Road Trip!

I know. You’re all thinking LIFE is a road trip for me, right? It’s true, but as I’ve mentioned many times, I can’t stop at some of the most beautiful places along the way while driving “The Beast”, and there are some places ya just can’t get to in a 35′ motorhome. One of the main reasons for me to have a tow car is to be able to turn onto the “road less traveled” from time to time, and I do it as often as I can.

With the help of my friends, Bob and Kathy, I planned a full day road trip combining places they suggested with places I’d read about.  Roughly an eight hour journey, but that didn’t take into consideration the numerous stops I’d make along the way to document the trip. With Jazzy and Sadie along for the ride, we set out shortly after sunrise.

The map above is as close to my route as I could get via google maps. I thought it might be more interesting (and informative) to follow along this way. Westcliffe was my starting and ending point, so it shows up as “H” on the map. From there I drove east on Hwy 96, and then south on Hwy 165 to Lake Isabel [B], one of Bob’s favorite lakes. I completely agree it was lovely and peaceful, and no doubt a place of vivid beauty in the fall. On the way I happened upon a heard of Big Horn Sheep, and not too much further I spotted more deer.

Big Horn Sheep

A little further down the road… as I was eyeing a cool old barn, this adorable calf trotted into view almost playfully. In my mind I could hear a child’s voice calling out, “Look at me! You can take a picture if ya want to!” And then Mom came along, and bellowed at him in reprimand. There is no doubt in my mind she was scolding him for talking to strangers as she hustled him on down the trail. These brief moments were sweet and comical, and kept me smiling for miles.

Lake Isabel

Backtracking down Hwy 165 I made a very quick stop at Bishop’s Castle. As most of you know, I’m not a big fan of “tourist attractions”, but I’d heard this was worth a quick look at least. Impressive? Yes. And who am I to question why? I cannot judge or fault those who are driven by passion. Being here did bring to mind two other interesting stops I’ve made on my journey, Salvation Mountain and Watt’s Towers, both in southern California.

The Bishop's guard dog??

A little further up the highway I took an off-road short cut that started out between jagged rock walls and a gently flowing stream, and eventually turned into beautiful open countryside. After a stop along the way to walk along the water with the girls, we moved on past Wetmore and on up Hwy 67 to Florence. [C]

Steakhouse in Wetmore. They weren't open while I was there.

From Florence we continued north on a road far less traveled. I don’t know if the folks around here consider “Phantom Canyon” [D] a road, but it does show up on a map. Several people since have said, “Nobody warned you not to take that road??” It’s certainly not one you’d want to drive in the pouring rain or in the dead of winter, and I’d highly recommend doing it in an all-wheel drive vehicle or at least a beater truck. It’s a dusty, bumpy, narrow and at times “cliff hanging” road with two extremely small tunnels and most importantly… some amazing vistas!

I saw few other travelers on this road, but met one couple and their two cute dogs along the way!

And at the top of the climb I dropped out into more beautiful, lush countryside and a short while later arrived in the old mining town of Victor.

A little further up the Hwy (67) I came to the town of Cripple Creek. [E] Again, a bit too touristy for me. My favorite find here were the Wild Burrow grazing on the edge of town.

From Cripple Creek I headed northwest on Teller County Road 1, and was surprised when I happened upon the same Llama Ranch I discovered two weeks prior when my daughter and I drove out from Colorado Springs to go hiking. They dazzled me then with their silly antics, some of which can be seen here.

As I pulled over to admire them once again I happened to notice something that took me a moment to register… little feet coming out of the back side of one of them! In the blink of an eye (faster than I could swap lenses) this little guy was born. I stood in the rain and watched as this baby struggled to get control of his long wobbly legs, and was amazed and even touched to see the “extended family” gather around. I had a strong sense that they were not standing there out of curiosity, but to welcome and encourage the youngster. They surrounded him protectively, eyes looking in all directions, and most especially at me. He struggled mightily, and fell several times, but from the moment of his birth it took less than fifteen minutes before he was walking alongside his mother. This is one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed, and there was not another soul around to see it. 

I had a hard time pulling myself away from where I stood, but a big storm was brewing around me, so I moved on. The first person I called was my daughter, Elissa, to tell her how much I wished she’d been with me. The second was my friend Kathy, to give them an update on my day (mainly to let them know I’d survived Phantom Canyon), and she informed me they were under an unheard of tornado warning in Westcliffe!

I continued on up  Florissant Valley (35 miles west of Colorado Springs) and came upon another familiar scene, the Hornbeck Homestead. I admired the serenity of this place as I drove past it before, and this time I pulled off the road to take a look around.

The Hornbeck Homestead

The homestead stands in the center of this lush valley very near the town of Florissant. I was delighted to read that it was the home of a strong, determined woman who came to the area with her four children in the 1870s. Claiming land under the Homestead Act, Adeline Hornbek defied traditional gender roles to become the owner of a prosperous ranch. “You go girl!” comes to mind. 🙂

In Florissant I turned west on Hwy 24 and traveled toward Buena Vista. [Note: The following day yet another wildfire was raging on this same stretch of highway! To date I have stayed only miles (and hours) ahead of five separate Colorado wildfires.] There’s no shortage of cool old barns and buildings throughout the countryside here. No shortage of dogs either!

White Shepard with the Collegiate Peaks in the background

From Buena Vista [F] I headed south on Hwy 285 and took a long, windy side trip up Chalk Creek Dr/CR 162 to the old ghost town of St. Elmo. [G] It is claimed to be a ghost town, but there are actually people living there. It was a lovely drive, and the little town was quint, but a bit crowded with tourists on that particular Saturday. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more had I been able to stroll the streets on a quieter day.

Cascade Falls along Chalk Creek Dr.

Alpine Lake

Once back on the highway I continued south, and then turned on Hwy 50 toward Salida which sits right on the Arkansas River (mentioned in my previous post). I intended to spend a bit of time checking out this town as well, but they had a big festival going on. Knowing I’d be back to spend more time along this river I decided to pass on through. I followed the river for awhile and then turned down Hwy 69 toward Westcliffe. [H]

Beckwith Ranch near Westcliffe

After a wonderfully full and enchanting day I rolled back into Westcliffe just in time to catch up with Bob and Kathy and some of their good friends for cocktails and a bite to eat. They were full of questions, and after catching my breath (literally) and a few sips of wine, I regaled them with stories of my day.



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