Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Colorado Mountains


Monday, August 28
We drove to Tincup Pass. I always wanted to do it simply because of the name. We were not impressed. On the way, we stopped in the not so ghosty town of St. Elmo. Most of the former mining camps are now privately owned and inhabited. Some of the structures are deteriorating, some have been rebuilt and some are brand new. The best ghost town for us remains Bodie in the eastern Sierra.

Tuesday, August 29
An hour south to Ohaver Lake CG which is at 9,200. It has a small charming lake. We grocery shopped in Salida. We sure do eat a lot.



Wednesday, August 30
We took another trail through mining country. Porphyry Pass. We were again not impressed with Colorado scenery. Gray-Brown rounded mountains just don’t do it for us. Most of the time you are in the trees with no view. We have tried Colorado twice before and were mildly disappointed. This trip confirms our previous opinion.

It’s cool in the mountains. Texans flock here to escape the heat. Strong demand and limited supply always mean higher prices. It allows the town of Salida to charge $7 to dump your tanks and then they ask for another $5 for fresh water.

Time to kick the tires and light the fires and head south to the only part of the state we like - The San Juan Mountains. We will leave the Rockies for the rest of the folks.

Thursday, August 31
But, first, we have to stay in one place for the freaking holiday. We lucked out and met up with some friends in a great campground north of Gunnison - One Mile.

Friday, September 1
We made a late start and took a leisurely drive up Spring Creek Road. Nice valley and the rocks are sand colored, much better than gray brown. There are lots of dispersed sites along the way, but the road is way too much washboard for our RV.

Saturday, September 2
Absolutely no whining today about Colorado scenery. It is totally different here than 30 miles away. We drove to Crested Butte. We expected a zoo. It was. They were having a street fair so the main street was blocked off and people were walking, biking in the streets daring to be hit. It seemed normal for a long weekend.

Escaping CB, we turned north on Slate River Road. This turned out to be one of the most picturesque roads we have been on. There was haze, but even through it we could tell this was a spectacular place. We had never heard of it, but it’s very popular area. There was plenty of traffic to prove that, but everyone respected right of way and like us were just out to enjoy.

We drove up Slate River Road to Schofield Pass and came back to Crested Butte on Gothic Road. Had we known, we would have returned the way we came, because scenery along Slate River beats Gothic Road which itself is not shabby.

The roads are rated 4WD, but most vehicles were AWD, mostly a smooth road bed and wide enough for passing.





Sunday, September 3
We are changing the name of this trip to The Smoke Trip

The plan was to drive Keebler Pass, but what we thought was haze yesterday is actually smoke and it was denser today, so we abandoned the trip. We spent the afternoon doing laundry and enjoyed a pretty good dinner at Garlic Mike’s. Dorothy had Sea Bass and I had Veal Scaloppine Piccata.

Monday, September 4
Dear Diary,
We wanted to get on the west side of the mountains near a little burg of a town named Marble to drive two Jeep trails. I had thought we might drive the well-maintained dirt road from Crested Butte there. Glenda advised us that it would take an hour longer, so we drove the longer paved road route. The longer route used Colorado 130 which twists and turns up from the Gunnison River. We had been on this road before when we day-tripped to the north end of the Black Canyon. It’s quite scenic but gives precious few views into the canyon. On top, there is a south facing view of the San Juan’s. We could make out the jagged contours of the mountains, through the smoke.

We picked Redstone campground because it’s hot in Colorado right now and the place has electricity. It has the highest rates we have ever seen for a Forest Service campground. $39. Our cost is $22, but that is still high for a Forest Service campground.

We were also surprised that the town of Redstone is a Carmel like artists colony. About a quarter-mile of shops offering artistic items. There must have been some big deal holiday event that had just broken up as the street was filled with folks returning to their cars that had been parked at some distance to the town.

 Cleveholm - Now a B and B

Tuesday, September 5
Yeah, the smoke is still here and now denser. We drove a loop road through the mountains. The far views would have been excellent if the air was clear. Next time. We did get to see “the most photographed mill in Colorado”. And Dorothy describes it.

My first post since we got on the road.  Today the goal was to get to Crystal Mill, which is one of the most intact and photographed in Colorado. We started at Marble, CO.  Marble is just not your ordinary mineral mine, it is a marble mine. Marble from here is in the Jefferson Memorial and many other places.  Driving through town, you see yard ornaments, except they are made of marble.

After leaving Marble we began our ascent through the aspen trees over the very rocky dusty road. You need high clearance in a few places and definitely need tires that are up to lots and lots of sharp rocks.  After two hours, we started descending into the very small town of Crystal.  The old mining homes are now private residences and are rehabbed. I don’t know why anyone would want to live there. Right past the town is the Mill.

We pulled off the road so Don could get some pictures.  He started down a rough looking path - I knew I could not go there. Immediately a man on a motor bike pulled up and very politely told him to come back. We asked who he was. He told us that the land was private property and he was the owner. He said that path was dangerous and just a couple of months ago, a woman in high heels started down it, had a very bad fall and had to get life support to air lift her out.  Of course, she sued him. She was trespassing, wearing high heels and obviously stupid and still wants to sue.  The law says that if you trespass in Colorado and are injured, then it’s your fault. Totally makes sense, but the owner has to get a lawyer and fight the case.  This has happened three times this year.

He talked to several of us for a while.  He is fourth generation owner.  His great-grandfather was one of the founders of Aspen having tent-camped on the main street during the mining heyday. His grandson is now the sixth generation. He doesn’t want to fence the area off so that others can enjoy it, but in the last ten years, the site has become so popular from the internet that it is getting damaged. People have crossed the stream, climbed up the ladder and kicked in the door to get inside. This is a wooden structure that is 100 years old and is not in a constant state of repair, so it’s not only dangerous, but it is damaging private property. I admire the owner for wanting to share history with others, but at the same time, the lawyers are expensive. Since it is in the national forest, I thought it was forest service land.  He said that if there is a building from the “old” days on forest service land, they knock them down - there goes history.

The 15-mile trip took four hours. It takes a long time when you go so slowly. It’s exhausting to bump along a rocky road for hours. Soon we should be in real “Jeep” territory.

The loop was rated “Red” in Wells book. Other than being extremely dusty, rocky in places and a narrow shelf in other places it was not anything exceptional. I am sure when it is muddy it is a difficult trail, but who in their right minds would drive a narrow muddy shelf road. I think only Utah offers technically challenging trails.


The Hamlet of Crystal's Fire Equipment

 The Crystal Mill

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

Wednesday, September 6
We drove 3.5 hours south to Ouray encountering the densest smoke we have seen. A wind storm came up just before dusk and cleared a lot of it out. Woohoo!

One forecast calls for rain almost every day for the next week. Another says the chance is much less. We have drugs being shipped to Silverton so we will get whatever falls from the sky.

Hiking: There are almost as many hiking trails as there are hikers. Some trails are short, some long, some take days to complete. I was thinking, why bother with trails? You can be anywhere and start a hike, even an epic hike. How about through the Bob Marshall Wilderness in March? Or you could be in an elevator and decide you want to head north. You would just path find when the elevator doors opened. This is the what the first American path finders, like Fremont and Bridger did. Be a real hiker, be a Pathfinder.

Thursday, September 7
We were inclined to stay in Ouray another day or two. We did a little touring and had lunch at the local Mex place. It was still good and way too much food. We noticed several trailer loads of ATV’s heading south and it alarmed us. Could they be going to where we were going for the weekend? We decided screw Ouray and headed south 23 miles and found our campground half empty. Good news. I walked around the river sites deciding where I want to park based on who might be using a generator. I asked a guy in a motor home if it would be OK with him if we parked next to him. Fine, he said and then he said he knew our rig and the woman standing next to it was named Dorothy. I looked at him and nothing registered and then I figured out it was Keith who we met here six years ago. Serendipity. We went into town for drinks and pizza and jawed until I was got sleepy.

Keith, Elaine, and Sandy

Her Royal Self On Mineral Creek

Friday, September 8
Keith and Sandy were due to leave but elected to stay another day and visit. We are so glad they did. We also got to know Harley and Elaine who are a lot of fun.

It got hot, then chilled off three times during the day. I about wore out my clothes changing.

Saturday, September 9
The sky was totally clear at 9:30 so we got away to a Jeep trail I have been wanting to do since we were last here. Last time, the narrow ledge trail greatly alarmed Dorothy, so I back down and turned around. This time she was not in the least bothered by the drop-off. Near the end of the trail there had been a massive slide and rather than try to return it as a road they just ended the trail there. So I had to hike the last half-mile or so, starting at 12,250 and going UP. Dorothy went a little way, but she was huffing and puffing and had to give it up. I was not doing very good myself, but I decided to push it. I made it to the first lake but had no energy left to continue to the second and third ones.

This is the picture I was after. But, the little bog lake was dried up, only a few pots of water remaining.


So I continued to the real lake. Which was not as cool. The sky cooperated, remaining almost cloudless for the whole climb. Five minutes before I got the lake gray clouds suddenly appeared behind the jagged rocks and the another cloud hide the sun. I was torked. I did not have time to wait it out as we had to get to post office before it closed at 1. I stayed 30 minutes, but the clouds did not budge much. And so it goes.

 I got this “also participated” shot

The road to the lake

Still a few flowers blooming up high

Sunday, September 10
The day opened with mostly blue skies, so we made haste to get to the roads that transverse the Red Mountains. We had some great views and I got a few pictures before dark clouds appeared. The San Juan’s remain our fav mountains.

The county has really made an effort to improve the roads. We were surprised by the sparse number of people on the trails on a Sunday.

Why We Come To Silverton





Heard on the radio; Colorado has an Alligator Park where you can go and wrestle a gator if you are of that mind. Reminds me of Florida in the 50’s. Also heard an ad for condoms, a first for us. The couple were whispering what they wanted to the clerk. They were told there was no need to whisper. They replied they had lost their voices from pleasure screams using them.

Monday, September 11
We wanted to return to Red Mountain again today. We got away too late. By 10:30 the clear skies were replaced by gray clouds. After noon, we had light rain.

Dorothy’s drugs were in Denver Saturday en route to us according to the postal tracking service. This morning they were in Atlanta!!!

Tuesday, September 12
We took the short drive up to Clear Lake and got a few pictures before the clouds made too much of an appearance.

 Even The Creeks Are Stained With Minerals


The End Of The Trail To Clear Lake

About 2PM, we got a deluge of rain, hail, and sleet.

Dorothy’s drugs have been turned around and are now crossing the country again. No expected delivery date yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Actual suggestions made to park rangers:

Trails need to be wider so people can walk holding hands.

Trails need to be reconstructed so they are not uphill.

EXTRA

Bullwinkle and BF chilling in the mud




Monday, August 28, 2017

Utah, Now Colorado

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow 
That path is for your steps alone
RH

The big takeaway from our month in BC was how friendly and happy the people are. I think someone came to our campsite every time we parked to welcome us. Women at the gas bars would give me big warm smiles. When was the last time that happened to you in the US? I would say, “You Canadians are so happy”. They would reply “Why not?” We could sure use some happiness in the USA right about now.


Thursday - Saturday, August 17-19
Steinaker SP near Vernal, UT
We had a chance encounter with some LD chums from Texas. They were headed north on US191 to Flaming Gorge for the day and we were headed to Dinosaur NM. A text message made us reconsider and we parked at Steinaker and enjoyed a visit with them. We opted to stay two more days and do nothing much.

Surprise, this was the first state park we have been in over a weekend where the masses were not teaming. In fact, it was not even filled.

Having shot Dinosaur twice before, I tried to pay attention to some different things this pass.  Here’s what I got. What do you think?





I want to return to Dinosaur one more time when it’s cool and shoot from the Rim and Bench roads again. And I have a reason. My camera is in it’s death throws. I ordered a new one. A friend will deliver it to me the end of the month. More pixels! Anyway, I am thinking camping on the Yampa so I will be convenient to the wonders there. It’s just too damn far to drive in and out to take pictures.

Rafting the Yampa has long been on my bucket list. But after talking with some knowledgeable folks, I realize it’s just not for us. Damnit.

On the way out of Vernal, I grabbed this shot of one the best Mexican restaurants in the country. Yeah, a former gas station, Tacos El Gordo.


Thursday, we both had the Chile Relleno. Devine. As with all good food, it’s the sauce that makes it. He used a blend of cheeses and it was unlike anything we have tasted before. A HUGE serving and we ate it all. We went back Saturday and the owner recommended his Smothered Burrito. It was even better than the Chile Relleno. No tourists in the place. They were either locals or oil field workers.

Sunday, August 20
From Vernal, we went 3 hours south to Rifle Gap SP in Colorado. Opted for hookups. 89 is too hot for old people.

Forgetting it was Sunday, we went to see Rifle Falls. It was also Latino Day there, every picnic table was taken by large familia’s. I managed a picture through the masses. Pretty cool falls.

We continued north through a canyon, picnickers galore,  and then begin climbing the mountain. It had rained there a few hours earlier and the road was slick as owl shit. On a inclined turn, we slid to the drivers side bank. I backed down and then continued up, but we soon encountered a truck coming down the hill who was having no small problem staying in the road. He advised that a camper was coming down behind him. That bit of information made my decision to abort and head back. I could handle the Jeep - maybe. But, there was no way I wanted to attempt to handle on coming traffic as I already knew you could change sides of the road in a heartbeat.

Monday, August 21
The eclipse was never on our list. When we checked in yesterday, they gave us a note explaining the eclipse will be 90% here and they have glasses for us. So we will experience some of what millions are passionate to see.

And so we did under a cloudless sky. The sun was golden colored, like it sometimes is at sunset. It did not get as dark as I imagined. It cooled off nicely. I thought the light and temperature were perfect. Venus was visible. As soon the eclipse got to max, we headed back to the falls, as I figured the light would be as good as it could get. Got a decent shot. I could have gotten a cotton candy effect of the water, but I never think about using a tripod and second my camera is on the fritz and will not go below 1/30. I just carry the tripod around in the back of the Jeep. It’s never been used.

How We Saw The Eclipse

Behold - Rifle Gap Falls


Tuesday, August 22
A new record, we turned a 1:15 minute jump into 4 hours. We had to stop and shop at City Market. It’s our fav grocery in the country. Some love Trader Joe’s or Whole Wallet. It just does not get any better than City Market for us. We only needed eggs, butter and milk, but we spent $87. They had lamb and NY Strips on sale.

Then down I70 to near Eagle where we stopped at Costco. Had lunch and finally went a few more miles east and parked along the Eagle River. We had some noise from I70, but we had cell coverage for the first time in many days.

Join Feidler’s book of scenic Colorado drives put us on the Colorado River Road. We were not all that impressed. John has got to do better.

We heard this weather report this morning on the radio. “Temperatures will be about normal for this time of year for the two communities”. What communities? What’s normal? We were in Rifle, we figured out the station was in Breckenridge, which is some distance away.

Colorado River


Wednesday, August 23
We managed to make the 1:11 hour drive to Leadville in less than 2 hours. Until two days ago, I had no idea Leadville was a popular destination. We drove through two of the Forest Service campgrounds on Turquoise Lake that had great reviews. We did not think so much of them. Only 10% of the sites are not reservable and we only saw one that would fit our vehicles and it was well shaded. Plus they were crowded for a week day. We found Tabor campground which is really nothing more than an asphalt parking lot, but it’s open and there was only one other rig. 

After lunch, we drove the heralded Haggerman Pass. We give it a C+. About half the trail is over softball and larger size rocks, so there is plenty of rock and roll. Not much in the way of views until you top out. I am trying to find beauty in Colorado, but so far, it’s not showing me much that I have not seen before. Green trees and grey mountains. We came home in a rain shower, that continued off and on through the night.




Thursday, August 24
Clouds all round, so we did the Mining Museum. Well worth it. We would have stayed longer than two hours, but we were both drained of energy due to the altitude. I think I was in worse shape than Dorothy.
Leadville

Friday, August 25
The weather forecast called for rain today. However, we had a clear sky around the compass, so we got away as fast as we could to Aspen to see the Maroon Bells. We made it here by 10:30 and it’s magnificent. One of the most scenic places in the country. The drive through the canyon was worth it by itself. It looks like the San Juan’s, but without the colors. I had a good day, no altitude problems. Dorothy was coughing some and her energy went way south by noon. We treated ourselves to fried chicken at Safeway.

Not sure why, we saw several dozen Audi’s on the highway to Aspen. Not a common car.



Maroon Bells

Our Moose sighting for 2017. Taken through a bus window with ultra telephoto

Lincoln Creek Near Aspen. Love It

It's the local swiming hole. 40 Degree Water


Actual comments made to park rangers:
The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.

A small deer came into my camp and stole a bag of potato chips. Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Please call.

Saturday, August 26
I offered Dorothy a choice of destinations today. A 4WD trail to one of the best remaining mine mills or to a town of restored homes. I knew which she would pick. She was not pleased that people were living in some of the old structures. The drive through the valley was OK, not outstanding. 

The thing that stood out to us were the 78 cars parked along the road. We asked a local and he told us it was people seeking to bag a 14er. There are three trails to 14er’s along Clear Creek Road. Farther down down, signs declared it 4WD, but there were dozens of SUV’s parked along the trail. I guess saving a half-mile was important to them when climbing Mt. Huron. PS Monday we learned that five died trying to bag 14er’s in the last two months. That explains the number of out of state plates we saw on the 78 cars we counted - inexperienced climbers.

We have never seen a beaver in the wild

Aspen Grove

JUSTICE
On the short drive from Leadville to Nathrop, I was driving the speed limit. Of course, any driver behind something big develops the irresistible urge to pass. Most do not drive faster once passed; they just can not bear to be behind a truck or RV. A woman passed us and forced me to drive on the shoulder to allow her to avoid the on-coming traffic. Guess who was the lead vehicle in the oncoming traffic? A Colorado Highway Patrol. He hit his lights and made a fast u-turn. I again pulled on the shoulder to allow him to pass. The woman figured out she was his target and pulled over before he got behind her. I would have loved to hear what he said to her.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Out Of Idaho, Through Wyoming, Into Utah

All the years combine
they melt into a dream

Thursday, August 10
We turned another 2.5 hour drive in 6 hour affair. We stopped for propane, cheap in Idaho. We needed groceries, so we shopped at Smith’s in South Jackson. It’s always busy there, but today took the cake. We found parking a half-mile away. Unhooked the Jeep and went to the market. Too busy at Smith’s gas bar, so we headed north and found gas in north Jackson 20 cents higher. Arg. I hate to get screwed like that.

Jackson is exactly on the eclipse path and folks are already congregating there. Motel rooms are $300+ for a four-day minimum. Jackson has the second highest per capita income in the US. HRC beat Trump by 25% there. It’s the bluest town not on the ocean or with a major university in the country.

We stopped at Turpin Meadows. We were hoping for more. It’s a campground for the horseset to take the trails from here into south Yellowstone. There must be three dozen stock trailers in the campground and the adjacent outfitter ranch. Glenda took us on a short cut to the campground, five miles on a decent gravel road. She could have taken us six miles “out of the way” on the paved road.

The smoke is much less here just east of the Tetons. But the granite spires are still not all that visible.

Just Lovely Huh?

Friday, August 11
South though the sage brush country of Wyoming to Landers. We stayed at their city park beside a babbling stream. We got our chicken fix at Safeway. Really glad they do not have Safeway in Alabama as we would eat their fried chicken every week.

Saturday, August 12
Another 3 hour drive we turned in five. The big delay was shopping at Walmart. We came through some misting rain just north of town and could see blue skies to the SW. We decided to have lunch and surf until the blue skies came to us. These were the first clear skies we have seen in weeks.
I was beginning to feel like Joe Btfsplk in Little Abner.

Joe Btfsplk

We went south on US191 to  Firehole Campground in Flaming Gorge. We had been in this area in 2007 and I was guessing it was the same place. It was. Nice to be back in colored rock country.





Sunday, August 13
Being Sunday, Dorothy made foule for breakfast. We only have enough pita bread left for two meals. Times are tough. 

We decided to explore our environs and tripped over a narrow road that ran the spine of a ridge. I expected Dorothy to say You are not you going up there, are you? And she did not disappoint me. The Jeep crawled up two super steep sections and we were “on top” with a fantastic view down the gorge. The clouds parted and the hills were painted in a soft light. It would have made a good picture. But, all the camera’s, four of them, were back in KoKo. And so it goes.

This is our 1,800th night in KoKo. That’s 5 years of use in the 10 years we have owned her. About 104,000 miles. 58 miles a day. Guess we park in place a lot.

Monday, August 14
We continue down U191 to the south end of the Gorge. We stopped at a pullout and I saw a half dozen RV’s coming from the reservoir to 191. The field glasses showed boo-coo places to park. We decided, what’s a little more dust. So down we go 4.5 miles to the end the point. A fantastic location. You know the sun is out, the birds are singing and nothing but horizon.

Then I thought to check the weather. Weatherbug predicted 50% chance of rain and weather.com was more dismal with a 90% chance. We ate lunch and it started misting. We decided no matter how great the location being on a clay road in Utah with rain in the forecast was not prudent.

We retraced our steps and found a home in a Forest Service campground. 

Tuesday, August 15
It rained.

Wednesday, August 16
Blue skies! We moved to a disbursed site we had “discovered” at Sheep Creek Bay [40.92927, 109.67950] the last time we were this way. We think it’s one of the best sites anywhere. We put the boats in and paddled around the red rock shores. This was first time the boats have been in the water since 8/2 on Clearwater Lake in WA. 

Now a few pictures under clear skies


See the oval parking area in the center of the picture


Our Home And One Of The Best Views In Utah

Our collection of mussel inspection papers for the kayaks. One each from BC, WA, MT, UT and ID, plus three from WY. We can enter a lottery with the WY papers. 



Since we are out of the smoke, we have decided to explore places in CO we have never been before. I am sure we will see some rain and it will be chilly in the mountains. But, we need some scenery.