When we started mapping out our route through Colorado, we were completely overwhelmed. We studied the places in our Rand McNally atlas and it seemed we’d be zig-zagging back and forth through the mountains forever.
But before getting ahead of ourselves, there was one thing we had to do first: buy some (legal) dope ganja.
We made a beeline to cross the state border and slept in Higbee State Wildlife Area. In the morning we drove on to Pueblo, where Edd had already found a dispensary online.
This was our first time buying weed over the counter since Amsterdam, and the process is a little different. The guy checked our IDs before letting us in the back of the shop to browse through buds, edibles and other forms of THC that we had never heard of.
And just like that, Edd bought a small bag of pot, legally! Just as easy as it is to buy a gun in some states, though I’m pretty sure those things are mutually exclusive.
We parked up next to a beautiful lake near Fort Gardner called Mountain Home, and spent the afternoon admiring the mountains.
Thanks to the early sunrise we left early the next morning and drove to Great Sand Dunes National Park, which I had never heard of before! It was a nice surprise. These dunes look pretty unique with the mountains hovering behind them.
Apparently we were there at a great time because of a June-only phenomenon which sends surges of waves down the shallow creek next to the dunes. Loads of people had hauled the kids there to swim for the day.
We decided to climb up to one of the highest dunes! It took a tough hour and a half to reach the top. Most people had rented sandsleds and sandboards to slide on. I wish I’d done the boarding! But the rental places are outside of the park. We ran down instead and that was pretty cool.
Not surprisingly, the national park was clean and well-organized, even though it is one giant sandbox that everyone can play in. We went on one of the small nature trails after lunch to get a different view of the dunes. Then we emptied the van’s tanks and filled our fresh water courtesy of their free dump station. Have I mentioned how much I love the NPS?
And the National Forest Service deserves love too, especially since they manage the majority of Colorado’s southwest quadrant. We stayed near O’Haver Lake in San Isabel National Forest, past little cabins tucked away and quaint stone bridges under green pine-covered mountains, Sound of Music style.
Just north of the campground is Brown’s Canyon National Monument, designated by President Obama in 2015. So we went to see it the next day.
Unfortunately, the area still seemed like it was in beta testing. It overlaps with previous state parks and wildlife areas, and there was no official information about it. Not even a sign off of the main road. When we parked up, A state park ranger scolded us for not having a parking pass, but when we told him we were trying to go to the monument area, he told us we were in the state park and directed us down the road.
Anyway, the hike that we did there was lovely, and easy to follow. It led us to the Arkansas River, a really popular whitewater rafting spot. People in Colorado are spoiled with choices for activities.
We drove north again in the afternoon to San Isabel National Forest and slept near Twin Lakes Reservoir.
So many beautiful places, so much to do. But we were about to find out that the excitement of the mountains takes its toll on your 25 year old camper van.