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.

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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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Going West Again

Roxie and I left Asheville on July 22 and headed west. The first day was the worst; we drove 300 miles to Nashville, TN. I heard on the radio that it was 98° with 90% humidity. It felt like walking through a hot cloud! When I opened the camper, it was 98° inside and it seemed like it took forever to cool it down. Because of the heat, I can’t stay at free campsites with no electricity along the way this time; I have to PAY for campsites! Oh horrors!!   We stayed at Seven Points Corps of Engineers Campground which is very convenient to Nashville, and only $11 a night with the Federal Senior Pass.  It was unusual for a COE campground; less than half the sites were not lakefront!  I had it all planned out to wait til 9:30 a.m. to leave the next morning, to avoid Nashville’s rush hour traffic. But I’d forgotten about the time change, so I had a whole hour to do nothing.  I texted my friend Patricia about having to wait, and when the hour was almost up, I got a return text: “But it’s Sunday!”   Duh, no rush hour and I wasted all that time!!

In order to reach the cheaper campsites I’m having to drive a lot longer each day than I like. I’d like to do 275-300 miles a day but it’s been more like 360, 400, and today 345. Ugh. And so hot, I don’t dare leave Roxie in the car even to make a quick run into a rest area bathroom, so I’ve been stopping and leaving the car running and locked, setting up the camper and using my porta-potty and then closing it up again and using my spare key to get back in. Thank goodness my camper is so easy to set up.

The second night I stayed in a really old campground, Pere Marquette State Park in IL, about 25 miles north of St. Louis. $20. I didn’t go in the bathrooms but they looked pretty old.  I was going to drive straight north on Hwy. 100 and cross the Mississippi at Hannibal the next day, but the road was closed. So I took a free ferry across the river! It runs continuously with no set time schedule; when they reach the shore, they take whoever’s there and go across, even if it’s just one car, back & forth.  It only takes a few minutes. I was impressed at how well the pilot knew the river currents….seemed like he was going to ram us into the shore nowhere near the landing, but then the current swept us right into place! I guess if that’s all you do all day long, you’d have it all figured out.

Not long after that was an other ferry, this time across the St. Charles River, and this time it cost $8.  Nice though that they didn’t charge extra for the camper, and it saved a bunch of driving time.

Third night was at a little marina campground on the Missouri River in Nebraska City, NE. That one made me angry because they advertised that it cost $19…..and didn’t mention that there’s also an $8 per car entry fee! I supposed $27 is still not a bad deal for a campsite, but it still was way more than I’d figured on, and I had to dig into my  stash of laundry quarters to pay it.

Tomight I’m still in Nebraska!! My apologies to anyone who lives there but really..nothing but soybeans, corn, and stinky cattle feedlots!  I was trying to figure out why anyone would WANT to live there….super hot in summer, super cold in winter, fairy flat and not very pretty unless you’re in love with corn, soybeans or cows.  I’m at a little campground in Big Springs; half price ($15) with the Passport America club.  It is 100 degrees here but only 24% humidity so it feels much more comfortable than Nashville. Still way too hot though, and the camper was 98° when I opened it up.  It’s taken 3 hours to get it cooled down to 78! I was very disappointed when I got here to find they only have little baby trees; hardly any shade! I believe this is the first time I’ve experienced 100 degree temps.

Only 200 more miles to go til I reach my destination: Centennial, WY. Tomorrow’s weather forecast for Centennial is a high of 67 and low of 50!  YESSSS!!!!  SO ready for some cool weather! And after this I should have some pretty photos to post, too.

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Making Plans

First off, I found my glasses! Just as I suspected, they turned up shortly after I got the new ones. They were on a desk in the house. It’s in a little cubby in the hallway, with dark countertop and my glasses just blended right in! Now I sorta remember sitting there to read the manual for the thermostat.  So now I have a spare pair; that’s good, and I’m so glad I found them before I left here!

My Chromebook had what I thought was it’s final deadly stroke….it’s been having little mini-strokes for a couple months but last week  it shut down and would not restart. So I ran out to Walmart and bought a new one, which I hated. So I ordered one from Amazon. One of the worst things about it was that the speakers were so bad, I had to put the whole thing up to my ear in order to hear anything!  I ended up being out the money for TWO new Chromebooks for awhile, as I didn’t return the Walmart one until I’d received the newest one.  In the meantime, after 4 days the old one woke up…..turns out it was apparently just in a coma. Now it’s working but still takes sudden naps from time to time, so it really is on it’s last legs. (And I love the new one!)

Last fall I left my kayak and paddle at a friend’s house in Michigan, thinking I’d be back up there this summer to pick it up. But now I’m not going to Michigan; I’m headed back out west! So I sadly asked my friend to sell them for me, which he did. I got $350 for the boat and $275 for the paddle so my savings account is heaving a big sigh of relief! I had drained it down to $3.56, purchasing those two new Chromebooks.

I also removed the two pair of Yakima kayak saddles from my cartop, and am trying to sell them though I don’t seem to have any takers. I’m terrified that I’m going to have to somehow find room in the car and haul them around with me when I leave. They’re pretty bulky but they do affect muy gas mileage so would rather not have to put them back on. So now there is nothing on my car roof……how the heck am I gonna find my car in a parking lot?? It was great when I carried the kayak; it made it really easy to spot. Even when I just had the saddles on top, that helped. Now I’ll probably spend hours wandering the parking lots looking for a beige Highlander that looks just like so many others.

I am having a ball researching my next trip to Wyoming and Colorado! For me, the planning is half the fun. I haven’t been to either of those places since the 70’s so it’s all new!  I plan to leave on July 21! I hope I can get all that stuff back into the car; it looks like a huge pile! I threw away the old broken solar panel, though that didn’t really take up much space. The glass bits were starting to loosen and fall all over the place.

My “garden” is going along OK, the green pepper plant is only 9″ tall  and has only one pepper on it, but it is growing nicely. I probably will just harvest it right before I leave and not try to carry it to Wyoming.  The celery is doing great and I will take that with me. I figured it out, that one little green pepper cost me around $7 for the plant, 2 pots and potting soil. I can buy an organic green pepper for arounjd $2.50 in the store! Oh well.

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That Tooth!

I totally chickened out on going to the low-cost clinic as a walk-in and possibly sitting there all day and still not be seen by the dentist.  I called a local clinic and was able to get an appointment the next morning  and the visit plus x-ray cost only $110. I’m certain that is WAY less than my own dentist would have charged!

The x-ray didn’t show anything.  No abcess, no real reason for the pain. That tooth has had a root canal and a crown, and he said that sometimes root canals do need to be re-done. ??  He said he could refer me to a specialist for a consultation about a new root canal but I can’t afford that.  The only other option would be to pull the tooth but he thought that was premature.  So I got a prescription for another antibiotic and I’ll see if I can coax it along for awhile longer. It’s not hurting anywhere near as much as it did back in April, so that’s good.

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Oh Crap!

They have an RV sewer connection here so it’s easy to empty my porta-potty. The “stuff” starts coming out before the spout gets anywhere near the pipe though, so I have to be real careful to aim well and pour slowly. I don’t know if you are familiar with porta-potties; they have a top section that holds the clean water for flushing, and a bottom section that holds the “stuff”. In between is a sliding plate valve that opens when you want to flush. Well yesterday I dumped it, rinsed it out and took it back inside. I reconnected the two sections and opened the valve to pour in the blue good-smelly stuff. As I opened the bottle, the cap jumped out of my hand and went whirling round and round the bowl like one of those Give To The Blind coin contraptions you see in stores. And then it plopped into the base. SCORE!
OH CRAP. I didn’t think it’d be a good idea to leave it in there, and I didn’t think it would be good to dump it down their sewer pipe either, so I dumped it out on the ground, in the little trench way over to the side where the rainfall runs down. There was less than a cup of the liquid, and I’d washed it out pretty good, so it was only very light brown……..but I still hated to do it. Call the EPA! The garden hose isn’t long enough to wash it down/dilute it. I hope it rains soon! I guess in the bigger scheme of things, it’s way less than a dog poop, but somehow it being Human makes it seem so much worse.
Annnnnd…..yet another change in plans! Funny how that happens. I have been having trouble sleeping; I wake up in the wee hours and my fingers hurt so badly I can’t get back to sleep. And then I noticed that the ring finger on my right hand, which I KNOW was straight when I left AZ, is now trying to become S-shaped! The middle finger has been twisty for some time, and the first knuckles are all getting knobby. The two middle fingers are heading off to the west at the first knuckle, while the little finger wants nothing to do with those yayhoos; it’s curving over to the east, trying to escape. So far the index finger is still straight but very knobby. And the left hand is still pretty good but getting knobs on the first knuckles.

This drastic change from less than two months ago was a  shocker. The first winter I spent in AZ, my finger pain disappeared completely, only to return when I came east for the summer. Last winter the pain didn’t completely go away, but I think that’s because the arthritis had progressed. I just realized that if I wanted to keep the use of my fingers for as long as possible, I really need to live in a dry climate. I need my hands! It’s a blow because I really love my summers in northern Michigan. I’ve been using my infrared white light on it for the past few days and I do think it is helping with the pain.

So…..I’m planning on leaving here July 22 and heading out to the Laramie/Cheyenne, WY area. I have been wanting to go to the Snowy River Range for several years now. It’s a high alpine area with lots of beautiful lakes and forests, and a gorgeous scenic byway (Hwy. 130) between Laramie and Centennial. The elevation is around 8000′ so I hope that’s high enough to escape the heat. Then I’ll work my way down through western Colorado, visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and end up in either Flagstaff or Clints Well some time in September. The temps in most of Arizona don’t get to my level of comfortable until November so I’ll have to stay in the higher elevations til then.

I hope the neighbor here will pick up what I’ve been doing….paying the 2 worker-guys and inspecting the house after a showing. It’s not at all time-consuming.

That tooth that was bothering me back in April has awakened again. I sorta forgot about it. My dentist here is more expensive than anyone else, and that was fine when I had dental insurance and only had to pay a little bit extra, but now I can’t afford him. I bet it would cost $200 just to have him LOOK at this tooth! So I called the Western NC health clinic (for poor people) here in Asheville but they told me you have to be a Buncombe County resident, have HIV or be trans-gender. Ummm…OK? Oh well. So I called the Henderson County equivalent and they don’t have any appointments available for new patients until September!! But she said I could just come in and see if they can work me in; no guarantees though. So I guess I will do that tomorrow and just plan on sitting there most of the day. The weather forecast says 0% chance of rain tomorrow, and I wouldn’t want Roxie to have to suffer through a loud thunderstorm all alone. Last time that happened, when I came home she was standing on the stove! And normally she thinks she can’t jump onto the bed (which is the only way she could have gotten to the stove). I hate to think that I might have to go there every day for awhile!! But they have a sliding scale for payments, according to your income. I hope they have good air conditioning! Ugh, sure not looking forward to this. And in the end, I’ll probably have to get it pulled. I can’t afford a root canal, and that tooth already has a crown. I hope it won’t show. Boy, being poor with bad teeth is awful! I just know I’m going to end up one of those toothless hillbilly types; most of my teeth have crowns and bridges that are aging fast! Sigh.

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Lazy Days

I haven’t been doing much of anything lately, so not much to write about. The most exciting thing going on has been the people mowing the lawn!  The strawberries are coming in nicely and I’ve been able to get a few, plus some blueberries to go with my homemade organic Greek yogurt, which is really yummy and much cheaper than the store-bought stuff.

I lost my glasses!!  They HAVE to be in this camper somewhere, but where?? You wouldn’t think something could actually get lost in this small a space. I’ve given up on finding them and ordered new glasses from ZenniOptical.com. $50 for glasses with progressive bifocal lenses, plus a pair of clip-on sunglasses to fit them! I hope they’re not too ugly; I got the $9.95 frames. I am counting on the old glasses showing up as soon as the new ones come. That’s the way it works, isn’t it?

And my microwave bit the dust last week too. The door latch quit working, and the microwave won’t “go” if the door isn’t latched. So I bought a $38 one from Wal-Mart yesterday but haven’t pulled the old one out and installed the new one yet.

I met the neighbor guy Monday and hope I don’t meet him again! Blah, blah, blah, and all about his many health problems.  I had a hard time escaping. See, this is why I like boondocking out in the middle of nowhere. I’m not a nice person; I don’t LIKE people! I just want to be left alone. Now I’ll have to sneak around when I go check the mail.

I’ve been checking up on what’s for sale around here and also in northern Michigan. I would prefer to find a place here but there just isn’t much in my price range that’s livable. I’m looking for something under $15,000 and in NC-SC-GA that means a large house that’s pretty much wrecked, that would take thousands more to make livable.  I really want a small house, under 600 sq. ft. (which would be more than 10 times the size I’m living in now!) There’s much more available in Michigan in my price range, because there are lots and lots of little cottages and cabins up there, and many of them are in pretty decent shape and just need minor repairs or updating.  I could probably find an older mobile home on land around here but I don’t think I want something that’s only going to depreciate, and many of those are 900-1000 sq. ft. also. I just don’t want to have to heat, cool and clean that much space. I’m hoping to get up to Michigan in August to look around at what’s available. In the meantime I have to figure out how I’d pay for it…sadly, I’d probably have to buy it on my credit card because those kind of homes are not mortgageable.  I’m trying to save up though, if only those unexpected expenses wouldn’t keep cropping up!

 

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