Colorado, Here We Come!
I woke up trying to remember where we were – Corral Creek Campground in Wyoming. Today we would reach our destination in the Rockies and begin our next house sit! We packed up all our gear and began the trek down the mountain and through the canyons back to the nearest town.
It seemed faster than it had the previous day. We were descending instead of climbing, we knew the route, and Jim wanted more coffee: a powerful motivation to get moving.
Since we were miles from interstates, we followed the back roads south out of Wyoming and into Colorado. We drove through a few small towns, but mostly we saw fields, farms, ranches, horses, and cows. We loved it.
After a couple of hours, we made a hard left turn on a connector road going to Fort Collins – Cache la Poudre Highway (the powder’s hiding place).
Stunning Beauty all Around
We found out later it is a designated Scenic Byway. Was it ever! It was a dazzling couple of hours driving through canyons with the river running along the road most of the way. We stopped several times just to breathe, stretch, look at flowers and colorful meadows.
It was a stroke of good luck that we decided to travel that stretch of road, and we highly recommend it.
The mountains and forests here are very different from those in Oregon. Of course, there is a massive difference in elevation, as well as rainfall totals. Much of Oregon feels like a rain forest while Colorado is far drier: no ferns, no water dripping from the leaves, and no moss.
We love the Rockies, no doubt about it; just commenting on some differences. The majesty of the massive mountain peaks in Colorado, well, you don’t see that in Oregon.
Round and Round We Go
It took the morning to get to Fort Collins, a pretty decent-sized city, where we stopped for lunch and visited the local AAA office for maps of the area (we both love paper maps). The contrast with our last 24 hours, with roads and entire mountains to ourselves, was jarring at first.
We continued our travels, now going south and then west to Estes Park. In case you’re wondering if we drove in a circle, we did, though more of a loop. There is this crazy mountain range out there that you just have to go around.
We arrived in Estes Park about mid-afternoon, what a zoo! That is a very popular town, at least in the summer travel season. The roads were built long ago, with far less traffic in mind.
We drove another 30 minutes south to our new home at 8500 feet in the Colorado Rockies: not too shabby! You enter the tiny, little ‘town’ and think there must be more, but there isn’t.
The entire town consists of a minuscule post office that doubles as a library annex, a volunteer fire station, a church, one restaurant, an older Inn, an art gallery/conference center combo, and a couple of touristy shops. That’s it!
Now, This is Seclusion
You want food, gas, anything really, trek 30 minutes to Estes Park or an hour south into Boulder. But that’s fine because no one comes this way looking for stores: the area is overwhelmingly dominated by nature. Everything else is just a speck.
There are disadvantages to such a remote place (no cell service) but forget all that; for three weeks we would be surrounded by stunning beauty.
We drove a mile up the mountain on a dirt road and easily found the house. Oh, my goodness! The physical location couldn’t be better. A three-story custom home, high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in summer, where the temperature never hits 80!
We did good, really good! It was glorious. Oh, yeah – the views – Longs Peak on the west side, and The Three Sisters on the east side.
We arrived at the house, met the hosts, a lovely British couple, and their two American Cocker Spaniels. We had a tour of the house and got to know each other a bit.
All the Wild Creatures
We all took a walk down the road to the closest neighbors, such a friendly couple with their own huge, friendly dog. Of course, they all know each other and take part in the volunteer fire department and homeowner’s association.
That group, we found out, decided they would not have trash collection service. Everyone takes their trash down to the transfer station and pays by the pound – that was a first!
One of the important issues we would need to deal with, shared the homeowners, was all the wild animals, especially bears. It was their place after all. Lock your car, and don’t leave any food in it: bears have been known to open car doors or break through windows if need be.
Don’t leave the dogs on the balcony alone to temp the coyotes. Be careful outside with the dogs as they are small and look like lunch. Also, beware of mountain lions and moose!
For the first few days, I was afraid to walk the dogs very far for fear of bears – I lightened up soon enough as we never saw a single bear or any other large creature, for that matter. But a woman we met later had once watched from her house as bears ripped into her car. We were spared that experience.
The Critters in Our Care
There were two dogs, as you can see – American Cocker Spaniels with proper British names. They were simply adorable, good-natured, obedient, playful, and snuggly.
The female was three years old and wasn’t sure about us for the first few hours, but warmed up by the end of the day. She loved her chew toys and devoured them – ate the stuffing too, so we had to watch her carefully. She also loved people but was a bit more independent than her friend.
The male was five-years-old and the follower of the two (indoors). He wanted to be with the humans all the time; wherever we were, so was he. As friendly, playful, and companionable as a four-legged creature can be.
What Fun They Were
Both dogs loved being out on the deck, but we couldn’t leave them out alone. They did not sleep with us the first couple nights, but that changed quickly. Four on the bed and the little one said, roll over, roll over. (sorry, I was a preschool teacher, and sometimes the nursery rhymes just pop into my head.) The female often left or spent the first part of the night somewhere else and then joined us.
They loved their meals and were fed morning and night. Along with their dry food, they got dried duck breast which they clearly loved. They both waited patiently during their meal preparation, each time staring at the floor in case we dropped something.
Once in a while we just had to drop something for them. Every time we cooked, the male stood right next to us and watched the floor intently for droppings.
He would also watch us eat – every single time! Sometimes he would paw us thinking he needed some too. These two were very well-behaved, fun to be with and we loved them!
The owner warned us that without leashes both dogs would run off into the woods as soon as the door opened, so we used the leashes every time we took them out. Our walks followed the street up the mountain or down: there’s no flat there.
Downward, we would pass several homes before turning north through a meadow and up another mountain. From there, opposite the house, the views were to the south. All along the gravel road the dogs would sniff and wander about this way and that. Traffic was rare, so we had the run of the road.
Upward, we went past a roaring stream and rocky outcroppings. If we went quite a way, we came to a ditch filled with water running off a mountain. Cold and clear, the dogs would jump in and drink every time.
Sometimes they were in a walking mood, and we would go several miles up the road. So quiet, so gorgeous, so much to sniff! The male always ran ahead, and the female joined when there was something interesting.
Fantastic walkers both, they loved getting out, rushing up to the road to get started. Everything is new and exciting to dogs: isn’t that one thing we love about them? These two had that in spades. They had walked by each spot a thousand times and twice yesterday, but today – wow, would you look at that! There’s nothing ho-hum in their world.
Walking these dogs was a joy and why not. They would somehow know just the right spot for turning around and heading home.
During our first-day tour, the owners told us they fed hummingbirds and asked if we’d be willing to continue this during our stay. Of course, we said yes, and they gave us the rundown on the process.
There were two feeders up high on the balcony. To get them down, we used a long pole with a hook at the end. It was a bit of a delicate process. Next step, boil water and add sugar; easy. We had a feeder back home and enjoyed watching the birds come and eat.
Well, this was an entirely different experience! Five minutes after hanging up the feeders, if that, there were 10 to 20 birds drinking and darting about waiting for a turn. In about an hour both feeders were empty. I kid you not; this happened each time we filled the feeders. It was unreal; we would just sit out on the balcony and watch the hordes descend.
A New Morning Routine
I began the mornings heating a stock pot filled with water (a gallon a day) and made the food for the next day to keep ahead of things. Once I had filled the feeders for the third time each day, I decided that was the limit! Hummingbird Cafe closed – come back tomorrow.
It was truly spectacular to have so many birds each day. I felt we were feeding every bird on the mountain!
A few days into the process Jim rigged up the feeders on ropes, so they were lower and easier to get down. We found out later, from the owner, that it had not been the wisest move – apparently, bears have been known to climb up on the balcony as they too love the sweet nectar.
No bears, thankfully, we only saw hummingbirds, a lot of hummingbirds! They were the busiest and noisiest creatures on the mountain. Oh, the simple pleasures.