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A Short (but awesome!) Colorado Road Trip

We left Taos in a pretty violent lightning storm and it rained hard all the way to the Colorado border at Antonito.

Our Colorado road trip was supposed to extend for over a week but given a very busy summer, a family reunion and the need to have the kids to the airport by noon Monday we were lucky to get the week we got!

From the bottom of the San Luis Valley we could see the storms rush over the mountains to the east while new ones built to the west. Tractors worked through the lower portion of the valley and kicked up giant clouds of dust. For a New Mexico resident it was a little painful to see the green Colorado alfalfa fields that used up all the water before it reached the border. Northern New Mexico starves for Rio Grande water while Colorado farmers use it with abandon.

Colorado road trip
Out in the late evening wind at one of Colorado’s alpine lakes. Isabella was hunting flowers while Ilan looked for log to launch into the water.

Past Alamosa we left the farms behind and passed up through the sage, the little hot springs towns, the abandoned trailers and the UFO worshipers to cross Poncha Pass and then to our night at O’Haver Lake – which was surprisingly packed with campers. Perfect for Mr. Social, my son, who quickly made friends with a bunch of old men from Pueblo who fished and smoked cigars. By breakfast time the next morning Ilan had borrowed a kayak from someone and had me out taking him for a cruise.

Colorado road trip
A fabulous day canoeing on Twin Lakes near Leadville, Colorado. This is looking east up towards Independence Pass. By the time we got to the other side of the lake a dark storm gathered over the mountains and we high-tailed it back across the water.

Our next stop was Twin Lakes up near Leadville. We of course had to stop at the train station museum in Buena Vista. It rained at night but the next morning could not have been better for a canoe trip up and down the lakes. Exploring, swimming and picnicking on the south wilderness shore before getting chased off the water by lightning falling over Independence Pass. So, we made our way to Leadville for a burger and then down to Lake Dillon near Frisco.

My shoulders ached from the paddling. We all agreed we have to buy a canoe.

It rained again through the evening and then hard in the night. But between the storms moving in and out of the mountains, the lightning and the full moon we had a pretty amazing show from our lakeside overlook. In the morning Bella sat by the campfire eating piles of bacon and writing poetry while Ilan unsharpened my ax on a large chunk of granite.

Colorado road trip
I can’t make enough bacon for my kids. Especially the girl. On camping trips, hunks of pork are far more popular than marshmallows.

Without a doubt, after several raining days camping out, donuts were in order so we stopped at Safeway in Frisco for coffee and donuts then made our way to Golden, Colorado.

No Colorado road trip for the O’Donnell clan is complete without trains. So we spent several hours at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden before meeting my father, his wife and my brother’s family in Boulder for showers, swimming and some cold beer.

Colorado road trip
Ilan shoveling coal at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado.

It was warm up for the 2014 O’Donnell-Bartlett Family Reunion Saturday and Sunday in Estes Park where pretty much all of us have lived at one point in time. Both of my father’s parent’s ashes are scattered in Rocky Mountain National Park – a place they and the whole family have been a part of for decades back. It had been 20 years for me since I’d spent several summers up there backpacking, climbing and hiking all day every day. The town had changed. The mountains hadn’t. It was wonderful to hang with the cousins again.

Colorado road trip
Wading by moonlight at Lake Dillon, Colorado. I have no idea who the little girl is. Ilan picked her up at the campground and she followed him around until I had to shoo her back to her parents after dark.

Our 2014 Colorado road trip ended at Denver International Airport yesterday when I dropped the kids to fly to Finland with their mother. Rather bittersweet and I hated to leave them. Finland will be great for them however. They get to be with their mother’s family for a few weeks. And anyway you really can’t beat Finland in the summer.

I will be there in just two weeks.

~ ~ ~

Thank you all for helping me meet my funding goals for the work I want to do in Finland. Please do follow along as I will post as often as possible while there.

Finally, my latest article in Vrai Magazine is out. Go read about pot hunters, Peru and no rain. I think you’ll like it.

Colorado road trip
My amazing daughter…..who didn’t listen and picked the flowers anyway….


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