Shelter Island – The Heart of San Diego…on the Waterfront!

October 2023 – We recently made a quick weeklong RV trip to San Diego and had an absolute ball. As soon as we got there and set up camp at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park Campground, we made a beeline for Shelter Island, our all-time favorite place in this beautiful city.

It was a foggy morning, but seeing the sailboats bobbing at anchor and hearing the seagulls mournful cries warmed our hearts!

We had been fortunate to live on Shelter Island in our sailboat, Groovy, for two weeks before our sailing cruise of Mexico and for six months afterwards. For us, it is the heart of San Diego, offering truly elegant waterfront living right on the banks of San Diego Harbor.

Flagship passes by Shelter Island San Diego California

A tour boat makes its way through the fog past Shelter Island in San Diego Harbor.

Shelter Island is a manmade barrier island that was created by dredging some marshy flats and piling up the mud to make a long skinny “island” that parallels the shoreline of San Diego Harbor. It isn’t a true island, however, as a road lined with businesses attaches it to the mainland.

Behind the island — in the dredged area on either side of this access road — there are rows upon rows of boats moored at a series of lovely marinas.

Sea of boats on Shelter Island San Diego California

There are more boats in San Diego’s many marinas than we’ve ever seen anywhere else!

So, being on Shelter Island puts you right in the middle of all the waterfront action of a big city harbor. The “front” side of the island faces San Diego Harbor, with the city skyline in the distance, while the sheltered “back” side of the island is filled with marinas and resorts and is very peaceful and tranquil.

Ryobi drill set

As we drove down Shelter Island Drive onto the island, we had to stop at Marvelous Muffins. When we lived on Shelter Island in our sailboat, Groovy, for 6 months at the end of our Mexico cruise, Marvelous Muffins was a frequent morning stop for us, no matter what we had planned for our day!

Marvelous Muffins Shelter Island San Diego California

Marvelous Muffins was a favorite morning haunt for us!

Nothing about it had changed. Sophie, the charming muffin maker and shopkeeper, was still there to greet us, and her muffins were as delicious as we remembered them being. Naturally, we bought a few extras to take back to our trailer!

Marvelous Muffins owner Sophie Shelter Island San Diego California

Sophie has been making muffins here for over 20 years!

The air was still heavy with fog when we got to the waterfront. San Diego Harbor is a very busy harbor with boats heading to and fro all the time, no matter what the weather! As we watched the goings-on, the Flagship tour boat headed past us on an excursion, the deck filled with eager tourists.

Overhead, Navy helicopters buzzed around constantly. Across the harbor, the Navy runway was very busy with jets that were so loud we couldn’t head each other talk when they took off!

Navy Helicopter Shelter Island San Diego California

The whir of Navy helicopter blades fills the air all the time!

Far out at sea, a really unique looking tri-hulled Navy ship approached. What an unusual beast!

Tri-hull Navy Ship Shelter Island San Diego California

A unique Navy ship approaches through the fog.

Gradually, the fog lifted and streaks of blue filled the sky. We could see the San Diego skyline in the distance beyond a string of sailboats that were anchored along the edge of the harbor.

San Diego Skyline from Shelter Island

Ahhh…San Diego!

The side of Shelter Island that faces the harbor is a wonderful long grassy park. A walking path runs between the grass and the shore. It ducks under flower covered trellises and passes by children’s play areas, picnic tables and statuary along the way.

Bougainvillea Trellis Shelter Island San Diego California

Shelter Island has several trellises along the walking path that are covered with vibrant bougainvillea flowers.

Bougainvillia at Shelter Island San Diego CA

We love it here!

Down at our feet, we noticed that when the sidewalk pavement was poured, someone drew a stick figure of a sailboat. How fun!

Stick drawing of sailboat in the sidewalk Shelter Island San Diego California

Someone captured the spirit of this special place before the pavement dried.

Fabulous enormous trees provide shade throughout this grassy park, inviting all visitors to sit for a spell and enjoy the view.

Sitting in the grass on Shelter Island San Diego Harbor

The vast grassy lawns on Shelter Island are very inviting.

Happy dog in the grass Shelter Island San Diego California


Buddy thought this place was heavenly and promptly took a snooze!

Dog in the grass

“This is my kind of place!”

There are park benches along this walking path too. It is a very romantic waterfront!

Magma Stackable RV Cookware
Sailboats and park bench on Shelter Island in San Diego CA

If you don’t want to sit in the grass, try a park bench!

The romantic air isn’t just for people either. A pair of seagulls was enjoying a quiet moment of togetherness too.

Twin seagulls Shelter Island San Diego California


One of the more famous statues on Shelter Island is the tuna fishermen. These three guys are straining for all they’re worth, pulling up an enormous tuna together. Their fishing rods are anchored in belts around their waists, and the fish is fighting mightily.

Tuna fishermen Shelter Island San Diego California

Tuna fishermen strain to land their catch.

A few steps away we saw several fishermen casting their lines. They were after smaller prey and they said they were having pretty good luck!

Fishermen Shelter Island San Diego California

Waiting for the big one!

A seagull kept a close eye on them to see if they might start cleaning their catch and throwing out scraps!

Seagull at San Diego Harbor on Shelter Island

“You got anything for me?”

There’s a small beach on the harbor side of Shelter Island, and now that the sun was out, a few sun bathers settled into the sand to catch some rays.

Beach at Shelter Island San Diego California

“Lazing on a sunny afternoon!”

A man came running past with his dog bounding ahead. Leashes are required, of course, but this lucky pooch was given a few minutes of freedom on the beach. He took full advantage, and plunged into the water for a swim. He emerged looking a little bedraggled but very happy!

Happy dog after a swim

“Come on in, the water’s fine!”

RV Log Book Journal

Shelter Island is home to some truly exquisite resorts that are lined up along the back side of the island. Their fronts faced the grassy lawn park and the harbor. One of these resorts is Island Palms. It looked truly regal under the towering palm trees.

Island Palms Hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

Elegant Island Palms Resort.

With fancy resorts comes stunning landscaping, and there were glorious exotic flowers of all kinds in bloom everywhere.

The climate in San Diego is very temperate, never exceedingly hot or cold. While we were there in late October the daily highs were 75 degrees F and the nightly lows were 65 degrees.

Unlike the vast southwestern desert that stretches for hundreds of miles right up to the coastal mountains that separate San Diego from its arid inland neighbors, this city sees very minimal temperature swings from day to night.

Bird of Paradise flower Shelter Island San Diego California

A tropical Bird of Paradise flower.

Morning glories

Flowers were in bloom everywhere.

Unusual flower


On the backside of the island there are several marinas, and this is the area we called home for six months. It is incredible that you can live in the heart of San Diego, right on the water, wedged between top flight resort hotels, for the price of a boat and a slip.

When we were there, the country was in the throes of the financial crisis that began in 2008, and although it took several years to make its way into the boating community, when it did, it hit hard.

Before the crisis there was a waiting list for boat slips in the marinas, and the price per month was sky high. However, by the time we lived there, open slips were in abundance and the price was very reasonable. We were blessed with really fortunate timing!

Gate to Kona Kai Marina docks Shelter Island San Diego California

Behind this gate to the boat docks lies a vast field of dreams.

Lots of sailboats at Shelter Island San Diego California

Boats, boats and more boats.

Taking a walk down memory lane, we strolled along the shore and admired the hundreds of boats. We didn’t see any Hunter 44DS sailboats (Groovy’s model), but we did see a Hunter 41DS, the same layout but a little shorter. Then we strolled along the small beach that is opposite the boats. What a place to live!

Resort hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

The back side of the resorts have a view of the boats in the marinas,
and there’s a thin strip of very calm beach too.

Kona Kai Resort & Spa is a gorgeous property, and the fire pits just begged for groups of friends to gather around. Meanwhile, the swimming pool looked sooooo inviting!

Kona Kai Resort Hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

Grab some friends and enjoy a sundowner and a campfire on the beach!

Fire pits on the beach Shelter Island San Diego California

The Mega Yacht Dock is opposite the Kona Kai beach — Nice!

Resort swimming pool Shelter Island San Diego California

Where day-to-day stress melts away.

Down on the beach there were some shade ramadas with cushy seating for intimate gatherings. There was no shortage of places to relax around here!

Picnic ramada Kona Kai Resort Shelter Island San Diego

Buddy got a great taste of tropical resort life.

What a place to call home for a while. While we lived at Kona Kai Marina, we were allowed to use the gym facilities at the resort. Needless to say, the minutes passed a lot faster on the elliptical machine when you were staring out the enormous plate glass windows at all the activity in and around the marina and resort!

Beach chairs at the Mega Yacht Dock Shelter Island San Diego California

Shelter Island, San Diego.

RV vent insulator

If your RV travels take you to San Diego, be sure to swing by Shelter Island. There isn’t an RV park there, but even if you visit for just a few hours, you’ll find that it is a wonderful community unto itself. And for us, it is the true heart of San Diego!

Where to Stay in an RV in San Diego?

On this trip, we stayed at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, a pleasant park on the southeastern side of the city. The advantage is that it is fairly reasonably priced for San Diego. The disadvantage is that downtown San Diego is a 30 minute drive away via several freeways.

Some of the campground loops were under construction during our stay (October 2023), making it quite noisy during the day. The construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

Also, they have a very serious problem with minuscule sugar ants. The ants have been there for years, and they know all the tricks for how to get into your rig. Diatomaceous Earth and Amdro ant granules help, but when you shut down one spot they’ve been getting in, they promptly find another! We had the exact same issue with sugar ants at the KOA in Chula Vista in 2009, so it may be a common problem with many RV parks on the south side of San Diego.

There are lots of other RV park options in San Diego. We enjoyed staying at Campland on the Bay in our popup tent trailer in 2005. It’s family oriented and full of lively activity and kids. Next door, Mission Bay RV Resort is popular with full-timers and snowbirds.

A new RV park that is closer to downtown was very tempting for this trip — Sun Outdoors RV Park. If you look at the rates now, in November 2023, your eyes will pop out of your head. But last summer they were running a special for wintertime advance booking that was right in line with the other RV parks in the area, about 35% more than Sweetwater County Park. Many people seem to have been very happy staying there and we might try it next time if we can snag a good advance booking deal.

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Hartman Rocks – A Different View of Colorado near Gunnison

July 2023 – During our stay in Gunnison, Colorado (our jumping off point to see the incredible wildflowers in nearby Crested Butte!) we visited Hartman Rocks Recreation Area just south of town. Hartman Rocks is a 22 square mile recreation area managed by the Bureau of Land management. It is filled with 4×4 roads, hiking and biking trails, camping areas and exotic outcroppings of rocks. And it’s a very different kind of landscape than the soaring mountain peaks of the Rockies.

Hartman Rocks Colorado RV trip

Hartman Rocks shows off a different side of Colorado — no towering snowcapped peaks here!

We drove our RZR side-by-side on some of the many 4×4 roads and stopped frequently to crawl around on the various rock formations.

Side-by-side at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is filled with 4×4 trails and roads.

View at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Huge boulders poke up out of the earth here and there.

There are some golf course communities just beyond the edge of Hartman Rocks Recreation Area that made a wonderful lush green contrast to the arid desert rocks.

Hartman Rocks Colorado

From our arid vantage point at Hartman Rocks, the lush golf course communities looked very inviting!

Golf course view from Hartman Rocks Colorado


There are 50 dry campsites scattered throughout Hartman Rocks. The most picturesque spots are tucked between the rock formations and are a good size for tent camping.

Tent camping at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Some of the most scenic campsites at Hartman Rocks are set between the boulders, ideal for tent camping.

We did find two or three campsites that would have been big enough for our trailer, but it was way too hot for boondocking in the dusty high desert in July!!

Even though Gunnison, Colorado, is at 7,700’ elevation, we were surprised by just how HOT it was in the summertime. After all, Gunnison’s record high for the month of July is 95 degrees Fahrenheit! For August it’s 105!! Temps hovered in the low 90s during our stay.

But of course, every summer is different. The record lows in this area are the mid-30s…brrr! So, be prepared for any kind of weather!

The bottom line for us, though, is that Hartman Rocks would be better for boondocking in the spring and fall, especially since there’s no shade in the bigger campsites we saw.

Hartman Rocks Colorado

We had fun climbing around on the boulders.

View between the trees at Hartman Rocks Colorado


Regardless of the heat, mountain bikers were having fun out on the trails…

Mountain biking at Hartman Rocks Colorado

There are 45 miles of single track mountain biking trails at Hartman Rocks!

And Buddy found a shady spot by a rock to take in the view.

Happy puppy at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Buddy found a bit of shade that was just his size.

Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment

We returned at the end of the day as the sun was beginning to set and the rocks were beginning to glow. Buddy still kept to the shady spots.

Puppy explores Hartman Rocks Colorado

The rock formations took on a beautiful golden hue at the end of the day.

We loved seeing the rocks light up in the late afternoon sun.

Golden hour at Hartman Rocks Colorado


There were rolling hills in the distance and mountains further on. The main 4×4 road through the recreation area squiggled off into the distance while flowers poked their heads out from between the cracks.

Rolling hills at Hartman Rocks Colorado

The views from within Hartman Rocks range from lush green grass to rolling hills to neighborhoods in the distance.

View from Hartman Rocks Colorado

Good evening, Gunnison!

Flowers at Hartman Rocks Colorado


This whole area is definitely a dog paradise. Buddy was happy to meet several new furry friends. In between tail wags and sniffs with these new companions, he kept a close eye out for mice and chipmunks in the rocks!

Puppy sees the view at Hartman Rocks Colorado

“I know there’s a mouse out there!”

Suddenly, the sun sank behind the horizon.

Sunset glow at Hartman Rocks Colorado


The colors and patterns of the sunset were a little different in each direction.

Sunset at Hartman Rocks Colorado


Views at Hartman Rocks Colorado


Hking Trail at Hartman Rocks Colorado


Sunset at Hartman Rocks Colorado


We headed back to the trailer for dinner. We were staying at Palisade Senior RV Park (55+). It is a very quiet park in a quiet corner of town, and most of the guests were staying for at least a month. Many were there for the whole season. We even met groups of friends who had been spending summers together at the park for the last 10 or 15 years!

Moon RV USA Routes

We appreciated the lush grassy lawn and big shade trees at this RV park as well as the proximity to downtown Gunnison.

We were fortunate to be visiting the area during the new moon, so after dinner, we headed back to Hartman Rocks to see the Milky Way. We stumbled around a little on the uneven terrain, but the night was clear and the Milky Way was easy to see.

Millky Way at Hartman Rocks Colorado


On our way home, Mark noticed a very cool old motel sign, a throwback to another era.

Cool hotel sign at night Gunnison Colorado

They just don’t put signs like this on motels any more. We have expected the lower electric sign to say, “Color TV!”

While we were in this area, we spent as much time a possible among the wildflowers up in Crested Butte where the temps are cooler (Crested Butte is at 8.900’ elevation).

On our way, we often stopped at Mochas Coffeehouse & Bakery to get a muffin to go. They make absolutely scrumptious muffins!

Gunnison Sign in the IOOF Park in Gunnison Colorado

We really liked this small park in the middle of Gunnison.

There is a lot to see at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area (in addition to the 45 miles of single track trails, there’s 45 miles of 4×4 roads too!). We hope to get back there when it’s not so hot to explore it a bit more in depth!

RV hose Water Bandit

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Creede, CO – Mining History & Championships + 4th of July!

July 2023 – Creede, Colorado, is a very small town that is tucked into a canyon at the end of the road in a remote part of Colorado. With just 257 residents (2020 census), it is the most populated place in Mineral County. What’s more, it’s the only incorporated municipality in all of Mineral County to boot!

Despite its small size and remote location, Creede hosted the Colorado State Mining Championships for three days and was our choice this year to celebrate the 4th of July.

Creede Colorado RV Trip

Looking up Main Street.
Creede, Colorado, backs right into a canyon.

Like many Colorado towns, Creede has its roots in mining. Silver was discovered in the area around Willow Creek in 1869.

20 years after that initial silver discovery, Nicolas Creede yelled “Holy Moses” when he hit the “Holy Moses” silver vein on East Willow Creek. The town’s name was soon changed from “Willow” (for the creek) to “Creede” (for Mr. Creede)!

The town quickly became a silver boom town. Within three years it grew from 600 residents to 15,000, and its name was changed to Creede!

Colorado Ghost Towns

Nicolas Creede wasn’t done with his discoveries yet, though. He also found an amethyst vein along West Willow Creek which turned out to be the richest in US history.

In no time, not only were there silver mines, but there were amethyst mines with names like “Happy Thought Mine” and “Last Chance Mine.”

A plaque out along Willow Creek shows a photo of Creede in 1892 when the town was booming. There were buildings under construction, piles of lumber, people milling around, and a horse drawn buggy all filling the dirt street and wooden sidewalk.

Main Street Creede Colorado 1892

Creede as it looked in the midst of the silver boom in 1892.

At the peak of the boom, Creede was growing by 300 people a day. Every inch of flat ground in the area was built upon.

A photo of a line of mules loaded down with lumber shows just how challenging it was to build the mines, the homes and all the commercial establishments at such a fast rate back in those days. The mountains were steep and the trails were narrow!

Mules carry building supplies in Creede Colorado late 1800s

It wasn’t so easy to haul building materials back in 1892!

Unfortunately, silver prices plummeted with the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893. Amethyst mining alone wasn’t enough to sustain the crowds, and Creede’s population quickly plummeted to just 1,000 people!

Today, Creede’s Main Street is once again a lively and colorful place. It’s full of tourist boutique stores and eateries, and in the summertime the tourists outnumber the locals by many to one. Most of the roads in town are paved these days, and the sidewalk on Main Street is concrete!

Love Rings in Creede Colorado

Creede is a colorful town.

Holy Moses...Spare a Keg in Creede Colorado

Holy Moses, it’s a spare keg!

Reese Goosebox

The miner’s pick-axe and shovel are icons for this area, and we spotted them on signs and in artwork around town.

Moose and miners in Creede Colorado

We saw the miner’s pick-axe and shovel in a lot of unusual places!

As we had found in most of Colorado, except for Rocky Mountain National Park, dogs are welcome in Creede! Their owners, however…well, they can come too, I guess…

Dogs welcome (people tolerated) in Creede Colorado

Four legged visitors are fine…but the folks at the other end of the leash? Not so much!

Being snow and ski country, it was only fitting that a row of chairs outside a store were made of old skis. Even better, the cup holders were ski bindings!

Chairs made with skis in Creede Colorado

Reminders of what Colorado is like in the OTHER season!

Ski chair cupholder is a ski binding

What a perfect cup holder!

We visited Creede in early July, and flowers were blooming everywhere.

Flower baskets in Creede Colorado

A beautiful hanging basket of flowers.

Columbine - Colorado state flower

The delicate columbine is Colorado’s state flower.

Bleeding hearts in Creede Colorado

Dainty bleeding hearts.

Evening primrose Creede Colorado

An evening primrose.

After window shopping for a while, we wandered to the far north end of town where the pavement ends and Main Street becomes Forest Road 503, a gravel road.

This was a really scenic spot and we returned several times during our stay.

Beautiful Willow Creek in Creede Colorado

Just steps north of the last buildings in town, we found a lovely oasis.

Dawn at Willow Creek Creede Colorado

Willow Creek.

Willow Creek Creede Colorado


If you continue beyond this pretty spot, you are on the Bachelor Loop, a dirt road loop that goes past several old mines. It is an interesting drive that can be done in a passenger car or a Jeep or side-by-side, and that’s where we saw the plaque with old photos of Creede and the mules.

Renogy 200 watt solar panel

As we travel around with our RZR, we’re finding that the issue of side-by-sides and ATVs being allowed to drive around on the streets is handled differently in every town and state.

Creede has a very good system. The town is long and narrow (it fits into the mouth of a canyon) and the streets form a grid pattern. So, there’s a long Main Street down the middle and a few other long streets that run parallel to it on either side. Then there are a bunch of short cross streets that connect these roads.

Side-by-sides are not allowed on Main Street, but they’re allowed on two outer dirt roads that run parallel to it. They’re also allowed on a few of the cross streets.

So, if you’re driving a side-by-side, you can get close to where you want to go, park, and walk the remaining little bit.

Creede Colorado Main Street

Side-by-sides and ATVs can’t drive on Main Street, but they are allowed on two parallel streets on either side of it. “OHV” signs made it clear where we could take our RZR.

We found Creede’s Main Street was really crowded with cars all day long, largely because the southern portion of it is also the major “highway” in the area. Keeping the side-by-sides to the smaller outer streets works out really well for everyone.

We visited Creede during the 4th of July week, and when we came into town on the big day, we found a fantastic chalk drawing of the Statue of Liberty on the sidewalk.

Statue of Liberty sidewalk chalk drawing in Creede Colorado

Happy 4th of July!

Buddy was dressed in his Independence Day finest, ready to watch the parade.

Handsome pup on 4th of July in Creede Colorado

Dapper Dog.

There was a lot of excitement as the town geared up for the parade. Buddy wasn’t the only one who dressed for the occasion. We saw lots of wild and creative outfits!

Dressed up dog 4th of July parade Creede, Colorado


Costume for 4th of July in Creede Colorado


Dressed for 4th of July Creede Colorado


Little kids decorated the pavement with chalk while some very buff looking bigger kids posed for us as they waited on their float for the parade to begin.

Decorating the street with chalk before the 4th of July parade in Creede Colorado

Kids had fun drawing in the middle of Main Street.

Buff people on a float in the 4th of July parade in Creede, Colorado

Lookin’ good!

Creede’s 4th of July parade was unique, probably due to the commmunity’s small size. There was no American flag carried by proud military veterans. There were no high school bands to play the Star Spangled Banner. And there weren’t any dance teams or rodeo queens.

However, there was still a lot of spirit. After the Grand Marshal drove by sitting on the trunk of a convertible Austin Healey, a solo bagpipe player appeared.

Bagpipe player 4th of July parade Creede Colorado

The parade begins.

Lots of vehicles were decorated to the hilt, and there were literally dozens of side-by-sides too!

4th of July parade in Creede Colorado

Going all out!

Side-by-sides in 4th of July parade Creede Colorado

The side-by-sides kept coming and coming, and they were all decked out for the parade too!

Every single vehicle that went by threw out candy (or bead necklaces) for the kids. Many would stop for a minute to pass the candy directly into the kids’ outstretched hands.

Candy handouts in the 4th of July parade in Creede Colorado

A little girl gets some goodies while a camera in the truck captures the moment.

Most kids came well prepared for collecting candy and brought large bags for their loot. A few adults also handed out bags to ensure no child went without!

It was like Halloween. But the candy came to the kids rather than the kids going door to door to ask for it. Afterwards, the street was littered with candy that hadn’t been snatched up!

Kids get candy in the Creede Colorado 4th of July parade

“I’ll trade ya!”

A beautiful display of handmade quilts went by, and then a toddler wobbled down the street driving her own wee side-by-side. It turned out that her mother was at the controls behind her. So cute!

Quilt display 4th of July parade Creede Colorado

Beautiful quilt — and a cool truck too!

Remote controlled side-by-side 4th of July parade Creede, Colorado

Before we realized Mom was at the controls, we wondered how and when this toddler got her driver’s license!

Buddy loved it all, and at the end he suddenly threw his head back and let out a howl!

Howling dog

“Ow-oooooooh! That was great!”

RV hose Water Bandit

Throughout the 4th of July festivities, the three day long Colorado State Mining Championships were going on in town too!

Miners showed off all kinds of unusual skills as they tried to best each other. One competition was a race to see who could drill into a huge boulder to a certain depth fastest. It was incredible to watch these men handle that drill. It takes a huge amount of strength and coordination to keep it under control!

Mining Competition Creede Colorado

Miners competed with each other in all kinds of mining skills at the Colorado State Mining Championships.

On the evening of the 4th of July, there was a fireworks display right over the big new RV park just south of town. (The park is Mountain Views at River’s Edge RV Resort — excellent and popular, book early!).

We decided to head up onto a hillside to watch the show from a distance. It was a cool vantage point that was slightly higher than the fireworks.

Lights in the neighboring homes were lit up, which added a special intimacy to the show.

Creede Colorado fireworks


Creede Colorado 4th of July Fireworks


Creede is a little bit out of the way. However, if you find yourself on the Silver Byway Scenic Drive, it’s a natural place to stop and a great place to hang around in an RV for a while!

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Buena Vista Colorado – What a Place for an RV Breakdown!

August 2023 – Buena Vista, Colorado, is a wonderful destination for an RV trip and a great place to spend a few weeks in the summertime. When our truck was suddenly unable to tow our trailer over Colorado’s mountain passes, we stranded near Buena Vista for several weeks as we waited for parts to arrive. As it turned out, Buena Vista was a great place to be “stuck!”

Buena Vista Colorado - Great RV trip destination

Choo choo!

Buena Vista, affectionately known as “BV,” is a small town of less than 3,000 people that sits in a mountain valley at an elevation of 8,000′.

Back in the 1880s, it was the hub for three major railroads, as commemorated in a mural on a building in town. Settlers had been drawn to the area because its plentiful water was good for farming, and agriculture has been an important part of the community ever since.

Buena Vista means “Good View” in Spanish, and good views are in abundance! The Collegiate Mountain Range stands to the west of town and several peaks are named for the most prestigious colleges in England and America, including Mt. Oxford, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale and Mt. Princeton. Many of the mountains in the range are fourteeners, that is, their summits are over 14,000’ in height!

Collegiate Mountains Buena Vista Colorado_

An Airstream and two Ferraris pass each other in front of the Collegiate Mountain Range.

Colorado Scenic Drives

The downtown area in Buena Vista is a pleasant place for a stroll, and there are quite a few eateries and coffee bistros that were always very busy when we went by.

Downtown Buena Vista Colorado

Historic downtown Buena Vista.

Buena Vista has a sense of whimsy, and there’s a mastodon statue outside of the courthouse!

Buena Vista Colorado courthouse and mastadon statue

A mastodon in front of the courhouse ?!

On the east side of town there’s a new neighborhood called South Main Street that we found absolutely delightful. The architecture is very pretty and the area is quiet.

South Main Street Buena Vista Colorado

Quaint buildings along South Main Street.

The homes resemble houses you might find in a city in the eastern states with covered porches right on the sidewalk. We saw families gathering on these porches in the late afternoons. I’m not sure if these were residents of Buena Vista or if they had rented these lovely homes for a vacation. Either way, the whole neighborhood was very inviting.

Houses on South Main Street Buena Vista Colorado

The tree lined streets and covered porches are reminiscent of homes back east.

Tree lined South Main Street Buena Vista Colorado

We loved walking along these sidewalks.

There’s a small grassy park at the end of the street that hosts outdoor summer concerts. The stately and rather grand Surf Hotel overlooks the park.

South Main Street Buena Vista Colorado

The Surf Hotel is next to a park that hosts outdoor concerts.

Surf Hotel? Where would you ever find surf around here? This hotel belonged on a beach somewhere!

Well, it didn’t take us long to discover that Buena Vista has both SURF and BEACHES!

The Arkansas River runs through the eastern edge of the town, and there are many access points to the river. One river access is a boat ramp, and at the end we saw people enjoying the water

Swimming in the Arkansas River at Buena Vista Colorado

The Arkansas River is a great place to play in the water.

The whole area around the Arkansas River is called River Park, and there is a fun hiking trail that goes along both sides of the river. It crosses two bridges that take you from one side of the river to the other and back.

Bridge at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

The Town Bridge (pictured here) and the Beaver Falls Bridge make the two riverbank hiking trails into a loop.

Buddy noticed a very inviting sign posted at the trailhead, and he promptly gave the whole trail system a huge Two Paws Up.

Trail sign at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

Dogs are not just welcome on the River Park trail, they’re recommended!

Needless to say, during our stay in the area, we hiked this trail loop many times!

Trail at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

The River Trail’s rugged side.

The trail that runs between the bridges on the town side of the river is wide and easy to walk. The trail on the opposite side of the river is more challenging, and in some places there are scrambles up and down rock outcroppings. We loved it all!

River Park at Buena Vista Colorado

Buena Vista’s River Park was the highlight of our stay!

Best Colorado Wildflower Hikes

The town of Buena Vista has done a great job creating their beautiful River Park. Not only are there trails on both sides of the river, but there are several human-enhanced rock formations in the river itself that make cool standing waves!

Relaxing at the Wave at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

Here’s a nice spot to catch up on some summer reading while lounging in front of a standing wave!

The biggest wave is in the middle and it’s called the Pocket Wave. People were playing in the Pocket Wave all day long. They used boogie boards and tested their skills standing in place on the wave or lying on their stomachs. They were having a total blast!

The Wave at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

This kid rode the Pocket Wave in place like that for at least 5 minutes!

No wonder the hotel next to the river is called the Surf Hotel!

Other folks love to tackle the whitewater sections of the river with short inflatable kayaks. These fantastic little boats are light enough to carry around and easy to pack in the back of a car and inflate by the water’s edge.

Happy rafter at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

Out for a joy ride.

Whitewater rafting at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

What a blast!

The two bridges at either end of the park were favorite spots for people to stop and grab a photo of the river. We did too!

Arkansas River Buena Vista Colorado

Arkansas River seen from the Beaver Falls Bridge.

There are also lots of mini beaches and rocky spots on both sides the river that are just big enough for a couple of people and a happy dog to enjoy the water. We’d always pause to enjoy the view, and we often met other people doing the same.

Rocks in the Arkansas River in Buena Vista Colorado

We loved the big rocks in the middle of the river.

Rocks in the Arkansas River in Buena Vista Colorado

Silky smooth!

Happy camper at Buena Vista River Park Colorado

Taking a breather under the bridge.

US-24 runs right through the town of Buena Vista. On the west side of the highway there’s a big city park with a pond called McPhelmy Park. McPhelmy Park holds free outdoor concerts at their Legacy Stage. There are also outdoor music concerts in the South Main Street neighborhood in front of the Surf Hotel. So, if you like outdoor music, Buena Vista is a good place to visit!

Concert at Legacy Stage Buena Vista Colorado

There were free concerts at the Legacy Stage every week.

Buena Vista had a train depot in the late 1800s, and although it wasn’t open during our visit, an old train was parked outside for kids to climb on. It is remarkable to imagine a rickety wooden box like this rolling across the rough American countryside nearly 150 years ago!

Train at Buena Vista Train Depot Colorado

Long ago, passengers were excited to see this train arrive at the depot.

We peeked inside the train, and the accommodations were quite simple. I’m not sure exactly how this particular train was used, but traveling any kind of distance in it would have been very uncomfortable. Yet, it was probably much better than a stagecoach and a whole lot faster too!

Inside the Train at Buena Vista Train Depot Colorado

Spacious bench seats with space for luggage underneath, opening double-hung windows, and a woodstove in the back. At one time these were hailed as modern comforts!

B&W Gooseneck Ball for Ram Trucks

There’s a pretty manmade waterfall just beyond the train depot, and upstream in the center of the park the pond was loaded with kids.

Waterfall at the City Park in Buena Vista Colorado


We discovered that while half the town was on the banks of the Arkansas River at the River Park on the other side of town, the rest of them were here at this pond! The small beach is ideal for toddlers, and the placid water is perfect for paddling.

Pond in Buena Vista Colorado city park

Kids were enjoying a summer afternoon at the beach.

Paddleboarding in the city park pond in Buena Vista Colorado

A woman took her dog out for a spin on a paddleboard.

Kids kayaking in the pond at Buena Vista Colorado


Buena Vista was originally called Mahonville after its founders, James and Martha Mahon. However, in 1879, the citizens changed it to Buena Vista.

Interestingly, the woman who recommended the new name wanted the pronunciation to be an Americanized form: “Byoona Vista” (“byoo” as in “beautiful”) rather than the proper Spanish pronunciation, “Bwayna Vista.” Everyone else agreed!

Most of the locals, especially longtime locals, still pronounce the town’s name in its Americanized form. So, when you’re there, if you want to sound like a local, say “Byoona Vista” rather than “Bwayna Vista!”

Happy dog at the Arkansas River in Buena Vista Colorado

“Never mind how you pronounce it. Buena Vista’s River Park trail gets Two Paws Up!”

Sometimes traveling in an RV brings unexpected surprises. We’d been through Buena Vista in our travels twice before, but we’d given the town just a brief glance. If it hadn’t been for the truck engine failures on this trip, we probably would have passed it by yet again.

However, our truck mishap forced us to stay in the area for nearly three weeks. This gave us a chance to see Burro Days in FairPlay and visit Antero Reservoir and Frisco. In between, we got to know Buena Vista pretty well, and we found the town truly delightful!

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Reese Goosebox

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Rocky Mountain National Park & Trail Ridge Road: RV? Dog??

August 2023 – We were busy enjoying our stay at Lake Granby, Colorado, so much that we almost forgot why we took our RV there in the first place! It was because we wanted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and drive the famous Trail Ridge Road scenic drive that soars over the peaks!

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado and Trail Ridge Road scenic drive

America’s Alps!

Rocky Mountain National Park is a huge Park. The 48 mile long Trail Ridge Road runs between the town of Grand Lake at the west end and the community of Estes Park at the east end. In between, it ascends 4,000’ to its summit and winds between the mountains, going from one gorgeous scenic overlook to the next.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park has breathtaking views.

Fellow RVers had told us Lake Granby was a great place to stay while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, but other RVers had told us their favorite part of the Park was on the east side near Estes Park. Unfortunately, the eastern portion of the park is 50 miles from Lake Granby where we were staying!

So, we weren’t sure how much of the eastern side of the Park we would see, but we were excited to get going as we hopped in the truck and headed into the Park.

The roads were super quiet at 9:00 in the morning as we pulled up to the entrance gate. To our complete surprise, the ranger asked us for our timed entry reservation permit.

Our what??

Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

During certain hours, Rocky Mountain National Park requires visitors to reserve a timed entry permit in order to enter the Park.

It turns out that Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the National Parks that now uses a timed entry permit system to cap and control the number of visitors that enter the Park at any given time.

So, not only do you need to buy a Park Pass to visit this Park (Federal annual and Senior passes are fine), but you have to make an appointment for the exact time you wish to enter the Park and pay a fee for that too. Holy smokes!

Rocky Mountain National Park Guide Book

A few of the most popular National Parks are using this new timed entry permit system because they were being overrun with visitors. The roads and overlooks inside these Parks had become too congested.

In 2023, Rocky Mountain National Park required visitors to reserve the timed entry permits between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. between May 26 and October 22.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado scenic overlook on Trail Ridge Road

Incredible views at Rocky Mountain National Park!

We hadn’t made a reservation to enter the park, but fortunately, with the road completely devoid of cars and a friendly ranger gal at the window and the official time being just a hair after 9:00 a.m., she let us enter rather than turning us away as she would have a few minutes later. Phew! We got in under the wire!

For those that are early risers or who prefer more spontaneous travel, the trick is to enter the Park either before 9:00 a.m. or after 2:00 p.m. when the timed entry permits aren’t required.

Trail Ridge Road views in Rocky Mountain National Park


The first ten miles or so of the drive into the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is badly scarred from 2020’s East Troublesome forest fire, the largest wildfire in Rocky Mountain National Park’s history.

The fire burned a total of 302 square miles of which 33 square miles were inside the Park. As we drove Trail Ridge Road through the forest, every single tree was burnt to a crisp.

Colorado National Parks Book

Eventually, however, Trail Ridge Road took us way up into the mountains where we saw some wonderfully dramatic views. The dead burned trees gave way to living green trees, and the vistas at each overlook were wonderful.

Overlook at Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado on Trail Ridge Road

Towering mountains and alpine lakes.

Trail Ridge Road twisted through tight turns, and with every bend we got another look at mountain views that went on for miles into the distance.

Scenic Overlook on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado


Trail Ridge Road Views at Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado


There was still a little bit of snow on the mountain peaks in mid-August. At one overlook, there was a bowl of snow on a nearby mountainside and an ice-filled pond in its midst. There were bright blue alpine lakes in the distance.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado snow in August

Snow surrounds an icy pond.

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A bright blue lake shimmered in the distance

We were the only car on the road and the only people at several of the overlooks we stopped at. As the morning wore on, though, the traffic picked up and we had company when we stopped to take in the views.

As always, Buddy attracted lots of attention from the younger set!

People and dog at Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

A sweet toddler and a cool pup.

Buddy checked out the views alongside Mark, but I’m not sure it was the dramatic mountain scenery that caught his interest. He seemed to be looking down more than out!

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado person and dog

“See the views?”
“Yes, but I see something else too!”

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado dog looks over the edge

“There’s something in the bushes down there!”

That’s because Buddy was totally focused on the chipmunks!

The chipmunks in these parts are quite brazen and very savvy. They darted between the cars and people, looking for snacks on the ground or handouts from tourists.

Chuckit Dog Ball Thrower

I was amazed that somehow the chipmunks knew exactly how car wheels behave. Even though they took wildly risky chances running between parked car tires, we didn’t see any get run over when the cars started moving again.

Buddy was transfixed!

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado chipmunk

These cute little guys know all about tourists and their cars!

The drive and the views reminded us of the Beartooth Scenic Highway in Montana. However, the Beartooth Scenic Highway is a public highway traveled by Montana residents, tourists and truckers alike. There is no entrance fee to do the drive and no timed entry permit system either!

I hate to say it, but for us, the Beartooth Scenic Highway seemed to boast more dramatic scenery too.

Colorado Scenic Drives

However, we drove the Beartooth Scenic Highway in late June, just a few days after the road opened (it closes each winter due to massive snowfall and dangerous icy turns). The mountain peaks were still covered with snow.

In contrast, we were driving through Rocky Mountain National Park in mid-August, almost two months further into the summer season. Most of the snow was gone from the mountain peaks by then, and all that remained was small pockets of snow dotting the hillsides.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado view on Trail Ridge Road

These mountain peaks have more snow on them earlier in the summer season.

Rocky Mountain National Park has lots and lots of hikes of all different lengths and difficulties that take hikers out to incredible vistas.

However, dogs are allowed only in the paved parking areas at the overlooks that are along the paved roads. Oddly, dogs aren’t even allowed on the very short paved paths that go to some of the overlooks.

What a contrast this was to the super dog-friendly South Rim of the Grand Canyon where dogs are welcomed on the 5 mile long paved Rim Trail! But rules are rules, so, walking and hiking weren’t on our agenda on this visit.

Rocky Mountain National Park No Dogs Allowed

Dogs are not allowed on this 50 yard paved path that goes to a viewpoint.

Despite the restrictions, we had a lot of fun at the scenic overlooks anyway. The views were fabulous, the air was crisp and clear and we were super fortunate to be out here enjoying the Rockies.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado peeking from the edge

Goofing around at an overlook.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado enjoying the view on Trail Ridge Road

Everyone sees something different out here.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado selfie with dog

Happiness on the ridge.

Trail Ridge Road has a lot of tight switchbacks that ascend steep climbs where the speed limit is 15 mph. RVs are allowed to drive on the road, and we found the driving was not difficult in our big dually truck. We just took our time.

Rocky Mountain National Park Guide Book

However, Trail Ridge Road might be quite challenging with a large RV and it would be difficult to find room to park at the overlooks. We saw some vans and short Class C motorhomes on the road, but that was it for RVs traversing this road.

For RVers with bigger rigs who want to get from one end of the Park to the other, it would probably be best to do your sight-seeing drives on Trail Ridge Road in a tow vehicle or toad first and then simply drive the RV straight through from one end to the other without stopping.

RV driving on Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

A Class C motorhome on the Trail Ridge Road.

We were impressed to learn that Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in America. It climaxes at a breathtaking altitude of 12,183’.

Before we’d arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park, we’d already taken the truck and trailer over several of Colorado’s highest mountain passes with summits over 11,300’. But the peak on this road was 800 feet higher!

Alpine lake at Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

These mountains are very tall!

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado overlook on Trail Ridge Road


Down at Lake Granby where we were staying (8,284’ elevation), the midday temps had been warm enough to wear shorts. However, up here at this towering height it was downright freezing cold. Mark was happy to have a warm dog in his arms as we took a selfie in a biting wind.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado selfie

Even in mid-August it’s COLD in these high mountains!

We turned around about halfway down the descent into Estes Park. The eastern side of the Park was dramatically warmer than the than the western side or the area around Lake Granby.

I know we missed some really beautiful scenery around Estes Park, but it was a long drive back to Lake Granby. We’ll return someday, and on our next visit we’ll stay in Estes Park and explore the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park in greater depth.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado panorama on Trail Ridge Road

Goodbye, Rocky Mountain National Park…til next time!

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RV hose Water Bandit

More info about Rocky Mountain National Park:

All the National Parks, Monuments and World Heritage Sites we’ve visited – It’s quite a list!

Other scenic drives we’ve enjoyed, including the Bear Tooth Highway and it’s companion, the Chief Joseph Highway

Other blog posts from Colorado:

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Lake Granby Colorado RV Trip – A Summer Beach Vacation!

August 2023 – Lake Granby Colorado is ideal for an RV trip, and we met several RVers from hundreds of miles away who were enjoying a summer beach vacation there. Lake Granby is picturesque, great for boating and kayaking, and is lined with small beaches and quiet coves that are perfect for a day in the sun.

Lake Granby Colorado RV Trip - A Summer Beach Vacation!

Lake Granby is a great spot for a summertime visit!

We love it when our RV travels take us to places by the water. Although we had just come from a stay at Antero Reservoir and evenings alongside the Blue River, we soon fell in love with Lake Granby.

We often get our travel advice from fellow RVers who have just “been there and done that” at a cool place. And so it was with Lake Granby. I mentioned to an RVer back in Crested Butte that we were aiming for Rocky Mountain National Park, and her instant reaction was, “We always go to Lake Granby!”

Lake Granby Colorado with a kayak on the beach

Ready for an evening cruise on Lake Granby.

I made a mental note and was surprised when the next RVer I mentioned Rocky Mountain National Park to said the same thing: “Don’t miss Lake Granby!”

With two solid recommendations, I started studying the map. In no time, I met a third RVer whose response to “Rocky Mountain National Park?” was a simple, “Lake Granby!”

Lake Granby Colorado Speed boats and mountain scenery

Speeding past the mountain views on Lake Granby.

Lake Granby and Arapaho Bay (a long narrow tail of the lake at the east end) both have several USFS campgrounds on or near the shore. There are also two other similarly sized lakes nearby that have waterfront USFS campgrounds as well: Shadow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake. So, there are all kinds of shoreside RV camping options in the area.

Colorado National Parks Book

Traveling early in the week, and showing up before 10:00 a.m., we were able to snag a campsite. The name of the game at any of these lakes in the summertime is either to plan ahead and make reservations well in advance, or to show up early in the week AND early in the day for one of the few first-come-first-serve campsites, and start scouting!

Waterskiing on Lake Granby in Colorado

What a ride!

Lake Granby is a perfect spot for a summer beach vacation. Not only were there waterskiers flying by at top speed, sailboats tacking placidly in zig-zags and kayaks and paddle boards floating around near the water’s edge, there were fishermen catching dinner from the shore.

Fishing on Lake Granby Colorado

The fish were biting!

One evening, a fellow RVer and new friend knocked on our door holding out a plate full of delicious crappie (pronounced “croppy”). His day of fishing had been so successful, he and his wife couldn’t finish it all! We’d never had crappie before, and it was absolutely delicious!

Human fishermen aren’t the only people reeling in fish at Lake Granby, however. Some resident osprey who have set up housekeeping on top of human-erected nesting poles around the lake were out at dawn each morning catching breakfast for their broods. We heard their piercing calls all around the lake all day long!

Osprey at Lake Granby Colorado

Quite a few osprey were fishing at the lake.

Osprey flies over Lake Granby Colorado

“Maybe there are more fish over there!”

Early in the morning, Lake Granby is wonderfully calm. We walked along the thin strip of beach and breathed deeply. The water and air were perfectly still.

Then, a soft zephyr blew across the water’s surface, making ripples of sunlight dance on the sand in the depths.

Ripples in the water at Lake Granby Colorado

Sunlight plays with the sand and the water.

This reminded me so much of my childhood days spent playing on a very calm beach on Massachusetts’ north shore. The movement of the sun’s rays through the water always fascinated me. I was tickled to capture it with my camera here in Colorado!

Ripples in the water at Lake Granby Colorado


Sunlight in the water at Lake Granby Colorado


Our dear pup, Buddy, was busy making his own special memories on the beach. He trotted happily on the sand.

Lake Granby Colorado beach

Buddy LOVES the beach!

Faster than a speeding bullet…able to leap tall driftwood in a single bound, he dashed back and forth with sheer delight.

Flying puppy at Lake Granby Colorado

“Look at me – I’m flying.”

Dog at Lake Granby Colorado

“Did you see how fast I am?”

Dog Bowl with Kibble Storage

Lake Granby is a very big lake, and at one end we found a pretty sailboat bobbing at anchor in front of a mountainous backdrop. There’s also a marina that has a lot of sailboats lined up at the docks and many more moored out in the bay.

Sailboat for a summer beach vacation at Granby Colorado

Morning peace.

Late in the afternoon, the setting sun peeked through the trees on a trail down to the beach, casting light and shadow through the woods.

Sunset hiking trail at Lake Granby Colorado

Day’s end.

The sunsets at Lake Granby were wonderful. We went to a different part of the shore each afternoon, never knowing what kind of sunset might materialize.

Lake Granby Colorado sunset

Sunset at Lake Granby Colorado.

Sunset at Lake Granby Colorado

There were lots of interesting trees and driftwood at the water’s edge.

Sunset at Lake Granby Colorado

Mystical sky.

Sunset at a picnic table on Lake Granby Colorado

We visited different parts of the lake each afternoon.

Lake Granby Colorado sunset starburst

The last ray of sun before bedtime.

Buddy loved these outings and waited patiently while we fussed with our cameras.

Lake Granby Colorado sunset with a dog

“I’ll wait right here.”

What a beautiful lake this is!

Lake Granby Colorado summer sunset


Summer sunset at Lake Granby Colorado


I don’t know if it happens every year, but this summer the late afternoon monsoon activity was intense in this part of Colorado. Each afternoon the clouds would build until the sky grew dark. Then the wind would suddenly pick up, and it would pour!

Lake Granby Colorado clouds

The clouds built every afternoon during our stay.

This pattern of calm sunny mornings transforming into stormy wet afternoons was surprisingly consistent. Equally consistent, though, was the sunshine that pierced through the clouds after the rain ended, just before dusk. It often creating a dramatic sunset that began with shades of gold that faded to orange and finally deepened to a rich pink.

Lake Granby Colorado sunset

Gold reflections.

Sunset at Lake Granby Colorado

A few minutes later the gold became orange.

Lake Granby Colorado sunset

And then it deepened to pink.

Nights along the shores of Lake Granby were magical too. Lights from the homes on the far shore shone across the water, and stars filled the sky above.

We were fortunate to be there during the new moon, and I was determined to see the Milky Way tumbling into the lake. So, I snuck out of the trailer very late one night. Mark wished me well in a muffled voice as he pulled the covers over his head!

When I got to the beach, the scene was ideal. The Milky Way filled the sky and the lake was smooth and calm below it.

Lake Granby Colorado Milky Way

Milky Way above Lake Granby.

I stayed out on the beach for quite a while, and the Milky Way slowly walked across the sky, moving from left to right as it always does.

It was eerie being out on the beach by myself in the pitch dark. Suddenly, the wind began to blow and waves noisily lapped the shore by my feet. A few steps away, a swimming dock creaked and groaned in the growing swell.

I tried to ignore the noises and focus on my photos, telling myself there was nothing to fear. But suddenly I heard a loud bark right behind me! I jumped and felt a shiver of goose bumps ran up my spine. Fumbling for my flashlight, I swung it in the direction of the noise, but there was nothing there. Of course!

I told myself it was okay and turned back to the task at hand even though my hands were shaking.

Photographing the Night Sky

When I got back to the trailer, I dove under the covers, safe and sound.

Astrophotography always has its thrills and chills and funny stories that come from tromping around in the pitch dark on moonless nights. However, those little frights are always worth it.

My favorite photos of the stars reveal the calmness and certainty of the infinite, something most easily seen in the night sky. It is the true backdrop of our lives.

Lake Granby Colorado Milky Way

The stars are ever present.

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More info about Lake Granby:

More places where we’ve found summertime fun:

Some of the great beaches we’ve visited:

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Remote RV Camping: Antero Reservoir & Blue River Colorado

August 2023 – During both summer and winter, Colorado’s popular ski resort towns and other spots with mountain views get very busy. However, you can still find some fairly remote RV camping areas away from those locales. Both Antero Reservoir South Shore Campground and a few places along State Route 9 next to the Blue River offer not only scenic views but quiet nights too.

Remote RV Camping- Antero Reservoir & Blue River Colorado

A summer thunderstorm brings a beautiful double rainbow off the beaten path in Colorado.

Antero Reservoir South Shore Campground

Denver Water, the entity responsible for providing Denver’s city water, has some rustic waterfront dry camping campgrounds at their reservoirs. One of these is Antero Reservoir South Shore Campground where we stayed for a few days.

Antero Reservoir Campground offers remote RV camping in Colorado

Antero Reservoir South Shore Campground in Colorado.

Antero Reservoir is a very beautiful lake that has distant mountain views in every direction.

Even better, Antero Reservoir South Shore Campground is FREE!!! And it’s not the only free campground operated by Denver Water. It turns out that several Denver Water lakeside campgrounds are free!!

Antero Reservoir Campground provides remote RV camping in Colorado

Sunset on the shores of Antero Reservoir in Colorado.

Well, it turns out that the Denver Water campgrounds are free for now.

A ranger informed us that, beginning in 2024, Denver Water will charge $18-$22 per campsite. Because these campgrounds are on Denver Water land rather than Federal land, the popular Federal Interagency Senior Pass discount won’t apply.

So, we felt really fortunate to have found this campground before that change took place!

Sunset near Antero Reservoir in Colorado

We had a ball chasing sunsets with the RZR!

While Antero Reservoir is very beautiful and utterly devoid of crowds, especially on weekdays, what it lacks in quantities of bustling tourists it unfortunately makes up for in quantities of buzzing bugs!

During our stay, the deer flies were really thick. Deer flies bite hard and their bites hurt! So, outdoor pursuits were a challenge. But the lovely surroundings were worth the constant swatting.

Sunset near Antero Reservoir Campground in Colorado

What a colorful sky!

Sunset at Antero Reservoir Colorado

A last glimpse of the sun.

If it weren’t for the bugs, Antero Reservoir South Shore Campground would be a top destination for RVers and daytrippers too. It’s first-come-first-serve now (we’re not sure if that will change too), and every site is just steps from the water. Just take your bug spray!

When I emailed a friend about the bugs accompanying the beauty at this campground, she recommended we try a bug spray by Sawyer Products which she’s found works wonders, smells good, isn’t toxic and lasts for 12 hours. We couldn’t get it ordered fast enough to use during our stay at Antero Reservoir, but it’s on our list to order and keep in our truck so it’s always with us!

Sawyer Bug Spray

Every night we were at Antero Reservoir, we wandered along the shoreline watching the sunset. The patterns of colors were constantly changing.

Sunset near Antero Reservoir Campground in Colorado

Reflections at a small inlet.

Antero Reservoir Campground in Colorado at sunset

A burst of color behind a mountain silhouette.

Antero Reservoir is also a great place for dogs, and Buddy met many during our stay. Big ones, little ones, young ones and old ones–he made friends everywhere.

When we were indoors, his favorite activity was watching the Outdoor Channel at his window. There were lots of chipmunks running around and he knew where they all lived.

Puppy watches the Outdoor Channel from inside his RV

Buddy kept a close eye on the chipmunks.

Way beyond the campground limits, we found a huge open meadow where he ran to his heart’s content, full speed ahead. It’s not often that he has acres and acres of open land to run wherever he wants and show off how fast he is.

Puppy runs free in the Colorado countryside

“This place is FUN!”

After all that running, he cooled his jets for a bit in the water.

Puppy in Antero Reservoir in Colorado

“The best way to get a drink is to wade right into the water bowl!”

There are several dirt roads in this area, and he just loved taking rides in our Polaris RZR side-by-side.

puppy loves riding in his Polaris RZR side-by-side

“Make it go fast!”

At one point we looked up on a ridge, and we saw a stately pronghorn antelope standing there framed by puffy white clouds.

Pronghorn antelope at Antero Reservoir in Colorado

A pronghorn antelope looks down at us.

The antelope watched us closely and then turned away. I loved the way the clouds billowed behind him.

Antero Reservoir in Colorado pronghorn antelope

It is so exciting to see one of these exotic looking creatures.

Then he took off at an elegant trot.

Running pronghorn antelope at Antero Reservoir in Colorado


Corps of Engineers Campgrounds

The winds built all morning every morning, becoming quite wild and woolly by the afternoon. Wind waves crashed on the shore and we saw some serious whitecaps further out in the lake. By then, the boats and kayaks were long gone!

Waves at Antero Reservoir in Colorado

Wind wave action.

Antero Reservoir is primarily used by fishermen, and many of the people camping in the campground had a boat of some kind with them.

But we loved just walking along the shore, watching the patterns and energy of the waves.

Antero Reservoir Colorado splashing waves


State Route 9 on the banks of the Blue River

Moving on from Antero Reservoir, we drove up State Route 9 which runs alongside the beautiful Blue River north of Silverthorne. In some places, the water tumbled over rocks on its northward journey to the Green Mountain Reservoir.

Beautiful Blue River in Colorado

The Blue River in Colorado north of Silverthorne.

There are several USFS campgrounds along the river and around Green Mountain Reservoir. Last year, near the end of our summer RV adventure, we camped at the Green Mountain Reservoir and really enjoyed our stay (blog post here…see the second half of the post).

This year we explored the rest of the river between Silverthorne and the reservoir.

The Blue River moves fast, and we had a wonderful time blurring the cascades as they flowed over the rocks using various slow shutter speeds.

It’s always hard to choose — do you go for the striated lines in the water that give a sense of its speed and movement, or do you go for the totally silky look that gives the scene a deep and otherworldly serenity?!

Blue River Colorado-2

Fast moving water.

Blue River Colorado

A serene moonscape of rocks.

Sunset was the best time — and not to be missed!

I lolled around in the camper, though, just not in the mood to run down to the river at that particular moment to take photos. However, Mark was Johnny on the spot, and he got some fabulous photos.

I was totally jealous when he came home and showed me what I’d missed! No more lolling around at sunset!! As Ansel Adams said, “Chance favors the prepared mind,” and mine had been somewhere else!

Blue River Colorado at sunset

The Blue River at sunset.

Sunset at Blue River Colorado

Another view of the Blue River at sunset.

Reese Goosebox

Towns and villages — even small settlements and homesteads — are rare in this neck of the woods, and we felt one with nature. The distant mountain peaks lit up in a deep burnt orange as the sun slipped from the sky.

Rocky Mountains at sunset near Blue River Colorado

The day ends in a blaze of glory.

Colorado sunset at the Blue River


RV at sunset by Blue River Colorado

Goodnight, Colorado!

This year, the summer monsoons were very active in the Colorado mountains, and we saw quite a few rainstorms late in the day.

One afternoon, we got a doozy of a thunderstorm, complete with enormous black clouds, huge thunderclaps and lightning.

RV under stormy skies at Blue River Colorado

Monsoon storm clouds gather over our RV.

After it was over, the sun came out and a huge double rainbow appeared in the sky.

RV under a double rainbow in Colorado

A reminder of God’s promise.

When we think of Colorado, our first thoughts are always the famous mountain towns like Ouray, Durango, Telluride and Crested Butte. But there are quiet, out-of-the-way places too, and they are just as wonderful!

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Burro Days! Burro Races, Llamas & Outhouses in Fairplay CO

Burro Days! Burro Races, Llama Races, Outhouse Races and More!

Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado - Last full weekend in July_


July 2023 – We’d been hanging out in Buena Vista, Colorado, during our summer RV tour, and one afternoon we took a drive north to check out the town of Fairplay. As we came into town, we spotted a big sign that said, “Burro Days – Last Full Weekend in July”

Huh? What on earth was Burro Days? Whatever it was, we were intrigued! We checked the calendar, and the festival started the very next day. Perfect!

When we got back to our RV, we poked around on the internet and discovered that Burro Days is an annual festival — and burro race! — that has taken place in Fairplay, Colorado, every summer since 1949.

Officially known as the World Championship Pack-Burro Race, there were just 21 entrants back in 1949, and they ran from Leadville, Colorado, up and over towering Mosquito Pass (13,185’ elevation!) and down the other side of the mountain into the town of Fairplay for a $500 cash prize. Not surprisingly, only 8 participants finished that race!

Today, there’s 3-day festival that features not only burro races starting and ending in Fairplay (with one race still taking contestants on mountain trails to the top of Mosquito Pass and back!), but also a “Llama Rama” (a what??), a dog race, a llama race, a parade down Front Street and an outhouse race!

We just HAD to check this out!

Front Street Fairplay Colorado

Fairplay’s historic buildings on Front Street are quaint and inviting.

Fairplay got its name back in 1859 when gold rush latecomers found themselves unable to get into one of the bigger mining camps in the area called Tarryall. Frustrated, they nicknamed that camp “Grab-all” and set up a new camp which they called “Fair Play.”

Still fond of playing with words, Fairplay welcomes visitors to town today with a big blue silhouette of Sasquatch bearing the Colorado logo and the letters “WTF” — “Welcome to FairPlay!”

Welcome to Fairplay Colorado


While Highway 9 runs right through the middle of town, the historic part of town is on Front Street, and that was where the Burro Days races and parade took place. Much of the rest of town was filled with artisan tents and food tents throughout the weekend.

The buildings along Front Street are really appealing, and crowds grew quickly in front of each establishment in anticipation of the races.

Fairplay Colorado Front Street Buildings

All the shops were open and people milled around waiting for the fun to begin.

Ellen's Place on Front Street in Fairplay Colorado

There were plenty of places to grab lunch and/or a brew!

The Distillery in Fairplay Colorado on Burro Days


Colorado Delorme Atlas

Unfortunately, we missed the first race of the day — the Dog Race — by 5 minutes. The contestants in that race are all kids, and they run alongside their leashed dogs. The course is short, so arriving a few minutes late meant we missed it all together. Rats! Next time!!

However, the llamas had begun to arrive in their trailers, and we saw a few peeking out at the growing crowd.

A Llama waits for the Llama Rama on Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado


Buddy was especially disappointed that we missed the dog race, so when we saw the llamas hanging out with their owners in the middle of Front Street — the “Llama Rama” — he wanted to make sure he saw one up close.

He was very intrigued by their smell — and vice versa!

Llama and puppy meet at the Llama Rama during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Buddy meets his first llama.

If you haven’t seen a llama up close, they are really big! When you look at them they look back at you at eye level!

Llama Rama at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Llamas are as tall as people, just a different shape!

Llama Rama during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Racers were posing with their llamas for anyone with a camera or phone!

As proud owners showed off their beautiful llamas, we realized that the llama race involves a lot of whimsy. The entrants were teams of four people and one llama, and the idea was that all five would run together, the llama tethered on a leash and the four people running alongside.

But the runners weren’t wearing typical running race garb. They were dressed up in all kinds of crazy costumes!

One group of gals paid homage to the brown furry coat of their llama with brown tutu skirts. They wore little llama ears too.

Llama Races at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado


Most of the llamas came dressed in regular llama attire, but one had been to the groomer and wore fluffy knickers and a thick llama fur stole around her neck. Her black two-toed feet looked like she was wearing party shoes!

Llama Rama at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Dressed for success!

Suddenly, Mark said, “Hey, there’s a guy over there in pajamas!” I turned and grabbed a quick pic, but it was only later that I remembered the Ogden Nash poem (and explanatory footnote):

The one-l lama, he’s a priest.
The two-l llama, he’s a beast.
And I will bet a silk pajama
There isn’t any three-l lllama*

*The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.

I’m not sure if this guy’s pink, llama-covered PJs were made of silk, but his outfit definitely was a three-alarmer!

Silk pajama Llama at Llama Rama in Fairplay Colorado

Three-l lllama?

Mark also remembered a song that his daughter loved when she was a little girl: “Me and my llama are going to the dentist today.”

He’d sung it to me before, and it’s cute, but I’d never gotten the joke until I took a few portrait shots of these wonderful llama faces.

Llama portrait at the Llama Rama during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

“Going to the dentist today!”.

Reese Goosebox

We roamed among the llamas and their people at the Llama Rama for a while, and then suddenly they all lined up behind the start line and took off running on the count of three.

Llama Race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The race is on.

As soon as the llamas had raced down Front Street, the crowd ran to the far side of the street to a ridge overlooking a dirt trail in the distance. Before long, the llamas and their people appeared on that trail, racing away.

Llama Race during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado


Some of them were bunched together and others had gotten a little separated, leaving the person holding the llama’s tether to run on his or her own.

In some cases the llama bounded happily ahead.

Burro Days llama races in Fairplay Colorado


And in some cases the person was towing the llama behind!

Llama Race during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

“Not so fast!”

There was lots of confusion in the crowd about where the course would go from there and how long it would be until the llamas came back to the finish line, but suddenly the announcer said the leaders were coming in. It was the team of Game Wardens — all very fit looking runners — and they soon crossed the line for the win.

Not far behind, the Search and Rescue team came running in for second place with four guys looking equally fit and serious.

Llama Race winners at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The Game Wardens took the win in the Llama Race.

Although the first two teams duked it out for the win, most of the teams and their llamas seemed to be happy just to be out running together on such a beautiful day.

Llama Race at Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

All smiles.

As the llama teams went past, a gal standing next to me named Amanda was keeping a close eye out for her team. She and her husband have 9 llamas on their 35 acre ranch, Shining Mountain Llamas, and they had selected two for the Burro Days events.

She explained that they raise their llamas for high altitude hikers who want to have help carrying their gear. Llamas are good natured animals, are native to mountains that are 17,000′ high, can make their way over difficult terrain like fallen trees, and contentedly eat pine cones and other things found on the trail so there’s no need to carry special feed for them. Hunters and mountaineers love having a llama or two along on their high altitude expeditions!

Llama Race at Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

One of Amanda’s two llamas happily trotted past us.

Of course, a few llamas were not very enthusiastic about the running aspect of the race. A few put their foot down and said, “No more!” and had to be coaxed over the finish line — to lots of laughter and cheers from the crowd!

Reluctant llama in the Llama Races at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

“Come on — it’s just a few more feet to the finish line!

The dog race, llama race and Llama Rama were all held on Saturday, while the headline event — the burro races — were reserved for Sunday. We could feel the excitement as we pulled into town for the first of the two burro races the next day.

The announcer was standing on a second floor balcony, entertaining the crowd and keeping all the events running smoothly.

Race and parade announcer at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The announcer kept everything rolling, from races to the parade, all day long.

We’d done a little homework overnight and learned that “burro” is simply the Spanish word for “donkey,” a particular species of equine animal.

Mules, on the other hand, like the ones we had seen at the Grand Canyon a few weeks prior, are not a species but are a hybrid animal that is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. The resulting animal is infertile. Cross-breeding the other way — a male horse and female donkey — isn’t done because of the large size of the baby and the small size of the mother donkey.

It turns out that burros come in three sizes, small, medium and large (“miniature,” “standard” and “mammoth”). When the burros lined up at the starting line, you could see the size differences between them!

The first burro race was the “long course” race — 29+ miles round trip from Fairplay, which is at 9,953’ elevation, to the top of Mosquito Pass at 13,185’ elevation, and then back down again. Longer than a marathon (which is 26.2 miles) and raced at insanely high elevations, this is one heck of a race!!

Start of the long distance burro race at Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

29 miles to go — Both mini and standard burros and their runners left the starting line for a long day of racing high up into the mountain peaks and back down again in the “long course” race.

Each racing team consists of just one runner and one burro, and it is very grueling for both. Unlike a traditional marathon, there are no water stations along the way, although there are checkpoints, and fans can watch from public property.

The burros were carrying packs which held whatever the racers might need: water bottles, energy food, clothing for the high elevation at the top and/or other survival necessities. The runners carried the burro’s tether and more water and food and other goodies.

We found out later that the long race at Burro Days in Fairplay is actually the first race in the “Triple Crown” of burro races each summer. The other two races are held in nearby Leadville and Buena Vista in August.

At the far end of Front Street there is a reconstructed living history museum mining camp called South Park City, and when the runners and burros passed under the South Park City gate around 10:20 in the morning to begin their trek to Mosquito Pass and back, they weren’t expected to be seen again until late afternoon at the very earliest. Some wouldn’t come in until sunset or after dark or even as late as midnight!

Burro Race heads out the South Park Gate in Burro Days at Fairplay Colorado

The “long course” burro racers left Front Street and entered the living history museum mining camp of South Park City on their way into the mountains for a very long treck to Mosquito Pass and back.

But for the crowd on Front Street, attention quickly turned to the second burro race of the day, the “short course” race which is a mere 15 miles of similar outback terrain!

The burros, large and small, soon lined up with their owners. Again, the burros wore packs and the runners were prepared for anything and everything the mountains might throw at them.

Burro Days Fairplay Colorado start of the short distance burro race

The “short course” burro race (a mere 15 miles) gets underway.

We watched a burro named Ivy go by with her owner. We’d met them before the race, and she’d told us that Ivy was a rescue burro. Her mother had been kept in very poor conditions and fed candy bars, so she was diabetic. Fortunately, Ivy was thriving now, and both owner and burro were eager to do the race.

Burro Days shorter distance burro race in Fairplay Colorado

Ivy and her owner begin the “short course” burro race.

Soon, the “short course” racers passed under the South Park City gate and headed into the mountains beyond. Although their race wouldn’t take all day, the fastest racers still weren’t expected back for about two and a half hours!

Burro Race leaves Front Street and South Park in Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

Off they go into the mountains!

With nothing else to do while we waited for the burros and their companion runners to chase each other back to us, the crowd settled in for a really fun parade. Burro Days is non-stop action!

The parade began with the rumble of motorcycles in the distance. Soon, the color guard marched past followed by a group of roaring bikes.

Parade during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado


Humorous costumes are a big theme at Burro Days, and there were several fun floats and groups in the parade. The “pothole patrol” went by followed by a clever rendition of the Titanic, complete with an iceberg.

Parade during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado - the Pothole Brigade

Watch out for those potholes!

Burro Days Parade in Fairplay Colorado - Titanic Float

And watch out for that iceberg too!

The Rodeo Queen and Princess looked very regal as they went by in full regalia on their horses.

Rodeo Princess and Rodeo Queen at Burro Days Parade in Fairplay Colorado

Rodeo Queen and Princess.

The sky had been growing darker and darker during the parade, and then all of a sudden the heavens opened up and let loose, drenching everything and everyone in a massive torrent. The crowd scattered to shelter under any kind of overhang we could find, and umbrellas popped up here and there.

Luckily, the parade was almost over, and in no time the downpour ended and people wandered back out onto Front Street, no worse for wear.

A banjo player strolled around entertaining everyone.

Banjo player and little girl at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado


Ryobi drill set

And then news of the returning “short course” burros filtered through the crowd and the emcee announced their arrival.

The gates to South Park City swung wide, and two runners and their burros appeared, flying towards us at top speed, racing neck and neck.

Winning stretch of short distance burro race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The first two “short course” burro racers appeared in the distance.

A roar went up in the crowd as they sprinted down Front Street. It was going to be a photo finish! And it was going to be a little burro against a big burro and younger runner against an older runner to boot!

Final stretch short distance burro race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

It’s going to be a photo finish!!

The crowd went wild as we watched the fast footfalls of these four racers. They were racing their hearts out!

It was impossible to tell which pair might win until suddenly, at the last second, the little burro surged ahead and stretched out his feet and nose across the line for the win.

What a fantastic race!

Photo Finish short distance burro race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The little burro wins by a whisker!

We found out the little burro’s name was Ben and his 15 year old companion runner was Aidan Malherbe. Aidan’s family raises burros and he’s been racing them his whole life! He runs track and cross country and trains about 50 miles a week.

Burro Days Champion Ben in Fairplay Colorado

Zippy Fast Little Ben…with special shoes on his front hooves!

Burro Race Champions Ben (Burro) and Aidan (runner-trainer) Fairplay Colorado

The champs, Ben and Aidan Malherbe.

Edged out by inches, the second burro over the line was Tito with companion runner Brian Rawlings. Brian also runs about 50 miles a week and has raced burros for years. He hadn’t planned to run in this race, but a friend called him the night before asking if he could run with Tito because a runner had pulled out. Tito is a wild BLM burro that Brian’s friend had rescued and trained.

What a great story!

Burro Days 2nd place Tito (burro) and Brian (runner-trainer) Fairplay Colorado

2nd place by a hoof length, Tito and Brian Rawlings.

The winning time for these four outstanding athletes was 2 hours and 24 minutes, similar to fast marathon times. Even though the distance wasn’t a marathon distance (15 miles vs. 26.2), the race was held at extremely high altitude and the runners were managing a running burro the whole way.

What a fabulous athletic accomplishment for all of them, and what a thrill these fine athletes gave the crowd!

Of course, the front of the race was very intense, but further down the line it was sometimes a different story. One burro took a very casual attitude and decided it would be more fun to walk rather than run down the finishing stretch. And who could blame him after running 15 miles through the mountains?!

Burro Days short distance burro race with reluctant burro in Fairplay Colorado

“Come on…we’re almost there!”

He took his time and stepped delicately over the finish line.

Burro Days burro race - no need to rush over the finish line! _

“What’s the rush?”

Another burro crossed under the South Park City sign — still two blocks from the finish line — and decided to take a break. His companion runner tried to coax him down Front Street, but this burro had other ideas.

Burro Days burro doesn't want to run any more at the end of the race

“I know the finish line is right up ahead, but I’m going to take a little breather.”

The burro took matters into his own hands (hooves?) and headed off the race course straight into the crowd.

Burro Days racing burro decides to join the crowd at the end of the race in Fairplay Colorado

“I wonder what these people are doing over here?”

Eventually, all the burros made it across the finish line, and after a round of well earned congratulations and photos, the burros and their owners made their way back to their trailers. Meanwhile, the Outhouse Race participants were getting ready to roll!

B&W Tow & Go bumper hitch

There were only two entries in the Outhouse Race, but each team had been huddling at the starting line for a while, discussing their race strategies. Maneuvering an outhouse down a race course isn’t so easy!

Suddenly, they were off and running/rolling with a pair of runners on either side of the outhouse and a third guy sitting on the throne inside. Talk about laughter and hoots and hollers from the crowd!

Burro Days Outhouse Race in Fairplay Colorado

Ya gotta love an outhouse race!

Burro Days Outhouse Race in Fairplay Colorado

Don’t fall in!!

The long course burro racers were still a few hours out at this point, but we were pooped even though we hadn’t raced a step! So, we decided to leave all the festivities and head back to our trailer.

I’m not sure how the race went for the long course burro race contestants or when the winners finally arrived back in town, but their names will appear on the World Championship Pack-Burro Race Winners monument that stands near the finish line.

Burro Days monument of winners in Fairplay Colorado

World Championship Pack-Burro Race Winners, 1949-Present.

If your travels take you anywhere near Fairplay, Colorado, at the end of July, don’t miss the very special Burro Days festival.

Meet a llama, pet a burro, and laugh as the outhouses careen down the road. It’s a total blast!

Note added later: RVing friends of ours who saw the burro race in Leadville told us that the winner of the long course races in both Fairplay and Leadville this year was the adorable little burro named Buttercup. She won the Fairplay Burro Days World Championship race in 5 hours, 26 minutes and 11 seconds with her running partner, Martin Sandoval. Unfortunately, the winner’s wreath did not adorn her neck in Buena Vista the following week, so she didn’t win the Triple Crown, but she has a lot of fans that love her!
Storage ottoman with tray top and drawer

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Crested Butte – Wildflower Capital of Colorado!

July 2023 – We’ve often heard that Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, and this year we discovered that that statement is 100% true! The hillsides and valleys were absolutely covered with wildflowers during our visit in mid-July, and the views were breathtaking!

Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado!

Wildflower Capital of Colorado!

When we stopped at the Visitors Center in Crested Butte to find out which hiking trail had the best flowers, the kindly lady behind the counter just smiled. “The flowers are everywhere. All the hiking trails are great!”

Crested Butte Wildflowers on a hillside

Wildflowers everywhere!

She grabbed a map and began circling trails all over the vast area that surrounds Crested Butte as a crowd of eager tourists, including ourselves, listened intently.

For an easy and super rewarding stroll among the flowers, the best reports she was getting for wildflowers at that particular moment was out on Snodgrass Trail.

That was all we needed to hear — off we went!

Colorado's Best Wildflower Hikes

No sooner had we parked the truck at the trailhead than we were surrounded by blossoms smiling up at us. We couldn’t stop taking photos, and we’d only gone 10 steps from the truck!

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

From our first steps out of the truck, we were blown away by the beautiful flowers.

We ascended a short dirt two track road to a gate. Valleys filled with wildflowers stretched out on either side of us. From our feet all the way out to the horizon, the flowers were basking in the sun. What a place!

Fields of wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

Such an abundance of wildflowers — by far the best we’ve ever seen!

Wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

The flowers were breathtaking — and so were the mountain views!

Crested Butte Colorado- Wildflower Capital of Colorado

Color everywhere.

We were awestruck by the beauty. Forget hiking. We just stood and stared, turning around and around and taking in the incredible display of flowers.

Photographing Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

“Can you believe this?!”

Hiking Snodgrass Trail at the peak of the wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

“It’s awesome — I’m blown away!”

Beautiful Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers


While our pace was “take a step, take ten photos,” Buddy, our Trail Scout, wanted to hike a little faster!

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers and puppy

“Are you coming??”

Suddenly, a mountain biker appeared on the trail in the distance. It looked as if he were floating through a bed of flowers. We stepped to one side to let him pass.

“I’ve never seen so many wildflowers on this trail in my entire life!” He said to us with a big grin as he rode past.

Wildflowers surround mountain biker on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

More wildflowers on this trail than he’s ever seen…

Another mountain biker came from the opposite direction. What a cool place to ride a bike!

Mountain biker in wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

There were lots of mountain bikers rolling through the valleys of flowers.

We’d never been to Crested Butte during the wildflower season before, but this year was said to be a peak year. The heavy snowfall during the winter combined with the drenching spring rains had created the perfect environment for the flowers to bloom with exuberance, and bloom they did!

A few months prior, we’d seen a gorgeous display of wild poppies near Phoenix, Arizona, but that was just for a mile or two along a highway. This was completely different because it was a variety of flowers on hillsides near and far.

Wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado


Columbine is the Colorado State Flower

Dainty and delicate, the Columbine is Colorado’s state flower.

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

State flower or not, they were all wonderful!

Wildflower Guide Book

As the sun rose higher in the sky, more and more people joined us on the Snodgrass Trail. The trail is very narrow, so we were constantly stepping around each other, exchanging “oohs” and “aahs” over the wondrous beauty we were all experiencing together.

Buddy and the many other dogs on the trail were loving the outing too. Fresh air, good smells, new dogs to sniff, and a hiking trail — what more could anyone with four paws and a tail ever ask for?

Snodgrass Trail wildflowers and puppy in Crested Butte Colorado

Buddy was loving it, even if he had to wait for us.

Everyone was taking photos and there were quite a few photographers with tripods. When we set up our tripods, Buddy kept watch for anyone coming down the trail.

Photographer and puppy in Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail

“I’ll let you know if anyone is going to photo bomb your picture!”

It was such a beautiful day and place, Mark suggested we get a family shot, so we took a quick pic of the three of us in this spectacular setting.

Happy campers in the wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

For the family photo album.

There are many ways to enjoy the trails that go through these valleys of flowers, and hiking, mountain biking and photography are just a few. We spotted several groups of horseback riders out on trail rides too!

Horseback riders and wildflowers on Crested Butte Colorado Snodgrass Trail

What a place for a trail ride!

Crested Butte hosts a weeklong Wildflower Festival in the middle of July each summer, and groups of people were out with leaders and teachers who were describing the flowers’ habits, calling them by their botanical names, and explaining how this one spot in Colorado has a unique soil, enriched by Mancos shale, that wildflowers just love.

Hikers and wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

A hiking group from the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival passed in the distance.

The sun was rising high in the sky and it was getting quite hot, so we finally decided to turn around. It had taken us almost two hours to go less than a mile, so it could easily take us another two to get back to the truck!

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers on a hillside

When we turned around, the flowers were beautifully backlit.

I’d worn a wide brimmed cowboy hat that morning to keep the sun off my face, and it was just at this moment when we turned around that I suddenly realized I’d lost my hat out in the flowers somewhere…a while ago.

I’d worn a special backpack (that I love, by the way) to carry my spare camera gear, water bottle and jacket, but I’d discovered that when I crouched down to shoot the flowers at their level, the back brim of the hat would hit the backpack, tip forward and cover my eyes. So, I’d taken my hat off each time I stopped to take photos, and somewhere out there in the vast valleys of flowers I’d left it on the ground.

Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack!

Wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Hmmm…there’ a cowboy hat out there somewhere!

I hurried back to the last three or four places I’d been. I found the one tall flower that had caught my attention 20 minutes before, and I was convinced the hat was somewhere near there.

Goodmorning Sunshine! Wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado-2

I loved this single tall flower and was quite cetain my hat lay somewhere nearby.

I searched and searched, but found nothing. I was so disappointed. What a glorious day this had been, but what a frustrating ending. I really liked that hat. It had a cool band around it made from braided horsehair, and I’d bought it from an interesting character at a swap meet just six months prior.

Oh well. After we both searched for an hour and retraced my steps a bunch of times, we gave up and went back to the truck.

Best Colorado Wildflower Hikes

That night we studied our photos to see if we could piece together where I might have been when I last put my hat on the ground.

We knew I hadn’t had it when we took our family shot, and I remembered that I’d been photographing clumps of purple lupine just before that.

Lavender Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

Luscious lupine!

For some reason, Mark had taken a series of photos of me right around that time. So, on the computer, he blew up the area right around my feet in those photos — and there was my hat right next to me on the ground!

Honda EU2200i portable gas generator

We checked the times on our cameras and discovered mine was 2 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of his. Then we looked at the photos I had been taking when he took the photo of me. My pics at that time were of the clumps of lupine, as I’d suspected. Mark remembered that I’d been standing just off the trail, and in his photos of me there were three big yellow flowers nearby.

Photographing wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

These three yellow flowers were the clue — but could I possibly find them again?

All I had to do was walk along the trail until I found the spot where three big yellow flowers were growing together!

The next day we raced back to Crested Butte. We were camping over 30 miles away, but the miles flew by. When I dashed out onto the trail, I was instantly caught up in the beauty again! My camera couldn’t help itself, and it took lots of photos while I ran down the trail in hot pursuit of my hat.

Wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

The cheerful flowers took my breath away…again!

Columbines in Crested Butte Colorado on the Snodgrass Trail

We were supposed to be looking for yellow flowers, but ended up totally distracted by gorgeous Columbines!

The valleys were filled with happy yellow flowers. How could I ever find those three?

Wildflowers at Crested Butte Colorado on the Snodgrass Trail

Just three yellow flowers…

I came to the area where I’d been photographing the lupine and began to look for those three yellow flowers where I’d been standing… I walked slowly and passed lots of yellow flowers, but no groups of three.

Then, suddenly, I saw them, the only group of 3 yellow flowers on the entire trail! I peered into the vast garden of flowers behind them…and there was my hat! Right where I’d left it! I put it on my head and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. What are the chances?

Happy camper in the wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

Someone was watching out for me…needle in the haystack found!!

Snodgrass Trail is just one of dozens of great trails in the area, and the wildflowers on each trail peak at a different time between mid-July and August. In fact, a local hiker on the trail told us he thought Snodgrass was still a week from peaking when we were there! The red Indian Paintbrush hadn’t bloomed yet and the dark purple Larkspur were just beginning to bud.

We’d heard fabulous reports about the wildflowers on Brush Creek Trail, but by the time we got out there many of the flowers had faded. So, it’s hit-or-miss, not only with the overall abundance of flowers for a given season but also which hillsides have the most dazzling displays at any particular time.

Wildflowers on Brush Creek Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Wildflowers on Brush Creek Trail

Ironically, the best wildflowers in the Brush Creek area were on the roadside in the last hundred yards before the Brush Creek Trailhead!

Wildflowers on Brush Creek Road in Crested Butte Colorado

Wildflowers on the roadside as we approached Brush Creek Trailhead.

Notes for taking an RV trip to Crested Butte

The wildflowers in Crested Butte are worth going way out of your way to see. However, it’s not super easy with an RV.

Tourists staying in the big hotels in and around Crested Butte are able to roll out of bed and hit the hiking trails at dawn while we’d already been driving for over half an hour when we joined them.

There’s only one RV park in Crested Butte, and the rate we saw was over $100/night, including taxes, and the reviews weren’t great.

However, there are both USFS campgrounds for smaller rigs and designated boondocking sites for bigger rigs if you are willing to drive many miles down dusty dirt roads. If that doesn’t sound appealing, you may be happiest staying in Gunnison which is 27 miles south of Crested Butte.

We drove that route three times to see the wildflowers, and as I mentioned, the miles flew by. It’s a beautiful drive!

Wildflowers + mountain on Snodgrass trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Good morning, Sunshine!

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More info about Crested Butte and its spectacular wildflowers:

Mountains and wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Crested Butte’s wildflowers are worth making an extra effort to see!

Other places we’ve seen great wildflowers:

Wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado


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Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado – Fire in the Sky!

July 2023 – The Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado meanders between mountains, over rolling hills and past scenic lakes for 120 miles on Colorado State Route 149 between the Blue Mesa Reservoir and the town of South Fork.

This is a very remote area that is wide open country for much of the way, punctuated by two picturesque villages, Lake City and Creede.

We found a place to RV camp in the hinterlands, and along with utter peace and quiet during our stay, we were blessed with two extraordinary sunset light shows that produced fire in the sky!

Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado - Fire in the Sky!

A dramatic sunset on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

Many years ago, we rode this route on our bicycles as part of the Bike Tour of Colorado. Our most vivid memory from that ride is Slumgullion Pass, a beast of a mountain climb that peaks at an elevation of 11,530’. This lofty summit is preceded by umpteen tight turning switchbacks on the ascent and is followed by a screaming descent down umpteen more fast switchbacks on the other side!

On our RV trip along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado this year, we did lots of sightseeing but no pedaling. After soaking in the views for a while, we stopped at the beautiful Weminuche Wilderness Vista Overlook. What an exquisite panorama of Brown Lakes and the mountains beyond!

Weminuche Wilderness Vista Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

View from the Weminuche Wilderness Vista Overlook on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado.

Another highlight on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway was a stop at North Clear Creek Falls which is considered Colorado’s most photographed waterfall.

It was easy to see why this cascade is so well loved. Not only is it a gorgeous waterfall, but after winding through endless meadows and forests, it was a wonderful change of scenery to see water crashing down the side of a cliff.

North Clear Creek Falls Waterfall Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

North Clear Creek Waterfall on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado.

North Clear Creek Falls Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

North Clear Creek Falls drops more than 100′ over the side of a cliff.

Colorado Scenic Drives

Mountain weather is always unpredictable, and so it was during our stay. The wind howled so fiercely in the afternoons that, at times, we thought we were going to get blown right off the hillsides!

At dusk, however, the wind completely stopped. On one afternoon, we noticed storm clouds beginning to form on the horizon. We ran out of the RV to see what was going on!

Storm clouds on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

After a wildly windy afternoon, stillness prevailed and storm clouds began to form.

Mountain light on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

We were dry but there was lots of rain beginning to fall across the valley.

The sky began to show hints of yellow and orange as the heavy storm clouds gradually filled the sky. We weren’t sure if we were going to get drenched, but we didn’t want to miss a moment of this incredible heavenly spectacle that was unfolding before us.

Brooding sky on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The storm clouds began to show a hint of sunset colors.

Wild sky on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The heavens filled with color when the sun vanished for the day!

Some crazy patterns formed as the mist and clouds rolled across the sky.

Roiling clouds on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The clouds formed patterns as they rolled over on themselves.

Sunset on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The patterns in the heavens looked like fingers!

In another direction, the whole underbelly of a mammoth cloud turned orange.

Sunset on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The sunset was evolving differently in every part of the sky!

We turned to head back towards the RV, and our trailer looked like it was facing a raging fire in the sky!

Sunset with RV on Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

These weren’t flames but they sure look like they could be!

The storm clouds soon darkened the landscape around us. Only the fiery embers of the sunset still burned above us.

Sunset on Colorado's Silver Thread Scenic Byway

Our jaws hung open as the constantly changing and extraordinary views evolved all around us.

Vibrant sunset on Colorado's Silver Thread Scenic Byway

What a sight!

Finally, darkness fell and we made our way back into the cozy confines of our RV.

But sleep was elusive. We couldn’t stop talking excitedly about the unbelievable sunset light show we’d just seen. It had come upon us just as quickly as it had left, and there had been no hint ahead of time that anything unusual was about to begin. The sky had been clear blue until the first cloud showed up!

A few nights later, we were treated to more drama in the sky. Again, late in the afternoon, the howling wind that had buffeted us for hours on end came to a sudden stop, and the clear blue sky gave way to a big puffy cloud with a dark underbelly growing above us.

We noticed a lone car camper on a distant hillside that had just arrived for the night. The camper looked really tiny under that big menacing cloud as he got his camping gear out of his trunk!

Camping under storm clouds on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

A huge storm cloud threatens a lone car camper on a distant hillside.

Then the cloud began to swirl and roil within itself, showing off peachy yellow highlights that flamed between dark edges.

Storm clouds on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The play of light and shadow within this cloud was fantastic!

As all this happened in the heavens, Buddy’s attention was on the local chipmunk population which skittered about from burrow to burrow.

Rain clouds and puppy on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

We were enthralled by the wild skies but Buddy had more terrestrial interests.

Honda EU2200i portable gas generator

A few minutes later, that massive cloud began to fade, break apart and float away. We wandered down a trail, keeping our eyes on the sky. Suddenly, the clouds began to organize into stripes with pink highlights.

photographing sunset on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

Meanwhile, a pink glow began to radiate in another part of the sky.

Pink sunset on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

Suddenly, part of the sky began to blush pink.

By chance, I turned my head towards a very dark part of the sky and noticed a bright orange spot in the distance. WTH?

Then, from our many nights of sailing on blackened seas under inky skies, we suddenly realized it was a bright orange full moon rising behind the mountains!

How awesome is that?!

Moonrise on the Silver Thread Scenic Bywayin Colorado

The full moon — dressed in flaming orange — peeked over the darkened mountains!

Full moon rising on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

What great fortune to have all this happen on the night of a fiery full moon!

Panning back to take in the whole view, we watched the pink glow of sunset arch over the landscape as the moon rose steadily and silently.

Moon rise on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The moon rose in the middle of a glorious sunset.

We were both breathless from witnessing this glorious sunset light show. What a blessing to stand here on this mountain and see this miraculous display of color and drama!

The moon disappeared for a while behind the clouds, but then it reappeared above them, soaring peacefully across a fluffy bed of vivid orange.

Full moon on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

The full moon rose above the sunset — sensational!

As we put away our gear and turned to go back to the RV, we noticed a quietly cheering crowd on the far hillside — a row of trees had deemed the whole show a worthy of a standing ovation.

Sunset over pine trees on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado

These trees witness sunsets here every night, but they knew this one was extra special.

What beauty! What a sunset light show! What a glorious moment on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado!!

RV under the stars in the mountains


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More info about the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado:

Other places where we saw wild skies!

Dog Bowl with Kibble Storage

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