The American "Wild" West RV Trip

We might take the scenic route over the Continental Divide on the way back. We make a quick stop by Lake Dillon to stretch our legs and admire this beautiful scenery. A few miles further to the west, we pass by the skiing resort town of Vail.

Established in the 1960s, it is the third largest ski mountain in North America. We also pass by Avon. As we continue, the terrain becomes increasingly arid, perhaps a preview of what’s to come, a sign that we’re getting closer to the sandstone landscape of the high desert of the Colorado Plateau, which we’ll visit later in our trip.

This part of the highway, along with the Eisenhower Tunnel and the Vail Pass, are considered engineering marvels of the interstate highway system. We also pass by the picturesque Glenwood Springs, home to the Colorado Mountain College, and named the most fun town in America by Rand McNally back in 2011. We must revisit this nice town on the way back, but right now, I want to check out the canyon one more time. I’ll be honest with you, one of the cameras malfunctioned, and I went to get some footage of Glenwood Canyon and the swelling Colorado River just in case I don’t return this way. So let’s make a left and take I-70 back east towards Denver, if only for a few miles. Let’s get out of this rest area.

Apparently, this is called the Glenwood Canyon Resort. Let’s check out the swelling Colorado River. Actually, the whole area is under a flood watch.

To think, this is the same stream that will later from Lake Powell, the same water that carved the Grand Canyon and powers Hoover Dam, and created the environmental disaster that is the Salton Sea. To think, it is reduced to a trickle by the time it reaches the Gulf of California. We stop one last time to check out the river, and west we go! In the original plan, I was going to drive all the way to Utah today, and then some, but as you will soon find out, sometimes, I make overly ambitious plans, and this one is one of those times.

It turns I’m tired, it is getting late, so we decide to change the plan and spend the night at the beautiful Island Acres campground, part of the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park. We are just a few miles away from Grand Junction. We finally arrive at the campground. We park at our designated site, and first thing’s first: let’s hook up the RV. I decide to do the sewer first, but now that I think about it, I probably should have done that last, it is the dirtiest part of the operation.

Well, looks like we are fully hooked, so let’s relax, and enjoy the sunset. Hello, everybody, we have driven all the way from Denver, Colorado to here, this campground at the James M. Robb Colorado State Park. I have to read it because it’s a mouthful, but it’s very nice, look at the scenery. Look at the scenery all around us.

We have arrived at the state of Utah. And we are taking the isolated State Route 128, with no services for 54 miles. It is called the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, not very scenic yet. In fact, it’s pretty desolate. We even pass by the ghost town of Cisco, a former typical Old West railroad town. We are crossing this desert, and to the left, we see the La Sal Mountains in the distance, getting a glimpse of Fisher Tower, which we’ll see up close in a few.

As we continue, the terrain becomes increasingly rugged. We join the north bank of the Colorado River. Right before crossing the river, if you look to the left of the screen, we’ll get a glimpse of the Dewey Bridge, accidentally burned in 2008, and until then, it was the longest suspension bridge in Utah. Very sad, it got burned, allegedly, by a child playing with matches.

Actually, I’d like to thank one of my viewers for recommending this route because I might have missed it otherwise. This scenery on our way to Arches National Park is truly breathtaking. Here, we stop a few minutes by the river to admire this view of the Fisher Towers and the mountains in the distance. Let’s continue driving through the gorge.

We are approaching Castle Valley. We see Castleton Tower in the distance, and this place is slightly reminiscent of Monument Valley, where we’re going the day after tomorrow. And, like Monument Valley, it has been used as the location for many classic Western movies, such as Wagon Master, Rio Grande. It was around here that I originally intended to spend the night boondocking.

It is called boondocking when you stay without hook-ups. Actually, it was going to be through this dirt road. This is all BLM land. BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management, so you are allowed to camp for the night at certain places. The dirt road is a little too rough for the RV, so we go back to State Route 128. Besides, we are already a few hours behind schedule.

It is impossible to capture the grandeur, the magnificence, of these massive rock formations. We pass by the Petrified Dunes, and the Great Wall, and the Window Arches. Of course, we must make a quick stop by the Balanced Rock, one of the most well-known formations of this park. It looks like it is about to tip over, but trust me, it’s been there for a long time. We continue, and eventually make a right. This is the main attraction of the park, so the parking lot is, not surprisingly, very crowded.

This hike is so strenuous and dangerous that a hiking permit is required, and they even recommend that you take a guided tour on your first time. That’s it, we’re getting out of the park, the Courthouse Towers bidding us farewell. (lively music) I stop one last time by the Park Avenue Trail head, and off to Moab we go. The small city of Moab caters to all the tourists, hikers, off-roaders, rafters, bikers, rock climbers, and all the people who come to visit the two major national parks of the area, Arches, where we just were, and Canyonlands, which we will visit some day some other time.

The brand new visitor’s center opened in 2012, and it has all these displays depicting how archeologists think the Ancestral Pueblo people lived daily life, the tools they used, how they made their pottery, and how they built their different types of dwellings. Let’s go into the park. Oh, by the way, one very important thing to keep in mind is that in order to visit the main sights, such as the Cliff Palace, the Balcony House, the Long House, you must purchase the tickets beforehand at the visitor’s center. It would really suck to drive all the way into the park and not be able to see at least one of these sights. We have a pretty long uphill drive here to the mesa’s top at 8,500 feet.

Fantastic panoramic views of the Mancos and Montezuma Valleys. We stop here briefly at the Montezuma Valley Overlook, very nice views of the valley, and it’s also where the old Knife Edge Road used to go through. Sometimes, I leave the camera on inadvertently and get these nice time lapses. Further along, we have a fortuitous encounter with a baby black bear, and leave it up to me to show up with a big RV and scare him away. Sorry to spoil the show, folks. And another great view of the valley.

The first is right here, where we find they’re probably building in the left-hand corner first because this is going to capture the most winter sun. And we got a nice source of easy, free heat. But then the community gets bigger, might have gotten more popular, and over time, room by room, they add on. As the family expands, the city expands.

Archeologists think that most of these structures, especially in the middle, probably went up to three stories, if not any more. You had storage in the upper attic there. Only thing we don’t find are Christmas ornaments. But some places, we did find a couple pots, blankets, tools left up there, not too much, though.

And then down below, all the square structures, you have your living rooms, your family rooms, storage and bedrooms. And they had trails very similar to what we came down, just not very deep steps like that, they’re very shallow, dug into the rock just enough to get you toe perches, but they’re hidden, for the most part. They have to know where it is, gotta know what to look for. We will see an original trail as we make our way out. That is an original exit and entrance, the way we’re gonna leave today.

We turn to the west, immersing ourselves into one of the most remote areas of North America. It is our intent to reach the epicenter of the Four Corners region, the very spot where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico intersect. Two hours later, we arrive at the Four Corners Monument. Here I am at the Four Corners Monument. That’s Utah back there, and here, I’m walking, and now I’m in Colorado. Now I’m in New Mexico.

And now I am in Arizona, one hour earlier, or later, I forgot. Recent surveys have determined that the monument is actually 1,807 feet east of the actual Four Corners point. Still, fairly accurate, considering the instruments available at the turn of the 20th century, when they originally surveyed the area. I do have one complaint. The grounds are not very well-maintained.

You would think that with the $15 the Navajo people charge you to visit the monument, and the revenue from all the souvenir sales, they could afford a paved parking lot. Just saying. Onward we go! I, of course, take a photo with the nearby signs for New Mexico and Colorado, and let’s include Arizona and Utah as well.

Nice, huh? This is the only time in our trip where we actually step on New Mexico soil. We continue riding into the sunset, now going deep into the Navajo Nation, which is a huge area encompassing North Eastern Arizona, parts of New Mexico, and Utah.

After a little over an hour or so, we start seeing the formations of the Valley of the Gods in the horizon. Let me tell you, I would love to do some exploring around this area. The Valley of the Gods, it’s like a smaller version of Monument Valley, if you will, where we’re going tomorrow, by the way. But, unlike Monument Valley, it’s not part of the Navajo Nation.

It belongs to the Bureau of Land Management, which means you can camp in the area and have more freedom to roam around. As night falls, we arrive at the place where we are going to spend the night boondocking, dry camping, you know, self-contained, off the grid. We have decided to spend the night at the Goosenecks State Park in Utah, with this beautiful view overlooking a deep meander of the San Juan River.

From here, we can see the Alhambra Rock, and Monument Valley in the distance. This place has very little light pollution, being so remote and all, and after the moon sets, stars we’ve never seen before reveal themselves, and I get to see the Milky Way for the first time in my life. I even get to experiment with some long exposure photography. Good morning from Goosenecks State Park!

Going back to the RV. Here we are, the price of admission, $20. The three-hour tour is $85, and there’s also a two-hour tour for $75. We park at the oversized vehicle area, and it looks like our ride is already waiting for us. The road around the valley’s a not very well-maintained dirt road, so I apologize in advance for the shaky camera, especially if you’re prone to motion sickness. It is definitely a bumpy ride.

Fortunately, we get to stop at some of these viewpoints. Here, we see the Merrick Butte, and the East and West Mittens. What an exceptionally beautiful place this is! We continue bouncing up and down. We stop, once again, in order to give our butts a rest, and to see the Mitchell Mesa and these pinnacles called the Three Sisters.

We also see the Elephant Butte and the Camel Butte on the way. This formation is called The Thumb. We stop, once again, by The North Window, framed by Elephant Butte and Cly Butte.

We can see the Bear and Rabbit Spires in the distance. There are several movies that I want to recommend to you which feature Monument Valley prominently. Here, we see this formation called The Rooster, and The Three Healers, and the famous Totem Pole. One of the movies I was talking about is The Eiger Sanction by Clint Eastwood, from 1975, in which they were allowed to climb the Totem Pole with the condition that they would remove all the pitons left by previous climbers. No one has ever been allowed to climb ever since because the Totem Pole is considered sacred by the Navajo people, thus making Clint Eastwood the last person ever to climb the spire. We stop for a few minutes by the side of these 2,000-year-old petroglyphs.

This is also the site of the Eye of the Sun Arch. (tense music) We also pass by the Big Hogan as part of the extended tour. This is very nice, very good tour.

We pass by the Three Sisters once again on our way to the John Ford Point. John Ford directed a great classic, perhaps the movie that put Monument Valley on the map, the one that epitomized to us the look of the Wild West. The movie, Stage Coach from 1939. Ford directed many other movies, such as The Searchers, a classic VistaVision masterpiece from 1956.

We have a traditional Navajo lunch of sheep camp mutton stew, and fried bread with honey at the appropriately named The View Hotel. The food is nothing to write home about, but the panoramic view is priceless. (dramatic tense music) We stop on the way out to take one last photo with Monument Valley in the background, and another photo with the Arizona sign. We begin the long 2-1/2-hour journey towards Page, Arizona, where we will spend the night. Here, we see the Owl Rock, and the Agathla Peak, perhaps better known by its Spanish name, El Capitan.

(tense music) (upbeat music) The road across this arid area of Arizona seems endless. The welcome sight of the Navajo Power Plant tells us we are almost there. Eventually, we make it to our destination, the Wahweap Campground by Lake Powell, part of the Glen Canyon Recreational Area. We park at our designated spot with this partial view of the lake. Very, very nice! In the original plan, tomorrow, we would continue towards the north rim of the Grand Canyon, but this place is so nice that we are going to stay an extra night and relax.

(upbeat music) Good morning from the Wahweap RV Park, part of the Lake Powell Resort near Page, Arizona. So many attractions nearby. We walk along this path a little over a mile to the main resort, where we are going to take a boat tour of the lake. We’re going to see Antelope Canyon, the part that is underwater, and the Navajo Canyon.

(bright relaxing music) And we depart, the Navajo power station ever-present. And that’s the hotel up there. With this view of Castle Rock to the left, we’re going to go around Antelope Island, which, due to the marked fluctuations in water levels, sometimes, it is actually a peninsula. Here is the Wahweap Marina, with over 500 vessels, worth, as a whole, many, many millions of dollars.

The reason the water level shifts so dramatically, historically, over 100 feet, is because Lake Powell is actually an artificial lake, a reservoir, so the water level depends on the seasonal snow runoff of the Colorado River coming from the mountains. The lake was created by flooding Glen Canyon when they constructed the Glen Canyon Dam. Completed in 1963, it took 11 years for the water level to rise to the high water mark. We continue spinning away on the south side of Antelope Island, towards the Antelope Canyon. (bright relaxing music) Isn’t that nice? Your own little crack on the side of the canyon, in the shade, to take a break.

(bright relaxing music) The canyon narrows until the point where we must turn around, back out into the lake, admiring these astounding shapes carved in the sandstone by erosion over the course of thousands of years. (bright relaxing music) And we are back by this narrow stretch of water with Antelope Island to our left. Our next stop is the Navajo Canyon, but first, we must pass by the Antelope Point Marina. Look at all these luxurious houseboats.

(bright relaxing music) We see the Tower Butte in the distance. (bright relaxing music) Once again, we see the butte lurking behind the sandstone. We finally start approaching Navajo Canyon, obviously not the same Navajo Canyon we saw back in Mesa Verde National Park.

(bright pensive music) The Navajo Canyon is one of Lake Powell’s 96 canyons, and it’s one of the longest ones. Here, we see a great example of why it’s called Navajo tapestry. This mix of colors found on the sandstone, well, it almost looks like a mural, but made by nature.

Iron oxide and manganese residue from above drapes down the side of the canyon over the course of centuries, and this nature work of art is what we get. (bright peaceful music) We learn the difference between a butte and a mesa. It turns a butte is taller than it is wide, and a mesa, well, wider than it is tall. (bright relaxing music) We head back, with Castle Rock ahead of us, going back through this narrow canal only because this year, the water level is high enough. Otherwise, we would have had to turn around the way we came. (bright relaxing music) And we’re back by the Wahweap Marina, and this is the end of our boat tour.

Yeah, I know, I’m kind of obsessed with that butte. What can I say? Time to get on the road again, although we’ll be back here at the campground tonight, once again, to sleep. Right now, we’re going to visit Lower Antelope Canyon, which is nearby, not the part we just visited by the lake, but the part above water, which is probably the more famous one. It is a slot canyon, which is a canyon which is much narrower than it is tall, and it is formed by the wear of water rushing through the rock. The drive from the campground is about 14 miles.

And here we are. The entrance is by this dirt road near the Navajo power station. The total price for the one-hour tour is $28 per person, cash only, and that includes a Navajo permit.

We follow our young Navajo guide down to the canyon, under the scorching sun. We begin our descent into the canyon down these steep stairs. At the bottom, the temperature is much cooler, thank goodness. (mysterious pensive music) The different colors on the rock, we learn, are caused by the way it reflects sunlight at different angles, creating all these surreal effects.

All the rock is actually pretty much the same color. Lower Antelope Canyon is open to the public seven days a week. It only closes when rain is in the forecast, because of the high risk of flash floods. We have taken one of the two tours available. This one is operated by Ken’s Tours. Overall, it’s a very nice experience.

By the way, as I said earlier, this is Lower Antelope Canyon. There is also an Upper Antelope Canyon, which is a little taller, with flatter terrain and more accessible, but much more crowded as well, and more expensive. You actually have to book the tour back at Page, Arizona, and they bring you to the entrance of the canyon by Jeep. If you have accessibility issues, that one may be the one for you, but we have chosen the lower canyon, and we don’t regret it one bit. I mean, look at this place, this is surreal!

(tense music) (people chattering) (bold instrumental music) We continue climbing the stairs of the Antelope Canyon, the Lower Antelope Canyon. (dramatic tense music) An hour later, we emerge on the other side. We get back on the road promptly, going towards the Horseshoe Bend.

There is this rather challenging trail to get to it, especially for our exhausted and out-of-shape bodies, but we keep going anyways. At the end of the trail, there is this horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River, which, by the way, it’s very well worth the mile-long trail. And here it is in all its glory. Again, one of those places where the 2D camera just doesn’t really do it justice. (warm pensive music) There are numerous photographers by the edge of the cliff capturing this very photogenic place.

(warm pensive music) We start heading back up the trail, looking back one last time for this great look from the distance. Let’s return to the RV, shall we? We make one last stop at the Wahweap Point. From this vantage point, we can see this commanding view of South Lake Powell, the area we visited by boat earlier.

Enjoying this beautiful view is a fitting end to a wonderful day. There’s the marina and the resort, and campground, and a tour boat, just like the one we took this morning. (wind blustering) After our very pleasant stay here at the Wahweap Resort near Page, Arizona, we hit the road again. We are driving further west, and then north on Highway 89, towards Bryce National Park, a little over 2-1/2 hours in total. And I know, please don’t send me any nasty emails.

How can I take this route and not pass by Zion National Park? It is just a 20-minute detour to the park entrance. Well, I feel Zion deserves a lot more than just a few hours.

Besides, we are racing against the clock. We have to return the RV at Denver in less than two days. I’ll come back this way some other time, I promise.

Even though the drive has some picturesque areas, sometimes, it seems endless. We drive through the scenic town of Kanab, often called Little Hollywood because of its history as the filming location for so many Western films. Here, we take a more northerly route. (upbeat music) If we were going to Zion, we would have turned left right here, right before Mount Carmel and Orderville. But, as I said before, there’s no time, so we keep going.

(upbeat music) Yep, we killed a bug right at the very spot where the lens of the GoPro is. There’s a bunch of German bakeries along the way. (upbeat music) We turn right onto State Route 12, and the jagged rock formations are a sign that we are getting very close to Bryce.

(upbeat music) And we have arrived. The fee to enter, $25. The canyon is pretty long, so we are just going to check out some of the main viewpoints, beginning with Bryce Point. We park at the crowded lot.

And here we are, Bryce Point, elevation, 8,300 feet above sea level. We start to see these magnificent views of this place that, frankly, looks like another planet. (mysterious pensive music) There are some hiking trails on there, which unfortunately, we’ll have to do some other time.

(mysterious pensive music) Check out this little fellow. Apparently, it is a golden-mantled ground squirrel. Isn’t this a truly remarkable place?

(bright pensive music) We keep on going. Next, we are going to the Inspiration Point, and I can see how one can get inspired by all this otherworldly landscape. (bright music) We get a little bit of rain here and there as we drive to our last viewpoint, the Sunset Point.

It’s raining a little bit. Here, we get to see Thor’s Hammer, one of Utah’s most famous rocks, standing alone among all the other hoodoos. Yeah, hoodoo, that’s how these rock formations are called. There is this hiking trail called Wall Street that, again, we wish we had the time to take.

– [Woman] Selfie. – [Woman] Yeah, selfie. (mystical pensive music) It is time to leave. We decide to take the road less traveled, and we head north on State Route 22, also known as John’s Valley Road. It turns out to be a very, very secondary road, but we didn’t come all the way to Central Utah to drive on the interstate, did we? We barely encounter a soul, except for the occasional herd of cows hangin’ out, grazing.

Hello (speaking in Spanish). (bright pensive music) After a while, the terrain becomes a little more rugged along this gorge. We drive by this abandoned structure, the Osiris Creamery.

It is all part of the Osiris Ghost Town. And we get a little bit more rain. About 10 miles further north, we encounter the small town of Antimony, which feels like being in a different era, seriously. It’s like being in the ’70s, pretty surreal.

Look at this huge tractor and the old truck behind. By Otter Creek State Park, we turn right into State Route 62, another straight, somewhat boring road, boring, I mean, in the context of what we’ve seen, fascinating when compared to Florida’s Turnpike, for example. We get a quick break by the junction of State Route 62 with State Route 24, and continue towards Capitol Reef National Park.

(bright pensive music) After the small towns of Loa and Bicknell, we start seeing the first prominent rock formations leading us to Capitol Reef. (bright pensive music) And here’s the Chimney Rock. We even stop for the photo opp. (warm pensive music) We continue on the road and stop once again by the Fluted Rock. (warm pensive music) Next, on the left, we see The Castle. (bright pensive music) We stop briefly to check out these ancient petroglyphs of the Fremont, which were contemporaries of the Ancestral Pueblo people.

(bright pensive music) There are many hiking trails around the area, most notably the one to the Cassidy Arch, but today, well, you know what I’m gonna say. We’re just driving through, no time. (bright pensive music) We continue towards Goblin Valley, where we are going to spend the night. And we have arrived right before sunset. Our reserved campsite with my name on it, next to all this natural beauty.

Here, we had a great camping experience. Some young fellows from Provo, I think, that were staying at the campsite next to us saw that we were eating microwaved frozen pizza and shared the leftovers of a delicious stew with us. Very nice.

(mysterious pensive music) Good night. Good morning from the beautiful Goblin Valley Campground. No, that is not our motorhome. Today, we are heading back east towards Denver, but first, let’s explore Goblin Valley, shall we?

Oh, by the way, that is our rental class C motorhome. It is such a beautiful morning right here on the Goblin Valley Campground. (bright delicate music) The morning light really shows off all the colors of all these rock formations. (bright pensive music) Let’s drive to the dump station first so we can do our business. And now, let’s check the actual Goblin Valley.

There is a trail, but let’s just take the car and get there faster. It is a pretty unique place. According to geologists, in the Jurassic Era, this was at the edge of an inland sea, and apparently, the tidal sediments of sand, silt, and clay became all these sandstone formations, which are continually changing, by the way, even today. Pretty cool place, huh? (warm pensive music) Back to the RV, way up there. (bright pensive music) And here, we see more goblins.

Doesn’t that look like a Hershey Kiss? (bright pensive music) We go north on State Route 24, and then east on I-70. Once again, we pass near Moab, and later, into the great state of Colorado. We also pass Grand Junction, with this view of Mount Garfield and the Colorado River State Park. Pretty soon, we start seeing the foothills of the Rockies in the distance.

See how the landscape slowly starts to change? We are driving along the north bank of the Colorado River towards Glenwood Canyon. (upbeat music) Our next stop is Glenwood Springs. (upbeat music) We passed by here briefly on the way west, and we liked it a lot. It’s contained in a valley, at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers.

We are getting hungry, so let’s have a nice lunch, some craft beer, at this place called The Pullman. And we’ll be on our way, not before walking off our lunch along this charming little town. (bright pensive music) Time to go. We continue heading east, with the Colorado River to our right. (bright pensive music) We start going into the Glenwood Canyon region.

Isn’t this a magnificently beautiful area? It is considered an engineering marvel of the United States interstate highway system. I mean, they had some help from the Colorado River, which carved the canyon, but it still is truly amazing. Anyhow, enjoy the ride. (bright pensive music) Isn’t this kind of hypnotizing?

(bright pensive music) At some point, there is an exit to the Hanging Lake Trail, a hike we ought to do some other time. (bright pensive music) And we continue driving along I-70. (bright pensive music) We encounter the skiing resort of Vail once again. We are almost at 10,000 feet, over 3,000 meters above sea level, getting close to some of the highest points in the interstate highway system, but we plan to go even higher. We are stopped here at Shrine Pass, kinda close to the Continental Divide. And it’s pretty chilly outside, actually.

(bright pensive music) We’re going to take the older scenic route, US-6, at the town of Silverthorne. Unlike I-70, which crosses through the Eisenhower Tunnel, US-6 goes even higher over the Continental Divide at the Loveland Pass. This road is used, mainly, by trucks carrying hazardous materials, which are prohibited from using the tunnel, and also cyclists, hikers, or people like us, who want to enjoy the scenery. Remember that beer I had back at Glenwood Springs? Big mistake!

As we climb above 11,000 feet, or almost 3,400 meters, I start feeling the symptoms of mild altitude sickness. You know, I start feeling lightheaded, short of breath, with nowhere to pull over, by the way. Wish me luck.

(bright pensive music) Eventually, we find a place to pull out, and I drink copious amounts of water and start feeling better. (bright pensive music) We finally make it to the top. We are here at the Continental Divide, with a little bit of altitude sickness, 11,990 feet above sea level. It’s kind of cold. Yep, it’s pretty cold up here at 11,990 feet, or 3,655 meters above sea level, the feeling, perhaps, intensified by my mild altitude sickness.

I’m feeling better, though. (lively music) Down and down we go. I’m actually kind of cool with the fact that I got altitude sickness.

I was always kind of intrigued, curious by it, and wanted to know how it felt like. Not the best idea while driving, but (grunts). At least now I know.

(lively music) We rejoin I-70 and continue heading east, but we are not quite going to Denver yet. We have until tomorrow morning to return the RV, so let’s spend the night in the mountains, shall we? (lively music) By Idaho Springs, we take State Route 103 up to Echo Lake, which is about halfway up to Mount Evans, which is the highest paved road in the USA.

(lively music) And here we are, Echo Lake. Pretty, isn’t it? (pensive instrumental music) To the right, we see the lodge, and we arrive to our primitive campground. I really wanted to go all the way up to Mount Evans tomorrow, but that will be impossible with the big motorhome. We will go back to Denver tomorrow, explore the city a little, and then come back with a smaller vehicle. (relaxing pensive music) Take a look at this beautiful sunset.

(relaxing pensive music) We make some fire, and call it a night. (relaxing pensive music) (soft jazz music) Well, hello, everybody, and greetings from Denver, Colorado. This is our view from our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, which is conveniently located in a shopping mall. Let’s explore a little bit of Colorado’s capital city, where it seems like everybody’s either jogging or cycling. Very healthy people.

You are looking at Smith Lake in Washington Park, which is over 100 years old, and one of the largest parks in the Mile-High City. Its design was partially influenced by the famous philanthropist and Titanic survivor, The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The snowcapped Rockies are, as always, ever-present throughout the city, this place being no exception, of course.

(warm upbeat music) We continue towards Capitol Hill, and we park right here, next to the Colorado Supreme Court. And here it is, the Colorado State Capitol building. Its gold-plated dome was added in 1908 to commemorate the Gold Rush. There is some kind of demonstration in front, some folks advocating for father’s rights, or something like that.

And there is this statue depicting a Civil War Union soldier. On the steps of the capitol building, and as you can see, we are exactly one mile above sea level. The building was constructed from white Colorado granite. There’s the City and County Building across the Civic Center Park.

Here we have a replica of the Liberty Bell. The original is in Philadelphia, of course. And we walk back towards the car, passing by the Supreme Court, in order to see the unique architecture of Denver’s Art Museum, especially the new Frederic C. Hamilton wing. The whole complex is quite nice, actually, with a bunch of street art and nice cafes under pretty buildings, and the Guardian of Forever.

No wait, I’m just kidding. It’s just another piece of contemporary street art. It’s all very nice, very agreeable, but we must go on. There’s a lot more stuff to see. Passing by the Supreme Court, once again, we go east on 14th Street, the capitol building to our left. And to our right, we see the first home of the Colorado State Museum, and the First Baptist Church of Denver.

Its congregation dates back to 1864, before Colorado was even a state. (upbeat music) And we are going to turn right on Pennsylvania Street right here, and to our left, there’s St. Mary’s Academy building, which now houses The Salvation Army. And behind those trees, that’s the house of the notorious Unsinkable Molly Brown.

By the corner, she used to park her electric car. Yes, you heard right, electric, over 100 years ago. Take that, Tesla! We continue driving south along this very nice, albeit narrow, tree-covered street, Pennsylvania Street. This mansion in the corner is rumored to be haunted. We are approaching the downtown area from the east now, and we are going to spend the good part of the day here.

And we make a wrong turn, actually, and end up by Capitol Hill once again. (warm upbeat music) We are actually trying to reach an area called LoDo, or Lower Downtown. And here we are at Larimer Square, which is a trendy street block with many shops and restaurants.

Let’s try to find parking. (warm upbeat music) Many of these buildings date back to the 1800s. General William Larimer named this site Denver City after Kansas governor James Denver, hoping that this city would become part of the Kansas territory.

No such luck. Nowadays, many of these historic buildings have been converted into condominiums and restaurants, and such. After The Great Fire of 1863, which pretty much burned the city to the ground, wood was prohibited in building construction. That’s why we have all this red brick all over the place. All these buildings along Wynkoop Street used to be warehouses, and these were the elevated loading docks. (warm upbeat music) Coming up next, we see the famous Union Station, which dates back to the 1880s.

We continue walking along all these former warehouses, and this is the IceHouse, for example, a former creamery, and the Cold Foods Storage warehouse. Now it’s a condominium, of course. Eventually, Wynkoop Street turns into this pedestrian plaza, right here, in front of Coors Field, which is the baseball stadium home of the Colorado Rockies. And now we’re walking on Blake Street, which has many sports bars. Of course, there’s no action at this time of the day, so let’s continue exploring, walking towards the 16th Street Mall.

This is the most pedestrian-friendly area in downtown Denver, full of restaurants, shops, and hotels. This tall structure is the D&F Tower. In 1910, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

The 2014 World Cup is going on, so they are broadcasting some of the games right here at Skyline Park behind the tower. Lots and lots of family fun, very nice. (crowd cheering on TV) At the end of the park, they have this funky-looking geometrically-shaped fountain from the 1970s.

The bottom floor of the tower, nowadays, hosts Lannie’s Cabaret, and also, street musicians as well. They’re everywhere. (muffled construction rumbling) Let’s take a quick detour towards Denver Center for Performing Arts and the convention center. This tall building is The Curtis Hotel.

Here’s also the Qwest Corporation building, the Bell Operating Company, formerly The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company. You’ll see all these people in costume because this weekend, the Colorado Convention Center is holding the Denver Comic Con, which, in case you don’t know, it’s a fan convention about comic books and video games, science fiction, and many other genres. Fans get into costume to share in the spirit of the convention, depicting their favorite characters.

Very cool. We’ve heard that this year, the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation is holding a panel here. Too bad the event is sold out. This big blue bear sculpture is Denver’s most popular and most recognized piece of public art. Although its official name is I See What You Mean, everybody calls it the Big Blue Bear, naturally.

Yeah, this Comic Con looks like a lot of fun. Maybe we’ll plan ahead next time so we can attend. (people chattering) That dude needs tickets, and so do we. Moving right along. Let’s go back to the 16th Street Mall, among all these people in costume. (bell ringing) (romantic instrumental music) This 1930s art deco building is the Paramount Theatre.

(wind blustering) (lively piano music) And I feel compelled to join the Denver street musicians by playing this salsa-tumbao on one of these colorful pianos which are along the street and anybody can play them. The only vehicular traffic on the mall is this shuttle bus, which is very convenient, and we are gonna take it back to the Larimer Square, where we are parked. And back by Larimer Square we are, with all its historic architecture. Our curiosity, it takes us into this French quaint little market right next to the Bistro Vendome, which is a French restaurant. This bell is the only existing relic of Denver’s old City Hall built on this site in 1883.

We continue driving around Denver on this beautiful day, and all of a sudden, the weather begins to deteriorate. One lesson we’ve learned is to take advantage of the mornings here in Denver, because in the afternoon, the weather can change suddenly for the worse, especially near the mountains. We are on our way towards the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which is a unique concert venue with, supposedly, superb acoustics. I was actually even pondering the idea of going to a concert here tonight, but we have decided against it.

Let’s just check out the place if the weather cooperates, of course. No such luck, though. The rain is relentless.

Regardless, since there is a concert happening in a couple of hours, we are not going to be allowed to go inside and check out the venue. By the way, all these rock formations around the stage are responsible for the unique acoustics, which make the Red Rocks Amphitheatre so famous. Let’s get out of here. We will come back again if, and when, the weather is more appropriate. We decided to continue towards Golden, Colorado, home of Coors beer, and lo and behold, the weather starts picking up.

And we have arrived, turning here into Washington Avenue, which seems to be the main drag. (bright upbeat music) We are getting kinda hungry, so let’s find something to eat, and this place looks nice enough. There are plenty of restaurants along these streets, and one thing I have noticed is the abundance of good craft beer everywhere. Why would you ever have a Coors beer in this town?

Maybe because Coors was founded here in 1873 by German-American brewer Adolph Coors. Yeah, they even have a statue of the guy. They also have a sculpture of a buffalo. (people chattering) You know, I’m really starting to like this place. Speaking of buffaloes, let’s take this road up to Lookout Mountain, where they have the Buffalo Bill memorial. Yeah, this guy, William Frederick Cody, also known as Buffalo Bill, was one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West.

By the way, we get some commanding views of Golden from the side of the road right here, and we also see Denver in the distance. At age 14, Buffalo Bill became a rider for the Pony Express, and later, he served during the Civil War, and the Indian Wars. In 1883, he founded the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, which was like a circus kind of attraction, and they traveled throughout the United States, and even Europe. In 1917, he was buried at the place of his choice, right here at Lookout Mountain. They have a small museum and visitor’s center.

After a short hike up the hill, we encounter the Masonic tomb, the final resting place of the great Buffalo Bill. The views are grand in every direction. That is downtown Denver far away in the distance. (bright upbeat music) They also have a delicious fudge shop. Delicious. (bright pensive music) Okay, let’s go back down.

(bright pensive music) We make one last stop along the way to see, one more time, this view of Golden, Colorado, and Denver. (bright pensive music) We continue going around all these hairpin turns. Since the weather is decent now, we are going to explore one last part of the city. We have heard great things about the Highland neighborhood, just west of LoDo, across the Platte River. It is supposed to be one of the trendier areas nowadays. Let’s park and explore a little bit on foot.

We stumble upon Confluence Park. Actually, we didn’t stumble upon it. We actually wanted to come here. The park marks the area where gold was discovered in 1858, and this discovery led to the founding of Denver. So, you could say that this is the actual birthplace of the city, if you will.

At this spot, Cherry Creek joins the Platte River, hence the name Confluence Park. Even though there are signs everywhere warning about the contamination and the pollution and dangerous chemicals, some people just don’t seem to care and they dip their feet in the putrid waters. And that’s all, folks. That’s all the time we have at the Mile-High City, a city which, by the way, we have liked a lot. It is, perhaps, the dry weather or the mountains, or the healthy people, the lack of oxygen, I don’t know. It is a place we would return to for sure, and why not, perhaps, spend the summertime in the future?

We are driving back to our hotel. Tomorrow, we are going to make a day trip around the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, mainly to Mount Evans, which is the highest paved road in the United States, and the fact that marijuana is legal here actually has nothing to do with it. Highest, get it? Good morning, once again, from Denver.

Today, we are driving west into the Rocky Mountains. It is our intention to drive up, higher and higher, as high as one can safely drive in the United States. We get off Interstate 70 by Idaho Springs, where we begin the ascent to Mount Evans. First, we take State Route 103 up to Echo Lake. We are having breakfast right here at the lodge, right next to this bird feeder with this view of the mountains.

Since I suffered from altitude sickness a couple of days ago at the Loveland Pass, I get this oxygen canister, just in case. There is a $10 fee to use this road to go up to Mount Evans, and the sign says 24 degrees Fahrenheit at the summit. (groans) This is the highest paved road in the United States, going up to a staggering 14,130 feet above sea level, and the summit is about 100 feet higher. As we gain altitude, we start seeing less and less trees, and patches of snow here and there.

We are now above the tree line, tundra climate, and there are no guard rails. Any distraction could be fatal here as the car could plunge hundreds of feet down the side of the mountain. It is 14 miles from the checkpoint to the top, but we are going to make a quick stop about nine miles up, at Summit Lake. (lively music) Here, we get our first views of Mount Evans.

Yes, it is that tall mountain to the left, now to the front of us. Here, the road gets a little rougher as we arrive at Summit Lake, where we’re going to take a quick break from the white knuckle drive. (lively music) The lake is still frozen in mid-June. (wind blustering) (people chattering) (lively music) We continue going up, relentlessly into the thin air, now at around 13,000 feet above sea level, about 4,000 meters. (lively music) At some point, I have to stop.

We are almost at the top. (lively music) And here we are. These ruins belong to the Mount Evans Crest House, which had a restaurant and a gift shop, but burned down in 1979, so there it is. (wind blustering) Now, we’ll attempt to climb to the summit of Mount Evans.

Let me tell you, it is not the easiest of hikes, and I am freezing, by the way. Definitely came under-dressed. That structure down there next to the Crest House is the Meyer-Womble Observatory. At one point, it was the world’s highest optical observatory. Now it’s just the third highest. Still pretty good, though.

There’s a lot of very slippery ice, so I must be careful. At one point, after slipping and falling, I almost chickened out and turned around, but eventually, made it. Here’s a 360-degree view from the top.

My hand is shaky because of the cold and high winds. The best reward for the climbing effort is this view from the top of the Rockies, 14,271 feet, about 4,350 meters above sea level. By the way, I did use the oxygen spray a couple of times on the way up, and very useful.

That’s a summit, all right. Now, gotta go all the way down there through this primitive trail. It’s wonderful.

Well, mission accomplished. On the way down, I lose the trail a couple of times, but eventually, I find it. (wind blustering) Everest is next. (panting) I was just up there a few minutes ago. Can see Denver in the distance, right here at Mount Evans, elevation, 14,130 feet. Going down now.

(peaceful music) Down and down we go, and I feel like stopping at every single viewpoint. (energetic peaceful music) Ooh, the hairpin turns! (energetic peaceful music) Let’s stop here for a minute.

Check it out. I’m in awe looking at this view. (wind blustering) Back to the car. (energetic peaceful music) (energetic electronic music) We pass, again, by Summit Lake, not stopping this time. (energetic electronic music) (warm upbeat music) Here, we stop again for a moment to see this great view of Echo Lake. (lively music) And we are, once again, below the timberline.

(lively music) We pass by Echo Lake one more time. (lively music) Eventually, we make it down to Idaho Springs and the junction with I-70. Idaho Springs was founded in 1859 during the early days of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. This is the very touristy downtown area.

(lively music) (bright pensive music) Next, we are going to visit the Phoenix Mine. The way to the mine is through this dirt road. They have an area along this creek where visitors can try their luck at gold panning, a time-honored tradition, while they wait or after the tour.

And they have some of these artifacts from the good old mining days. These tiny rodents are running all over the place, very friendly folks, not afraid at all of humans. The mine is owned by the oldest continuous gold mining family in Colorado, and the tour is very nice, actually, and the guide, a very charismatic and friendly guy. It is a great tour, especially for the children.

For the kids, he goes out of the way to get them interested. Watch out! (laughing) (tour guide mumbling) – [Tour Guide] They were all minted back in the day. Malnutrition keeps you under five-foot-seven. This old drill right here is called a widowmaker drill. It was invented back in 1878.

The dull ugly gray is silver, the little sparkles are pyrite crystals. The brown above your head is sand and mud, no good. It turns a weird green color, buddy, but our green stuff’s god gold in it. You can touch this stuff.

Come up there and look at the pretty yellow stuff in the rocks. That’s all gold in the rocks. Gold vein on any tour anywhere in the world, we checked. Now, we used to let you touch it right here.

Do you see the vein of gold in there, buddy? See that yellow in the rock? If you go up to the creek and you find a rock as big as a golf ball that’s stickin’ out of the side, that’s worth between six and 10,000. Any kinda rock from uranium on down has got little bits of gold in it.

We call it gold ore, there’s lots of rocks with gold in it. We chuck it all inside the drum and turn a machine on here. This machine makes that drum go round and around.

All those steel balls in there… And bring that sand with all the gold in it down here, and we throw it in the little box over there in the corner. The box has little holes on the bottom, let’s the sand drip out real slow when you put a water hose in there with it. Next, we start up that machine in the corner.

It grabs a leg of the table, and the whole table starts shaking when you turn the machine on. That’s why they’re called shaker table, really shakes. The shaking helps the sand and the mud move across the table, buddy, ’cause the table leans downhill that way, and downhill this way, just a little bit past. Sand comes out of the bottom of the box and vibrates across those ribs down there, headin’ downhill. Gold, silver, copper, all that good stuff we got in here is really heavy. It’s so heavy, it gets stuck behind the ribs.

In the 1990s, casino online gambling was introduced, and even though Central City built the nice expressway, Black Hawk is still more popular. You know why? They have more casinos. The whole place is kind of depressing, like most gambling towns, in my opinion, anyway. I was hoping to find a more authentic frontier town, but it is what it is.

A little bit to the east, and without really noticing, we are now in Black Hawk. Same thing, casinos and more casinos . They even have shuttle buses.

Our next and last destination today is Boulder, Colorado, a college town. To get there, we are taking the Clear Creek Canyon Road. To the left, we see these mountains called the Flatirons, very famous. Boulder is home to the University of Colorado Boulder, which we can see right here to our right. We are going to have a late lunch, or perhaps, early dinner by this nice pedestrian area called the Pearl Street Mall.