For this week, instead of living like a tourist, I experienced local life by doing what Coloradans like to do on the weekends: go camping. I went with the boyfriend as we were celebrating our official one year of being together. He surprised me on the location and campground – all I knew was we were going camping and I was going to need bug spray. I have never ventured into the Colorado mountains for this type of undertaking before and I was excited to see just how adventurous and rugged I could get. We brought along my Labrador, Owen, because I was told he is looking “pudgy” so I thought lake swimming and hiking would do him some good.
After driving for 2 hours and ending up at a location you can only get to by using latitude and longitude coordinates, we arrived at a charming campground west of Leadville called May Queen Campground. It was right on Turquoise Lake and had really pretty scenic views. Our campsite was walk-in, so we parked in the parking lot and then hiked up the hill to our spot.
The main things we brought along with us:
- Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets
- Beer and wine
- Brats, s’mores fixings, and skewers
- Garbage bags and paper towels
- Instant oatmeal and fruit for breakfast
- Bug spray
- Fishing items
As you can tell from this list, we weren’t overly prepared. Looking at all the other campers, they had air mattresses, tarps/shelters, grills, tie-ups for their dogs, pop-up campers, RV’s… they must’ve done this before. It started raining and we didn’t have any way of covering some of our things. But luckily, it quickly passed so we were happy that our trip was saved.
I felt that our campsite was really nice because it wasn’t right off the road, but rather buried within the pine forest so it truly felt like we were becoming one with nature. The campground owner came around and advised us there was recently a bear sighting, so be sure to put away any kind of food. Great, now I’m going to be thinking of bears all night! My boyfriend set up our tent and started the fire while I got out the beer and wine. After the fire was going, we looked at each other as if to say: now what?
Grilling brats over campfire turned out to be delicious fun. That may have been my first char-grilled brat and it is definitely better than boiling in a pot of water at home. Next came the s’mores, which was my favorite part of this camping experience. Nom nom.
Once it got dark, things started to quiet down. After the traveling and setting up camp, we were beat! We retreated to our tent and within the first two minutes we learned Owen had the most disturbing, uncontrollable gas I have ever smelled coming from him. It was going to be a long night.
The next morning, I learned why those other campers brought air mattresses. The ground was really hard and I wouldn’t ever go on another camping trip without some sort of padding. The sleeping bag alone was not enough support. Of course, I thought about the bears and mountain lions all night, so admittedly a hotel room was on my mind. But waking up to a beautiful morning made it all worth it. It was dewey and the sun was peaking through the columns of trees. I could smell the fresh scent of pine, a smell I could never get tired of. (And the scent of pancakes that campers were making next to us – why didn’t we think of that?!)
The rest of the day was relaxing as we hiked on the trails, watched Owen retrieve a bazillion sticks from the lake, fished, and just took our time packing everything up before we headed back. It would have been nice to have a small boat to take out onto the lake, again, we’ll be prepared next time! I didn’t take many pictures because I was anti-electronic that day, but I found a nice picture of Turquoise Lake to give you an idea of the beauty we were surrounded in.
Hopefully we will get the chance to go camping again before the summer ends. I learned that it takes a lot of preparation, but taking a break from our everyday lives was a pleasant feeling I could get used to. We had no cell phone service, technology, stresses, or anything to distract us. There was something about living outside with no electricity that made me feel renewed and appreciative when I went back to normal life. It was very humbling. Besides the dirt, bugs, and bears, it really was an enjoyable time and I can see why camping is so popular in Colorado. There is so much to explore and see out here and I hope I don’t ever take that for granted.