Colorado in Summer…7.2017

day 1…6.29
Once we got back from Florida, I couldn’t wait to hit the road towards Colorado!  I’m usually not home much in June…I’d rather be traveling (of course!)  I was having some car issues with the new (the 2001) 4Runner…which Danny & I affectionately call “Camper”, but once those were fixed I was ready to GO!.  I was a couple of days later than planned, but packed her up fast & was on my west to one of my favorite states!

I turned up the music & made good time to Colorado Springs.  I ate a late lunch at Shugas for a cup of spicy Brazillan soup…my usual stop if popping through that town.  I phoned Luke to see if his good friend Steve, who lives in Pueblo part time & Florida the rest of the time, happened to be in Colorado…I hadn’t seen him in awhile & would love to catch up.  Just a few minutes later I got a wonderful text from Steve who was super welcoming & said he’d love to have me stop by.  The drive didn’t take too long from the Springs to Pueblo.  I met him at his place then we drove to Starbucks & had an awesome 2 hour visit!

I pulled off the highway at a rest stop but then noticed a scenic byway called “Frontier Pathways”….I wasn’t in any hurry so I headed up this unknown-to-me road.  It was beautiful!  As evening approached, I looked for a campsite.  Not much dispersed camping to be found, but I ended up in a great off the road trailhead, so that was campsite #1 for this trip.

day 2…6.30
Id been reading about Zapata Falls near the Great Sand Dunes National Park…so early the next morning I found myself on a 3 mile rocky dirt road leading up to the campground & falls.  I decided since I’d driven all that slow way up the road, I’d pay for a campsite the night.  Then I headed towards the trail.  I knew it was a short trail on dirt, then a trail through the water to find the tucked-away falls.  Wow…It was a cold trail for sure! I’m not sure how far you have to hike in the water, but it was far enough.  There were lots of other people getting their feet wet too & checking out the falls.

IMG 7430.jpgIMG 7443.jpg
IMG 7433.jpg

I got back to the campsite, set up my hammock & enjoyed the evening.  The view went for miles & the colors in the sky were magnificent!

IMG 7452.jpg


IMG 7459.jpg


IMG 7468.jpg

day 3…7.1
I got to the National Park early, sprayed down with bug spray (they had an alert on their website about mosquitoes) & took off to climb one of the dunes.  This place is so beautiful & surreal.  The hiking is never easy in sand, there were a gazillion people here, but somehow I always manage to find a peacefulness on the trail.  

IMG 7471.jpg


DSC06734.jpg


IMG 7474.jpg

As I was hiking up the steepest section of the Dune, there was a guy sitting in the sand asking about Zapata Falls. I chimed in on the conversation since I’d just been there the night before, & as it turns out this guy lives about 15 miles from my home!  Crazy, crazy, crazy small world.  We chatted as we both walked a few steps, stopped to breathe, repeat, repeat, repeat until we got to the top.  He was going back down, but I wanted to go further.  I made it up to one dune higher, & was there all by myself for about 20 minutes.  Then it was time to hike back down.  A great first hike for this trip!

IMG 7478.jpg


IMG 7512.jpg


IMG 7526.jpg

I was off heading west again.  I stopped & had lunch at Three Barrel Brewing in Del Norte which was crazy busy!  I’d read about some dispersed camping on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass & I managed to find it.  I sat outside for awhile, until I was savagely attacked by flies, mosquitoes & unbeknown to me at the time….something like the little midges that attacked me when I was at the Great Salt Lake.  I ended up in my car for the rest of the evening enjoying a good book, my great little ‘Camper’ & no bugs!

IMG 7530.jpg

PS:  It would be a couple of days later before I discovered I had about a dozen or more little bites on my scalp.  Sneaky little biters!

day 4…7.2
I would be backtracking a bit today & heading up towards Creede then further north to Lake City.  While I had been to Creede from the south before & Lake City from the north, I’d never been on the road in between, which is called the Silver Thread scenic byway. It’s a really gorgeous drive!  With an awesome falls right off the road along the way!

DSC06745.jpgDSC06749.jpg













I’ve always wanted to hike to Wheeler Geologic Area, but it seems I won’t get there again this time.  It’s a long long hike—better probably wait until I can just backpack it sometime.

I went into Lake City to check it out, then backtracked to my trailhead—Cataract Gulch.  I’d done this hike before & had unexpectedly hiked by one of the biggest & most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen on the trail.  Then I started going up.  I had definitely forgotten how hard this hike was.  The last time I did it, I hiked in about 6 miles.  Today I just wanted to hike to the bottom view of the waterfall, which would only be 2 miles, but all straight up the mountain.  I know the areas of Colorado I’m going to be in have had more than average snow this year; which means more than average water flow on all the streams, rivers & creeks…which means crossing them could be more crazy than normal. But I huffed & puffed & struggled all the way up the trail.  I had started this hike much later than I normally do, so I was keeping one eye to the sky for storms.  I didn’t want to get caught up this high in bad weather.  The trail while being a tough climb, is really beautiful.  It follows a stream so you’re presented with many little waterfalls on the way up & always, always the lovely sounds of running water.

DSC06755.jpg


DSC06757.jpg

But, the afternoon was upon me as were the dark clouds & booming noises of an incoming storm.  I had climbed about 1,700’ in 1.75 miles, but was not going to make it the measly 1/4+ mile further.  I also had been warned by hikers coming down that I had a nasty water crossing coming up before I could see the falls.  I was super bummed!  I’m not one to keep going when lightening is close by.  I stood in the middle of trail, trying to decide what to do.  As the booms got louder & the sky darker, I turned around & headed down the mountain.  UGH!!!

But, the trail’s wildflowers boosted my spirits…I spotted my first Columbine as well as other beauties from nature.

DSC06761.jpgDSC06763.jpg








I drove back into Lake City & grabbed a burger at one of the super crowded restaurants (they’re aren’t that many here).  It was nearing the 4th of July & vacationers were out in droves.  Lake City gets a ton of 4WD & ATV enthusiasts as there are a couple of big gnarly passes that head out of this tiny town.  

I drove by Lake San Cristobal which is really beautiful…trying to find moose (Jill & I have seen one & her baby here before), but no moose-luck today.  But the lake is always a wonderful view!

DSC06773.jpg

I retraced my road back over Slumgullion Pass—which is narrow & twisty but really pretty & disperse camped back at Tucker Ponds where I had the night before.  Only this time I chose a place up high hoping I’d get a nice breeze to blow all the bugs away.  

IMG 7535.jpg




home  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9

 vikhill@gmail.com                                                                                                                                                    © Vicki Hill 2017