Goatrekking Adventure 3 – Colorado Peaks, Prairies and Plateaus

Bee-lining it through springtime in the plains, to get to the Rockies

Just as the MI weather turns mild, sunny and utterly lovely, we’ve hopped into the MoHo (Motor Home) for a mad dash across Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas to get to our jumping off point, Colorado Springs, for Goatrekking Adventure #3.

For most trips, we stay the first two nights of transit driving (400+ miles/day from home to get to the target destination) in the parking lot behind Cracker Barrel restaurants, and it’s the simplest way to go. Boondocking behind a restaurant where they serve real maple syrup with their pancakes always makes George a happy driver for the day. It’s much better than figuring out where there’s a campground close to the interstate and having to unhook our tow car. No muss, no fuss, and we’re rarely in “transit-land” to see sights, so the simpler, the better.

Once again, we detoured through Minneapolis and spent the weekend with our kids/grandkids, from there overnighted in Lincoln, NE, after which we toughed it out over 540 miles to get to Colorado Springs the second day.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park was the sleep spot in CS –just beautiful. It’s a new facility, spanking clean and modern, with views of Colorado Springs, the Cheyennes and Pikes Peak that are second-to-none. As Goatrekking readers know, we have loved the state parks along the way, and Cheyenne Mountain is one of the best.

Out of CS, the driver headed southwest through Cañon City, skipping Royal Gorge (just too touristy) and transiting Salida, Saguache and Del Norte. The Arkansas river accompanied us through the first two towns, not as turbulent as we expected (got to the white water flows later on). Lots of high-altitude hayfields irrigated in circles – we’ve seen these from overhead flying across Colorado, but never up close. Wherever the irrigation ends, nothing grows but sagebrush. In that respect, the valley between the Sangre de Cristo and the San Juan Mountains is reminiscent of the Central Valley in California. Without irrigation, there would be no crops.

The high point from Del Norte to our campground tonight in Ute National Forest was the drive through Wolf Creek Pass, at 11,000 feet. It snowed furiously at the summit, but we had rain on either side and the valleys and vistas were so green, it almost hurt the eyes. Along the way, the roaring Rio Grande and many other cascading tributaries rushed down the mountains. Lots of snowmelt and spring-fed lakes at altitude – this Eden must be a well-kept secret that only Coloradans in the know appreciate. A verdant stretch of Hwy 160 all the way to Pagosa Springs.

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We are the only camp guests in the Ute National Forest campground tonight. The host told us there are only ever about 2- 3 camping parties here, except for July 4 weekend, when it’s full. It is so quiet back here, the tall pines and pine straw-covered ground make for good sound insulation, and with a light rain, it will make for perfect sleeping weather. On to Durango tomorrow for hiking!!

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