Road Trip Report: 9000 Feet is a lot higher than 900 feet

Traveling Jun 11, 2012 2 Comments

Did we mess up in thinking that we could start our road trip with a jump from elevation 900 to over 9000 feet in just a couple of days?  I guess when you live your whole life at sea level, you forget what being at altitude feels like.

Last night we arrived at the KOA in Central City, CO – sitting right at 9000 feet, and about 1000 feet above the old-fashioned gambling town.  The showers and laundry are about 100 feet below the campsite, and it’s become common for the kids to return to the trailer completely out of breath from the climb.  And I was foolishly planning on doing some mountain hiking today.

Feeling a little bit knackered from the travel and the altitude, we decided to instead drive up to Estes Park to take in a bit of Rocky Mountain National Park, about 50 miles to the north.  After descending the mile into Central City, and then climbing back another 1000 feet to the other side of the winding canyon, McGyver asked for the airsickness bag.  (Ever since the unfortunate route 89A incident into Jerome, AZ in 2005, we always keep an emergency supply of bags in the car for McGyver.)  Between the dehydration, lack of sleep, subsistence on gas station sugar snacks, and altitude sickness, McGyver was in rare form.  He was actually too sick to throw up.

We made a wrong turn in search of a rest area and wound up in Golden Gate Canyon State Park – only traveling 8 miles and another 1000 vertical feet out of the way to discover a picturesque state park, in a verdant valley between dramatic peaks – but McGyver was in no mood to continue, so we returned to camp, where McGyver would spend the rest of the afternoon rehydrating and sleeping.  The rest of us set out to rustle up some lunch and do some grocery shopping.

In Idaho Springs, there is a fantastic old main drag with shops, restaurants, and the like.  We chose Beau Jo’s Colorado Pizza establishment, and had the largest plate of nachos I’ve ever seen.  Domo and Natasha shared the Beaugetti, meatballs and spaghetti served in a pizza crust bowl.  I’ve never seen that before, but it was pretty good.  Domo even chose to add on a trip to the salad bar, and managed to hide a bit of spinach under the mountain of pepperoni, olives, cheese, jalepenos, and peperoncini.

From Idaho Springs, we got back on I-70 and headed back to Evergreen, where Wal-Mart beckoned; I had forgotten to pack any long pants (!) and we needed lots of groceries besides.  I’m happy to say we’re now well outfitted for the week ahead, and I have pants.  We also found the road to Mt. Evans, which we plan to explore in more detail early tomorrow.

I downloaded my pictures from the Pentax camera for the first time today.  I am clearly not taking my photography seriously enough, and in fact haven’t taken a single shot today.  I’ve got some plans for astrophotography tonight, and Mt. Evans will hopefully prove to be photogenic tomorrow.  As it turned out, today was a fairly restful day – which is probably exactly what is needed when a bunch of Minnesotans transplant themselves up within spitting distance of the treeline.


Bret Shroyer lives in Minnesota, where he enjoys outdoor activities and road trips in all seasons. He and his wife Tracie raise their three teenage children to be honest, independent, financially savvy and well-traveled. Together with their giant poodle, the Shroyer family strives to find excitement in whatever life has in store today. Bret's day job as a reinsurance actuary provides the resources and the flexibility to lead his family in their common pursuit of adventure.


  1. debbie

    I LOVE reading about your trip — and I hope I’m following Tracie’s directions correctly so that I can get your updates via email.

    Dad and I leave on Thursday for our trip to Moberly. Brenda, Kim, Summer and Grandpa are also going. We will be home sometime on Sunday afternoon. I’ll bring our laptop so that we can keep up with your adventures.

    Love to all.

  2. dad

    While you are out enjoying nature we have another minor hiccup here at the small white dog ranch. Chickens are eating us out of house and home. I filled the feeder yesterday and 24 hours later most of the feeder is empty and feed is scattered all over the floor and ground.

    Could they be entertaining roosters after we go to bed? No empty bottles or butts on the ground so what is the answer?

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