Last Friday afternoon we set out on our first camping trip of the year. The summer of 2017 was the first time our family went camping ever! We were camped on the Western Slope at Vega lake. I had been camping once or twice in college, but never with my little family until then. The location we camped at that first time was okay, but it was extremely hot during the day and there seemed to be no relief from wasps. When night time rolled around we heard coyotes that seemed to be way too close for comfort. Regardless, the boys loved their first experience and we vowed to do it again but with better preparedness. It was so hard to prepare for that first camping trip because half of our things were still packed away in boxes waiting for its permanent home.
This time it was different. I packed really well and took my time mulling over lists and preparing the weeks in advance to make sure we didn’t forget anything vital, like band-aids and ointment, pot holders and skewers (that weren’t wooden and caught on fire) to bug spray that was also forgotten on our last trip. I bought a giant storage container for all these camping related items. It proved to work well, although it was a little heavy.
On Friday around noon we headed up highway 34 into Estes Park. Now let me tell you a little about this highway. It was closed for 5 years while crews fixed the highway that collapsed when the Big Thompson River flooded for the second time since 1976. While this flood didn’t take as many lives as it did in 1976 according to USA Today, it still impacted families, homes, and businesses along highway 34. Air National Guard helicopters airlifted more than 3,000 people and nearly 900 pets to safety, while over 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and miles of roads were washed out completely cutting off some mountain towns. In the 1976 flood, 144 people perished. Scott and I have watched a documentary on how tragic and unexpected this flood was. While 1,200 people were unaccounted for in the aftermath of the 2013 flood, the list quickly dwindled down to just 8 people, a much better outcome than the 1976 flood.
Here is an image from that tragic day five years ago found on Denver Fox 31:
So people with homes and businesses who live in Estes Park and the surrounding areas anxiously waited for this road to be open so they didn’t have to drive down to Longmont (just north of Boulder) then back north toward Estes Park just to get to Loveland. I can imagine if you lived in the canyon and simply wanted to get into Loveland, how frustrating that drive must have been. Now that you know a little bit of the history behind this five-year road closure I’ll continue on with our camping story.
So when this road opened a few weeks ago, many were excited, including us!
This winding road that follows the Big Thompson River reminds me a lot of the switchbacks heading down into Sedona when I lived in Arizona, except the tall rock walls and narrow passages are something those switchbacks don’t have, and Oak Creek is well, just a creek, not a raging river. But the Oak Creek Canyon switchbacks are still beautiful in its own way.
Anyway, we took in the sights and respected the road and new construction. We saw signs on people’s homes thanking their “hard hat angels” for the five years of sweat and toil fixing the roads and widening and raising bridges that will hopefully prevent future flood damage.
We made our way into Estes and then quickly down a dirt road into Hermit Park at the Bobcat Camp Ground. We half expected to see black bears lapping up water along the river’s edge and the notorious elk that so poignantly block roadways along our path, but we didn’t see that. We were amazed by the tall rock walls in the canyon and how windy and tight it was. As we were driving through, I imagined what a flood of water through those passes would look like. I pictured the devastation that had taken five years to clean up, but saw very little traces of it on our windy ride.
We get to our camp and set it all up and I’m very pleased with the tall Ponderosa pine trees. It reminds me of home.
After we get things all set up, we begin to explore. Our rock climbing takes us up to an area that allows us to look over the valley that the campground is settled in. If you look closely in the below picture you will see just the very tip of Longs Peak (a 14er), peaking up from the dip of that hilly range.
We head back down to camp for dinner and smores.
While we were cooking dinner a family of 8 was setting up at the site next to us. The kids made instant friends and spent much of their time when they weren’t eating or sitting by a campfire, exploring in the woods, making stick forts, and climbing rock formations.
I got to read some chapters in my current book while we settled down for a long night of restless sleep, mainly because Jaydon couldn’t breath and his eyes were so itchy from campfire smoke and whatever he’s allergic to at 7,000 feet. My arthritic body doesn’t seem to handle those cold nights in tents too well, but we get through it.
We wake up to make pancakes and bacon and I see Scott’s allergy medicine sitting on the picnic table. I was hoping to prevent a miserable day of allergies and what had happened to Jaydon the day before, so I take one. I didn’t realize what I took was Benadryl. Ooops! It nearly wipes me out. I get so tired it becomes hard to function, but I push through and try to stay awake.
After nodding off a few times at camp, I figure, if I’m moving, I can stay awake. So I push myself to go on the hike we had planned. However, half a mile into it, Jaydon, (who’s allergies were killing him at this point) needed to turn around and go back to camp. He was done from tired legs and allergy woes.
This is when Scott starts contemplating whether we should stay another night. I’m all for staying another night and powering through, but Scott didn’t get much sleep so he wanted to go home. We stay through dinner and pack up just as we are eating dinner, then hit the road for the hour trip back home. Despite the allergy issues we both had, it was worth it, and a very beautiful place to camp. I’m sure we’ll be booking that campsite again in the future.
Here’s a video of our camping trip that my husband worked really hard on. You can find it on our Youtube channel, and we’d love more subscribers!
Do you have any camping trips planned this summer?
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