Wednesday, October 28, 2015

From Colorado Springs, CO, to Almost Alone in the Wilderness at Raton, NM

10/21-22/2015. Wed.-Thurs.  Time to head further South after 3 nice weeks with our fellow RVing friends, even with the truck problems we had.  We headed out down I-25 towards just across the border into New Mexico and the town of Raton, which is Spanish for “small rat”.   Unfortunately, it was raining the morning we left, and our friends met us at a local Wal-Mart to say goodbye and let us know they would catch up to us on Friday in Albuquerque.  Therefore, the fog and rain didn’t give us any decent views of the mountains.  Some areas were mostly hills with sprawling ranches.  My, my,my, it was foggy when we arrived in Colorado Springs, and then foggy again 3 weeks later when we left! 

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We dove South over the Raton Range and Pass located north of Raton. The Raton Range is a 75-mile-long ridge that extends east from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  Raton Pass had been used by Spanish explorers and Indians for centuries to cut through the Rockies, but the trail was too rough for wagons on the Santa Fe Trail so the town became a stop on the trail and a principal trading center of the area.  Today the town is close to being dried up.  The whole place was so run down with lots of places boarded up and buildings that gave up on the idea of maintenance!  Not a place we would want to stop again. 

Doug found the NRA Whittington Center campground on  and it is located 15 miles southwest of town.  Wow! This is quite a complex.  Founded in 1973, it is the largest NRA shooting range in the US covering 52 acres.  It hosts national competitions as well as high powered rifle and skeet shooting.  Plus the center has a nice visitor’s center and a restaurant.  Deer, Elk, Bear, and Mountain Lion hunts can be arranged.  Nice cabin and lodge rooms are also available.  Somebody put a good deal of work into creating the place.  We think much of the money comes from donations by hunters from all over the US.  But the center is definitely in the middle of nowhere!

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Now the bad part. It was still raining pretty hard when we arrived.  Once we checked in and passed through the entrance to the grounds, no more nice paved road!  We drove 2 miles down a dirt washboard muddy road to the campground.  What a mess!  By the time we parked, our white truck and RV was brown.  We also thought the price of $30 a night was way over priced to park in dirt/gravel and prairie grass.  We did have full hookups but the sites were close together and no other amenities other than a bathhouse.  There were some pull-through sites along the perimeter but passed on the one assigned us because it was a steep dip and so overgrown that there would be hardly any space to get in and out of the RV.  We chose a pull-through site more out in the open.  I was so upset over all the dirt and mud that I wanted to cry!  But stubborn me! The next day I took the long handled scrubbing brush and brushed as much of the dried dirt off as possible. 

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I think we were the only actual campers in the whole place.  There were 4 other RVs there but we think they were work campers. 

Doug picked this place, also, because a review talked about all the wildlife.  Sure enough, the first evening, 5 Mule Deer stepped out of the bushes behind us and walked right by our windows.  The first thing early the next morning, a Jackrabbit appeared and sat right behind our window.  I was so glad the review of the campground was accurate.  It helped to make up for the rain and mud! 

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The next day we were rewarded with one of those rare perfect blue sky and fluffy clouds day!  We could see the surrounding countryside for miles right from our site.  It was a little chilly with a nice breeze but just perfect.  Funny how something starting out rotten can turn out to be a gem of an experience.  It was so serene. 

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We were surrounded by pretty scenery.  Uh, oh! Photo bombed myself!

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Since the place was noted for wildlife, we decided to go “hunting” after breakfast.  We hit it just right!  We got our wildlife fix as we drove down some of the other dirt roads on the grounds. 

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We were even rewarded with a nice sunset.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hiking in The Garden of the Gods with Friends in Colorado

10/19/15 Sunday.  God had his coloring book out again!  It was such a gorgeous day with the dark blue skies and light clouds that just seemed to enhance all the colors in the Garden of the Gods.  We met up with our friends, Ron and Yvonne, to visit the park and hike together.  The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago.  In 1859, two surveyors who helped to set up Colorado City suggested that it would be a "capital place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."

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In 1879, Perkins and a friend friend purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins' death, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, with the provision that it would be a free public park.  Helen Jackson wrote of the park, "You wind among rocks of every conceivable and inconceivable shape and size... all bright red, all motionless and silent, with a strange look of having been just stopped and held back in the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe.

The park is a loop drive through the colorful rock formations with parking areas and pull-outs for hiking many of the trails.  The park is very popular and parking is at a premium.  Even by 10 AM that morning, people were driving around, and around, and around the parking lot for a long time just waiting for somebody to leave.  We managed to catch a vehicle pulling out at just the right time. 

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The first parking area is the most popular for the most popular trail.  It was warm and beautiful outside.  Perfect for hiking.  The trail winds through the colorful rock and is nicely paved.  The formations are huge and awesome in their towering height.    There are several natural arches among the formations.  The camera was clicking away at every turn.

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As the trail takes you in and out among the rocks, you get some nice views of Pike’s Peak in the distance. 

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You also can see nice views of some of the colorful formations from the trail.  

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At a higher point off the main trail, is a dirt and timber stairway to even more distant views.  Lots of folks climb even further out over the rocks for more panoramic views but I went as far as was comfortable for me.  I try to push my fear of heights sometimes, but a least I give it a good try. 

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Time to head back and continue our loop drive.  Yep, just about everyone on the trail wants their picture taken at this formation. 

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The 2nd most popular stop is Balancing Rock further along the loop up, over, and down through the rock.  The area is also popular for horse back riding and groups can be arranged at the visitor’s center.  I need to do that!  Jeep tours can also be arranged.  Sure makes you wonder how this huge rock got where it is and what keeps it there!  The sky and clouds behind the rock make it look even more awesome.

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After our visit to the park, we finished off the afternoon with our friends with good food and conversation at a Mexican restaurant neither of us had tried before.  What a pleasant day!  We sure are going to miss our friends this winter.  They have been so nice and gracious to us.  They will be in Tucson, AZ, and we will be 2 1/2 hours North in Surprise, AZ.  We will certainly arrange to meet over the winter season.  They will catch up with us for a few days in Albuquerque, NM, as they make their way South to AZ.  Even with the truck problem, we have had a great time here in Colorado Springs, but we are ready to be on the road again to the next adventure!