Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Colorado, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Garden of the Gods RV Resort: Campground Review

For our stay in Colorado Springs, we stayed at the Garden Of The Gods RV Resort. There were tent sites, back-up and pull-through sites, and cabins for rent. We had a back-in 50 amp site. The electric post also had a spot for 20 amp, so we could run an extension cord for outdoor use (fan, bike charging, outdoor computer use).

There was WiFi and cable, although we didn’t have any luck with the cable. The WiFi was iffy as well since we were in the back. NOTE: Campground reviews listed AT&T as working there, but it does not work in the campground. We found this out when we checked in. Our T-Mobile and Verizon worked though.

The office sold a few souvenir type items, ice ($4.10/bag, including tax), and ice cream. They did accept packages and also had an outgoing mail box inside. The office closed at 4:00pm each day.

The laundry room had a folding table, 2 carts, a vending machine, 3 driers (although 1 was broken the time we were there), and washers. Dryers $0.25/8 minutes.They were x-large capacity dryers (could hold 3 loads). The washers were normal sized and cost $2.50/load. They did sell single use powder soap in the vending machines there for $1 and had some other laundry items for sale in the office.

There were two pools, although only one was open when we were there. It was heated and had a nice covered couch area, along with some chairs around the pool. Because of COVID, you did need to sign up for the pool. (Limit of 40 people, which seems really high for that size pool. No one really checked or seemed to keep track though.)

There was also an arcade, which the kids loved. It was mostly older machines (if you grew up in the 1980’s it was very nostalgic). Most games were $0.25. We were only there a couple of times. It seemed like little kids were sent there and never had masks on, so we tried to limit our time to when it was empty. Trying to social distance can be hard.

There were no individual fire pits, although there were two grills and two communal fire pits by the playground. There was a fire ban while we were there, so fires were not allowed. You could use the charcoal grills though. The playground was small and a little older. There was also a fenced in dog area.

The campground had two shower/bath houses. The one back by the playground was definitely nicer!

There was an on-site breakfast food truck that was open Wednesday to Saturday 8:00am to 12:00pm.

We were also right next to Manitou Springs, which is a really cute town. We made several trips in and enjoyed walking around.

Garden of the Gods was pretty much right up the street, about a 10 minute drive, Pikes Peak was about 30-45 minutes, Royal Gorge about 1.5 hours. The Olympic Training Center and Air Force Academy were closed to visitors due to COVID.

The location was convenient to attractions and grocery stores. There were two Costco’s within 40 minutes! There was a horse area close by, so sometimes in the morning you could smell it, but it wasn’t too bad. There was a full time RV or mobile home park on two sides. There were tarps overhanging the campground fence in several spots. I didn’t feel safe walking on the street by myself with the kids. The Garden Of The Gods RV Resort is fenced though.

NOTE: Beware when you make your reservation. When we had to restructure our trip, we were going to shorten or skip Colorado Springs. Because we had originally booked with Best Rate, Garden of the Gods RV would not refund, only let us move our reservation. They had had few other locations, but nowhere we were going to be. If you are worried about COVID ruining your plans, please do not choose Best Rate. Everyone there was nice, it just stinks about their policy even during a pandemic.

If we were in the area, I might stay here again, because the employees were nice and it was conveniently located, but I would definitely look more closely at the cancellation policy. We did get to see a lot, but one week would probably be long enough (not the two we had).

Here is a link to the boys’ Campground Tour.

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 3 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: Verizon, T-Mobile (AT&T did not work in the campground)

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Rugs allowed

Amenities: Picnic tables at each RV site. Community fire pit and grills. Arcade, playground, fenced dog area.

Cabins: Yes

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes. 30 or 50 Amp sites.

Pool: Yes

WiFi: Yes, spotty

Accepts Mail: Yes

Food On-Site: Breakfast food truck

Camp Store: Yes

Fishing: No

 

Posted in: Exploring Colorado, Sightseeing

Manitou Springs and Little Libraries

We kept it pretty relaxed today. We drove up to Manitou Springs looking for a birthday present. It was packed! We ended up parking up the hill by the school and walking into town. We did find a couple more Little/Free Libraries along the way. Will dropped off a book he had finished, but didn’t have much luck finding a new one this time.

We just kind of browsed and meandered through town. We tried a fresh squeezed blackberry lemonade. It was pretty good, although tart. The boys loved it and it was a nice treat on a warm day.

Remember how I had trouble finding a parking spot? It turns out they were having the Pikes Peak Marathon. What?! I can’t even imagine running from the town to the top of Pikes Peak and back down. We got to cheer on a few people crossing the finish line.

After town, we headed to Walmart to pick up some grocery and clothing items. It was a pretty relaxing day.

Posted in: Exploring Colorado, Hiking, Injuries, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Today we ventured into the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was about a 3 hour drive each way. The one thing this trip has taught us is not to be afraid of driving each day. We very rarely made trips longer than 1.5 hours at home. We saw a few animals in the campground this morning, which is always fun!

The park offers some hiking, a campground, the dunes, and a creek. The creek is usually dry in August, from what we were told. You can sled down the sand dunes, but the park claims you need a specialized board. Apparently snow sled and cardboard will not work well. There are a few stores to rent these boards from in the towns of Alamosa (which was not on our drive in), Hooper, and Blanca. We drove through Blanca and didn’t see any signs for board rentals. It was the 2nd closest rental to the park entrance, so we were hoping we wouldn’t miss the last store. The other rental is at a store right outside the park entrance. The store is called Oasis and it is open seasonally. They offer sand boards (stand up kind like snow boards) and sand sleds. Rental is $20/day/board and you need to return it by 6:00pm. They also provide you with a thing of wax for the bottom of your board.

There was quite a line to rent the boards. The store’s interior was closed, so everything was rented/ordered from the outdoor windows. The line moved slowly, but surely. It took awhile because there was a rental form to fill out, the deposit to sign, rental fee, and then the instructions. In the store’s parking lot, they had three portalets and a 2 pump gas station (no diesel). The store also offered ice, ice cream (cones and sandwiches), some hot food items, and convenience items (postcards, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.). There were not any picnic benches around though. (TIP: Stop and use the portalets here. The Visitor Center is closed due to COVID and there could be a long wait at the park.)

Oasis store

The sky, both on the drive in and at the park, was a little hazy due to smoke from wildfires. The parking lot closest to the dunes was packed! Luckily, right when we got to the end of our first lap, we found a spot. I was driving home, so I changed into my sandals since I didn’t want sand stuck in my shoe for the whole drive home (big mistake). Everyone else stayed in gym shoes and left their Crocs for later. There is about 1/4-1/2 mile walk through sand to get to the dune area. It would have been great if there was a boardwalk there. Although this might not work well since the Ute Native Americans called this area “sowapopheuveha”* or, the land that moves back and forth. With the sand blowing around it might just cover the boardwalk.

The book stated the tallest sand dune was “750 feet and 3.8 miles (one way) difficult trudge to the top.”* So, we weren’t doing that! We stayed towards the front of the dunes, the smaller ones. It is quite the work-out to climb up the dunes to slide back down. Ben and the boys tried the sand board, but I stuck to the sand sled. The boys did pretty well for their first experience on a stand up board. Everyone had a few tumbles in the sand, but had fun sledding down the dunes!

I had secured my keys and ID in a zipper pocket, but thought on my last run I could video the trip down the dune. Dumb idea. I took the biggest tumble so far and my phone got buried in the sand. Luckily I found it pretty quickly. I would recommend using some sort of cord or something that is attached to both your phone and you, if you want to have it out.

Eventually we were tired and hungry, and began our journey back to the truck. At the parking lot we rinsed off at the outdoor showers. There were two shower poles, each had nozzles at 3 different heights. We ate our picnic lunch in the truck. We were facing the dunes, so we had a nice view. There is a picnic area down the street, but not at the dunes parking lot we were in. We could also people watch. Ben stated everyone coming in looked excited and happy (think Disney world), but coming out everyone looked exhausted and were dragging. We were definitely tired, but it was a good experience.

The park cautions that the sand can get up to 150 degrees F. I don’t think it was quite that warm when we were there, but it definitely got very hot. My sandals were not the right choice, as the sand kept sliding in or covering my feet as we walked. In the beginning, the temperatures were fine. However, on the walk back, I had to take multiple breaks to keep my feet out of the sand and stood on a board. By the time we got back, the sides of my feet and under my big toes were red and I had a couple of blisters. I’m not sure if the blisters were simply from sand rubbing between my feet and sandals, or from minor burns from the hot sand. Even after the cool water from the outdoor shower and sitting in the truck without shoes on, my feet were still red. I ended up putting aloe on them before bed, but they were still sensitive the next day (and a little the day after that too). I may have lightly burned them. If you go in the summer, I would recommend wearing closed toe shoes (we saw someone wearing boots) so your gym shoes are not saturated with sand. If you really want to wear sandals, I would maybe wear socks with them (and socks with Crocs is honestly one of my biggest no-no’s…but guys, the sand burns!).

After lunch, we drove around. The park isn’t very large in terms of a road driving through it. There was a primitive road and a campground. We headed back out and stopped at Oasis to return our boards. We also bought some ice cream and postcards. We haven’t been able to find any other Great Sand Dunes postcards, so I wish I would have bought a few more.

I have a video on the YouTube channel that has some of our rides down the sand dunes!

*Your Guide to the National Parks (Affiliate link)

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Colorado, Hiking, Sightseeing

Royal Gorge Bridge

Today we went to Royal Gorge Bridge and Park when Ben was done with work. It’s about an 1 1/2 hr drive from the campground.

This was one of our more expensive outings so far. General admission included the gondola ride, bridge, and playground. ($29/ages 13+, $24/ages 6-12, 0-5 free. There is an online price as well, which is a couple dollars cheaper.)  The zip line and Sky Coaster rides are extra. If you are even more adventurous, you can climb the gorge with Via Ferrata.

The gondola rides are conditional based on the weather (if it gets too windy they stop the ride). We didn’t want to miss the gondolas, so we headed over there first. There was a bit of a line, but with 6 cars (3 each way) it moved fairly quickly. They were putting each family group in their own gondola, so you weren’t riding with strangers. It was a smooth ride, no real bumps or jostling. It was crazy to see how deep the gorge was. We could also see the train moving along the bottom of the gorge next to the Arkansas river. Once on the other side, they disembarked passengers one car at a time for social distancing. (Sidenote: They claim the gondolas are the longest single span aerial gondolas in America, and the bridge is the highest suspension bridge in North America.)

On the other side of the gorge, we walked around for a little bit. There was a playground (we didn’t go on, too many little kids), some food options, and a stage where a band was getting ready to play. The only audience waiting for the show to start were the big horn sheep who were munching on the grass. We watched the gorge’s history video at the Plaza Theater and then walked the bridge. The original aerial tram and incline burned in a wild fire in 2013. The gondolas replaced the tram. There is no incline anymore, although the track is still there. It looked really cool, so I hope they bring it back.

Tiny red dots are people zip lining, 1 of the gondolas (we were in the other), kid area/playground

We walked over the bridge to get back to the parking lot/Visitor Center side of the gorge. I had been here many years ago as a kid (maybe when I was 12?). There were definitely wind gusts still and some swaying, but not as bad as I remember. I think the kids enjoyed seeing it.

Posted in: Exploring Colorado, Food

Chocolate, Bread, and Hammocks

We walked around Old Colorado Springs for a little bit today. There are a few cute stores down there!

We stopped at a bakery (La Baquette) and of course got a baguette and some croissants. Next we stopped at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and got a chocolate covered apple (The best part was how they sliced it! I loved that option. It makes it much easier to eat/share.), a piece of dark chocolate toffee (this one was really good!), and a pecan bear (a turtle).

Next we headed to Bear Creek park. Ben finally got to try out his hammock that he got for his birthday. He has been missing relaxing in his hammock chair that he had at the house. Since we bought the hammock, there hasn’t been anywhere to hang it. However, when we were driving around exploring a few days ago, we saw this park. It has the perfect hammock trees, as evidenced by the multiple hammocks in use.

He relaxed and I took the boys on an obstacle course. It was a little overgrown in spots, but they had a blast. We finished it off with the boys kicking around the soccer ball. We headed off when some rain moved in.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Colorado, Hiking

Out For A Hike

The boys needed to stretch their legs. By that I mean I needed to wear them out a little bit. They had too much pent up energy, which is never good in 400 SF.

I found a walking/hiking area not too far from our campsite, the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. There are a few different trails in the park. It had two parking lots, one with a portalet.

It was 91 degrees F when we went hiking. We wore our sunscreen and hats, plus brought our water bottles. AllTrails app didn’t pick up on the trails until we were at the park, although I’m not sure why. The app at least still showed our GPS on the trails so we didn’t get too far off track.

There were several rock formations that were interesting to see. Even though it was hot in the sun, the trail did have several spots for shade from the trees and/or rocks, which made it really nice. We saw a few birds around, but no other animals. I did get to see a woodpecker looking for food in a tree, which was fun to watch. The trail was frequently lined with small flowers and cacti along the edges. There were both bikers and hikers on the trails.

At the beginning of the trail, we also saw the rare moody teenage boy. He was in the beginning stages of what we affectionately call “Trail Rage”. It doesn’t happen on every trail, but it does often come out when video games are interrupted to go on a walk/hike. There are several stages of Trail Rage: grumpiness (“Ugh, really?” is often heard.), pouting (“Why do I have to come? It’s just another dumb trail.”, or something similar.), angry face, storming off ahead and ignoring that he is with anyone else, extreme angry face, and eventually we calm back into acceptance and if we are lucky happiness.

We eventually headed back and took a shorter way to see the pond. It was beautiful! The rocks looked white towards the water and turned to red. There were a few trees and shrubbery around the edges. We didn’t get down to the water to dip our toes in, as there were people on the paths down and the boys were tired.

It was a pretty nice trail and a great walk for the day.

Posted in: Exploring Colorado, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Cliff Dwelling Museum

After an orientation session for online school in the morning, we went to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings today. I remember going to Mesa Verda when I was a kid, and being amazed that anyone could build on the side of a cliff. I wanted the boys to get an idea of these dwellings, but Mesa Verde was way out of our way (like 6 hours one way). I found the Manitou Cliff Dwellings while searching for things to do online.

According to their website, the dwellings were originally in McElmo Canyon. To help preserve the ruins, they moved them to their new location and reassembled the structures. They used a concrete mixture to reassemble so that people could walk through the buildings.

Entrance was $33.08 for the three of us. It doesn’t take a long time to walk through the dwellings, maybe an hour. Although they are amazing, they won’t take your breath away quite as much as Mesa Verde. However, if you can’t make it to Mesa Verde, these are still historical ruins and a great history lesson. The boys actually enjoyed it and Nick read a few of the signs.

There is an inside museum, as well, in the visitor center. The boys read about baskets, water containers, weapons, and pottery. Nick liked learning that they smothered the fire in the kiln with horse manure to get the black color on the pottery.

We ran to Walmart for a few items.Once back at the campground, we did a load of laundry and went swimming in the evening. It was amazing because we had the pool all to ourselves! We discovered that Will has finally passed me up. The beginning of summer, I still had a little height on him, but it looks like he finally eeked past me a little bit.

I have a YouTube video of our walkthrough at the Cliff dwellings.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Colorado, Injuries, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Pikes Peak Adventures

We woke up a little early so we could drive up to Pikes Peak. I still felt dehydrated from yesterday.

Ben and Nick packed a lunch for us and we were off.

There was construction at the peak, so you can drive to mile marker 13 or 16, park and then take a shuttle up to the top.

I drove on the way up. There are some amazing views! It’s beautiful. (Ben drove on the way down so I could take pictures! 🙂 ). There is a video of the drive up on the You Tube Channel. Right now I can only post 15 minute videos, so I tried to grab the best parts of the drives up and down the mountain. (I had 2 hours of footage!) There are a few things to see besides the mountains in the video, so I have a Video Scavenger Hunt if you want to try it: Bigfoot/Sasquatch Crossing, Scariest Portalet, Tutus, Marmot Sunning, Overheated Car, Injured Biker, Race Cars, Santa.

On the way up, we saw several groups of bicyclers and also a lot of trucks with trailers. Apparently on 8/30, there is a race to the top of Pikes Peak (the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb) and the cars were doing test runs that morning. We saw all kinds of cars coming down the mountain! That must be one scary race. There were no guard rails on a lot of the edges!

We parked at mile marker 16. Parking was frustrating. The two attendants didn’t communicate very well. The one had me turn down a lane that was full. The other attendant told me to wait and then forgot about me for 10 minutes. When I finally started backing up, then he directed me to a new parking area.

We got in line for the shuttles. The upper restrooms were locked, but the lower ones were open. The line moved relatively quickly thanks to all the shuttle buses they had working.

We caught a shuttle up to the top and walked to the visitor center/gift shop. We wandered around looking at the items. Ben and Will headed out and Nick and I got in line for donuts, coffee, and hot chocolate. We all walked over to the rocky area near the end of Devil’s Playground trail (aka Crags Trail). We walked/climbed towards the middle to enjoy our treats. When we were done eating, we moved closer to the edge. The views were incredible. We saw a plane flying by and we were higher than the plane!

The normal viewing platforms were closed, as was the train. I would definitely recommend walking towards Devil’s Playground trail area for better views. It was hazy (later heard it was due to wild fire smoke from our bus driver down), and you couldn’t see much of anything besides construction equipment at the viewing area in the back of the gift shop area. It is a bit of a climb and harder to get to, but the views are definitely worth it near the rocky area.

We saw a few marmots on our drive up and back. They were sunning on the rocks. There were a few birds around as well. Unfortunately, we did not see any of the Big Horn Sheep. Our driver down said she normally sees them on her trips, but hadn’t yet today. She thought maybe the test driving scared them away this morning. She did have a tip though for spotting them, as they blend in with the rocks. Look for white moving objects. It will be their tail end, but she said it’s the easiest way to spot them. Also on the way back down, she pointed out Cheyenne Mountain and NORAD.

After getting back into our truck, we headed back down. (You need to use lower gear to drive down and Ben took advantage of the truck’s awesome exhaust brake.) We had a couple of stops on the way to the bottom. They stop you at mile 13 to do a brake temperature check. If your brakes are too warm, they make you park and let them cool off for 30-45 minutes. Our first stop was the Halfway Picnic area. We found a table in the shade with some nice views. We saw a ground squirrel sunning on a rock nearby.

It’s been a few days, maybe even a week, since an injury! Our streak came to an end when Nick decided to take a “short-cut” over a drainage ditch and didn’t quite make it. Now, it wasn’t a large dip, just very rocky. He scrapped his leg up pretty good. I didn’t have any of the really large band-aids, so used gauze instead.

After lunch and a little first aid, we continued our descent and stopped at the Crystal Reservoir. There was a wood statue of Bigfoot, a gift shop, and nice views of the reservoir.

Toward the bottom of the mountain is the North Pole. It’s a Christmas themed amusement park. Admission is free, although it does cost money to ride the rides. There were only 3 or 4 rides running when we were there (not sure if due to social distancing restrictions or not) and the wrist band costs $10. We didn’t ride any rides, but did enjoy walking around and shopping. It was a cute area with several neat little shops. We picked up a couple of things for Christmas. It’s a cute place, especially with free admission, so don’t pass it up on your way down from Pike’s Peak!

Once home, Ben made us breakfast for dinner with the new double sided cast iron griddle we bought at Cabela’s. It was the first time we had used it, but it worked amazingly with the bacon. It is the Chef Camp Reversible Cast Iron Griddle*. We found the 14″ at Cabela’s and Amazon has the 16″.

We decided to drive back to Garden of the Gods. Not for hiking, nope not ready for that again. I am still thirsty from yesterday. This time we just drove through and enjoyed the sunset. The landscape and the colors changed in the setting sun. The sunset behind the rocks was amazing. The sunset also brought out several mule deer in the park.

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Exploring Colorado, Food, Hiking, Sightseeing

Laundry, Burritos, Gardens

We worked on laundry in the morning. There is a breakfast food stand/truck in the campground, so once we got the washers going, we walked over and enjoyed pancakes and breakfast burritos. Nick ran a burrito back to Ben so he could enjoy it while he was working.

We spent a little time playing in the arcade after folding the laundry.

We decided to drive to Garden of the Gods. We decided to take a hike around the park. After 2.5 miles, the kids were done. It was hot and very, very sunny, not a lot of shade. We took a shortcut back and ended up with a 2.8 mile hike.

Family picture and Kissing Camels (the rocks, not us)

We were all dehydrated by the end, even with the water we brought.

We drove to Manitou springs and walked around. It was about 5:30pm when we got there, and the summer hours posted showed most of the town closed at 6:00.

We found a couple of the spring fountains that Manitou is known for. Each spring is supposed to have a slightly different flavor. We only tried one today, and it tasted just like fizzy (carbonated) water! The fountains are located throughout town and are free for use. There were people walking around filling up their water bottles to try the different waters.

We ordered a pizza from Hell’s Kitchen to bring back to the RV for dinner. It was a long wait for the pizza, but the taste was pretty good! It had a nice crust, not heavy on the sauce.

Manitou Springs had several more large objects for Will as well, so those pictures will be coming soon! 🙂

Posted in: Exploring Colorado, Maintenance

Truck Maintenance, Cheese, & Candy

The truck’s Replace Fuel Filter came on. Of course, having had all gasoline cars before, this was our first time with this particular warning light. I wanted to get this fixed ASAP since we would be driving in the mountains and moving again in a couple of weeks. Now, according to Google, it should have been good until 30,000, but we are only at about 15,000 miles.

I looked on Yelp and Google reviews. The first place I called couldn’t get us in for a few weeks. He did recommend another place to try and I gave them a call. Chuck’s said to come over and he would squeeze us in.

They didn’t have an inside waiting area, but did have a picnic table outside. It was in the sun and the boys got very antsy after awhile. We walked up a couple of blocks to Cheese Haus and got honey sticks and cheese curds. Nick loved the cheese, but Will wasn’t a huge fan of either. Apparently the honey was too sweet. Huh…honey is sweet? Who knew?!

We walked a little farther up the hill and stopped at a candy store. We got a few pieces of taffy for the kids to eat while waiting and I got a turtle. Walking back down the hill, we finished waiting for the car.

I was so relieved to have one thing fixed and off our plate when the truck was done. It was cheaper than the first place had quoted us too, so that was another win!

While we were gone, Ben had reserved us time at the RV park’s pool. There was a nice covered section that we could sit out of the sun. The pool was also nice and warm (it’s heated, plus sits in full sun). We took a few minutes to explore the arcade as well.