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Epic Road Trip #15 (The Final Leg)

Had an expensive fastfood type breakfast at a diner in Granby. Did some laundry and found dispersed camping in the National Forest. I took a not so great site lower on the mountain since I had the donut on. I walked up the road to the High Lonesome Trailhead and hiked that to the cabin at the end.

The next morning I drove into Winter Park, I think and got my tire fixed. Had another expensive fastfood type breakfast and checked out the local thrift store. It was $44 for the flat fix, which was steep but since the other was free I made out ok.

I backtracked to head north and picked up a hitchhiker and took her to Sulphur Springs before her Food bank milk spoiled. It was my third hitchhiker of the trip which made up for my two rides and one for the hundreds of times I’d hitchhiked in my youth.

I drove up north through a large burned area of the Rout National Forest. It was surreal seeing the total devastation which read like an indictment of our poor forest management practices.

I stopped at the big wildlife management area and saw it was moose country. There was no free or cheap camping or hotels in the Walden area and all the restaurants looked like the same pricey fastfood like stuff I was coming to hate about Colorado so I pushed on to Wyoming.

I found a hike in the Medicinebow National Forest on a rails to trails trail. There were a lot of ponds from the borrow pits making the railway and I saw a lot of Willow and some moose droppings so I camped in a burned out area and got up in the cold predawn for a morning hike to see Moose, but no luck.

I drove into Laramie and filled up on cheap Wyoming gas. I drove to the Lincoln statue which is at an elaborate rest area celebrating the Lincoln Autoway which was the first cross country auto route. There were allegedly trailheads there but I couldn’t find them. All the trails had a $5.00 day use fee so I drove on up to Cheyenne.

Cheyenne has a great municipal park with a botanical gardens and a swimming lake. Had a nice lunch at a Filipino restaurant and looked at my options. When I went to Cheyenne I’d decided to turn towards home. I did Yellowstone and Grand Tetons a few years ago and Devil’s Tower at 250 miles away didn’t seem worth it.

With nearly a full tank of gas I figured I could head back to Colorado. Drove down to Fort Morgan where I found a reasonably priced hotel in the High Plains. I hiked a riverside trail along the Platte which wasn’t great.

I headed west and had lunch in Nebraska before turning south into Kansas. I had talked to my friend Trevor that morning about our bi-annual trip to the Detroit Jazz Festival and he reminded me of Nicodemus so I decided to head there. Passed a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre and related tragedies some of which had happened nearby. I found some free camping east of their in Hill City at a municipal park. It’s hot in the flatlands and I slept poorly.

The towns along 24 each had little historical parks and signs about their settlement. Nicodemus is a National Park site being settled by former slaves. I took a solo guided tour with a ranger and we had a great dialogue on racism and city development.

Nicodemus had a strong start but got screwed out of their railroad stop by the white developer who had helped found the town but pulled some shenanigans to get the stop in one of his white towns. In addition to a good breakfast place the ranger told me about a dugout Nicodemus residents had made outside of Stockton which was a sundown town. It was in good shape and I don’t recall having seen one for as many as I’d read about in westerns growing up.

I drove to Grand Junction and got another hotel as it was hot again. Had some so so barbecue and another crappy hike on a riverwalk this one the Republican River. Then I drove home. It was nice to be back. Nine weeks on the road, ten states, 5,000 miles, 5 nights at friend’s places, 4 nights at hotels and never paid for camping. It was a sweet trip and a great adventure.

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