Ridgway State Park – Camping

Most of our posts till now have focused on the adventure portion of our trip; not many delve into our experiences meeting Palisade’s finest.

On one of our first trips to the Distillery (The Still) we met Jesse who immediately welcomed us with open arms as did his fantastic wife Dessa and the rest of the Colorado Alternative Healthcare crew.

Last week Jesse invited us to go camping with him and some of his friends & family at Ridgway National Park which happens to be in the San Juan Mountain Range – our favorite!

When we rolled up, Jesse and Dessa were already at the campsite and helped us get our gear in order.  Not a bad place to spend the weekend!




Jesse described this trip as some family and friends getting together for his brother Sam’s birthday.  Well, as everybody filtered in (Jesse’s family is dispersed around CO) we realized we were invited to a tight knit family gathering and again we were welcomed with open arms.

We all enjoyed grilling and sitting by the fire that evening, but called it relatively early so we could enjoy the lake the next day.




Just hanging out on the lake would have made for a nice day, but there was lake surfing too!



We both got up which was an accomplishment; Amy turned out to be a natural getting up and staying up on her first try!

Nothing like catching your breath while enjoying these views.



After a few hours we turned in and prepared for the feast to come – steaks, burgers, roasted veggies, salads.  When it was all over everybody’s belly was full and plopping down by the fire with the moon as bright as the sun was a perfect way to close out an amazing day.



We woke up on Sunday and enjoyed some coffee with everyone.  It can’t be stressed enough how amazing all the folks were that we spent the weekend with – we’re truly grateful.

Orvis Hot Springs


Another check off the list was to hit a hot spring which is always inconvenient since we are usually traveling with Chica.  As everybody started clearing out to go home, we took the opportunity to hit up Orvis since it was only about 10 minutes away from the campground.

We’ve heard a lot about this place being one of the nicer springs to visit along with it being clothing optional, hence no pictures.

The resort is small and beautiful once you get past the fact that folks of all shapes and sizes are running around ass naked.  There are a number of stone, natural feeling pools with varying degrees of temperature and the ambiance itself is resortish and relaxing.

Definitely recommend a visit if you’re on the Western Slope.

Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery


Finally before the two hour drive home, we decided to head back into the town of Ridgway (which we first encountered on our way to Telluride) and hit the brewery for lunch.  Place has good brew, salad and pizza – highly recommended.

Palisade Pastimes – Climbing Mt. Garfield

Well we’re past the midpoint of our time in Palisade (not happy about that) and while we’ve certainly been making the most of it there are some things we absolutely need to get done; climbing Mt. Garfield was absolutely one of them.

This is one of the shorter hikes we’ve taken on recently at 2 miles, piece of cake right?



This is a 2000 ft ascent and at first glance this looks impossible – how are you supposed to get up there?

Then you have signs like this at the trailhead – not very motivating


Since this trail is only a few minutes from home we decided to knock it out on a week day.  It’s still super hot in Palisade and the ideal time was early morning to beat the heat.  Wake up call 6am.

And we’re off…


About half way up the trail and we know it’s going to be a hot one


No hero’s here, we all needed a break!



We don’t have all day guys.  Need to get moving and be happy about it; how could you not be with that view!?!


And…we’re making our way back up


We finally got through the hard part and hit a plateau.  We were super tired, not going to lie, but being up there was awesome; a hidden valley of HUGE boulders and insane looking formations.



We finally hit the top and took some time to enjoy the stunning views of Palisade (right below) and the Colorado National Monument in the distance (west).



We relaxed for awhile and had our morning call for work while enjoying the view.  This right here is what a mobile work environment is all about!

That said, Chica reminded us that we won’t be productive pounding calls on top of the mountain and it was time to head back.  Ok Bear Cub, lead the way.


Coming up the mountain, we were literally crawling at the steepest points and coming back down was very much top of mind.

Well it’s the moment of truth.  Amy is scoping out the journey down.



Once we reached the bottom and turned around to see the mountain we conquered fulfilled is the word that comes to mind.  It was a challenge, physical and mental, but we got it done.


Now we have a full day of work ahead of us – gonna need some coffee to push through!


Island Lake – Grand Mesa

We were planning to be away until Sunday afternoon, so getting back from Ice Lake on Saturday night opened up another full day to enjoy the outdoors.

For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been talking about how ridiculous it is that with all the lakes we’ve visited, we have not actually gotten ON the water!  Well we’ve rectified the situation.


Grand Mesa is thought to be the largest Mesa in the world; it has over 300 lakes and tons of trails on top – now you know.

The best thing about it is that it’s one hour from home and it seems like a different world.  Instead of the desert experience in Palisade, you get the mountain feel with glacial lakes.

We decided to hit Island Lake


The Grand Mesa Lodge is sweet. It’s located at the highest point of the Mesa and situated right over Island Lake.  It also happens to rent boats.

No much to say.  Wine, food, lake, boat – great freaking day.




Ice Lake Hike – San Juan National Forest

We’re back in the San Juan mountain range; we just couldn’t help ourselves.  After checking out multiple hiking options this weekend we were drawn to the beauty of Ice Lake.

15 - Lake - 3

We heard this hike was popular, and when we arrived, to the forest road leading to the trailhead it was confirmed.  Compared to the last few trails we hit, this off-roading was cake; the campsites were plentiful and full.  While we like our seclusion it was a cool experience to camp around people as well.  Plus the site was gorgeous.

1 - Campground

It’s hard to imagine what a hike will be like  even with all the information available online.

We knew the Ice Lake Trail would be tough, but you don’t know till you know.  The trail turns out to be an almost continuous incline for the entire 2,250 foot 3.5 mile ascent.

Well, we didn’t get dressed up for nothin’ (Braveheart quote)

2 - Hike Start - m c

Yes you need to cross this waterfall by either balance beaming on some suspect logs or choose to rock hop across hoping you don’t get a shoe full of water.

3 - Crossing Fall - fam

Not close

4 - Making way up - a c

We definitely had to have walked 3.5 miles by now – NOPE – still not close

5 - Making way up - m c

Ahh finally a little relief – a relatively flat section of the trail

6 - Meadow a c

Now start climbing again; you’re only halfway there

7 - Making way up - m c

Making progress

8 - Still MWU - m c

Made it – BOOM.  Wow! this was freaking tough.  The ascent was seemed to be an almost constant 70 degrees with some areas that you are literally climbing it’s so steep.

At this point you might be thinking that it wasn’t worth it with all that whining , but no, it was definitely worth it.

9 - Arrived

Of course, as our luck has it, crazy storm clouds start rolling over the peak almost immediately after we arrived.

10 - Clouds - a c

Well, after that hike we were sticking it out, and we were going to enjoy the lake damn it!

So we hunker down and get warm

11 - Keeping warm - m c

We even rode out a freaking hail storm.  Who cares.  It cleared up and we took a walk.

12 - Lake - 1 - a

Found the lakes water source – pretty awesome.

13 - Stream to lake

Enjoying the break in the clouds.

14 - Lake - 2 - m

15 - Lake - 3

16 - Lake - 4 - a

17 - Lake - 5 - a

18 - Lake - 6 - m

19 - Lake - Selfy

We came, we saw, but not conquered yet – we have another 3.5 miles and 2,550 feet down to go.

20 - Down - a c

21 - Down - 2

22 - Down - 3

We made it down by 3:30 right before the next storm hit.  We found a sweet secluded campsite that would have been awesome, but decided to drive the 3 hours back to Palisade.  No point in camping if you’re just stuck in the tent all night.

Challenging and tiring are two words that describe the actual hike, but nothing that’s REALLY worth it comes easy.  This hike was one of those REALLY worth it experiences.

Fruita – Mountain Biking w/ Jeska and Jordan!

Surprise! We got more visitors! For those of you who know my sister Jeska and her husband Jordan will appreciate how they squeezed in a trip to Palisade.

Jeska and Jordan were in New Orleans for an early Jeska birthday celebration.  Let’s just say one of them didn’t want the fun to end and they missed their flight back to Medford.  Luckily they have become masters in the art of having a Plan B and decided to rent a car and drive 6 hours to Houston to stay with some friends for the night.

In the morning, Jeska pulled the birthday card and said she wanted to spend her birthday with her sissy. I mean after all – Palisade is only a 19 hour drive from Houston, makes total sense! So they scratched their flight home and drove 19 hours to come see Mark and me for her birthday.

I don’t know how you celebrate birthdays in your family but the Jackson’s mean business and I had to scramble fast to get the proper birthday swag. Luckily my Momma J taught me well so it was a no brainer.

Birthday Sign and decorations – check.

jess bday sign

Homemade cake – check

birthday cake

Finally Jeska and Jordan arrived and we got the celebrations started!

jess arives to palisade

jeska birthday mark amy jess

The next day was Jeska’s actual birthday.  We drove up the Palisade Fruit and Wine Byway. and stopped at Colterris Winery for a tasting.

The Coral White Cabernet Sauvignon was really tasty!

For lunch we went to the Peach Street Taco Truck which just happens to be located directly next to the Distillery.  Naturally, we had to have a quick tasting while waiting for our order.

distilary tasting

distillary amy jess


Welcome to Fruita! Fruita is Jordan’s favorite place on earth. It’s known for Mountain Biking and Dinosaurs.

We rented some Yeti Mountain bikes from Colorado Backcountry Biker in downtown Fruita. The people there are awesome and they let you rent bikes for 24 hours.

We drove out to 18 road Trailhead. Jordan gave us a quick lesson on Mountain Biking and we were off! We went on diesel incline ride to get to the Mountain Biking trail, Kessel Run – highly recommend for first time Mountain bikers.

18 road amy jess jor

mark and jordan 18 road mountain biking

We all took a couple spills off the bikes but it’s not Mountain biking if you don’t walk away with a couple bumps and bruises!

mountain biking 18 road amy

We headed back to Fruita to grab a couple of beers from the Copper Club Brewing Company, which is Jordan’s favorite bar (mainly because all the beer taps are old bicycle parts) and he loves bicycles. The beer is really good too!

Food was also needed so we picked up dinner from No Coast Sushi(delicious)

The next morning Jordan woke us up at 6:30am so we could get one last bike ride in. We drove out to Kokopelli Trail which is a 142-mile multi-use trail in Colorado and Utah. It was early but the views were unbeatable and we had a blast!

kokapelli mountain trail amy jess

We had one last surprise visitor! Our friend Wally and his puppy Lilac were driving across CO and stayed for the night. Chica was happy to have a friend to play with!


San Isabel National Forest – Baldwin Lake/Camping

This adventure was by far the most challenging we’ve experienced in every way possible. We would drive to the trailhead on a two-way narrow, winding road absolutely littered with rocks and boulders.  Our hike would end up being a 5 hour, 8.5 mile trek that elevated 2000’ with our highest elevation being over 13,000’.

But as you can see from the picture, it was worth it!

Balwin - Intro Pic

I read a lot about how difficult the terrain would be on the way up to the trailhead (this site helped a lot), but was convinced that our last off road experience was pretty rough and that the 4Runner could handle it.  Well, the 4Runner did its job, but I’m thinking it’s time to raise her up and replace the stock tires.  There were huge rocks bulging out of the already uneven, steep rocky road that made me wish for an extra couple inches of ground clearance.  I was a bit jealous when we saw raised Jeep Wranglers with monster tires on them just owning the road.

As with the last camping trip, we had no reservations and relied on blogs and the National Parks Service site for scant information on camping options.  That said, we were optimistic that there would be scattered campsites along the way.

After about 20 minutes ascending the super rocky road at about 2mph we met a guy hiking in the opposite direction with his kids.  We were weary from battling the terrain and were hoping he would tell us the illicit campsites we’ve read all about were just around the bend.  Well, no.  We’ve got at least another 3-4 miles, BUT there is a georgous meadow surrounded by peaks just by the creek with tons of campsites.  So with that, we were reinvigorated and continued onward.

The campsite images tell it all folks.  It was worth it.

Baldwin - Camping - 2

Baldwin - Camping - 1

Baldwin - Camping - A&C

Our next challenge was dealing with the mosquitoes.  Those little bastards have been a thorn in our side everywhere we’ve gone, but this area was plagued by them; we are assuming the proximity to Baldwin Creek (which was crystal clear and beautiful) was the culprit.  BUT we got through it; once we got the fire going they calmed down.  It was a great evening.

We all woke up early next morning, grubbed up and got ready to hike.  I never got a good sense for how far Baldwin Lake was from the campsite area while planning, but we knew it was going to be a diesel hike with the steep and rocky trail.  Time to get your game-face on.

Baldwin - Hike Start - M

The first mile was super steep and we were gaining elevation fast – lot of huffing and puffing going on.  The trees obscured the distant views, so we didn’t see the full extent of what we were in for, but we were getting a good idea.  Again, we knew it would be a formidable hike and once we hit the clearing we got a good sense for was in store for us; it wasn’t a walk in the park.  No turning back now.

Baldwin - Hike - A&M

Baldwin - Hike - C

Baldwin Lake actually consists of two lakes that the snowmelt creates as it makes its way down the numerous mountains that surround the bodies of water.  We arrived at the first lake and it was gorgeous.  We stopped for a small snack and to take it all in; Chica even went for a dip.

Baldwin - Lake 1 - A&C

Baldwin - Lake 1 - A&M&C

Baldwin - Lake 1 - C

After a short rest and a dose of natural beauty we were invigorated and started off to the second lake.  But first, one more beautiful glimpse of Baldwin Lake 1.

Baldwin - Hike - M - after 1

The hiking remains steep and rocky.  From looking at the map Baldwin Lake 2 wasn’t that far from the first lake, yet it felt like we were walking for a while.  Well we were walking too long.  We passed the unmarked and very inconspicuous switchback on the trail that leads to Baldwin Lake 2.  We realized this when we saw Baldwin Lake 2 in the distance – under us.

Baldwin - Passing

Baldwin - Passing 2

Well we decided to hike a little more to see if there was anything interesting ahead and realized: the more we go up the more time we spend going back down.  So we double backed and hit the switch back taking us to the lake.

We’ve arrived!

Baldwin - Lake 2 - Arriving A&M

Baldwin - Lake 2 - Arriving A&C&C
Across the lake there was a big grassy patch at the base of the mountains.  The view from there had to be spectacular and we decided to trek a little more (bringing us to the picture at the top of the entry) and post up for lunch.

Baldwin - Lunch 1

Baldwin - Lunch 2

We are surrounded by 5 mountains listed clockwise: Boulder Mountain, Mt. Antero, Cronin Peak, Grizzly Mountain, Mt. Momma

Christina was ambitious and went the extra distance for this awesome photo op.  Can you see her?

Baldwin - Cmart - Climb

After some time refueling and taking it all in we headed back to camp.  Yeahh no gondola taking us down this mountain.

Baldwin - Hike Down

We decided mid hike that since it was still relatively early in the day, we would pack up and head home to Palisade rather than spend another night.  We’d have a full day the next day to do as we pleased rather than waste it driving home.  Everybody was pooped.

Baldwin - Ride Home

Colorado National Monument

So, we have another visitor!  Christina came through ready to put in some hiking.  Being such an outdoorsy destination it’s great when someone arrives game for anything.

There is a camping trip planned for the weekend, but we had to get our guest to the National Monument; it’s so close and too beautiful not to!

CO NTL - Monument

This is the actual monument where they raise the US flag every July 4 since John Otto started this tradition in 1911. (Source)

There are two entrances to the park, Grand Junction and Fruita.  Junction (as the locals call it) is the closer choice, but we decided to check out Fruita’s little town for a bite to eat before exploring the park.

As soon as you drive through the entrance the scenery is unreal.

CO NTL - Ascending

CO NTL - Arrival

The park is surrounded by Rim Rock Drive; a 40 mile loop taking you to overlooks and trailheads.  We took the western part of the loop coming in from the Fruita entrance – about 23 miles – so we would have more options of views and short trails to check out.  Some of the places we stopped:

Alcove Nature Trail – ½ mile round trip

CO NTL - A&C Alcove nature box canyon

The trail hits a dead end and you realize it’s over

Otto’s Trail – ¾ mile round trip

CO NTL - A&C Otto Trail Entry

CO NTL - Monument

As mentioned above, John Otto was the crazy bastard that climbed 450 ft. to hang the nations flag atop this beautiful rock in the center.  But that is not his biggest accomplishment.  When he stumbled across these Red Rock Canyons in 1906, Otto lobbied successfully to make this place a National Park.  Thanks John! (Source)

Coke Oven Trail (unsuccessful)

The signage wasn’t too clear and we thought the trail started at the overlook point.

CO NTL - Coke Oven Overlook

It didn’t and instead we ended up off the trail and in a cave.

CO NTL - M - Cave

Still an awesome view though.

CO NTL - A&M - Coke Oven

Ute Canyon Overlook

CO NTL - M - UTE Canyon

CO NTL - A&C Ute Canyon

CO NTL - A-C-M Ute Canyon

Folks, the pictures don’t do it justice.