Because driving through a big city and its traffic is usually not a lot of fun in an RV, I chose Cherry Creek State Park as our home base during our stay in Denver. Located just outside of the city, Cherry Creek State Park offers hiking, biking, boating, swimming, and even has a model airplane field. I always prefer staying in federal and state campgrounds over privately-owned RV parks because most RV parks resemble parking lots and pack visitors in like sardines. One minor drawback is that most federal and state campgrounds don’t have amenities that most RV parks have, including wi-fi and laundry facilities. Surprisingly, Cherry Creek State Park has both! I was also really happy to see accessible parking, restrooms, showers, and campsites.
My friend Patti drove up from Colorado Springs with her kids to camp with us for a night. We set up her tent, enjoyed dinner out on the picnic table, and slept out under the stars.
The heat woke us up the next morning so we visited the swim beach to cool off. The sandy beach gradually descended into the water with the deepest area being about four and a half feet.
After our dip, we loaded up into the truck and went into town where we had asian hot pot for lunch. I have always wanted to try an asian hot pot, which is basically like cooking your own bowl of veggies, noodles, meat, or seafood in a boiling broth right at your table.
With temperatures in the 90s, Denver was really starting to feel like it belonged in Texas, except it was DRY. I never thought I would miss the humidity of the south until Colorado reminded me why lotion was invented, a product I’d rarely used in my 10 years of southern living. One morning we woke up to the usual heat with an unusual situation at our campsite. Mitch took Gaius outside for a morning walk and saw a group of young adults in their mid-late twenties had been sharing our campsite with us overnight. There was a nice Acura parked right behind our RV and a cute new pink tent pitched in the grass with a young couple asleep in each. We asked our neighbors, who were tent camping with kids, if they knew the people or saw when they arrived. Our neighbors told us the group arrived around 2:00 am and noisily set up camp. They also admitted they were concerned by the new arrivals, stayed up all night on-guard, and had wanted to call a ranger but didn’t, assuming the noisy bunch was with us. We thought about just letting the group stay and hoped they would leave when they woke up. Heck, I remember taking road trips when I was younger, driving all night, and pulling over to sleep for a few hours in the car. We’ve never had anyone camp out on our site before and normally I would be inclined to start a conversation and see if we could become friends. On the contrary, my gut feeling was to call the park ranger. The group didn’t appear to have a park pass and were not covered by our reservation. We also saw they had lazily littered their trash, bags from McDonalds, and cigarette butts all over. This didn’t feel like a respectful group of people who were just looking to quietly camp somewhere safe and I felt terrible that the neighboring campers were up all night worried. I called for the ranger who arrived and woke everyone up asking them to leave. Unfortunately the ranger did not stick around to ensure their departure and it was an hour before the group was gone. The young woman in the tent, very unhappy with being asked to pack up, refused to move and started throwing makeup, clothes, and other belongings out onto the grass at who we assume was her boyfriend. They argued while he tried to tear down the tent with her still sitting inside. She finally emerged, shirtless, and whipped her blonde hair in her boyfriend’s face before storming off to take a seat in the car. I felt officially old, snacking on popcorn while spying on the “neighbors” and watching their drama unfold through the blinds of our window. They didn’t pick up after themselves so once they left Mitch went out with a garbage back and collected their trash. After an interesting morning we were off to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.
Three things I absolutely love about Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge besides the animals— it’s free, it’s super accessible, and it’s no longer an arsenal. This unique wildlife habitat sitting to the northeast of Denver was formerly known as just the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and served as a chemical weapons production facility during Word War II. The site was later repurposed for manufacturing agricultural chemicals and then brought back to its roots for weapons manufacturing during the Cold War. The arsenal’s transformation from birthing chemical weapons to sustaining lush and thriving wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands began in the 1980s and was completed in 2010.
Before taking a tour of the refuge we popped into the Visitor Center. I was thrilled to see so many thoughtful accessibility features including paved sidewalks surrounding the building, paved nature trails, wide aisles and lower signage throughout the exhibits, and accessible parking, restrooms, and picnic tables. All of the signage and exhibits include braille and 711 telecommunications relay services are offered as a resource.
Although several hiking and walking trails are available, it was a hot day during our visit and we opted for the 11 mile Wildlife Drive. We saw bison, deer, and a ton of birds and prairie dogs all from the comfort of our vehicle.
We didn’t do as much in the city as I thought we would. I think being out in the forest and camping away from the city so often made us realize we don’t miss all the cars, traffic, noise, and congestion. We visited downtown Denver to retrieve our mail (we use a mailing service and can get mail and packages on the road) and to have lunch a few times but didn’t feel much like exploring the city.
On our way out of Denver we camped out at St. Vrain State Park. I wasn’t expecting much out of this small park located right off the highway, but it was refreshingly beautiful and peaceful. Our campsite backed up to one of the park’s many ponds and we enjoyed taking Gaius for a nice walk at sunset.
St. Vrain also has accessible parking, campsites, restrooms, showers, and fishing piers. I love that everything is accessible, I only wish the language used on their signs was person-first. Person-first language is a thoughtful way of communicating where the person is emphasized and put first, instead of their disability.
A person-first sign would read “allow access for people with disabilities” instead of “allow access for the disabled.” Other examples of person-first language include saying “person who has autism” or “person who has seizures” instead of “autistic person” or “epileptic.” I think a big part of including people with disabilities in the community is recognizing that disability is a normal part of life and that people who have disabilities are people who deserve respect. You can learn more about person-first language here.
Thanks for reading!