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Monday, April 15, 2024

Things To Do In And Around Rocky Mountain National Park

Read this post if you are looking for things to do in and around Rocky Mountain National Park.

If you are making this trip in your RV, read this post before you start packing - 10 Items You Should Have On Your Camping List.

2022 Cross-Country Road Trip Stop 22

As we were making our way to our second stop in Colorado, I got a text from daughter, Lisa, that the Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King got the inspiration for his book, The Shining, was in Estes Park, known as the base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park. She knew that the park was the next destination on our road trip. She told us that they had a Shining Tour that we might like to do if we had time. Yes! We would love to do that! And we did as soon as we set up and finished a quick dinner at the campground. 

I started this post with a review of the tour we took and realized that the review was turning into a blog post all it's own. So stay tuned!

We spent the following day at Rocky Mountain National Park

We parked the car and took the free in-park shuttle service. There were two shuttles. We boarded the Bear Lake Route shuttle. We got off at the first stop, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead. We were the only ones that got off and soon realized that Bear Lake was probably where we wanted to be. So we went back to where the shuttle dropped us off and waited to be picked up. As soon as we got off the shuttle for the second time, we knew we were finally at the right stop.

After talking to a ranger, we headed to the Bear Lake Loop. 

As soon as we got on the trail we were treated to the most breathtaking views!

We looped around Bear Lake and the followed the trail that led to Nymph Lake.

Nymph Lake was the smallest of the three lakes we hiked around. Rocky Mountain National Park has over 140 lakes.


From Nymph Lake we were able to get to Dream Lake. 

The lake and the whole area around the lake was mother nature's work of art.

We could have gone a little further up a steep trail and gotten to Emerald Lake but we decided that it couldn't be more gorgeous than Dream Lake. Plus we were getting tired and feeling even more tired just thinking about having to retrace our steps to get back to the shuttle so we headed back. 

The views were just as gorgeous on the way back. 

We got back to the campground and had leftovers for dinner. It was still light out and surprisingly we got a second wind. The town of Lyons was within walking distance of the campground so me and Sandie thought we would go into town to do some shopping. The guys thought it would be more fun to sit and relax at the campground with a couple of beers and cigars.

Well, they missed out. The very cute, small town of Lyons was just a short walk from the campground and worth the visit.

Before we knew it, it was starting to get dark out. It was time to head back. Once back at the campground, we spent a few minutes enjoying the stars shining in the perfectly clear sky above.

Our last day in Colorado was a Sunday so we searched for a catholic mass to attend. We found a church in Estes Park which worked out perfectly for us as we wanted to spend the day in the town.

Our Lady of the Mountains was named perfectly as we could see the Rocky Mountains just behind it. It was one of the most beautiful of all the churches we went to on our cross-country trip.

After mass it was time to check out the town and go shopping in Estes Park. It was a much bigger town than Lyons so that meant a lot more stores for me and Sandie to shop in.

A lot of other people had the same plan as us for this beautiful Sunday in Colorado.

Luckily the guys found places to sit as they waited for us. They volunteered to hold our packages while we shopped. Or rather, we volunteered them to take care of our packages!

The guys were very happy that we had a time limit for our shopping excursion. We had people to meet for dinner. Surprisingly, we got back with enough time to take a short walk around Lavern M. Johnson State Park where we were camping.

The park, bounded on three sides by a creek and sandstone cliffs, was one of the nicest and most beautiful places we camped in. 

After our walk, it was time to freshen up and be on our way to meet JT's second cousin, Katie, and her husband Nick, at Post Chicken & Beer in Longmont for dinner.

Me and Soko had never met them before so we had a great time getting to know them. One thing we did learn was that they got married in Rocky Mountain NP and we saw some of the amazing pictures of the beautiful bride in her gorgeous white gown and handsome groom posing in front of Emerald Lake! Maybe next time...

Our next stop was Moline, IL, the childhood home of our Dad, but it was too far from Lyons, CO to make it in one day. Stopping at a hotel in Nebraska would not only make this leg of the trip easier, but would allow us to cross this state off our bucket list!

2022 Cross-Country Road Trip Stop 23

Read about our Stop 21

Have you been to Rocky Mountain National Park? What things did you do in and around the park?

Monday, April 1, 2024

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Read this post before your visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

If you are traveling here by car, click here for a checklist to make sure your car is ready for your road trip.

2022 Cross-Country Road Trip Stop 21

We noticed that we could drive into New Mexico on our way from the Petrified Forest NP area in Utah to our next destination in Colorado. Since Sandie and JT had never been to New Mexico, we decided to make a stop for lunch which qualifies (at least to us!) as an official stop and they would be able to cross it off their list of states to visit.

My son Joe and DIL Nicole recommended the Frontier Restaurant, in Albuquerque as the place to eat.

This large restaurant was packed with people. We waited on a long line of customers, most of them probably college students attending the University of New Mexico which was right across the street, and perused the menu behind the counter.

It took awhile to finally get to the counter and get our food, but it was worth the wait because our New Mexican food was some of the best Mexican food we have ever had.

Sandie said her green chili stew was delicious!

And we couldn't leave the restaurant without one of their Frontier sweet rolls.

Because of our detour to New Mexico, we got to Great Sand Dune Oasis very late and had to set up in the dark but we managed.

The following day we made our way to Great Sand Dunes NP. The visitor center was closed due to renovations but a park ranger was on duty outside the building to answer any questions and to hand out information. We were able to get what we needed to start our day. 

We headed to the High Dune. It took a good 30 minutes just to get to the bottom of the dune.

After finally getting to the top of the dunes, we couldn't imagine sliding down it like some of the younger hikers were doing on their sandboards. That would mean having to climb up to the top of the dune again. Once was enough for our old legs!

After the dune, we hiked the Montville Nature Trail.

This trail took us through a forest.

It was an easy trail with a 200 foot elevation gain.

Hiking through the forest felt like we were in a completely different park but when we turned a corner we could see the sand dunes in the distance and remembered where we were.

As we made our way out of the park and back to our car, we followed the same path as a deer (?). We never crossed paths with him though.

We must have taken a wrong turn on the trail because once we got out of the park we were miles away from our car.


And then it started to rain and it came down in buckets.

We were glad to finally be back in the camper where we took out our journals to write about our exhausting but fun day at the dunes!

Read about our Stop 20 here.

Have you been the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado? Did you just hike like we did or did you try sliding down the dunes? 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Spending A Day In Petrified Forest National Park

All you need is a day to see all the highlights in Petrified Forest National Park. And all you need to do is pick up a park map at the visitor's office before you head out on your adventure in the park.

Read this post Healthier Food And Snack Choices For Our Road Trips for snack ideas to take along as there is only one diner in the park.

2022 Cross-Country Road Trip Stop 20

The first thing on our list to do when we arrived in Arizona was to restock our supplies at Walmart. The 
Walmart we stopped at was in Winslow, Arizona so for the rest of day we had Take It Easy by the Eagles stuck in our heads!

Then we headed to Holbrook, Arizona where we would be spending the next 3 nights.

On Day 2 in Arizona, we spent the day at Petrified Forest National Park. Our first stop in the park was the visitor's center to pick up the information we needed to explore the petrified forest.We found a trip planner that listed 12 stops to make that brought us from the visitor's center on Interstate 40, Stop 1, to the entrance/exit on Highway 180. 

From the visitor's center, we made our way to Stop 2, Painted Desert Inn.

This historic inn is now a museum. Inside we saw, among other things, where people staying at the inn came to have a bite to eat.

The prices of the snacks offered here seemed very reasonable, at least to us as we looked at it in 2022. Not sure what they thought of it 100 years ago.

The gorgeous view hotel guests had from their rooms was probably worth the price of their rooms though. 

Stop 3 on our park map was Painted Desert Overlooks. We stopped at this one to enjoy a spectacular view of the Painted Desert.

Part of  Route 66 once cut through the park. Stop 4 is the Route 66 Alignment where you can find this 1932 Studebaker.

We found the ruins of puebloan homes at Stop 5, Puerco Pueblo.

We saw some cool petroglyphs, some of which were 2000 years old at Stop 6, Newspaper Rock.

We really enjoyed the colorful 1 mile trail at Stop 7, Blue Mesa.

We were happy to see this picnic bench here. We were getting hungry and was ready to take a break.

Stop 8 is Agate Bridge which is a 110 ft. petrified long spanning a gully.

We saw the highest concentration of petrified wood at Jasper Forest, Stop 9.

We saw lots of logs glimmering with quartz crystals on a 0.75 mile loop trail at Stop 10, Crystal Forest.

After taking a quick look around the Rainbow Forest Museum we headed out to do the very short 0.4 Giant Logs Trail at Stop 11, the second to last stop on our journey through the Petrified Forest.

We completely missed the last stop, Stop 12, Long Logs & Agate House. JT was willing to go back into the park to find it but me and Sandie were ready to do some souvenir shopping. We ended up buying pieces of petrified wood that had magnets affixed to the back of them. They were a lot cheaper than the tables and other beautiful furniture we would have loved to have but we didn't have the thousands of dollars for!

We spent our last day in Arizona on Route 66. We had a list with a couple of stops we knew we wanted to make on this iconic highway and we also stopped at a couple of sights that just caught our eye. One sight we pulled over to get a closer look at was this abandoned hay and feed store. Even with a closer view we still didn't know what to make of it. Was that a horse on top of a teepee?!

We had to take a picture of this really nice Route 66 mural that listed the other states we could find the Mother Road in.

We stopped in a couple of souvenir stores we saw as we drove down the highway.

The back room of one of the stores we stopped in was filled with Route 66 memorabilia.

Then we were off to one of the stops we wanted to make on our tour of Route 66, Wigwam Motel. The motel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The teepees are furnished with the original hand-made hickory furniture.

And we really had to make this stop to Jack Rabbit Trading Post to see the sign that inspired the sign in the Cars movie, one of our grandson's favorite! In the movie you'll see a car in the place of the rabbit.

I asked Soko to take this picture so I could send it to the grandkids!

After our self-guided tour of Route 66 it was time to relax at our campsite and watch some football before packing up for our drive to our next destination.

Next stop, Colorado! Stay tuned!!

In the meantime, read about our visit to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks

Tell us about your day in Petrified Forest National Park. Have you been to any of the other petrified forests? We would really like to hear about your visits!