Gettin’ High in Colorado
Recently we spent about five weeks in Colorado. Along with Hawaii, Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the US that I’ve seen so far. And the craziest part about Colorado? Getting high. And by high I mean elevation. For most of the 5 weeks we were at 6,000 foot elevation or higher. And for a girl who’s used to the ocean, sea level and at least 50% humidity it was hard to adjust. The air is thin and super dry so it dried out my nose, made my allergies go crazy and also made it harder for me to breathe. For those of you with hair that hates humidity you’d LOVE Colorado. My hair doesn’t care about the weather; it’s thin, fine and flat no matter where it goes. #ponytail
So how did we cope with the elevation? Water and lots of it! We probably drank two to three times the amount of water we normally drink. And we got these handy neti pot type things to give our sinuses a good wash once or twice a day. As for the thinner air we just had to slow down when we were hiking and take it at a slower pace. Walking up hills took a lot of out of us at first. And hiking up the sand dunes was a killer! At Pikes Peak (14,000 feet) we handled the elevation by eating yummy donuts they sell at the top. Because it didn’t matter how slow we walked around up there it was harder to breathe. And if I was going to die of lack of air I was taking that donut with me!
Some of the highlights of our 5 weeks:
- Aurora/Littleton: This area was the closest we got to spending any time in Denver. We stayed at Cherry Creek State Park and Chatfield State Park. Colorado State Parks are beautiful! And folks from Colorado are serious about their outdoor activities. So the weekends at these parks book up FAST. If you ever want to camp in Colorado over a weekend between May and September make reservations in advance. And a little tip, they charge park entrance fees on top of camping fees so plan for an extra $7 to $9 per day. We bought a Colorado State Park Pass for $70 which is good for a year. If you stay in the parks 9 nights it pays for itself. We met up with our friends Kim and Chris from Geek RV while we were here. We hit up a couple of breweries and got caught up life’s adventures we’d had over the last year since we’d seen them. These guys are double trouble, friends from back home in CT and fellow nomads.
- Route 50 from Gunnison to Montrose: The Curecanti National Recreation Area was some of the most beautiful scenery we saw in Colorado. We drove through here on our way to Montrose, where we already had reservations at the KOA, otherwise we would have stopped here for a few nights to camp in the US Forest Lands before heading on to Montrose.
- Montrose/Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: The campground at the National Park was booked solid so we stayed at the Montrose KOA and we were lucky to get a reservation anywhere over Memorial Day weekend. Montrose is a cute little town and the KOA was nice and welcoming. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was gorgeous. You can drive up to the rim of the canyon and get breathtaking views looking down but you can also drive into the canyon and see the Colorado River and amazing views looking up at the rim. If you go make sure to drive the entire South Rim Road and take stops along the way. At the end of South Rim Road there’s a place called High Point. Stop there and take the hike out to Warner Point. Also make sure to drive the East Portal Road down to the Crystal Dam. This is the road that takes you down into the Canyon and you can wade around in the cold Colorado River.
- Frisco/Breckenridge: Here we dry camped in a couple of US Forest areas. We stayed at Prospector Campground and Peak One Campground. This area is a bit higher in elevation (about 9,000 feet) so they had amazing views. Our friends Kim and Chris were staying in the area here as well so we were able to spend some more time with them. Downtown Frisco and Breckenridge are both adorable! If you’re ever thinking of visiting Colorado make sure you stop here and visit. And we found AMAZING Pho Soup at Pho Bay 2 in Frisco.
- Colorado Springs: We stayed at the Colorado Springs KOA in Fountain, CO. After spending almost two weeks on US forest lands with amazing views and lots of room between sites it was hard going back to a campground where everyone was right on top of each other. But we wanted to be near Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas with full hookups for a few days so it served its purpose.
- Tumbleweed Tiny Houses: Took a tour of the Tumbleweed Tiny House factory. So cool to see the tiny houses being created right there. Each house is built to customer specs and the new owners get a “baby book” of pictures of the house in each stage of being built.
- Pikes Peak: We drove up the long, steep road to Pikes Peak. At the top there’s a little store where you can get all kinds of tchockies but the best thing there was the donut. Maybe it’s because I was delirious at 14,000 feet but it was one of the best donuts I’ve ever had!
- Garden of the Gods: This place is great for hiking! The rocks here are so majestic and the views are fantastic.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park: This is our favorite National Park in Colorado. We were lucky to get there while Medano Creek was still flowing so we were able to play around in the water a bit. We also did some hiking, some of which was 2 miles through the sand and up a 700 foot sand dune. We hiked barefoot which was really cool but you have to do this hike in the morning before the sand starts to heat up. Once it got to be around 10:30 the sand was getting too hot to walk barefoot and we needed a LOT of water to keep going. Luckily we had dragged ourselves out of bed and were just finishing up our hike as the sand started getting too hot. Instead of staying in the park we found a great site at San Luis State Wildlife Area. It was a beautiful spot. Quiet, picturesque with beautiful sunsets and best of all FREE except $10 reservation fee because we had a Colorado State Park pass. We stayed for 5 nights and our site included electric. The park had no water but it did have a free dump station.
- Zapata Falls: It’s not technically part of Great Sand Dunes National Park but if you visit the area you MUST go and see Zapata Falls. It’s a 2 or 3 mile drive over a road with pretty rough terrain to get there. We were fine in the truck, and we saw many cars do it, but I wouldn’t have taken the RV up there. After the drive it’s just a 1/2 mile hike to the falls. If you’re adventurous (and you really should suck it up and be brave) you can get back into the falls. Just wear shoes that you can get wet because you’ll have to walk through COLD water to see the falls. We wore our Teva sandals and they were perfect.
- Mesa Verde National Park: This park has a lot to see! There are several cool cliff dwellings in the park. The Spruce Tree House is closed indefinitely due to structural issues and most of the other cliff dwellings require you to take a paid tour to walk through. In the Weatherill Mesa we were able to do a self-guided (free) tour of Step House which was really cool. We also really enjoyed seeing the cliff dwellings from the road/paths and didn’t feel we needed to pay extra to walk through all of them. We loved hiking around the park, walking through the Pit Houses and seeing the amazing views in the valleys. We dry camped in Morefield Campground right in the park which was a good move. If we had stayed outside the park it would have taken a super long time to get into the park from the main road. And they had a really great and cheap laundry facility right in the campground area. #winning
- Four Corners Monument: We visited this on Brendan’s birthday. And what better way to celebrate your birthday than in four states at once playing multi-state Twister?!
We did a lot of dry camping in Colorado so we gave our off grid systems a pretty good workout.
- The composting toilet worked great! The only change we decided to make was to drill some holes in the bucket to get a little more air flow through the system.
- The solar worked really well except that we wanted a little more power during the day. We solved this by putting the last of the solar panels on the roof so they would be charging the batteries from sun up to sun down and we didn’t have to bring them out or in. Now that we have all eight panels on the roof the batteries charge faster and we have more power available to us during the day to run the fridge and other appliances and charge up electronics.
- Water continues to be our achilles heel. We use about 10 to 12 gallons per day. We like to shower daily, especially after being outdoors all day and hiking around parks and such. We each use maybe 4 to 5 gallons of water each shower. There’s also water for washing dishes, hands and brushing teeth. We’ve been trying to get this amount down but it’s hard! Currently we can go 3 or 4 days on our 40 gallon fresh water tank and we’re working towards making that go further.
Whenever we spend more than a few days somewhere people ask us if we would ever move there. As beautiful as Colorado is I would have to say no. I need the ocean, lower elevation and a little humidity. Any jokes about my already being high enough or too much of an airhead can be left in the comments section. #proudblonde