Dispersed Camping – Winter Park Cemetery Site

Friday came fast that week and I was swamped at work with things that I thought I couldn’t put off until Monday for some stupid reason.

A tepee in the shade, and tiny children running around everywhere. Gypsies.

Since we had just been up the week before, we loaded everything already organized in the car around 4:30 which is a very late start especially on a Friday. Mary Helen was none too happy about my not being able to get away sooner, but she cheered up once we got on the road and headed west. As we climbed up to Genesee we were low on gas and for some reason Mary Helen asked if we had the pistol. I used to take it camping religiously in case we hit a deer or elk on the road and have to finish it off. Otherwise it would be completely useless should a bear nose through our kitchen at night. This story takes place in the late 2000’s and we were different people back then.

Our first canvas tent. This one is a David Ellis range tent Dad got me for college graduation.

Being newer to Colorado we were bear scared and were not going camping without it. No way in hell. So we exited and headed to Morrison to fill up and check for the .38 special. There must have been a concert at Red Rocks that night so we had to wait on a pump as loud young girls dressed like hookers milled around their daddy’s 4-Runners chattering about what the show might be like that night. I could almost hear them say things like, “Oh, I hope that boy from Psych 101 is there!”, and “Like, I may try pot tonight guys! But do you think it will like, make me freak our or anything?” I looked at my toddler girls in their car seats and said a little prayer.

We filled up with gas, located the pistol, and climbed back up the mountains in the Durango. This time there were no moose on the side of the road and I wished I’d stopped to look at the one last weekend now, but we drove on into the late evening. This time we passed Winter Park and Fraser and exited many miles further down the valley outside of Tabernash. We drove for miles through the woods as the sun sank in the west killing our hopes of a campsite. Our bellies growled. We found not one good site so we ended up back in town where we, against our code of camping, stopped at McDonald’s and grabbed some Happy Meals and a couple nasty burgers.

Wild daisies forever.

We retraced our steps from a previous camping trip and took a left where we had taken a right the last time. The Durango climbed up a small hill to a wide open area with an obvious fire ring and a meadow of wild white daisies. It was luckily vacant as the daylight was fleeting. We jumped out and gazed at the fantastic views of the surrounding mountains, the Fraser river valley below, and the wide open space we had been lucky to find.

Firewood was easy to gather as the hills across the valley had been destroyed by beetle kill and leveled by the forest service. It was like going to a giant fire wood yard. Everything was already broken and cut into perfect fire logs and dry. We set up camp and created a huge fire that people could probably see from the valley below. The tent was pitched in the only shade under two huge pine trees spared by the beetles.

The next morning we bumped into Fraser to let the girls play on the playground and we did some looking around. Fraser is a cool little town, but after a while we were ready to go home to the tepee overlooking it all.

Clear cut from beetle kill. It’s been replanted. See you in forty years when it’s pretty again.

We did some short hikes and gathered firewood for the rest of the day just taking it easy. The campsite is simple yet grand, with sweeping 360 degree views, (two) tall trees, and solitude. One interesting aspect was the remains of a short stone wall at one time that surrounded the two great pine trees that our tepee sat between. It was almost like there used to be a house there at one time and the two trees were planted in its center after the logs rotted away. But the footing was slim and uneven and there were very old small nails scattered everywhere. The kind of nails that would support only a small picket fence. Say, one that might surround a burial plot. And that’s when it set in. We were camping on graves.

Watching the sunset, waiting for ghosts.

It all made sense now. There used to be a picket fence surrounding the plot sitting on top of the stone wall and the two trees were probably planted at the heads of the graves. The whole thing overlooked the valley and it wasn’t that far from town. With this realization we were creeped out. I almost moved the tepee in fear that the spirits would be understandably pissed off that we were sleeping on top of them. We had a few strong drinks before turning in and tried to ignore the whistling wind that shook the canvas all night.

Directions: From Denver, take the exit off I-170 towards Winter Park and Granby on Hwy 40. Drive past the resort and take 80 Corona Pass Road on the right. The road makes a huge U-turn and heads back south then back north. See map below.

Published by willbarch78

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas. The nearest Walmart was a full two hours away. My family still runs a ranch back home that I grew up on, but at some point in my treasured youth I hung up the idea of becoming a cowboy, and pursued my passion for architecture. Today I still find myself trying to fit in to a life that has treated me with the average ups and downs one can expect after a certain number of years. My wife and I moved to Denver after attending Texas Tech School of Architecture in Lubbock as we needed a grade change from the Llano Estacado. We camp with our three growing girls all summer and into the fall while I write and create and fly fish to maintain sanity. Life is moving fast as our careers and children progress in all areas, so being outdoors with each other keeps us mostly grounded.

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