Moved In

I moved the camper in on Sunday. There’s a little cubby-hole the perfect size, between two rows of nice bushy pinon trees.

Concho Carport

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I’ve made a walkway with some old plywood, and put out my solar lights, and it feels like Home already. I’m working on getting the rock collection out of my car. I have to force myself to put them on the ground here; they’re going to get dirty! But I remind myself that they’re ROCKS, for heaven’s sake, and they’re washable.

I have this lovely deluxe “toolshed” right next to the camper. It’s made of old pallets and looks like scrap pieces of corrugated plastic roofing…..it leaves a lot to be desired!

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I am very impressed though that she (the former landowner) worked the roofing around a tree branch! (See it sticking up through the roof on the right side?)

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I do need a place to keep my tools but I’m not sure this is it. I suppose I could wrap the sides with a tarp if it’s going to rain, but it does need a different door. Dragging a big ol’ pallet back and forth is way too much work.  I can’t do much of anything just yet because I bought a cordless saw & drill, charger and batteries on ebay and they’re just now all trickling in. I’ve got all the materials to make a couple sawhorses….maybe tomorrow. I had all the 2×4 pieces cut at Home Depot, and bought one of the brackets at a ReStore for $2; the other I bought for $4 at Harbor Freight.

I bought some plants yesterday! A nice big mum that was on Clearance for $4.10 (and is in a pretty pot that I can reuse) and a really pretty bright red Cyclamen for $1.55. I guess with the weather getting colder they won’t last long, but it’s great to have some color around here! And so nice that I don’t have to find a space to carry them in the car when I move.  I still have little Celery but she’s not doing too great. The leaves are nice and green but she’s not growing at all. I don’t think this weather agrees with her. I read that celery likes 70/60, and it’s been a good bit colder than that at night. I do put her in the car at night, and now also the mum & cyclamen too. Maybe they’ll stay pretty longer if they don’t get frosted. It’s starting to get colder; forecast in the low 30’s for the next week or so at night.

I am realizing that I can’t build my own shack. For one thing, I don’t have enough money. And the other thing is that I just don’t have the stamina and strength any more. I sure hate to admit that. (You all probably knew that before I did) So I’m looking at buying a pre-built shed on the Rent To Own plan, which carries a horrendous interest rate.  I’ve found a place in Tucson that really does a nice job; their sheds have roof overhangs, soffit and continuous roof vents, and 2×6 floor joists 12″ on center. And the roof trusses are nice-looking, without those ugly galvanized plates holding everything together like most of the shed manufacturers use.  I’m still gathering information right now & trying to make sure I can afford it. Otherwise I’ll be living in the camper for another year or so, and I REALLY would like to be in a real structure before the hard winter weather hits.  Well it’d be pretty tough to keep the camper cool enough in the summer here too. If that happens I’ll probably have to take to the road again in summer, and maybe this winter too, if it gets too cold here.  So I’m hoping I can figure out a way to get a pre-built shack.

Some of you have already noticed that I removed the link for convenient shopping. The rules have changed, and I can’t post a general link; I have to post links to actual products. So here are few things that I like and use a lot. (Clicking on any of these product links will take you to where you can do a search for what you really want) Thanks! (Please copy and paste into your browser)

Stuff we like:

Camco Handy Mat. This is a great little mat for in front of the camper door, or under your dog’s exercise pen. It folds up very small and is cheap enough that you can just toss it out when it starts getting frayed or horribly dirty! http://amzn.to/2yjuQcV

Bonavita Coffee Dripper. I love this thing…it was a gift from a friend, and it’s a little pricey but I love that the porcelain keeps the coffee hot, and it doesn’t drip right through immediately. It will hold the brew until you’re ready to dispense it into your cup.  http://amzn.to/2yj4ojJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Exciting News

Exciting news!  I’ve found The One. No, not a man; a piece of property! It is a little over an acre with good gravel roads almost all the way there (there’s a rocky section that I’m told the county will take care of if I tell them someone is living there). I’m not going to say it already has a driveway, but it’s been driven over quite a bit so it’s packed down good; I don’t think I’ll need to do anything more to it until July when the monsoons start. It has lots of nice bushy pinon and cedar trees that are good for shade and windbreakers, and also some grassy and rocky areas. It drops off at the property line on one side so there are beautiful views over the valley.  The closest neighbor is about 500′ away (but not in sight) and some friends live just 1/3 mile away.  And it’s in a county that has minimal building codes and practically nonexistent code enforcement.  There are people living in storage sheds all over this subdivision!  Taxes are $39 a year plus $100 a year to “subscribe” to the fire district. It’s less than 20 miles to big supermarkets, Home Depot, Walmart, etc.

Concho View

I am very excited! I can’t think of a way to get a building to live in before spring, so it means winterizing the camper….reflectix on the windows, foam board skirting all around the bottom, and cramming strips of foam (A/C weatherstripping) into every crack and crevice I can find! And getting a larger heater. Last night it was 30° here with no wind and the camper stayed at 59°. That’s fine, but I’m going to need something a little beefier for when it gets colder.

Concho View 2

And I guess the only way I’m going to get a “house” to live in is to build it myself. Since I had to borrow some of the purchase price, I don’t want to go even deeper in debt to buy a little storage building. And the Rent To Own prices are ridiculous…it’s something like 40% interest! I didn’t really like the look of the storage buildings anyway; they are not cute or pretty. Most of them don’t have any overhangs and super-cheap aluminum windows. You can upgrade to double pane windows for $150-250 extra per window! That’s robbery….I can buy a nice thermopane window for well under $150.  I’m sure I can build a She Shed for about half what they are selling for; it’ll just take me a lot longer.

There is electricity near the property but in this county you can’t get electricity hookup until you have a septic system, and I can’t afford that, nor will I really need a septic system as I’ll have a dry toilet/composting system.  So I’ll be continuing to live off-grid. I’ll get an additional solar panel and some beefy 6-volt golf cart batteries, which will give me 250 amps of power. I’ll wire the shed for 12 volt lights and cigarette lighter plugs. I’ll get a large water tank and have water delivered ($25 for up to 500 gallons). Wow, running water! It can be pumped with a simple battery-driven pump.  Appliances will be propane; RV stove and refrigerator.

So….the basic theme of this blog is going to change from boondocking & travel, to the agonies of a 69 year old woman trying to build her own Tiny House. I’m sure my back and knees will not thank me! I hope everyone will hang in there with me. I’ve built an 800 sq. ft. home, a 10×16 cabin, 13z22 barn cabin, and a 14×24 houseboat. So I know how to do it all; including wiring and the minimal amount of plumbing I’ll need to do.  It’ll just take me a lot longer because I’m old and creaky. Heaven help us if I have to get down on my knees to do anything! Maybe I should invest in a Life Alert……please help me, I’m kneeling and I can’t get up!

Concho Carport

I have found a self-storage facility nearby that rents 5×10 spaces for $30 a month so I’m going to do that for a while. I’ve GOT to get my car emptied out! Right now it’s so full, I can barely fit groceries into it. I need to be able to carry building supplies, and maybe buy some things at thrift shops that I’ll eventually be able to use on the shed.  Wow, and I can finally get all the rocks out of the car too! If you open any door (including the driver’s door) you see rocks. Some of them are pretty good-sized, too. I’ll bet my gas mileage will improve when I get all that weight out of the car!

Concho driveway

I have been dogsitting for my new neighbor friends while they went to a funeral in Oklahoma. They have three tiny dogs and a doggy door, so all I really have to do is give them food & water and put them in their crates at night & let them out in the morning. I’m camped in their driveway (with electric hookup!!)  I go over to the house every evening to spend a few hours with them. It has nothing to do with being able to watch their big screen TV with every available channel, honest! When Candace was still here, the dogs were all over me. As soon as they left, the dogs were terrified of me and would run out the doggy door the moment I came in the house. They weren’t eating much and I couldn’t get them to go in their crates at night because they ran if I came near them. Then one night it was chilly so I borrowed her robe from the bedroom, and draped it over me. Suddenly all three dogs were all over me……they loved me!! Since then it’s been much better; even the really skittish Yorkie lets me pet him, and the dogs go into their crates at night all by themselves.  I’ve been taking Roxie over there with me and they all pretty much ignore each other.

 

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Wandering Around Eastern AZ

 I have been camping in way too much heat lately, and I’m very grumpy. I seem to choose the places that don’t have shade, and once the camper is set up on the inside, which takes about 20 min., I’m not about to move it! It’s hard to tell where the sun’s path will be when you arrive in the morning, or at noon. I’ve really been moving around a lot lately. I just came from 3 days at Concho where it was around 85 every day, then 2 days at Payson where it was in the low 80’s but one day I had a bunch of errands to run and when I got back, it was 101 degrees inside the camper! And me with no electricity so no real way to cool it down. UGH. I just don’t tolerate heat.

I moved to a little higher elevation in Pine, then a few days in Strawberry. MUCH nicer! 

Here’s the campfire ring at my Pine campsite. I thought it was very elaborate…much higher than the usual single ring of rocks.

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And here’s the view from my Pine campsite. It’s really just on the edge of a fairly ugly dirt clearing but there’s nice shade and a great wifi signal, and only a mile to town. (It is ½ mile S. of the Pine Trailhead, on the west side of Hwy. 260/87. GPS 34.36650 -1211.44060)  There are also a few small pullout sites and a vault toilet at the trailhead, and that’s probably where I would go next time.

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I am again on the hunt for a nice cheapie piece of property to call HOME. I’ve now been wandering for more than 2 ½ years. I looked at several places in eastern Apache County but nothing really appealed at all. So tomorrow I’m heading back to a different area to try again. I visited some lovely folks (Candace & Frank) who are friends of a friend of a friend (good ol’ Facebook)! And fell in love with their place and the general area. On my way back out from their house I saw a real estate sign on a parcel that’s heavily treed (pinon and cedar trees, only 20-25’ tall but nice and bushy).  That one is a little more than I am able to spend but I’m sure there are other parcels for sale around there. I am working with a realtor, Mike from Landmark Realty…he’s great! He has spent a good bit of time looking up the restrictive covenants for all the areas I’m interested in, to make sure RV’s are allowed!

The way Apache County works this is that you can’t really live full-time in an RV unless you are in an RV park or are holding a building permit for a home; then you can legally live in an RV on your property for up to a year, and you must have a septic system. But you can live in your RV for 6 months without a septic system, leave for two weeks and then come back for another 6 months, on and on ad infinitum. They consider that “camping”. You just have to go somewhere and dump your tanks. Since I don’t have any black or graywater tanks, for me it’s a matter of dumping my porta potty in a vault toilet somewhere. I probably will switch to a dry toilet/composting system. 

My friend Donna from Cottonwood came with her greyhound “Queenie” to camp for a few days., so I moved to a higher elevation campsite and one that’s more scenic. Queenie is the sweetest thing! (Well so is Donna) She’s a racetrack rescue who just recently had a front leg amputated due to cancer. She gets around pretty good! Donna has a Chalet model XL1930 A-frame camper that’s massive….it’s 6’ longer than mine, 6” wider and way taller, with a wet bath, double sinks, bigger fridge with freezer and high sidewalls so the kitchen counter height is really comfortable for cooking. And a queen-sized bed! Look at the difference between our two campers…we’re like Mutt and Jeff!

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We had a visitor yesterday morning…..a scruffy-looking young guy came to Donna’s camper and said he needed a jump-start for his car. She told him that her car was new and had a bunch of electronics that she didn’t want to chance messing up. (good answer, I thought!) She asked me if I’d do it and I said the same thing. We were both just leery of this guy, and for no good reason; he seemed like a perfectly nice guy. But….don’t they all?!  We both felt really bad about not being helpful but heck, we’re two unarmed old ladies!! When Donna went back to tell him I wouldn’t do it either, I put my shoes on, got out my trusty hatchet and had the phone on and dialed 9-1, all ready to punch in that last number and then run over and whack his head off. Or should I whack his head off first?? Of course he went away quietly and everything was fine, but you just can’t be too careful these days.  A little while later a car went by with a young couple in it and I stopped them and told them the situation and they said they’d help the guy. So now we don’t feel quite as guilty.

The ground here is very rocky!

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And here’s another pretty interesting fire ring, with wind deflectors.

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Wow! Maybe best pizza ever…we went to the Old County Inn in Pine yesterday for lunch. It was a long wait but their wood-fired pizza was amazing.

I am having a run of bad luck with hamburger. I buy grass-fed hamburger in a shrink-wrap package, costs between $6-7 a lb. but it keeps much better than the fresh-ground stuff in the grocery store, plus it doesn’t have that Pink Slime in it that most of the grocery stores add. I bought a package when I was in Flagstaff and a few days later I noticed the package was all blown up. Damn, rotten hamburger? It still had 6 days til the Sell By date!  I reluctantly threw it out, and a couple days later I mentioned it to Pat and he said it was probably perfectly good; sealed packages like that blow up like balloons from the elevation there!!   Well CRAP!  So I bought another pound, on sale for $5.99. I have no idea how this happened but several days later I found that package laying on the floor next to my bed!!  Obviously another throw-away. Sheesh!  Maybe it rolled out of the grocery bag? Roxie had not touched it. She rarely will pick up anything off the floor, no matter how yummy it might be. Princesses do not eat floor food!

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Flagstaff

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I spent a week near Flagstaff, on a free campsite in the Coconino National Forest off A-1 Mountain Road. It was great…only one mile from I-40 and about 5 miles to town. My site happened to have a lot of junk that had been jettisoned by some homeless guy.  If you remember my “ax-murderer” friend Pat from this spring? He was camped there and said that he could get the trash hauled away if I’d bag it up. It was pretty crazy; two bales of hay under a torn tent. There were all kinds of empty cans and bottles inside the tent, outside the tent, and seemingly “hidden caches” of them in the hay! And under the tent, also hidden in the hay, were three bulging pillowcases full of clothing.  So I spent part of a day getting that all cleaned up, and Pat’s rancher friend came and hauled it away. The hay was still there, but it looked so much better without the tent and all those cans & bottles. Oh, and about 100 cigarette butts and two whiskey bottles.  Here’s the pile after I finished:

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While I was there I had two really memorable meals with Pat….he cooked a delicious slab of pork ribs on his campfire, and a couple days later we had a turkey breast cooked over the fire that came out perfect…moist and juicy; oh so good! He’s a really good guy and not an ax-murderer type at all.  (I followed him way back into the woods to a campsite this spring when he was a total stranger, and thought to myself that for all I knew, I could be following an ax-murderer!! After all, I did meet him on a Facebook group!)

Pat told me about the Goodwill Outlet in town, so I stopped there this morning. Score! They bring all the stuff  that doesn’t sell from the regular Goodwill stores here. Everything is $1.29 a pound, and it’s all jumbled-up in huge bins. You have to paw throught it to see what’s there. I got 4 good rubber-backed bath rugs, a cushy fleece throw for Roxie, and a nice down-alterrnative pillow, all for $10.17! Those little rugs fit the space in front of my bed perfectly, and since I don’t want to spend money to wash a  $2 dirty rug in a separate washer, and I sure don’t want to wash dirty rugs with my clothes,I just toss them when they get really dirty.

I really loved the site but it was not good for Roxie. The ground was super-fine silt and all her white bits turned gray; plus there were little weeds and stickers that were gumming up her coat. So yesterday I took her to the self-serve dog wash in Flagstaff and bathed her for $15 (yikes!), and we left this morning for cleaner parts.

We only went a few miles; 9 miles down Lake Mary Road to the Marshall Lake road, then 1.2 miles back. (near the Lowell Observatory). We are in another part of the Coconino National Forest. Got a nice campsite (free, of course) well back from the road, with a few pine trees for shade. I looked out a little while ago and we were surrounded by cattle! Once it got dark they started making the most godawful noises…..I wondered if one was having a baby or was mad about something!  Once they quieted down, the coyotes started up!  And the next morning the camper started shaking violently!! I knew what it was…..I looked out and sure enough, a cow was scraching her butt on the corner of my camper! Go away, Cow!  When I opened the door and yelled at her, she hightailed it out of there. I guess that’s where the word “hightailed” came from, as it really was straight up in the air! Then I felt bad for scaring her so badly.

 

 

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North Rim Grand Canyon

I can hardly believe I did this, but I didn’t go on the Durango-Silverton train trip!! Yep, I totally blew it off. I couldn’t find any free campsites anywhere near Durango so I was aiming to stay at Lower Hermosa CG about 12 miles outside of town. I went to the campground but it took a full 30 minutes to go the last 4 miles….horribly washboarded road! Since I had to be at the train station at 7:15 in the morning, I decided it would be better to stay at Haviland Lake CG which is a little farther from Durango, but it’s only one mile from the main road to town. Well when I got there, they didn’t have any non-electric sites left, so it would have cost $17 a night!! WHAAAT? I can’t pay that for a campsite!! I’d need it for two nights, plus it was going to cost $6 for parking at the train station….$40. I decided it was just too much money. So I wasted $116 on the train ticket but look, I saved $40!! Hmmm.

I headed out of town and went to Navajo National Monument. They have a free campground there that’s quite nice. It’s 10 miles from the main road and I passed a van with a big sign “BUYING PINON” parked at the side of the road. There were cars and trucks parked all over the place the whole way to the park. I guess harvesting pinon nuts is Big Business there!! I wonder how much they get for them? (I was going to stop and talk to the guy on my way out but he wasn’t there) I know pine nuts are really expensive. I was going to stay a couple days until I found out that you can’t really see any of the ruins without being able to hike a bit.  So I stayed one night and kept heading towards the North Rim Grand Canyon the next day.

There sure is a lot of boring, desolate country out there, but along the way I passed the Vermilion Cliffs….beautiful!

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Between Jacob Lake and the Grand Canyon were about 7 miles of burned woodlands, I think from the Outlet Fire of 2000. A lot of small aspens are growing up so it was kind of pretty, but so sad to see so many pines burned.

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I found a great free campsite just 10′ from the North Rim!! The scenery sure was beautiful, but it was a windy day and the gusts coming up off that rim were really powerful.  (Just past DeMotte CG, turn left onto FS611 & go 5-6 miles. Several campsites on the right. The farther you go, the closer to the rim) My view from camp:

 

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I was shocked to find that there were not very many places to view the canyon…not anythying like the South Rim that has lots of pulloffs for different views. At the North Rim, if you can’t hike, you don’t get to see very much. Here are a few views:

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Silverton, CO

Yesterday I drove to Telluride. I was very apprehensive because I loved Telluride back in the 70’s when it was a really cool hippie hangout. Then they started building condos…lots and lots of condos! I found information about a free campsite in the national forest about 12 miles from town, and I drove up this tiny forest road. The GPS coordinates took me to a big pullout in front of an old train trestle but that didn’t seem like a legal place to camp, so I kept going. I saw a few rigs just pulled off on tiny pullouts right alongside the road. Drove and drove and couldn’t find a place to turn around so finally when a tiny drive (?) came along, I backed into it to turn around. There was a big dip going across is but I didn’t worry too much; I went really slow. I did hear some scraping but got turned around and I went back to the train trestle site, which was starting to look a whole lot better. When I got out to check the trailer’s level, I noticed that I had completely torn the camper plug receptacle off the car!!  The housing is plastic and the “bolt holes” were torn through. So I “fixed” it with plastic zip ties. What the heck did we do before they were invented??!!  It’s not great but I’ll have to get to a bigger town before I can find someone to replace it, I’m sure. Probably not til I hit Flagstaff, at the end of the month.

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So I dropped the trailer, leveled it and decided I was just not in the mood to set everything up. I get tired of doing that and then packing up again the very next day, and I think this was my 4th day of doing that. So I decided to go on into town. I decided I WAS going to have a burger and fries in a restaurant! Well I have never felt so out of place in my life!  Nobody was over 40; nobody was fat; CERTAINLY no one was wearing 10 year old fake Crocs (I forgot to change shoes before I went) and no one was wearing clothes like mine……honest, everyone in that town was young, skinny and dressed in really cool sporty clothes.  It had to be bad for me to even notice something like that. All the restaurants were hopping (at 3 pm) so I just walked around a few blocks and went back to the camper feeling fat, ugly and old.

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I didn’t mind the condos this trip…they don’t really affect the downtown area. But boy, things in Telluride have sure gone upscale. Last time I was there was in the mid-80’s when the campground in the middle of town was free, and so was the skiing. And I remember I did not stay at the Youth Hostel in town because it was so expensive….$13 a night!  Hahaha! (Most other youth hostels were $6-8 a night at that time)

When I got back to the camper I STILL didn’t feel like unpacking it all for just one night, so I folded it down and drove another 3 hours to Silverton, and got here right before dark. There are a number of free places to camp but this is closest to town, a disbursed National Forest site called Kendall. It’s a very large gravel area on the Animas River. There were lots of RV’s already here, and to my shock, they were all lined up about 20’ from each other! ICK!

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TOO CLOSE TOGETHER!!

Then I noticed a little road going off to the side and found another gravel clearing with no one there! So I’m tucked in between some big pine trees, backed up to the river, all by myself, just the way I like it. I will probably stay here a whole week. I’m getting a pretty good cell signal and can get a good wifi signal in town.

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I’m about 2 miles from town and really love it here. I went to town this morning and saw two big moose about ½ mile from camp!!  They were pretty far off so I had to use both digital and analog zooms to get photos, that’s why they’re not the greatest. But hey, MOOSE!! 

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Silverton is another really cute well-preserved Victorian mining town of about 4 or 5 blocks. It’s not as snooty as Crested Butte or Telluride. The police drive Dodge Ram pickup trucks!

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I swear I AM going to have some pizza there!!!  (It’s so hard for me to spend money on restaurant food!)  I got a long-sleeve tee shirt on sale for only $18!  I asked about a restroom at the tee shirt store and she sent me over to the funnel cake store. So I used their restroom and…..I bought a funnel cake!!  YES, I spent nearly $6 on a pile of sugar-sprinkled fried dough. It was the first funnel cake I’ve ever had. I don’t buy them because they are too expensive, but I felt I had to buy something for using their restroom. It was pretty good but certainly not worth $6, and it’s way more than anyone could eat. I brought most of it home and put it in a plastic baggie; I hope it’s not one of those things that are only good the first time around.

On the way back to camp I saw that the moose were still there, and they were up and knee-deep on the pond, eating! So I got a few more poor-quality photos. (But hey, MOOSE!)

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The weather forecast for this next week is for cool temps around 60⁰ and low 40’s at night, with intermittent rain.  I felt cold last night so I got out of bed at 10:30 pm and got the heater out of the car & cranked it up. It was 39⁰ this morning and when I opened the curtains on the big side window, I realized it had been more than half-way open all night! Duhhh.

Directions to Kendall Disbursed Camping: At Silverton continue N. on Hwy. 550 about two miles. Turn left at the sign “Kendall National Forest Camping”. GPS 37.81938 -107.71307  There are several more smaller free areas on up that road for the next 2.5 miles.

 

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Oh Be Joyful!

OH BE JOYFUL

Well this is a first for me……first time I’ve ever gone to a campground just because of it’s name.  And I actually PAID to stay there, too! But who could possibly resist Oh Be Joyful Campground?!!  It’s about 5 miles from Crested Butte, CO which is an incredibly beautiful Victorian town. There are about 5 blocks of really cute shops in the historical district; lots of nice art shops, restaurants & bars. It’s very upscale though and way too expensive for me!

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The campground is up in the mountains at about 9500’  and the aspens are starting to turn color up here already!

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And every morning I awaken to the sound of elk bugling up in the hills somewhere. A lot of the sites here are for tenters but there are also some sites for campers, and you must drive through the river to get to some of the sites!  It costs $10 if you have a site with a picnic table; $5 if not. Strange rules! And then ½ price if you have the Senior Pass. I tried to find a site without a table but they were all taken (and many of them are walk-in sites). It’s a nice little campground with big pine trees. My site is right on a little stream but it’s not nice and noisy like the last place.  It is absolutely gorgeous around here! At this elevation, it’s a bit chilly at night and we even had a frost yesterday morning! I feel sorry for those people in tents.

I went exploring a little bit and could have kicked myself; only about a mile farther up the road are some nice dispersed FREE campsites! This is Open Range though and it looked like the cows had already claimed the best sites.

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I had a strange happening the first morning I was here. I was out walking Roxie at 6:45 a.m. and noticed that one of the headlights on the neighbor’s truck was on. Uh oh! I decided not to knock on their door that early, but as soon as I saw them outside I went over and told him about it. He had turned the lights off but for some strange reason, that one side stayed on! When he turned them on and back off again, it went off. But the truck wouldn’t start so I brought my car over and gave him a jump-start. We started chatting and I told them my “story” but not in a pitiful way, honest! He offered me money for my help and I refused it. Then later right before they were leaving, he came over and handed me a rolled-up bill and said “We really want you to take this…don’t worry, I can very well afford it”. So I took it and thanked him, and after he left I looked….it was a $50 bill!  Oh be joyful!!!  

Well I instantly started thinking of how to spend my windfall, and decided I really could use a long sleeve tee shirt or a sweatshirt. I went to town ready to spend but was shocked when the cheapest short-sleeve tee was $25, and the long sleeve tees and sweatshirts were from $35-70!! No way! Is this the new norm???  No wonder my clothes all come from thrift shops or Walmart. Sigh. Then I thought maybe I’d come back later and get a pizza for dinner but when I looked at the menus posted, pizza was around $20 for a small one. The standard 2 egg breakfast with bacon  was $13!!  Nope, I just cannot bring myself to spend that kind of money; even if it WAS a windfall!

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On Friday I left and planned to swing by the Gunnison post office and pick up a package that a friend sent, then go on to Telluride. But the package wasn’t there yet, so I had to find a place to stay one night near Gunnison. As beautiful as it was, I did not want to backtrack to my site that was 23 miles from town, only to come back tomorrow morning to pick up the package. I found a free place called Hartman Rocks that was only a few miles from town & had a vault toilet, water and trash receptacles! Sounds great. But I should have kept reading….the reviews talked about a really steep hill. Yup. REALLY steep hill. I got halfway up that long steep graveled hill and couldn’t go any farther! So I had to back down. How steep was it? It was so steep, even just creeping backward at a slow crawl, when I put on the brakes the car & camper would slide a ways. I managed to back it up about 150’ and around a curve, then there was a little place I could back the camper into and turn around. Phew! I found another free place near town, a bit of BLM land that has some pullouts. It’s a crappy campsite, right next to a very dusty road and with no shade at all, but it’ll be fine for just one overnight. I didn’t even unhook the car.

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Gunnison, CO

I decided I needed to look for a higher elevation campsite because of the heat. My nice shady site near Black Canyon was 90⁰ and maybe would have been fine if I could have sat outside in the shade & breeze, but the flies were voracious and had big sharp slashing teeth! So we went toward Gunnison, aiming for a campsite at Blue Mesa Reservoir (Red Peak CG) that my sources said was free, but it was actually $16 a night (half price with Sr. Pass). So I kept driving to Gunnison, and found a very nice free BLM site right on a beautiful little trout stream (I’ve seen a lot of fishermen already). It’s got some shade and I put my canopy out as well. It’s at 8800’ so should be cooler though right now my outside thermometer is reading 83 and I’m all hot and bothered from getting the camper set up. That’s still way better than the temps at the last site, and so far I haven’t seen any flies here, carnivorous or otherwise.

 

I’m a little farther from town than I had hoped….about 23 miles back to Gunnison! But I only need to go to town once a week or so. I guess from here I’ll do a day trip up to Crested Butte. There are huge sheer cliffs on both sides of camp…beautiful! But it also means that the sun doesn’t appear until about 9:30 a.m. and it sinks behind the opposite cliff wall at 7 pm. That’s OK, maybe that means it’ll stay cooler.

I’m so sad! My BonaVita coffeemaker broke this morning, and the replacement parts are Out of Stock. I had to go buy some instant cappuchino stuff….ick.

Does anyone know what these berries are? I hope they’re not something that bears love, as they are everywhere here!

Here’s the view from my side window…..NICE. I love listening to the stream.

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Directions to the Cochetopa BLM campsites: From Gunnison, go 8 miles East on Hwy. 50. Turn right onto Hwy. 114. Six campsites, all on the left side of road starting at about Mile Marker 13.5. There’s a large gravel turnaround area with vault toilet at about MM 15. Trailers up to 25′ are OK in some sites, some sites are smaller. GPS 38.355055  -106.781753

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

I’m having an At Home day today. Yesterday I went back into the park to take some sunset photos, at Sunset Point, naturally! I got there a little early and there were about 15 Mennonites taking up all th bench space, so I waited in the car. At least I think they were Mennonites; the women wore prayer caps and long muted-color plain dresses, and most of the men had long beards. I really wanted to take their picture but decided it would be rude. I guess they could have been Amish, as they all got into a big van with a driver. Do Amish go on vacations?? Anyway I dawdled around in the car a little too long and pretty much missed the sunset! I had forgotten that you can’t really go by the official sunset times in the mountains, it all depends on which side of the mountain you’re on.  Last night, the sun suddenly sank like a stone behind a mountain and since there were hardly any clouds, it was not an impressive sight. Sorry.  

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Hwy. 347, which goes from Hwy. 50 to the park, seems to be really popular with motorcyclists. I’ll bet they love going on East Portal Road, which has a 16% grade, and lots of curves. There’s supposed to be a really good view at the end but I’ve decided not to go…..I have a very clear picture in my mind of flying off the road a la Thelma and Louise!

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When I went back to the park the next day, there were more of those Amish/Mennonite people! I think a different group, as these folks were a lot younger. All the men and boys wore shirts this same color blue.  And I DID take a photo of a lady and child who had their back to me. Amish or Mennonite, anyone know?

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The other day I cut my hair. I’ve been cutting my own hair for years and so far so good……it’s often not perfect, but it hasn’t been so horrible I need to go get it professionally repaired! I always put it off as long as possible because no matter how tightly I try to fasten the towel around my neck, there’s still always little hairs that go down my shirt, and I can’t take a shower to get rid of them. I prop my little hand mirror on the rear windshield wiper and cut away. This time I forgot to pick up the mirror when I was done, and it miraculously rode all the way to town and back without falling off! Amazing. Thank goodness I had picked up my expensive dog grooming scissors and comb!

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Also….about my hair……I confess that I have not used shampoo or any kind of soap on my hair for about three months. Shampoo strips all the oil, so then after a wash, the hair thinks it has to work extra-hard to produce lots more oil to replace it. It’s a big Catch-22 kind of thing.  Shampooing uses too much water to get it rinsed, so instead, I’d been sparingly using an expensive waterless shampoo, and fretted about putting all those chemicals on my poor brain-pan. When I started using just water, my hair felt a little greasy the first week or so, but now it just feels fine….not greasy at all, and it looks the same as it always did.  I only use warm or cool clear water on it, (never hot) and once a week I really scrub my head good. In between if the bed-head is bad, I can wet it down with a few spritzes of a spray bottle.

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Here a couple photos of the other campsites just off the main big gravel area here. I’ll put the directions at the bottom of this entry. The first one could be a pull-through for a very small rig; the turning radius is pretty small. The second site is huge with space for several campers (and pull-through) but there’s a big pile of trash on the site, including two huge beanbag chairs with leaky foam pellets. I had to clean up a good bit of trash on my own site but it was small stuff; cans, bottles, cigarette cartons and butts, etc. I’d clean up that other site but there’s no way I could fit that stuff in my car! Someone else also abandoned a big maybe 15×15 canopy frame that’s all bent up. I hate that!

 

Directions: Take Highway 347 off Hwy. 50 (about 9 miles E. of Montrose, CO) towards Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Go 4.1 miles and past the second cattle guard (in the middle of the S-curve), turn left into on the gravel road (2 entrances). The park entrance is 1.7 miles farther.  GPS coordinates: 38.53294  -107.71682

 

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On To Colorado

Had a lovely scenic drive through another part of the Medicine Bow National Forest, over Battle Pass (9911 feet) and on into the foothills. I wanted to stop at Jensen Wildlife Management Area near Meeker overnight. There were lots of signs that said “Camping in Designated Areas Only” but I never did see any! It’s a little one-lane dirt road and I did go up a side road and found a couple small corrals. I was tired of driving and was going to just park the camper right in that little road but I tried and tried and never could get the trailer leveled side-to-side, even using the riser thingie. There was nowhere to pull off that road and park near the corrals, so I gave up and drove another hour to Rifle, CO. I ended up at the Garfield County Fairgrounds overnight, for $10. It was actually quite nice; I was the only one there and I had electric hookups and found out the next morning that they also have showers! I had to search all over the place in the morning to find the office so I could pay.

Rifle’s biggest claim to fame is the Shooters Grill, where all the servers wear handguns, and they encourage their patrons to do the same.

Shooters Grill

Then we continued on to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I have a lovely free campsite on BLM land less than 2 miles from the park entrance! (GPS 38.53294 -107.71682) When I first pulled in, there was a road going straight ahead that looked to be in really bad condition, so I took the road to the right. It kept getting more and more narrow and bushes were scraping the sides of the car, but there was nowhere to turn around. Then I came to a place where rainwater had eaten away a huge swale all the way across the road, and I didn’t think my low-slung camper would make it through the dip. I started to back up (approx. 1/2 mile, yikes!) and a man came from a campsite there and said if I could make it through that, the road was OK farther on and there was a good place to camp or turn around. So he guided me and I made it through with nary a scrape! The road really wasn’t great but it was passable, and I took the first opportunity to turn around and go back. Coming from that direction, I was heading uphill fairly steeply at that deep dip, and I had a real hard time getting traction to get through it, but I made it. I ended up in a nice shady spot between two pine trees, right near the entrance. I have a feeling that other road would be pretty ugly after a rain! The only drawback to this site is that it’s only 25′ from the paved road going to the park, but I’m sure traffic will die down completely once it gets dark.  As I was putting the camper roof up, there was a tree branch that I had to forcibly convince to move aside. Now it squeaks and creaks against the roof in the slightest breeze, but I think I can get used to it.

My nice shady campsite:

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Here’s my view from camp:

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I don’t know how long I’ll stay here. Other free campsites are calling! The highs are supposed to be in the low 80’s next week and the mid-70’s the week after that but I think that’s OK as long as I don’t have to do any manual labor and can just sit around in the shade. It is only 11 miles back to Montrose where there are grocery stores and even Wal-Mart, plus I’m getting a pretty good cellphone signal! That’s a novelty!

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Encampment Adventure

I wanted to go see the other campground in Encampment; $5 a night and right on the river. I thought if it was really nice, I might switch sites for a few nights. I had the GPS coordinates and we set out yesterday afternoon. Well where the GPS said I was finished, there was nothing! So I went farther on this little dirt road, came to a sign that pointed towards the campground but still never did get there. I stopped a four-wheeler who said the campground was up ahead, so I kept going.

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So we kept going, ever higher and higher, with the road deteriorating more and more all the time. It got down to a skinny little track with lots of sharp rocks sticking up. Pretty scenery though!

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After going 8 miles on this little dirt road (that felt like twenty!) I came over a ridge and ahead of me, the road went straight up!

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Oh no no no, HELL no! There is no way my Highlander would tow the camper up that hill! So I gave up. I turned around just past the little bridge and headed back.

And got my reward! Not a campground, but a bunch of Bighorn Sheep ladies, right next to the road! COOL!

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That made it all worthwhile.

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Encampment, WY

Here are a few photos of downtown Saratoga:

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And the panoramic view on the way to our last campsite at Foote Access. The river is at that line of trees.

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We moved to Encampment yesterday. There’s a nice little town campground (8 sites). It’s not free, but has no set price; they take donations. Some sites have full hookups and all have electricity and water. There are flush toilets but no showers. That’s OK,  I had a good long soak in the hot springs a few days ago. There are some trees for shade and it’s right behind the library with a pretty good wifi signal!!  I’m SO happy to have access to the internet at my campsite! It doesn’t work inside the camper but still, way better than having to get in the car and drive 5 miles to town. There’s no Verizon service here either. In all my travels I’ve never had Verizon fail so miserably! I admit it, I’m an Internet Addict and am not at all interested in breaking the habit.  I’m the only camper here but I have seen a few people come by and use the dump station & fill up with water.

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While everyone else was staring up at the eclipse today, I went to the Encampment Museum. It wasn’t open but there are a bunch of old cabins to see. It was pretty interesting!

This is part of the transportation system for the copper they mined here back in the early 1900’s.

DSCN7281DSCN7287I don’t know WHAT these things were used for; they look like big water jugs to me!

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OLD SLEIGH

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ONE OF 16 SALOONS BACK IN THE DAY!

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OLD SCHOOLHOUSE. I feel sorry for the poor kid who had to sit so close to the stove!

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MILLINARY SHOP

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ENCAMPMENT’S FAMOUS TWO-STORY OUTHOUSE!!

Funny thing, I just spent over three weeks in nice wooded places where there should have been all kinds of animals, but all I saw were a few deer.  But I saw beautiful 6 and 8 pt. bucks right in the city of Saratoga, and since I’ve been here 2 blocks from the main road, I’ve seen elk, mule deer and pronghorns!! Go figure.

I did not see the eclipse. Frankly I don’t see what all the fuss is about, and I read that even if you used special glasses to watch it, if they were inferior free or cheap glasses that were not 100% UV protected, you could seriously damage your eyes. Since I didn’t have any glasses at all, I just didn’t look.  I wonder how many people will wake up tomorrow with blurry vision!

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Saratoga, WY

We have been at Saratoga, WY for the past few days. Nice little town; MUCH larger than Centennial! I was able to do laundry and stock up on groceries. The IGA grocery here cuts all their own meats and their pork chops are to die for….best I’ve ever had, I believe!  They even have Prime beef, which of course I can’t afford, but I bet it’s good.

We are camped at Foote Access on the N. Platte River. It’s a nice little Wyoming Fish & Game site with boat ramps and a few campsites, only about 5 miles from town.  You can camp free for up to five days.  (GPS Coordinates:  41.50886 -106.84110)

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I think it has rained all but two days in the past 2 weeks! Sometimes just a few drops but we’ve also had some real deluges. The day after I got here we had a big rain that made the camper a little island in a big pond! When I stepped out the door I was in ankle-deep water for a couple days. But the temps have been great; mid-70’s daytime and high 40’s, low 50’s at night so I don’t need to use the heater.  This is a grassland area but there are plenty of shady trees near the river. I can’t see the river from here but we are only about 50’ away, with a little path that goes down to the gravel beach and river.

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Yesterday I went to the Saratoga Hot Springs (also known as the Hobo Hot Springs). It’s free and open 24/7! With free showers too, but the showers have no doors so I certainly would not use them. The changing room is all open and the bathroom stalls didn’t have doors either…..not my kind of place. A little privacy, please!! I had checked it out the day before so I knew to come with my bathing suit already on. The springs were great! There are 3 pools. A Not-So-Not pool, the regular 106᷾༠ pool, and The Lobster Pot, a bone-melting 120 degrees! I went early in the morning and there were just a few locals there. I was told that the indians thought the hot springs could cure anything until the Smallpox epidemic, then they lost faith in it. They gave the springs to the white settlers, with the caveat that the springs always be open and free to everyone.  I guess this is one of the few instances where the white man kept his promises!

There are some mule deer that drink at the river in the early mornings, then pass through camp. I’ve tried to get photos with not much luck, though I did get one of a fawn the other day. Then yesterday when I went to the hot springs (without my camera) there were two magnificent 6- and 8-point bucks just casually munching the bushes at someone’s house in town!  Figures.

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I’ve had some problems with mice getting into my car again so I set a trap and caught one. I reset the trip and haven’t caught anything so maybe that was the only one. I hope so! My car is so crammed full of stuff, it would be really hard to find a nest, if there is one.

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Snowy Range – Centennial, WY 8/10/17

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Here are some photos of “downtown” Centennial, Population 270.

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It’s been a week of blustery cool and wet weather…..sometimes just a shower and sometimes off & on all day torrential rains. Almost every time it rains we also get some small hail, and when I went back to Mirror Lake (10,500’), it snowed for a little while! The mending I did on my skylight leaks worked!! But now there are two new leaks, one from the other end of the skylight and one from the vent fan. Ugh! I can’t do much about it until the roof is down.

Night temperatures have been as low as 36, and as high as 45. I actually like the colder temps because the heater is just right with the door window cracked about ½”.  If it’s over 40, then I have to open windows wider and/or the ceiling vent so it doesn’t get too warm.

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I mentioned last time that the neighbors had invited me to a fish fry. Oh my! There were 9 of us there and there had to have been at least 40 Cutthroat and Brook Trout! Everyone had at least 3 or 4, and there were some left over. The neighbors were three couples (one has since gone home), all farmers from Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Big-time farmers…one told me he had over 2,000 acres! I find it hard to picture retired farmers gadding about the county in giant expensive 5th wheels and Class A motor homes. One of them tows the 5th wheel with a huge semi tractor, complete with tanks for fresh and blackwater so they don’t have to move the 5-er to dump or get fresh water…..what a good idea! Plus they tow a Jeep.  The other couple tow their 5th wheel with a big gnarly diesel Dodge Ram flatbed.  The Class A folks towed a small enclosed utility trailer that housed their 3-wheel motorcycle. I guess there must be some good money in farming!  They’ve been very nice to me and invited me for several meals but you know I’m so socially backward, I am not comfortable in big groups. So I mostly stay to myself, but I do feel safer with friendly neighbors here.

Yesterday Roxie and I drove to Saratoga to scope out the campsites on the N. Platte River. We’ll be moving there early next week. It’s a larger town than Centennial, with a real grocery store and laundromat, plus free hot springs and showers 24/7 at the “Hobo Hot Springs”. But just like here, zero Verizon signal, even in the heart of the town! This area must be a black hole for Verizon.  

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Today we have to go back to Laramie to pick up a new porta-potty that I ordered. My Thetford has some awful problem with the latch that holds the two sections together, and it doesn’t look fixable. Suffice to say that when the two sections don’t hold together tightly, ugly things happen. I don’t wanna talk about it.

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Snowy Range 8/1

I’m loving the daytime weather here (low 70’s) but I wouldn’t mind if it was a little bit warmer at night. We’ve had lows of 40 every night. Without heat, the camper stays ten degrees above the outside temp, and 50 degrees is OK but I certainly prefer warmer! Last night I broke down and got out the little Wave 3 heater….love that thing! So it was a nice cozy 65 all night, with windows generously cracked. I’m glad, I got it out,  as it went down to 39 last night!!  Crazy, huh? Hottest part of the summer and it’s that cold at night. I think I was mistaken about the elevation here though; I read that the national forest campground right up the road is at 9200’ so I’m guessing I’m pretty close to that here.

I seem to be still operating under Eastern Daylight Savings Time. I can hardly stay awake past 10:00 and I wake up at 6:00! (midnight and 8 am Eastern). And that’s fine with me; I’m sure my times will get adjust with time. This morning I leapt out of bed at 6:00 (Ok that’s a lie, I did get up but there was no leaping involved) and we were in the car by 6:30, on the road!  I know that the best light for photography is in the early morning and late afternoon, so I thought I’d try this early morning thing. We drove about 20 miles up the Snowy Range Scenic Byway. I intended to go all the way to Saratoga, about 60 miles, but it’s so beautiful I kept stopping to take photos and  by the time we’d gone the 20 miles, two hours had passed. I was starving and had to go back home for sourdough pancakes and bacon.  

This has GOT to be the one of the most beautiful places on earth. I had so many great photos, it was hard to decide what to leave out. (But I hate it when people post 30+ photos at a time; nobody wants to look at that many of anything!)

It seemed as though that early morning light was working against me. Every time I wanted to take a photo, I was facing into the sun!  The photos turned out OK though.  There are lots of little lakes along the way so of course I was checking for moose and other wildlife. I went 4 miles down a little tiny dirt road to Babson Lake which was a total waste of time; it was tiny and perfectly round, with really steep sides and only a tiny bit of water in the bottom.  It looked more like a round gravel pit. I decided not to take any more detours off the main road.  The next lake I came to I saw some ripples in the water so I parked and walked back a ways. I thought it was a lady moose! But now that I see the photos, I think it was a mule deer. I don’t think moose have ears that large.  I never could get a really good shot at it. I’ll pay attention next time I go past that place. Can you get a glimpse of it? It’s really tiny, down in the far right bottom corner.

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Here it is, much closer:

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On up the road is a big waterfall that flows into a pretty pond, with hiking trails all around and a wooden bridge across the narrow end of the pond. They had really interesting rocks as part of the steps down to the waterfall view. A little too big for collecting, I’m afraid, but I loved the different textures.  

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Near there was this really cute stone cottage…..I could live in this! I wonder what it was used for, there in the middle of the national forest?

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And then there’s Mirror Lake, very aptly named!

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I wonder why more people don’t know about the Snowy Range? It does not seem to be heavily visited at all. Maybe I should be keeping it a secret! 

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Medicine Bow Peak (12,000+ ft.)

The “neighbors” have invited me to a fish fry tonight! They went fishing yesterday and caught a bunch of cutthroat and rainbow trout….can’t wait!

 

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Is This Heaven? No, it’s Wyoming.

IS THIS HEAVEN? No, it’s Wyoming.  But it IS heavenly! First we went to Lake Hattie Recreation Area, a free BLM area west of Laramie. It had a boat launch and very pretty lake but there was no shade at all, and it was a little too warm.  I think I saw white pelicans on the lake!! Seems very wrong to see pelicans in Wyoming….maybe that’s not what they are? Anyone know?   And check out those snowy peaks in the distance!

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I also got all excited because I saw a critter swimming….I thought it might be a beaver, or muskrat. Turned out to be an old Golden Retriever, swimming around chasing rocks that a girl was throwing. Later I saw the dog resting in the water while the girl sat on shore. So sweet!

 

I was fairly content to stay in one spot for awhile, after 6 days of hard driving! But this grassland area was not the Wyoming I came to see, so I packed up at headed for the Snowy Range Scenic Highway 130, which runs between Laramie and Saratoga.  I noticed along the way to Hwy. 130 that hardly any of the homes I passed had any trees. That’s the first thing I’d do if I had land there; plant some trees! And NONE of them had any flowers!  Haven’t they ever heard of Curb Appeal?!

Frankly the highway between Laramie and Centennial is not very scenic unless you really like grasslands and cows. Finally right before Centennial it starts to climb into the mountains and pretty pine forests appear. I headed into the Medicine Bow Nat. Forest and stopped at the ranger station to check on the Keystone Fire situation. I couldn’t figure out exactly where it is from here, but there’s no smoke here at all and I think it’s miles and miles away. We’ve been getting some pretty good rains so I hope that’s helped.

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We are about 5 miles west of Centennial, (Sand Lake Road) at a large clearing in the pines. There are 4 massive 5th wheels here, and little ol’ me. It is beautiful, and the elevation is around 8200’ so it’s nice and cool. It’s been in the low 70’s during the day and 40 at night. I think it’s time to dig out the heater….when it’s 40 out, it’s 50 inside and that’s a tad bit chilly for me. It just seems to wrong to be using heat in July, but I’m loving it! And it smells like Christmas here! There’s not much shade here either but I managed to wedge the camper in between two smallish trees, so I do have shade at least part of the day. Roxie LOVES it here and wants to be outside all the time. The only downside is that there’s no cell or wifi signal at all, which might make me crazy after a day or two. I will send this out when I go to town.

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I have to relearn high altitude cooking. This is about the same altitude as where I lived in Ecuador, and I remember now that just because something is boiling, it doesn’t mean it’s hot! Crazy, huh?

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