High Plains Drifters

My favorite month to be in Bellingham, Washington, is September. But, this year, we will be elsewhere: visiting our daughter, Kelly, in Colorado; our son, Trevor, and daughter-in-law, Alicia, in Arizona; and, traveling and hiking with our good friends, Jim and Von Gern, in Utah and the Grand Canyon.

Anxious to get to Colorado, we headed south the last week of August on I-5 to Everett, then took US Highway 2 across the Cascades to Wenatchee, dropping down from there to I-90 East, headed for Idaho and Montana.

Eastern Washington is quite different from Pacific Coast Washington where we live part of the year. It’s dry, hot and relatively treeless, much like the high plains further east in Montana and Wyoming. But, the Panhandle of northern Utah and the mountainous western edge of Montana are familiar territory: beautiful mountain country like our beloved Cascades.

Our first day was all driving – 480 miles in 10 hours to free camping behind the 50,000 Silver Dollar Casino in Montana, just over the Idaho/Montana border. We were up early the next morning, to drive another 550 miles across the High Plains of Montana to Sheridan, Wyoming, another long, 9-hour day at the wheel.

Here’s a photo showing what most of the Montana and Wyoming drive looked like:

Just south of Sheridan, we turned off of I-90 to I-25, taking that interstate highway south to Fort Collins, Colorado, where we checked into the KOA for several days.

The Sheridan, Wyoming, to Fort Collins, Colorado, leg was about 375 miles and 6 hours. Total travel from Bellingham to Fort Collins: 1,400 miles in 25+/- hours. [Although the speed limits vary from 75 to 80 on these interstate highways, I drive at 65 mph.]

The KOA is on the northern edge of the city of Fort Collins which is home to CSU, Colorado State University. This is farm and ranch country.

The day after our arrival, on our way over to visit Kelly and her boyfriend, Dakota, we stopped to pick up Kelly’s allotment at the CSA (“Community Supported Agriculture”) farm where Kelly volunteers in exchange for a share of the harvest.

Last year, in May, we helped Kelly move from Florida to Fort Collins to start a new job at La Luna Center as a mental health counselor, specializing in eating disorders. This summer, she bought her first house, a 3/2 townhouse on the south side of town:

Although we stayed in our RV at the KOA most of the time we were in Fort Collins, we did spend one night at the townhouse with Kelly and Dakota.

To my dismay, the dash air conditioner in the RV didn’t work when I turned it on at the beginning of the trip, so we spent an entire day in Fort Collins trying to get it diagnosed and fixed, to no avail. While Kelly and Dakota worked on Thursday and Friday, we drove around town, running errands.

One of the main east/west thoroughfares in Fort Collins is Horsetooth Road, named for Horsetooth Mountain and Horsetooth Rock at its summit which you can see at the end of the road in this photo:

On the weekend, the four of us drove out to hike up to Horsetooth Rock (elev. 7,208), a 5-mile in-and-out trail with a 1,500-foot ascent (like Denver, Fort Collins is a mile-high city).

It was a beautiful day for a hike. Or a nap. Take your pick.

Near the top, we stopped at an overlook to gaze down on the reservoir and Fort Collins beyond.

At the summit, we stopped to catch our breath, then Kelly and Dakota scampered up to the top.

After taking in the view to the west from our perch just below the summit,…

… we made the final push to the top where we all sat for a while, feeling like we were on the top of the world. Or, at least, the top of Fort Collins.

After congratulating ourselves on checking off one more mountain peak, we headed back down.

It was great to spend several days with Kelly and Dakota. They’ll be joining us in Moab, Utah, in a few weeks. So, goodbye to them, for now!

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