We rolled into the Columbine Campground at dusk on Friday evening, only to find that our reserved site had been taken, and no other empty spots were available. The campground host was unbelievably reluctant to refund our deposit. We were in a pickle.
I didn't want to force out the folks who had taken our spot because I didn't know if it was just a mistake on the part of the host, the forest service reservation system, or the campers.
Long story short, the campground host finally provided us our full refund and also showed us a "secret" site not far from Columbine Campground in a private, dark, isolated, pine-pollen infested area with no hookups, no bathrooms, and behind a locked gate. It was a beautiful camp site!
This was our first trip where we were truly boon-docking off the grid and away from other campers. I have to admit, my mind started racing with all sorts of "Friday the 13th" horror scenarios about camping in an isolated area out of earshot and assistance should we need it. I'm pretty sure I saw Freddy Krueger sneaking behind a tree when I peeked out the window. I'm so glad my Bambi Trailer had an indoor bathroom.
We survived the night and easily fended off all the zombie attacks and serial killers that came knocking at the door. In the light of day, we realized just how nice the camp site was. What was initially a hassle and disappoint about losing our reserved site, turned into a lucky
break. The camp site was peaceful and serene with the sun filtering through the trees and dappling the ground with dancing shadows. I would have been happy to just stay there all day soaking up the sun, reading, and napping.
We ended up being a little more ambitious though. We hiked some trails, scouted out other nearby campgrounds for future reference, and found hot showers close by at the Gilpin County Recreation Center for $3. Towards evening, we went into the gambling town of Central City, toured antique stores, enjoyed a huge buffet at one of the casinos, and then gave a few slot machines a try. Apparently we used up all of
our luck the night before in finding our camp site. Those one-armed bandits were quick to take our money, so we didn't stay long, and we returned to camp after a full day.
Although now-a-days Central City is mostly about gambling, it has a rich mining history. On the way home the next morning, we stopped to see some of its historical sights including a self-guided tour of the Central City Cemetery. There are many interesting headstones and inscriptions, and it is worth a stop if you have the time. Central City also boasts the 5th oldest opera company in the US which offers summer performances in a restored 1878 Victorian building.