Jake and I have always wanted to do some select trips in and around Colorado that we never got around to doing since we moved here 10 years ago. So we decided that we were going to take several days and make a road trip out of it. In true Jake and Jill fashion we had to give the trip a theme, and that’s when Colorado Photo Safari was born.
The goal on our trip was to visit the Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds. Since I got my new awesome camera we thought there was no better time to learn how to use it while visiting these various Colorado hot spots.
We left Boulder on Saturday morning and headed down south for the first leg of our journey, which brought us to the Great Sand Dunes, which lay just north of Alamosa, Colorado. After a short 4-hour trek, we pulled in to the visitor center around noon. We spent a bit of time going through the different exhibits and viewing the dunes from afar before making our way to the camp site, right up the road.
Once established, we hiked the dunes for several hours in the hot hot sun; like we were trekking the Sahara Desert in our very own state. It was super hot and windy, so we sported our handy “buffs” which blocked the sand from going in our mouths. We played around for a few hours before heading back to camp to relax in our brand new hammock and enjoy the sights and sounds of our campsite; and a family of deer that wandered through our abode.
GREAT SAND DUNES HIGHLIGHTS
We woke up early this morning as we wanted to embark on the second leg of our journey; Mesa Verde National Park. It was a 5-hour drive straight west through the middle of nowhere, Colorado. We love this part of road trips, when we are quite literally out in the wilds with nothing around but nature. The drive was very pleasant. We stopped at a rest area half way into our drive for a light breakfast of yogurt, crackers and cheese and pepperoni – basically whatever we could reach that wasn’t buried in the car. Jake made an adorable kitty friend (we think that it lived in the building next door). It was SUPER friendly and playful, a very welcome guest to our little party. But soon we had to hit the road again so we could get to our destination with time to explore.
We got to Mesa verde around noon and went to the visitor center to get tickets for the largest cave dwelling tour and establish our campsite. Once we had all the necessary stuff, we began the drive up, up and up the mountainous plateaus that were surprising lush with green vegetation (hence the name mesa verde). We quickly picked out our campsite and then continued the drive to the tippy top so as to catch our tour time.
The tour was super cool and interesting. We learned all about the history of the Anasazi, or Native American Indians who dwelled in these caves thousands of years ago. It was magical for sure! Also surprising that they have stayed in tact after all of these years.
After the tour we took our time in driving back down to our campsite, pulling over to snap some glorious photos of scenery! At camp we relaxed, enjoyed grilling corn on the Cobb and hot dogs on the open fire as a huge rain storm skirted us. We also got to see tons and tons of deer wandering around and through our campsite. It was awesome.
MESA VERDE HIGHLIGHTS
This morning we woke early as we had a veery long 7-hour drive ahead of us back east to Colorado Springs. We had a super tasty pancake breakfast, grabbed some hot showers and then headed back down to the Visitor Center to learn more about some of the exhibits that we didn’t get a chance to see the day before. We made a quick stop through the gift shop and then headed back on the road.
A few hours in, we decided to stop off in a cute town called Pagosa Springs for a little driving break. It was really beautiful (though kinda smelly) since there were natural hot springs everywhere; very much like the ones in Yellowstone. After purchasing some roadside peppers we took to the road for the remainder of the day and pulled in to Garden of the Gods around 5pm. It was late afternoon, so we decided to save the detailed exploring time for the next morning because we were starving’ marvins by then! It started to rain as we drove through the park, and a huge rainbow spanned the length of the city below; which was pretty magnificent. But we didn’t linger long and headed to the RV campground where Jake rented us a cabin for the night. It was a a very… unique… experience and though not our particular cup of tea, it definitely added some “adventurous flare” to our trip. We enjoyed a hot meal of veggie fajitas for dinner on the porch before hitting the hay for another early start.
GARDEN OF THE GODS HIGHLIGHTS
Our last day came upon us and we had lots to see before heading back home. We woke up early and packed up to check out the Garden of the Gods in the AM. It was a magical landscape of unique rock formations amongst high elevation mountains and tons of green desert trees and foliage. We really enjoyed this place as it is very reminiscent of the Boulder rocks that we frequent. After a few hours, we headed up to Cave of the Winds, our last and final stop of the photo safari. We showed up about an hour too early, so we sat outside on the large cliffside deck and enjoyed the fantastic views on some huge wooden rocking chairs.
CAVE OF THE WINDS HIGHLIGHTS
Our tour commenced with a group tour through the magical underground world of cave-dom…stalagtites, stalagmites, even fossilized coral. Its pretty crazy to think that these caves were completely under the sea many millions of years ago, and those fossils are THAT old! It was pretty awesome! After the tour we had to head back home to pack and get ready for our next adventure which would come very early the next morning; The Rhode Island Boat Show. But more on that next time.
For now, you can enjoy this short 10 minute video that highlights some of the majesty of our trip. Enjoy!