12. Spring road trip….April/May/June.2019 

Day 48 6.8
slept pretty good since I was a tad bit concerned I’d get a knock on my window in the night (really, would a cop come 11 miles out of town up a dirt road to run off a few people?)  No one did.  It had rained a little in the night, but that was the only noise.  I did leave early, not wanting to make coffee there…that would seem like camping (not just parking) & my neighbors were still asleep.  As I drove out of the lot I figured out what happened to all those who went up the closed road.  Evidently, they u-turned & parked along the road.  I’m only guessing they were in the campground…or they might have all hiked up the road & found some melted out camp spots for the night.

I went out to breakfast at 6:30 at a place called the Shack…eggs, bacon, hash browns…you know easy but tasted good.  Then I talked to Danny & then headed to Steamboat Springs most popular trail…Fish Creek Falls.   It’s a beautiful waterfall near the parking lot, but then you can hike a 5 mile RT out & back with 1,600’  elevation gain to the upper falls.  I’ve done this hike once before with my friend Kindle Rose when we did a ‘Tour of Colorado” one summer.  I knew, it being Saturday, the crowds would get here as soon as everyone showered & ate breakfast, so I was glad to be on the trail early.

You can still see a lot of snow up on the mountains…I could see it in the forest that surrounded the car park where I camped last night.  So the trail was wet & muddy in places, but had Glacier Lillies blooming alongside. And there’s water running everywhere!  Little falls off the side of the trail.

                                                                                                                                          Glacier Lilly selfie

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Snowy trail

Raging water

And finally, after going up & up & up…the Upper Falls!

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The hike back down was nice…part of the trail goes through an Aspen forest where a deer ran across the trail in front of me.  I saw it before it saw me, so I just stopped as it flashed by!

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Once back in town & headed up to Strawberry Park Hot Springs.  Probably shouldn’t have made that choice on a lovely Saturday afternoon because it was packed.  It’s a beautiful facility, but I’m not sure they do much more than take your money at the door.  It’s clean, but no showers—& I was really hoping they had showers.  Most hot springs have a place to rinse off after…not here.  The road up here is narrow, twisty, gravel & very washboard.  I scored the last parking place when I drove in.  I changed & then headed to the pools.  Some are soooooo hot…those ones not for me.  Of course, the one I like is the one everyone likes, so it was pretty full of people.  It’s hard not to people-watch when you’re so close to so many.  It’s disheartening to see so many young 14-20 somethings primp & pose…having their friends take backside photos of them in their thongs.  I watched one girl with very curly beautiful hair (it didn’t look natural…maybe that’s why she wasn’t in the water very much…it would deflate the curls?) pose with lips pouty & continually pouffing her hair take about 15 selfies.  I watched & overheard a group of young men come in & say one demeaning thing after another & sexual remarks about some girls there.  I kept moving around trying to get away from those groups.  I soaked & was there about 90 minutes, but couldn’t find a chair in the sun (it was only about 60 degrees, so when you were out of the pools in wet trunks…it was chilly in the shade!) so eventually left.  There was a line of 8 or 9 cars waiting to park when I left.  The only other time I was here with Kindle…& there were hardly any people here.  Its beautiful, but the crowds make a huge difference in your experience.

As I was looking for camping, I pulled off the highway & in what seemed in the middle of nowhere, drove past an old run down resort & through a National Forest Campground, which was super ugly, but only $10.  But, at the same time I pulled into the campground, I heard a squealing noise outside my window.  It took me a minute, but it was coming from Camper.  Yikes!  It was loud & I didn’t know what that noise meant.  Whenever I’d stop the car, the noise would quit.  But when I started forward, the squealing began again.  I had no cell service & had about 70 or 80 miles to go to Ft. Collins…up over 2 passes.  I drove out of the campground & as I drove by the resort, a man was in his front yard.  He looked like maybe he was a motorcycle guy; so I pulled up to him & asked if he knew if there was a mechanic anywhere around.  He asked me what was wrong, to drive my car forward & when he heard the squeal, he immediately said I needed brake pads.  He was so nice!  He explained to me about brake sensors & asked me when it started.  He told me I’d be fine to drive it into Ft. Collins.  I felt so grateful & hoped my belief in his diagnosis was right.  I thanked him several times, & me & Camper squealed on up the highway.

I found a road to nowhere in the forest & set up camp & cooked dinner, then worked on the website.  The sun was still up & there was a little creek down the hill below me that I could hear running through the forest.  I still had no cell service, so I sent Danny a GPS text that I was in camp for the night.  

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I took a long long time to fall asleep,  I’m sure part of it was worry about Camper & just had a lot on my mind with my trip ending soon.  Eventually, I did fall asleep, but was up & squealing away from camp by 5:45.  The 4Runner doesn’t squeal all the time, mainly when I’m just starting or going slow.  

Day 49 6.9
The drive into Ft. Collins follows the Poudre River.  I remembered how amazing this place is…what a gorgeous drive.  There’s never the right place to pull off, so you get some blurry drive by shots.  I even saw about 6 mountain goats about ready to cross the road.

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I made it to Ft. Collins in a little over an hour & went to find coffee & cell service.  I hate to call Danny with bad newsespecially car news.  But, thats what I did.  Id also sent him a video I took while I was driving so he could hear the noise too.  As best he could diagnose the problem, he thought it was the brakes too.  There was only one place open on a Sunday to fix them & that was Firestone.  I was there 30 minutes before they opened & the first one in the door as soon as they did.  They quoted me a price more than 4 times of what Danny usually does a brake job on my 4Runners for.  And the guy said it would take at least 5 hours…I may have been first in the door, but I wasn’t first with an appointment.  But the guy was super nice, said he’d come out & look at them for me.  He said there was still pad left & I should be fine to drive it back home.  Really?  I’m such a nervous Nellie when it comes to car noises & knowing all the back roads I drive on & all the passes I go over.  I called poor Danny back; I don’t think he was having a very good weekend to begin with & now I was totally wrecking his Sunday morning.  He told me if I could stand the squeal, to just wait till I got back to Kansas.  So, that’s the plan…to just turn the podcast or music up a lot louder & ignore the noise.  Poor Camper!

My plan for this morning….pre-brake-issue, was to go into Rocky Mountain National Park really early to try to beat the Sunday crowds.  Then tomorrow I was meeting up in the afternoon with a friend in Boulder to hike then have dinner.  But, this morning, when my cell had service, I had a message from Joanie asking me where I was camping Monday night.  I told her I didn’t know & that I was in Ft. Collins & not sure what I was doing today since I was already about 10:00 & I was another hour away from Rocky…not going to beat the crowd.  We messaged back & forth & came up with a new plan.  I’d drive the 20 minutes or so to her house in Longmont & we’d go hiking today in Boulder & dinner & she invited me to stay at her place for the night.  Plan B was sounding great!

Joanie & I met about 3 or 4 years ago when she drove up & pitched a tent in the campsite next to mine in Crested Butte.  We had a great morning visiting & bonded over watching a Mama deer & her twins.  But both sort of freaked out when the Mama took them across the raging Slate river & one of the babies was swept away in the current & we both just stood there watching & helpless.   But, the baby somehow found it’s way to the other side & Joanie & I breathed a sigh of relief.  We’ve kept in touch ever since.  Joanie is a photographer & her passion is night photography.  So if you think I’m a badass just because I hike alone on trails…I know she is one because she does it alone & at night!  And her photos are wonderful!

So, Joanie drove & we went to Boulder dodging the bikers that were participating the Ironman that Boulder hosts each year.  She took me to the South Mesa trail & we hiked all afternoon.  It was so great!  The hiking was good, the scenery beautiful & the conversation was wonderful.  After a little more than 6 miles, we headed back to the car.  

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She told me they call this formation “Mickey Ears"

Then we went down to Pearl Street.  Love this area.  It’s so lively & so diverse & the buskers are always doing something interesting & there are some really great shops  too.  We ate The Med…one of Joanies favorite places & it was fantastic!  We had sangrias & tapas…really good food & a great atmosphere.  We ate out in the courtyard…it was perfect weather today.

I went into my favorite artists shop & drooled at all the really amazing jewelry.  So unique & different.

I did snap a pic of this bag I saw in another store…it should be the mantra for this trip!

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We drove back to Longmont & I got to meet Joanie’s daughter & grand daughter.  Addie is 6, so adorable & is her Grammy’s sweetheart. Joanie & I sat in her sweet outdoor space in her backyard & had a drink & just chatted more.  I think we could have talked for days.  We both love travel & hiking & have so much other life-stuff in common.  We both had suggestions for the other on places to visit & both were writing stuff down the other recommended.  She has one other friend that loves travel too, like Jill does, but it’s so much fun to find someone else who shares the same passions & interests that you do.  Joanie offered to let me use her shower & a couch to bunk on.  I took her up on the shower, but said I’d just stay in Camper if I could just use her bathroom.  We hugged both good night & good bye…I’d be squealing out of the neighborhood very early to try to beat the Monday crowd in Rocky.  Wow…it had been an awesome day with Joanie!

Day 50 6.10
It was early enough in the day when I drove through Rocky Mountain National Park, that the elk were out everywhere.

I made it up to Bear Lake parking lot in the Park at 6:55.  It was about 1/3 full.  I wasn’t in any hurry to get on the trail, I had only needed to park the 4Runner.  So, I ate a couple of spoonfuls of sunflower seed butter (yuck…I really, really miss my peanut butter), packed up my pack, changed into long pants, long sleeves & put on my buff & puffy coat.  It was kind of chilly, but the sun was shining.  Joanie had recommended  the hike to Bierstadt Lake.  I don’t know how I’ve missed this all these years.  I’ve hiked in Rocky a whole lot, but never this trail.  The best way, Joanie told me, was to start at Bear Lake, hike down to Bierstadt, around the lake, then down to the road & have the shuttle take you back up to the parking lot.  Sounded good to me.  I asked the Ranger a couple of questions too before I got on the trail.  She told me there still was a lot of snow on the trail & to be extra careful.  I’d also dug out my topo map & read my RMNP guide book about this hike before leaving for the trail.  The guide book said to take the same route Joanie had, but adding “anyone would be insane to hike it the other way”.  But it didn’t say why & I didn’t read the description from the actual trailhead.  

It was such a perfect hike!  The trail goes by Bear Lake before forking off to Bierstadt.

The first part of the trail was dry & surrounded by big pretty aspen trees.

Another part of the trail was totally snow covered.  I could see where someone had post-holed.  Looked like it would come about up to my knees.  I put on my micro spikes & snow caps on my poles.  I was glad I had them!

There was nobody on this trail.  I had seen car after car come into the parking lot before I got on the trail.  And the shuttle buses starting dropping off visitors too.  There had been quite a few people at Bear Lake…but no one here.  It’s only a couple of miles to the lake, then 2 or 3 down to the road.  I got to the lake & there was a loud group at the opposite end & just one father/daughter duo closer to where I ended up.  He told me to look to my left…there was a young moose feeding on the grass in the lake.  They left after about 10 minutes, as did the noisy group & then I was all alone at this beautiful lake…just a duck, a moose & me.  How special that was!

The 50th day of my road trip & my last hike for this trip.  It was a great one!

The trail goes down hill all the way.  If you start from the trailhead, there are like 17 switchbacks—uphill (thats what I was told by the man at the lake).  I was hiking to shuttle area, so it was downhill, but not that many switchbacks.  Once I left the lake, I passed about 15 insane people hiking up & they were all breathing hard!  That’s why the guide book said to hike it this way.  It was probably the easiest trail I’ve ever hiked in Rocky.

Then I hiked down to the shuttle.  And to the mass of humanity.  There were people everywhere.  I was 10th in line just to use the bathroom.  The area of people waiting for the shuttle looked like an amusement park ride line.  But, the day was beautiful & I was a happy hiker girl.  I finally made it on the third bus, but with all the stops it makes it was almost an hour from the time I’d gotten off the trail until I got back to my car.  And it’s a Monday & not peak season yet…wowza!  I drove through the park, squealing from time to time, probably scaring off any animals that might be near.  It was kind of annoying but it was because I was going so slow…there were lots of cars.  I drove to see the Alluvial Fan…always a pretty sight!

Then I left the park…so many people & cars.  I did make a quick stop for a postcard, then drove into Boulder.  I needed to run an errand into REI & spent about 20 extra minutes just browsing (love gear shops!).  Danny called & I mentioned that I was practically next door to Hazels…our favorite & a really awesome liquor store in Boulder.  He suggested I see if they had any Russian River beer.  Being the lazy schmuck that I am, & given the fact that when Danny called I was rocking in super comfortable camp rocker, I called Hazels from the rocker in REI.  They had our beer, so I finished my errand at REI & went shopping for Pliney the Elder & Blind Pig at Hazels.  Yum! Taking it all home to share with the kids when they come for a visit in a couple of weeks.  BUT MY CAMPER IS SOOO FULL OF BEER!  I’m going to be cuddling up to cans & bottles tonight at camp.

My last stop for the day was to Avery Brewing…Danny & I love their beer!  It was about 3:30 …the  perfect un-busy time to go.  Wow….they have such a great selection of barrel aged beers on tap.  They have their special Monday Fried Chicken, so that’s the food I ordered.  My first beer was a 5oz pour of their Bourbon aged Reverend which is a Belgian Quad…YUM YUM YUM!!!  Then I had a sample of the Double barreled Maple Stout…good but too sweet.  I was going to be picky, because I can’t drink too many of these beers…they range form 11.5% to 17%.  I slowly drank & ate…savoring both food & beer.  Then I ordered a 5oz pour of one of top 2 beers I love…the Tweak.  It’s the 17% beer & so awesome.  Then he set down a sample of Uncle Jacobs in front of me…this beer is so damn good!  The bartender & I were visiting about beer & he broke the unfortunate news to me that Avery will not be bottling the Tweak or Uncle Jacobs…another top fave of me & Danny’s, this year.  YIKES!  WHAT???  He said they think it’s too easy to get & so they’re going to make it more rare.  I hate that!  When that happens you have to go stand in a line, as soon as it’s distributed to get the beer.  And then there’s a limit on what you can buy.  Jill & Danny both say I have a ‘scarcity” issue & I do probably..a little bit.  So what happens when I hear this news?  I texted Danny!  How many bottles do we have at home?  Has he seen it around the liquor stores back in Kansas?  I was in the car almost ready to leave when he called.  We decided to get a couple bottles of each for me to bring home.  More beer in Camper.

PS:  I might end up seeing the bartender, Dominique again this summer.  His mom, whose wonderful name is also Vicki, lives in CB on the mountain.  So, we also had a nice little chat about trails in CB & the Brick…our fave bar in town.

I decided to drive through Nederland tonight to try to find camping.  It’s such a quirky place.  I drove through it, then through Eldora, which reminds me so much of Ophir, CO.  Long story, but it has to do with all the signs they post to people driving through.  They are both tiny little mountain towns….love their sense of humor & attempts to get people to slow down.  The road past the town, in the forest was horrid…filled with potholes.  Everything in Camper was bouncing around…I was bouncing & squealing.  But, the signs said you were supposed to have a permit to camp & I never saw any camping anyway, so I turned around & went back to the highway & headed south.  I soon just happened on another forest road, & when I started down it, there was sign saying there was a dispersed campground ahead.  So, I drove by all 15 sites & each one was already filled.  Cool place, but "no room at the Inn”.  So, back out to the highway I went.  I knew there was a state park campground down the road, Danny & I stayed at it years ago.  But, when I’d checked into it earlier, it was reservation only.  This makes me crazy!  So, even if they have open spots, you need a reservation.  You can call right before you drive into the campground, but they charge you an extra $7 or $9 reservation fee.  Crazy!  Not a fan of paying that money 5 minutes before I need the campsite.  But, before I made it by the state park, I saw Kelly Dahl National Forest Campground.  So, I crossed my fingers hoping to find an open spot.  It was after 8pm & it seems like there are so many yellow signs along the roads with Moose & Deer & Elk warnings…Camper would do more than squeal if she hit one of those.

There were open sites & they were on sale!  Due to not having the water turned on yet, Campers get a $5.25 discount.  Instead of $21, it was $15.75 (who comes up with these prices?  not $15 or $16 or $20?  at least you didn’t have to dig for pennies).  I drove around a couple of times, since there were about 7 sites open, I could be choosy.  This would definitely do for the last night of my spring road trip.

So, I started cleaning out the car, re-organizing everything for the long trip home.  I put away my hiking poles & backpack.  I moved all the beer around so it’s not even in the way (I’m amazing at this!)  I cleaned up Camper so to really appreciate our last night together for this trip.  Then I ate the rest of my lunch, read a bit & am now sitting here finishing up Tripscribbles.  It’s chilly outside, but clear skies & I can’t wait to look up at the sky some tonight.  Not very good cell service so that keeps me off the phone & internet.  I caught the last colors of the sunset tonight…not a great photo, but I love the colors.

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