10 Things that Made Our Campsite Great – with Pictures!

Last weekend we went camping down at Wellington Lake outside of Bailey, Colorado for a few days.  Just prior to leaving I read through Trail Sherpa’s 89 Tips to Elevate Any Campsite again to get some ideas.   If you get a chance to read through it, I highly recommend it.

I’ve spent many years backpacking and hiking and camping as a boy scout, river guide, mountain guide and outward bound instructor, but sometimes camping with the kids means car camping – and doing it well.  That’s what this is about.

Here are my 10 things that made our camping trip better.

1. Camping near water.  Wellington Lake is a very pretty lake.  Although it’s about 12-15 feet low right now, it’s still really pretty.  They also allow swimming and it actually wasn’t very cold.  There are a couple floating docks and a small floating trampoline.  You can also bring your own non-motorized boats.

Wellington Lake

2. A view from your campsite is a must!  They call this the Castle and it was quite an impressive view from our campsite.  This part of Colorado is really rocky and scenic.  There’s a trail up to it but it wasn’t great for small kids.

Sunset on the Castle

3. Find a nice clearing in the trees and set up your most comfortable 8 person tent for the 4 of you.  We have this great 8 person North Face tent that fits all 4 of us on air mattresses really nicely.  Because the campground allows campfires, the ground and lower parts of the trees have been picked clean of all wood and branches.  So there’s very little to do to clear a space.

North Face 8 Person Tent

4. Bring a hammock, not to camp in, but for naps and reading books (don’t forget your pillow).


5. Have a strong knife that you can really use for everything from making kindling to marshmallow roasting sticks.

Strong Knife

6. When possible, make a fire.


7. Everything tastes better wrapped in foil and tossed on the coals (Thanks AdventureTykes! More recipes here.)

Campfire BurritoCampfire Burrito Cooked

8. Have a nice hiking destination.  This waterfall in this cool grotto was a perfect destination for all of us, including the kids.  It’s on the way to the Castle, but was a perfect place to stop and spend a couple hours playing.

Hiking destination


9. Duct Tape.  Always handy to patch things that hold air like air mattresses when you discover that one had a hole.

Duct Tape

10. Enjoy the sunset!




And a bonus.  Bring a rope for a clothesline.  With kids and water, you know that some of you are gonna get wet.

Randomness on the Trail

Since @WildernessDave posted a story about his recent Grand Canyon trip and random stuff on the trail, I finally had to post this.

When we are at Grand Canyon over spring break, my wife and I got to take a good chunk of the day and hike down the South Kaibab Trail.  We didn’t have all day, but, enough time to make it down the 3 miles to Skeleton Point and enjoy a snack while looking over the river and then back up.  It was a great hike, and like most tourist hikes, we saw hundreds of people, most of whom were unprepared for a spring hike into Grand Canyon.  As a member of a mountain rescue team, it’s very sad to see so many ill-prepared people who feel the need to tempt fate by heading out with little or no water, preparation or fitness.

Anyway, on the way back up, we were passed by this lovely bit of randomness:

South Kaibab trail hiker with a suitcase

I particularly like the clothes hanging out and flapping in the wind.  But, this young man may have everything he needs in the suitcase and the shoulder bag to last for a while; maybe a tent, water bottles, a little stove, some food, etc in this lovely, bright blue, wheelie, hard case luggage. We’ll never know…

Getting to Know Staunton State Park

Last week we had a chance to do some hiking in Staunton State Park to get familiar with the newest Colorado State Park (in case we get some SAR missions out there).  It’s always good to get to know new areas for many reasons, and that day, we weren’t disappointed. I’m pretty excited to explore more of this park before it gets too crowded. I encourage you to do the same!

We’d been in that area off of Shaffer’s Crossing once before a few years ago, but there was no sign of there being a park, just fences with state land signs and nondescript, locked gates. We tried driving around to see if there was any way in, but had to leave disappointed.  In case you didn’t know, the park has a lot of rock climbing in addition to nice trails for hiking and biking, but the climbs aren’t that close to the parking lot, so I don’t expect it’ll be too crowded for climbing yet. They’ve done a lot of really nice development of the trail system and the climbing routes that I expect will be a big draw.  Especially since it’s higher up in elevation and not too far away to drive.

We were able to hike to the base of some great rocks to see a lot of different routes – some bolted and some not. (Here’s a link to a great PDF resource on the climbing routes). Then we hiked around to the top of the rocks for some really amazing views.  But, this was just one area we explored.  We didn’t make it around the long loop or to the waterfall, which I hear is pretty cool, but 10 miles round trip.  Next time, maybe I’ll bring my bike… 🙂

Here’s a few shots of this beautiful park.

Hiking Aspen Mountain

A couple weeks ago we were in Aspen for a friend’s wedding and I had a spare hour for a hike up Aspen Mountain that I turned into 3.  I know that hiking up Aspen Mountain isn’t any real big deal, but it sure was fun.  We didn’t know it until we got there, but they had reopened Aspen Mountain for skiing this weekend because the snow was really good up at the top. So, my hike just went up until the snow started.  Then I turned around and went back.  It was a great day, a great wedding and I look forward to returning to this beautiful valley.  A few pictures are below.

We went to the John Denver Memorial Garden, which was beautiful!

Then a hike up the ski area

Then I was playing with Adobe Lightroom again on an image at sunset on Independence Pass.  I don’t know it well enough yet to describe exactly what I did to make it look this way, but much like tying knots where “if you don’t know the knot, tie a lot” I tried a lot of things…


Independance Pass Before

Independence Pass Before


Independance Pass After

Independence Pass After

I’d love to know what you think.

Encountering A Swarm of Bees in Hunter Canyon near Moab

Last weekend we were in Moab for almost a week playing and hiking and boating.  For one of our hikes we decided to head out Kane Creek Road to Hunter Canyon.  We’d heard it was a nice place to hike and that it recently had water flowing.  Today, it wasn’t flowing; it was stagnant and sort of icky which is no good when you have kids that love the water.  It was also hot and humid in the canyon.  But, the biggest issue we saw was about 60 yards past the register when we heard a really loud buzzing.  It got louder and louder as we kept going.  Until, we looked up and saw a swarm of MILLIONS of bees pouring up into the sky from an underground nest.  We quickly, stopped, turned around and then slowly walked back towards the trailhead.  We were done hiking here for the day.

Before I turned around, I shot this picture.  It’s not great, but I wasn’t gonna hang around for a masterpiece.  You can see all the blurry dots are bees… And the arch in the background.

Click to enlarge and see the bees in Hunter Canyon

Click to enlarge and see the bees in Hunter Canyon

We told the BLM and the visitor’s center, but probably they won’t do anything, so, be careful when you head out there.  Anyone ever see this out there before?

Hiking in Bell Park

With 6 Tips for Hiking with the Kids

Part of the Bell Park trail

Part of the Bell Park trail

There a little known park in Evergreen, CO called Bell Park that is a really nice place to hike with kids because it’s never very crowded. Probably because parking isn’t very good. But, if you can squeeze into a spot on the wide shoulder of the road, you won’t be sorry. You can’t go very far in Bell Park though, as its surrounded by roads and residential lots in the mountains just south of downtown Evergreen. There are also some fun geocaches in the park which is the reason we went there last Saturday.

Park at the 'A' marker

Park at the ‘A’ marker

Several years ago, my wife and daughter and I hid one there in an old engine block in the middle of the park. I got an email from someone searching for it that it wasn’t there anymore and it needed to be replaced. I expect it was either found by a person or an animal carried it away as it was just an old plastic film canister.

Bell Park is actually a bit larger than I make it seem, but it’s bisected by Little Cub Creek Road and this little part we were hiking in is also connected to Cub Creek Park. But, there’s not enough contiguous park land to really get lost – which is probably why we’ve never had a SAR mission in here.  It’s also got some great views, including Mount Evans.

The view of Mt. Evans, which is more visible on a clear day.

So me and the kiddos and the dog jumped in the car and headed out just a few minutes from our house to find the wide spot in the road and start our hike on the Foothills Nature Tail. This trail is actually a big loop, heading south-ish straight up the hill to a clearing on top of wide ridge line that’s actually more of a field. The trail follows the “ridge line” to the east until it approaches some houses, then turns north, downhill towards the road and the creek and follows that back down to where you started.

Today, we weren’t doing the whole loop but were just going to restock the cache and then, since we didn’t have to get back anytime soon, explore for a while, which is where the fun and imagination comes in for us.

A we started up the hill, we noticed quickly that a tree had fallen on the power lines and was resting on them. We VERY quickly rushed by this just in case it broke and promised to call Xcel Energy when we got home. Once up the hill, they both wanted to run and hold the iPhone with the geocaching app to find the cache, but, alas, downer of a dad that I am, I make them choose one or the other, so they decide to trade-off walking and holding the phone and then running with the dog.

Our lunch view in this grove of trees

Our lunch view in this grove of trees

Finding it was pretty easy and then deciding where the new one be should be hidden turned out to he a committee decision. Once decided, then we could start playing, exploring, building stick shelters and climbing some rocks! Eventually, we started meandering back down the trail and went past the turn off to the car and kept going a bit. We “pioneered” a new trail down the hillside to a really nice grove of trees overlooking the creek, found a place to have a seat on the day pack and had a snack.

After our snack, we headed back up the hill, crossed a small gully, saw another tree leaning against the power lines, and then noticed a large outcropping of rocks the definitely needed to be climbed upon. Once this pile of rocked was conquered, it was time to head back to the car but, not before playing in the steam for a few minutes…

All in all, a great day hike for the family and kids. And with a few hints I learned that made it even better for the kids.

  1. Give them a goal. We sometimes go geocaching and while I don’t search for caches all the time, I sometimes use this to create hiking goals for the kids. It gives them something to look forward to and a way to participate in the hike. Some caches are large with toys in them and if they bring a small toy or nick knack to put in, they can take one out.
  2. Give them Responsibility. They LOVE navigating with the GPS or the app. It really gets them excited to see how close they’re getting. They were also in charge of getting our snacks together.
  3. Give them advanced notice. I started talking to them a couple days prior to going and told them where we were going and our goal and they looked forward to it for those days. When the day came to go, they got ready really quickly.
  4. Give them freedom. Make sure you have plenty of time to explore and have a great time. Try not to rush and let them lead and they’ll do great!
  5. Give them a snack. All kids love a snack and this is also a goal; to hike to someplace cool for a snack. I prefer snacks with a view and so do they.
  6. Give them a game. Sometimes our youngest says she gets tired and begs to rest, even though we haven’t been out very long. She also likes to run. So, my wife discovered that we can do a Run-n-Rest with her. Which means that she and one of us runs ahead a bit, then stops to rest until the others catch up. Then she runs again until we catch up and does this several times and then soon forgets she thought she was tired.

I’d love to hear other ideas!


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