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Thread: 5 Days In Colorado - July

  1. #1
    J. Austin Powers appletree's Avatar
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    5 Days In Colorado - July

    Hi All,
    Always have gotten great advice on my adventures here! This time it is with a little twist, I won't be flying solo.

    Went to Colorado a lot as a kid, but mostly one area (Breckenridge/South Park) to go fly fishing every summer. The girlfriend is off for two weeks in July and had a vacation for this time planned last year that isn't happening.
    So, I have bought plane tickets, am going to surprise her, and we will be flying to Denver to spend 5 days driving/hiking/photographing/etc. then popping the big question.

    Any advice for places to visit, see, hike, etc.? We are both in pretty good shape, nothing insane, but both backpack a couple times a year and do frequent the gym a few times a week...or try to!
    I do have a National Parks Annual Pass I got last Dec when I hiked and drove through a lot of the parks in CA. So, I was thinking we might camp a good bit.

    Any restaurants or neat places to check out along the route appreciated. We both enjoy good/clean fun, nice music, a glass of wine or a good beer. History stuff is nice too.
    And of course, if you know a spot or area that is nice for asking the question and sharing the memory.

    Thank you in advance!

    Tentative Schedule

    • We land Tuesday (July 18th) at 7AM. We depart Sunday (July 23rd) at 7AM.
    • Tuesday - land, pick up rental car, then drive toward Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Either stay in Salida (or somewhere for the night) or drive to Black Canyon by evening and camp there.
    • Wednesday - Either drive to or wake up in BCGNP and spend the day and night there.
    • Thursday - Wake up and head toward Rocky Mountain National Park. Spend afternoon and night.
    • Friday - Spend entire day (probably propose that evening on a hike or early Sat morning hike) and night.
    • Saturday - Get up pack, hike a little and head for hotel that afternoon. Check into the Curtis Hotel (I had points), clean up, and go somewhere for a nice dinner.
    • Sunday - Fly out at crack of dawn.


    PS: A travel forum (which I received very little advice) had one person share a link to a map they suggested. Seems like a ton of driving for 5 days though. Maybe not too bad. But lots of moving around each day. See a lot of places, but not much time at each one.

  2. #2
    Les
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    Dec 2011
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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    Not sure I can be of much help, but since you'll be traveling in the midst of the season....do secure places that you intend to stay over night at (hotel/motel/campground). My memory of Black Cyn is bit feeble (from over 30yrs ago) and disjointed, since last time (in 2014) I saw mostly Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mts. Actually, I happen to like the small towns between larger towns. No doubt there are some ghost towns, but with 5 days....that's not much to explore the "otherness". Yep, make the best of it at Rocky Mt's. Your itinerary sounds pretty good.

    I do recall a good rest. in Alamosa, but that's away from your track.

    Enjoy.

    Les

  3. #3

    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    Quote Originally Posted by appletree View Post
    Hi All,
    Always have gotten great advice on my adventures here! This time it is with a little twist, I won't be flying solo.

    Went to Colorado a lot as a kid, but mostly one area (Breckenridge/South Park) to go fly fishing every summer. The girlfriend is off for two weeks in July and had a vacation for this time planned last year that isn't happening.
    So, I have bought plane tickets, am going to surprise her, and we will be flying to Denver to spend 5 days driving/hiking/photographing/etc. then popping the big question.

    Any advice for places to visit, see, hike, etc.? We are both in pretty good shape, nothing insane, but both backpack a couple times a year and do frequent the gym a few times a week...or try to!
    I do have a National Parks Annual Pass I got last Dec when I hiked and drove through a lot of the parks in CA. So, I was thinking we might camp a good bit.

    Any restaurants or neat places to check out along the route appreciated. We both enjoy good/clean fun, nice music, a glass of wine or a good beer. History stuff is nice too.
    And of course, if you know a spot or area that is nice for asking the question and sharing the memory.

    Thank you in advance!

    Tentative Schedule

    • We land Tuesday (July 18th) at 7AM. We depart Sunday (July 23rd) at 7AM.
    • Tuesday - land, pick up rental car, then drive toward Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Either stay in Salida (or somewhere for the night) or drive to Black Canyon by evening and camp there.
    • Wednesday - Either drive to or wake up in BCGNP and spend the day and night there.
    • Thursday - Wake up and head toward Rocky Mountain National Park. Spend afternoon and night.
    • Friday - Spend entire day (probably propose that evening on a hike or early Sat morning hike) and night.
    • Saturday - Get up pack, hike a little and head for hotel that afternoon. Check into the Curtis Hotel (I had points), clean up, and go somewhere for a nice dinner.
    • Sunday - Fly out at crack of dawn.


    PS: A travel forum (which I received very little advice) had one person share a link to a map they suggested. Seems like a ton of driving for 5 days though. Maybe not too bad. But lots of moving around each day. See a lot of places, but not much time at each one.
    Johnathon: I stayed many nights in Salida, as the folks are great there. The bulk of my time was spent in and around Gunnison, which is just over Monarch Pass from Salida. I got to know many of the locals over the years. There are so many possible spots to propose in Colorado, that I don't know where to begin. My only advice is to not try to cram too much into your time there, as this trip will give you a lifetime of memories. Congratulations on the impending engagement, young man!

  4. #4

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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    Here's my two cents. First, be flexible and be as ready as you can for traffic jams due to accidents, construction, land slides, animal collisions, etc. Don't lose your cool -- I know you won't, but they can happen.

    You know, of course, to take US 285 from Denver to Poncha Springs. I'll wave as you drive by. Salida is nice, but you should check out lodging ops in Poncha Springs, Mayville and Monarch (no Walmarts). After the Black Canyon, I'd advise the road to Paonia -- 550 might be faster, but 92 is nicer. Then go over McClure Pass -- BEAUTIFUL aspens and a infrequently-used trail near the top. Another option, just after the Pass, is the dirt road to Marble -- very scenic but very crowded.

    Carbondale is the decision point. If you have time, I'd advise going through Aspen and over Independence Pass. The faster way is to head north to I-70 -- and you get to see Glenwood Canyon that way. Tough choice. (Forget about Hanging Lake. It's so busy you can only get there on a shuttle nowadays.)

    From I-70, I'd advise taking Route 9 north vs US 40. US 40 might be faster, but you have to go over the Continental Divide TWICE, and it has more traffic. Check for lodging in Hot Sulphur Springs.

    As to Rocky Mountain NP, you can spend a lot of time on Trail Ridge Road, but save time for the SE corner of the Park -- past Estes Park and down Route 7. Check out Wild Basin and the trip to Ouzel Falls. It can be busy, but it is, speaking from experience, a great place to find some serenity and romance.

  5. #5
    J. Austin Powers appletree's Avatar
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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    @les
    Thanks man for the advice and recalling some old memories. I love small towns!

    @bloodhoundbob
    Thanks for the kind words and advice! I agree, take it slow and just enjoy the time we get to spend there.

    @xkaes
    That is all GREAT information. Thank you so much. I will have to bust out a map shortly and look at all the routes and locations you are discussing.
    And absolutely understand about the roads and traffic and such. We both are very patient (and get along great in the car haha).

    Bummer about Hanging Lake. One of my all time favorite photos is one of John Sexton's that he took at Hanging Lake.

    Regarding the overnight stays, here is a big decision point. I would prefer to do some of the trip on a budget. And we both love to camp/hammock. But, we are only there 5 total nights, with the 5th night being in a hotel in Denver. Thus in those 4 nights, if we stay somewhere in a little town or book a cabin or a room or whatnot, then I am packing gear for camping for two random nights. I would prefer (if possible along some sort of route) to camp.

    And yes to any little towns without a Walmart! The more antique shops, little stores, random little places, the better.

    BEAUTIFUL ASPENS. YES PLEASE! I have been dying to photograph some. I know everyone does, but I want some of my own!!!

    PS: I just realized I will have to decide if I take the 35mm, Hassie, or Chamonix 4x5. Tempted to bring the Leica and Chamonix, but the goal of the trip isn't photography. Emily won't care either way nor be offended. But still, I don't want to be stopping (like when I travel solo) to take photos in one spot for 2 hours.

    PPS: Regarding the big question. I would love to find a spot that isn't surrounded by tourists. Who knows, maybe just a random spot on a hike to the falls or Wild Basin. I have no idea. It would be nice to sort of have a place or two in mind beforehand.

  6. #6
    Photographer
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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    My advice is to pick one location and stay there. It's a long way to Black Canyon from Denver and a long way back to Rocky Mountain. If you expect to to any meaningful photography, one location will afford you better opportunities.

    As someone else advised, you better get your housing/camping locations locked up, especially in National Parks. You will be traveling in high season and things may be booked up already.
    Keith Pitman

  7. #7

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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    Keep in mind that if you are in a National Forest -- NOT PARK -- you can pretty much camp anywhere. Sure, there are lots of NF campgrounds, but in July, they tend to be crowded, noisy -- and FULL. Plus you usually have to pay. One option is to park your car at a trailhead and carry/pack your gear in at least 1,000 feet and then 250 feet off the trail (and any creek/lake). For example, at the top of McClure Pass there is a trailhead and a small, dirt parking lot. As I recall, the trail crosses the road so you can choose which way to go. I've only taken the trail south. There are great groves of trees in either direction. Just pack your gear in far enough to get away from the road noise and of the trail -- to get out of sight of other, possible hikers. There's very little forest floor vegetation there (and most of Colorado) so it's easy hiking. Find a place that is flat, has a good view, nice trees or whatever. At McClure Pass, there are a LOT of Western bluebirds, woodpeckers (red-shafted flickers, yellow-bellied, Townsend, etc.), Stellar jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, and more -- especially in the early morning. So maybe you'll want a 35mm with a LONG optic! (I have 500mm, 650mm, 800mm & 1250mm T-mount lenses if you don't). But, McClure Pass is just one possible place to camp. It's easy to stay close enough to your car, in case you need to get to it for food, water, etc. P.S. I can even lend you a steering wheel locking bar -- yes, car thefts are not unknown, even in remote areas.

  8. #8

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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    I should also mention that I have a ton of maps (from highways to topos), hiking books, and more about Colorado if you want to borrow some.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #9
    J. Austin Powers appletree's Avatar
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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    @Keith Pitman
    Yes, indeed, I thought of that. Although, I know both of us would enjoy driving around and seeing various areas. And we both understand the trade off of each.

    @xkaes
    Wow, that is great information about the National Forests! See, I am pretty sure that is what my dad and I did a few times (that or trespassed on someones land...). As we generally stayed in Fairplay or his land nearby (just flat nothingness), although a few times I specifically remember us staying in random spots near a stream or whatnot. We even bathed in FREEZING cold streams.

    And regarding the steering wheel bar, I think we will take our chances. Cameras and valuables (aka ring....) will stay with us at all times or in the tent while we sleep at night. I have traveled in South America and Eastern Europe staying in random hostels and stuff, so we will be wise about our stuff and drawing any attention. Regarding the lenses, all I can say is wow what a kind offer!!! I think I am good though, although it would be neat to photograph birds and such (I never have).

    My longest lens is 150mm Hassie lens. Haha. Not very long.

    I own:
    Leica M2 - 50mm Dual Range Summicron (can borrow a 35mm from my pops)
    Hasselblad 500 C/M - 80mm CF and 150mm CF lenses
    Chamonix 045-N2 - 90mm Nikon Nikkor f8 and 210mm Schneider Symmar-S
    Rolleiflex 3.5F (currently shutter button is busted)

    Back on Topic
    Anyway, yeah I really need to sort out camping and locations asap. Because IF I am going to book a place I need to do that pronto!!!

    Hmmmmmm, what if we stay a night around Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, then McClure Pass area, then two nights in RMNP?
    And my heart isn't set on any place other than ending up somewhere around RMNP towards the end. It is the first 2-3 days (2 nights) that are in question.

  10. #10
    J. Austin Powers appletree's Avatar
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    Re: 5 Days In Colorado - July

    Sir, not sure of your name, you are one generous soul!!!

    I would always appreciate borrowing stuff, but getting it back to you (either driving in a perfect loop) or flying back with it to then ship it to you may be some extensive legwork. And I wouldn't want to put you out of your way.
    I will probably buy a travel book or something with some decent trails/roads...especially if the first two days we are going to camp "somewhere" in a national forest. Even if close to the car, it will be nice to have an idea of where to drive to and not make 12 u-turns trying to find a cut off into the woods.

    May it not be like the time I was in Berlin, didn't take the tour or a map and decided to walk and see the Berlin wall. Only to be walking on the wrong side of the road/river for 3 hours. Never did end up seeing it...
    Not one of my shining moments.

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