Elissa Joins the Journey

I have been full time on the road for more than nine months now, and still the hardest part of the journey is being away from my daughter. For those of you who are newcomers to this blog, the idea for this journey began as my daughter, Elissa, prepared for her high school graduation and set her sites on college. For the story behind the inspiration for my journey, read The Fork in the Road. 

So far Elissa has joined me in the San Francisco Bay Area for Thanksgiving, and San Diego for part of her winter break. I made my way back to Texas for her spring break, and now… as she steps into summer after finishing her freshman year… she joins me once again. In my last post I left off after picking her up at the Kansas City airport and trekking across Kansas to Colorado. We’re both big fans of this state. First destination was a campground near Colorado Springs, chosen because it was the nearest campground to her paternal aunt, uncle and cousins (AND some hiking spots we wanted to check out) where I could swing a reservation over Memorial Day weekend.

All of my past trips to Colorado were either by plane, or entering from the south out of New Mexico, so I’d never seen the eastern edge of the state. “Edge” is not even an appropriate term. I should say Eastern third of the state. The eastern-most parts of Colorado I’d visited in the past were places like Denver, Sedalia, Boulder and Fort Collins. Elissa and I drove across Kansas on I70 and veered off on Hwy 40 for the last 160 miles to Colorado Springs. (Note to you RVers: NO NOT take this route! You know those bumps in the highway… those breaks in the pavement that you’d hardly notice in a car… the rhythmic kathump, kathump, kathump that becomes a gut wrenching SLAM, SLAM, SLAM in an RV… you know the ones. This entire highway is made up of those bumps!!)

The entire drive out Hwy 40 looked an awful lot like the midwest to me. I kept having to remind myself, “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” I was thoroughly exhausted and relieved when we arrived at The Garden of the Gods Campground, but once settled we didn’t waste a minute before heading out to hike through this lovely place. I only wish we’d had more time before sunset!

The next day we headed up Hwy 24 past the town of Florissant to hike out to Paradise Cove Swimming Hole. On the way, as we were driving through a beautiful valley in heavy winds, I was pointing out a field of Llama when they suddenly started loping across the pasture, locks tousling in the wind, playfully nipping at one another’s flanks. It was quite unexpected and really hilarious. I’ve never seen Llama do anything but stand around… and spit! 🙂

The entire drive was beautiful, and fun… so busy singing and laughing we missed a few turns without worry. We hiked with the dogs through some nice terrain and across a creek to the swimming hole. Our sea level lungs labored a bit on the steep inclines, but the hike was well worth it when we arrived at this lovely, natural oasis. Clearly a popular place, as we met several people (and dogs) on our way in and out.

It was not hot enough and way too early in the season to enjoy swimming, but after watching a few other college age kids jump from the cliffs, Elissa couldn’t help herself!

Next stop was Rocky Mountain National Park, Aspenglen Campground. I could write volumes about the beauty of this park, but I won’t because I’m already lagging way behind on his post. Suffice it to say… OMG Gorgeous! I’ve only been here twice, but I’m madly in love with the beauty of this park.

The afternoon we arrived we opted for a short hike… Chasm Falls, off Fall River Road…

View from Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Photo by Elissa

Chasm Falls, near Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Photo by Elissa

Photo by Elissa

We stopped several times at this owl nest near our campground and never saw any more than this fuzzy little guys head.

Fall River and lots of critters ran right through our campground…

Turkey hen and chicks

The hike we picked for the following day was a 615′ climb in just under two miles and took us past some beautiful scenery including Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and finally Emerald Lake at an elevation of 10,090′.

Dream Lake

Dream Lake

Emerald Lake

View from Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

The time spent with Elissa was precious to me and it was, as always, hard to put her back on a plane to Texas. My hope is to get her out on my journey as often as possible so that she can see more of the amazing beauty I’m experiencing. For now, I continue through Colorado on my own, gathering images of dogs for my next book, The Mountain Dogs of Colorado.

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  • Susan

    Your pictures are stunning, and your story so fun! I know you loved having Elissa join you!! We look forward to seeing you in August.

    • fran

      Thanks Susan! Yes… I loved having Elissa with me. Wish I could have her with me more often. I am looking forward to meeting up with you in Sturgis! I’ll be covering a lot of ground and seeing some amazing scenery between now and then, so stay tuned! 🙂

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