Off-the-Grid in San Isabel

Off-the-Grid in San Isabel

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This one, I have really been wanting to share.

Sammy and I recently decided to make full use of his rare weekend off, and because I am a professional procrastinator, Friday rolled around and I still didn’t know where we were going to go. Hell, I hadn’t even packed.

Do you know how many things you need to pack when you go camping?

So many.

Like one meeeeeeelllion things.

I spent Friday afternoon stocking up some additional on things I needed. I hit up REI for a sweet LED lantern that can even charge your cell phone, a sleeping bag since I’ve seriously had my older one since I got rid of my very first Little Mermaid sleeping bag (a loooongggg time ago in case you weren’t sure), and some other random, overpriced things.

We knew it was going to be pretty chilly this particular weekend, so I made sure to pick a sleeping bag that was good down to 14 degrees. I brought it home and was cutting the tags off and rolling it up all nicely with Sammy watching. He was making fun of me saying, “are you sure it isn’t 41 degrees?”

(I wasn’t totally sure)

But in the long run, it was 14. This I know.

I went to the store for a couple things and since I still had no destination picked out and people around here tend to flock to the mountains in droves on the weekends, I asked my cashier if she recommended anywhere in particular to go camping. The girl next to me blurted out, “Bishop’s Castle! TRUST ME.”

She had me at “castle”.

I turned to old faithful, Google, and started searching. I found a little 12-site campground only 2 miles away from the castle, but a cool 2.5 hours from our house.

That’s fine. If there’s one thing we’re down for, it’s a good road trip.


That’s right. All of us.

Being from Virginia and the Carolinas, we have spent a lot of time on backroads and I miss those roads oh so much. Lots of forests, wildflowers, farmlands, rolling hills, Blue Ridge Mountain scenery.

Now being in the Rockies, the scenery is beautiful but a bit different. Some is desert-like, like Pueblo which we drove through on the way down south. For much of the drive, you are still on the East side of the front range of the Rockies, and let me tell you, it’s damn flat on this side of things. From the top of Red Rocks Amphitheater for instance, you can see out for 200 miles.

This is insane.  

That’s more than twice the distance of Lynchburg to Blacksburg, for some perspective for my Virginia friends.

But back to the trip.

We headed due south past Colorado Springs, past Pueblo and it’s historic Riverwalk by the Arkansas River (it’s not as pretty as it sounds), and eventually cut west toward Rye in the mountains.

The little campground I had in mind was Davenport Campground which is one of many that are inside of the San Isabel National Forest. Because I feel like we brought so much shit with us that 95% of our time was spent unpacking and repacking shit, and also trying to find specific needle shit amongst the general haystack of shit, I did not take any pictures of our little campground site. But for y’all that know me, I went with lucky site number 6 which was pretty secluded with a little stream nearby and the clean water source right next to it.

Davenport Campground
Davenport Campground

I was a little nervous about it being prime bear season and all and I’m not the MOST prepared person to be going into the woods, so I brought my old trusty Bose speakers. Noise is supposed to help keep bears at bay so I figured we could jam out in the meantime.

What I didn’t realize is that my iPod was completely dead and we got reception for exactly two radio stations in those thar parts.

One was playing country. The new country that we don’t exactly love the vast majority of.

And the other was playing 80’s night, which I felt was the clear choice here.

Until they played the obscure “Into the Groove” by Madonna for the SECOND time within probably an hour and I started feeling desperately trapped in my musical options. But still, it was a nice addition to the overall pile of shit we dragged with us to unpack and set up as our little home for less than 24 hours.

Our neighbors were getting their party on and playing cornhole and we had our Tiny Dancer and Psycho Killer playing in our corner.

We cooked a nice dinner with fresh veggies out of the garden and sat in our little chairs by the fire.

And then the storm rolled in.

Because why wouldn’t it?

But it didn’t rain anything crazy, we just packed up most of the shit and put it in the car, then stuffed the rest of the shit and ourselves in the tent with the dogs, where we drank our beers, played cards, listened to ourrockin’  80s party and eventually went to sleep.

For a little bit.

Til I was woken up by both dogs who after a few minutes of them refusing to sleep on their own blanket, I realized were shivering and really cold. I also looked over at Sammy who was wearing pants, a hoodie with the hood up, and his sleeping bag totally zipped.

He was cold because know what? HIS sleeping bag was made for 40 degrees.

Poor sap.

Remember who was making fun of who in regards to sleeping bag capabilities?

But that’s none of my business….

So we accommodated and unzipped and I took Sookie and he took Georgia under our sleeping bag wings.

They let us sleep for a little while until they swapped bags and at that point, I was staring at the tent ceiling cussing because I knew I may as well just get up.

We weren’t really sure where the hiking was at since the website had said there was “an array of trails” off of our campground. So I figured it would be really easy to figure out. What I didn’t think about was how there is no cell service in much of the Rocky Mountains and I wasn’t able to turn to our old friend Google this time. The campground map also wasn’t giving us any clear answers.

So we figured we’d drive, and figure it out when we started finding this array of trails.

But first, we had to go see a man about a castle.

Bishop Castle, Colorado
Bishop Castle, Colorado

As you can see, there are construction materials laying around and scrap metals and such. That’s because this monstrosity has been known as a work in progress basically since 1959 when Jim Bishop talked his parents into buying a 2.5 acre piece of land for $450 of his own money. He couldn’t do it himself because he was only 15 years old.

But this incredible man was building his home in the mountains in the earlier days when some of his friends started telling him that it resembled a medieval castle. So he decided to REALLY make it a castle. Stone by stone, weld by weld, with his own two hands. Over the years, he has added on turrets, tons of ornamental iron walkways and stairs, and this freaking sweet dragon that he built in the 1980’s from some stainless steel warming plates that a friend dropped off thinking he could use them for SOMEthing. And that he did.

Bishop Castle Dragon, Colorado
Bishop Castle Dragon, Colorado

Someone even donated a burner from a hot air balloon which Jim has secured in the back of the dragon’s throat, so over many weekends in the summer, apparently, the dragon actually breathes fire.

Be still my heart.

Game of Thrones has ruined me.

But really, PLEASE take note of the stairs and walkways.

You guys.

I am not scared of heights, but this place gave me the heeby jeebs everytime I stepped foot onto a balcony. I can’t describe it, but the way he built it architecturally with thin, ornamental iron that you can see straight through and at times you are VERY high up, I just couldn’t even make myself feel safe out there. So we stuck to the stone stairs, the ones that had railings (because parts of others did not) and did not make my heart drop with every step.

Looking up a spiral staircase, Bishop Castle, Colorado
Looking up a spiral staircase, Bishop Castle, Colorado

I’m not sure I went all the way up that one, because THAT IS HIGH UP AS CRAP. Currently, the tallest part of the castle is 160 feet – that’s as tall as 16 floors!

Turret at Bishop Castle, Colorado
Turret at Bishop Castle, Colorado

Nope nope nope.

Just did not have the cojones to go up that high.

Not me, no how.

Balcony View of Bishop Castle, Colorado
Balcony View of Bishop Castle, Colorado

But there was plenty to look at on the inside, and he had a fascinating collection of electic stained glass that he had made his windows out of.

Stained Glass Reflections, Bishop Castle, Colorado
Stained Glass Reflections, Bishop Castle, Colorado

Stained glass at Bishop Castle, Colorado

“I will live once as they once did, wild and free.”

Stained Glass at Bishop Castle, Colorado

Stained glass at Bishop Castle, Colorado

Just awesome. You can read more about this incredible place at the Bishop Castle official site. 

I wish I could have made myself climb the whole thing, but I’m cool with knowing that instead of the bucket list, I’m taking my pictures and I’m chuckin’ it in the fuck it bucket and movin’ on.

After the castle, we headed on down the road and just decided to get lost. We figured there’d be a trailhead. The only one we did see, Sammy zoomed past it without noticing and that was that. We knew if we headed in the general direction of north, we could figure this out at some point either via signs or the magical appearance of cell service.

Road trip! A dog's life.

I’m pretty sure that’s something like a smile, right?

Pure happiness.

Roadtrip, CO-9, Colorado
Roadtrip, CO-9, Colorado

Roadtrip, CO-9, Colorado

We passed by lots and lots of secluded ranches in this valley, and saw cows, buffalo, horses, and hawks.

Roadside Stream, CO-9, Colorado
Roadside Stream, CO-9, Colorado

I know the glare on some of these is terrible — they were snapped with my cell phone.

And that’s a Red Bull, for anyone questioning the can.

South Park Brewing, Colorado
It exists!

I took this strictly for evidence that South Park, CO is a real place.

Kind of.

This is LITERALLY a blink and you will miss it type place. In fact, I’m not even sure it is truly it’s own entity, because you see South Park City Museum and this brewing company, and that’s it folks. You are already into Fairplay before you noticed that South Park might really exist. Apparently, there are many landmarks in the show South Park that are actually based on Denver, not the real “town” of South Park.

Roadside lake on I-285, Colorado
Roadside lake on I-285, Colorado

And lastly, there was this piece of Colorado scenery that I captured on the fly.

And that was our weekend! We drove a nice stretch of highway that took us 4.5 hours to get home from our campground that could be only 2.5 hours away, but we sure did enjoy the tranquility, and the company.

Maybe not the two days it took us to unload and unpack allllllllllllllllllllllllll that shit once we got home.

But those views, though.

Those really don’t ever get old.

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One thought on “Off-the-Grid in San Isabel

  1. Deborah Sweeney

    What a cool place!!!! Holy cow, I would not have dared to go up those crazy stairs either. Love love love the stained glass. Great pics, by the way! I think you should frame some of them. Laughing my head off at Sammy in the sleeping bag zipped up with his hoodie on.

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