Tom Ross: Hit the road, Jack and Jill |

Tom Ross: Hit the road, Jack and Jill

Tom Ross

— Vamoose. Hit the road, Jack and Jill. Jump in the car and set out in search of a cheap thrill.

Mud season gotcha down? If you're like me and a trip to Belize isn't in the financial picture this month, ignore the seven-day forecast for Steamboat and don't let it cramp your style.

Yes, we can expect a mixture of rain and snow beginning today and continuing right on through Tuesday. But the forecast is brighter in Albu-Turkey.

The National Weather Service is forecasting clear skies and a high temperature of 77 degrees in Albuquerque, N.M., today. It will only be partly sunny Sunday, but 5 degrees warmer.

Not interested in purchasing an airline ticket to Albuquerque? Me either. Why would we when we can drive there in eight hours? I know — I did it last December. If you leave Steamboat at 5 a.m. and limit your rest stops to an hour, you can be there in plenty of time for a margarita on the plaza in old town.

The margaritas in Steamboat are as good as anything in New Mexico. Right now, it's the weather that makes the difference.

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What's there to do in Albuquerque? You can always gamble at the Hard Rock Cafe or Sandia Resort and Casino, but a better bet April 28 to 30 is the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow featuring traditional dancing and singing traditions with 3,000 participants and the Indian Market. I promise that it will be almost like a trip abroad.

If Albuquerque (I love typing that word) seems a little out of reach and you would rather camp with the family, head off in the same direction and stop north of Alamosa to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The forecast is for fair skies and highs in the 60s at Colorado's largest sandbox today through Monday before mud season weather closes in again.

It may sound a little crazy, but you can bring your snowboards and even your cross-country skis and have a blast riding the dunes. There are a limited number of campsites in the Pinyon Flats loop within the national park, but there is also a campground with clean showers just outside the boundary.

I called Friday to confirm that the Oasis Campground is open for the season. The water still is turned off at the tent and RV campsites, but water and showers are available to campers in the main buildings. The nightly rental for up to two people in a tent site is $20 with a $2.50 charge for each additional person. RV sites are $30 with the same up-charge for more than two people. You can't beat that. In my experience, a hot shower makes car camping downright luxurious.

Don't want to burn that much gas? Then book an overnight stay in one of the rustic cabins at Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Adam Geisler told me that Friday and Saturday nights already are booked through mud season, but there's some availability midweek. The $60 nightly rate has the $10 pools admission fee built in, allowing you to soak later and earlier than the general public. Bring along a couple of towels, sleeping bags, pillows and your headlamps. Take along a cooler and something to throw on the grill and get ready to be transported by the mineral vapors to another plane of existence.

Still prefer warm weather to hot water?

I'm guessing that half of Steamboat will be bicycling outside Moab, Utah, this weekend, where the forecast is for sunny skies and a high temperature of 75 on Sunday. If you want to escape the crowds, continue beyond the Moab exit on Interstate 70 to a little west of Green River, Utah, and head south to Goblin Valley State Park. The campground there is notorious for being windy, but if you catch a nice day, exploring the thousands of fantastical rock hoodoos in Goblin Valley is something you'll never forget.

From Green River, travel west on I-70 for 12 miles to exit 147 (Hanksville). After about 30 miles, turn right at the Temple Mountain/Goblin Valley junction.

There are 25 campsites with good water and, yes, even hot showers. The hoodoos are concentrated in a small area that is easy to see on foot. For the more adventurous, Little Wild Horse slot canyon is 5 miles away down a dirt road. In some places the narrows are only shoulder-width, and it's no place to get caught in a flash flood.

But the forecast for Sunday is — you guessed it — 75 degrees and sunny.

Now all you have to do is jump in the car and go!

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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