Archive for September, 2011

Put this one on your Bucket List – Durango to Silverton on the Railroad

September 20, 2011 - 7:17 pm 1 Comment

We actually got up by an alarm clock this morning so that we could get breakfast and make it to the shuttle stop by 7:20 a.m.    Three other couples from the campground got on the shuttle and we all were boarding the 8:3o a.m. train for the trip to Silverton.   The weather was nippy this morning but we had plenty of layers.    We packed out backpacks last night with jackets, snacks, and water.

The train is over 100 years old and it is a coal fired steam locomotive.    The train was full and there were two open air cars (which we chose not to ride due to the cold temps), and several other train cars.   We were on the San Juan car (named for the mountains around us).   Everyone on the train is retired, and we all got to know each other during the 3 hour trip to Silverton, 2 hours in Silverton, and 3 hours returning to Durango.    We’ve been on several nice train trips, but this one is by far the most beautiful.   The train travels at an average of 18 miles an hour.   So you can see every little rock and tree along the way.   This trip to Silverton goes through the Cascade Canyon, and follows the Animas River.   There was a Naturalist who roamed the train answering questions and telling us about the canyon.  The word Animas means “soul”, and in the 1700’s when Spanish conquistadors were in the area, several of them fell into the river and perished due to their heavy armor.   The Spanish then named the river “the lost souls in purgatory” but most locals call it “Animas River”.

Sometimes we were right along beside the river, and then we would climb up to the top of the rim of the canyon and look way down at the river.   The scenery was just beautiful.   We arrived in Silverton around noon, so the first order of business was to find a place for lunch.  If you’ve ever heard of Guy Fieri on the Cooking Channel (Diners, DriveIns, and Dives), you’ll know we had a delicious lunch at one of his restaurants called “Thee Pitts”.   Smoked chicken and pork and the best sides you’ve ever had.   The building was pink and you’ll notice the pink car in a couple of the photos.  Silverton is a small city that thrives only when the train runs.   The train service stops for the winter at the end of October, so I guess the town folds up for the winter as well.   It’s very remote.   After lunch we had time to do a little shopping.   Lots more turquoise and coral silver jewely.   I’m in trouble…..

We boarded the train again for the trip home and the train turns around so your seats that were on one side on the way to Silverton will be on the other side going back to Durango.   So you get to see the entire trip from both sides of the train.   We arrived home around 6:00 p.m. and had dinner in Durango before getting the shuttle back to the campground.

All I can tell you is the photos don’t do the trip justice.  The comradarie was so much fun and we met folks from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas,etc.   It was just a fun experience.

We’ll spend one more day in Durango and then move on to Pagosa Springs.  Stay tuned.   Bonnie

Shop til You Drop in Durango Colorado September 19, 2011

September 19, 2011 - 1:24 pm 1 Comment

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast (pancakes!) and after cleaning up, picking up, etc, we walked to the front of the RV park and met the town shuttle.  Within minutes we were in the middle of downtown Durango.  Durango is a very old town and still looks much the same as it did 100 years ago.   Then again, the outskirts look like any other modern middle-size city.    We had a great morning looking in all the stores on Main Street.    I particularly enjoyed a store called Durango Trading Post.   It had native american jewelry which I happen to be partial to.   So I had fun picking out a few pieces of coral and turquoise.   We had lunch in a great place called Ken & Sue’s.   I was told about this restaurant by someone from Durango who is on our Winnebago forum.   We both had turkey wraps—that sounds very common but they were filled with turkey and all kinds of stuff—super delicious!!    We caught the shuttle back to the campground around 2:00 p.m.    The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and dozing.  Weather is absolutely perfect!!   Cool temperatures and low humidity.   At 5:28 p.m. the Durango Train came by the campground.  We all take our chairs out to the edge of the railroad and watch the train go by.   Everyone on the train waves at us, and we wave back.   It’s a little tradition that we all enjoy while at the RV park.

Durango has a long and rich history that both history buffs and curious folks of all ages enjoy. Durango was founded in 1880 by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. By July of 1882, tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began transporting both freight and passengers. The Durango-Silverton Railroad was originally constructed to haul silver and gold ore, but passengers soon realized that it was the view that was truly precious.   With this history in mind, we will take the shuttle into town tomorrow and take the train to Silverton.   We expect this to be a fun experience.    Stay tuned.  Bonnie

Hello from Durango Colorado Sunday September 18, 2011

September 18, 2011 - 6:00 pm No Comments

We really hated to leave our campground in Mesa Verde this morning.   It was one of the nicest parks we’ve ever enjoyed.   We had a good breakfast and took our time leaving.   It’s an interesting thing about RV parks—some parks are very hospitable, by that I mean campers move around freely and meet each other and visit in the evenings.   Some parks are nice, but people stay to themselves and do not make friends.   The Mesa Verde park was beautiful but the campers did not mingle.   The couple next to us was from Germany and they stayed to themselves.  But this morning when I walked by them on the way to the bath house, they were setting up their table outside their RV for breakfast, including a cute little vase of flowers.   Americans generally eat inside their RV, and the Europeans generally like to eat outside, more of an outdoor adventure.   We Americans really take our nice parks for granted.

We drove 35 miles to Durango this morning and our first stop was an Albertson’s grocery store to pick up a few items.   Then we drove to our RV park, which is the United Campground of Durango.   I chose this park because the town shuttle stops right in front of the park and will take us to the train station and all points downtown Durango.   The most interesting thing about this park is it sits right beside the narrow gauge railroad which the train uses for the trips between Durango and Silverton.   So every morning and evening the RVers walk to the edge of the campground and wave to the folks on the train, coming and going.   All the folks on the train wave back.   It’s a lot of fun and a beautiful sight.   This train is a coal fired steam engine, more than 100 years old.   We will take this all-day trip to Silverton on Tuesday.   Tomorrow we will take the shuttle into town to do a little shopping.

Speaking of the friendliness of RV parks, although this park is older and not as “nice” as the one in Mesa Verde, it makes up for it in the beauty of the area.   Also, we met the nicest couple next to us in a huge Phaeton RV, towing a car and they have a motorcycle on the back.  They are from Houston, have a 35 year old son who graduated from the Air Force Academy, and 3 grandchildren.  You know how it is when you meet a person and you just click?   Both of them were just so easy to talk with and fun.   They are moseying around Colorado and then will head off to Tucson Arizona for a while.  I asked if their son had been deployed and they said he was a Major in the Air Force and had been to Afghanistan twice and Iraq once.   They said his opinion of Iraq was that it was a lost cause.   So you don’t have to go there to have the same opinion, do you?

We are enjoying a beautiful evening outside in our chairs.  The weather is milder than it has been in a while so we are enjoying the outdoors.

Stay tuned.  Bonnie


Mesa Verde National Park September 17 2011

September 17, 2011 - 2:43 pm No Comments

We had a big rain last night—-we left our awnings out when we went to bed and I got up around 11:00 p.m. and ran outside in my pajamas to bring the awnings in.   Greg was so sound asleep he hardly knew I was gone!!   lol

We actually set the alarm clock so that we could get up at 6:30 a.m.  I found a guided tour that we could enjoy today so rather than us driving through the park, we drove over to the ranger station, parked the RV, and waited for the bus.   In Trotter tradition, we were 30 minutes early.   To make a long story short, we were the only ones to take the tour this morning, so we had the driver all to ourselves.  We were in a van and had plenty of room.   We really lucked out with the driver—he’s a lifelong resident of the area and LOVES the park, and it showed in his tour.   We started the tour at 8:30 a.m. and he dropped us at our RV at nearly 2:00 p.m.   He was so knowledgeable about the park and loves it.   Every time we stopped, he would explain everything about the area, and even showed us different plants and what their uses were back hundreds of years ago.    At lunchtime he brought out an ice chest and we had sandwiches and bottled water, chips and a granola bar.  Although we brought water and snacks, this lunch really hit the spot.  You wouldn’t believe how much we hiked today.   We were exhausted when we got back to the RV.   The weather was nice early in the day but by lunchtime there was a big cloud so we chose to eat lunch in the van.   By the time we ascended to the entrance at the end of the day, we saw snow on the sides of the road!!!   We had very unusual weather today!!!

The Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt.  Here is preserved an extraordinary record of the Ancestral Puebloans who made this place their home for more than 750 years, from A.D 550 – A. D. 1300.  Mesa Verde preserves and protects nearly 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, and over three million objects and archives in the research collection.   We visited the “Spruce House”, the park’s best preserved cliff dwelling.  We spent time in the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.  We also saw many excavation sites all around the park.   Our guide said there are still many sites that have never been excavated, and you can see remnants of pottery at every turn.  Archeologists have struggled to understand these people’s lives.  We will never know the whole story:  they left no written records and much that was important in their lives has perished.   But these structures speak of  a people adept at building, artistic in their crafts, and skillful at making a living from a difficult land.  They built their dwellings beneath the overhanging cliffs.  Their basic construction material was sandstone that they shaped into rectangular blocks about the size of a loaf of bread.  Walls are tall and straight and have stood the test of time.

We spent some time in the laundry this afternoon after returning to our RV park.   We will leave in the morning for a short drive over to Durango, where we will spend 4 nights.   While in Durango, we’ll make a day excursion on the Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad which travels between Durango and Silverton.   I’m ready for some retail therapy and I think Durango and Silverton will fit the bill.

Stay tuned.  Bonnie

Montrose to Mesa Verde in the rain September 16, 2011

September 16, 2011 - 1:12 pm No Comments

Happy Birthday our sweet Olivia!!  She’s 2 years old today and although we celebrated her birthday on Labor Day (because we were leaving town) we still want her to know we are thinking about her today.  Well actually we think about her and Grayson every day!!   We’ll talk with them soon.

We stopped at WalMart on our way out of Montrose under cloudy skies and cool temperatures.  We drove the Silver Thread Highway to Mesa Verde.   What a great trip.   It only covered about 150 miles but every single mile was beautiful scenery.  We passed through Ridgeway, Colorado, a small town that had a “Dennis Weaver Highway”, so we assume this was the home of Dennis Weaver.   Those of you who remember Gunsmoke will know who he was.

We stopped at the visitor center in Ridgeway and there was a most interesting Ford automobile in the parking lot.   I took a few photos to show you.   The entire trip today was through the back country and we saw some aspens changing colors to yellow, but for the most part, the trees aren’t changing colors yet.

We stopped at the Lizard Head Pass in the San Juan Forest for lunch.  We had a slow drizzle but the scenery was just breathtaking.   Low clouds hung over the mountains and there was  a fine mist of rain most of the day.  We ascended to 10,222 feet today and the temperature dropped to 40 degrees.   The mountains in the photos are called Sheep Mountain and are at an elevation of 13,000 feet.   Plenty of ice and snow on top of those.

We stopped for the evening at the Mesa Verde RV Park, right across from the entrance to the Mesa Verde National Park, which we will visit tomorrow.  We’ll spend two nights here and then drive over to Durango on Sunday.

Stay tuned.   Bonnie

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Montrose Colorado

September 15, 2011 - 2:53 pm 1 Comment

We had such a great little campground last night.  The Monument RV Park near the Colorado National Monument was just perfect.   Most campgrounds are like mini-neighborhoods.   Every morning, the folks who stayed the night are taking their walks before heading out for the day.   Just like us, most RVers are ready to head out around 9:00 a.m.

We drove from Grand Junction to Montrose today.  It’s only 62 miles, but it’s a beautiful drive.  We checked in at another great little park, the Cedar Creek RV Park, in Montrose.   This park is nestled in huge trees, is very level, and has all the hookups, a little exchange library, and even a mini-golf course that is complimentary to the RVer’s.   After we checked in and had lunch, we headed out to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which is only 12 miles from our RV park.   This canyon has been a mighty barrier to humans from the beginning of time.  Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation—not even by Ute Indians living in the area since written history began.  The first written record of having seen this gorge came from the Hayden Expedition of 1873.  The canyon is named “black” because it is so deep, so sheer, and so narrow that very little sunlight can penetrate it.   Early travelers found it shrouded and foreboding.  This area was proclaimed a national monument in 1933, and a national park in 1999.  The river was named for Captain John Gunnison, an explorer who found it but bypassed the gorge looking for a river crossing.  The trip around the canyon rim was only 7 miles so it made a nice afternoon trip.   There were 12 outlooks during the 7 mile drive and it was a very dramatic afternoon.

We returned to the campground around 3:00 p.m. and just after we got everything hooked up we had a downpour of rain.  We stopped at a produce stand on the side of the road on the way back to the park and bought some tomatoes and fresh corn.   We will have baked talapia, fresh salad, and corn on the cob for dinner tonight.   We will start driving south tomorrow toward Telluride and end up in Mesa Verde for the evening.

Stay tuned.   Bonnie

Rim Rock Drive,Colorado National Monument Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14, 2011 - 4:01 pm 1 Comment

This morning we awoke in the River Dance RV “resort”—I use that term loosely because they advertised (in my Good Sam book) they had WiFi, cable TV, etc.  When we checked in, they had no such thing.  They only had electricity and water.   On top of that, there was only ONE restroom for the entire park.  Well, enough of that.

We drove through canyons this morning and although we only drove 100 miles today, what a scenic drive!!!   We drove through one canyon after another until we reached Grand Junction, Colorado and the beginning of the Rim Rock Drive through Colorado National Monument.

In 1907, John Otto began promoting the area because he felt it should be a national park.  In 1911 his dream came true—Colorado National Monument was established.  This park is a masterpiece of erosion.  One of my photos shows Independence Monument, the largest free-standing rock formation in the park.   It has taken millions of years to carve the many massive rock spires, huge domes, balanced rocks, stone pedestals, and sheer-walled canyons that make up the scenic splendor of the park.   The drive around the rim of the canyon is called the Rim Rock Drive.  This drive offers 23 miles of breathtaking views.  The road climbs from the Grand Valley of the Colorado River to the park’s high country, then winds along the plateau rim.   The drive had breathtaking scenery at every turn, and this too was a “white knuckle” journey.

After our drive through the park we have stopped for the evening at a great little rv park in the shadows of the canyons we just drove through.   Tomorrow we will head south toward Montrose Colorado.  Temperatures are still cool and it’s perfect fall weather!   Stay tuned.  Bonnie

White Knuckle drive on Trail Ridge Road, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 14, 2011 - 3:20 pm 1 Comment

We awoke this morning with deer all around.   We had a great night’s sleep.   The people who frequent these parks seem to be more aware of their neighbors than in “RV resorts”.   Most every camper followed the rules to the tee and left their sites as clean as they found them.   Moraine Park Campground is near the Moraine Park Meadow, where Elk are plentiful since this is mating season.  We saw many elk this morning as we were leaving the campground.

The Trail Ridge Road is the road between the eastern entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park and the western end of the park.   It is a 48 mile trip through some of the most beautiful country we’ve seen.  The elevation went from around 8,000 feet to over 12,000 feet.   The drop-offs on one side were unreal, with no guard rails.   I drove for about 5 miles at the beginning of the road but it was too much for me so Greg took over.  I’m not kidding, we’ve been on some huge mountains, but this may be the highest.  At the beginning of our ascent, the hills were full of spruce trees, then we ascended to the “tree line” or the level where trees can no longer grow.  There was plenty of snow in crevices.   And one amazing thing of beauty:   We saw, in the distance, a little lake that must have been made from snow runoff, right in the middle of the side of the mountain.  You’ll see a photo of it.  The road was very well maintained.   The entire park is one of the best maintained parks we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.  Some of the signs on the road were “dangerous snow fields ahead”, and “be prepared for dramatic change of weather”.   When we left Moraine Park around 9:00 a.m. the temperature was around 52 degrees.   At the height of the elevation the temperature had plummeted to 34 degrees.  Since we are at the end of the season up here, most campgrounds have already closed or are closing by the end of September.   The visitor center at the top of the ridge had already closed.  And darn, there was a huge “store” where I felt sure I could have done some serious shopping!  LOL

Never fear, even if all the facilities were closed, we still had our restroom, and our kitchen with us.  So we sat at the summit of the Trail Ridge Road and had yogurt for a mid-morning snack.   We also stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch.  That’s the first meal we’ve eaten out since we began our trip!!   We stopped for the evening in Gypsum, Colorado.  Yep, there is a huge American Gypsum plant right in the middle of town.  The town is very small and I guess the plant supports the area.   It’s a very pretty area.   We are in the “River Dance RV Resort”, which stretches the imagination.   And to add insult to injury, when the young woman checking me in realized I was from Tennessee, she said “we are HUGE Florida fans and I guess you know we will beat you this weekend”.   Seems they are from Florida but bought this property and moved out here, but still love the SEC.   She really was smug about there being no question about Florida beating Tennessee this weekend.  Hmmmm

We’re headed for Grand Junction, Colorado tomorrow.  We’ll visit the Colorado National Monument before heading south toward Durango.  Sorry for the extra days’ delay in getting my blogs out here.  This “resort” doesn’t have Wifi.

Stay tuned.  Bonnie

A Hike Around Bear Lake Monday September 12, 2011

September 14, 2011 - 3:02 pm 1 Comment

This morning we awoke to cool temperatures and total silence.   When we opened the window shades there were deer all around us.   They are accustomed to being around people in the park and they never even look up at all the folks walking around.   And visitors up here are cautious not to alarm the animals—they just watch from a respectful distance and then go on about their business.

After breakfast we got on the park shuttle which took us to Bear Lake.   This lake reminds me of Lake Louise in Canada, except the water color is less green.   The temperatures shifted quickly to much cooler air so we got out another layer of jacket from our backpacks.   The hike around Bear Lake is less than a mile and it’s a rather easy hike.   What a beautiful place and the park service has done such a great job of making the park friendly to all visitors, not just those who are expert hikers.   There are all levels of trails around.   Actually this is a hiker’s paradise.   A lot of local folks use these trails and you certainly can tell novice hikers from experienced ones.   But all in all it was a great day of seeing such a beautiful place.   Bear Lake was only a few miles from our campground so we made the trip up and back to our RV with plenty of time to spare for reading, dozing, and enjoying the shade from our little aspen tree.

You know how you’ve always heard there is a twin for every person in the world.  Well today we saw the twin of my good friend from our college days, Sharon Zeagler.   When we saw her, Greg and I looked at each other at the same time and said the same thing “ZIGGIE”!!!   Amazing likeness.

We’ve had a wonderful visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Tomorrow we will drive the Trail Ridge Road which goes down the western side of the park and takes us out into the Midwestern side of Colorado.  Not sure where we will spend the night but it doesn’t matter!

Stay tuned.  Bonnie

The Sound of Silence – Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 14, 2011 - 2:51 pm No Comments

We are nestled in a
perfect campsite in the Moraine Park  campground in the Rocky
Mountain National Park.   Our campsite is surrounded by
aspens which show no sign of changing to the colors of fall. 
We have a spectacular view of the mountains with snow in the
crevices.   Words cannot adequately describe the beauty
of this place.   We got settled and put our chairs
outside, right under the little aspen tree in our
campsite.   The wind blows briefly, and the aspen leaves
make a twinkling sound, as if it were raining.   Then the
wind stops, and there is total silence.   No sounds
whatsoever.   Then the wind starts again, and we hear the
twinkling of the aspen leaves.   In no time, we are
dozing away in our chairs, right there under our own little aspen
tree. We left the hustle and bustle of Estes Park and Elk Meadow RV
Park this morning around 10 am and filled our LP tank, then filled
the diesel tank, then made our way to the only grocery store in
town—Safeway. It didn’t take us long to get to the entrance of
the Rocky Mountain National Park.   We used our “senior
pass” which enables us to enter the park without
charge.   We found our way to the Moraine Park campground
inside the park, and at the ranger station Greg presented our
senior pass.  When I reserved our campsite a few weeks ago, we
were charged $20 per night.   But when we checked in
today with our senior pass, they gave us a refund of $10 per
night.   So we are paying $10/night for the majestic
beauty and sound of silence within a national park.   The
best deal around for sure. This afternoon we were sitting outside
after dinner and the campground hosts came by on their golf
cart.   They stopped by to visit and introduce
themselves.  Snip and Sharon have been campground hosts at
Moraine Park for 9 years.   They were such a great
couple, so very friendly and helpful with information about the
area.   Greg mentioned that he saw a sign at the ranger
station that offered ice cream and he wished he had bought it
before coming into the campground.   Snip and Sharon
offered to go back to the ranger station and get ice cream for
Greg.  “What would you like, Greg?”  asked Snip. 
“We have ice cream sandwiches, pushups, and triple chocolate nutty
buddies”.   Greg looked at me and took the leap. 
“I’ll have a triple chocolate nutty buddy”.   Greg gave
Snip $3, and Snip and Sharon raced back to the ranger station to
make the purchase.   In just a few minutes, here comes
the golf cart racing toward us and Sharon has the triple chocolate
nutty buddy in hand.   We had a great laugh with them and
thanked them.  Before they left, I made sure we got a couple
of photos. We met a very nice couple who parked across the street
from us in a Navion IQ.   They are from Arkansas and the
first thing they noticed were our automatic levelers.  
I’m sure he noticed them when he was on the ground trying to put
blocks under each of his tires to level his rig. We had a wonderful
dinner meal of a tossed salad and home made lasagna.  
Greg started the generator just long enough for me to pop the
lasagna in the microwave.   It was delicious. We have no
services in this campground, but what we lack in service is made up
by the exquisite scenery and the sound of silence.  
After dinner, once again we sat outside in our chairs, watching
folks come and go, in total silence.  The only sound is the
occasional rustling of the leaves on our little aspen tree. 
Simply heavenly. Stay tuned.   Bonnie

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