Monday, October 8, 2018

DESTINATION: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Since we started our wedding photography business, October has been a busy month for us.  This year, however, we found ourselves with a free week in early October.  Debating on what to do with our time we finally made a decision to haul our travel trailer to one of our favorite camping destinations, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Cheyenne Mountain State Park offers day use picnicking sites, 61 campsites, an archery range and 20 miles of trails open to hiking, biking and wildlife viewing.

Cheyenne Mountain taken on the last day of our visit

There's a big mountain behind that fog!

Snow on Jack!

View of our snow covered rig and no view of the mountain behind it!

As our travel date approached we were faced with a undesirable weather forecast.  There was a cold front headed through Colorado that would drop down into the Texas Panhandle.  We monitored the situation and it seemed to improve so we went ahead with our plans.

Driving in fog from DFW to Amarillo, Texas

From DFW to Amarillo, Texas, we drove in heavy fog most of the way. When we reached Childress, Texas, the fog lifted but a downpour began. After a long drive we were looking forward to pulling into the Oasis RV Park in Amarillo and setting up our camp for the night. As usual, unpredictable Mother Nature had different plans for us.  Just outside Amarillo a weather warning came on the radio.  A tornado, on the ground, had been spotted near Hereford, Texas, and was moving north.  The Oasis RV Park was right in its path.  Off I-40 we found covered parking large enough to pull our truck and trailer into.  We got permission from the building owners to wait out the storm in their garage. 

After about an hour long wait we realized that the storm was going to go straight north missing the east side of Amarillo.  What's on the east side of Amarillo, you ask?  The Big Texan Steak Ranch!  We headed to the Ranch and enjoyed a delicious steak meal waiting for the storm to pass over the west side of Amarillo.  As we approached the Oasis RV park we saw the damage the storm caused. The west side of Amarillo was flooded and several of the stop lights were not working but thankfully that was the only major damage.  We were able to get to our campsite and setup for the night.

Our view of the Big Texas Steak Ranch from the balcony where we were eating

The next morning we woke to cooler temperatures and more heavy fog.  As we left Amarillo we traveled in fog all the way to the Colorado border.  It lifted slightly but came back as we approached Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  In fact, the fog was so thick at the park that we could not see Cheyenne Mountain or the lights from NORAD which is stationed on Cheyenne Mountain.  Exhausted from another foggy drive we went into the nearby Walmart for some supplies and called it a night.

It snowed on our little and big trailer during our stay at Cheyenne Mountain

Toasty warm inside our trailer

On day three of our adventure we left our home base of Cheyenne Mountain State Park and ventured into the town of Manitou Springs, Colorado. The Historic Downtown Manitou Springs is an artist’s enclave featuring time-honored art galleries, street performers, creek-side restaurants and boutique stores. There are numerous natural mineral springs dotted throughout Historic Manitou Springs and are still available to the public. The native tribes considered the eruption of bubbles in the mineral water the breath of the Great Spirit “Manitou.”  After speaking to an area resident that was filling up her water jugs at one of the springs, we decided to go searching for each spring and sampling the water. 

One of the many springs in Manitou Springs - this one had the best tasting water

Old stagecoach outside of restaurant

Church with beautiful red door in Manitou Springs

What is remaining of another mineral spring in Manitou Springs

Fountain Creek runs through the middle of Manitou Springs

One of many art installations in Manitou Springs

Houses are built into the sides of the mountains 

Murals painted on side of shop in Manitou Springs

More beautiful color in Manitou


Old engine belonging to the Cog Railraod

On the same day we visited the Cave of the WindsHistory books might show Colorado’s own Cave of the Winds as being discovered 147 years ago, but the caves are actually millions of years old! As early legends of over a thousand years ago tell, the Jicarilla Apaches told of a cave near Manitou Springs where the Great Spirit of the Wind resided. In 1869, a Colorado settler named Arthur B. Love noticed a thin cleft in the western wall of Williams Canyon. Upon further inspection, he discovered a dramatic limestone archway and cave entrance to what we know as Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.  Today, the park offers breath taking views of Williams Canyone from their observation decks, an interesting learning center, gift shop, snack bar and several recreational options.  On the day we visited the temperatures were hovering near freezing and we just couldn't bare the thought of going half a mile underground so we opted to just explore the park above ground and vowed to return and explore the cave on a warmer day.

Williams Canyon

Williams Canyon view from observation deck at Cave of the Winds Park

Another view of Williams Canyon


Also in the area, we attempted to view Rainbow Falls, however, it was closed for the season for cleaning.  The falls have been a long time destination for "taggers" and now the falls are being cleaned of their graffiti and are being returned to a more natural state.  From Cave of the Winds back to Manitou Springs we took a different route and were able to get a sneak peek of the falls from the highway.

Rainbow Falls from the highway

Another view of Rainbow Falls

Remaining in the Manitou area for the day we decided to get a closer look at Pike's Peak.  When we got to the pay station we were warned that it was starting to snow on top of the mountain. If the mountain road became too slick park rangers would ask visitors to come back down the mountain. We made it about half way to the top of Pike's Peak when our truck began to slide on the snow covered road and visibility decreased.  We decided not to risk our safety and headed back down the mountain.


Pike's Peak believes!

Crystal Reservior on Pke's Peak

Bigfoot carved in a tree near Crystal Reservoir

View of another alpine lake, 1/2 way to top of Pike's Peak

Roads were getting a little slippery but the scenery was beautiful!

Frozen aspen leaves

Rock formations on Pike's Peak

Beautiful colors on Pike's Peak

On day four of our trip we headed back through Manitou Springs, and on to Highway 24 towards Woodland Park, Colorado.  Again we drove through fog until we reached Woodland Park. When the fog lifted we were able to get a beautiful view of snow-covered Pike's Peak to our west.  

Foggy drive to Woodland Park

Fog and traffic made driving difficult

From Woodland Park we drove on to Divide, Colorado, then took Highway 67 to Cripple Creek, Colorado. Before entering the town we stopped at the visitors' center.  From the visitors center we were able to see more of the Colorado Rockies and learn a little about the town's history. We spent the afternoon exploring this historic mininig and gambling town.  The grand old buildings of Bennett Avenue have been restored to their glory days and now house nine different casinos. Since gambling isn't really our thing we only spent a total of $5.00 at the casinos. More interested in the town's history, we went in search of Cripple Creek's cemetery where the legendary, female, pioneer doctor,Susan Anderson aka "Doc Susy",had been laid to rest. 

View of Pike's Peak from Woodland Park, Colorado

One of the Colorado Rockies

Snow covered mountain near Cripple Creek, Colorado

View of Cripple Creek from the visitors' center

Bennett Ave lined with casinos in Cripple Creek




Historic hotel in Cripple Creek

Old church in Cripple Creek

Doc Susy's gravesite

On the last day of our Colorado-October adventure the fog lifted and the drizzle and snow flurries ended revealing Cheyenne Mountain.  It was the first time we had seen all of the mountain the entire trip!  When the sun came out so did all the furry and feathered park residents - chipmunk, turkey, hawk, and deer were all seen in our campsite as we packed our trailer to pull back to Amarillo for the night and then on to DFW.

Magpie

Wild turkey

Two young bucks taking it easy on the hill

So, this trip was definitely one to remember as Mother Nature threw every type of weather situation at us.  Our rig handled the elements beautifully and we had a great time on our Colorado-October adventure!



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

DESTINATION: Mineral Wells, Texas

Planning a camping trip to Mineral Wells State Park over July 4th was not our smartest idea but we had a full week off and made the most of it.  

Lake Mineral Wells Overlook

We setup our trailer and had most of the lake to ourselves due to the high temperatures, drought, and area burn ban at the beginning of July.  

We took advantage of slightly cooler temps in the afternoon to fish the park's lake (Lake Mineral Wells) and to hike at the park's Penitentiary Hollow, one of the few natural rock climbing venues in North Texas.

A maze of sandstone conglomerate bluffs named Penitentiary Hollow

In the evening we attempted a little night time sky photography but clouds rolled in when a summer storm attempted to gather enough power to dump some rain on us.  Needless to say it didn't rain but it did ruin our photography!

Oops we forgot the remote shutter!

The week following our camping trip to Mineral Wells State Park, TK, was asked to photograph stills for a short Indie movie at a movie set called Capernaum Village (1st Century Village) near Peaster, Texas.  We decided to take advantage of an air conditioned ride in the truck to visit the movie set before the shoot.

Part of the 1st Century movie set

Part of the Biblical Gardens located on the property

Another view of the 1st Century set


Not wanting to depart from the cool truck AC we headed back west of Mineral Wells to the Mineral Wells Fossil Beds where we spent a total of 20 minutes in the heat searching for rocks - legally!

View looking over the fossil beds