The Front Range

We left our Roamer at the EarthRoamer factory in Dacono, CO to get its yearly camper tune-up and some paint touch-up for the areas that were starting to show some oxidation along the top corners of the camper. We are always trying new routes in and out of Arizona on our trips. Because we had a rental truck that could move right along, we took I-40 into New Mexico and then shot up Hwy 491 from Gallup. Rather than go through Shiprock, we turned onto Indian Service Rd 5 to cut over to Farmington. The scenery along this road was unique.

Just outside Farmington there were acres and acres of pumpkins ripening for the Halloween season. We then crossed into Colorado and gained some altitude. We stopped for the night in Pagosa Springs, hitting up our favorite brewery there for a nice dinner and some beers – Riff Raff Brewing Co. The drive along Hwy 160 was beautiful with fall colors out in force.

Looking out over Wolf Creek Pass was gorgeous. You just had to watch out for the many ground squirrels that inhabit the rest stop there.

There was a miscommunication on the scope of the paint job, and since it was going to take a week or so more to fix, we had some time to explore the Colorado Front Range. We drove south to Colorado Springs to visit a childhood friend of Pam’s, Lisa, and her husband, Gary, who live there. We did several hikes around the area, including the Garden of the Gods, which is an interesting rock outcropping.

We saw about a dozen sheep in the rocks, where this guy was doing a nice pose for the camera.

We also drove up to the top of Pike’s Peak, elevation 14,115 feet. While it was a nice fall day down in Colorado Springs, it was near or below freezing with a stiff breeze at the top of the mountain. The view was fantastic and we even saw the cog train that drives up and down the mountain if you don’t want to drive yourself.

We also visited a friend who owns a couple of great book stores in Colorado Springs before we headed back north. We spent the remainder of the time in Loveland, CO with Jim and Alison. Typical for the area it was beautiful fall weather, and then the next day the temp dropped 30 degrees and it snowed. The next day it warmed back up and the snow was gone – for now.

We kept busy doing hikes and visiting breweries during the week while Jim and Alison worked. We met up with another high school classmate of Pam’s at the Breckenridge Brewery in the southern Denver area. They have some tasty beers.

One of the nicer hikes we did was along Devil’s Backbone, just outside Loveland. It was a beautiful day and we ran across a small Prairie rattlesnake on the trail. He was trying to catch the last of the fall sun and got a little upset when I moved him off the trail and back into the brush. He probably slithered back into the sun after we left – lol.

Another great hike in the Loveland area is through the Benson Sculpture Park. It a public park in town that holds a “Sculpture in the Park” event every August, where the proceeds from the event help to purchase another permanent sculpture. It has been ongoing since 1984 and there are now over 130 sculptures in the park. We may have to make it back to Loveland in August one of these years to see the event.

We finally got the Roamer back and headed south towards home. Typically we jump over the front range and take Hwy 285 back to Arizona. However, the Ford dealer said we should break the new turbo-charger in slowly so we headed down the front range to Walsenburg and made our way to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes are about 600 feet high and we got there in the late afternoon when the shadows on the dunes are the best.

The local elevation is about 8,000 feet so it was brisk in the evening this time of year, perfect for a campfire. We grabbed a spot at the campground there and had a great evening looking at the stars. The sunset was beautiful and we had a neighborhood full of deer in the morning.

We dropped south from there into New Mexico and made our way to one of our favorite camp spots, El Morro National Monument. It was our second time there this year and luckily we were able to grab one of the last spots for the night. It was interesting to see how much the sunset location shifted on the horizon with the passage of the summer.

El Morro’s elevation is just over 7,000 feet, so it too was a nice evening for a campfire before heading home to end this trip.

On the way home the next day we stopped in our cabin for lunch and to catch up with our neighbor. The Forest Service was conducting a prescribed burn for the area to clean out the low grass and brush in the ponderosa forest around our place. They have been more proactive in keeping the fire danger down since the huge fire more than a decade ago that took out over 500,000 acres of forest in the area. However, the year of the fire, the forest was so dry it was a matter of when, not if, it was going to occur.

We arrived home safe and sound with the Roamer to complete our fourth summer trip. While it may be remembered for the maintenance issues we spent more time visiting friends and family for longer periods of time and seeing new places, which is never a bad thing.

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