One dead battery. 3000+ miles. 3 hotel rooms. Countless free camping sites. I think we got a good taste of what Colorado is and has to offer. For two weeks we left the scorching sun of Phoenix, and headed North in search of cooler temps. In the spirit of adventure (and complete laziness) we opted to do no planning. I sent out a request on the Social and chatted with friends; only to ensure we didn't miss anything significant and to get some guidance on where we should explore. Over the next few post I will be highlighting some of our adventures throughout New Mexico and Colorado.
Spending two weeks in the state allowed us to really dig deep and learn about the culture. Ok, who am I kidding. We are the most antisocial travelers. Our ideal day involved hiking on a quiet trail, finding a free secluded campsite, and not having to interact with anyone, but each other. Either way we still managed to learned the following about Colorado.
1) If you live in Colorado you also vacation in Colorado. I can't blame you Coloradans. Alpine lakes, fourteeners, water. You basically have it all. Everywhere we went it seemed there were more Colorado plates driving down the road in a loaded up Suby. It should be specified that they weren't loaded for a quick trip to the mountains, but basically everything that person could possibly fit inside or owned.
2) The official state car is the Subaru. I am almost certain that when you receive your drivers license in Colorado you are also handed a set of keys to your Subaru. EVERYONE has one, or has multiple sitting in their yard. Basically every other car driving down the road is a Subaru. The 'out of town' Subarus were easy to spot, because they lacked a rack system. Racks for bikes, boards, skis, space, fishing poles, and just for looks. If you are ever in need of a used rack system, Colorado is where they reside. In fact I took advantage of the popularity and picked up two additional bike mounts at half the price they sell for in Phoenix.
3) Aspen can suck a bag of dicks. We tried to experience the wilderness surrounding Asepn, but we clearly were wasting our time. Because of our spontaneity we were stuck in Aspen for a few hours trying to find our camping spot for the evening. Having to get anywhere in that town is insane. I realize we were there in the touristy summer season, but how many roundabouts do we have to go through. Aspen, your traffic sucks; your temporary residents are pretentious; and we won't be coming back. Correction, we will be coming back for the Maroon Bells. But we will make sure to come from the West and never have to cross through downtown Aspen.
4) Camping Beside the Colorado River is best reserved for the Grand Canyon. Some where after jetting out of Aspen and making our way towards Vail we pulled off into a free campsite on BLM land. The site had pit toilets, riverside camping and picnic table. For some fucked up reason people decided to stop using the pit toilet (worked fine for us) and much preferred using the bushes directly in camp. Clearly there is some excellent proof for requiring a permit system.
5) Free Campsites are Almost always Better. On our first night in Colorado we broke down and decided to pay for a camp spot in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The campground was nearly full, but we figured it was a pay site so most the riff raff would be discouraged. Incorrect. Let me start by saying I appreciate the arts, the violin was one of my favorite instruments. For some reason so 'parental figures' decided that it would be a wonderful idea to let their daughter bring and practice her violin in camp. In the evening. At the next site next to us. I understand that the girl was learning, but a public campground is the last place you want to have to listen to some rednecks kid learning to play. Unfortunately the encouragement from her 'parental figures' was only increasing as the night progressed. This eventually sparked Sara and I to leave the campground and do a night hike through the dunes to escape the noise. Which brings me to my next lesson.
6) Bug spray Required. Exploring the lush forrest of Hawaii did not prepare us for the voracity of the Colorado mosquitos in July. In Sand Dunes they followed us a mile into the dunes, till we eventually abandoned our hike due to lack of blood. In numerous campgrounds around the state we donated quarts of blood through our shirts and pants. At one particular camping spot at a lake (big mistake) we were nearly carried away. In fact they were so bad we were forced to become 'those people' who bring a popup bug net to sit in. On that particular night we enjoyed our dinner inside our bug net shelter while the mosquitos began buzzing us. Imagine a mosquito version of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Birds'. Getting from the shelter to the tent involved running around swatting ourselves and diving into the tent while the other quickly zipped it up. After 15 minutes of exterminating the fuckers inside the tent we were able to relax. This particular evening encouraged us to purchase bug spray for backpacking, but that only seemed to encourage them.
7) Steamboat Springs and Boulder- Out of all the towns we visited on this trip these two stood out. Both communities had amazing trail systems, providing us excellent running and hiking. We also were able to locate amazing free campsites near both towns that only added to the appeal. The food in Boulder was amazing. The downtown of Steamboat Springs was quaint but not too touristy. With the addition of Silverton, these three cities easily have my vote.
8) Colorado is the Ultimate Adventure State- Within a few hours drive we could go from high desert to mountain town. Even the towns we disliked, or that had a small population still made an effort to have a trail system. Arizona could learn a few things about developing a bike friendly culture. Colorado residents seemed to really be ahead of Phoenicians when it came to that. It seemed like most of the state's residents lived highly active lives and took full advantage of what their state had to offer. It was very unique coming from Phoenix, and comparing the cities. Almost every town felt like Flagstaff on steroids.
9) Was that A Skunk? Holy weed, Batman. Dispensaries were like Walgreens; on every corner. We expected it in the mountain towns, but we found it really shocking to see 2 or 3 dispensaries in a town of a few thousand. You can't toss a rock without hitting one. I knew with the recreation status that there would be plenty of them, but it blew my mind just how many.
10) Wildlife- At first we were excited about all the wildlife we were seeing. Moose, marmots, chipmunks, bears, bald eagles, otters, hummingbirds, etc. Maybe its because we live in the desert but Colorado seemed to have a significantly healthier wildlife population then AZ. Most of our wildlife was seen as we driving, but we even managed to see a fair amount while on trail. It was definitely nice to get the opportunity to see everything.
Even though we had some rough patches along the trip we were really happy with the adventure. Colorado is definitely on my list of places to frequent, now if only there was some way to have a summer home there and a winter home here....