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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Our First Winter Colorado Trip - Part Two - Wolf and Wildlife Center, Utah National Parks, and More

"Those are the voices of my brothers, darling; I love the company of wolves.” – Angela Carter


As I write the final edits of this post, I just got back from a training run with friends (and Buzz!) and am watching the temperatures climb here at home. Later in this post, I talk about watching temperatures drop suddenly as we make our way back into the mountains – and the wonder of how these two events happened just over a month apart from each other is not lost on me. Mother Nature is a wonderful, exciting, and mysterious thing – and much like her, travel is the same.


Now, let's get back into the world of l̶i̶o̶n̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶i̶g̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶b̶e̶a̶r̶s̶, ̶o̶h̶ ̶m̶y̶!̶ wolves, snow, arches, and adventure! I saved my favorite part of the trip to kick the post off with our wolfy adventure.


 

Tuesday


Tuesday was one of the most incredible days of the trip – and that’s because we got up early to head to Divide and attend the Ultimate Alpha Tour at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. Those of you that have been following along may remember that we visited the Center last summer as well, but we only participated in the general walking tour then. 



When we visited then, we had told ourselves that we would see how much we enjoyed it and then decide to go back for the Ultimate Alpha Tour if we absolutely loved it. Well, we did, and we knew before we left last year that we would be back again this year. 


The Ultimate Alpha Tour was amazing. We started off with some general rules for going into the cages, dropped our personal belongings off in a locker (as they can harm the animals if they get ahold of them, especially cell phones), and then headed off to join our first two friends, Rhett and Scarlett – two very fun and curious foxes. 



We spent some time giving treats to Rhett and Scarlett. Scarlett immediately got right up in our faces every time we were handed treats to feed her, but Rhett was a little more shy. He would come around more cautiously, grab the treats, and even run off to hide some of them for later. We found through this interaction that foxes don’t particularly love to be petted, but they do love treats.  


"Gimme those treats!!"


After we spent our time with the foxes, we moved to the first wolf cage – that of Amarok and Luna. Amarok was a bit older than Luna and a little more chill, but Luna could only be described as a big puppy. She was a few years old, but still had plenty of energy and was ready to get some pets. Any time that Amarok would come to us for pets or treats, Luna would get right up in front of him and try to hog the attention. Eventually, we tried tag teaming them (one of us petting and distracting Luna so Amarok could get some love as well) before we were off to meet our next two wolf friends. 







Once we moved on from Amarok and Luna, we went to go meet Keyni and Makuee. Much like the others, these two wolves were full of love and ready to get all of the attention and pets we would give them. Makuee, much like Luna, wanted attention immediately. As soon as we stepped into their enclosure, she gave me a big kiss and started hooting and hollering for more attention. We even got her to start howling as we fed her treats. Keyni was a little more reserved, but still warmed up to us – he even gave me a few kisses, and I was told that most of the workers there hadn’t even gotten him to do that for them. All I can say is that Keyni must have realized just how much of a wolf lover I was! 






With the Ultimate Alpha Tour, we were able to interact with six animals in total. Afterwards, we grabbed some snacks before going through the general walking tour again (which is included with the Ultimate Alpha Tour). Even having gone last year, I feel like I walked away with a ton of new knowledge from this visit. With the wolf reintroduction program in full force in Colorado, they had some information about that to share along with the things they had already been educating on in the past. 


We finished our tour with the ceremonial group howl, in which all of the wolves, coyotes, and even the singing dogs chimed in for. Two years in a row doing this, and the group howl still gave me goosebumps. 


After the tour was over, we headed over to Woodland Park for lunch at Wayback Burgers. They had just recently opened the location there. The hamburgers and fries sure hit the spot after a morning of wolfy adventures! 


Wednesday 


The following day, we were ready to make our way to some warmer weather for new explorations and adventures. We woke up early so we could be on the road by a decent time, and made our way toward Grand Junction, Colorado. 


Our hope was to visit the Colorado National Monument, but when we pulled up to the area, the first thing we saw was a No Pets sign. We knew that a lot of the National Park locations were not dog friendly, but did not read into it enough to realize that the National Monument was the same. I had had hopes of hiking the Serpents Trail, but it was a part of the National Park area, so we instead decided to keep moving on. 


Although it is somewhat embarrassing for me when I make plans and do not read far enough into them to know they will not work, these situations do allow us to get creative. Instead of hiking in the National Park area, we were able to stumble across Dinosaur Hill, which was a truly enjoyable dog-friendly short hike that allowed us to explore dinosaur bones and old excavation sites right off the path. 



After we crossed the border into Utah, we then made our way to another exciting dog-friendly place to visit, the Sego Canyon Rock Art & Ghost Town. We saw old buildings, petroglyphs, and more – and didn’t run into a single other soul while we were out there. Then, on our way back out, we walked briefly through the Sego Cemetery





We made our way toward Green River, which was our new home for just a few days. Green River used to be a bustling mining town, but is now instead a quaint, small town. Although the town was certainly quiet, we were able to find a delicious dinner near our hotel at Ray's Tavern. Then, after eating, we found Athena Bike Trail, a single-track trail system to explore as the sun went down. 


Thursday


One of my favorite parts about every vacation is finding locally owned coffee shops to explore. This trip, we were lucky enough to find multiple cute local shops, including Green River Coffee Co. I couldn’t stop taking pictures while we were waiting for our coffees because they had such a fun vibe. On top of the great vibes, they had delicious coffee, fun pastries, and even had freshly squeezed fruit smoothies that could have protein added in. 



With our coffees in hand(s), we made our way out toward Canyonlands National Park. After a very short hike with Buzz in the park, we then started seeing No Pets signs. With those signs, we decided to mainly just drive through the park with minimal stops throughout the trip. 


The little baby hike in Canyonlands before we realized that Buzz was not welcome.


Soon, we had seen everything in Canyonlands that was driveable, and were on our way to Dead Horse Point State Park. We stopped at the visitor center when we first arrived, and the park rangers were so excited for and nice to Buzz, even asking if they could pet him (which they obviously could and did). I shared with them that we had just come from Canyonlands, not having realized they were not dog-friendly. They shared that the state parks were all dog friendly, and that they truly enjoyed seeing dogs out and about hiking. 



We took Buzz on a short hike through the state park, stopping briefly off and on to enjoy the views. He loved being out and about after having visited nearly all of Canyonlands by car without getting out to explore at all. 


After enjoying Dead Horse, we made our way to Arches National Park. Arches, unlike Canyonlands, made it very obvious both on the Google page and as soon as we reached the entrance that they were not dog-friendly. Much like with Canyonlands, we got out to look at signage right along the road and did a few very short hikes while Buzz napped in the air-conditioned truck, but we mostly just drove through to soak in the views of the park. 



By the time we completed our exploration of the three parks that day, we were more than ready for a late lunch. We popped into Moab to check out Proper Brewing. Although the waitress claimed she was new and offered pretty poor service (she mentioned there was a party on the other side of the brewery and essentially admitted that she had forgotten about us), the food was phenomenal. The drinks were also great. Plus, it was simply a great place to sit down and relax for a while after being out and about all day. 


It is important to note as well that it was in Moab that we saw our first ever giant tumbleweed. I would say it was easily about the size of a Smart car.


Friday 


After posting on my social media about the trials and tribulations of the National Parks hating on Buzz, we were given an excellent recommendation to visit the Corona and Bowtie Arch trail. Once there, we found that it isn’t much further to hit the Pinto Arch Trail as well, so we did both. 



The trails both start the same and branch off in two separate directions, so we started with Corona and Bowtie Arches. Almost immediately after hiking up from the trailhead, there is a railroad track crossing, which offers an incredible view of the cut out of the land for the tracks. Then, there is some pretty simple hiking before getting to some interesting ladders and foot etch outs to hike through. 


Along our way, we met a wedding party who had hiked out there to exchange their vows. We also met multiple other dog owners who had decided to take the trek. By the time we got to the Corona Arch, we were both in awe. We simply could not believe that something so spectacular was not preserved within the National Park lands (or even a state park). 



That being said, we were obviously very grateful for the opportunity to take the hike with Buzz. After making our way over to Pinto Arch and meeting a few more dogs (including two Corgis!), we made our way back toward the trailhead. As we headed that direction, we met a Trail Ambassador who gave us some stickers, thanked us for staying on the designated trails, chatted with us for a while, and taught us some information about the trail systems in Moab. 



Then, we were on our way to our next stop – Poison Spider Trailhead. The Arches were amazing, but the Poison Spider Trail was incredible in its own different way. The Poison Spider Trail had both really well-defined dinosaur tracks and also petroglyphs. This seemed to be a lesser known trail for hiking (but was huge for ATV, dirt bikes, and Jeeps), and actually allowed us to walk right up to both the dinosaur tracks and the petroglyphs. We could touch them if we wanted to, but in the effort to preserve them, we just took our pictures, observed, then were on our way. 



After our hikes that morning, it was time for us to start making our way back to Colorado. We hopped in the car, and didn’t stop until we were hungry for lunch. We stopped at Sud’s Brewery in Fruita. Their food was good, and their beers were fun too (but, from experience, I personally would not recommend their pear sour). 


As we made our way from Fruita toward the mountains, the weather started to shift. We had gone from being pretty toasty in our sweatshirts to having a slight chill. Then, the flurries began. As we watched the flurries come down harder and harder, we also saw the temperature drop more yet. At the same time, we also gaped as our GPS continued to tell us that our destination time to the mountains was getting further and further away. 


Eventually, one of the roads near Vail was closed down due to the weather, so the GPS took us off the main highway to some backroads, bringing us an entirely different route back into the mountains than we had initially expected. I think what should have taken us about three hours ended up being more than five. 


Thankfully, we made it to our destination in one piece. Here is where I give another shout out to the best Colorado uncle and tour guide, as he continued to check in along our journey and actually had dinner ready for us when we reached his place for the night. 


Saturday 


Unfortunately, after another amazing trip to Colorado (and Utah), Friday was the last day of our true adventuring on the trip, as Saturday was when we started our trek back home. We woke up early, got our things together, and began the long journey home.


 

I would give the Colorado winter adventures that we experienced a ten out of ten, but also must note that they were absolutely obliterated with another heaping layer of snow shortly after we left. I cannot say that I would particularly enjoy that much snow, but do think living in the mountains and waking up to those views every single day would make up for it.


Until next time, Colorado. We will, of course, be back again.


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