Saturday, May 12, 2012

Colorado, Parks & Friends

After the repairs on the rig were done in Garden City, KS and we decided not to go to Alaska, our several months of planning were out the door and we needed a more detailed Plan B.  When we looked at the map we realized Class of 07 mates Jim and Bobbie Chapman were only 300 miles away in the Southern Colorado Rockies so we headed that way.  When we called them they were in Denver for the night visiting Bill and Leslie whom we met at Q three years ago.  They said they would be returning to Alamosa the next day and we would be welcome to stay with them at Jim's brother's lot for nothing.  After all the repairs, "free" sounded really good.  On the drive across the plains of Eastern Colorado we stopped at Bent's Old Fort National Historical Site to add another park service site to our list.  When we stopped in Walsenburg to fuel up Nanc had the phone in hand to call Bobbie when it rang and she yelled, Don't pull out we just pulled into the station.  After our driveway hugs we followed them to Camp Chappy in Alamosa.  They showed us around there hometown and took us to a couple of wonderful authentic Mexican restaurants.  While they were saying last minute good-byes to friends and family we did a short road trip to add nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to our visited list.  After a couple days in Alamosa we headed 45 miles farther into the mountains to South Fork Campground where the managers are Rick and Terri Deacon who were at Betty's for Mardi Gras in 2011.  Jim and Bobbie stayed one night and then moved to their summer home at Park Creek Campground where they are the managers.  We opted for a second night at South Fork to catch up on laundry and other chores and then opted for a third night when we awoke to s**w.  The next day we drove 12 miles and are now with Jim and Bobbie for a few days of dry camping in Rio Grande National Forest.  The nights have been chilly (cold) but the days have been sunny and beautiful.  
Bent's Old Fork was built by brothers Charles and William Bent and Frenchman Ceran St. Vrain as a trading post on the Santa Fe Trail.  It is on the banks of the Arkansas River which then was the border between Mexico and the United States.  Being the only major structure on the trail between Missouri and Santa Fe, it was often called the Castle on the Plains. 
The trading post exchanged beaver furs and buffalo hides for goods from around the world.  In the center is the hide press where the furs were pressed and bundled for shipping. The present structure is an exact reproduction based on the detailed drawings of Lt. James W. Abert who was there when the military used the fort as a staging area for the invasion of Mexico. 
Just a few of the many items that were available for trade in the store.  They had everything from candles to guns.  The Bents had very good relationships with the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Kiowa and Charles had a Cheyenne wife, Owl Woman,
The post had a staff of 40 to 60 people, but the number would increase greatly when traders arrived.  There were blacksmith and carpenter shops, huge storerooms and a bar with a pool table where Nanc is waiting for a drink. 
The paintings on this hide tell the many stories about the fort and the Indians who lived in the area.
After leaving the fort we headed west across the plains and soon saw the towering snow capped Rockies in the distance.  It is some sight after driving across the flat rolling plains.  You have to wonder how early pioneers felt seeing those towering peaks laying in their path.
When we arrived in Alamosa Bobbie and Jim had us over for happy hour.  After happy hour they  took us to a restaurant which was a whole new experience for us where the meal was smothered in either red or green chili sauce.  We loved it.
The high desert dunes at Great Sand Dunes.  At 750 feet the dunes are the highest in North America.  The contrast from the dry flat San Luis Valley across the Great Dunes with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background is beautiful. 
One of the most unique features of the dunes is that the melting snow creates two streams around the sand and carries it back to the bottom only to have the wind deposit it back on the dunes.  This yearly recycling keeps the ever changing dune at about the same height.  The water is so shallow that it was warm enough that even Nanc wadded through it.  In early spring the water becomes a playground for kids and adults alike.
The color of the sand changes throughout the day as the shadows move across the sand.  The dunes are steep enough that they are used by sledders and sandboarders year round. Bent's Old Fort and Great Sand Dunes are two very worthwhile off the beaten path stops.  
Here are Rick and Terri at a little happy hour(s) we had.  It is early in the season up in the mountains so there were only five couples, but a grand time was had by all. (I think?)
Justin and Vicky (sorry no pic) brought out the HOTTEST sauce any of us have ever tried and Jim amazed us with how much of the hot stuff he used.  Nanc is checking out the sweat coming off his brow. 
It was great getting together with our friends here in the beautiful mountains, but as we found out it can s**w anytime.  We decided to extend our stay with Rick and Terri one more day so we could stay warm with full hook ups.  Having grown up in western Pennsylvania, THIS WAS NOT SOMETHING SPECIAL!!!! 


Jim and Bobbie said...

We've soooo enjoyed your company this past week. You are good company to have around.

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Its always neat to see the places you two find, Bents Old Fork, hmmmm we never new it existed!