The weekend focused around rafting the Colorado with several of my coworkers. The Feuchts own several rafts and like taking groups, so we were happy to oblige.
I headed west from Work on Friday night and got to Pumphouse, our designated Saturday morning meeting place, at around 9 (significantly after dark). I walked around and didn't see a place to camp, so I headed down to Radium. That looked like it had a few places one could camp, but I was worried about (a) the sign stating one needed a wildlife stamp and (b) the raucous group near where I'd be. So I drove back to Pumphouse figuring I'd sleep in the back of the Subaru. Upon arrival, I found that someone had claimed a camping site but was sleeping that night at the group site, so up went my tent in the dark.
Unlike everyone who carpooled from Lakewood at 6:30, I woke up at 8:30 (not counting the several trains that went by in the night). Pumphouse to Rancho del Rio is a very casual stretch of the Colorado River, especially in fall. Highlights included water fights, cliff jumping (in which I didn't participate), and a relaxing (naked) soak in Radium Hot Springs right on the river. Back at the Feuchts' we constructed burgers, ate corn, and played croquet in the dark. I slept in my sleeping bag on my cot on the driveway (to avoid early sun) under the stars. I didn't wake up at 5 to watch the meteor shower, and I'm okay with that.
On Sunday we rafted from Shoshone to Two Rivers (Glenwood Springs). This stretch has a lot more rapids, but we handled them without trouble. A lot of folks were on the river, catching the Labor Day summer bookend. We stopped to soak in a hot spring outside Glenwood which is only above water seasonally. Not wanting to offend random travelers on I-70 and the hordes of Bud Light Drinkers that docked, I kept my suit on for that. Having stayed upright in the raft for two days (no dunking here), I decided to overcome my dislike of water in the face and poor swimming skills to float the last (half?) mile in the river. Aside from a few rock scrapes when I jumped in, the experience was quite pleasurable. Maybe next summer I'll go tubing a bunch.
After a brain freeze courtesy Dairy Queen, I sallied north to Steamboat Springs. My casual driving pace and map confusion in town led me to Strawberry Hot Springs about 10 minutes after they closed admission. The guy at the window let two folks in, but I didn't want to pay $10 for less than an hour of springing, so I set out to find a place to camp. Being Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, the Routt National Forest campground (toward Buffalo Pass) was naturally full, so I decided to look for a big box retailer who wouldn't mind a guy sleeping in a Subaru. Steamboat discourages "formula stores" from downtown and I didn't know how to get to any other part of town, but I found an empty parking lot with (in ascending order of importance) four baseball fields and a soccer field or two, no "No Overnight Camping" sign, an unlocked bathroom. I parked in what looked like it might be shade, flipped the back seat down, laid out the cot, and settled down for a somewhat restful night of urban camping.
I woke up a few hours before the springs opened, so I went for a hike in Routt National Forest. Maybe I should take more early morning hikes: there's much prettier lighting for photographs (forthcoming). Strawberry Hot Springs were fabulous. At least nine pools and tubs contain varying measures of hot spring water and cool river water so one can heat up, cool down, rinse, and repeat. The water and and infrastructure are on par with Valley View. Since Steamboat Springs is a tourist town, Strawberry had a lot more people than Valley View typically has (though I don't know how busy it was this Labor Day). I heard families speaking in Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and English, which is a flavor I haven't tasted at Valley View. The communal aspect felt absent, though. The magic of VVHS is often found by striking up conversations with strangers in a pool, but everybody at Strawberry seemed to keep to themselves. Oh, and Strawberry requires swimwear during daylight hours. Have I mentioned I dislike swimsuits? They take way
longer to dry than skin, provide drag in the water, and just call attention to the fact that your genitalia isn't visible.
After lots of heat and probably not enough water consumption I drove down the hill thinking about the Pho restaurant I'd seen in town. Unfortunately, they were closed for the holiday (what tourist town restaurant closes on holidays?) but the coffee shop hooked me up with a hydrating smoothie.
On the way home, I decided the scenic route would be preferable to sitting in holiday traffic on I-70, so I drove through North Park, Medicine Bow, and Cache la Poudre. North Park is even more desolate (but perhaps hillier) than its better-known southern cousin. The Jackson County seat, Walden, sports "The Moose Watching Capital of Colorado" on its welcome sign. Really, it felt like southern Wyoming draping its leg over the edge of the bed. The Medicine Bow range decided to welcome me back to the Atlantic basin with an intense but pleasant downpour. There are lots of good hiding places for powder along CO-14 in Larimer County. There's also an impressive number of national forest campgrounds. I'm surprised I haven't been up there before.
Speaking of scenic Larimer County, I bet there's still room at MeadowFest
this coming weekend. Drumming, dancing, and great people will be in abundance.
Ideas I had this weekend:
A T-shirt with Colorado's outline and a bunch of landmarks with elevations. 14'ers, Leadville, Conundrum Hot Springs, major river paths, several points on the Continental Divide, and other Colorado points of note as well as some low points of note in other states: Burlington, CO is higher than the highest point in Kansas ("Mount" Sunflower), which is within a couple miles of the border. Oklahoma and Nebraska's highest points are also close to the Colorado line. Above the picture is some stylized "Colorado." Below the picture is the caption "It's all downhill from here."
A Creative Commons
-licensed T-shirt on print-to-order websites with the phrase "Free Hugs" written in many languages. Perfect for travel through international airports.
I can float for extended periods if I wear flip flops to keep my feet up. I can also float downstream without trouble if I wear a life jacket.
On the way home, Radio 1190
mentioned a show at Rhinoceropolis
and I thought of tamheals
. How can you go wrong with a name like that?
Note to self: a chopping knife and biodegradable dish soap should be added to the camp cookware bag.