We picked up Ivan the Terrible, a rental van from Native Campervans in Denver, and set out last week for a socially distant road trip through Colorado.
We specifically chose destinations where we wouldn’t encounter large crowds. We’ve been camping in forests and orchards, hiking and exploring. So far, we’ve visited the less developed north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, gone rafting (with just a single guide and no other guests) on the Arkansas River, hiked through one of the world’s largest aspen groves, and soaked in a hot springs.
We’ve learned a lot about van life, too, and we love it (even if we don’t have long blonde hair, perfectly formed bodies and floral print sundresses).
Here are a few thoughts and notes:
1. Campervans are a great way to go while traveling during a pandemic. We’ve been cooking our own meals and sleeping in our Dodge Ram Promaster 1500, customized with a bed, mini fridge, stove and sink, but no toilet or shower. We rented from Native Campervans in Denver. Its name is Ivan the Terrible, and aside from an issue with the key cylinder, it’s not at all terrible. (Ivan’s windshield did crack in a freak hailstorm a few days ago. Yes, this is Colorado.)
2. Dispersed camping is the way to go. For Texans not used to vast swathes of public land, this means you can pull off forest roads and set up camp almost anywhere. (There are rules, but you get the idea.)
3. Be prepared to poop in the woods. (Personally, I much prefer this over roadside bathrooms, for the view and the Covid exposure.) Just walk away from popular camping areas and please, cover your work.
4. Be flexible about where you plan to park your campervan overnight. Lots of folks are camping their way through Colorado right now. If you’re looking for a spot in the national forest, don’t spend all day looking for the next best spot. Take it! One night we weren’t in an area that allowed dispersed camping, so we had to park in a campground. The first four that we checked were already full, but we finally lucked out with the last slot at a not-too-scenic highway-side park.
5. Camp in an orchard! We spent two nights at Big B’s orchard near Paonia. Besides parking our rig between rows of apple trees (and a few hundred feet from the peach trees), we got to drink fresh hard cider from the orchard store, listen to live music at night (from a social distance), and swing on the best dang rope swing I’ve ever seen.
6. Go to less visited areas. We opted for the north rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which sees far fewer visitors than the south rim. The gorge is incredible. We peered 2,200 feet nearly straight down from Chasm View trail. I nearly wet my pants.
Today, we’re heading over McClure Pass on our way to Redstone, where we hear the barbecue’s great. We’re from Texas, so we’ll be the judge of that.