Memorial Day Weekend Camping Trip, Part 1

15 06 2011

As I’m sure you know, Memorial Day weekend was a few weekends ago.  Yes, I’m behind on my blog posts.  Let’s all agree that late is better than never and move on, yes?  Yes.  Ok, onward.

For Memorial Day weekend the boy and I contemplated camping at the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado.  Fun fact: while typing “dunes” I usually type “dunces” and have to go back and fix it.  However, we decided with our lack of planning (would we have a place to camp since we didn’t reserve a site?) and the long drive (4 hours) we were better suited for a one night camping trip rather than the whole weekend.  So, apologies if the post title lured you in and you now feel totally duped.

We left Denver the afternoon of Saturday May 28 and returned late Sunday afternoon. Mike looked in one of his off-roading books and found a loop called Shelf Road / Shadow Canyon and we used that as our destination.  We wanted to go to southern Colorado rather than western (as many people do over holiday weekends) because a) we wanted to avoid the crowds and I-70 traffic, b) we hoped to avoid the rain and col weather that Denver and the mountains to the west had been experiencing, and c) it was a little something different and far enough away that it really felt like we were getting away.

So we packed Hamlet, our camping things, and set off in the Subaru (normally we off road in Mike’s Jeep but this off road “trail” was rated easy, which translates to a dirt road that any car can drive on), made a few stops (hello Coleman outlet, Chik-fil-a) and drove south toward Cripple Creek.  Until Cripple Creek we drove on highways but then took a smaller county road and eventually turned onto the dirt road, Shelf Road, that would be the southern half of our loop.  Apparently we were on the Gold Belt Tour, part of the Bureau of Land Management’s National Back Country Byway.  Who knew?

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Welcome to the Gold Belt Tour. Hamlet will be your guide.

We drove through some beautiful country.  The scenic drive, getting away from the city, and enjoying each other’s company were the goals here.  Mission accomplished.  The nice thing about driving on a seldom-traveled dirt road back country byway is that you can make your boyfriend stop the car in the middle of the road until you get the perfect picture of various scenery.

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Window Rock.

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Part of Shelf Road.

Or if the driver has a better view of Cripple Creek at the bottom of the canyon, he’ll stop the car so you can jump out and take a look for yourself.  He’s such a nice guy like that.

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Best co-captain ever.

We had a pretty good navigator too, although he was easily distracted by the cows.  We saw a lot of cows grazing (and sometimes crossing the road) off of Shelf Road and I kept saying, “what a great place to be a cow.”

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Hamlet wasn't sure what to make of the cows. But he sure was interested.

I spent my time enjoying the view.  And sometimes wrangling Hamlet into a sitting position on my lap.  Other times taking photos.  And other times looking like a goofball while having my photo taken.

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Happy Memorial Day! I celebrate by making this toothy grin.

We really felt like we got away from it all.  We didn’t see very many other cars while we were on Shelf Road.  It was a great way to remember our service men and women who fought for our country.  Enjoying nature always makes me appreciate life.  Sound corny but it’s true.

We drove on Shelf Road south all the way to Cañon City (helloooo, prisons!), then turned back north, this time taking the Shadow Canyon route.  We found a great private campground and rented a site for the night.  They had a swimming pool, bathrooms with showers, firewood, and lots of space.  It seemed like a great spot, especially for those who used it as a base camp and ventured during the day to raft or mountain bike.  We didn’t use all of the fancy amenities but did get a hearty welcome from the proprietor.

As we started to set up camp I took Hamlet for a walk around our campsite so he could stretch his legs, go to the bathroom, etc. after being in the car for quite a while.  The three little girls in the site across from ours immediately made friends with him and loved petting him, talking to him, and oohing and ahhing to their parents about the “cute puppy.”  Sorry, no pictures of any of this because I apparently had no brain in my head once we stopped the car and I started thinking about the hot dogs we planned to roast on the fire.  Also, I drank two room temperature Coors originals and I think that could make any person forget things.  Not because I was drunk but because I drank room temperature beer.  Yeah, we planned to get an awesome new wheelie cooler from the Coleman outlet but it was a total bust.

The tent was pitched, Hamlet had his coat on, I changed into warm clothes (although blessedly it wasn’t one of those freezing your tush off camping experiences), and we tried playing cards.  I say “tried” because a) Mike and I couldn’t think of very many two person card games, b) the ones we could remember we couldn’t remember the rules of, and c) the cards kept blowing off the picnic table because of the breeze.  So we played blackjack for a while then I quizzed Mike on card counting.  Wait, that makes it sound like I know what I’m doing and I’m the one teaching him, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  He knows what he’s doing and I was just the dufus doofus how the heck is that spelled? idiot who flipped cards over and told Mike when we was right.

Mike built a fantastic fire with some help from me.  Hey, someone has to twist up newspaper and insert it as kindling.  That same someone also has to light the matches and then hold them to said kindling too closely and in the wind so that the matches blow out.  In my defense, it was a little windy but thankfully I have love handles to help block the wind.  Unfortunately Hamlet is scared of fires, whether fantastic or not.  So he kept about a 20 foot distance from it at all times.  Next came hot dog roasting.  We grilled them on a skewer over the campfire and they were delicious.  Even the first two that I did where the insides weren’t hot (just lukewarm).  Because my philosophy is anything cooked over an open flame tastes better.  No, we didn’t roast marshmallows or make s’mores because…we just decided not to (please see four sentences previously about my wind-blocking love handles).  I could end the post right here, because really that’s all you need in life – a scenic drive with your partner in crime and your best dog and camping and eating delicious hot dogs.  Emphasis on the flame grilled hot dogs.

However, I will wrap this up by writing that Hamlet went to bed (he might still feel just so-so about camping in general) in the tent while Mike and I stayed up talking.  He drank more warm Coors original (the man loves his Coors O) while I hoovered trail mix and we talked about stuff.  I don’t even remember much of what we talked about – although we did play a few rounds of 20 Questions in which I referenced Mike’s family’s trip to Gatlinburg, TN to see the World’s Fair – but I just remember that it was fun and we stood together and watched the fire die out and then went to sleep.

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