Traveling nearly 1,000 miles in four and a half days, The Wayfaring Band visited Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde, the Ouray Hot Springs, and the Royal Gorge on our inaugural journey in October of 2012. Band members Cody, Mitya, Derek, David, PJ, Peter, Erik, Eli, Sophie, Preston, Zane, and Carter joined tour leaders and Wayfaring Band founders Andrea Moore, Pavel Reppo, Chris Ardelt, and Jane Moore on this exceptional adventure of a lifetime. Rounding out the group was our beloved bus driver Mike Ehmann — a matchless man with a heart as vast as the Royal Gorge itself. Anticipation was stirring inside each of us that Monday morning as we prepared to hit the road!
PJ loved talking about the trip to his friends and family. The anticipation of the trip was awesome, and the adventure itself topped the anticipation. Thanks also for providing such a safe environment. We were able to relax at home knowing PJ was in great hands and having such a wonderful time.– Peggy Bernardis, mother of band member
It inspired me. It made me happy to get out and do things and socialize. Cody Bailey, band member
You are very caring and have high expectations of young adults. You gave them a chance to make decisions about keeping their money, phone, etc. and doing it responsibly. Your communication with the parents was excellent and made it fun for us to keep track of the experiences.Your sense of adventure and fun was contagious. Family member
It was good going to the hot springs. It was fun. I liked it. Everything else was my favorite too. David Ojile, band member
Just know how much I appreciate your caring relationship with my son. He didn’t have much of a childhood because he was so sick. It’s so great that he is having one now. Betty Lehman, mother of band member and former Executive Director of the Autism Society of Colorado
Because this was our inaugural tour with the band, we were especially enthusiastic to welcome our first twelve members. We loaded up the bus with our gear, waved goodbye to our families, and gave a short speech to commemorate this historic moment in The Wayfaring Band’s history:
After that, it was time to put the pedal to the metal. Our route the first day took us south on Highway 285, and we had many miles to travel before reaching our resting point at The Grizzly Inn in Alamosa, Colorado. The drive was long, but the route was stunning, marked by beautiful changing leaves and incredible vistas as we climbed in altitude. We reached the Inn that evening, settling into our motel rooms for the night in preparation for a morning tour of Great Sand Dunes National Park.
We loved visiting the Sand Dunes: we gave sand sledding a try, which was a big hit with the band. After a picnic lunch we loaded the bus and got back on the road heading west on Highway 160 toward Cortez. We climbed up and over Wolf Creek Pass, and not long after we enjoyed a striking view of Chimney Rock in the setting sun. We stopped in Durango to refuel the bus and our bodies (with some delicious Diorios Pizza), and then we were back on the road for the final stretch. It was already dark by the time we arrived at what proved to be our most interesting accommodations of the tour — two wonderful yurts at Mancos State Park. With eight band members in one yurt and nine in the other, we were snug as bugs and thrilled to be having such an adventure.
In the morning we packed up quickly, a little disappointed that our time at Mancos was so short. We definitely recommend the park (and the yurts in particular) to anyone visiting Mesa Verde. It was a great departure from the norm, and we were sad to go. But our plan for the day cheered us: in a short while we were winding our way through the incredible terrain of Mesa Verde National Park. We spent most of our time at Spruce Tree House since we could tour the dwellings at our own pace, and we had a blast climbing down into the kiva. A park ranger even taught Sophie and Preston how to grind corn… a skill we threatened to take advantage of at dinner later that night. Eventually it was time to hit the highway again, so we left the park and began driving north on Highway 550, headed for our rental house in Ouray.
We reached the house that afternoon, and after roughing it the night before we were grateful to have such a beautiful home away from home. We prepared a family-style dinner of ziti and salad and relaxed before heading to bed. In the morning we visited the Ouray Hot Springs, which are surrounded by breathtaking views of soaring peaks on all sides. It was a gorgeous, sunny autumn day, and we soaked in as much as we could before getting back on our beloved bus. After three nights on the road we turned east again, and we climbed the Continental Divide for the second time, crossing at Monarch Pass. We spent the night in five camper cabins at the rustic Prospectors Resort near Cañon City. Originally we had planned to roast hot dogs over a fire, but the store that sold wood was closed, so we had to improvise. It turns out that you can cook twelve hot dogs at a time in a conventional toaster. How’s that for ingenuity? The cabins were cozy and clean, and it was nice to spread out after our long days sitting close together on the bus.
The morning of our final day on tour we visited the Royal Gorge, taking the incline railway down to the floor of the canyon. There we saw the famous Royal Gorge Route train rumbling alongside the Arkansas River. We took our group photo on one of the world’s highest suspension bridges, where we marveled at the depth of the canyon and the majesty of the view. After a lovely lunch in the restaurant overlooking the abyss, we loaded the bus one final time and prepared to return to Denver.
One of the most poignant moments of the tour was when the bus finally pulled in to the library parking lot in Denver where we were meeting our families. They had taken the notion of being band “groupies” to heart, and they were waiting with signs to welcome us home. Our favorite sign was the one that said “YOLO!” Thanks to our dear tour leader Jane, “YOLO” had been a catchphrase for the band throughout the tour. It means “you only live once,” and the band aims to make the absolute best of it. Thank you for supporting the band, and we’ll catch you on the next tour!
Check out some more videos from our tour:
(click on the map above for more detailed information about our route and some of the adventures we had along the way)