Colorado… Too Much of a Good Thing???

I can’t believe how far behind I am on blogging! Not that it’s been all that long since I last wrote, but I have an over-abundance of stories and images to share and my days have been far too full of fun and friends and beauty and adventure and dogs to take the time to sit and research and write. And as is often the case, when there is time I have little or no internet connection. This is still my number one source of frustration on my journey. Not sure how I’ll get caught up, but I’ll do my best!

After putting my daughter back on a plane to Texas I headed to Fort Collins for a big party celebrating the marriage of my good friends Tony and Beth Courter. Although I’m back in Colorado to work on my book, being here to share their joyous day is the reason I made quick tracks back across the country when I did. Congratulations you two. May your journey together be joyous and everlasting.

While in Fort Collins, “camped” on the street next to their home, I found myself itching to take my kayak out. I had not been on the water since I left Savannah two weeks prior, and it was most definitely time. The yearning was so strong that I drove out to a tiny little lake in town, drug my kayak off the car, across a field, down a hill through the brush and dropped it in the water for my shortest excursion to date. I wasn’t expecting to find much worth photographing on this mini adventure, but took my camera anyway… and I was tickled to find one Blue Heron along the shore.

Great Blue Heron, Fort Collins

After a few more days in town I decided it was time to head up the mountain a ways for some real camping, and hopefully some real kayaking too! As it turned out, the county campground I picked (Horsetooth Reservoir) was just over the ridge from day one of what has become one of the states most destructive wildfires. At writing (12 days later) the “High Park” fire has burned through more than 100 square miles and destroyed at least 190 homes.

High Park forest fire the day it started, from Horsetooth Reservoir

I was told the blaze was a safe distance away, so I rolled in and set up camp. Since there were a lot of speedboats on the water that afternoon I decided to wait for the peacefulness of sunrise to take my kayak out. That afternoon Jazzy and Sadie took me for a good walk, I got some work done, had a good dinner and crashed early. I woke up in the middle of the night to smoke in my RV. Enough smoke to wake me from a deep sleep. When I stepped outside I was surprised to find the campground eerily quiet. It was dark as can be, but you could see and smell and “feel” the smoke, and I couldn’t believe I was the only one awake and alarmed by it. The dogs were clearly on edge as well. Although there was little wind, it had clearly shifted. Knowing this could mean the fire shifting directions as well, I got in my car and drove up the hill to see if I could tell where it was. I couldn’t see the blaze from the top of the hill so I figured we were ok for the time being, but I didn’t sleep a wink the rest of the night. By daylight the smoke had shifted north again, and the campground came to life like any other day. After brief consideration I decided I had no desire to camp this close to a raging forest fire. Friendly conversation with the park ranger led me to Carter Lake, a 45 minute drive but probably about 15 miles south as the crow flies. I found a great campsite right on the lake and settled in once again. The next morning I finally got my sunrise cruise in the kayak. I understand they evacuated the campground at Horsetooth Reservoir that day.

Sadie at Carter Lake with smoke from the High Park fire in the background

Jazzy and her new friend Koda

Cruising Carter Lake

Before continuing my journey around the state in search of dogs, we spent a little time with my cousin, Anne, and her family in Lafayette too. The girls and I stopped here for a visit last winter as well, and met their new family pet, an adorable Goldendoodle named Scarlet. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a cuter and sillier pup, and although she has grown in size, she has not outgrown the silliness. Jazzy and Sadie thoroughly enjoy romping around the yard with her!

Scarlet

Countryside in Lafayette

From Lafayette we were off to Westcliffe where my good friends Bob and Kathy Seei own the delightful Over the Brim Inn. I visited them as I embarked on my journey last fall, and fell in love with this little town and the surrounding area. [Previous Post] The route I chose took me past the Royal Gorge which I’d read about, and was told there was a park not too far off the highway where I could leave my RV and walk with my dogs across the impressive bridge that spans the Gorge. Soooo… off the highway we went, up a steep and windy hillside to the Royal Gorge Park. I had in my mind a state park, and was not prepared for what I found there.  I followed the signs to park my RV on the fringes of their huge parking lot and walked with the dogs to the entrance. I felt foolish paying $26 to enter the park when all I wanted to do was walk across the bridge and back, but I’d come all that way to do so. I spent less than an hour there and couldn’t get past my disappointment. Maybe it’s just me, but it just feels wrong to make an amusement park out of such a beautiful natural wonder. I didn’t take pictures of what I DIDN’T like about it. The Gorge itself was impressive regardless.

Royal Gorge

Bridge over the Royal Gorge

Thankfully my spirit was revived during the enchanting drive along the Arkansas River. With very few places to pull off in The Beast I can’t begin to do the area justice, and I vow to come back one day and stay for a while at a campground along the river.

Arkansas River

Deer comfortably grazing and lounging right on the edge of town

With my RV parked in Bob and Kathy’s spacious driveway in Westcliffe, and the offer to stay as long as I’d like, I took the time to get to know the area… and the locals. While out to dinner with Kathy my first night in town I met some folks with dogs, who knew some folks with dogs. One introduction led to another, and soon my schedule was full!

Marti Marnitz told me about Judy Anderson, who has three dogs and whose ranch was the background to  Comes a Horseman.

Once a Horseman was filmed on this beautiful piece of land

Marti also told me about Shirley Lloyd, who lives on a beautiful piece of land, has several dogs, lots of horses, and five Savannah Cats. I spent an entire morning visiting, walking the land with her and gathering images for my book (and then some!)

Savannah Cat

I took almost a whole day to visit Mission Wolf, a wonderful sanctuary run almost entirely by interns and volunteers. The three main goals of this nature center are to 1) Provide resident wolves with as peaceful and natural life as possible. 2) Connect people with nature and foster concern and support for wild habitat protection. 3) Educate to the extent that wild wolves and humans may co-exist so that sanctuary’s like theirs will become unnecessary.

My day was spent learning about, photographing and bonding with these beautiful creatures. By bonding I mean up close and personal. A small group of us were able to go inside one area where three wolves came around to “meet and greet” us the way they would greet other wolves in the wild… face to face. They want to smell your face and teeth and lick you. I’ll admit it’s a bit intimidating to have a wolf come straight at your face, but we were told by the staff that if we turned away or pulled back, the connection would be missed and that wolf would not return to you. It was a wonderful and cherished experience.

A few more creatures from my day…

I met these little guys right in the road on my way out to Mission Wolf

And before leaving town, I photographed one more big, beautiful dog and a stunning sunset over the Sange de Cristo Mountains.

Lucky

 

 

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  • Don

    With retirement a few more years away I hope to head out across America as you are doing. For now I’ll have to be satisfied with dreaming of travel and following your blog. The wolves are amazing and your photos, as always – stunning!

  • fran

    Thank you Don. Plenty more to come, although I understand I’ll have no wifi where I’ll be the next few days. 🙁

    I hope my journey has given you lots of ideas on places you’d like to see when you do hit the road.!

  • Kathleen Kelly

    Yay! Love it when you post. I especially love the look on your face as you are rubbing the wolf’s nape of his neck. Your connection and pure love of animals are so apparent in your photos. Can’t wait to see more. xxxooo

    • fran

      Thanks Kathleen. I’m glad it’s obvious I love God’s creatures, great and small. Obvious where Elissa gets it huh? More soon!

  • Fran, You blow me AWAY with these images. What places you are visiting and capturing! Pray for peace and safe travels for you!

  • fran

    Thank you so much Daniel. I can’t tell you what a pleasure and a blessing it is for me to be witness to the amazing, ever changing beauty of this land. And all the more so to be able to capture it! Thanks for the prayers and kind thoughts.

  • Virginia Lloyd

    Dear Fran, What a lovely adventure you are having across our wonderful country having the chance to meet new friends and sharing the love of their animals too! am so glad you had the chance to meet my daughter, Shirley Lloyd, in Westcliffe, who is hoping you will return soon, and looking forward to reading your book when it is published. With special regards and good wishes, Virginia

    • fran

      Very sweet of you to write Virginia. I enjoyed my visit with Shirley immensely. There’s something very special to me about connecting with others who are so connected to what has captured my heart since I was a child. Interestingly, it just occurred to me that what captures me most is what would exist on this earth even if we did not.

      Thank you for your thoughtfulness in writing Virginia. I’m touched.

  • Marsha Littleton

    Hi, Fran! I am a semi-“retired” photographer and member of the guild here in San Antonio, and have heard you speak at our gathering, and have seen you around meetings and seminars here and there. I literally stumbled on your blog when looking at RV websites, as we have taken up camping in our old age! :). Anyway, I recognized your name immediately, and started following your adventures across the country. I must say you are one brave soul! I really admire your spirit, and enjoy your blog and especially your photographs. They are all stunning. Will keep checking to see where you are going next. Take care and Happy Trails to you!

    • fran

      Hello Marsha! How lovely to hear from you!! I’m glad you found my site and have enjoyed following along on my travels. Thank you so much for your kind comments. Stay tuned. I’m working on a new blog post from a street side cafe in Telluride! Must close my laptop for now to go photograph some dogs, but promise to get back on it soon! Enjoy!

  • Mom

    I know how much you are enjoying your encounters with animals and their people. It seems like we always had some little critter around the house as you were growing up, and some big ones, too. Our animals are still at two Goldens, two feral cats and our 15 lb. house cat, Jetta, as in rocket fuel. We have lots of the grey ring neck doves that have migrated here from California and seem to plan to winter here since they get fed daily.

    • fran

      I know Mom, and you and Dad were usually pretty tolerant of the numerous stray critters I brought home over the years. Interestingly, Elissa has the same heart when it comes to animals. If she’d had her way we would have turned our 2 acre property in Texas into an animal refuge for any and all strays.