Road Tripping with a Dog: SW Colorado CoHPs

At the very beginning of the year, I declared that I was going to make it to 50% on the Colorado County Highpoint list this year. Because I’m moving to De Beque, the high points in Southwestern Colorado are about to be really far from me so I decided it was time to go on a bit of a mission to knock out a few, especially a group of three east of Pagosa Springs.

Sprocket, was more than happy to join me on this seemingly random adventure; the fact that he doesn’t judge my plans is one of the things that makes him the best road trip companion ever. Vermilion Peak was the point I was most worried about getting him to (but as it turned out, the weather intervened before we could find out) and the rest of the peaks I was sure he would love.

We loaded up in the FSJ and set out for a few days of wandering around gravel roads, sleeping at trailheads, summiting mountains, swimming in lakes, and exploring high alpine meadows—all Sprocket approved activities.

Throughout the week, I’ll be posting more about our specific adventures (an attempt on Vermilion Peak with an overnight backpack in Ice Lakes Basin, Summit Peak, Conejos Peak, and Bennett Peak) but the common denominator of each segment of our trip was being absolutely delighted to have my pup with me.

I was really worried last summer that Sprocket was reaching the end of his hiking days. He is only five but when we would go hiking, he seemed to just be in pain all the time. Happily, as fall approached, I realized that he was actually suffering in the heat and luckily, hiking at elevation in Colorado mostly avoids that issue. Not only has he bounced back from too many low elevation hikes last summer, he was game for two seven mile hikes on Saturday. I’m so glad that this is the case because there is nothing that can add to an already amazing alpine adventure like the sashaying of a happy laborador. (If you think I’m kidding, you have to come hike with us…sashaying happens.)

People always seem surprised that I travel so much with “such a big dog” but really, he couldn’t be easier. I pack him some food (Merrick Backcountry, lately), give him some water, and beyond that, I’m the lucky one. With Sprocket, I have a constant, patient, loving, cuddly companion. He’s game for hikes (and scrambles), relaxing in parks, sampling beer at breweries, and just driving backroads for hours.

Merrick Backcountry provided product and payment for this post. Merrick Backcountry meets my requirements for high quality dog food for my pup Sprocket and I adventure together always, with or without compensation, and all of my sentiments about him being the best dog ever are absolutely heartfelt. 

New Mexico Scenery

After our antler hunting adventures, it was time to press on north towards Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The open spaces of New Mexico are so appealing and I snapped lots of photos along the way!

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We parked alongside the road and checked out the lava at El Malpais National Monument. I would love to come back to this area and drive the Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway and do some hiking and caving in the National Monument.

Then just north of where we stopped is an area called “The Narrows” and the scenery got spectacular.

Oh New Mexico. You deserve more of my attention. Someday.

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Back to Work…

We ended up on a small detour on our way home on Friday afternoon and instead of arriving home Friday evening, we walked in the door Sunday afternoon.

Detour #1

Post farmland there were mountains, rivers, beer, hiking, and relaxing. It was lovely.

Re-entry sucks. More from me tomorrow.

The Importance of Blue Highways

F and I (and Sprocket) have done our share of road tripping. We’ve had boring days on the road, stressful ones, action packed ones, and the elusive blissful travel days. I’m starting to come to the conclusion that the blissful travel days really aren’t all that elusive, it’s the ability to put all the necessary ingredients together that’s a bit tricky but not elusive.

I alluded to this yesterday but this weekend we stuck to Forest Service Roads, county routes, and minor state highways a lot of the time and it was awesome. It’s just a wayyy better way to actually experience a place rather than passing through it. Have a good travel partner, only a general destination, avoid interstates (and major highways), explore, don’t be afraid to talk to locals, and take a walk or hike…you’ll have an awesome trip

Anyway, we left Thursday after work heading for Pendleton, Oregon. We took the interstate and Highway 395 because, well, sometimes you just need to get out of town, fast. We arrived in Pendleton ready to have dinner and sample some beer at The Prodigal Son Brewery. Unfortunately, they were over at the Oregon Brewers Festival and were closed. Instead we went to The Great Pacific and ordered a pizza and pints of Beer Valley Brewing Co. (Ontario, OR) Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale and Terminal Gravity (Enterprise, OR) IPAWe enjoyed them at an outdoor table with Sprocket curled up on our feet; what a perfect start to the weekend. (By the way, the pizza and the beers are all recommended.)

Cruisin’ in the Blues

Continue reading “The Importance of Blue Highways”

Day 16: Indian Rocks, Florida to Key Largo, Florida

We woke up at the rather leisurely hour of 7:30 and packed up our stuff. Forrest did take the opportunity to watch the morning news before we left the condo for the Lighthouse to get some doughnuts for breakfast. After winding our way though St. Pete to I-275, we cruised to Naples. We picked up some lunch and headed out US 41 to Big Cypress National Preserve. We tried to go on a hike in Collier-Seminole State Park but were driven back by the bugs. We applied bug spray before trying again on the boardwalk at Cypress Bend in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.

Passing into Big Cypress National Preserve we were on the lookout for “The Loop Road” for some exploring. It was so awesome! We saw lots of alligators and lizards. The road was considered “impassable” but the woman at the visitors center told us we should be fine as long as we had 4-wheel drive…our front drive shaft is enabling better gas mileage by waiting in Moab. 🙂

Gator Bait

After the adventure of the loop road, in which “Gator Bait” had to stay in the car the whole time, we drove to Homestead, FL where we got some Cuban/Latin food at Marco’s. The food was really good: we had churrasco (thin charbroiled steak) with a really unique sauce and fried yucca (roots that were like unique french fries) and they even had outdoor seating so Sprocket could join us!  Following our delicious dinner we headed for the Keys and are spending the night in Key Largo before heading further southwest tomorrow!

Day 10: New Iberia, Louisiana to New Orleans, Louisiana

Our day started in a downtown parking lot of New Iberia after our night on the town. We briefly stopped at the city park to use the restroom and get ready for the day. Leaving town, Forrest stopped at a doughnut shack and picked us up a glazed and an old  for afashioned–they were really good! (Now I’ve got to find him a beignet here in New Orleans.) I loved the drive down Louisiana 182…there were all sorts of random old houses of all sizes. After awhile though, we realized that we’d be to New Orleans by two o’clock if we didn’t find some other explorations. So we turned south on LA 317, a road towards the gulf with no towns marked on the map.

The road passed over the Intracostal Waterway just as Sprocket started to demand a stop. Forrest drove us down a small road leading to a small plant on the waterway. Just as we got out of the car, a 15 passenger van pulled in behind us. It was a crew for a tugboat getting ready to go on their 28-day shift. Two of the young guys hung out with us and told us all about the job while they waited for the Miss Mollye D to pull up. When the boat got there they invited us aboard for a tour–quite spacious digs compared to the Wecoma!

After we left the Mollye, we headed further south. We found ourselves at Burn’s Point recreation area on Cote Blanche Bay on the Gulf. Sprocket enjoyed getting himself wet and then covering himself with sand. We drove around a bit on dirt levee roads looking for alligators before we headed for Morgan City, hoping to get some cajun food for lunch. After a disappointing stop downtown, we had almost resigned ourself to some non-local food when one of the gas station attendants told me about Rita Mae’s Cafe and promised us that there would be good southern food there.

When we found Rita Mae’s it really was just an old house converted to a restaurant. The service wasn’t exactly friendly, but my crawfish Étouffée was amazing, Forrest’s smothered pork chop was more so so. From there we headed north towards the Mississippi River to check out some of the plantations. They were all closed before we got there (not to mention tickets were really expensive) but I got to walk around the grounds of Oak Alley for a bit.

After letting Sprocket run around in the parking lot for a while, we were still undecided about where we’d stop for the night. As we drive east on LA 18, it became apparent that we weren’t going to see much more amazing along the route and that we were starting to get really close to New Orleans, so I called Meg to see if it was alright that we showed up early. She and her roommates were more than happy to have us a little bit early and we joined them at Juan’s Flying Burrito: A Cajun Taqueria on Magazine Street when we got into town. After dinner, we followed Meg back to her house where it was great just to catch up with her and of course to get showers! Sprocket loved all the attention from everyone as always.