Posted July 31, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
“I have found a dream of beauty at which one might look all one’s life and sigh.”– Isabella Bird, Adventures in the Rocky Mountains
High Country in Colorado panned out all of the golden nuggets we desired for this historic Summer Of COVID: cool air, shining lakes, mountain trails, and quaint and cozy villages with outdoor seating at charming restaurants and top-notch breweries.
Kayaking and hiking are important to us right now.
Staying fit during the pandemic is crucial, but I haven’t had a good pool workout since January. So kayaking has become a substantial part of our summertime fitness plan, and Colorful Colorado‘s abundance of cool and serene high-country mountain lakes is the solution.
Leaving Colorado Springs, we drove the rig through downtown Denver toward Loveland. Before the coronavirus, driving through Denver pulling a 5-ton 30′ trailer in midday traffic would be a nightmare – but the highway was tolerable and we enjoyed this first glance of the city.
Our destination: the location of the cancelled 2020 Airstream International Rally where we had been scheduled to speak. Later we accepted an invitation to make a video of our presentation.
Our reservation (made months in advance) was at Boyd Lake State Park. Just a couple of weeks before we arrived, we received notice of the campground’s reopening.
Boyd Lake State Park – Loveland – Elevation: 5,000′
Loveland is nearby Fort Collins, where we briefly ducked in three years ago for Beast repairs. The city was welcoming and beautiful, and the residents, neighborly. With the feeling that this is an area where we could, someday, settle down, we explored as much as possible given the restrictions of the pandemic.
As soon as we settled into our electricity-only campsite, we detected signs of a hitchhiker onboard. Jim set the humane trap.
The next morning our hearts melted when we met this sweet little wide-eyed creature who looked like a character from The Hundred Acre Wood. We let her (him?) take a little nap in the sunshine and then, choking up a bit, released her in a lovely field surrounded by cottonwoods. We will miss her.
Afternoon thunderstorms guided our daily schedule. Mornings were for kayaking, or cycling and walking the bike trail. Afternoons, we drove into town to visit our favorite haunts …
and also, AKA Kitchen
and Rock Coast Brewery…
and the Sunday Farmer’s Market at Fairgrounds Park…
and Benson Sculpture Garden …
and just walking around downtown Fort Collins while our computer keyboards were replaced.
Boyd Lake Reservoir is a favorite day-use area for locals. It is situated in a valley surrounded by homes, businesses and farms.
Families set up day-camps around the lake and urbanites from Denver cycle the Loveland Bike Trail.
The boat launch is bustling – especially on weekends. This is bass fishing and Big Mable Country. Yet, the lake is sorta small for all that activity. So, every weekday morning I rolled my kayak to the shore, hoping to find an uncrowded spot to put in – then, hugged the shoreline as closely as possible.
On a good day I was able to circumnavigate the lake in about three and a half hours.
One day the helpful and always cheerful seasonal staff at Boyd Lake Marina suggested I visit Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins in Larimer County.
Thanks Guys! This lake is huge with gorgeous red-rock formations. Another fabulous Colorado State Park with lake-side camping and many other recreational opportunities.
We left the Fort Collins area with the same impression we had years ago. This beautiful city is on our short list of long-term and permanent future locations.
We pulled out of Loveland and followed the spectacular Cache la Poudre River as we headed up higher into the mountains.
Special thanks to our friend Dane who recommended we stop at Mishawaka for lunch. Great suggestion! Lunch and entertainment.
Driving these curvy Colorado mountain roads is an exercise in awareness – the dangers are obvious – but you never know what you might see around the bend.
Colorado has one of the oldest highway systems in the world. Before white settlers arrived, the nomadic Nuche (commonly called Ute) had traveled these roads for tens of thousands of years. From the great basin of Central Utah to the Rocky Mountains and to the plains, The People of The Shining Mountains are the only North American tribe without a migration story. These mountains are their summer home for the last 20,000 years.
As we drove toward Steamboat Springs I wondered what the Ute call this road and the names of these mountains that we invaders celebrate as, The Switzerland of America.
Steamboat Lake State Park – Steamboat Springs – Elevation: 8,100′
But these colonial musings evaporated when we settled into our flowery alpine dry (no hook-ups at all) campsite …
and noticed that our fresh water tank had sprung a gusher of a leak.
Fortunately, we had a decent enough cell signal to consult with Vinnie Lamica, our Airstream technician.
First, he gave us the bad news: We need a new tank and it will take weeks for it to arrive to his shop in Wilton, California. The good news is that it could be temporarily patched with silicone. And so far so good – seems to be holding.
Now, enough of the man problems. Back to the flowers. It was Springtime in July. Steamboat Lake gushed with these beauties.
I’m a sucker for wildflowers – big ones, little ones, fluted ones, round ones, pink ones, yellow ones …
It took an entire day just to get over it.
That’s a lie. I never got over it.
Steamboat Lake is so beautiful the trees grow eyes.
Daytimes, we kayaked at the foot of Hahn’s Peak …
and relished our home-cooked meals …
and enjoyed the many small pleasures of mountain life.
In the evening, when the hikers, cyclists and anglers went home for dinner, the path around the lake was clear and we took these tranquil moonlit walks around the lake.
Colorado’s Great Seal bears the latin motto, Nil Sine Numine which translates to “Nothing Without the Divine” The word numine includes any deity or spirit, male or female – and historically, Mother Earth reigns supreme in Colorado.
That profound feminine energy would often cause me to catch my breath as she moved across the valley acknowledging every creature and element in her care.
“Everything suggests a beyond”-Isabella Bird
We celebrated our 45th Anniversary with an early morning two-hour soak at Old Town Hot Springs …
… and a fabulous dinner at Mahogany Ridge Brewing.
Later, we took a stroll through Hahn’s Peak Village where we suffered a serious bout of cabin envy …
then, watched the horses get a brush down at Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse (renamed Steamboat Lake Outpost in 2021) and head home to their evening pasture.
“Truly a good horse, good ground to gallop on, and sunshine, make up the sum of enjoyable traveling.”– Isabella Bird
The ideal climate at Steamboat Lake – mid 80’s in the daytime and mid 50’s at night – suggested we stay longer. But Jim could secure eight days and no more. Ah well, Lady Luck had run her course. But it was all for the best to say goodbye. What’s the saying? Too much of a good thing …
So, farewell to Steamboat Lake in the luscious Yampa Valley. A place to love and to be in love.
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.