Keeping Cool in Leadville

After Wolford Campground Riley and I headed to Leadville, where there were some forest camping spots not too far from the town.  Chris took a side trip back to Hot Sulphur Springs for a couple of days, where he had good fishing right next to the campground.  I went ahead and scouted out a place for us so we could have a good campsite well before the Labor Day weekend.  Arriving on Wednesday, 8/28, the first place I checked was a good spot, so I set up camp.  It was just about 4 miles straight west from town off county road 4, very close to Turquoise Lake.  Although we didn’t have direct mountain views from our site due to the dense forest, the views were good just down the forest road where I would walk Riley.

Walking with Riley

Walking with Riley, towards Mt. Massive

This next shot includes Mt. Elbert, the highest point in Colorado, at 14,439 feet.  It doesn’t look that high, but Leadville sits at 10,000 feet, so it just looks like an average mountain from there.

Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive

Mt. Elbert on the left and Mt. Massive to the right

I hadn’t used the scooter since leaving Denver, since there just wasn’t anyplace worth scooting to in Hot Sulphur Springs or on Rabbit Ears Pass.  But, we did unload it in Leadville.  I needed to run to the post office a few times for a package of mail my folks had collected/forwarded for me, and for my new license with the motorcycle endorsement.  Texas Department of Public Safety would only mail to me out of state.  If you give an in-state address (my folks place where my mail goes) they say you must be in TX and should just go to any DPS site and get the license.  After going around and around with the guy I had them send it to general delivery in Leadville.  Then when it finally came, just after Labor Day, it was wrong.  They hadn’t actually put the motorcycle endorsement on it.  Figures!  So they had to remake/resend it to my next stop in Salida.  Fun times. 😦  Anyway, I got to ride the scooter to town a few times, so that was good.

Leadville

Leadville

We hiked a bit at Turquoise Lake.  Hike isn’t really the word, it was more like a stroll.  There is a mostly level trail that goes right along the shoreline most of the way around the lake.  We did part of it one day, then started mid-way on another day and walked another section.  Such a beautiful lake.  This was another spot where I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Turquoise Lake

Turquoise Lake, looking south to Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert

Turquoise Lake2

Looking West

Chris and Riley on the Turquoise Lake Trail

Chris and Riley on the Turquoise Lake Trail

One day I saw a post from Glenn (ToSimplify.net) pop up in my Feeddler and the title was “Leadville”.  I had been following his travels for about 3-4 years, since I first started researching RVing.  (I was envious that he got to hang near the Grand Canyon with my friends Bob, Randy, CB, Laurie and others on his way east from LA.)  So, when I saw he was in town I sent him an email pointing out the great boondocking spot we had, with many great sites right along our forest road in case he needed a hang spot.  A few hours later Glenn drove up in his new “Go almost anywhere adventure rig” that he built himself!

Glenn

Glenn with his new go-anywhere rig

It was really fun visiting with him for a couple of days in the forest.  That rig is so well done, such great design and craftsmanship by Glenn.  He chronicled the whole process on his blog, so if anyone wants to strip down a VW Vanagon and build a new home on wheels, that’s the place to read all about it.

Next we headed for Salida, where we had camped in late June/early July, just before I headed to Denver.  We really liked the town and the camping was right on the Arkansas River, where Chris could fish close by.  It was quite cloudy/rainy in Leadville, being so close to the mountains.  In Salida we figured it would be sunnier – I needed more sun for my solar panel and new batteries.  Will select some pics and write about Salida soon.

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Back to the Mountains

After Denver we went west on I-70 to pick up Hwy 40 past Idaho Springs and head north.  It’s a pretty steady climb to Idaho Springs, and then Hwy 40 zig-zags up to Berthoud Pass at 11,307 ft. elevation.  That’s a tough climb.  We were heading to Hot Sulphur Springs where we would meet Chris at the city’s Pioneer Park.  They have campsites in the park, right on the Colorado River.  We spent 2 days there and Chris had a good time fly-fishing right near our site.  It was a great spot, except for the train tracks next door.  Lots of trains, lots of train horns, including overnight.  Other than that it was a nice little spot.  Tiny little town, nice to walk around it in the evening.

Colorado River at Hot Sulphur Springs

Colorado River next to our campground at Hot Sulphur Springs

Next we were going to a spot that Chris had heard of called Rabbit Ears Pass.  It’s on Hwy 40 on the way to Steamboat Springs.  I checked the Escapees Days End directory and saw a few listings for the pass area.  Looking at Google Maps, there seemed to be  a couple of good boondocking spots right at the top of the pass.  We pulled in and really liked the site.  We were back in the forest, yay!  It’s at about 9,700 feet elevation, so the weather was very nice and cool.

Rabbit Ears Site

Rabbit Ears Site, Routt National Forest

By the way, while in Golden we were packed in like Sardines at the Golden Terrace RV “Resort”.  But, my neighbors were all just great, and the other residents I met at the dog run were really nice.  Again, glad to have a site for a month for $500, no complaints, but it was good to be back in the forest with no one around.

Golden Terrace RV "Resort"

Neighbors (L-R) Jerry, Jay, Jim and Carol were all super nice.

There was a trail-head just across the highway from our site and it took us to the Rabbit Ears Trail, which we hiked part way.  Then, on another day, we drove to the trail-head and hiked the full trail.  It gets pretty steep near the top.  The views up there were great!

Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Ears View South

Rabbit Ears View South

Rabbit Ears View East

Rabbit Ears View East

One of the rabbit 'ears' up close.

One of the rabbit ‘ears’ up close.

    - "Riley, you stand by Chris for a picture."     - "No, I want to stand over there by you."

“Riley, you stand by Chris for a picture.”
 “No, I want to stand over there by you.”

While we were at Rabbit Ears the USA Pro Challenge cycling race came through.  Rabbit Ears Pass was a ‘King of the Mountain’ site for the riders to earn points.  We could see it from our site, but we took our chairs out by the road and sat with another couple that had parked there to watch the race.

Rabbit Ears King of the Mountain site

Rabbit Ears King of the Mountain stage from our spot

It was a great viewing site as the riders came over the hill and started the descent into Steamboat Springs.  Jens Voigt had built up a major lead up the mountain and he was first past us.  He would later lose the lead as the Peleton caught up to him within a mile or 2 of the end of the stage.

Here comes the leader, Jens Voigt.  And the camera person, and lots of support vehicles.

Here comes the leader, Jens Voigt.  Plus the camera person, and lots of support vehicles.

The Peleton goes whizzing by.

Later the Peleton went whizzing by.

It was really cool to be so close to the action of the race.  I had never seen a bike race in person.  The number of support vehicles that precede and follow the race was phenomenal.  The couple we watched with (they were from Florida) followed cycling and were able to tell us who was who and what was what during the race.  It was nice sitting with folks who could answer our newbie questions.

One day we had a visit from our friends John and Linda.  We had met them at the Lazy Daze gathering in Quartzsite in January.  They were on their way back to Colorado Springs from a trip to Grand Tetons National Park.  Their route back home took them pretty close to us so they swung by and spent a night at our spot.  It was so good to visit with them again.  The day they came I was working on changing out my house batteries, which were about 6 years old and not really holding a charge anymore.  So, Chris and John took them out and I drove Chris’ truck to the Napa in Steamboat Springs for a couple of new 6 volt golf cart batteries.  Then the guys hooked them up. Linda took a picture in the middle of it and she posted it on her blog, Adventures with Sadie. Our visiting got cut short by rain in the evening, and the next morning it was very foggy when they were about to leave.  But, I still got a pic before they took off.  Looking forward to visiting with them again in Abiquiu, NM later this month, and at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque in October.

Chris, John, Linda

Chris, John, Linda

View from my site with low clouds

View from my site with low clouds

The next morning was Saturday, so we went in to Steamboat Springs to go to the Farmer’s Market and stroll the town.

Steamboat Springs Farmer's Market, next to the courthouse lawn

Steamboat Springs Farmer’s Market

It’s a really pretty town.  They must have strict ordinances about buildings, even the McDonald’s looked like a ski chalet.  There were some very nice statues around town.  I liked the ones of Abe Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. at the benches on one corner.

Bench Statues

Bench Statues

Mark Twain

Mark Twain, with Tom Sawyer and Rebecca

View down the main street, toward the ski mountain.

Lincoln Street and ski runs shown on the mountain

Lincoln Avenue and ski runs shown on the mountain

While camped at Hot Sulphur Springs and Rabbit Ears Pass I/we did some work on the rig.  We (97% Chris) changed my water pump, which was starting to fail.  I hung an IKEA LED light above my back window like I did in my prior RV, and another of the same light above my dinette (I love that light fixture.)  I put in a gooseneck faucet in the kitchen, same fixture as my dad and I put in the last rig.  Mostly I was able to do it myself with Chris supervising and checking my work.

Next we wanted to go to Leadville.  I had found a couple of possible forest sites west and southwest of town and, at 10,000 feet elevation, should be cool enough.  On the way we stopped at Wolford Campground near Kremmling.  I needed to get a full charge on my new batteries (my 85 watt solar panel wasn’t cutting it) and needed a plug in site.  The Wolford site was better than a cramped RV park.  Chris did a little fishing in the lake, but he prefers fly fishing in rivers.

Wolford Reservoir

Wolford Reservoir.  Chris is there – a dot along the shore towards the right side.

Will write about our visit to Leadville next.

Is this a perfect site or what?

Is this a perfect site or what?

Update and Big News!

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to finish my post about day 2 of Yosemite.  But, the good news is that’s because I am in Denver to buy a new (to me) Lazy Daze!

Lately I had been thinking of carrying a scooter on the back of my rig, but CB (my Engineer friend) advised against it, as the structure underneath didn’t seem strong enough to hold it on a hitch-mounted ramp/rack.  A welder I went to see in Santa Fe agreed.  I started thinking of upgrading to a 26′ Lazy Daze, both for beefier structure/power and for more room.  I didn’t buy my Lazy Daze originally with plans to full-time in it.  I planned to have it for a few years, try it, learn the systems, see if I like it, then get a larger/newer rig when I retired and started full-timing.  But, things don’t always work out as you planned, and now here we are. On the road full time….

Anyway, I got to thinking about getting a larger Lazy Daze (mid-bath floorplan) and almost immediately saw one for sale near Denver.  Wow, what luck!  I was in Salida, CO, only about 150 miles away.  It sounded like a good candidate after talking on the phone with Cliff, the owner.  Chris mentioned it to our friend John in Colorado Springs.  (We met him and his wife, Linda, in Quartzsite in January).  He happened to be going right by there on the way to the Denver airport this past Friday morning, and offered to take a look and tell me if it was worth driving my rig over from the spot near Nathrop, where Chris and I were camped.  He looked it over, said it was in good shape and was worth making the trip in person.  So, I got my stuff together right away, drove over to Denver, met with Cliff Friday afternoon, checked it all out, and started working on a deal.  We just finalized the agreement Sunday, so now I can say I am about to have a new RV!  I expect to be able to finalize the transaction and pick it up on Thursday.  So excited!

In the meantime, I have been busy with working on –  a.) finding an RV park where I can stay a while in Denver (to sell my current Lazy Daze), b.) figuring out how to title it in TX while out of the state, c.) getting insurance, d.) etc., etc..  I expect to make a page on the blog here to post info and pictures in a couple of days as I get it for sale online.  So, if you know anyone in the market for a cozy cottage of an RV with a fantastic solar setup…..  🙂

1st Trip - Inks Lake State Park.  3/4/12

1st trip – Inks Lake State Park, TX. 3/4/12

Boondocked near Flagstaff, in the Coconino National Forest.  5/13/13

Boondocked in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, AZ – 5/13/13

Isabella Lake and Kern River

After leaving the heat of Lake Mohave, just north of Bullhead City, AZ, we drove directly to Isabella Lake.  I really wanted some cools, and higher elevation would get it done.  Isabella Lake is northeast of Bakersfield, CA, at the southern end of the Sequoia National Forest.  The lake itself is at about 2,600 feet, but the Kern River upstream from the lake gains even more in elevation.  There is a series of Forest Service campgrounds along the river, some developed and some primitive, allowing free dispersed camping.  I had heard about the area from Bob Wells while at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in January.  We had been talking about my plans to visit Yosemite and he was quite familiar with the area.  He thought it would be a good spot for April, once southern California started getting hot and Yosemite is still pretty chilly.

Anyway, we arrived after a long, 330 mile day.  We set up on the shore of Isabella Lake, which allows dispersed camping at the Auxiliary Dam site.  Camping is free with the inter-agency annual pass, which I had gotten last year knowing I would be going to a lot of national parks.  We got there in time for a nice sunset.

Isabella Sunset

We did get our cools.  The highs were in the 60’s and 50’s the first few days we were here, so that was great.  Bob had warned that it would be windy and he was right.  There was a lot of wind in the area with gusts to 35 mph, and on the lake with no trees blocking you really feel it.

It’s a big lake.  You can’t tell from the picture above.  I was on one small arm of the lake.  The shoreline visible across the lake is actually a peninsula that sticks out, with another arm of the lake behind it.  Then there is another mile or so of lake off to the right.  The lake is pretty low right now due to drought and lack of snow melt.

There were usually clouds on the mountains across the lake.  Mountains make their own weather and it almost always looked stormy over there.  Pretty cool looking actually.

Lake Isabella

Cloudy day over our campsite on Lake Isabella

Also got to watch a couple of windsurfers most days.  I couldn’t get a good picture, as they were way out in the lake.  This is zoomed in.

Wind Surfer

Windsurfer

It’s a big fishing lake and they had a fishing derby April 20-22.  On the weekend before (April 12-14) a lot of folks came up, both for recreation and fishing.  Probably a lot of folks getting an idea of where the fish hang out before the derby.  Anyway, the shoreline was wall-to-wall RV’s.  This was about 1/4 of the line. There were many, many more RV’s over to the right.

Busy Isabella

Busy Isabella

The town of Lake Isabella is just the right size.  Small enough to be easily navigated – one main road through town.  Big enough to have services, including a really nice Von’s grocery store.  One thing I wanted to do was find a place to pick up packages.  I needed to place an Amazon order, but needed someplace besides the Post Office that accepts deliveries.  Found one at Valley Office Emporium.  Also, there’s propane at the big True Value hardware store in town, and a decent laundromat.

Next we moved across the river, below the dam, to the Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area, a BLM site.  It has a lot of trails for dirt bikes and other off-highway vehicles.  Also, they allow dispersed camping.  There is one paved road through the area and a lot of dirt roads forking off.  Many roads I couldn’t drive too far due to ruts/rocks, and some had low-hanging branches that I wouldn’t fit under.  I eventually found a good site right off the road and camped for a couple of days.

Keyesville Site

Keyesville Site

They allow gold mining in certain sections of the Keyesville area.  One day Riley and I were out walking and I met Annie, whose husband Lee is a prospector.  (Also met their dogs Miley and Chelsea.  Wish I had thought to get a picture.)  They are from Salinas, but like bringing their motorhome to Keyesville for a nice trip and to do some gold panning.  They were parked in an area right on the river.  I wasn’t sure my RV could fit under the trees and over the ruts to get there, so hadn’t driven down there.  It looked like a great place to camp, though.

Camping on the river in Keyesville

Camping on the river in Keyesville

Kern River in Keyesville SRMA

Kern River in Keyesville SRMA

One day I thought it would be good to hike across the river and up by the dam to the Forest Service office.  I realized pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be able to cross the river – the road is really busy and the bridge is narrow with no sidewalk or shoulders.  We went across the road to the “Main Dam Campground” which is closed.  I thought maybe somewhere in there we would be able to access a way to go up and walk over the dam.  Walking through the campground it was obvious it had been closed for some time, not just for the winter.  It’s directly below the dam, so I’m sure they closed it due to the devastation that would happen if the dam were ever breached and started flooding downriver.  It’s like an episode of Life After People in there, with nature taking the area back.  (I never did find a way to get up to the top of the dam.)

Main Dam Campground Site

Main Dam Campground site in disrepair

In one of the trees there were 2 HUGE bird nests next to each other.  Must have been raven nests because one squawked at me the whole time I was looking at them.  (Was a female raven, based on the sound of the call on my iBird app.)

Giant bird nests

Giant bird nests

Next we moved upriver to the Thunderbird campground.  When we pulled in I noticed some rock climbing ladies rappelling down the rock face across the road.  On the 2nd picture below I’ve put arrows where 2 are rappelling down the rock and 2 are already down at the base (click to see bigger).  My nephew Kevin is an expert rock-climber.  I’d be too scared, but cool to watch.

Thunderbird Rapellers

Thunderbird Climbers on the rock face across the road

Rapellers

Rapellers

One thing that was cool about the area was the number of fighter jets that fly over the upper Kern river.  I saw one fighter jet fly really low over me at Anza-Borrego.  It came screaming over the mountain, turned on its side, then straightened up and flew over the other mountains.  So cool, but so fast.  Couldn’t get a picture.  Same thing here.  I think they are coming from Edwards AFB south of here.  Most days I hear or see 1 or 2.  On the 18th it was super-crazy with the jets.  I think I saw 12-14 of them on that day alone.  Just screaming up the river, following the road/valley.  One was really low, actually in the valley, maybe a couple of hundred yards up.  Not sure what that was all about, but crazy cool.  Must be having a lot of practice runs, or trainees are getting some fly time.  Sure wish I could get a picture.  They go by too fast to even think of getting out the camera.

On Friday, the 19th, we packed up and moved upriver.  I wanted to see if I could find a site at one of the other campgrounds, like Springhill.  On Google Maps it looked like there are some shady sites there (it was getting a bit warm).  Both Springhill North and South had a lot of sites, but either small or with too many low-hanging branches to be able to get too far in.  Eventually I had to turn around in a small space when the campground road ended.  In the process I somehow managed to drive over a rock in the road in such a way as to lodge my differential on top of it.

Stuck on a rock

Stuck on a rock

Couldn’t go forward or back to get off of it.  Oh no!  I tried my leveling blocks to drive up and over, didn’t work.  I tried chiseling the rock with a hammer and chisel, didn’t work.  Eventually I had to go looking for someone in the campground with a jack.  (I had a nice hydraulic jack on my trip last year, but left it home figuring I wouldn’t change my own tire since I have Coachnet.)  Didn’t find a jack, but found a guy that could help, and when we got back the 3 fisherman with the campsite next to my mishap were back from fishing and able to help.  They tied a rope to my hitch from their van and gave me a tug, which dislodged me and I was able to back it off the rock.  What a pain!  At one point I thought I would have to call Coachnet, but didn’t actually have any signal on my T-Mobile phone, plus my Verizon MiFi didn’t have any signal there either.  I decided to go back down to Thunderbird, where at least I had a decent campsite and Verizon signal.  (And I didn’t want to be without both phone and internet communication.)

Thunderbird Site

Thunderbird Site

Kern River at Thunderbird

Kern River at Thunderbird

On Sunday, the 21st we moved back to Keyesville.  It was hot, Thunderbird had gotten too busy, and I wanted to see if I could get the NASCAR race on the TV.  I hoped we could get the same spot we had before (part of it was shady).  On the way back downriver I was able to see all the activity on the lake for the fishing derby.  Everywhere you could put an RV on the shoreline there was an RV there.  Tents were everywhere you could put a tent.  Lots of boats.  I stopped at a lookout spot and got a couple of pictures.

Derby Campers

Derby Campers

Derby Boats

Derby Boats

The site I wanted was occupied, but they moved out on Tuesday morning, so I snagged it then.  Highs of 85 here lately – need to get shade on the tin can!

So now we are about to move again.  After almost 3 weeks in the area we leave tomorrow to head north towards Yosemite.  I have 3 nights in a Yosemite Valley campground.  On the way we will visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  After Yosemite we head to San Francisco.  So lots of cool things to see coming up.  Very excited!  I’m sure Riley will like the sights and smells too.  🙂  He did enjoy our last Keyesville hike this morning:

Last Kville Hike

Last Keyesville Hike

Arizona – Grand Canyon and Coconino National Forest

Monday morning (10/1) we left Kanab, fully charged and with fresh tanks.  We were ready to be off grid for a week.  I had read about the extensive Forest Service roads above the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab National Forest.  Roxanne and Annie of the Good Luck Duck had written about where they had boondocked in the forest, so I programmed the GPS and headed down there.  Such a pretty drive in the Kaibab on Highway 67.

Kaibab National Forest along Hwy. 67

Kaibab National Forest along Hwy. 67 showing fall color

I drove out Forest Road 22, but didn’t find any sites I liked, so went across Hwy. 67 to FR 611.  Lots of good level sites along there.  We were just a bit off the road, deep in the forest.

Campsite in the Kaibab

Campsite in the Kaibab

Down the forest road about 3 miles is the east canyon viewpoint and Kaibab Trail.  Riley and I walked to the viewpoint/Saddle Mountain Wilderness.  Met a few folks hiking and camping along the canyon rim.

Riley hiking in the Kaibab

Riley on the Kaibab Trail, nearly camouflaged on the forest floor

We stayed 2 days, then drove about 20 miles down Hwy. 67 to the Grand Canyon North Rim.  We got to the campground at 8:30 AM and there were only a couple of campsites available.  We reserved one, then drove down to the lodge/visitor complex to get a view of the canyon.  A few hours later went back to the campground and got settled in to our site.  We were right next to the General Store, where I was able to use their wi-fi.  I had not been able to pick up a signal with my Verizon MiFi device while in the forest. Outside the store I saw a few Kaibab Squirrels.  They have a great white tail, reminding me of a Vegas showgirl.

Kaibab Squirrel, with a fluffy white tail.

Kaibab Squirrel, with a fluffy white tail.

Grand Canyon campground

Grand Canyon campground

I took Riley on the one trail that allows dogs, Bridle Trail, which runs along the road from the campground to the visitor center.  Later I hiked the Transept Trail that runs along the canyon rim from the campground to the visitor center. The view was very hazy, due to smoke from a prescribed burn in the forest south of the South Rim.

View from Transept Trail

View from Transept Trail

On Thursday morning we drove back to the lodge/visitor center area.  I wanted to hike out the Bright Angel Point trail.  Then we drove back up 67 to Jacob Lake, then over towards Page, under the Vermillion Cliffs, and south to Flagstaff.  We stopped at Walmart and the visitor center, then down I-17 to the Willard Springs area of the Coconino National Forest.  RV Sue had written about the area last year and it was on my list of places to be sure to visit on the trip.

We parked next to a shallow pond.  In the middle of the night I heard some odd sounds.  Turned out to be a herd of elk stopping at the pond for a drink.  There were a couple of males bugling.  It was very cool!!

Coconino National Forest Site

Coconino National Forest Site

There is a network of forest roads in the Coconino, too.  Riley and I walked all over.  Some areas of the roads are very rocky.

Riley on a break from the rocky forest road walk

Riley on a break from the forest road walk

We stayed 3 days, then on Sunday drove just a few miles down the road to Munds Park RV Resort.  I did laundry, took care of the tanks, watched the race and football, and got propane. I was pretty happy with this schedule of once a week at a commercial campground to take care of business, then the rest of the week off-grid.

On Monday we went to Flagstaff for groceries, then to a different area of the Coconino Forest.  Roxanne and Annie had found a nice boondocking area not too far from Flagstaff, and I had arranged to park nearby.  Roxanne is the moderator of the women’s RV Yahoo group I am on, so I had hoped to eventually cross paths.  I parked near their site and got to spend some time picking their brains.  They are SO nice! I really enjoyed meeting them, after sort of knowing them from the group, and reading their blog.

Again, Riley and I walked the network of roads in the beautiful forest.  Riley gets to play ball when we are in the forest away from other folks.

Riley has mad ball skills

Riley has mad ball skills.  (That’s the Good Luck Duck in the background)

We only stayed 2 days, as it was getting quite cold at night.  We headed east on I-40,  with a quick stop in Winslow.  I wanted to see the “Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona” statue.  Our next stop was going to be Bluewater Lake State Park in New Mexico.

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