Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Eleven Mile State Park: The Reservoir

Eleven Mile Reservoir is the perfect place for those who love boating and fishing, but it's also not so bad for those of us just looking to enjoy the natural beauty away from hectic city life. It seemed that most campers at Eleven Mile State Park were there for fishing. There were many people fishing around the edges of the reservoir and quite a few boats as well. We hadn't planned any activities other than some light hiking and reading or making art. We thought about renting a small boat, but given how strong the sun is at 8,600 ft, I was glad we weren't spending hours on the water in direct sunlight.

On the second day of our trip, we slathered on SPF 50 sunblock, put on our UV protected hats, and braved the scorching sun over the reservoir. I worked on a beadwork project that I am not entirely satisfied with, and Brian spent some time doing a watercolor painting of the scenery. The sky and clouds surrounding the reservoir made me feel as though I were in a Miyazaki film (although I say that anytime I'm out in nature and find it overwhelmingly beautiful). Once you accept that your skin is going to feel like it's actually cooking, you can relax and soak in the vitamin D while taking in the view. I honestly don't know how people who were out there for hours and hours did it. I wonder if many people in Colorado wear UV protected clothing.

If you venture into the mountains of Colorado, be sure to bring hats, sunblock, and possibly some kind of sunshade as well. We learned our lesson at Eleven Mile and bought a UV protected awning for all of our future Colorado mountain adventures.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Eleven Mile State Park: The Campground

Shortly after we first moved to Denver last year, we bought a tent, but never used it. Before the summer was over, we flew to Portland, drove an hour up the Gorge, and went camping with my family in their tents. We had fresh salmon cooked over the campfire and picked huckleberries in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Although we didn't use the camping gear that we were so excited about, at least we made it into the mountains at all. This year, we were determined to break out our own tent and sleeping bags, so I booked a site using Reserve America, and off we went to Eleven Mile State Park Campground.

We arrived at the campground just in time to catch a storm which was far enough away not to put us in immediate danger of being rained on. We pulled out our camp chairs and watched the lightning over mountains across the reservoir. We knew that we were playing a dangerous game by not setting up our tent immediately, but the view was too incredible not to just enjoy for a few minutes.

After all of the camping trips I have taken as a child, I thought I would be a super pro at setting up camp, but I was a bit clumsy at first. I didn't even think to turn the tarp under the tent to where it would fit without having to fold up the sides. We brought an extra tarp to go over the tent to help protect it from rain. Not having extra poles or trees close enough to use, we just kind of plopped it on and tied it down where we could. Our campsite may not have been magazine-ready, but it kept us dry when the rain eventually came.

Brian became fascinated with the Solo Stove while we were stocking up on camping gear in preparation for our trip. It's actually a pretty neat little stove. We used it to cook every meal during our three-day camping trip. You do have to keep feeding it fairly often, but it's easy to keep it going with small pieces of wood. Just as we were almost done cooking our hotdogs on that first night, it started to rain. We were luckily able to finish cooking them and escape to the tent to eat. This is actually not a smart thing to do. You should not eat in your tent in the middle of bear country. We did well with all other bear precautions, but eating hotdogs in the tent was the one thing we shouldn't have done.

Kiki had a great time digging herself little holes to sit in. She had at least three going. It was so cute to see her take a piece of dog food and bury it in the hole with her nose. She dug it up only a few minutes later and ate it.

Rain came again on the second day and we decided to ride it out in the car. Since this camping trip, we've purchased a UV resistant awning, and it would do well to protect from light showers.

All of the storms around us created a great atmosphere. The light was always changing and most of the time while we were there we just sat in awe of it.

The campground was better than we expected from the pictures. We were hoping to find a place to camp that had a little more of a forest-y feel to it. However, we soon came to appreciate the vast beauty of Eleven Mile State Park. It's a great place to experience the Colorado sky in full force. The campground was clean and convenient. There were bathrooms all around (typical campground bathrooms with a toilet over a hole in the ground in a nice little building) and water at the campground office. There was a small general store a five-minute drive away for the little things that we inevitably forget. Our only complaint was the very noisy RV generator at the site next to ours, but that's what you get at campgrounds in exchange for the convenience of not having to carry out your own poo.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eleven Mile State Park: The Drive

In the mid-1800s, fortune-seekers flooded Colorado for gold, homesteading, and the promise of a new life with their families in the Rocky Mountains. Fast-forward 137 years and Colorado has received a new influx of people also seeking a kind of fortune, but this time they’re panning for a career and hoping to break even on student loans rather than panning for gold. One thing the new Coloradans in Denver, myself included, may have in common with those who came before is a thirst for adventure and one ear listening for the call of the mountains.

Located in Park County, Colorado, Eleven Mile State Park is approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Denver. Mostly on the recommendation of friends, but also because traffic would not have been great on I-25, we decided to take US-285 for a scenic trip through the mountains. After making it out of the city, we entered the majestic Rocky Mountains and were greeted with the wide-open space of grassland flats and the many cows and horses that make their home there. The highway took us through South Park, which is the area that the TV show by the same name is based on. We couldn’t stop admiring the scenery--even the storms in the distance added something mystic and appealing to the atmosphere.

We eventually reached a point in the road where we decided to pull over and take a minute to admire the vast beauty around us. I jumped out of the car with my camera in hand and started taking in our new Colorado surroundings. I took deep breaths of the clean mountain air and declared that I already never wanted to leave. Suddenly Brian informed me that Kiki had stepped in something. I reacted as though an alien had oozed from the ground to eat her foot. Thankfully, there were no real aliens. Unfortunately, Kiki had wandered into a puddle of tar just behind the car. Luckily, it wasn’t hot, but it was still incredibly sticky. We did our best to wipe it off and cut it out of her fur. It didn’t seem to be hurting her, so we decided to go on our way after our not-so-restful rest stop.

The drive to the campground continued to be beautiful, and stormy in the distance. We knew that rain was in the forecast, but it was looking like we would make it in time to set up camp before the rain came down. The campground’s office was easy to find. We registered our vehicle, bought some wood, and were quickly on our way to start our weekend getaway.

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