July 8 thru 9, 2018 Up early before the skeeters’ stabbing ritual, I made coffee while packing up. Spent a while talking with the man, traveling with his three teenage grandsons, who’d arrived late-night and set up tent camp next to mine. He had a full-size pickup with topper and kayaks. He said they’ve spent each summer together for years, traveling somewhere new. They were excited about their trip on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad out of Antonito; tickets bought in advance. He sounded fantastic!
Drove to the entrance to drop my trash, then walked around the property, along the pretty Conejos River. This camp is great for everyone and the owners, John and Katherine Nelson, are cool people.
Back on 285, through the north branch of the Old Spanish Trail in the San Luis Valley. Although I seemed to be acclimating, it was so fucking hot! The earth had large, dry cracks and dust kicked-up with the occasional breeze. Hard to imagine this area ever providing plenty of food and water, but apparently it did during Trail days. These land sculptures represent the Trail and the many different people and cultures who shaped history in this region.
Stopped at Safeway in Alamosa to fill up ($2.99/gal), potty and get ice. Approaching the tiny town of Del Norte, county seat of Rio Grande County, the dirt and tumbleweeds were joined by some trees and greenery.
About 15 miles farther, I landed at the visitor center in South Fork, Colorado. I got info on camping and other outdoor activities, places to go for basic needs, and entertainment. From what I’ve seen and read, Southern Colorado offers a huge variety of outstanding opportunities for all outdoor enthusiasts (e.g. ATVs/OHVs, hiking, mountain climbing, rafting, kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, hunting and fishing). The scenery around here is awesome and I loved the little fly-fish shop across the street.
Worked my way up a winding dirt road to the campground Louie told me about and landed a cool spot overlooking the water. Set up shop and relaxed. Texted Louie to let him know I was here.
Scampered, half-slid, down the hill to join the river. Picturesque views! It felt amazing to lie on the big rock and the water was deep enough to get completely wet; had to hold on to the rocks due to frisky current. Super cold!!
After making the return trek up the hill (took a while), got cleaned up, ate a can of boiled peanuts and talked with several neighbors, including Louie whose site was closeby. We planned a hike for the next morning before calling it a day.
The next morning, instead of going on the hike with Louie, we split ways so I could get an overdue oil change at the Only Garage (so funny!) for $50. The decor of the garage and other buildings on site were Western style, with a saloon, wagon, wheels and all. I especially liked the garage sign and permit.
While my wheels were in their care, I got cash for campsites at the Community Banks of Colorado next-door and enjoyed the walk to Rainbow Express for coffee; watched prairie dogs pop up, down and across holes in an open field and crossed a bridge. It was funny and so sweet that Louie saw me walking and called out. He thought I’d broken down.
Back on the road, with truck refreshed, I headed toward Creede. I swear my vehicles run happier after oil changes and washes.
Saw a sign for wildlife area, so I stopped. Although I didn’t see more than birds, the bridge was old and awesome, with incredible views.
As soon as I got to Creede, my priority was food. MJ’s Cafe was directly off the highway with a big, welcoming porch! Although it took quite a while to get my breakfast sandwich, it was wonderful. They also had great coffee…and lots of butter and cream. Yum! Since I’ve been on this trip, little comfort items are huge.
Stopped at the visitor center where I was referred by an older gentleman to a quiet, free campsite where locals like to fly fish. I headed that way, with a stop to check out a clay mine. OMG! I’m blown away by how gorgeous it is here. It is hot, but amazing!
Pulled in as a family in an RV was leaving; no one else was around. After checking out the seven sites, I picked the one they’d been in, number 4. The campground was primitive with a vault toilet. Perfect! Over the next few hours, several campers pulled through but didn’t stay. I had the whole place all to myself.
The Rio Grande was so low, the tree roots were perfect steps. Although shallow, 3′ tops, the current had a quick flow. I was able to wash myself and some clothes, then sit back and admire the view in my bungee chair, compliments of Arlene. I was a little nervous and lonely for a while, but finally relaxed to enjoy the solitude and the wildlife. I challenged myself to jump from rock to rock, pushing the fact I was without medical insurance from my mind, and watched funny little ducks chase one another in the water and across rocks. They dove under water for long periods. Impressive!
After eating the other half of my breakfast sandwich and another visit to the vault toilet, I zipped up.