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Colorado Uncategorized

Return to Silverton

I’m in Silverton! I decided not to go to New Mexico this trip, but just head towards home. Silverton is about 50 miles out of route, but I love it here and I wanted to see the fall colors. They haven’t even started in the lower elevations, but they’re looking pretty good here. I think peak color is probably another week or so away. At the top of Molas Pass (between Durango and Silverton) they were brilliant!

I was here at exactly the same time last year but this year the campsites are crammed full of people!! Last year I had a whole cul-de-sac in Kendall camping area to myself, and that same place now has 5 campers in it! So I ended up at Anvil, which is just a little ways farther up the road, and much smaller, only 6 sites. I got a nice pull-through site right on the Animas River. It’s only about 4 miles from town so I even get a bit of a cell signal.

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I left Poncha Springs and drove about half way; stayed overnight near Pagosa Springs. The sites I was aiming for were 4 miles from the main road. It was one of the worst roads I’ve ever been on!! Full of potholes; it took me 30 minutes to go less than 3 miles! I saw a pulloff with a few sites there and didn’t even bother to go the extra mile to check out the ones that were listed on FreeCampsites.net. It was right on the East Fork River but there were a bunch of bushes so I couldn’t actually see it, so I didn’t even unhook, just stayed overnight and went on in the morning. It took 30 minutes again to get back to the paved road.  This is a scene of one of the ranches off that road.

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Along the way I was stopped for 25 minutes for construction, then as the long line of cars got moving again, I saw a moose swimming across a lake! There was no possible way to pull over and get a photo so I hope you don’t think I’m making this up, LOL!

I decided I needed a little hand-held DVD player so I stopped at Walmart in Pagosa Springs and Walmart in Durango, and they didn’t have the cheap $49 one I wanted. I even tried to order one on Amazon and have it delivered to General Delivery in Silverton, but for some reason they couldn’t ship it to a Gen. Delivery address. ??  So I guess I have to dig out my TV. It has a built-in DVD player but it takes up an awful lot of counter space in here, plus the cord has to run right across the doorway over to the inverter, and every time I need to go outside, I have to unplug everything. I am pretty bored with my only entertainment being books and the few games I have on Kindle, and I did bring a bunch of favorite DVDs plus a few bought at a yard sale right before leaving.

I forgot that I had to go over two mountain passes between Durango and here. It wasn’t too bad., as I had the road pretty much to myself. Here’s the view from the top of Molas Pass (10,910’)

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It was 31 degrees this morning! The “official” low for Silverton was 28 so maybe my little $3 thermometer is off a bit. I had heavy frost on the car….sure glad I put the plants (Ivy and baby Rosemary) in the car last night. The elevation here is around 9200’ so we could actually get snow at any time. In fact when I was here back in the 70’s, there was a lot of snow and ice on the road going over Red Mountain Pass to Ouray, and that was in July! (Talk about white-knuckled driving; that pass is really scary even in good weather!)

I love Silverton, as long as the train from Durango isn’t in. Then it’s a madhouse of people everywhere. It reminds me of how Telluride used to be, back before it was “discovered”.

I caught a photo of the Durango-Silverton train leaving:

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View from the other side of camp

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Poncha Springs and Salida, CO

I’ve moved again; this time about 60 miles south, to Shavano Wildlife Area near Poncha Springs, CO. I was shocked at how many campers were already here on a Tuesday!! I guess it’s because of Labor Day weekend coming up? The road is not very good and I had to go back farther than I wanted, but I found a really nice little shady spot between two big pine trees. I had to squiggle and squeeze in and it took lots of back-and-forthing, and twice I thought I was in a good place but when I raised the roof, it hit big tree branches. As it is, there’s a small tree branch touching the peak of the roof that squeaks and groans when it’s windy. But nearly all of the sites that I saw had no shade at all, so I’m feeling lucky……well, hardly any other campers could squeeze into this tiny spot. There are beautiful views of some of Colorado’s “Fourteeners” from here, and the cell service is decent too. (Verizon) I have almost a 360 degree view of high mountains.

 

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The elevation here is only around 7000’, so quite a bit warmer here. Near 80 during the day, and about 50 at night. I don’t even need to use the heater here…..and I’ve been using the heater nearly every night so far this summer!

See that branch that goes across the front of the door? (below) Yep…..right at top-of-the-head height for me when I go out the door.  I’m always looking at my feet when I’m climbing out of the camper, so that darn thing has caught me several times but I’m learning to duck as I go out.

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There’s an old 70’s Class C RV not too far away, but hidden in the trees. They seem to be real rednecks. Last night they were revving their truck motor over and over for about half hour.  (Is there an actual point to doing that???) Luckily they all went away the first morning and haven’t been seen since.

Salida is a classic old mining town with 4 or 5 blocks of historic district filled with neat little shops & restaurants. And it’s big enough to also have a nice new Safeway store and a small Walmart!  I haven’t seen any wildlife at all in the Wildlife Area where I’m staying but every time I go to Salida, I see 3 or 4 mule deer right in town! One of them bounced right out in front of me the other day.

This area has a lot of whitewater rafting and kayaking. Sigh…..it makes me think of my old whitewater kayaking days. I loved it so much!! 

Oh and I forgot to post these photos of the really cute little Victorian homes in Leadville!!

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Grand Lake, CO

I left Leadville last Monday. To back up for a minute, when I left home, there was a road detour less than 25 miles from home. They were working on the detour road as well, and they had sprayed water on the road. It splashed mud up onto the front of the camper, and that mud hardened like cement! I was so happy when we had the rain on Sunday that softened it. I went out and got it all nice and clean again on Sunday afternoon.

They were also working on the dirt road as I was leaving the Leadville campsite, and I had to run though water again!! Just one lousy day after I’d gotten it all clean. Well I found out later, they’d sprayed the road with oil, not water! Oh my, what a mess. The whole car and camper are covered with oil, which has turned to mud/oil after driving on the dusty dirt roads. I haven’t seen a carwash yet, either.

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I moved to a free campsite at Pioneer Park right in the town of Hot Sulphur Springs. Finally I had a site with a good wifi signal! I thought I might stay there several days to get my fill of the internet but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the campsite. It was across the campground road from the Colorado River but most of the sites were very narrow and close together, like neighbors less than 10’ away! You know that’s just not my kinda place. But….a good wifi signal!!!  Also I was hoping to get a good night’s sleep at that lower elevation. I didn’t sleep worth a darn at the 11000’ campsite; I’d walk up feeling breathless and not be able to go back to sleep.

My campsite was the closest one to the railroad…..only about 50’ from the tracks, and about 100’ from a crossing that did not have a lighted signal when a train was coming. At 3:30 in the morning, a train came through, blaring the horn (whistle?) for about 15 seconds straight. I was just about to get back to sleep when another train came through at 4:20. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep after that.

This VW Westfalia was next door….I wonder how much that roof weighed, with all that stuff on it?! They had a West Highland White terrier…the guy said they HAD to have a Westy, to go with the car!

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So I left there and headed to Grand Lake, which is on the “back side” of Rocky Mountain National Park, near the West Gate. I found the free national forest dispersed area and had made up my mind to stop at the first open campsite because I thought maybe I could get a wifi signal, but the first 4 or 5 were already taken. I was starting to worry but found one a little ways up that’s decent. It doesn’t have any shade but the highs are supposed to be between 68-72 every day so it should be okay.  I could legally stay here for 28 days if I wanted! I don’t know yet if I’ll want to stay or move on. It depends on temperatures, bug populations, “hitch-itch”, etc.

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Check out this awesome campfire ring I’ve got! Of course I don’t ever have campfires, but if anything tempted me, this one sure would.

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This is a very popular ATV area and the staging area is only about 100’ away through the woods, so there’s quite a bit of traffic and noise during the day but it dies down at night.  I kind of like watching all the ATV’s go by. It’s about 8 miles from town, and only 1 mile from a paved road.

I went into Grand Lake….really cute little town, very upscale, with lots of nice mini-mansions all around the lake.

Here are some of the pretty wildflowers near my campsite. I don’t know what they all are, do you?

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Well I’m pretty horrified. This morning I got a container of really hot water, lots of Dawn dishwashing detergent and a scrubbie/sponge and tried to clean the nasty oil off the front of the camper. It didn’t work!!! I was able to get it off the plastic and aluminum parts but on the painted aluminum, it just smeared it around! So I’m guessing a carwash wouldn’t help either. What to do???

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Leadville, CO

I really liked the South Fork campsite but the flies got to me. Suddenly there were hundreds of them! When I’d try to sit outside, I’d have 20 or so on me, which seemed really creepy even though they weren’t biting.  So I left and wandered up to Granite, which had campsites that sounded good but weren’t. I kept going to Leadville and found some wonderful campsites perched above Halfmoon Creek, in the lodgepole pine forest. It’s about 8 miles to town and of course, no cell signal. I see I’m going to have to wean myself away from the internet on this trip!

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My campsite is about halfway up the green wooded portion (below the snowcapped peaks)

 

Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the U.S. at 10,152’, and it’s surrounded by “Fourteeners” (mountains more than 14,000’ high) It’s a really cool little silver, lead and gold rush town with about 4 or 5 blocks of old historic buildings turned into shops & eateries. Leadville  hosted a number of old west scalawags such as Doc Holliday, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Bat Masterson, Soapy Smith (of Skagway, Alaska fame), and Oscar Wilde. There are a lot of really cute small Victorian homes to drive by and drool over.

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Leadville

I am doing pretty well with the high altitude but I do wake up with slight headaches. They sell canned oxygen in the grocery store here, and there’s also an Oxygen Bar in town.

I got all excited about a place called High Mountain Pies but it turned out to be a pizza place, not a pie place. I went into a bakery and was disappointed that they had no bread for sale. The lady told me it’s really difficult to make good bread or cakes at this elevation….I hadn’t thought about that.  I got a chocolate eclair that was out of this world good though.

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View from my campsite

 

I had a nice neighbor lady a couple hundred feet away who arrived shortly after I did. She’s got a goofy gallumping 7 month old puppy that appears to be mostly Rhodesian Ridgeback. He and Roxie really liked each other though Roxie doesn’t play nearly as long as he wants. His energy knows no bounds. I am surprised by the number of people camping in tents here, with nighttime temps around 35 degrees!. I couldn’t do it without heat, even in the camper, let alone a flimsy tent! The daytime temps are perfect; 70-75 but rain is on the way…looks like it could be 5 days of it! But I don’t see anywhere else that would be any different, so I guess I’ll stay. I guess I’ll think about trying to cover my front skylight somehow, so it doesn’t leak. I have looked a zillion times and I can’t see anywhere the rain could get in, but water collects at the bottom lip and runs down the inside roof.

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Old abandoned shack on the road to camp

I can’t believe I’ve been gone less than two weeks. It feels like forever, and I still think longingly for my sweet little tiny house. I want so badly to get it done! But I know I can’t work in the kind of summer heat we have. It was supposed to be livable by the time the summer rolled around. Sigh.

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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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Colorado Uncategorized

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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Colorado Uncategorized

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