We left Broken Bow and headed to Sydney, Nebraska to stay the night at the only Cabela’s campground anywhere! Sydney was the site of the beginning of Cabela’s business, and they have a monster property there with a campground, horse corrals, and a store with everything!
The next day we began the real drive across the prairie and headed toward Colorado! If you have ever driven in snow country, then highway closures are nothing new to you; but to us, they serve as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature! At most of the exit ramps, were signs warning of the closure of the interstate ahead — Get Off The Highway Now kind of signs!
After miles and miles of prairie, we crossed into:
We continued on I-80 westward until we came to Cheyenne and headed south towards Fort Collins, Colorado to spend a few days near the Rocky Mountains! Horsetooth Reservoir Campground is west of Fort Collins, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies and is a county park property. We had 50 amp electrical service only at our dusty campsite, but had a lovely view of the reservoir and surrounding mountains outside the coach. South Bay site #17 had big shady trees that helped keep the coach cooler in the hot summer heat, but none of the amenities — WiFi, cell service, water or sewer. It did have frequent mule deer visitors though and delightful views of water, mountains and sky!
On the first day, while Barry worked, I took advantage of the proximity to the mountains and headed west toward Estes Park. I had been this way once before, on a trip here with Barry & Tyler about 15 years ago and remembered the upward drive through Big Thompson Canyon and into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). It is still a fantastic drive between narrow canyons and alongside the Big Thompson River, winding higher and higher into the mountains. I was going to try out my back-packing skills for the first time, hiking at elevation with a loaded backpack; I left the highway and followed McGraw Ranch Road up and then down to Cow Creek Trailhead, just inside the boundary of RMNP. I hoisted my pack on my back and headed off to test my skills on the North Boundary Trail. After only hiking about 1/3 mile, I turned and retraced my steps back to my car, thoroughly disappointed with myself. But I did learn! I could do this, if I worked at acclimating to elevation without my backpack, I might be able to try again.
I left this area and headed over to Estes Park to explore the little touristy town a bit. It is the “end” of summer and lat-minute tourists and traffic crowded the town……..time to leave!
After leaving Estes Park to return down Big Thompson Canyon and back to Barry, I chanced to find a little pull-out park alongside the river, Sleepy Hollow Park, and stopped to see the water! I love the sound and feel and smell of running mountain water and will take every possible chance to get close. No other cars were parked in the small lot, the map marked trails nearby, a few picnic tables dotted the grassy area: Perfect!!
After I finished filming a video of the running water, I noticed some movement in the bushes at the turn of the river. As I watched, a black bear and her two cubs popped out of the bushes and began working their way along the river toward me!!! For the next 15 minutes, I watched the three of them move along the rocky areas above the river, looking for berries to eat along the way. She kept an eye on me as I backed up to lean against a tree and stayed still as they scrambled along the rocks; I made sure the car was unlocked and I could make a speedy retreat, if necessary!
Too soon, they turned and made their way up the rocky incline and further away, I returned to my car and left, with a smile on my face from ear-to-ear! I had seen bears in the wild!!!