Like everyone in the World, we were ready to get out of the house (safely) once our governor allowed for travel, which happened for us in time for Memorial Day weekend. I had watched as my camping reservations for May were cancelled by the state parks or federal government, getting the obligatory emails. I even received calls from the state campgrounds, which I think was above and beyond given that everyone should be able to read the warning messages and see the media reports of closures.
I am a planner and usually have most of my reservations six months in advance. I make a calendar, wake up early enough to (hopefully) get one of my top spots at the campground, and look forward to the schedule for the coming summer. Last year when I tried to camp at Mueller State Park, I took a gamble scheduling it for early October. At 9,000 feet, the park sees early snows and cold weather that can linger into early summer. I lost my bet in October 2019 when we saw early snows and far below freezing temperatures as the highs. I was really, really hoping to get to Mueller and this would be my only weekend opportunity to do so because the park is booked months in advance on the weekends.
We got our camper and clumsily packed it- we hadn’t packed anything (not a backpack, grocery bag, or suitcase) since we returned from Lathrop in March. It felt awkward and exciting. We pulled into campsite 120 at Mueller State Park with the exuberance of 5-year-olds attending a friend’s birthday party. We were finally (sort of) free to do something outside our neighborhood!
I had selected this site six months before, in November, when life was normal. Site 120 sits at the end of the campground which means far less traffic. The 50+ foot pull-through site has electricity hook-ups. A pit toilet is nearby, but a camper services flush toilet and shower bathroom is only a short drive up the road. They also have a laundry (all were closed when we were there due to COVID, but I have used them in the past). This site is near the back hiking trailhead and, once we arrived and set up our campsite, we went on a hike from the site through meadows and past dilapidating cabins that once housed the property’s original owners.
This park was once a ranch and various buildings remain in all conditions. The views from some sites and hikes include the back of Pikes Peak. They are beautiful, but are no match for the hike to the highest point in the park. From here, one can see the Collegiate Peaks and other mountain ranges (the Sangre de Cristo mountains can be viewed from the visitors center as well).
There are several hikes at this park and in our years coming here, we have tried many of them. Small lakes or ponds dot the property and are fun surprises on hikes that gain and lose elevation at every turn. I cannot think of any hike here that is very “flat”, but I can think of several that are beautifully rewarding. Our campsite had numerous evergreens and gently sloped to the bottom of a more serious hill. We loved the opportunity to relax outside of our own yard. We enjoyed campfires, throwing the football, running around looking for various fallen trees, and just being outside. It felt oddly normal.
Though it was sunny and warm for the mountains, the forecast called for a possibility of snow. Here is a picture just a couple hours before it snowed. We were enjoying a fire, playing a game, and relaxing.
And then the temperature dropped, as it always does in the mountains. Snow started falling as the sun went down. We turned on our heater and played games after dinner. We woke up to a winter wonderland! It was beautiful, but I was so glad we had the camper.
Mueller State Park is a favorite in the state park system in Colorado. For those who enjoy hiking, beautiful mountain scenery, and the ability to quickly hike away from civilization, this may be your favorite spot. They offer more than 100 campsites (tent sites, electric back-in and pull-throughs), plus three fully-furnished cabins. If you are interested in cabins, think six months in advance as well. They fill up quickly, just like the beautiful, large campsites.