Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Colorado: October 7, 2009. Summary of our Colorado Trip.

(For details of the trip start with our June 14th entry and continue to this entry.)
(Lots and lots of pictures!)

We spent a really nice summer in the mountains of Colorado from June 18th to October 2th, about 3½ months. We drove the Bug about 1800 miles in Colorado and about 1800 miles round trip from San Antonio and back. We also drove the Blazer about 5600 miles in Colorado sightseeing.

I highly recommend a visit or lengthy stay in Colorado. There are lots of scenic and historic areas to visit. We didn’t spend any time to speak of in the major cities. Almost all our time was in the National Forests and National Parks.

We were in Colorado only three days when I realized I made the mistake of starting our stay at too high an elevation, at 9200’. We both had problems with mild altitude sickness. Nausea, headaches, and a definite shortness of breath. I had hoped, since we spent the first night at 3000’ near Lubbock, and two nights at 6800’ in Capulin NM, on the way to Colorado that we would be OK at 9200’. Wrong!! It took us nearly a month to feel comfortable at the 9000’ to 10,000’ elevation. Old age I guess! We would move down to about 5000’ to 6500’ for several days and then back up to 8000’ to 9500’. Finally after about a month of this we were finally acclimated to the altitude. Still a bit out of breath, but no nausea.

Part of the problem is that most of the scenic National Forest and National Park areas along the Front Range (just west of IH25) are in the 8000’ to 10,000’ range. If you start your trip on the western or southwestern part of the state, there are a number of scenic areas in the 6000’ to 7000’ range. If/when we go back we won’t make the Front Range our starting off point.

A review of our trip:

Map of Colorado Tour

We started our stay in Pike National Forest about 25 miles NW of Colorado Springs and made a counter clockwise tour of the state

After three nights at 9200’ in the mountains of Pike NF, we moved to a few miles west of Canon City at an elevation of 6200’. That took care of our altitude sickness. We were just a few miles from Royal Gorge. I wasn’t impressed with Royal Gorge. It is an over hyped tourist attraction! For a fee of $24 per person you can walk across the bridge and take a tram ride across the gorge, and a couple of other entertainment ride type attractions. Kind of like visiting a Six Flags amusement park.

From Canon City we moved up to 8200’ to a boondocking site along CR77 (Terryall Road) six miles north of Lake George. We spent a very pleasant 12 nights here parked under big Ponderosa pine trees with a nice view of a valley. This was the longest period we have spent w/o water, electric or sewer hookups. We did have to refill our fresh water tank once, but the black & gray water tanks served us fine. We were very conservative in our water & toilet usage! We spent the Fourth of July weekend here. The altitude didn’t affect us too badly at 8200’. While staying here we toured the area extensively and drove to the top of Pikes Peak, elevation 14,110’. We were definitely out of breath at the top! The drive and scenery was well worth the $10 per person entrance fee.

When we left our Terryall Road boondocking area we moved to 9500’ for one night and decided that was still too high for us.

So it was off to the small town of Loveland, elevation 4950’, for a few days. Loveland is about 35 miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain NP (RMNP). This gave us a few days at lower altitude and allowed us to take a day trip into RMNP. This way we got an overview of the park and made sure there was a campsite in the park which would suit us.

After a few days in Loveland we moved into RMNP to Glacier Basin campground, elevation 8600’. We spent three days here exploring the park and I was able to take a beautiful 4 mile hike, but the headaches returned, so it was time to move to a lower altitude again.

It was off to Poudre River Canyon, elevation 6750’, west of Fort Collins. We spent a very nice week here, at Kelly Flats NF CG, exploring the canyon, the area and in general, just chilling out.

Time to go back up in altitude! We moved to Dumont Lake CG, in Routt NF, elevation 9600’. Dumont Lake is about 25 miles east of Steamboat Springs. It is a pretty campground with lots of wildflowers. We spent about 2 weeks in three different campgrounds in this area. Finally, we are pretty much over our altitude sickness problems. We still are a little short on breath at times, especially Sharon with her asthma problems.

Sharon’s father used to go deer hunting near Meeker, Colorado every fall. While we were in NW Colorado, we wanted to visit the area. Meeker is a pretty little town with lots of history. While were in Meeker, there was a county fair and rodeo. All the participants in the animal showing competition and rodeo were children from 3 to 17 years old. Yes, that is right, 3 years old. At 3 years old they participated in a rabbit chase. The fair and rodeo were very enjoyable. Small town or county rodeos are much more fun than the big professional rodeos. We really enjoyed our stay in Meeker.

From there it was a quick visit to the Dinosaur National Monument and then down to Grand Junction. On the way to Grand Junction we had the engine check light come on in the Bug (we call the motorhome The Bug). We spent two nights camped at the Cummings diesel repair facility getting the Bug fixed.

On to Silverton, we boondocked in San Juan NF for several days and then off to Mesa Verde National Park for 12 days, including Labor Day weekend.

After that we headed to Curecanti National Recreation area, west of Gunnison, for a few days and then up into the mountains NE of Gunnison to Taylor Park Reservoir in Gunnison NF. We had snow at Taylor Park Reservoir one afternoon. The snow was gone by the next morning.

The last part of our stay in Colorado was in the Buena Vista and Leadville area, followed by three nights in the Denver area. We left Denver, October 2nd and arrived in San Antonio, October 6th.

We hope you enjoy reading about our travels and seeing all the pictures.

Al & Sharon

Monday, October 26, 2009

Colorado: September 24-October 1, 2009. End of our stay in Colorado

The last part of our stay in Colorado was near Leadville, at Dexter NF CG on Twin Lakes. We thought this area was the most scenic of all the places we visited this summer. There are several close seconds though, to be sure.

Twin Lakes & Dexter CG

The campground wasn’t much to talk about, just a gravel parking lot. We had wonderful views out our front window of several mountain peaks including the highest peak in Colorado, Mt. Elbert at 14,433’. Another perk was the CG was free since we were here after Labor Day.

The campground

This was part of the view from the front window of the Bug

More views from the hill in front of the Bug. Looking out our front window we could see all the views in these photos except we just couldn’t see the lake in the foreground.

In the picture above, the peak in the far right is Mt. Elbert. The picture below is the view looking back down at Twin Lakes from the top of Mt. Elbert. I didn’t hike up here. The picture was taken by and is posted on I hope that is proper credit.

This was a wonderfully scenic campground to stay in.

A few views from around the area

Mountains and clouds from Hwy 24 south of Leadville

Old mining town.

The piles of gravel in the foreground were left over from dredging for gold.

Ruedi Reservoir, north of Aspen

An interesting house. It looks like it belongs in Switzerland.


Arkansas River

Mountain Bluebird

Abert Squirrel


We took two beautiful scenic drives on 4 wheel drive roads.

Hagerman Pass Road follows an old railroad bed part of the way up and down the pass. However the railroad went through a tunnel and a fairly rough road continues up above tree line where there was a little snow left from a few days ago. Wonderful views along the road.

Lost Canyon Road goes up to above the tree line to fantastic views. It was a good road until the last ½ mile, then it was a little rough but fine for stock SUV’s.

Pretty aspen trees on the way up

Near the top we passed a working mine. There was a for sale sign at the entrance.

Some views from the top

That ends our travel log for our Colorado trip this summer.

We did spend a couple of days in Denver, but I don’t have anything significant to tell about our stay there. It is a big city - which just about says it all since we really prefer NO towns or small towns to BIG towns when we are traveling.

That’s about all for now.

Al & Sharon

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Colorado: September 19-21, 2009. Snow and driving the Bug over Cottonwood Pass

For some reason the National Forest Service (NFS) scheduled the closing of Lakeview CG, where we had been staying, for Sunday, Sept 20th, right at the peak of the fall foliage color change.

I wanted to stay in the area a couple more days before leaving, partly because there was a good chance of an inch or two of snow coming.

We moved from the south side of the lake to Rivers End CG on the north side of the lake where the Taylor River enters the lake.

We still had very nice views, but no CG host to oversee the park and no electric. The CG is about 1.5 miles down a good gravel road from the end of the paved highway.

A few of views from our new CG

The above pictures were taken the morning after the snow fall we had the day before.

The Snow!

A light snow fall is starting

A few hours later it pretty well covered the gound

There was enough snow for me to through snow balls at Sharon as she stuck her head and camera out the window of the Bug

The evening after the snow it was 25 degrees at 9:45pm and 20 degrees at daylight. On this cold morning LiLi & Misty had the warmest place in the Bug, right in front of the “fireplace”. The “fireplace” is our propane catalytic heater.

Last night to be sure the water pipes and water tanks didn’t freeze we set our thermostats to 46 degrees for our two propane furnaces. They ran on and off all night and depleted our 30 gallon propane tank, from just below ¼ full, to almost empty. It is time to move on to civilization. We probably would not be able to make it through another night w/o running out of propane.

From the Taylor Park Reservoir area we are heading east to Buena Vista. There are two ways to get there.

The first is to drive backtrack about 45 miles to Gunnison and then 70 miles east and north to Buena Vista. 115 miles of all paved highway.

The second is to drive 14 miles on a gravel road starting at 9500’ to Cottonwood Pass at 12,126’ and then 21 miles down a paved road to Buena Vista.

A closer look at the road to Cottonwood Pass

We don’t normally drive the Bug more than a mile or two on gravel roads but this route will save us about 80 miles of driving. We did drive this road in the Blazer earlier in our stay here and knew the gravel road was in pretty good condition. I wouldn’t have attempted to drive the road in the Bug if we hadn’t driven it in the Blazer. Besides I wanted the experience of driving the Bug over the pass on the gravel road!

Since it snowed the day before, we drove the Blazer about half way up to the pass to be sure the road was still in good condition, before we made the final decision to take the Bug up the road. Once we started up the road in the Bug it would be very difficult to find a place to turn around if we ran into ice or mud. You don't just turn a 40' vehicle around in a wide spot in the road.

A few views of our drive up to Cottonwood pass.

Mountain views along the road

Part way up the road we saw a truck pulling a travel trailer coming up behind us. We pulled over and stopped so they could pass. Here they are right after passing us.

On the way up

Approaching the pass

At the pass

Looking down the far side

Switchback going down

From here it was an easy drive into Buena Vista for a couple of nights at Snowy Peaks RV park.

That’s all for now,

Al & Sharon