view their website: HaggardsCG

Facing the beautiful snow capped mountains

Just one of the sunsets seen
With our home established for a few days, it was now time to explore the area around Pueblo – scenery that is quite amazing as we’re sure you’ll agree – as we set off on our Jeep adventures here in Colorado. 

First stop on our itinerary from the campground was the Royal Gorge Bridge in CaƱon City (pronounced Canyon) which is about 28 miles west of Pueblo.  This deep chasm is spanned by one of the world’s highest suspension bridge, 1053 feet above the Arkansas River.  This area is closed right now but scheduled to open sometime August 2014 because of a devastating forest fire that destroyed some 50 buildings last year.  At the lookout point, Jeff was able to get a great photo of the bridge.  Then we noticed after driving a short distance on the road out that we had quite an opportunity for yet another great photo.  This one is of the Arkansas River, meandering through the canyon.

Royal Gorge suspension bridge
Arkansas River

Kay and her flowers ~ it's spring!
A look at the loss of trees after the fire.

Someone just didn't want us to go!

Some merchants have opened for tourists.
Okay, now we are on Day 2 for something spectacular . . . Jeep Trip anyone?  They call it The Gold Belt Tour ~ National Scenic Byway.  The ride began about 10 miles west from the campground, where we connected with quite a unique road named the Phantom Canyon Road.  This byway route retraces the railroad route of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad (F&CC).  The railroad hauled rich gold ore from the mines near Cripple Creek and Victor to processing mills in Florence from 1894 to 1912.

No trout here - too shallow!

The start of a spectacular jeep ride.
The road conditions on Phantom Canyon Road are unpaved.  There are definitely steep drop-offs and in some areas it narrows to one lane so you will not see vehicles that are over 25 feet in length (definitely a no-no!).  The trail takes you through towering monoliths, through tunnels and over bridges – hard to believe that a railroad traveled where the Jeep was going many years ago.

These roads start getting narrow

A very small creek bed

Tunnel #1

Lots of windy roads ahead

Not too close to the edge!!!


Tunnel #2


Bridge #1 and still climbing

Wood deck bridge

From Jeff's window the road below


More narrow roads - we didn't meet anyone here!

They call this spot "The Ledge"

Starting to see Aspens among the Spruce trees

More climbing . . .

Our picnic spot!

A little waterfall!

The signs that say "Watch for Falling Rock"

Our first sight of snow this winter!
These rugged and remote areas are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Colorado Division of Wildlife – some 27,000 acres total.  It took us about 2 hours to travel the 32 miles. Starting elevation was a mere 5,180 feet at the main trail head and rose to a mighty 9,730 feet when we reached the town of Victor (pop. 450).   Kay’s ears popped quite a few times!

Driving a little further you enter authentic Colorado gaming in Cripple Creek, where if it’s casino action you’re looking for there are endless slot machines (13 casinos total).  We were there only for the mining history and to take a few photos of the surroundings.  Sorry to say that we didn’t make it in time to Bronco Billy’s for their $.49 breakfast (served from 2a – 11a.), but that’s okay!!!
Main Street in Cripple Creek

Painting above Police Department

Stopped here for lunch
A very cute restaurant

Old mining equipment from the 1800's

Tailing's that are over a mile long as it is wide


Driving into Cripple Creek

The drive back to the campground was beautiful as our descent in elevation through the San Isabel National Forest was quite an experience (5-6% downgrades).

More snow.

What a surprise to come across this lake

A long stretch of unpaved road.

Much better roads for the trip back.

If someone told us that we would see a Castles in Colorado, we were definitely on it.  On the brochure states, “Built by ONE MAN with the help of God”.    We live for the excitement of something so unique and different that we had to experience this 160 feet tall structure named, Bishop Castle.
Serpent's head to the far right

The Castle was begun in 1969 as a one room stone cottage by Jim Bishop and is located in Colorado City.  Click on Bishop Castle to view their website.

We took some great photos of this unique stone structure with its unusual angles, stained glass windows and winding staircases.  The sign paraphernalia around the site was pretty unusual too!
The entrance to the Castle

Very interesting way to say "Welcome" isn't it?

Some of the beautiful stained glass windows

Photo taken from the second floor.

It looks like quite the construction zone

This little fellow caught my eye

Quite the set of stairs to climb.

The main room - definitely unfinished

The backside of the Castle

Very unique structure.

Well, it looks like we will be hitting the open road just as soon as this wind stops.  When it gets windy here it’s a killer.  The sky looks so ominous.  But we understand from the campground owners that this is pretty typical for spring in this area.
Very low clouds on a windy day.
Our travel plans at this time is to continue to drive north – definitely staying away from the Great Plains area during their tornado season – to Rapid City, South Dakota and then head east.  We can’t believe that our winter travels are almost over and realize just how fortunate we are to have met so many great people on our journeys.  The sights have really been awesome!

As our friend, Jess would say, we “ROCKED” this winter!  We'll pick up with you when we return to our home in Wisconsin.  Take care!

Hugs to all ~ Kay & Jeff