We started the trip at Chalk Creek Campground, between Salida and Buena Vista. The creek was about thirty feet from camp and was just a few inches below the bank; they were putting in sand bags to protect some vulnerable places on the shore line. The Arkansas was running at 4100 cfs around Salida!new shelter. So nice to have a "living room" for bug/sun protection and a place to enclose drying towels/swimsuits/etc. over night.
We hit the trail in the San Isabel National Forest the next day. The out and back to Brown's Waterfall is 6 miles, about 900 feet of elevation. Challenging for the four-year-old but do-able. And there are bridges crossing the stream! And a waterfall at the end! The girls loved it all.
No hike is complete without a little drama so Willow had a crazy nosebleed about a mile after the turnaround. And about a 1/2 mile from the end the threatening clouds started making it clear something was brewing. Q jogged most of the last quarter mile with Juniper on his back as graupel rained down on us. What an exciting end as we all flung ourselves into the car!
We then cruised down to Salida for a fun afternoon at the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center. It's a perfect inexpensive alternative to the resorts if you just want to spend a couple hours playing in a nice warm non-chlorinated pool.
Buena Vista is such a great little town and I'm sure we'll be going back. Not pictured is the delightful Deerhammer Distillery or the bottle of single malt whiskey that came home with us. I missed the open hours for the local yarn shop though!
Also not pictured is our morning in the Salida downtown (accidentally coinciding with Fibark - eek). Great playgrounds, Little Red Hen Bakery and the Honey Boutique lived up to their hype, and Vino Salida was delicious. We brought home a case of Colorado wines, although the Salida Sangria didn't actually make it farther than the Alamosa KOA.
I planned the trip too late so we had to stay at the KOA instead of the Great Sand Dunes' campground. We left camp early on Monday morning and started our day at the sand dunes by 7:30a. We were almost alone at that time. The creek was high and it was fun setting up our spot for the day in solitude before it became increasingly crowded.
There were several places with calf-deep water. Which was rather numbingly cold first thing in the morning before becoming refreshingly cool in the heat of the day.
I think this photo looks like part of an ad campaign for our little Biolite stove. Q heated water and made us hot mid-morning dehydrated meals.
Did I mention how chilly the creek was? ;) Every time I mention those discomforts, Q mocks me by whining, "But I'm an indoor cat!!" Happily, I think we are raising girls who will be hardier than their mama.
They became Junior Rangers at the excellent visitor center. We have to go back sometime when I can get us into the Pinon Flats Campground because they're a certified Dark Sky Park and I bet the stargazing and ranger programs would be amazing.
Juniper and Clarity saddled up in the kids area while Willow went straight to the play nest boxes and kitchen to gather plastic eggs from plush chickens and cook up a meal for them. They could have played here for hours on the horse and in the wagon, teepee, and kitchen inspired by life at Bent's Fort in the 1800s.
Mama could have spent hours with a sketchbook in the Van Briggle exhibit. I had no idea about this history. Their work was magical. I'm such a sucker for Art Nouveau.
We checked into Cheyenne Mountain State Park in the rain. Check out the view from our camp!
We were so lucky and managed to set up the tent and shelter at our walk-in site (a couple hundred yards down the hill from our car) during a period of light rain.
The girls love cozy tent time when the rain gets heavy and adding the waterproof wind walls and ceiling on the shelter kept us snug and dry so Q could cook a hot dinner during the storm.
There are so many great easy trails in the park and besides the deer we saw birds, lizards, and insects. The girls were enthralled and we have to come back and stay here sometime with the intention of doing some of the longer hikes.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo! So much fun. So many hills.
The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is a weird place. But the views are remarkable.
Final quick hike near Manitou Springs before we toured the Cave of the Winds (and forgot to take pictures). The yucca and prickly pear were in bloom!
It's fun to visit some "local" sites and know we can easily go back and explore more.