When we first began our summer treks seven years ago, we stumbled upon Ruby Mountain CG on the Arkansas River Headwaters near Salida, CO. The first couple of years when we stopped there the campground was a remote, deserted campground with first-come, first-served camping and great trout fishing in the river. However, the land next to the sleepy little campground was designated Brown’s Canyon National Monument a few years ago. Seemingly overnight, the off-road trails were improved causing a continuous stream of jeeps and ATVs through the campground. The campground itself had an extreme face-lift with big, beautiful rocks lining each campsite and local businesses started running rafting trips down the river, eliminating the fishing. Last year all Colorado state-run campgrounds went to an online reservation system only, including our once favorite hidden place. Being only a couple hours from Denver, the campground has now been found and was booked full as we checked on our way out of New Mexico. We realized that we needed a new spot, the Ruby Mountain CG we enjoyed was now gone.
Heading up through central Colorado on Hwy 285, we found a campground near Fairplay, CO. Horseshoe Campground was located several miles into the national forest along a nice dirt road.
The campground sites were reservable, and most were taken for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend, but many were open when we arrived Sunday afternoon.
The campground was in a lush valley along Fourmile Creek. The entire valley leading up to the campground was a multi-tiered waterway of beaver ponds and dens. It was great to see. We did not see any beavers at work in the daylight, but it was obvious they were slowly working their eco-magic downstream into the valley below.
The campground itself was nice and lush, with small pools of water and moss between the campsites.
I spoke with the camp host and asked where the trailhead next to our campsite led. He said folks come from all over to hike up to the Bristlecone and Limber Pine trees.
We hiked up to the see the trees along a nice path through the forest.
The Bristlecone and Limber pines live at the higher elevation along the tree line. These trees’ lives are measured in centuries instead of decades as with most trees. Similar Bristlecone trees we have seen in other places were over 1000 years old, one topping out at 5,000 years old.
They are rugged trees given the conditions they live in, rocky soil and buried in snow most of the year.
We heard the “meep” of Pikas in the rocks around us, but it took a few minutes to spot one. Pikas are short-eared, tailless cousins of rabbits that live at the higher elevations. One is in the center of the photo below, if you can spot the rock-colored rodents.
It looks like we have found a new favorite campground near Denver.
We had scheduled a service appointment at the Earthroamer plant, so we made our way into Denver and camped at St. Vrains State Park, just down the road from Earthroamer. The park is a wildlife reserve with several ponds and many birds. However, it is next to I-25 so there is a constant hum of traffic that is always difficult to ignore after extremely quite nights in the forest.
It was a two-day service, so we dropped off the Roamer, moved some of our stuff into a loaner car and headed to the laundromat. While doing laundry we found a local breakfast place, Gabe’s Café, that made great corned beef hash and breakfast burritos while our clothes spun away the dirt. We then stopped into Duluth Trading Post to grab some gloves and a hat I had forgotten for the trip seeing that it was over 110 degrees when we packed and left. Who thinks about freezing weather in 110 degrees?
We then headed north to Fort Collins, CO for the night. We met up with our nephew Ben and his fiancé, Emily, and their 60-lb Newfoundland / Great Pyrenees mix puppy, Tippet, at a local brewery for a nice outdoor dinner. We spent the night at the Armstrong Hotel in downtown Fort Collins. It is a historic hotel that had nice rooms, but thin walls, as we had drunk, singing hotel neighbors that night. It makes you appreciate your own rig at times like this.
We walked around downtown the next day and picked up a few things and mailed some others while we were in civilization.
We also visited the Fort Collins Museum of Art, where they had pieces from artists all over the west. The hanging piece was a “blanket” stitched together from 35mm film negatives. It was an interesting piece. However, there is always that one piece that makes you think the artist just threw something together in an afternoon to meet the delivery deadline and declared it “art”.
Fort Collins has a nice cooking store called the Cupboard that we visited on our walk. I picked up some huckleberry chocolates with fishing flies painted on them. They were made in Missoula, and now I am hooked. Lol.
We headed back down to the Denver area, picked up the Roamer and went back to St. Vrains to camp since it was late in the day. We had the yearly tune-up for the camper and bought a new wheel rim. One of our split rims had been leaking slowly for a couple of years, and while we do have an onboard air compressor to refill the tire, it was becoming a daily requirement and tiresome.
We took off for Wyoming the next morning as the Labor Day weekend approached.