TBT: The lake that isn’t there


This is not a scene from Bonny Lake, this is the Rocky Mountains, which distracted us from enjoying Bonny Lake while it still existed.

Our Gypsy Trip across the country in 2010 was so named because we decided to camp our way across the country, but it wasn’t until our second night that we actually camped. What a first night it was.

Unbeknownst to us, we were camping on land in the middle of an Old West Style war about water. Coming from a water-saturated part of the country, we were all unfamiliar with the water wars that still rage in the western United States today.

Basically, there was an agreement established in 1942 between Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado that required Nebraska and Colorado to supply so much water to Kansas. Decades went by and finally, one day someone realized that Kansas wasn’t getting all the water they were supposed to be getting. So a court case went all the way to the Supreme Court and Colorado had to pay up.

What does this have to do with us camping in 2010? Well, we stopped at Bonny Lake State Park, in Colorado, on our second night of the trip. It was a stopover for us – we didn’t put much thought into the location except that it set us up to get exploring the rest of the state the next day. Not thinking about this more was our loss. I believe there was a lake there, but we never saw it. We arrived late and left early, eager to get moving checking things off our To See List.

The first telling of our Bonny Lake story included the parts about the rowdy neighbors and putting up the tent after dark in a thunderstorm. I’m kind of impressed with us putting that sucker up in the dark and rain; I don’t know if I could do that now and I must have pitched it 50 times since then. I’m also impressed that it stayed staked into the ground with only the corners pinned down. Way to go, little Wal-Mart tent!

The part of the story that didn’t make the first cut is what happened between the time we set up the tent and when we went to sleep – and what happened to that park since then.

We’d been on the road all day, it was late and we’d just put up a tent in the rain. We knew we’d need an early start in the morning, so Amanda and I decided to hit the bathhouse that night so we could pack up and head out quickly. We took the car and drove to try to avoid some of the weather, and left Cory, my brother, in the tent at our campsite.

Hindsight being 20/20, that was a pretty inconsiderate thing to do. See, Cory never complains about anything – or even expresses much of any emotion. He’s someone you never notice there until he cracks a joke about something. He never said a word when we left.

I don’t know how long we were in the bathhouse, long enough for us to pump a few dollars in quarters in the showers. I’m sure we’d been there close to half an hour, and that felt like hours to someone who was alone, in a half-staked tent, in a torrential thunderstorm, a few dozen feet from five or six drunken campers, hundreds of miles from home.

I was finishing up when I heard a knock at the bathroom door. Now, Cory has some big, hazel peepers on a normal day, but when I opened that door his eyes were all I could see.

“Uhhhh, how much longer are you going to be?” He was obviously nervous, shifting his weight.

I guess waiting in the tent while the wind tried to rip it from the ground got to be too much for him, so he braved the weather to walk to the bathhouse.

He hung around for the last of the 10 minutes or so Amanda and I took to finish and we all went back to the tent and crashed. Or at least I did. I always sleep like a baby in storms. (And that time, the tent didn’t leak.)

So we – along with those drunkies a few spots down – made some pretty good memories at this park. But what about that war over water?

The entire dispute reminded me of a standoff in the west. I could just see John Wayne and Robert Duvall standing off on either side of the state line. (Hey! I know they are different cowboy generations, but it would make a great standoff, no?)

“That’s our water you’re holding over there,” Duvall would calmly state from the Kansas side of the state line. He’s on horseback, slouched a little, his hands on the saddle horn.

“Yeah?” Wayne would be casually smoking. “Well, come and get it then.”

Then he would flip the cigarette, probably starting a wild fire that would then require the use of all the water to put it out and no one would have any water and all three states would start hounding Montana or something to send them water.

Whew. That kinda ran away with me, but you get the idea. Instead of a wildfire inducing cowboy standoff, Colorado ultimately decided to drain Bonny Lake and let the water flow away to Kansas. Today, the state park now operates as a nature preserve and is still open to hunters, and I wish we’d taken just a couple of hours to visit the lake.

Let this be a listen to you: When traveling, if you stop to camp beside a lake, make time to actually see the lake. It may not be there the next time you pass through.


Vlog: The Adventure of a Lifetime

New Gypsy Trip TagWe made this video last night during the storm, but it took literally all night to finish uploading. I would like to point out before you watch this that we did not practice, rehearse or do anything on purpose. This is a direct consequence of spending toooo much time in a car.

And yes, we did make it up at 4:30. Its 4:43 Mountain Time right now. 🙂

This is what happens when you spend two days in a car

New Gypsy Trip TagDespite how it ended, today was absolutely amazing! I’m having trouble with deciding if I should start at the beginning of the day or the end. Hmmmm. Well, I guess I could start by saying that I’m currently sitting in a cabin — excuse me, kabin — at a KOA near Colorado Springs. And while I’m disappointed that we pansied out and are sleeping inside four walls, I’m over it already. We spent most of the evening outrunning a storm and it finally caught up to us.

After we left Rocky Mountain National Park (more on that later), we skipped out on stopping in Denver to try to get to Pike’s Peak before it closed. Fail. We arrived at the gates about 15 minutes before they were locked up for the night. So we doubled back to go to Garden of the Gods. Semi-fail. The clouds of the impending storm were already rolling in, so the park was rather dusky and we couldn’t really get any good pictures. We plan to go back in the morning for a few quick photos before heading to New Mexico.

And here’s where things really started to get interesting. We had called ahead to confirm availability of a campground at Garden of the Gods campground, and I was told that we didn’t need to make a reservation. Well, after some difficulty finding the campground, we had even more trouble finding anything in it. We had to use a map taped to the door to discover that we needed to exit the park and take a side road to get to the tent campgrounds. We finally found the street and it was dark and none of us were particularly comfortable with it. The road dead ended inot what looked like a gravel pit where everyone pitched their tents together and parked their car back down the street.

Considering the thunder and lightning going on all around us and the creeepy man sitting alone at the only tent pitched in the gravel pit, we were ready to get the heck outta Dodge. In my hours of research before this trip — make fun of the nerd, but I saved us today! 🙂 — I found a KOA about 15 minutes from the Garden of the Gods campground. We made a quick phone call, secured a cabin reservation and ended up here. The rain moved in about as soon as we got here, and sitting in my air conditioned cabin, I was never happier to not be in a tent.

I know I’ve been promising to post pictures and video, but I’m having serious technical difficulty this trip. First my camera battery died and the charger I just bought that worked at home, no longer works. So I bought a cheap digital camera from Wal-mart. Today, I completely filled the hard drive on my laptop when I cleared the memory of my flipcam. (The external hard drive I currenly have is already full of pictures and video.) And even though I have Wi-Fi, it’s not the fastest thing and I’ve been unsuccssful at uploading anthing thus far.

I know, Promises, promises. But I am trying. 🙂

Home sweet home

New Gypsy Trip TagWhere do I even begin? Last night we camped at Bonny Lake State Park, barely over the state line in Colorado. It was about 9:30 p.m. before we arrived, and we were tired. We hadn’t eaten since lunch, but no one realized that until this morning.

We pulled into the park in the pitch-black darkness with one heckofa thunderstorm visible in the distance behind us. We had been watching the lightning on the highway for several miles already.

The dark county road we followed to get to the entrance of the park was a little creepy and covered in frogs. We couldn’t see anything beyond the beams of our headlights and bugs were hitting our windshield at such a high frequency it sounded like it was raining. At one point, we saw some kind of animal sitting in the road, then it spread its huge grey wings and flew away. It was an owl — the first one I’ve seen outside the zoo. I have video, but of course I can’t post it until I get to Wi-Fi tonight.

All the way into the park we kept questioning our decision to stay there. The creepy blackness coupled with a few beer cans dropped along the road like breadcrumbs leading us to the campground had us all a little uneasy. We found the source of the noise easily enough. Set up right at the entrance was a couple groups of rowdy guys enjoying their Saturday night. Fortunately for us, a park ranger stopped to help us find a spot.

He said, “I’ve already had to get on those guys once tonight, and I’ll have to again later. You don’t want to stay by them. If you want, you can follow me and I’ll take you to a nice spot.”

The park ranger appeared middle-aged and seemed like a genuinely nice person. He took us around to another loop in a quieter area. And then the real fun began.

I must say, putting up a tent in the dark wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. It helped that we had a superbright lantern. The worst part was the bugs. They were in swarms and biting. There was an all you can eat buffet above my elbow on the back of my arm. I have my own rendition of the Rockies made from welts formed from bug bites.

It rained all night, but the sound of rain hitting the tent was kind of relaxing. The wind whipping was a little unnerving at times, but that’s only because we only had the corners of the tent staked down. We thought we had left the tent stakes at home, but it turned out we just lost them on the ground in the darkness. We found them this morning as we were packing up.

We’re almost to Rocky Mountain National Park. 🙂 I’m absolutely thrilled, even if I will be using a cheapie camera from Wal-mart. (Why did my camera have to die now?)

I’m expecting to have Wi-Fi tonight, so I should be able to get the long-promised photos and video posted late this evening. 🙂

Get your Griswold on

New Gypsy Trip TagI’m sure you’ve seen, or at least heard of, “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” You know, the movie where Chevy Chase loads up the family in their station wagon and shenanigans ensue while they’re on a great American adventure. Well, that just happens to be one of my dad’s favorite movies.

When I was growing up I was lucky enough to take many family roadtrips, three or four of them out west. When I say “lucky” I’m not being sarcastic. Sure, when I was a teenager I wasn’t thrilled about being cooped up in a vehicle for a 12-hour drive, but at least I had the entire third-row seat of an SUV to myself.

Looking back, the times when I was most miserable were some of the best memories I have. Like the year we started out with the intent of staying in Colorado Springs for a week, but instead decided to drive north through Wyoming, checking out Mt. Rushmore and Wall, South Dakota on the way home. Or the time we visited Tombstone, Arizona and got enough Wyatt Earp trivia to last a lifetime.

Hold it. Who am I and when did I get so old and nostalgic?

I dug out some of my favorite photos from those trips and posted them below. Unfortunately, I haven’t posted anything from my first trip out west to the Grand Canyon. I shot everything with a 35mm SLR that year and I haven’t converted them to digital yet.

Feel free to post your favorite Griswold-style family vacation memories in the comments! I’d love to read them. Enjoy! 🙂

 I love this accidental shot through the clouds going up Mt. Evans.
Cathedral Rock
The boys were nice enough to hold their fire until I got this shot.
Oh, yeah. That wasn’t even the half of what we did in that Jeep.
One of my favorite scenic shots from Rocky Mountain National Park.
My all-time favorite desert shot, taken in Saguaro National Forest.
These sandstone formations were in the middle of a cow pasture somewhere in Kansas.
Yes. That is a skeleton wearing a cowboy hat driving that car.
The road going up Pike’s Peak
Yes. The Big Nose Kate’s Saloon.
Ascending Mt. Evans