“Wow!” That’s all we could say when we rounded the bend after entering the Colorado National Monument. We pulled over and I got out of the car to take some pictures, and as I was kneeling down I literally lost my balance because I was so disoriented from the gigantic scale of the walls surrounding us.
We hadn’t really known what to expect as we were driving there. We knew it wasn’t a National Park but had read plenty of good things about it, which is how it made the list. Well, I’m not sure how the decision is made as to whether something should be a National Park vs. a National Monument, but all I can say is if you’re on a National Parks trip, don’t pass up Colorado National Monument just because it isn’t technically a National Park.
As we arrived at our campsite, the volunteer ranger drove up in his golf cart to say hello. He asked us how long we were staying and when he heard it would be just under a week, he offered to show us to a different site which was first-come, first-serve. According to the ranger, it was the best campsite in the park and as soon as we saw it we could see why. It. Was. Amazing. Extremely private with incredible views, it felt like you had the whole park to yourself. As an added bonus, this particular loop in the campground prohibited generators, so it was incredibly peaceful. It was a no-brainer. We thanked him profusely for showing us the space, he wrote our name on the reserved card, and it was ours.
What followed was several days of amazing hiking, a great scenic drive, excellent Mexican food in Fruita (the town closest to the campground), and star-filled nights.
Unfortunately, however, we weren’t able to stay for the entire six nights. After two consecutive days of six-mile hikes, Jeff woke up pre-dawn with afib – the first time this had happened since his ablation in March, 2018. We called his electrocardiologist’s office and the on-call doctor called us back and suggested we head down to a lower elevation (at this point we were about 7,000 feet up). Fortunately, by the time the doctor called us back the episode had already passed, but it scared the crap out of both of us. Frankly, I think we both have some PTSD from that awful Christmas Eve in 2017.
We briefly considered driving back to the security blanket of Connecticut where, should it happen again, we would be close to the doctors that we know and trust. But after taking a deep breath, we decided against it. We were already two-thirds of the way across the country, and there are cardiologists everywhere. It seems like a little thing, but deciding to continue west was actually a pretty big step for me – truly cutting the cord when we had the option of scurrying back.
Anyway, clearly it was time to throw the itinerary out the window – camping at sea level was now the new plan. My sister and her husband live in Henderson, NV which was halfway between where we were and the California coast. We were welcome to stay there while we regrouped, so after breaking down the camp it was time to hit the road.