Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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Since I had slept at a campground on the east side of the park, and wanted to exit via the west side, I set off a considerable time after sunrise (and thus, no sunrise pictures), this time taking Trail Ridge Road towards the highest point on road in the park. With the sun still firmly in the eastern skies, I couldn't take decent pictures looking back at the valley below, but everything else was coming out great with blue skies and no haze.

I stopped at Forest Canyon overlook, dismayed that even though hiking opportunies were abound, I was pretty much limited to the roads on this trip. Instead, I spent some time photographing a marmot sitting and moving around on the stone walls of the overlook and I presume also hoping that I'd spare some food (I didn't). I took some more pictures of the mountains, and then got back into the car.My next stop was at Lava Cliffs, which was getting more light than the previous evening; and then I headed on to the Gore Range viewpoint; before heading out of the park. I probably could have spent a lot more time, but the wealth of hiking opportunities combined with my inability to make use of them had a negative effect on my enjoyment of the entire park.

I headed south next, briefly stopping at Robinson Tailing Pond Reclamation Project, a valley that once held the mining towns of Robinson, Kokomo and Recen but was now being levelled and (presumably) restored to its former natural state. Nearby, there was still evidence of mining, with whole mountain sides falling victim to strip mining.

Soon after, I reached Leadville, which lies at slightly over 10,000 feet of elevation. It was yet another mining town, but still inhabited. I parked the car and walked around for a bit, also stopping in a bookstore to buy some more reading material. After about an hour, I continued south on Highway 24, staying on paved roads and then taking a small dirt road west towards St. Elmo. When I'd read about it, it was described as yet another ghost town. The first sign that I saw, however, indicated that all buildings and surrounding area where private property. As such, I didn't dwell long, only taking a few pictures from the road before heading back out on the dirt road I'd come in.

My next stop was at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. I didn't quite know what to make of this park, since at least to my unprepared eye there wasn't much to see. I stopped at the Hornbek Homestead, which was already closed for the day, and then had pretty much already reached the end of this park.

I'd originally planned to sleep somewhere in the hills on the east side of Colorado Springs, but when I drove through I kept getting a bad vibe; and as such I opted to drive down to Colorado Springs and look for a campground. DeLorme Street Atlas only indicated Garden of the Gods campground, and when I got there I was a bit shocked to find it would cost me $30 for the night. I was too weary to look for a cheaper alternative; and preferred to be able to sleep in peace straight away then still drive around in search of something better.

Miles driven: 372mi (599km)

Campground Accommodation: Garden of the Gods campground (Colorado Springs): $30

Rocky Mountain part written Sunday August 17th 2008, completed Sunday September 7th 2008.