Nomadic Life – Week 4
This Saturday morning was a bittersweet one. We packed YOLOM up and said goodbye to our amazing free camping spot, Pioneer Park camped out on the shores of the Colorado River. This was a great spot and hard to leave. The park allows you to stay up to 14 days if you like. Alas, we had other places to be so we set off. This is the life of a nomad.
Hot Sulphur Springs
Before leaving Hot Sulphur Springs we decided to check out the Hot Sulphur Springs pools which are what the town was named for. They are of course commercialized at this point and being a hot day neither of us cared much for a dip in the hot pools. Still, the area looked very nice and if this is your sort of thing I would think it to be enjoyable. They have several pools with varying listed temperatures for each one.
By the time we finally hit the road, it was lunch time so we decided to partake of another of the Hot Sulphur Springs restaurants and this time choose the fast food joint Dari-Delite. It is a roadside eatery with outside seating. While the food was very good, the company was better. It is so nice to be able to sit down at a communal table with locals who eat there.
Traveling to the Northwest Corner of Rocky Mountain National Park
Having finished lunch we set our path to the north. Today we would travel up to the northwest side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is the only section of the park that we have yet to explore in our 7 years of living in Colorado. It is nearly a 3-hour drive from the park’s west gate to the Long Draw Campground which is located just on the outside of the park’s border. The drive up there is remote with only a small scattering of civilization along the way but is a gorgeous drive through mountainous terrain into the North Park area and then back into more mountainous terrain to arrive at the lake.
Long Draw Campground
We stayed in the campground although later we realized there was dispersed camping allowed in designated areas along the dirt road access. The campground itself was very nice and due to all the beetle kill that the area has been suffering over the past decade they allow campers to collect firewood and burn it in the provided fire-rings (this is rare). We had gourmet brats with bacon. Very nice!
Backpacking Mirror Lake
The next morning we set out early to hike to Rocky Mountain National Park’s Mirror Lake which is why we had traveled all the way to this remote corner of the park. The hike was a good one and not overly strenuous (by RMNP standards). We made good time to the lake and had just enough time to explore it before the clouds rolled in.
The afternoon was spent in our tent listening as rain and hail battered the thin nylon. We also got to enjoy the sound of thunder and the flashes of lightning as four rounds of storms passed over. About an hour before dark the rain stopped and we proceeded to make dinner. We realized we forgot our spork and had to make some makeshift chopsticks to eat our MRE. As we were finishing up dinner we noticed we had some neighbors in the form of to bucks. As it turns out these were our only neighbors as all the adjacent campsites were vacant. I guess the storms scared off smarter would-be campers. We finished dinner, brushed our teeth, hid the bear box, and jumped into our tent just in time for another storm to roll in.
The Search for Moose
We decided to wake up early before the sun rose to get an early start just in case more storms decided to roll in. When the alarm went off at 5:15 AM the rain was still coming down so I decided another hour of sleep was justified. We woke up about 6:15 AM and the rain had finally stopped. There were signs of blue skies peeking through the dark clouds. We decided to go for it. We cleared our site which was rather difficult considering the hail had splattered mud all over the outside of our tent. It took a while to get it to even a semblance of clean. We packed things up and headed out. On the way out we stopped for breakfast in a meadow clearing with the stream running through it. On the way in we had run into some backpackers who had camped here and saw 7 moose. We didn’t find any but had better luck on the drive out later in the day, spotting six on the access road.
The Headwaters of the Colorado River
Returning to YOLOM we decided to check out Long Draw Reservoir and La Poudre Pass. The road drives to the pass which is pretty cool. When we got to the pass we stopped for lunch and another thunderstorm rolled through. We waited it out and then hiked over the pass in search for the headwaters of the mighty Colorado River. We found them! I was excited. Jennifer less so. It is amazing to me that the water in this little creek flows for 1,450 miles on its way to the Pacific Ocean.
I didn’t realize that there is a manmade ditch (The Grand Ditch) literally about 40’ from Colorado’s headwaters that takes water the opposite direction and feeds it across the continental divide. Essentially moving the divide. This water that would have ended up in the Pacific prior to man’s intervention instead flows 1,760 miles to the east and ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of this 14.3-mile ditch was built after the land became a national park.
Heading Down the Poudre Canyon Towards Civilization
After taking in the Colorado headwaters we started down the mountains and followed the water down the Poudre Canyon. I had read about showers being available at the Mountain Park campgrounds so we stopped to partake. These were amazing! Fifty cents for a 5 minute and they were the cleanest showers we have seen since we hit the road. We had intended to stay in one of the nearby campgrounds, but there was no LTE available so we kept descending the canyon, eventually arriving in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Jennifer tore her shoe up while hiking Mount Ida over a week ago. She caught it on a sharp rock and sliced the top wide open. So it was time to get some new shoes. We went to REI and after trying on almost every shoe there she ended up with some new Merrells. Next, she got her hair cut and then we went to Chili’s. I know we weren’t exactly partaking of local flavors, but we had a gift card. We then called it a night at the local truck stop down the road in Loveland, Colorado.
Tuesday was a work day for Jennifer so we set out for the local library. Meanwhile, I had the job of resupplying, laundering, repairing things, and I also needed to do a run to Verizon. We are burning through data and the company throttling our speed on the unlimited plan isn’t going to work. Turns out that there are no options beyond the 15gb – 20gb hot spot limits they give you with the “unlimited” plans. They really should introduce something with real data limits for travelers. So we had to add a T-mobile line to get their truly unlimited hotspot use. We will see if we can ever use it as their towers are harder to find out west. We are now spending way too much money for Verizon and T-mobile, hopefully, we will be able to eliminate one of those bills soon. Nomad problems!
Ant-Man & the Wasp
We decided to stay in Loveland, Colorado for at least one more night so we could go see the new Ant-Man & the Wasp movie. I liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite Marvel movie. It feels more like a kid’s movie. After the more adult Infinity War, I was hoping Marvel was going to harden their characters a bit more. I’m okay with comedy, but so many of their movies now feel like comedies even when there is a lot of death and destruction. Look at Thor: Ragnarok for exactly what I am talking about.
Wednesday was more work and this time Jennifer set up at a coffee shop in Loveland as the Loveland library’s internet speeds aren’t the best. Once I had finished opening our T-mobile account we moved to a local park with great views of the lake. I was even going to go swimming, but a storm rolled in complete with lightning so that wrecked my plan.
Bike Riding Around Loveland
On Thursday I explored the city via my bike and road the length of the 23-mile Recreation Trail loop. Loveland is beautiful! The city has more lakes than perhaps any other city in Colorado. The city planners did a good job with the Recreation Trail passing it along the shores of many of the lakes as well as the Big Thomson River. I really enjoyed my ride. Once Jennifer was done with work for the day we both went back out on bikes and explored a few of the larger lakes. We did more birding than biking. Jennifer saw two bald eagles earlier in the day. On our bike ride, there was no shortage of seagulls and geese, but we also go to see woodpeckers and a very large hawk.
Planet Fitness – Our Permanent Shower Solution
We then set out once more on the search for showers. We had been planning on getting a gym membership sooner or later, but being that Loveland had a Planet Fitness and that the truck stop showers cost a staggering $14 each we bit the bullet and bought the gym membership. It is a pretty sweet deal. We get access to all the Planet Fitness locations and Jennifer being the primary member is allowed to bring a friend (me) every time. So we get access to showers and equipment for only $22.06/month (including taxes). That ain’t too bad considering the one-time truck stop shower would have cost us $28. Win!
A Concert, Dinner, & a Movie
Friday we set up at Loveland’s River’s Edge Natural Area. This was a great spot to work with views of the many lakes. They had power in the pavilions and on-site bathrooms. When work was done we headed over to the Promenade Shops at Centerra Malls for the free Summer Concert Series. Chick-fil-a was on site with $5 dinner deals. After about an hour of music, we walked over to the mall’s central area and got set up to watch the movie, Wonder. This was another free outdoor event. They were giving away popcorn & cotton candy. $10 total for dinner, dessert, a concert, and a movie… that is hard to beat and a great way to end an amazing week in Loveland, Colorado. This is an awesome town!