Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wonderful Colorado Springs

What a great time we have had in Colorado Springs with our Aunt Melissa and Uncle Stu.
On Friday, Brad and I decided to do our own little brewery tour.  We had a list of 14 breweries within 15 miles of where we were staying!  We narrowed it down to 5 of them.  Our first stop was Bristol Brewing Company.  We were both super excited to visit this brewery because we do enjoy their brews.  We enjoyed a couple beers and then spent a little cash on some cool merch :)  I had to have their beehive honey wheat and their mass transit ale.  Brad had their red rocket ale and their compass ipa.  All good stuff.  This brewery was an old elementary school that they made half of it into the brewery and tap room.  The rest of the building was taken by a bike shop and some other little shops.  Really cool place.  The bathrooms were still decorated with paintings and drawings including the solar system and a multiplication table.

We then stopped by Trinity Brewing Company.  We really liked this place.  Very low key and had great brews.  Brad did a flight and I enjoyed their Awaken Coffee Stout.  Cool place and cool people. here!

After Trinity, we needed food!!!  We drove through chic-fil-a and got some grub and headed to manitou brewing company.  This was a very small place with a very small beer selection.  We each had one beer and we hit the road.  I had an Agave Ginger Saison that was actually pretty great.  Brad had a EXP ipa that was good.

It was getting pretty late and we had Stu and Melissa waiting for us to go to dinner, so we stopped at one more brewery.  We went to Smiling Toad Brewery.  This place was really awesome and low key.  The bartender was a big older dude with an awesome mustache and suspenders! This place was not flashy but had a great atmosphere.  I had their vanilla porter that was delicious and Brad had their amberdextrous.   Great brews 
We hurried up and got back home so we could go have dinner.  We went to the Airplane restaurant which is a staple when staying with Stu and Melissa.  We were excited to go back to this place.  It was a lovely dinner with great company.

Saturday, we ended up going to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  We had a blast!  We walked through the whole zoo and got to ride the skyride.  We also got to pet and feed giraffes!!!!  This was a huge deal!  What a nice treat.  We then headed up the mountain to the beautiful Will Roger's Shrine.  It was very cool.  Headed back down the mountain, we made our way to Colorado Mountain Brewery for a late lunch.  Yummy!  Last stop of the day was the liquor store.  Brad and I were in heaven!  So many amazing beers that we do not get in Omaha.

What a great visit here in Colorado Springs.  Thank you Stu and Melissa for showing us such a great time and for your hospitality.  It is always wonderful seeing you two!
Lots of love,

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bishop's Castle

On our way to my aunts house we had two stops. The first stop was the amazing Bishop's Castle. This "castle" was and is still being built by one person. Jim Bishop has been working on this 10 story castle for over 40 years.  It is incredible. With 3 spires, two rooms big enough to hold receptions, a moat(with working draw bridge) and crazy catwalks to nowhere, this place was insane. The pictures do not do it any justice.

We then made our way down the mountain on a great national forest dirt road. As soon as we got into Pueblo we hit a brewery for some lunch and a few Irish beers. Shamrock Brewing was great. We made our way up to my aunt's and uncle's house and had a nice dinner.

Tomorrow we are doing our own Colorado Springs brewery tour.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

We woke up early and hit the dunes as early as we could because the surface can reach up to 150 degrees. To get to the dunes you have to cross the small stream. It is very shallow but wide, and cold. We hiked up the dunes a bit, and hung out for a while and watched the children sled and snowboard down the hills of sand. It got hot on the sand by 10:30 so we hit the road. We ran into another couple that have been on the road in their vanagon for 7 months.
We headed out to our next stop; lake Isabel in the San Isabel National Forest. We found a nice Spot that was wonderful, surrounded by tall trees, tall cliffs, and the sound of a small creek.

Tomorrow we are going to bishop's castle and to my aunt's house for a few days in Colorado Springs.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Getting to the Great Sand Dunes

Today was mixed. I'll explain. 

We started the morning with a great two  hour horseback ride from elk point lodge. The staffs was so nice, which matters on this type of activity. We had a great guide take us up into the mountains a little bit  then back along the lake. 
We then headed out for The Great Sand Dunes National Park. We ended up using the wolf creek pass on highway 160. The van did not care for this pass at all. This was definitely the hardest pass we have ever tried.  It started at around 7,800 hit the top at 10,856 the Continental divide. The van over heated twice on us. But I stopped 5 times to try and keep us from causing any issues. We crused up the mountain at 10-15mph And stopped every half mile for 10-15 minutes just to be sure it was cool. To make us feel better there were a lot of cars that had to do the same. After the top we then coasted down the mountain, rarely having to use the gas at all, and that really cooled the vans heart down. 
We then made it the rest of the way to Great Sand Dunes. Hit up the visitors center and talked to a ranger about the next day's activities. 
We then went to the campsite only to find they were full, I guess this place is more popular than I thought. I found a BLM campsite only a half hour away. We hit the road, and what a rough road it was. Once we got off the highway it was only 4 miles north, but Google maps said that it would take 25 minutes to get there. About 5 minutes in, I realized that was probably correct; the road was switchbacks and washed out with decent  sized rocks. But we made it up and found a great site with a spectacular view of the valley. 
We set up camp and made some delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Chelsea's special birthday beer from ska brewing. 
 Today had it's stressful points but was still a great day. Tomorrow we hit the slopes(of sand).


Vallecito lake.

After the fun of city life in Durango it was time to get back out in the Forest. We found a Great Lake only about a hour(for the van) from Durango. We drove around the whole thing and found an amazing campsite right on the lake. 
We set up camp and set up a time for horseback riding the for next day.  We then enjoyed the absolutely amazing weather. Sat by the lake, read, made dinner and had a beer. It was a great day.



Brad and I had a great time in Durango over my birthday weekend. We arrived on Saturday and found a hotel to stay in that wasn't going to break the bank.  The hotel room was not ready for us yet, so we did a little searching and found a diner that everyone seemed to love in this town. It was called CJ's diner and that little place was packed.  We waited about ten minutes and then sat down for a delicious breakfast.  By the time we were done, the hotel room was ready and Brad and I took some long showers. We were both feeling grimy after being in the desert.  We hung out in the air conditioned hotel room for a little while and then headed out for my birthday excursion. SKA brewing company!!!  I was so excited to visit this brewery and so was Brad.  We ended up having all of their beers except for one between the two of us.  This place was so awesome!  Excellent beer, great atmosphere AND they were playing amazing punk/ska music all night. I was in heaven. Ska usually does not do tours on the weekend, but they offered a surprise your that we jumped on right away.  It was a great tour. After finishing the tour, we hung out for a little bit longer and then decided we should probably get some food. We went up to the bar to pay out tab and for our merch we picked out.  Up at the bar was one of the Brewers that struck up a conversation with us.  We ended up talking to him for about 45 mins and we had mentioned that between us we had almost had all of the beers.  He later bought us a bottle of the one beer we didn't have so we could drink it on the road.  Super nice guy-Joe 
Someone had mentioned that it was my birthday and this was the perfect way to spend it. Just then, the bartender brings me a sample of a mix of two of their
 ipas. She asked if I liked it and of course I did. She then grabbed what is called a crowler which is a can-growler and filled it and capped it in front of us.  She stuck a label on it that said happy birthday and what beer was mixed inside.  So cool!!!
We then headed out to a place called El Moro.  This was a resturant/ bar that the lady who did the tour suggested.  What an awesome place!  It was very unique and trying to old salon/speakeasy style but not cheesey.  We ordered a couple beers and some great food. We talked and laughed and really had a great time there.  What an awesome way to spend my 25th bday ! 

Day 2 in Durango was a little more low key.  Needless to say, we drank a little too much the night before :) 
We slept in and then walked down to a place called Doughworks for breakfast.  Yummy!  We then walked back to the hotel and watched tv for a while and hydrated. We later walked over to Durango Brewing company.  This was the complete opposite of ska.  We walked in and it looked like everyone there hated the world.  It was a sad, dark place that we had one beer and headed out.  Atmosphere was not that great, but they did have decent beer. We grabbed a six pack for the road too.  We picked up pizza and headed back to the room for some more laziness. 
All in all, it was a great couple days in Durango.  
Next stop Juan Forest and then Sand Dunes! 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mesa Verde

We left our campsite in Hovenweep and headed to Mesa Verde.  This was one of the many stops on the trip that I was extremely excited for.  It was also our first National Park stop on the trip.  Upon arriving, we first set out to find a nice place to camp.  We did not know how busy it was going to be and it was a first come first serve site.  We pulled through the loops and found an awesome stop surrounded by trees.  We claimed our spot and headed to the visitors center to plan our days.  There were several hikes that required tickets to go into the site.  These were also ranger lead to help preserve the sites.  We decided to get tickets to the balcony house and cliff palace for the first day and then long house on our last day.  2 days booked!  My ankle had not healed all the way, but there was no way I was going to sit out another day.

Day 1-
After leaving the visitor's center, we headed up and up the mountain.  Every attraction was about 7 miles plus up the mountain.  The van went slow but was a champ making it's way up the mountains.    We had the balcony house tour first. But we were a bit early so we set up in the parking lot. We popped the top and laid down for a hour.   We hiked down the side of the cliffs and made our way into amazing site.  There were two or three long ladders into the site.  We got to walk all the way through the different rooms and look into the kivas.  We had to squeeze through tiny door ways and make our way through the living areas.  The tour guide was great and so full of information.  To end the tour, we had to crawl through a tunnel that was extremely tight.  I had to twist my body sideways just to get my hips through!  It was pretty fun!
 We then had to bust our butts to get to the next tour for cliff palace.  We got there right as it was starting.  Our tour guide took us down and down towards the site.  It was the heat of the day, but this was the site to see.  We came around the cliff and there it was, it was huge!  So many rooms and 21 kivas all in this alcove.  We had several more ladders to climb and we learned more about the site.  This was the site that is used to advertise Mesa Verde and it made a lot of sense after seeing it for real.
After the tour, we stop at a little cafe area and had some cold beers and a flat bread taco.
We headed back to our campsite and took a little snooze and then made some quick hotdogs.

Day 2-
We woke up we were able to take our time.  Our long house tour was not until 2:00.  I made some french toast for breakfast and we enjoyed the cool morning breeze.  We had a long drive up to the tour meeting spot so we hit the road at about 11:00ish.  It took us a little more than an hour to get up the mountain to the long house spot.  We did have to stop for a little, clumsy, black cub to cross the road.  He crossed and then started the climb up the ledge by the road.  We watched him climb and then took a turn off to see if we could continue to watch him and maybe see mama.  There was not site of the mama bear, but the baby bear was running around for a little while before entering the wooded area.  He was quite adorable and super clumsy.  We continued up the mountain.   Right around the area of long house, was a cliff dwelling called step house.  This was a self guided tour so we made our way down there because we had time to kill.  We hiked all the way down and came across the site.  It was a neat area because there was still pithouses in the site that the Ancestral Puebloans did not build on top of.  So this site has evidence of two separate occupations of the site.  Really cool!
After hiking all the way back up, we still had about an hour before our long house tour so we once again popped the top and relaxed for a bit and hydrated.
2:00 rolled around and we met up with our ranger guide and headed down to the site.  This was a 2 mile hike down and then 2 miles back the same way up.  We came around a corner and saw the amazing long house.  It was HUGE.  We got to walk through the site and see al the evidence of how these people lived and survived for so many years.  It had a really strong water supply coming in the back of the alcove.
Hiking back up was hard in the heat of the day.  We made our way back to the car and back to camp.  We enjoyed some pasta this night and met some very nice neighbors that we chatted with for a while.  We had some beer and hit the hay.
Durango, CO is the next stop for a couple days!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Canyons of the Ancient

Today was a good day.
We woke up and it was hot right away, But Chelsea made a great breakfast. Breakfast burritos with eggs, turkey, bacon, cheese and green chilis(from Santa Fe). Made much easier with the new camp stove and griddle.
We then headed out for a day of exploring in "Canyons of the Ancient". First stop was "Painted hand Pueblo". Unfortunately upon arriving we realized that when Chelsea rolled her ankle yesterday it was worse then she had thought, so the hikes were to be mine alone. I did not like that she had to stay back, but, we agreed that I need to see the sights and let her ankle heal because we have Mesa Verde to do tomorrow.  So I left her with a book in the shade of the van and a very tall sage bush. The trail to the ruins on this one was very short, I would say less then a half mile. But a great hike, sometimes they don't need to be long to have an impac on you. It was full of great Pueblo structures, I really enjoyed the tall kiva with a sub structure. And the amazing view that I'm sure was part of the reason they built there Almost 1000 years ago.
Next up was a bit of drive to Lowry Pueblo. This was an interesting Pueblo structure because they had built a metal roof to cover the main section. Which I had never seen them do this before. It was a short trail from the parking lot, so Chelsea went with me on this one. It did have one of the biggest kivas I had seen yet.
The last stop for the day was Sand Canyon Pueblo. This was only a 110 yard hike to the start of this massive Ruin. I really enjoyed this one because it was not excavated or restored in any way. This site is twice as large as the largest dwelling in Masa Verde, but when you get to it, there is nothing that stands out. It is just a beautiful end of a canyon, but as you start to look you see that the piles of stone and dirt are what is left of what was one of the biggest ruins in the country. It was awe inspiring.To stand an imagine the over 450 rooms and 11 kivas was a great experience. Looking across the valley you could see that it took the whole valley to house this structure.  I could have walked from cliff to cliff for the rest of the day.
We then headed back to our campsite, in Hovenweep, a bit of a drive considering we are going the opposite way tomorrow for Mesa Verde but we really do love this site. It is quiet and secluded with a great view, much like our first site last year the Horsethief in Canyonlands.
Today was a great day. We really enjoyed driving around this beautiful land, beating the heat. The van may not have A.C. but you don't need it at 50mph with the windows down.


More photos to come when we have wifi!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hovenweep National Monument

Brad and I are really going with the flow this trip.  Last year we stuck to our rigid schedule because had reservations and places to be.  This year we are stopping and thinking about what we really want to do and cut/add if need be.
Today we woke up at the KOA and decided to make our way to Hovenweep National Monument. - Check it out!
This was about an hour away and a very scenic drive.  We pulled up and talked to a ranger inside and decided to do the 2 mile loop around the canyon.  This took us to all the buildings and the towers in this canyon.  It was amazing to see amazing towers still standing after 700 years.  These buildings were a little different than the ancestral Pueblo buildings we have seen.  There was a huge, square tower towards the center.  No one known what was held in the tower, but many do think they were guarding something in that tower.  There was also a boulder house that was unusual compared to the other homes we have seen.  This was a very neat place.  The trail took us all the way along the canyon ridge and then took us to the canyon floor and back up.  Fun little hike.  I had forgotten how hot it gets around this area!  We are not far from the four corners area, but we are technically in Utah for the time being.  Brad made the mistake of tempting me about going back to Canyonlands.  This was hard to turn down, but new adventure lie ahead!

After hiking at Hovenweep, we headed to the Hovenweep campground.  This is a very nice campground that does not offer all of the luxuries of the prior stop.  This is way ok with us!  We have a great view and there is a total of maybe four sites occupied.  Way better than the hundreds of people at our last stop :)
We took a little nap, had some amazing Brad grilled cheese, read a little and are enjoying the view of our little canyon and the beautiful Sleeping Ute Mountain!

More pictures to come later as soon as we have wifi!

Happy 3 Year Anniversary Nate and Taylor! XOXO

Headed to Colorado

Monday was a day that did not quite go according to plan.  We left Jason and Katie's place in the morning and stopped at the grocery store for some odds and ends. We then headed to the Aztec Ruins. On the way, we came across a enormous and beautiful lake that we parked at for a little while. We then arrived at Aztec Ruins. This place was pretty sweet. It was a excavated site were the Indians had lived for about 150 years before moving on. They trace this living area back to about 1,000 years ago. There were several kivas and one was actually rebuilt to show what it looked like such a long time ago. This site is still very important to a lot of Native Tribes and it was very cool to see.
After leaving Aztec ruins, we tried to find a campsite closer to where we were heading the next day. Our plan was to go to Shiprock and 4 corners.  There were two campsite that were pretty close to these sites, but neither of them existed. We were in Navajo Nation, and there was not much of anything. We saw ShipRock while driving by and decided to go stay the night outside of a town called Cortez. We pulled into a KOA and got their second to last campsite available. This KOA was crazy. So many people in huge RVS with massive satellites strapped to them. It had wonderful bathrooms with showers. It even had a heated swimming pool and free wifi!  This was very interesting to me.  I was definitely not expecting this strange outdoor luxury hotel.  We pulled the van in and had some dinner and played some cards.  
We reworked the schedule a little bit to make up for skipped day. 
Tomorrow is Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep National Monument

Last day in Taos

Our last day in Taos was a great one! 
We started our day off by hitting up the local coffee shop. This was a cool place that we grabbed some coffee and breakfast burritos for the road. We then headed up to the Taos Ski Valley up in the mountains. Our plan was to hike to William's Lake. We parked at the trail head and started our hike.  It was a 3 mile hike up the mountain. It started off pretty easy- rocked trail at a pretty good incline. Then the hard part started, SNOW. About half of the hike up was covered in about a foot of snow. Some places about 3 feet of snow. We really had to pace ourselves and be very strategic about where we stepped or your whole leg would go through the snow. This made the last half of the hike even harder than we thought it would be. To make it even harder, it started to rain :( 
We were not going to stop though.  We had made it too far to turn around.  When we finally made it to the lake, it was well worth the hike and the snow. It was gorgeous. We were at 11,040 ft!!
The hike down was easier on our bodies and our breathing, but coming down that incline on snow and ice was difficult.  Being my clumsy self, I fell down a good ten times. It was extremely technical and required a lot of time and care. Once we pasted all the snow, we all let out a little sigh of relief and continued down the trail.  We rewarded ourselves by walking over to the awesome German bar at the trail head. It was called the Bavarian and was legit German. Jason, Katie and Brad all had beers, but I was so cold that I had to have some coffee to warm me up! We enjoyed a little break and a snack and then headed back to the car.  We drove back to Jason and Katie's place and we all collapsed!  We all took a little break, got some showers and relaxed. 
We got some pizza for dinner and watched a few episodes of Orange is the New Black before going to bed.  
Brad and I had such a great time visiting our dear friends Jason and Katie. You guys showed us such a great time and we are extremely appreciative of your hospitality. We love you guys! Thanks again for everything!