Colorful Colorado - My B4K Trip to CO 2009
My mom and I had the pleasure of attending a trip on behalf of B4K over the week of 7/20-26/09 in Colorado. We left our home in Dixon, IL at 6:30am Monday, 7/20 for an on time flight at O’Hare Airport in Chicago at 8:45am and arrived without delay in Denver at 10:15am, just in time for breakfast. The cloudy, rainy, low temp summer weather we had all summer in IL was replaced with sunny warm temps in Colorado. In IL, there are no mountains, let alone hills, it’s flatland with trees and you know the meaning of green living there. This was my first trip spending time in CO. I’ve been through Denver on the way to WY a few times but it was all highway miles.
On this trip we were treated to a rental car which was a new experience other than when my mom’s vehicle needed to be in the shop at times and her insurance provided a temporary rental. My mom drove the rental which was a Ford Edge with dual sunroofs which replaced a Santa Fe as the original rental car from Budget located near the airport.
We settled near the airport in a luxury motel called La Quinta which I got to chose. I also preferred fast food so we ate at Wendy’s and I tried the new Asian Buffalo Wings, just as good as anywhere in my book. At the local store close to where we stayed, we met a cashier from Stillman Valley, IL a small town close to where I live in IL. In the motel, I took advantage of the nice big bed in our large room and napped to catch up on sleep for a few hours, because there wasn’t much of that the night before. Being a teenager, it’s our prerogative. Mom explored the pool and whirlpool areas, outdoor courtyard and patios, so after a short time, I joined her for some fun and we even worked out in the exercise room.
We ate at Ruby Tuesdays, a restaurant next to the motel that we walked to, then returned to the motel just in time for the first downpour of the day, at night, after dark. At the whirlpool, we talked with some college students from Holland and discussed the differences in lifestyle and economy compared to their country and ours. They knew a lot of history and were proud of their heritage. I like history myself, but in Holland it is typical for students to go to college and know 3-4 languages by the time they graduate H.S. After a well rested night sleep, we had breakfast included at the motel and departed for our trip to Buena Vista.
On the news the next morning, near the Denver Airport, there were winds that caused 75,000 power outages in the area from the previous nights storms. We had 2 atlases, 2 maps, mapquest directions to guide us from Denver to Buena Vista, which should have taken just over 2 hrs. Our checkout time in the motel was 12-1pm-ish and we drove south on RT 25 from 70w, and took the long way unintentionally because the motel rep suggested that way.
We ended up having some difficulty finding the route off of I25S and took 24W-S which had a street name but instead of being outside of Denver it was way south so we passed through Colorado Springs and traveled an extra 50-60 miles to get to the Bed on the Arkansas where we were booked to stay for the week, located just behind Adventure Company that provides Whitewater trips on the Arkansas Headwater River, near Buena Vista. The drive was beautiful and the day was sunny.
My mom was into the scenery and drive more than I was, but I got some good radio all the way and enjoyed the mountains. We stopped a few places to get pictures on the way and missed an opportunity to stop at some natural caves because it started raining and the trip was getting long. It was difficult to stop on the narrow, curvy roads as we climbed in elevation. A rental car was a good way to travel driving through the mountains because the vehicle was already from CO and acclimated to the altitude. The view was for miles and miles, and cattle were allowed acres per cow instead of cows per acre like in IL. The small towns were far apart. We finally arrived at Bed on the Arkansas by around 5pm, Tuesday, 7/21.
Steve Reid, our expert Guide, Manager of Adventure CO, and House Manager-resident, greeted us well and provided grilled chicken, and salad dinner compliments of his efforts as our chef. He was a gracious host, and accommodated every request and need. He talked to me and my mom before we left IL and was making himself available to spend time with us specifically to make the trip extra special. We settled for the night in an upper room with a great view of the river and bridge. He told us that on the around 22 mile stretch of the river, in the Buena Vista and surrounding areas, there are 55 whitewater rafting companies and Spring and Summer are busy times for tourism, the main economic support for these communities. We enjoyed some time in the on site hot tub before retiring to our room for the night.
Wednesday & Thursday
On Wednesday, we were scheduled for an all day whitewater raft trip down Brown’s Canyon, a favorite of many guests and guides. We started our day around 9am and got off the water around 3:30-4pm. We enjoyed 11-15 class 2-3 rapids along the way, stopped for a fajita lunch on a sandy beach area, took pictures, and watched other rafters float down through the close by rapids.
We even stopped in the afternoon at a popular rafting rest stop along the river by a large rock where people were allowed to jump into the river. Everyone had on lifejackets, helmets, and water shoes, some of us had shorts, shirts, and optional wetsuits and jackets, and of course sunscreen was applied. I’m not a big fan of sunscreen and have never been burned in IL, but the thin mountain air and altitude with bright sun exposure and reflection of the water, caused my legs and knees to burn without notice until later when we were off the river. I didn’t apply sunscreen to those areas. I was conscious of my nose which also got burned and was really noticeable to me more than anyone else.
Steve Reid was our guide that day and we were in a raft with a family of 3, with a total of 4 rafts and 22 rafters for the Adventure Company.
I was in the mood for some of my favorite food, Chinese, that night so we tried the local Asian Palate Restaurant in Buena Vista, a little pricey but tasty.
I was uncomfortable the rest of the night and didn’t sleep well because of the sunburn which spoiled a trip to the on site hot tub and left me restless and sleepy the next morning so we declined the Zip line opportunity so I could nurse my misery in the air condition and catch up on sleep for the morning. The Zip Line was in Salida, CO, about 25 minutes away and when I decided to get up and going, it was too late to get there on time.
We took time to visit Buena Vista and explore a local park where some of the rafting companies float in the river, hiked up a small mountain, which could be considered a hill compared to large mountains, took pictures, and visited a few local stores. We had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant called Panchos and picnicked at a park across the street. We took a little time to walk around the area and saw a few Elk and Deer in people’s lawns; they looked like pets and seemed very content.
We had wonderful weather on our whole trip so far and this morning along with the whitewater trips was my favorite parts of the week. Today we went ATV riding on 4 wheelers at a company in Salida. We drove up to the mountains after getting helmets and filling out paperwork, and were provided with 2 ATVs to drive for 3 hours up the mountain which increased in elevation from around 10,000 to almost 13,000. We had some wonderful picture taking opportunities and a blast riding the ATVs. I would do it again any day. We reached a high point on a mountain on the Continental Divide and the view was spectacular, with breathtaking views along the way.
We stopped by the local Wal-Mart and I bought a movie that I wanted to see called, ‘Watchmen,’ and we watched it in our room back at the Bed on the Arkansas for 3-3 ½ hours that evening. We had another supper made in the kitchen with groceries bought locally. After the movie, we spent time visiting with Steve at his apartment, and he gave me fatherly advice about making good choices as a teenager and young adult. I actually listened and appreciated his advice, nothing I haven’t heard from my parents only his advice seemed more interesting because he told his own stories from his experiences when he was younger.
This was our last day before departure and flying back to IL. This was the first day where the clouds accumulated early and stayed for the entire day. We enjoyed an afternoon Whitewater trip of Class 4 rapids, on the Numbers, on the upper stretch of the river. John A. was our guide and like the all day trip, we were bussed to the put in place and bussed from take out back to the shop.
Even though the day was cloudy, the water seemed warmer than the Brown’s Canyon trip we experienced previously when we were told average water temps this time of the year were 45 degrees. The trip was called the Numbers because the rapids were numbered 1-7 or 8. It was a great trip.
We learned a little history along the way on both whitewater trips, heard some corny or good jokes, and learned about some of the mountain names like Collegiate Peaks named after the Ivy League Schools who measured and did reports on the mountain areas.
We reached another point in the Continental Divide area after the Whitewater Rafting trip when we drove to Cottonwood pass, 24 miles outside of Buena Vista(8K altitude) to over 12K altitude, in the constant rain. Steve recommended this area, and I’m glad we went even though it rained; we were able to touch snow on the mountain top, see rainbows and got hailed on while climbing a short distance to the top and back to the road. The view was spectacular even with all of the clouds.
Steve recommended a steakhouse in Buena Vista called, ‘Quincy’s’ where we had a Prime Rib supper. Mom enjoyed the supper more than me. I would have been happy with fries and a Chicago style hotdog, but the only offer on the menu was 8-10-12 or 16 oz Prime Rib, baked potato, bread and salad. We got to take lots of pictures on this trip and Steve gave us 2 CDs with pictures of each Whitewater trip, T-shirts that we picked out. The Guides and staff at Adventure Company were very nice and accommodated us well. We enjoyed a basket of goodies for breakfast every morning and access to the hot tub, and community kitchen-living room areas in addition to our room.
On Sunday, we said our goodbyes, and took a different route back to Denver, N285-24E to 470W to 70E and stopped at a restaurant that Steve recommended called, Coney Island. The building looked like a big hotdog and there were lots of visitors even in the rain. I settled for a foot long hotdog and fries, and my mom was braver and tried an Elk Polish sausage. We returned our rental car to budget and worked our way through the Denver Airport with a flight delayed by an hour to Chicago. The flight went fast and it was evening back in Chicago when we landed. The weather looked like we brought back summer from CO with us and left the IL rain there. It took a long time to get back to economy parking from the Chicago O’Hare Airport and longer to get home because the route wasn’t the same, especially at night. We got home to Dixon at 1:30am and our flight left Denver Mountain time, an hour behind IL Central Standard Time at 2:30pm.
When I was first offered this trip, I was reluctant because I wanted my dad to be a part of it. I chose a Whitewater trip because it is special to me because I went on a Whitewater trip in WY with my dad when I was younger and it was on the Platte River. It was with the same company he worked for as a young adult as a Whitewater Guide there and his Uncle owned the Great Rocky Mtn Outfitters and Fur Co in Saratoga, WY which was sold in 2005. I’ve heard many stories about my dad’s experience as a guide in WY, CO and AZ and considered being a Guide when I graduate from H.S.
On this trip there were 40-50% male vs. female guides and the trip included a team approach where all rafters have a paddle and follow instructions from the guide. My dad’s experiences involved individual guides who did all of the work while rafters rode for the ride.
I liked participating in the group approach and appreciated the efforts of everyone involved. I’m very glad and thankful that I got to go on this trip and have many pictures to share about our experience. This trip was renewing and a wonderful experience. Thank you B4K and Al Baggett for allowing us this opportunity of a Lifetime.
On behalf of Dalton and Patty Smith