Watching the earth morph and transform from flat and speckled to intimately snowy and monstrous is an incredible experience. I can’t help but feel immensely grateful. Grateful that I can not only watch the drastic change of terrain, but every so often traverse some of the most beautiful nooks and crannies this country has to offer on foot. Grateful that my old car, with the chipped paint and the gas cap cover that the wind catches and flings open on the interstate, made it to 12,183 ft in the Rockies and back down in one piece. Grateful for the kind man that gave me my coffee for free this morning and for the bag of oranges in the floorboard. It is a beautiful thing to leave behind a life in search of a new one. I am at the mercy of the universe at this point, and so far everything has gone perfectly.
After the brewery in Maplewood, Missouri, we spent the night in Graham Cave State Park, a very clean and quiet car-camping spot with showers and excellent trails leading to a few different overlooks and of course, caves. The following day was uneventful as it entailed about 11 hours driving across Kansas, which is flat. Very, very flat. On an eleven hour drive through Kansas, I would recommend counting the windmills as there is absolutely nothing else to do. Also, take advantage of the rest stops because they are rather far apart.
That evening we finally crossed the line into Colorado, a state I have always wanted to explore. We stayed in a KOA in Limon, also relatively quiet and clean, but entirely too expensive for car-camping. If it is necessary to stop in one, then by all means, it was a great experience, but if you can continue to a cheaper place to camp, do it.
The next day was spent exploring Denver (exploring for me, Zach has spent enough time in Denver to know the goods). I would absolutely recommend Denver Biscuit Company for any meal while in Denver, but especially for a luxurious breakfast or brunch. Cheap and incredibly delicious, the restaurant has four locations in Denver. I’ve never really been a fan of biscuits and gravy until I had their vegetarian mushroom gravy. It sounds strange, but it was better than any sausage gravy I’ve ever had. I would recommend the French toast biscuits. We stopped at Station 26 Brewery for some very unique beer, and of course walked some of the more touristy strips for one last city jolt before entering the wilderness. We had dinner at Kachina, a Mexican-type cuisine with unique combinations including pickled cactus and a margarita with absinthe mist. It was a little pricier than I would have liked, but it was recommended to us and the strawberry margarita was worth it.
After leaving Denver, we stayed in an Airbnb in Golden and drove to Rocky Mountain National Park the next morning. This was the most beautiful place I have ever been in my entire life, other than Hawaii. Almost every view from any point in the park is of snow-covered Rockies. The Trail Ridge Road is drivable around the entirety of the park and takes you from the lower montane area to the very top of the alpine level. We finished driving the road in the late evening and saw tons of Elk grazing in the fields. What a time for my camera to malfunction. Honestly, after using my mirrorless, my digital camera isn’t the same anymore.
Although, there are plenty of trails leading to waterfalls, lakes, tundra, wildlife viewing areas, and more to explore, we spent the better part of our afternoon hiking the Bear Lake loop. The Bear Lake area is surrounded by four separate lakes and a beautiful waterfall all very near the trail. Separately, they are all short hikes, especially Bear Lake, as its only 400 ft from the parking lot, but for an all-inclusive hike, we took the trail to Alberta Falls and looped an indiscernible amount of miles back to Bear Lake passing a multitude of lakes, snow banks, streams, miniature waterfalls, excellent bouldering spots, and a handful of chipmunks. Making multiple stops along the way to explore the streams, photograph the lakes, and climb on the smaller cliff sides, the loop took us approximately three and a half to four hours. It would take years to see everything in that park, but it is such a beautiful place, you couldn’t go wrong with just closing your eyes and pointing on the map for a destination within the park.
We camped for free along the Colorado River last night in Gilbert Campground in Hot Sulfur Springs Recreation Area. There are many places to camp for free in Colorado and this particular area was very secluded and unpopulated. We even had a fire pit, had we the room for firewood in the backseat. Also, the river was right next to our camping spot and was cold, but refreshing to rinse off in this morning before we began another long drive.
Currently we are driving to Arches National Park in Utah and as I have typed this post in the car, squinting against the reflection of the sun on my screen and praying my battery life will hold out, the view outside of my window has folded from towering snow-capped mountains to dry, orange cliffs speckled with yellow-green shrubs. Absolutely beautiful.
From here, the temperatures for the remainder of our trip will be above 103˚ F. Wish my acoustic guitar luck.