We have so loved the ATV experience, being out in the fresh air in the back country. There is such joy riding together and looking out over the canyons, finding new trails, discovering that Indian ruin on the side of the canyon, taking a break to hike a bit, share lunch on the canyon edge. It was just the best time ever. Camping out in the boonies alone was always peaceful and we loved it.

It took us awhile to come to the realization that camping and riding the ATV out in the back country by ourselves might not be the best idea anymore. What a sobering thought. We talked about selling the ATV, but we just couldn’t come to terms with the thought of giving it up. We finally had to sit down and face the fact that we weren’t going to go out on our own riding anymore. It was a sad day when we sold the ATV and the haul trailer.

If we are not going to go out to the back country maybe it was time to turn loose of the camper also. We are beginning to come to grips with this whole thing but decided we really wanted to take one more trip in the camper before we let it go. Ok, let’s make this a good one and share some of our favorite places with someone who might get a kick out of camping. Tommy was the logical choice for this experience. Guys love to camp.

Tommy was the perfect camping pal. He never said, “Are we there yet?” and didn’t even complain when we discovered the hot water tank was leaking so there was no hot water. Monty always checks everything out before we take off on a trip and the tank was fine, little did he know that when the water got hot the tank leaked. Too late to worry about that, we’re not spending vacation time looking for an RV parts store. I have always heated water on the stove for dish washing and really, showers are highly over rated.

Bonita Campground in Flagstaff was our first stop. This trip we spent some time at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, took the scenic drive, walked around the moon scape and ambled down the nature trail.

Tommy at Four Corners

Next on the itinerary is the four corners area. This is the only place in the country you can touch four states at one time. It is really unique that Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah all meet on this spot. When we were first here in the early ’90’s the Four Corners was indicated simply by a surveyor mark. Now the Native Americans have seen the opportunity to turn it into a road side tourist attraction. It is a fee area, both to park and see the actual site. They placed pavers around the marker so it is easier to identify and people line up to have their picture taken. There are vendors with the usual stuff; hats, T-shirts, soft drinks and fry bread. Tommy was a good sport and let me take his picture touching the four states.

Next stop was Mesa Verde National Park, this park has to be one of the best interactive National Parks for both kids and adults. The mountain/canyon setting gave us just a taste of the beautiful scenery we would see on this trip. We camped in the National Park campground and had to hustle over to the general store to pick up tickets to see two of the ruins the next day.

Magnificent Ruin at Mesa Verde

There is a lot of history to learn about the Ancestral Pueblo people (formerly known as Anasazi, when did that change!!). They lived in this area for seven hundred years. There are over six hundred cliff dwellings in the park, some are small and many are in the back country and seldom seen, but the cliff dwellings open for guided tours are spectacular. We love the fact that the guided tour includes climbing up and down ladders, using small foot and hand holds in the canyon wall, crawling through a narrow tunnel in the cliff side and squeezing down into kivas to gather around the fire pit.

As we stood with a group of tourist to go through one of the ruins the two couples in front of us were speaking French. Once again we are thrilled to be with people seeing this country for the first time. Being from Europe they don’t see this type of scenery everyday. When it came time to get on hands and knees to crawl through a rather small opening in the rocks the lady closest to me turned and looked at me with the universal hands up in question. I smiled, nodded and indicated a crawling motion, she looked down at her white capri pants and sighed. We were in shorts so we just got scruffy knees. There was quite a climb out of the canyon on a narrow ladder.

Naturally we went to the ranger talk, we never miss one when we are in a National Park. It is always nice to be outside while the sun goes down. In Colorado in the summer that is about 9:30, one of the things we love about the place. Ranger talks are usually about the area, sometimes about the critters or birds to be found, history of the area, or we have been to several about the night sky. Usually a lot of children present even though we don’t get back to the camper until about 10:30.

Mesa Verde Dwelling

Tommy, Monty and I are a good group, we all like to read, I found a couple of books for Tommy at the library before we left home but clearly I was not in step with his reading level, he was waaaaaay beyond the books I found. In fact I never brought them out. Our nightly ritual consisted of dinner, hot chocolate and a couple of games of Rumikub. I’m terrible at that game, just not a numbers person, Monty is good with numbers and enjoys the game. Tommy on the other hand is an absolute whiz with numbers and this game was a piece of cake for him. If I remember correctly, I never won a single game, (really, don’t you think the guys could have taken pity on me!) Monty won one or two games the entire trip and Tommy won the rest. He was a delight.

On to the little town of Mancos, Monty and I stayed at this campground here years ago, it is spacious and they had horse back riding and a small lake. At this point the biggest selling feature was hot showers! The campground offered cabins and the whole place was taken over by a group of bikers. There must have been fifty or so bikers in the cantina. For a family campground they looked kind of hard core but they seemed to be having a good time without too much disruption. Monty and Tommy joked about going to the door to shout ‘Harley’s suck’. But sanity won out and they didn’t do it. When the bikers took off in the morning no one was sleeping in.

Monty gave Tommy some tips on casting the fishing line, it only took a couple attempts and he was putting the hook just where he wanted it. Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any fish in that lake but then that is not always the purpose of fishing anyway. The horses were there but they didn’t appear to be there for the campers to ride. So I guess you could say the hot shower was the best part of this stop but that is not to be underestimated.

Fishing Discussion

We drove through Durango and up to the Purgatory Ski Resort. This ski resort is not only a winter destination for skiers but a summer destination for fun activities. Monty and Tommy got in line to ride the Alpine Slide. This slide is a ski run set aside for two concrete half pipes. Once you place your fiberglass sled in the half pipe gravity takes over and you fly down the slopes. We remember this from a previous trip and Monty is looking forward to racing Tommy down the ski run. This turned out to be great fun and they both enjoyed it. I think I was in charge of the camera.

With Purgatory in the rear view mirror we are off to Silverton. Hopefully we can find a spot in one of our favorite campgrounds, South Mineral Creek. We lucked out and found the perfect site big enough for the Camper, Jeep and room for Tricia and the girls to park when they come up later. First on the agenda is a short hike to check out the waterfalls, gosh this is a beautiful place, I love it here. The three of us plus Zoe, took the jeep up to one of our favorite places, Ice Lake. This is a beautiful lake, above timber line, nestled in a bowl of mountain peaks. We enjoyed hiking around and watched Zoe run over the hills thru the wild flowers. Monty and Tommy got to playing with the GPS and took pictures of the elevation of over 12,000 feet . Tomorrow we are heading out for the gold mine tour.

Riding the Chair Lift for the Showdown

Hundred Mile Gold Mine was originally started by three brothers from Germany in 1878. We had Zoe with us so I voted to wait in the jeep with her and watch the fire. Yes, there was a huge fire to the south of us in the wilderness area. It was so smoky we were really concerned we should be ready to evacuate if necessary. After the mine tour, we made a trip to the visitor center to check out the fire news and to our surprise the people there seemed oblivious to the whole thing. They could see there was a fire in the area but it didn’t seem to be that close and they didn’t really have any word on it. REALLY! Didn’t they think concerned visitors in the area might want or need some reassurance and make the effort to get more information. Geeesh!

Oh, well the place didn’t burn down that night and we were at the visitor center the next day to meet Tricia, Sarah, and Rachel. We were so glad they decided to drive up to Colorado and spend a day hiking with us. Tommy was glad to see the girls and eager to show them the Ice Lake area. The four wheel drive road up to the lake requires the jeep and since there are now six of us Zoe I opted to hold down the campsite and think about lunch while they went to the lake. They had a good time and when they returned we had a nice picnic with hot dogs and Sloppy Joe’s. We went on a short hike up to a water fall and it was all good. Monty tossed Sarah the keys to the Jeep and they took a ride around the campground. Sarah will get her drivers license soon and this was a chance to drive a stick shift. She did a good job and loved driving the jeep.

The Winner!

Tommy went with the girls to the hotel outside Silverton that night. I mean really what’s the deal, just because we only had about twelve square feet of floor space to be shared between three adults and one large dog. That couldn’t have been a problem and certainly, the lack of a shower wasn’t an issue. A lack of privacy maybe, but hey we’re camping that’s the way it is. Didn’t matter, he was happy to be back in his comfort zone and we were fine although I have to admit we were a bit lonesome without him. Our last day was spent back at the Puragtory Ski Resort. We told Tricia and the girls how much fun it was and they were eager to go and see what all the fuss was about. They road the Alpine Slide and the Zip line and the trampoline jumps. It was a fun day and then we were all on our way back home.

This trip was really special to us and we hope Tommy had as much fun as we did and it was something he will remember.

Waterfall Hike

Clear Lake

Ready to Hike



1 reply
  1. Tommy Chiodo
    Tommy Chiodo says:

    I remember at one of the RV parks we saw a group of bikers and I went to the store with Grandpa Monty to get an onion for whatever we were cooking that night. That is still one of my favorite trips.


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