Our fourth "Mystery Trip" began as they all do with my wife and I picking up our daughter and two grandsons at their home. All they boys knew at that point was what we had put on their packing lists. Mom also knew that it would be a RoadTrip since she had to be present the previous evening to sign on as a second driver on the rental: a seven-passenger minivan.
Day 1 was mostly just about heading towards our final destination(s) in Colorado. After packing up we headed out over some familiar roads in our home state. We had planned on stopping for a picnic lunch at Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, but when we got there, the lakeshore was packed solid and there was a $7 entry fee, so we just headed for a local Show Low city park and found a table in the shade, free from both crowds and fees. We then continued on north to Zuni Pueblo for the night. We stayed in a B&B for the night, did some shopping for native jewelry, and had a great, pre-ordered and hearty breakfast before setting out again.
Day 2 was again mostly about driving, but we did make a stop at Aztec Ruins National Monument.
These are the kinds of stops I love to include on 'driving' days: near or on our route, 'unknown' to most of the traveling public, and allowing an up-close connection with a bit of history. While no one would call it a "must see", it certainly made for a nice relaxing and educational break in the day, and again provided a few shaded picnic tables for lunch. Later in the day, we arrived at our first major destination, a set of cabins along the South Fork of the Rio Grande River in the foothills of the Rockies. While we probably could have all fit in two cabins, we had rented the third as well so that we had the entire place to ourselves and we could spread out a bit.
Days 3 and 4 were spent at 'our' cabins. Our older grandson is an avid fly fisherman, so he spent much of his time casting in the river directly in front of his cabin,
while our younger grandson loves to find stuff so we had brought along a couple of metal detectors. Though he didn't find any treasure, he did find a few old spikes and some lost metal rings from the campsite's ring toss game. We also did a few kayaking trips with our hosts providing transport to points upstream for put-in. The kids made several such trips;
my wife and I enjoyed our single hour-and-a-half float down river. The two of us and our younger grandson also took the Silver Thread Scenic Highway up to Creede for lunch one day and drove the Bachelor Loop, including a stop at the Last Chance Mine mine for some rock hounding and more spectacular views.
Day 5 was another driving day, this time to our next stop at Colorado Springs. Again, there would be a stop around mid-day for some unique scenery/geology and a pleasant lunch, this time at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
This was another slightly out-of-the-way national park, but well worth the effort to get to. It is worth noting if you plan to go that a popular activity here is 'sand surfing', sliding down the dunes on small boards. But if you plan to do this, make sure that you rent your board from one of the vendors before entering the park or else it will be a 6+ mile round trip to get one as the park does not supply them.
Days 6 and 7 would find us in a rented house in the suburbs north of Colorado Springs and taking in the Garden of the Gods
and a neat collection of vintage pin ball machines and other games in Manitou Springs on our first day there. The next day was spent touring the US Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy. I also got a chance late on our last day to make a personal pilgrimage of sorts. The last time I was in Colorado Springs was 56 years ago for the 50th Anniversary Boy Scout Jamboree. Today there is a small red rock monument marking the site just a few blocks from where we were staying, as well as an impressive statue of four mustangs with Pikes Peak in the background.
Days 8 and 9 were spent driving home, essentially a straight shot down I-25 to I-10 with an overnight stop in Albuquerque. The one stop on Day 8 was in Santa Fe to wander the stalls at the Flea Market north of town. And we made no stops other than for lunch on the final day, letting us get home in the relatively early afternoon and recover a bit before Monday morning.