One of our favorite places on god’s green earth is the Colorado Rockies. It’s a magic wonderland and the perfect getaway from the scorching heat. It had been a few years since our last trip, and a must this year. The kids were a little older now, so we could go big time on the action adventure, and packed the agenda full. We would fly into Colorado spring and hit the Royal Gorge area, first. Then make the scenic drive up North to ski resort areas West of Denver.
Mini Golf and Disk Golf
Gold Mine and Casino Town
All our gang flew into Colorado Springs and managed to arrive close to the same time. I rented a full size car and had made all the arrangements, only sort of filling in the others on the agenda. We drove immediately to our hotel in Cripple Creek, thinking we would grab a quick bite to eat and then head up the backside of Pikes Peak for the day.
Well, Cripple Creek has been totally overrun by Casinos, and despite being right on the backside of the Pikes Peak Mountain, there is no access or hiking trails near the town, you have to drive back around another hour, hour and ½ to access all that. So after a decent lunch at the only bar that wasn’t a casino located in the small town of Victor about 15 min away, we hit the only tourist attrition around the Gold Mine, and it didn’t disappoint
You take a ride in an elevator that is very small, cage like, with two cages stacked on top of each other. They can fit about 15 people on this thing, and they run you down about 1000 feet into the earth where your tour guide is waiting for you. The old school mine is a huge maze of shafts that were build many generations ago, and the entire tour is top notch. Maybe not a worth a trip to Cripple Creek for just this, but still very cool and it made up for the disappointment of lack of Pikes Peak hiking.
The real reason for a stay in Cripple Creek is its proximity to the Royal Gorge. The main town next to the gorge is … and it’s seem OK. But the gorge area is one of our countries best natural playgrounds. Zip lines and River Rafting being the two main attractions.
Our first activity of the day was a zip line + river rafting package at one of the fancy outfitters in the area. At first we were scheduled to hit the river first, followed by Zip Lining. They contacted us the night before and informed us we had to show up 45 min earlier, and we would zip line first, and river raft second. It was kind of cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon, so after just a few seconds of contemplation, that sounded great.
The night before, I noticed that at the end of the “extreme zip line package” you have to jump off a 70 tower at the final obstacle. As luck would have it my teenager on the car ride up told a story of a tic toc video she had seen of a tower jump thing and how terrible that was. I decided not to say anything. We get to the camp, get all geared up, and make the drive to the course that overlooks the start of the Royal Gorge. At some point the guide brings up the tower, and the first thing you see when you hit the canyon is the “Tower of Terror”. Needless to say, the teenager is pissed at this point.
The zip line course was the nicest I've ever been on. Amazing in every way, 12 or so lines, one of them one of the longest and fastest anywhere. My kid was having a great time, even while we were joking around about “The Tower”. The last part of the course you zip line onto the top of the tower, and then you are on a 70’ platform with no stairs down. You have to get bucked into a bungee cord like thing and then just jump off. Some of the adults had a hard time jumping off this thing, I was even a little freaked out about it. My kid was totally freaked out. The guide said sometimes he has to push people off, and people cry all the time about it. After the jump, yours truly was in the dog house.
Our second zip line adventure was an improvised stop at the Royal Gorge Bridge. This is the park that has a suspension bridge that spans one of the most impressive and steeper parts of the gorge, our fist thoughts were to just visit the park, do a walk over the bridge, and then head into town for dinner and my required remote meeting. But when you get there, they have a zip line that goes from one side of the gorge to the other. It’s kind of expensive for the 1 min ride, but it’s utterly frightening and spectacular. I had a hard time enjoying the ride because you're skimming down a single steel wire, no secondary safety wire on this ride. I know ski lifts are a single wire, but that little steel white snaps you’re done for. As far as “extreme zip lines goes”, this one dwarfs the few others that I’ve been had the pleasure to ride.
The secondary main event of the trip was a river rafting adventure through the Royal Gorge, River rafting trips always look more extreme on the photos and videos. The water levels at this time of year were mild. If you want the Full Monty, you have to hit the river in late spring or first thing in the summer. The experience was thrilling. A step up from the other spots we have rafted in Colorado. Don't get me wrong, the river rafting trip was amazing, it’s worth the trip.
Horseback riding the Colorado Mountains
The main event of our adventure was the teenager’s request to go horseback riding. I surfed the Internet and found what I thought was the coolest place in the region. The Rusty Super ranch was the big winner. It’s located in an isolated part of Colorado, about 50 miles north of the I-70 corridor that runs through some of the famous ski resorts like Breckenridge and Vail. It’s located on a side of a mountain that overlooks a stunning valley. I was expecting the ranch house and accommodations to be a little more the modest setup. We arrived about an hour before our ride time and enjoyed the scenery.
The rides go rain or shine, and it was raining a little bit when we saddled up for the ride. There was some serious thunder and lightning just north of us, but our guide assured us the weather typically stays in the valley, and doesn’t hit their mountain top ranch. After a quick horseback riding tutorial, we hit the trail, and headed up the mountain.
The ride was an epic adventure of a lifetime. The horses were well behaved and had no problem taking us through wooded aspen, open fields, and through some of the most amazing views I have ever seen. The ride was scheduled for 3 hours, and I think we were out there a little more than that. Our initial trepidation quickly faded into a profound appreciation of the experience that the Rusted Spur offers. I have been on my fair share of lame ass horseback rides for newbies. This ride can be done by someone that has never ridden, and provide a true western cowboy experience. Maybe next time, we will cowboy up and go for their cattle drive experience.
After a long day on the trail, our next stop was the mounting town of Winter Park. Unlike many Colorado ski towns, the town of Winter Park isn’t located right next to the ski resort. So we got a nice ski resort hotel for a discounted price for our two night stay. The ski resort’s summer attractions included their famous alpine sleds. These are sleds with wheels that race down a cement mini bobsled like track. The track is about a mile down the mountain that winds under a base ski lift. These sleds are one of my fondest memories as a little kid. To my amazement, I don’t think they had upgraded or changed anything since my last trip here about 40 years ago. The life operator informed us that next year, they were finally replacing all the equipment with brand new modern stuff. Booooo!!!!
One can only stand in the lift line so many times to sled before boredom starts to set in. The ride itself would never get old. But Winter Park wasn’t done entering us, right under the sled ride was a really nice putt-putt course. As luck would have it there was also an impressive disk golf course hidden behind the hotel.
Our final stop of our trip was to the Natural History Museum in Denver. We had been there before. It’s one of those muses that deserves a look. The dinosaur bone collection is the most impressive I've ever seen. Better than Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. They also have an impressive set of mummies, taxidermies, and an epic rock collection. A fitting end to a magical summer.
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