Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Moving on to Rifle Gap, Colorado

After bolting out of “The Worst Campground Ever” (see previous post) we decided to head to a state park to regain our sanity and fulfill our need to increase our yard space.  This was desperately needed after being slammed against neighbors in Basalt.  We settled into Rifle Gap State Park.  The park’s 350-acre reservoir, a neighboring National Forest and a couple of nearby state and city parks captured our interest.  And, the sites were large enough that you could build a campfire without setting the next door RV on fire.  The campground fit our needs for space but we were subject to some heat in the 90’s that kept us indoors for a few days, just in the late afternoon.  Evenings were cool and beautiful while sitting around the campfire.

Rifle Gap reservoir and the town of Rifle Gap in the distance.
Ah, space! 
When we did venture out the scenery really amazed us.  Did we think that entire Rocky Mountain range looked like the Tetons – high jagged spires reaching gracefully to the heaven and beautifully dusted in snow?  Yes, but very wrong.  The western side of the Colorado Rocky Mountains is a stark contrast to the east.
In our quest to be outdoors and away from people (don’t worry the scars are healing), we stumbled upon Rifle Mountain Park which happens to be a rock climbing destination known world-wide (or so some rock climber dude told us).  As we looked up from the bottom of the gulch, there were little dots hanging on the sides of the mountains that turned out to be buff daredevils that looked like climbing spiders. My brother and his oldest son are avid rock climbers but we just don’t get it; it looks scary and painful.

The buff daredevil is at the bottom center of the picture in black pants.  She still has a long way up to go.
The beautiful, interesting drive through Rifle Mountain Park.
025The nearby White River National Forest provided us with a great hike through a gulch, beautiful picnic spot and a little trout stream that produced a brightly colored Colorado cutthroat on the end of my fly line.  My fishing success was cut short when a marten (an otter-like animal) invaded my pool and starting fishing for the same scaled bounty I was after.  Oh well, we enjoyed watching the little creature swim gracefully through the water and then chomp furiously on the fish until all was devoured.  Ouch!  Off he went again looking for another morsel.  Our gorgeous hike revealed how the dry sage brush turns a dark green color brought on by pinyon and juniper.  As we hiked farther into the forest the stark white trunks of aspen added a splash of contrast and we remarked how beautiful it must be in the fall.

Of course, there has to be a Spirit picture.  She wears a bell now to warn bears.

Another day and we were off to Rifle Falls State Park just a few miles up the road.  The small park entertains visitors with its mysterious caves and rushing triple waterfall.  The East Rifle Creek sprays over the limestone cliffs and provided a much needed mist on a warm summer day.  The area was first populated by ranchers but soon the attractive falls led to the construction of cabins and opened as a tourist attraction.  The town of Rifle built a hydroelectric plant which changed the creek’s natural flow and created the three distinct falls. Camping, hiking, and fishing are popular activities at this small, but very lovely, 100-acre park.

There is a great view of the falls and creek from the top.
The limestone caves were started as tiny holes
that slowly grew into large caverns as water
dissolved the rocks.
The short trail leads you around the base of the  falls,
through the caverns and then around the top of the falls.
Even Spirit ventured in.      

The caves were really interesting to explore.                   

While exploring downtown Rifle we visited Centennial Park.  The park tells the history of Rifle from its founding in 1905 to 2005 and exhibits along the hiking trails guide you through the years.  Like so many towns Rifle grew out of the mining industry.  Vandium was prized for its ability to harden steel thus in the 1920's the industrial revolution made this mineral in constant demand. One of the focal points of the park is the statue "Over the Rainbow" which is a cowboy riding a rainbow trout.  The statue combines the Colorado cowboy history and the famed rainbow trout fishing in the area.  Betsy loved this statue in particular.

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