We traveled north out of Albuquerque on I-25. Its steep grades and climbs held our traveling time down. Our next destination was Trinidad State Park just inside the Colorado Line!
Our camp site was made for a tent camper, so it set up some challenges to fit in our 31 foot coach.
Those years of truck driving experience as a Beer Distributor paid dividends as with just some back and forth adjustments we were able to find the best angle that we could find the best coach position to get it to level. Our replaced leveling motor preformed handsomely, and it was just a short time that we were settled in and ready to explore, and fish!
Trinidad Lake is held captive by the drought that seems to have no state boundaries. The ranger reported it was down about half way, but I noticed its waters were clear most likely direct from the towering Rockies off in the Westerly direction that still held their wintery snow caps! Maybe some of that snow pack will find its way to this shinning blue Gem of a lake!
Just as we began to make plans, Jude became victim to an intestinal bug. I stood by offering condolences and sympathy while symptoms peaked and waned. Jude is the healthiest person I have ever known and when she goes down, it is rare but that being said, it is that health and the resilience it provides that soon had her feeling fine and ready to explore our new surroundings.
highway of legends
We took a drive on what was called the Highway of Legends. It traveled west of Trinidad for a while passing through old turn-of-the-20th-century coal producing towns that provided fuel for the railroads that were the arteries for the newly blossoming Industrial Revolution sweeping America and the world!
Suddenly we were in the Front Range climbing higher and higher past geological formation such as the Dakota Wall that rose vertically for over two hundred feet. We did not know that this formation was a totally unique feature of the Rocky Mountain and was present throughout its traverse as the spine of America!
We traveled over a 10,000-foot pass. I remembered that is was well over a decade ago that my travels in Wyoming and its neighbor states took me that high. Jude and I both noticed the pressure difference but our slow ascent in altitude over the past month spared us any altitude adjustment problems such as headache or fatigue.
The highway wandered through summer homes built by their owners to effectively escape whatever urban confines their winter residences held. They ranged from the anointed to simple in style but my mind could not stop thinking of the drought and seeing these dream homes completely surrounded by bug infested forests.
The Legends Highway found its way back to I-25 but not until it wondered through golf courses, bedroom communities, and resorts dotting the eastern front range. It was a pleasurable journey of a hundred miles where we were blessed with a plethora of Juniper and Pine foothills, dotted with small Alpine lakes fed by snow melt and framed by crystal blue skies against snow-capped towering mountains!
One look at Trinidad Lake led me to believe that the Rainbow Trout that lived there would seldom see hand-flies from anglers. They would be fed a never-ending menu of green, yellow, garlic Power baits by its visiting anglers. I pulled my fly tying box and in a short time produced a dozen Double Renegades flies.
Rattle Snake Kindgom
I tie one fly on my fly rod and headed in the direction to the lake near the campground. I ended up scrambling down a steep bluff to the water’s edge. All the time going down bouncing from rock outcropping to another, I was thinking that I may very well be in Rattle Snake kingdom, but the water called!
A dozen casts produced a scrappy Rainbow! In Quick succession, four more Trout followed. We feasted on fresh trout that evening.
The next morning when we were on a Trinidad State Park sponsored bird walking tour, we came across a coiled Western Diamondback Rattle Snake sunning itself in the morning sun!! The very area I bounced down the previous evening was indeed snake kingdom and that forays off steep rocky inclines was not really the smartest thing to do! I revised quickly how to present a fly to those willing Rainbows.
Our sea eagle fold-cat (“the meal ticket”)
One of the toys we have is a Sea Eagle Inflatable Pontoon style Fold Cat boat with a Minkota 30 pound thrust motor. It is equipped with two seats and is quite comfortable and very stable. It was a perfect platform for Jude’s continuing fishing lessons.
As an adult, Jude has never caught a fish. As her mentor, I hoped to use that comfortable boat and fly rod to catch her first fish. It is always special when a beginning angler can say that their first fish caught was on a fly.
We set out early the next morning. Within a few hundred yards, Jude’s first fish was a reality. We released it and I was proud of her. I went on to catch more trout and some Walleye that I was targeting. I had always heard that they were excellent table fare. We found that they were as we had them grilled on coals that evening. There is nothing like fresh fish.
The next morning, we were moving on deeper into Colorado but since Memorial Day weekend was upon us and that traditional mile marker of summer meant everyone with a trailer, tent or coach was out seeking what we were seeking. Adventure!
We found eight days at another Colorado State Park named John Martin and thanked our lucky stars as it only had one reservation left when we called. We packed the coach and set off again. There is something thrilling about being able to do that.
We found our spot at the Lake Hasty (just below John Martin Dam) to be outside the rows of shady spots nestled with rows of Cottonwood trees at the Lake Hasty Campground. With temperatures pushing 10 degrees above normal at 87, we knew that without some quick action, our coach’s air conditioning would run 24 hours a day.
We contacted the staff with hope of moving to a more benign spot. We just happened to inquire at the same time a Ranger was at the front desk. He knew exactly what to do. He okayed us to stay in the Camp Host spot that was adjacent to the Lake and blessed with shade most of the day! Jude and I realized that through constant checking with reservation staff, we could benefit when often online reservations present a different situation.
After visiting a local tackle store, we went armed to the lake with that local insight to catch two species that I had little experience with in my history of fishing. One was called a Wiper (a hybrid between a Striped Bass and a White Bass) and a Crappie.
Jude had become fond of my ultra-lite spinning rod I had that featured 4-pound test line. When I was a professional fisherman, I used that rod to win over $1500. It just catches big fish being that it presents lures in such a finesse way. Well, two days in a row, she caught the largest fish. One was over five pounds. Not bad for four-pound test line. She is on her way as an angler!
The one thing I can say about this part of Colorado which is in the southeast corner is that the wind does blow and blow hard. Two evenings in our stay at the Campground had winds that I estimated to be over 50 mph and wiped out at least a dozen tents. I am not sure any tent could make it those gale winds.
Being from Wyoming, I have some experience with wind, but I am used to wind that comes and goes. The wind here is constant. I can tell you that wind of that duration and intensity is hard to sleep through in our coach. A couple times I told Jude that we needed wind tie-downs that mobile home owners use. I laughed but those gusts shook our coach pretty good. It also limited our boating/fishing to just a few hours in the morning because the wind would come up and literally blow us off the water.
In Arizona, I was always surprised at insect migrations that would suddenly occur. Tarantula, Sphinx Moths, Praying Mantis, Lubber Head Grasshoppers were some of the insects I noticed in Arizona. After spending one night in the campground, I moved one of our camp chairs and between 30 and 40 little Millers flew out! Over the next few days, we noticed more and more Millers/Moths in the RV.
I quickly realized that they could not have traveled into the coach in the number that was present primarily through the door. They were in fact coming up from underneath the coach. They would seek refuge from the wind and daylight by roosting in the sanctuary that the Mirada provided. When it became dark, they would climb up through the smallest spaces or cracks and enter the coach and then flutter about trying to escape the coach’s cabin. We were constantly trying to keep them under control inside the camper. There is something annoying when you are watching TV and a Moth is crawling or fluttering on the screen.
We then started to notice the birds. Every day we would see birds line up on the campground’s bathroom, showers and laundry sidewalk. What they were waiting for was the staff to sweep the interior rooms and then sweep the pile of moths outside. It was like free food for the Western Kingbird, Robins and the Grackles. It was quite a scene watching the birds wait for the staff to open the door.
We spoke to the staff and they said that this was a mild year for the Millers! Last year they were refunding people’s camping fees because of the thousands of the moths entering travel trailers, and when the owners would open a cabinet, hundreds of them would flutter out!
Jude and I are constantly reminded to the blessings that this life has. The scenery, the fishing, the freedom and now we are blessed with only have five or ten moths a night and it was fun watching the birds line up for a buffet or chase the moths in a 20 mph wind!
Our version of ‘Centennial’
One thing that surprised us about this part of Colorado was the historical part it played in the development of the West. The Arkansas River was once an International boundary for Spain, Mexico, France, the U.S., and Texas! Kit Carson is buried here in his home at Boggsville. The river was part of the Santa Fe Trail which eventually led to the statehood of New Mexico and Arizona.
I was impressed at Bent’s Fort, as every room was chocked full of authentic tools, buffalo robes, furniture, clothes and other authentic era artifacts. It really added to the experience and I have never seen a National Monument so authentically dressed.
We are off to the Denver area tomorrow, so back to civilization.