Since I am leaving town for such a long time, Hubs and I decided to get some quality time in and packed up the dogs for a short road trip around Colorado. If I’m going to be in the city, I need my fair share of mountains before I go!
Our first stop was the Maroon Bells Wilderness, just outside of Aspen. I’ve never been, despite it only being a few hours away from home. Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to describe it, and all we did was the short hike up around the lake! It may have been a little chilly, but that didn’t stop Ellie from wading into the water and playing around in it. From there, we headed up to scope out our camping spot at the Crystal River KOA, which might be the absolute nicest KOA in the country. Plans worked out perfectly to meet up with a couple of good friends who live in Basalt and we grabbed a few beers with them at Carbondale Beer Works before cooking some chili over the fire and settling in for the night. It wound up pouring rain all night, but the rooftop tent kept us toasty and cozy. I think Ellie is my new favorite camping accessory…or at least she is when it’s cold out!
We packed up camp in the morning and grabbed breakfast at our favorite place in Carbondale before heading out towards Paonia. The drive took us through Marble, and it was at that point that my mind nearly exploded. Marble might be one of the most breathtaking and incredible places I’ve ever seen in my life. I feel like I was asking Hubs to pull over ever 30 feet so I could take another picture! We decided to try and take the trail out to the Crystal Mill, but got nervous about the tires on the truck not being up to the task in all the high-country snow. We rolled into Paonia around 2 and took the dogs to a park to run off some energy and grab food for dinner. We grabbed a glass of wine with a great view at a winery called Azuca while we waited for Revolution Brewing to open up. Since we had no planned place to sleep that night, leaving town early enough to find a place in the National Forest was paramount.
The lack of plan couldn’t have turned out better. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is nearby, and just before you get to the entrance we found a Conservation area that people use for riding dirt bikes and ATVs. For the most part, it looked like the surface of the moon and was relatively empty. We set up shop and got an almost endless sunset while Hubs cooked up steaks and asparagus and I poured the Pliny. We parked the truck so that we could unzip the tent in the morning and watch the sunrise, which was absolutely the right move.
Our next move was to head into Ouray, aka “The Switzerland of the Americas”. On our way, we stopped in Ridgeway where they were having a little Friday morning farmer’s market. The dogs needed some walking around, so we checked out this small mountain town and fell immediately in love with it. Ouray was cool, but I guess you have to head further out of town before it feels like the Alps, and by this time, we were kind of tired of the car. Instead of hanging out in Ouray for much longer than a beer, we went to the Orvis Hot Springs and relaxed our tired bodies. This place has great views, a clothing-optional policy, and a “short soak” that takes a few bucks of if you’re only there for a couple of hours.
Relaxed and rejuvenated, we went to check out our home for the evening, a yurt at the Ridgeway State Park! It was appropriately named the “Badger Den”, which is hilarious because Rugby has always been my little honey badger. The dogs seemed happy to get to sleep on a somewhat normal bed instead of the rooftop tent, and were both absolutely exhausted. Family nap time was followed up by a trip back into Ridgeway to get pizza and beer at Colorado Boy brewing, where the dogs were happy to hang with us at the picnic table outside and get fawned over by strangers. The food and beer were both the perfect end to the day and we settled into a toasty and comfy slumber in the heat of the yurt.
Our trip back to the house was slow and meandering. We swung into Salida to walk the dogs around and stretch our legs. Ellie played in the river while Rugs was content to watch from the sidelines. Our final stop was Eddyline Brewing in Buena Vista, another of our favorite spots to haunt when we get the chance. It’s about three hours from the house, so it’s a perfect last stop.
I was so happy to get in some good quality time with the family before heading out of town, and to get to see some new parts of this ever-changing and always-amazing state. Now to prepare for the exact opposite life….