Camping is such a blast, even after dealing with the frustrating parts, like packing/unpacking, dirt, long car rides… While there is nothing that can be done about packing and unpacking or the dirty feeling you have all the way down to your fingernails… the long car rides do get better if you have the right vehicle!
We loaded 4 people, a dog, and A TON of camping gear into a Kia Sorento for a weekend adventure… surprisingly we all fit, with extra room to spare! The 7-seat SUV was spacious for our 10+ hour drive — maybe a little longer since we got lost (that’s what happens when you try to use TWO GPS systems.) The funny part about that story is, the built-in Kia navigation system had the correct directions, and our phone directions took us on a non-existent road! Two thumbs up for the navigation system in the Kia Sorento!
We split the road trip in half on the way down. We drove about 2 hours and stopped in Guffey, Colorado. While we were there, we took a trip to the Royal Gorge Bridge. This was a sight to be seen! The magnificent Gorge was something that none of us had been to before. It is one of the world’s highest suspension bridges hanging above the Arkansas River. I was very glad it wasn’t too windy – although it would have been safe — bridges and wind are not my favorite combination! We spent the morning overlooking the valley and the river below from the bridge built in 1929. After we were done admiring the beauty, we took our time with the other attractions at the Royal Gorge. The boys stepped out to the cliff walk – an overhang platform that sticks out straight into the valley, while Emily and I took pictures. We all visited the highest point of the Gorge – Point Sublime, saw elk, rams and more at the Royal Gorge Petting Zoo and took noticed of how the unique water-moving clock (one of only three in the world!) worked on leap years. How does it work? But by far, our favorite attractions of the fun-filled day were the Aerial Tram and the Incline Railway.Both of these rides gave us a different perspective of the Gorge – even if they were a bit nerve-racking! The Aerial Tram is one of the world’s longest single-span aerial trams. We started on one side, got in a little metal red box and traveled more than 2 miles over the 1,178 foot Gorge – all on track cables! It was VERY impressive, but probably not best for those scared of heights!
While we skipped out on the Soaring Eagle Zip Line, Royal Rush Skycoater and the Silver Rock Railroad (Sorry, Simon!), we did take a ride on the Incline Railway, one of the world’s steepest incline railways! It was something I am glad we didn’t miss! This railway is built at a 45-degree angle and still is considered one of the most difficult structures ever built. It takes you from the top of the Gorge to the bottom – descending over 1,500 feet! When we made it to the bottom, we realized just how high the bridge really was! We were glad we experienced that first!
After the Royal Gorge, we had lunch, did some target practice and 4-Wheeled around Guffey. This was the first time Emily and Simon had ever shot a gun – and it was adorable how my husband taught them how to shoot, load and unload. Simon was a pro in just a few shots – he was the only one who got a bull’s-eye! Not bad for a beginner! We joked around, that now he was going to have to be Dan’s new hunting buddy. We’ll see, we’ll see.On the road again… While on the drive, we enjoyed the good music from country to rap. The Infinity surround sound audio system was bumpin’ (as my husband put it.) The Kia Sorento has a nice music set up for satellite radio, CD player, a Bluetooth and a USB connector. There were many ways to play music in the Kia – or when we weren’t out in the sticks, with no service, we could listen to the radio! Since we were in the middle of nowhere most of the time – it was great to have the iPod integration. We were able to play our own music, because on a road trip like this, you get spotty radio stations!
The drive to the Sand Dunes took a bit longer than expected, and we got there pretty late at night. We were thankful for the Kia Sorento’s rear camera while we parked our car in the dark! With the camera we were able to see trees, bushes, BEARS or anything that was behind us. This was specifically nice since we didn’t know the area and our Kia was stuffed to the ceiling with camping supplies — we couldn’t see out of the windows.
We claimed one of the best campsites (we separated to scope out the options). After a unanimous vote on Emily’s chosen campsite, we set up our tents and got to cooking. The night was filled with stories and long gazes of the millions of stars in the sky. We roasted marshmallows and (for some) tasted our first campfire s’more! We finally got to sleep, despite the fear of bears roaming the site and tarantulas crawling in our tents (there was a bear warning out and we saw a tarantula earlier that day!)The next morning we were "up and at ‘em", ready for the National Sand Dunes! These rolling hills of sand were phenomenal! They are the tallest sand dunes in North America – up to about 750 feet! They are rolling sand and soil deposits that researchers say began forming about 440,000 years ago. They are tucked in-between mountain ranges, and can be very windy at times. Luckily, we went on the most gorgeous, perfect day! They weather was just right, sunny and warm (but not too warm!).
We enjoyed the wind-shaped dunes in the best way that Coloradans know how too – skiing them – well snowboarding them, in this case. Emily and Simon tried snowboarding for the first time, and did great! They showed off their newbie skills as they glided down the sand particles in the high desert. After some different kind of boarding, than the usual, we headed back to the campsite.That night we were real campers. The guys took the car 4-wheeling in the rough sand roads at Medano Pass, while the girls prepared our final campfire meal – lemon halibut, squash and cheesy potatoes (a new camping favorite). We entertained ourselves at a Mountain Ranger class, were we learned about the plant and animal species of the San Luis Valley. We ate, we enjoyed, we relaxed and shared a great last evening together.The next morning we packed up the gear – and as some of you might know, packing after a trip is hard – it seems like nothing fits any longer, but that wasn’t the case here. Whew, it still all fit in the roomy Kia Sorento! And one of my favorite features of the Kia – the keys. You didn’t need to get them out to unlock or start the car. This came in handy when we were loading up. When our hands were full, we just unlocked the car while the keys were still in our pocket! This was also helpful for not loosing the keys amongst all of our stuff and people packing up. No need to search a bunch of bags, or ask, "who had them last"?
After we loaded up, we started the car, and made the most of our lengthy journey. On the drive home, we played a game, "Toasty Buns", where we would turn the front passenger’s heated seats on and see when they noticed. The Kia Sorento has 3-settings of heated seats, less-toasty, mildy-toasty and fully-toasted buns (as we named them). We admired the landscape views and the small towns "Where do these kids go to school?" Emily would ask as we drove through them…
We all had enough space (not too close – as we hadn’t showered for a few days) and there was plenty of room for food and drinks in the consoles – everyone had their own cup holder for their drinks of choice (Gatorade, water and coffee). A few pit stops later, and we finally we made it home. The weekend was one to remember for a lifetime, we had great memories of the Royal Gorge Bridge, National Sand Dunes, San Lois Valley and shared in these magnificent places with great friends.
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