Join Date: Sep 2011
Here's the summary that I posted on Facebook along with 40+ photos last night. I"ll post a few photos as well.
“Rocky Mountain High in Colorado” – and what a high time and a great adventure it’s been!
The FROG Rocky Mountain High has been a tremendous time in a spectacular part of the country. Following on the heels of a successful FROG International Rally in Goshen, Cindy and I returned to the office for several days of “clean-up” activities before hitting the road on Wednesday evening for the Wild West... Roundup. We traveled until nearly midnight before settling in at the “Wal-Mart Astoria” in Peru, IL.
Beautiful weather foretold what we would find in Colorado as we travelled under bright blue skies. A stop at the world’s largest truck stop was a must, of course. (Yes, I know how to show a girl a good time.) Kearney, NE was our next port of call on Thursday, followed by Castle Rock, CO on Friday, where we stayed near the town’s namesake rock formation and gazed at Pike’s Peak beckoning from afar.
On Saturday we arrived at Mountaindale Cabins & RV Resort, a beautifully secluded location about 15 miles from Colorado Springs and seemingly 100 miles from everywhere. Mountaindale is secluded along the Front Range of the Rockies. It’s beautifully landscaped, spotlessly clean, spacious, and owned and operated by some of the nicest folks you’d ever hope to meet.
Our good luck soon became apparent as it turned out that Saturday is ice cream night. Bring a bowl, a spoon, and a dollar for all of the ice cream and toppings you care to eat. Several of our members were already in camp and were able to take part in the fun.
The rest of the group arrived on Sunday, settling in, getting registered, and greeting both old and new friends. We went over the plans for the week, visited and swapped travel stories, and soon settled in for a wonderful welcome dinner of beef brisket, smoked chicken, and pulled pork. That evening, as we sat around the campfire and planned for the next day’s adventure, we were treated to the site of a buck mule deer strolling through the park not 50 feet from our campfire.
Monday dawned clear and bright – perfect weather for a trip that seemed to take us to the top of the world. At about 8 o’clock we boarded a bus for a leisurely drive into downtown Colorado Springs to learn a little about the history of the area. We passed Cheyenne Mountain, home of the North American Air Defense System (NORAD), which not only scans the world for airborne military threats, but also tracks the progress of Santa Claus on his annual visit to boys and girls around the world. Across the highway lies Fort Carson, one of the largest U.S. Army posts in the world.
Soon we were passing through historic Manitou Springs, victim to flash flooding only a week earlier yet remarkably recovered (though unfortunately again under threat and being evacuated as I write this) on our way to the famous Pike’s Peak Cog Railway. This gear-driven marvel carried us up grades exceeding 25% in some places to reach the summit of Pike’s Peak in an hour and 15 minutes.
It was windy and cool on a crystal-clear day at the summit, allowing us to see south into New Mexico, east to Kansas, north to Wyoming, and west to the Continental Divide. We marveled at the view that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful.”
Returning to the base, we enjoyed a lunch on the patio of the Cog Railway station before boarding the bus for a visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. This beautifully-preserved site, carved high into the red rocks of the Manitou area, housed a community from approximately the tenth to the twelfth century, roughly 500 years before the arrival of Columbus in the New World. We were able to enter and explore the structures before visiting the adjacent museum to learn more about the residents’ way of life. Returning to camp, we again enjoyed a pleasant evening around the fire.
Tuesday was an unscheduled day, sending some of the FROGs off to such varied locations as the Royal Gorge, where some of the group enjoyed a train ride along the Arkansas River through a canyon over 1,000 feet deep. Others enjoyed the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, some visited the Fort Carson Visitor Center, and still others returned to Manitou Springs for browsing and shopping the eclectic mix of businesses. The evening again concluded with a visit around the fire, punctuated by the visit of three bucks strolling through the campground and within ten feet of one of our couple’s door.
Wednesday we were off for another adventure, but not before FROG Bob Ebenreck (Oakman for those of you on the Forest River Forums) shared the photos of the black bear that he encountered on his early morning walk. The critter eventually crossed through the park, passing by our unit to turn over a trash can and continuing on to upset another can before eventually disappearing into the surrounding forest. Once we got on the road, mid-morning found us at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, where we visited the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, toured several training facilities to watch current and hopeful Olympic Team members training, and learned about various training programs offered through the facility.
Lunch awaited when we arrived at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center, where we enjoyed soup, sandwiches, sides, and dessert against the magnificent backdrop of the Garden of the Gods. Following lunch we viewed a brief orientation film about the creation and history of the park before setting out on a driving tour of the spectacular formations. Try as they might, several of our members were unable to topple Balanced Rock, and such formations as Fred and Barney, the Kissing Camels, Three Graces, Steamboat Rock, and Cathedral Valley provided great photo opportunities at stops along the way.
Moving on from spectacular natural beauty, we went on to visit the United States Air Force Academy. This facility, the newest of the military academies, the largest by area and smallest by student body, educates and trains officers for the U.S. Air Force. We experienced panoramic views of the campus before stopping by the Barry Goldwater Visitor Center (Senator Goldwater served 37 years in the Army Air Corps, Air Force, and Air Force Reserve, retiring as a Major General). There we viewed a film on the mission and operation of the Academy and had an opportunity to do some shopping before continuing onto the Academy’s signature building, the U. S. Air Force Academy Chapel.
The Chapel, easily the most recognizable structure on the campus, is built with towering silver spires, designed to represent Air Force jets soaring skyward. The Chapel is actually four chapels in one building. The upper chapel, probably the best known, is the Protestant Chapel. The lower level houses the Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist Chapels. Towering ceilings, glowing stained glass, and beautiful artwork contribute to the solemnity of the various chapels. We drove by several other significant locations on campus, including Falcon Stadium, before finally returning to the campground from a long but enjoyable day. Once again, the campfire, a dessert potluck, and the nightly visit of mule deer bucks topped off a pleasant day.
Today, Thursday, was our last full day in Colorado Springs. Once again we were on our own to explore the area. Cindy and I used the opportunity to visit Seven Falls and prepare for tomorrow’s Continental breakfast before we all gathered at Juniper Valley Ranch for a family-style farewell dinner of chicken and ham.
Following nearly an entire week of perfect weather for our adventures, tonight unfortunately is seeing extremely heavy rain, hail, and lightning in several nearby areas. While we find ourselves in no danger, several areas that were heavily damaged by last week’s flooding are again threatened since the recent fires have left little to control the flow of torrents of muddy flood water. In one area, snow plows were called out to clear hail from the streets. We hope and pray for the safety and the quick recovery of the affected neighborhoods.
Following a farewell breakfast and hugs, we’ll hit the road tomorrow. Several of us will move on to the next stage of the Wild West Roundup at Grand Teton National Park. A couple of others are going north to enjoy the grandeur of Rocky Mountain and Estes National Parks. Others are off to their own adventures or returning home. Wherever their travels take them, and wherever yours take you, we wish you safe travels and great adventures, and we look forward to having you join us at a FROG event soon.