The open road 

Indy outdoorsman reminisces and offers advice

click to enlarge Bishop's Castle, constructed by a single man, makes for - a fun and adventurous daytrip inside the San Isabel - National Forest. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Bishop's Castle, constructed by a single man, makes for a fun and adventurous daytrip inside the San Isabel National Forest.

When I was kid, my family used to take trips around the southeast, leaving Birmingham, Ala., either for the Gulf or my grandparents' house in Bristol, Tenn. My two older brothers and I rode on a firm bench seat in the back of my dad's van, far from the air-conditioning vents and our mother's scrutiny.

My brothers invented ingenious ways to pick on me. Reading or playing games made me carsick. Generally, I showed no promise for ever becoming an iron-gutted, firm-constitutioned traveler. I was, in short, a lily sissy.

In truth, I cannot recall exactly when I stopped puking like a seasick cruise-ship vacationer and started developing some respectable road fortitude. All I know is that one day, I found myself sipping beer and reading on a sweltering train in Europe while seated facing the caboose the countryside whipping by my periphery in a blur as I swayed back and forth with train's motion and I though to myself, "Holy crap ... I'm invincible."

Somewhere along the way, being on the road morphed from dreaded task into passion. One summer, my friends and I racked up over 15,000 miles across the U.S. and in a trek up the Alcan to Alaska. I hadn't just come out of my shell; I'd become a mobile monster.

Too much time spent stationary, and I'd get antsy, grumpy and bored. I craved salty pumpkin seeds and a horizonless drive, a long hike, a day fishing on the river, a night soaking in hot water under the stars anything but the interior of my home.

I initially came to Colorado for school, but I decided to stay afterward because of all those big, green spots on the state's map. Here was a place where a decade of weekend sauntering and impulsive jaunting would still leave stones unturned. For the motivated, Colorado is a daytrip mecca. Hell, for the lazy, the state's still a cherry destination-land, packed with proximate, accessible points of interest.

This is the haven of socially conscious, gorp-eating hippies who drink microbrewed beer produced at wind-energized breweries. This is the land of cavernous-lunged ridge runners, buffalo-calved cyclists, rope-armed climbers, sun-crisped anglers, gear-clad, off-road motorists, armed hunters and nimble skiers.

We live in a western sanctuary amidst an expanding country of city-sprawl. Sure, there's plenty of concrete and asphalt here, too, but fortunately, a lot of it leads to dirt road confluences and trailheads.

Over the past few years, I've set various travel goals that I intend to fulfill whenever possible.

Beyond playing in every national park or major landmark, I want to soak in every Colorado hot spring. I'd like to tour all the ghost towns, stop for coffee in all the quaint mountain towns and eat a buffalo burger in every tourist trap. I want to climb more fourteeners, swim in more mountain lakes, and snowshoe somewhere deep in winter sleep. I want to wear the tread on my hiking boots baby-smooth. Show me the roadside bazaar the dumber, the better.

To any Coloradan who hasn't roamed the Great Sand Dunes, trekked a mountain pass when the aspens are changing color, or found a favorite day-drive: Get crackin', Sally! Cash in some sick days at work, get a map and aim for something interesting.

What to bring:

Credit card


Sunblock, sunglasses, sunhat

Music for the road



Notebook/journal/art supplies

Warm clothes, rain jacket




What not to bring:


Cell phone (unless kept off, emergency use only)


click to enlarge Jason Strunk uses a finger-jam layback move to conquer - Parachute Rock on Rampart Range Road.
  • Jason Strunk uses a finger-jam layback move to conquer Parachute Rock on Rampart Range Road.


Screaming children

Someone you have no desire to spend time with


Worthwhile destinations

Hot springs

Historic towns


Monuments and parks


Art galleries/antique shops

Bed & breakfasts

Hiking, biking or cross-country trails

Seasonal festivals


Sporting events


Rivers (rafting, fishing, kayaking)

Bird-watching habitats

Top 5 favorite past daytrips:

1. Drive-In Movie Motel in Alamosa


2. "Ghost lights" cemetery in Silver Cliff


3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (csindy.com/csindy/2005-04-28/daytripper.html)

4. Bishop's Castle


5. Four-in-one fourteener circuit



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