Travel: Colorado and the mistakes I made!

Is there anyone that doesn’t love Colorado.? I’m sure those people exist, but honestly, I don’t want to meet those people!  Sure, there are wildfires and traffic is generally bad, but holy gawd, this place is beautiful.

My first trip to Colorado was in the late 70s when we would take family camping vacations.  I was an only child and my parents would load up my dad’s company station wagon with a large canvas tent and Gretchen (the Dachshund), and off we’d go.  Our first stop was almost always Raton, NM then up to Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

We weren’t poor by any means, but my parents didn’t spend money on things like the Durango-Silverton train or the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  So many years later, at this advanced age, I decided to do a lot of those things we couldn’t splurge for back then.  And why not? I make the money to do it now and have the time.

The Plan

I planned to spend four days around the Colorado Springs/Manitou Springs area and five days setting up a base in Durango.

Everything looked great until Friday, June 8.  That’s the day the 416 fire broke out north of Durango.  Forty-eight hours later the fire was 0% contained.  A week and a half later and the fire still isn’t contained.  The Durango-Silverton train canceled service immediately since the route moved directly through the fire.

On Monday, the Forest Service closed off the entire San Juan National Forest. But, this being Colorado, there’s always something else to do.

I have friends in Colorado Springs and Denver so the first part of the trip worked out perfectly sans the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  Apparently it’s in such disrepair that they’ve suspended service until it can be upgraded/fixed.  But, it was nice to catch up with friends and head out on excursions that neither of us have done.

The first day we headed out to the Royal Gorge to take a train ride through the gorge.  I’ve been on the actual bridge in the past, but never on the train.  If you haven’t done this, I highly recommend it.  The views are spectacular and the train service was excellent.  The train even has it’s own beer!  The IPA was incredible.

The Royal Gorge train just getting started!
That little speck up there is the gondola that goes across the gorge.

Wade, Molly, and me on the train

After the train and a nice lunch in the town of Canon City, we decided to call it a day since we were half lit!  Besides, Molly and I had to get up early the next day for the Manitou Incline.

The Manitou Incline is an .88 mile long climb up an old cog rail track.  The steps are made of railroad ties and there are 2,744 of them!  It gains 2000 feet of elevation in that short .88 of a mile.

When you get to the top, you have a couple of choices.  You can head back down the incline or you can take the Barr Trail back to the parking lot.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both directions.  If you head back down the incline, you better have one heck of a sense of balance.  The incline ascension averages a 41% grade and some sections are 68%.  There were times we were on our hands and knees because the grade was so steep.  Now imagine heading DOWN that steep grade.  However, I did see plenty of people doing it.

The Barr Trail is not as steep.  However, it is 4 miles of downhill that was the real cause of the pain in my legs.  Any trail runner will happily tell you that they would much rather go UP than DOWN!

After the incline, I decided I wouldn’t climb any more mountains for a while since my legs were complete toast.  Instead, I thought I would totally screw up my head and drive up Pikes Peak!  On a sphincter scale of 0 to 10, the drive up the peak is about a 6.  You know you’re probably safe, but it’s still a white knuckle trek.

I’ve made this trip three times: once as a child with my parents in a car, once on the back of a motorcycle as a 13 year old, and once as a 51 year old adult.  All three times were horrible and at this point I’m going to accept the cliche of third time’s a charm and probably never do it again.

Granted, the view from the top is stunning, but getting up there is hell and someone else will have to drive if I do it again.

Basically, I was too cold and annoyed to take any other pics!  These two will have to do

On to Durango!

The second part of the trip was in Durango and the surrounding area.  I had grand designs for this section.  Mother nature had conflicting designs!

I did get to visit Mesa Verde, Cortez, and Four Corners, but overall, the cool part was a no-go.  As I stated above, the train trip was canceled.  With only two days to go, I woke up to rain leaking into my tent.  That rain storm killed my white water rafting trip as well as an excursion to Telluride.  But hey, I did have some great beer at Carver Brewing Company.

What Went Right

  • My plan
  • Being adventurous
  • Keeping an open mind and going with the flow

What Went Wrong

  • The brakes on my car after going up and down so many mountains in a short amount of time.
  • I tried to prepare all the food in advance.  Never again.  It’s car camping.  I will just buy when I get there next time.
  • Mother Nature!  She did NOT like my plans in Durango.
  • Traveling alone.



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