Saturday, May 30, 2015

Campground Review: Chatfield State Park, Denver, CO

We spent our second week in Denver at Chatfield State Park. Whereas Cherry Creek State Park was smack dab in the middle of the city, Chatfield felt like a calm oasis due to its location on the South West edge of the city. During our stay the lake was at least eight feet above the high water line and the South Platte River flooded its banks and closed the road around the South end of the park.

We had back-in site #196 in the D loop. Roads and sites are paved and each site has a picnic table and fire pit. All utilities were towards the back of the site, making it quite a stretch to the sewer hookup. Sites are well separated. Our site was wide open to the East allowing us to watch all the storms passing through the area. The Remote Control Aircraft field was visible across the plains and was enjoyable to watch except for the occasional noisy aircraft.

There are many miles of paved and dirt trails throughout the park, though some were flooded during our stay. All types of watersports are allowed on the lake and there are stables for horseback riding. There are pit toilets in each campground loop as well as showers and real toilets and a small laundry facility more centrally located. Verison signal was strong, as was the campground wifi.

Deer roamed through the campground a few times during our stay.
This was taken from our doorway.

There are lots of prairie dogs in the lowlands.

Chatfield Reservoir viewed from the top of the dam.
The campground is located on a rise on the far side of the reservoir. There was no danger of the campground flooding.
Had the trails not been flooded we could have had an excellent loop bike ride around the entire park.

That's a bridge sticking out of the water on the left and the very top of a BBQ on the right.
This is a picnic area on the West side of the park.

The structure in the center is a restroom which encloses pit toilets...I shudder to think about that under water!
This road led to parking for a picnic area.

We drove through here twice before the road was closed for the duration of our stay.

Western Tanager.

Taken from our doorway.

We let the huntress out to roam free in the tall grasses...she was in heaven!

Rosie in her element!

The old Slocum cabin claimed a prime spot on a bluff overlooking what was the South Platte River valley in the 1800's.
Six people lived in this small cabin!

A paved trail winds among the grassy knolls along the tree lined reservoir.

This trail has been overtaken by the river!

We walked a big loop one day that included the Highline Canal trail, shown here.
Just outside Chatfield State Park, the Highline Canal trail took us past bucolic looking farms and pastures.

Our site, D196.

Storm watching from our site.

Friday, May 29, 2015

RV Bloggers Unite!

There's been a convergence of RVing bloggers in Denver this week and we've been in the thick of it. This is why we love traveling in the age of the Internet! Not only does it get us where we're going and helps us determine what we want to do, it connects us to interesting people all over the country. We'd met each of these couples previously through the conduit of our blogs and our lives are so much the better for it.

Our first get together was a short hike at Mt Galbraith Park. Steve and Mona Liza (The Lowe's RV Adventures) and John and Pam (Oh, the Places They Go) met us at the trail head on a bright and sunny morning. Mona Liza had just returned from the Philippines so we wanted to ease her gently back into hiking after her weeks of partying back home! (She did great, by the way.)

This was an exceptionally social hike with lots of stops for group chats since we'd not seen each other for ages!
The great thing about hiking with other bloggers, everyone knows that photos are expected
and you might as well look up and smile big when someone yells "Faces"!

After the hike we stopped at La Casa Alba in Golden for a really delicious Mexican lunch.

After lunch Hans and I took a walk through downtown Golden.
I was especially taken with the  numerous bronze sculptures scattered throughout town.

There is a nice paved path along Clear Creek where Hans got a little crazy with the deer!

Emergency rescue personnel were practicing water rescues in high flowing Clear Creek.

The next day the six of us met up at Roxborough State Park for a little longer hike up Carpenter Peak through some really fabulous scenery. The trail took us past a dramatic ridge of red rocks jutting up from lush green meadows, and on up to expansive views to snowy peaks in the West and downtown Denver to the North East.

Such a fun group!

The clouds were gathering strength by the time we returned to the trail head.
A thunderstorm struck the area just as we left...perfect timing!

That evening Rick and JoAnne (Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels) and Dave and Sue (Beluga's Excellent Adventure) joined us at Colorado Plus for some tasty brews and food and lively conversation.

Photo courtesy Rick and JoAnne.

We've had so much fun reconnecting with all these fellow travelers! The friendships we've made on the road are truly one of the best parts of RVing!

Today we move North a few miles and hope to get settled in our new location before the afternoon deluge hits. Perhaps this one will be the last big storm for a while...fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

It's Springtime at Denver Botanic Gardens

It's no secret I am a lover of gardens. But our nomadic lifestyle keeps my personal garden limited to a couple of pots of herbs. Our love of hiking gets me outdoors in nature often, but sometimes I just need an immersion in a beautiful garden, especially in spring. Denver Botanic Gardens offered that immersive experience in spades!

We visited the primary York Street location, one of three Garden sites in Denver. Dozens of styles of gardens are represented here, allowing us to walk through multiple climate zones, various natural settings and experience gardening traditions from around the world.

We've been fortunate lately to have gloriously sunny mornings, followed by grey afternoons with the threat of thunderstorms, making it a perfect spring day to visit a lovely garden!

I am ridiculously happy among the lush foliage in the tropical conservatory.
Hans is a good sport tagging along as I exclaim over every little detail that catches my eye.

Elegant Japanese Lantern.
Hibiscus schizopetalus.

Deborah Butterfield's graceful horse sculptures were scattered throughout the Gardens.
She fashions horses out of wood, then the pieces are bronze cast, put back together, painted and patina'd. 

Japanese Garden.

Rock Garden.

Short Grass Plains Garden.

Metal horse at rest.

Chihuly sculpture, part of the Gardens permanent collection.
We wondered how it holds up to hail!


Rather than shoehorn our big truck into the Botanic Gardens parking structure, we parked at Cheesman Park right behind the Gardens. This provided the opportunity to walk through the beautiful old neighborhood surrounding the Gardens. Here is a tiny sampling of the fabulous old homes that grace this part of Denver.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Red Rocks, It's More Than Just a Music Venue

First things first on this Memorial Day...We want to wish all current and former military a great big Thank You for your service to our country. You sacrifice a lot to keep our country safe. 


We've relocated to Chatfield State Park for a week. Located on the Southwest corner of the Denver metropolitan area, it's more peaceful than our last stop: Cherry Creek State Park. This location also puts us closer to the foothills, with more opportunities to hit the trail...if it would only stop raining for a few days. You see, we keep getting afternoon thunderstorms, which is perfect for keeping things brilliant green, but makes for some very muddy trails so we've got to be choosy.

Taking the advice of a local, we decided to check out Red Rocks Park; it's the site of the world famous amphitheater nestled within red rocks. It's a stunning place to take in a concert under the stars, but by day it's an exercise mecca. Miles of trails traverse the hills among the red rocks and hardcore fitness fiends make up elaborate routines among the bleachers and stairs of the amphitheater.

We figured the red rock sandstone would provide a less mucky surface for hiking than other trails we'd tried lately, so we headed out to Red Rocks on a sunny morning. Our goal was the 6.5 mile loop utilizing Red Rocks trail, Dakota Ridge, Village Walk, Morrison Slide, then back to Red Rocks trail. Tack on another mile or so to climb the stairs at the amphitheater and we ended up with an 8 mile hike under our belts.

First though, we had to get out of Chatfield. We'd already noticed the reservoir was quite high, in fact it is currently 8 feet above the normal high water line. Exiting the park from the East entrance on this morning we had to cross the South Platt River as it flows into the reservoir...and it was now flowing over the road by a few inches! There's been concern the past couple of years about what would happen if a plan was implemented to raise the reservoir level, perhaps this was a sign of things to come?

The South Platte River has breached its banks and the road!

Once we made it to Red Rocks, we couldn't help but be impressed by the massive red sandstone formations jutting out of the verdant green landscape.

There's an amphitheater hiding in those rocks!

One of the most interesting parts of our hike was the Dakota Ridge, also known as the Dakota Hogback. This ridge of hard Dakota Sandstone is a natural barrier between the plains and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. From the West side it doesn't look like much, but once you get on top of it the sharp, slanted ridge provides dramatic views of both the geologic wonder itself and the surrounding countryside.

From the East side of the Hogback you can easily see the ~45 degree angle of the formation.

Atop the Hogback we could see it continuing South of us and, across a small valley, the foothills rise up to the West, including Red Rocks Park.

Walking the razors edge!

Amazingly mountain bikers ride the Hogback, and once we started down the North end of our trail
we could see the trail was built by mountain bikers with log ramps to help them through the steep sections.

Leaving the Hogback behind, we crossed highway 93 and entered the verdant green valley of  Matthews Winters Park.
We'll be zig zagging our way up the boulder strewn hill in the center of the photo.
Notice the sun and blue sky we started with has disappeared...

All the creeks and rivers in these parts are running strong.

As we headed up the Morrison Slide trail we enjoyed great views across the valley of the Hogback we'd just traversed.

Walking among the rocks on Morrison Slide, we also had great views into the canyon West of us.

Brilliant lichens covered the rocks atop Morrison Slide.

A meadow atop Morrison Slide provided a respite from the climb and provided great views.

Looking over the edge.

There's the Hogback!

The slanted rocks of Red Rocks Park come in to view as we head down the South side of Morrison Slide.

Massive red rocks dominate the near view, while Denver stretches out to the East of us.

Once we finished our loop it was a short walk from the Lower North Parking Lot to the amphitheater. Since there was a concert scheduled for that evening we had only a few minutes to enjoy the spectacle of the amphitheater itself and the hordes of exercisers and sightseers before they closed off the venue for a sound check.

This is maybe one third of the stairs into the amphitheater!

Halfway to the stage!
Those red rocks enclose both sides of the amphitheater, providing incredible natural acoustics.

The stunning view from the top of the bleachers.

We returned to Chatfield State Park to find the South Platte River had risen a few more inches, but they were still letting people drive through single file.

We made it home before the rain started again, and enjoyed only mildly muddy trails. Even though there is a lot of road noise while hiking on the Dakota Hogback, the amazing views did a good job of distracting us from the racket. All in all, a great day on the trail!