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Colorado Part 1

 Moving quickly out of the South, we tried to distance ourselves from the heat, and succeeded.  Once departing New Orleans, we drove to Queen Wilhelmina State Park along the Talimena Scenic Drive in western Arkansas.  Perched atop Rich Mountain at 3000 feet, the park provided a reprieve from the heat and miles of lovely trails.   The Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, which was originally built in 1897, is currently under going renovation.  The Lodge was built as a resort for passengers on the Pittsburg and Gulf RR.  Since the lodge was financed by Dutch interest, it was named after their queen with the hopes that she would visit the Lodge, which never happened.  A miniature railroad runs through the park as a nod to its history. 

Front Street recreation
Mural in downtown Dodge City
Kansas is home to millions of cows and millions of acres of corn but it also claims Dodge City.  Yes, the same place that was made famous from 1955 to 1975 by the popular western, Gunsmoke.  Many of the characters from the show were based on historical personages with a lot of literary license.  Home to Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and “Doc” Holiday, the town is dotted with memorials and there is a reconstruction of the old Front Street where shoot outs and dancing girls are part of the entertainment.  The Long Branch Saloon from Gunsmoke was actually one of 19 bars in the mid to late 1800’s that catered to cowboys from cattle drives and buffalo hunters.

Lake Pueblo State Park overview
In southeastern Colorado, Lake Pueblo State Park was our first stop in the state.  The eleven mile long lake provides ample area for the influx of visitors for boating, water skiing, and fishing.   Buttes and limestone cliffs surround the lake, with mountain ranges to the west and high plains to the east offering splendid views.  The paved Pueblo River Trail connects to the city of Pueblo for hikers and mountain bikers.   At an elevation of 4900 feet, this was a good stopover for adjusting to the higher altitudes.  We conquered only the level trails along the lake overview, as our bodies adapted to the altitude.

Some fellow campers at Lake Pueblo determined our next direction on departingthe park, recommending a scenic drive towards Salida and passing Bishops Castle.  We were told that a man was single handedly building a castle, but had no idea what we would find.  Bishops Castle is on the map, so we figured a town that just happens to have this unusual structure.  Actually, the only thing at Bishops Castle is Jim Bishop’s Castle.  Starting 45 years ago, Jim began the project.  He has been solely responsible for the extensive stone work, steel work, glass work, carpentry, land grading, electrical, etc., etc., etc.  As we stopped to speak with him during one of his breaks, he said he would continue building until he dies.  Countless legal battles with the local building department, through the years, have slowed down progress at times but he has now succeeded in passing all the hurdles.  A mote and drawbridge at the entrance of the castle are near completion.  A smoke-breathing dragon extends out from the front of the
building.  Internal and external stairways connect the floors with outside overviews offered at several points.  There are no signs marking the Castle as you are driving along SR 165, but cars parked on both sides of the road mark the spot, and of course, it’s impossible to miss the Castle as you’re driving by.  Jim allows the public to freely roam the castle, asking only for voluntary contributions.  A store onsite, however, also sells snacks, souvenirs and a 45-minute VHS tape of the project.

The next stop was a bit of a stretch at 8960 feet.  The Alvarado Campground in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is part of over a quarter million acres of unspoiled lands in south central Colorado.  Numerous trails lead up into the mountains from the campground, but we did a modest 3-mile hike with little elevation climb.  Before heading out, we were advised that we would only see bears, if we had brought our own.  Bears were hunted into oblivion in this part of
Campsite at Alvarado
Colorado back in the 1800’s.  Lake fishing was available about 5 miles up but we figured by the time we made it up, if we made it up, it would be time to head back down again.  Legend has it that this area was given its name at the death of a Spanish priest who was shot by an Indian’s arrow, as he watched a fiery sunset over the mountaintops, and upon his death cried out, “Sangre de Cristo” or Blood of Christ. 

We are moving slowly through Colorado.  Delightful weather and spectacular scenery give us little reason to move quickly.
Basketball anyone?

Jim Bishop, hard at work

Trail at Lake Pueblo

Water skiing at Lake Pueblo
View of Bishop's Castle from the road

Along the trail in Sangre de Cristo



                                                                                                                                 

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