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The open road

In Montana, Wyoming and in Utah and select scenic byways of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and even in California if you dare absorb silence, turn off the radio, turn off the cell phone, stop, walk, listen, notice the elements, the sky, the horizon on a road free of gridlock and dense traffic, a change in perception, a space perhaps freer of urban trappings, may transform you, even if only for a moment. You don’t need to know how long the road is or why you might find yourself on it; you might be alone or in company. Step outside of your vehicle and breathe.

In geological terms, across Montana and Wyoming, you are in the realm of precambrian granulite-facies supracrustal rocks of continental collision, calc-alkaline volcanic and plutonic rocks generated along an Archean continental margin, and mafic dikes emplaced during continental rifting. You see the process of glaciers in hairpin turns; there are moraines, sediment dikes, valleys, lake basins, peaks and mesas. Slow down, let others pass, pull over, look around, sit, walk, ask what’s out there. In Colorado although there is more traffic you find piercing mountains, volcanoes and deserts, rocks over 2.5 billion years old and water frozen in glaciers, snow pack, rain, rivers and lakes.

My dogs are eager and happy for every new place sensing little critters, smells, the different way the air feels. When I’m driving even if I’m exhausted I am somewhere else, there is movement. When the road is empty slow and scenic I can forget sorrows and troubles. Perhaps I could just keep driving.

I want to camp alone where it seems limitless. I have done so easily when I had company, human company.  I don’t watch TV when I travel. My rig has one with cable hookup but in 7 years I’ve used it maybe 3 or 4 times to watch a movie when I was parked tight in big cement lot. It’s kinda funny the fuss some RV parks make to be certain you have your cable hookup. That’s the way some people travel, they are plugged in, TV, Radio, Bright Lights,Headphones, Computer Games, Lots of Noise and so on… it blocks out nature almost completely but they like it.  I check the weather and local road conditions on my phone, sometimes the news. I don’t read much either as I used to.  I will scribble a thought or a random sketch on my refrigerator that I covered with a contact chalkboard paper. I am alone thinking my particular thoughts having my own reaction and moments of transcendence if not fussing with the dogs, singing to them or talking to them then I am just quiet.

Before it got so crowded and we became in such a hurry to get somewhere and around my California that’s often in gridlock, we could take a leisurely drive. Pack a picnic enjoy the day, now it’s just me and my four dogs, it’s difficult to find places where they can run free and I can walk. I love the vast open spaces of my travels. Somewhere there are other solo van dwellers, not the ones at the costly RV camps, nor the ones blasting their presence into the night of stars but those relishing this inner wisdom, I think finding this companionship would be even more blissful.

Many people ask me how I can do what I do. It’s not easy for me and hard for you.  It’s hard for me, maybe more so for me than you. I have physical and financial challenges, I don’t know maybe you do too.  But if you want to be on the road, and you do get there, especially if you are alone you may find out you are enough. You are competent enough, capable enough, you know more than you think you do, you learn and the gaps fill in.

A drive where you see almost no one can be very soothing once you get over being all by yourself and embrace solitude, accept whatever comes around the corner, up or down the mountain or just ahead. You can get back in touch with you. If you are lucky enough to have someone with you I’d suggest you practice times of silence, like a meditation but better (esp for the restless types,) since you are active, vigilant and aware. Find a road that challenges you, not the same kind you do everyday.

Don’t be afraid to turn around, back up or try a side road, something you saw out of the corner of your eye and you want to see what it was. Your mind fills with the land, how’s its made, the geography and geology of its substance; given time and enough miles you can see for yourself how it all works.

Remember to be safe, maintain your vehicle, have a backup plan, observe the weather, slow down for the animals. I think humans were designed with a curiosity and stamina to explore. Maybe you need to build up your stamina. Stop and do things, talk to people even if it’s just a few words. Ask what there is to discover. Your ideas and theirs can be similar or worlds apart. Be generous. You will learn to distinguish innocence from harm, annoyance from time to depart.

You can grow on the road, you can reflect if you’re that sort of person. You can be mesmerized by beauty, you can fly out the windshield and be part of the clouds, the trees, the rivers, the deserts, farmland and industrial land, tiny towns and huge cities. You can think, you can cry, you can scream, you can dream, you can simply feel the power of your vehicles’ wheels rolling, the engine pulling you. This must be why I am able to face uncertainty, I stand taller, walk quicker, the confidence that others see in me, it must be real. I have fear just like everyone else but what is there to do when it’s just you, or I mean just me, and four dogs. I solve problems, I figure things out. With an RV something always needs repairing,  I am proud of keeping my RV running, smiles on my dogs faces. I can get angry at myself or even at my dogs but no one cares and when I’m rolling again and then perched in somewhere beautiful the days are just the right length. I’m never bored, tired at times maybe, sometimes lost, but never regretful.

 

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Homeward: Nevada to California

This will be my last posting of travels for this roadtrip. There will be a summary and maybe more especially about my little leisure travel van and all my dogs and me and the state of the environment, the weather, driving.

I leave St George and continue to Las Vegas on the I-15 about 2 hours. I visit a friend, we meet in a very large park in one of two large dog parks. He and I sit in the shade watching the dogs romp, then they pile around us. It’s full of grass and sitting under the tree on the ground with a bit of a breeze it doesn’t feel so hot. We chat for a while, walk over to the pond and back and I head on stopping for the night a bit before Barstow, it’s another mediocre KOA. I fill the propane on my rig, I’ve already emptied and cleaned the black and gray tanks, buy more water, take a shower in the camp bathroom while their  plumbing screeches uncontrollably. I tried the pool, it has too much chlorine, is too cold and too dirty.  I bemoan the loud traffic, the cigarette butts – gonna let my KOA membership lapse. I don’t sleep well. I wish the sites were facing the desert instead of the highway, seems really stupid that weary travelers are placed near the road they just left and for which they will soon return. I walk around Calico Ghost Town, 3 miles from the KOA before they opened. It’s cute and in my head I half plan a return when the weather is much cooler but Ghost Towns are not my thing. Cool, the Ghost Town has an RV camp, saw 3 campers there, it’s quiet, likley very hot but has power. Should’ve stayed there. I looked around Barstow a bit then Apple Valley where I get a coffee. It’s dusty and dry but soon the marine layer will cover the blue of the sky and mingle with the particulate matter of the Los Angeles Basin. The women running the shop are lighthearted and accommodating adding 2 extra shots to my cappuccino since they couldn’t figure out how to not make it so milky. First time I’ve had a 4 shot drink…  turns out I’d need it fighting non-stop gridlock all the way home from the San Fernando Valley to my coastal fog laid town.  The women invite the dogs out of the hot van onto the porch. Mason stays behind, he’s content to wait.  Three hours after that I’m at my Mom’s house in the S. F. Valley and she makes me a perfect light lunch. I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I don’t expect it to be noticed since I’d gained that weight in a few months at home and now am simply back to a more comfortable weight but I know I will gain it back once I return anyway. The dogs are so happy, I think even Dino, my mom’s Lagotto is happy. I can’t wait to get home, to the coastal fog, check on my plants, let the dogs do their own thing, but I don’t know yet it will be another 3 hours of gridlock getting there. I think I will sleep well but it turns out I still barely sleep at all and my headaches and anxiety-angst return and swallow me in a prolonged post trip slump. Maybe I should go on the road again.

Driving through Las Vegas, Nevada

This KOA did have a nice large area for the dogs but no play equipment as they advertised, still my gang all know what a dog park is and were eager, pulling me along, to check it out.

I watch people arriving for work at the Ghost Town. It won’t open for at least an hour.

 

The coffee drinkers.

Yep, everyone’s here and on the road!  LOL

Approaching Grandma’s house the dogs get all excited 🙂

The desert begins before you leave Grand Junction Colorado and Fruita and then it continues. Restful break in Green River State Park. The Park is along the Colorado River and enclosed by a golf course. The Rangers hiding out in the air-cooled kiosk gave me a map and directions to a swimming beach for the dogs, turned out however after doing my hiding from the heat and daily thunder storm, then walking all over the State Park, sticking our feet and up to our tails in the water, this mamma, that’s me, didn’t want to drive any more that day so we played BALL on the nice green grass at our over-sized site.

Waiting until it gets cool enough to go out and play.

Coffee shop in Green River, Utah; somewhat amazed to find this. Coffee wasn’t really all that drinkable but they tried and the place was cute.

Driving

Speed limit in Utah is 80 mph, for me it’s about 60 to 65. It’s still very windy.

Climbing plenty of hills. Still early enough not to need the air conditioner. RV is driving great. Yesterday’s drive was tougher with stronger winds, higher passes to cross and scorching heat.

After the flatlands turns scenic. Yep, that’s another car.

More traffic! Don’t expect services or gas stations or repair shops. Keep your gas tank filled and your vehicle in good running order. Bring your own snacks and refreshments.

Civilization. I didn’t need gas but was a gas station here. Gathering of trucks and plenty of trash even though they’d  positioned trash cans as drive by…  I used those, just drive close, unroll the window and plunk.

Found a dog park in Hurricane Utah. Can you tell it’s hot. I’d already checked in and secured a full service site at Sand Hollow State Park. I’d been sent there from Quail Creek State Park, all the electric was taken.  Next time will try Snow Canyon State Park, petrified sand dunes, wow.   At first I wasn’t pleased with Sand Hollow, the powered sites are up on the hill, my spot way up at the top, the roads are all black asphalt.  That darn heat colored my perceptions, feels like it’s 120 but it’s not that hot. Later when I returned from St George I fell in love with this Park even though it another reservoir. Dogs got to swimming twice 🙂  If I stayed would have rented a boat and just floated.

Day and evening use park above St George, Utah. Would be totally fun to hike and explore but just letting the windows down am blasted with what felt like the insides of force blowing glass kiln. Windy, humid and hot red! Probably somewhere around 103 or 104 but felt hotter, maybe it was.

St. George, Utah, is nation’s fastest-growing metro area.

The ground was too hot for my dogs to walk so I could only take a quick look.
Red Hills Desert Garden.  Check the link (Find Plants) for the plant species that grow here.  Free Admission.

Pioneer Park

What brings people to St George?

Back at the reservoir.  The Park is large enough that even with lots of activity and families there are quiet areas, at least right now.

Taking the Park road to the other side.

Our first swimming spot. Warm, blue waters and red sandstone. Primitive camping to full hookups, swimming, boating, fishing, ATVs, red dunes. 20,000-acre park, mostly on USDI Bureau of Land Management (BLM). There’s a store / restaurant  with ATV’s, UTV’s, kayaks, paddle boards for rent. I had a breakfast burrito there. Nice chat with the woman in charge, she had to met the dogs of course and of course, she hopes to retire soon too and really liked my little camper van.

Back on “my’ side of the Park. Some hiking trails, boat launching and easy access for the dogs to swim. This was late in the day and everything was closed, when I returned in the morning it was bustling. Come July and August this place gets mobbed.

View out my bedroom window.

My dinner table for the night. No campfires.

Diner courtesy of Redmond Farms, Organic Farm to Table store in St George.

On the top of the hill at the park, one can see new housing developments everywhere.

America’s Fastest-Growing Urban Area Has a Water Problem
JAKE BULLINGER MAY 18, 2018
As St. George, Utah grows, it will have to cut down on its high water consumption or pay handsomely for it—or both.

When Latter-day Saint migrants arrived in Utah in 1847, a verse in Isaiah served as consolation to them in the dessicated landscape: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”

Lately, the desert has blossomed nowhere more than the St. George area, in the state’s southern reaches. The city is a picturesque outpost, with red-rock desert framing bright green lawns and golf courses, all built around the stark white Mormon temple in the center of town.

Brigham Young’s adherents came here to grow crops, primarily cotton—hence its reputation as Utah’s Dixie. Today, that ceaseless sunshine is luring so many tourists, retirees, and students that St. George has become the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. According to Census Bureau data released in March, the metro, home to 165,000 people, grew 4 percent between 2016 and 2017.

“Six million people visit the area every year. As people visit here, some of them decide to stay,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. The area remains a retirement community, “but we also have 33,000 students K through 12, and we have a fast-growing university [Dixie State University].” Healthcare is a booming industry, and, like many growing cities, St. George has a section of town earmarked for tech companies. Mixed-use developments are popping up downtown. The growth likely won’t slow any time soon: State demographers believe the area will surpass 500,000 residents by 2065.

As is the case with other growing desert burgs, St. George grapples with water-supply issues. But the challenge here is unique. Remarkably cheap rates mean that residents of an area with only eight inches of annual rainfall are using tremendous amounts of water. An average St. George resident uses more than twice as much water as the average citizen of Los Angeles.

Political leaders at the state and local level view this primarily as a supply issue. Their preferred solution is a gargantuan $1.4 billion pipeline that would connect the region with Lake Powell, a reservoir along the Colorado River. With the aid of pumping stations, the pipeline would shuttle water over 140 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. The goal is to store 86,000 acre-feet a year in nearby reservoirs and aquifers—more than enough, officials say, to meet the demand of the growing population and decrease reliance on the dwindling Virgin River, currently Washington County’s primary water source.

“We certainly are committed to conservation, but we don’t think that gets you there alone, especially with the organic growth and the tremendous in-migration that’s occurring in the Southwest,” said Ronald Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, the wholesaler that supplies water to St. George and other cities in the county.

I spent a strange night in Olathe Colorado at the Uncompahgre River RV Park on U.S. Highway 50 halfway between Montrose and Delta, like the owner is hovering over you. He did admit to video surveillance. It seemed to be (almost) a crime to borrow a book form their lending library or to be in the guest lounge after an unspecified time in the evening.  His wife who checked me in gave me no worries and was welcoming or I would not have stayed, she invited me to borrow a book or a video as I liked and to be at home, oh but the husband!!!!  I think the titles in library could be a hint.  Lots of veterinarian and dog books, some cooking books (probably hers, right?) then a big collection of Ayn Rand and some old drug-culture spacey stuff. The fuss he made about my borrowing a book was amazing. There was no smiling only biting breathing down ones neck comments like stepping on someone’s personally prized possessions. The grounds, meticulously clean and fussed over with a marvelous night sky (no nighttime lights) are marred by that creepy feeling of having your steps dodged, you may be next on the haunted list. This host could use one of the staff training/lectures I used to attend at the Biltmore Four Seasons …  hospitality is key.

To complete a review it was very hot, I paid for a full site, received partial.  My “river view” which I chose over shade, was merely a bit of grass fronted by barbed wire and the neighbors dead trees. The site was good size and had a cement patio yet as I was struggling to get my dogs out for a potty break in total darkness at not quite 10 pm I was drenched, my rig was soaked and dripping and my dogs too … sprinklers had gone off! Guess this was why no outdoor table? I only saw one person, he was walking his dog, other than the owner-husband who  seemed to everywhere and a very lonely swan. After a restless sleep couldn’t wait to get out of there. I know, I always want quiet and dark but this was ominous. The little farming town too, maybe drought issues, was not doing great.  Evening river walk had discards and prevailing ambiance of a depressed town. Tired a coffee shop in the morning but it didn’t work out.  You never know for sure what you’re getting into, it can be the luck of the draw or trend or sometimes just your interpretation.

I decided to head for Highway 65, Grand Mesa Scenic Byway up the canyon and back to I-70. Stopped in Delta for coffee;  Happy Again 🙂   Next time maybe an RV place here?

 

Now this is beautiful Colorado.

Here’s an overview of the area I’ve been traveling in the mountains. Over 300 lakes and stunning scenery. I stopped at the Forest Service Grand Mesa Visitor Center, at times they have nature hikes and programs: camping, fishing, touring, bike trails, hiking, rock climbing ATV areas and winter skiing, snowshowing snowmobling.

Found a bit of snow on a side road!  Was so funny the first thing all three Lagotti did was dig a hole and stick their heads way down into it! Then they did zoomies.

Well, not everybody’s as excited by the brisk air and, that, what is that?  Actually Mason does love snow, but he likes the soft fluffy kind you can jump jump jump around on.

Passed some great campgrounds and State Parks.

“Colorado, “the mother of rivers” boasts around 8,000 miles of streams and rivers along with 2,000 or so lakes and reservoirs. Much of that water flows into 17 other states and Mexico, slaking the thirst of millions.

Colorado’s water—which begins as rain or snow—generates an average of 95 million acre-feet annually. Of that, about 16 million acre feet flow through the state’s streams, creeks, and rivers and about 10.5 million acre feet continue on to 17 other states and Mexico. Three major river systems—the Arkansas, Rio Grande, and Colorado—have their headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, and the Colorado River system alone provides water to one in ten Americans.  “Water in Colorado is not simply some far away issue,”  “The decisions of one region directly impacts those in another.”

Climate Change Means A Hotter, Drier Future In The Colorado River Headwaters, Study Says By LUKE RUNYON • JUN 5, 2018

The effects of climate change are already being felt at the headwaters of the West’s most important river system, according to a study released earlier this year.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization compiled the latest science on climate change in the Colorado River headwaters in a report titled Climate Change in the Headwater: Water and Snow Impacts (PDF), presented to the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments in February.

The Colorado River and its tributaries supply water to some 40 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico. Warmer temperatures high up in the mountains — where the river gets its start — are already reducing its flow and melting snow earlier in the year.

“If we have less of it stored and it’s coming down earlier in the year then we have a mismatch of when the precipitation falls and when we actually need it,” says Stephen Saunders, the report’s co-author and director of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.

The report examined the possible climate change effects for six counties in Colorado’s high country, which act as headwaters for the Colorado, Yampa, Gunnison, Roaring Fork and Eagle rivers.

The driver of most of this change is the increase in temperature, Saunders says. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to accelerate, by 2055 Colorado’s average annual temperature could jump more than 7 degrees.

The downside of the mountain heading towards I-70.

Was hoping for peach gazpacho in Palisade Colorado, the area is known for winery’s, breweries, farm to table and peaches!  Most of the stores and restaurants were closed, open only maybe on the weekend. They town did not get enough business for the to stay open 😦 maybe the winery’s but it was hot and I was tired now.

At 4,700 feet, the air is dry and the nights cool in the Western Slope’s Grand Valley, where Palisade, population 2,700, is the epicenter of Colorado’s nationally recognized wine production community. The region’s climate of cold winters, intense summer sun with breezy evenings and clean mountain water from the mighty Colorado River create perfect conditions for plump grapes and juicy peaches.Twenty-five wineries call the area home and dozens of family-owned orchards pop up along the Colorado Fruit & Wine Byway, which weaves around Palisade, past locals’ homes, alpaca farms and lavender fields. The town’s slogan is “Life tastes good here all year round.”

Another Time Palisade:

Grand Junction, gas, big box, fast food and chain stores.

Sorry, no sound. Camping area near the Forest Service Office Grand Mesa Visitor Center.

AS I make my way across the land, searing hot streaks. . .  temperatures breaking heat records, early wildfires, flash floods, rapid lightening, dying trees, major drought, failing crops, insufficient snow pack, evidence of sea level rise cannot be denied no matter the political mood of censorship, blocking of timely news and climate studies.

I need to note about the climate issues since it’s everywhere evident.  I have not had time to study as hoped, nor time to dig out my art supplies, to journal, to take leisure for a sense of place and time. My rule of spending at least 2 nights, better 3, in a location has been tossed on the highway. My change in plans, flash flooding, high winds, extreme heat, heath emergencies, high costs, crowds overfilling capacity in some areas while many are closed, along with caring for my 4 dogs and all that is restricted to them has kept me in a moving mode. Often when I travel I am not lonely, I feel happy and free, but this time I badly lack a companion; these lands are filled with families, groups, celebrants, weddings, reunions, field trips, couples and friends. I remain grateful for my Mother’s daily call, she seems to think I’m doing a great job handling everything, seeing so much. She’s helped more than a few times, running to get maps, checking the weather, the fires, she encourages me; this blog after all is for her.  Am building memories, adventures, a broader outlook, unknown and remembered places, first hand knowledge of spectacular landscapes. As I set off for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison I had no idea what I was getting into.

I simply picked the nearest entrance…  ha-ha! Yep, need a new laptop so I can read ahead the night before. Daily I bless my mechanic Bruce for doing such a great job on my RV. Have not faltered even once climbing mountains, descending and climbing.. No overheating, stalling or over laboring.

North Fork Gunnison River. I start in the Grand Mesa National Forest. After stopping I realize how frigid it is. On go all the warm clothes including getting out Mason’s comfy bed and jacket as I warm him up. It feels good to be cold but it’s too cold my finger tips go numb. Even my Lagotti are shaking from the chill. The river is so blue and vital. The sky, yes, it’s blue in-between the clouds but not the like the blue skies in California, this blue is so intense it becomes timeless.

There are lakes, reservoirs, babbling brooks and rivers all over. Hairpin turns reveling views too perfect to be real. The Ragged Mountains and narrow canyons, wildflowers and in winter skiing.  Not many places to stop but there are campgrounds…  someday maybe.  I pass a wetland area that looks to be filled with reeds that could easily wrap around and drown any that tried to approach. My cell phone cannot possibly capture these views but I tried just a little while my Sony remains buried.

Passing through some small towns, Someret, Paonia; I find Crawford State Park but only because I missed the turn and backtrack to town of Crawford again to a series of small roads which seem to lead nowhere. There is not a sign or a marker to be seen for the National Park.

The First sign I’ve seen that this is the right way comes after the paved road has ended.

The pavement ends, the road turns to dirt and then to deep washboard. Speed limit 30; in my van I can do at best from between 15 mph to a slow crawl at about 2 or 3 mph.  I have not seen any traffic but have passed some farms and then open land.

Wow! There are 5 other vehicles here! I’m the only camper. The ranger station was empty and closed, it’s all self-register. There is no cell service and has been none for some time. The way ahead is heavily wash-boarded. It’s very very hot and dry. Rattlesnake weather. My dogs are frightened and panting, the road in so far has been very difficult, every bump causes extreme rattling and shaking, things loosen and fall. I’ve been gritting my teeth. I have to convince Jackson he’s not dying. I’m sure it’s safe but I’m not sure my van is going to survive or my nerves. There are primitive campgrounds up here but dogs may not be taken on walks even on leash nor carried due to potentially aggressive deer protecting their fawns. Even more I long for a companion to help protect the dogs and to just see another pair of human eyes. I would have to leave the dogs locked in the hot van to hike to the overlooks to see the view, they are not permitted on any trails at any time.  I sit here a awhile trying to regain my strength, imagining if I were young again or strong to do it how fun it would be to hike down to the river. Finally the only logical decision turn around and head for the South rim.  The hikes btw are very steep, not too long to get down but extremely steep, rocky, strenuous with what the park map calls no maintenance or marked trails. Routes are difficult to follow hikers should not expect any rescue, poison ivy and ticks unavoidable, and bears. No campfires permitted, many hikers have been swept to their deaths by high, swift frigid water if they make it to the river, river water is undrinkable, terrain is unstable covered in loose talus, must wear sturdy hiking boots; daily thunderstorms.  Hummmm….  the easiest route (over on the south rim) is 2 hrs down 1.75 miles with a vertical drop of 1800 feet and 3 hours up plus another 2 miles along the river with 6 campsites, the other routes more strenuous. Oh and you will need hands and knees to get up and down; scrambling.  Ok, yep, I want to go, but not this time!

I wasn’t’ sure how far it would be to drive to the to the other side but it appeared the road on that side was paved allowing viewing of the canyon.

Very slowly I drive back through the washboard and then the easier dirt. I gave all the dogs a calming pill.

Passing the ranches again.

On the way to other side it’s dry and barren. This section becomes completely flat, a burning gray salt. Definitely the land of sci-fi and UFOs.

I eventually was shunted back into some gentle hills, vegetation reappears and onto a main highway and passed through a few good-sized cities such as Delta and Montrose. At long last I found another sign outside    . the turnoff road into the Park. The road was almost straight up but it is paved! Then suddenly the Park Kiosk appears. My senior pass gets me right in. A paved road with viewing areas. And did I mention it was hot!

Information, museum displays and gift store. Rushed in and out as all parking was in the direct sun.

 

The Park Campground on this side also does not permit any dogs to walk anywhere; the electric spaces are filled in any case. I wonder what sunrise would look like but decide to move on.

 

Vail was confusing, I did not realize it is divided into East Vail, Vail and West Vail. There may be several visitor / welcome centers, this was not clear from driving past the signs. Tried to get into one but I could not park due to the height of my van. I found another spot but it looked like I’d get a ticket. When I found an open area, seemed it would cost a good bit of money. There was a guard watching but not close enough to ask him for directions or information; I saw a sign, $24 for parking. Additionally it seemed I’d need to leave the dogs in the full sun as the space I found was on the top of other structures and had not one scrimp of shade.

A headache of being alone; no one to send out to figure it out. I’d wanted to eat lunch in Vail, take a look around. There were more important things like getting the dogs out for a bit of walk. I was about to give up and head elsewhere when I discovered an accessible pretty park in East Vail. This section has a golf course and lots of aesthetic similar looking condos. Those that know the town are probably laughing at me.  I’m not a skier and whatever the system is was baffling although I can image the parking nightmare when the snow is perfect and everyone arrives very eager and all at once.

The West End seemed to have hotels, gas stations . .  but by then I was off to whatever was next.

Vail condos and a large welcome green park with a pond.

 

Nope, even though it was very hot and threatening rain and thundering I didn’t let them swim here, just get their feet wet.  Saw other people walking dogs, everyone on leash and no one was in the water so best to make like the locals do.

I took this shot as I was sure we were about to camp for the night. I’d even decided to pay their over-puffed-bloated $80 fee $69 plus $11 taxes, for the night for a tiny bit of gravel stuffed in next to the others. Space had electric and a river view. Mason was super happy!  He loved this place (I didn’t photograph it) and was eager to settle in. Really I decided to pay for the place because of Mason’s super happy smile which I had not seen in a long time.  The RV spaces are part of a larger resort that offers cabins, rafting and other adventures. Lots of families with mothers leading the way. There was a place to eat…  yep I was still hungry. It was super hot and I wanted a rest; a tinderbox feeling to the air.

I considered going into town, finding a cool spot… maybe a swim or the hot springs, lunch? then sleeping at the Glenwood Canyon Reststop overlooking the Colorado River where I’d found the resort. Several reststops off I-70 were full and posted so; no place to park. Technically you can not “camp” at a reststop unless it has a campground. You can stay for 6 to 8 hours and sleep. That means, sleep, no putting out a chair or a tent, no putting out your slide or awning if you have those. You rest and move on; pick up after your dogs and yourself. Other restsops only allow 3 hrs and some even less.

Then the nerve of the folks at Glenwood Springs Canyon Resort as I was handing them my credit card; they started in with the dogs. $5 each extra with a limit of 2! If by special grace of the Park owner, who they were unable to reach within the 20 min or so that this was going on, they might allow us to cough up all that money to park on that heap of gravel with no privacy for $100!!!!!  Don’t believe their fancy photo on their website, that’s not what you get (and they consider themselves pet friendly.)  Can you tell I am pissed! I guess they get away with it.

 

It was too hot and my phone battery too dead to take photos of the Glenwood Canyon rising over 1,300 feet above the Colorado River. It is the largest such canyon on the Upper Colorado. Super scenic, I’d stopped many times to admire and walk the dogs. It’s really a treat to have the landscapes as you drive be so gorgeous. Then I headed South on 133. Turned out there were lots of national forest camping areas; however I still wanted power. I ran my air conditioner most of the night.  The big places like the KOA were filled. I’d originally planed on visiting the hot springs and mineral pool in Glenwood; with all my confusion and rush I missed this opportunity, would have been too hot to leave the dogs other than a late evening or early morning visit.

Yeah! Incredibly friendly city run RV camp; $30 with electric, boat launching ramp, endless walking trails including along the river that takes you right into town. I had a view of the river, was very quiet, clean restrooms with lots of space for my dogs to play.  Big grassy area not in the photo here, there was road noise from above.

Walking into town, Mason was taking a rest.

Views near my campsite. There were an amazing amount of birds flying overhead. I took a time-lapse video of our long walk, kids playing, the shoreline and flowers, wild birds, other little creatures, beautiful views, the sunset over the red rock cliffs, some views of town and friendly strangers….    video is for the moment lost somewhere.

Hand roasted coffee and light breakfast in the morning Carbondale CO historic downtown. Hiking and mountain biking popular here, snowboarding, snowshoeing and skiing in the winter.  I’m sure there are more hot springs around too.

 

Golden, Colorado  Up on Lookout Mountain you can find Buffalo Bills Grave and a Museum.

At the Dog Park, Estes Park, Colorado

On I-70

Georgetown, Colorado Historic Victorian Mining Town, gold and silver ore and the Railroad.

Yep, not in Kansas anymore, well didn’t make it to Kansas on this trip. In the window at a shop in Georgetown.

 

Headed West on the I-70.

I Decided it was not reasonable to return to the Northeast. The wild weather continues with so much reverberating thunder that Olympia has lost interest in being afraid of it. I’ve avoided damaging hail and have not been flooded out which I must consider a success. It’s time for a rest. This is only the second time I’ve traveled with all four of the dogs together and the previous was a short trip where we mostly stayed with friends, the weather was fine. With all three Lagotti and little Mason I am reluctant to walk city sidewalks, we need a lot of space. Mason drags behind, Jackson pushes fast forward and Jeana zigzags in circles like a trip wire on her lead. Mason doesn’t want to walk on gravel or open fields, he doesn’t want to get his feet wet and insists on stopping under shady retreats.  Jackson and Olympia believe they must both ride in the pup-saver seat which is barely suitable for one, otherwise Jackson will contort himself in the most unnatural positions I’ve ever seen for a dog.  I wake at 5 am and rarely to sleep before 11 pm often needing to take out one or another of the dogs in the middle of the night. If I’m not going east, then I want to slow down.  My Mom has been helping me figure this out. I’m tired, my shoulders are tired from the leashes. If not for threatening weather it’d be good to peace out wherever I am. It’s not peaceful in wads of sticky mud, freezing wind and wondering if the next lightning strike will be too close. A lot of the camps are being used by workers and residents needing cheaper more affordable accommodations. This is not a trend I like, nor the spike in fees and stiff regulations on dogs, power, water.

Welcome to Fort Collins

Cheyenne to Fort Collins is less than an hour and then the Rocky Mountains. It will be an easy day I promise myself. Somewhere in that exact second or two when I crossed the state border cars appear. Lots of cars with bicycles and kayaks attached; by the time I reach the information office the roadways are buzzing. It’s like they had been held inside a big mosquito net, buzzing and waiting, not allowed into Wyoming. Wham here they are!

Think Quick! I got honked at trying to decipher this, There was a lot more signage I could not fit in this photo. I think I’d need about a half an hour to figure out what they were really trying to do. Is that a computer screen up there? The bizarre (I mean unusual) street designs and presumed traffic flow patterns of this city were rather incredible. Could be an interesting life here, but hard on pass through.

With the help of the information person we decide I’d spend the rest of the day and that night relaxing at Boyd Lake State Park, the next day I’d head for the city of Estes Park, then a trip into the Rocky Mountain National Park. She was fascinated by my travels, I was dead tried, she wanted to talk and ask questions. Am I that fascinating? I gave her some information and took hers but then changed it.  She was sending me to Costco or Walmart for food when only a few extra miles away was a nice food co-op and I needed gas too and more bottled water for the dogs. By some miracle or the early hour of the day I managed to park and in the shade so I could run into the co-op which was on the main drag downtown. I had to carry all the water and some food back to my van. Well, no problem, then I tried to get coffee; being a college town should have been easy. My GPS signal on my phone decided right then and there to go haywire sending me on a bizarre tour of the city, but no coffee. I tired 4 different places, no parking, not there, directions wrong, getting myself wound up tighter and tighter in an invisible maze of indecipherable roadways and mysterious signage. Please someone hire this town a spatially kind city planner, one not on mind flights!  I gave up on coffee and eventually found a gas station I could maneuver into. I tried one last time for coffee finding a place out of the city center and some easy shade to park in!  Cool, oh, they had nothing to eat in there, not even one piece of day old pastry. I bought my cappuccino and left. I didn’t try sipping it until I was halfway to the Boyd Lake.  My tongue folded in-half lengthwise but I tried more; it had to be good, I’d watched her make it, not actually I’d gone into the bathroom.  I reluctantly threw it out after my head started pounding and my stomach was screaming at me, my entire mouth went dry and pasty. Don’t know what that shit was but it was spoiled and toxic.

I waited forever in line to get into the State Park. It was still early  but obviously popular, there had to a space for me. Yes, there were some spaces left, but no, nothing quiet. The Ranger explained the configuration as double rowed RVs stacked one in front of another in big loops on gravel. She said it was noisy and busy, nearly full but not quite. I asked if I could look. Nope, didn’t allow that without paying. The line behind me was getting longer. I was reasoning to myself that it couldn’t be that bad, she must be exaggerating while she was telling me it was a mess in there. I gave up, told her I’d go look at some other places and come back if they were not any better. That caused her to take pity on me and she told me where I could find a more peaceful day. The directions were too complicated for my sleepy head but I managed to get one of the GPS working and off I set to find nirvana. I will note that when people give directions they generally forget to tell you how far away they are sending you.

I was led on a lengthy unmarked, never even once did I see a sign for the place I was looking for, drive into the mountains, wondering where this would take me and where I might be. It was getting hot. I was amazed to actually find the location and that yes, they did have camping and the sites did have power.  Finding my way to check out the camping sites took another hour and half or so, spread up and down treacherously steep grades, no signs of course and I was instructed to look for the tiny slips of paper at each space and read the dates to see if was reserved or not, so I was guessing and backtracking and trying again which is why it took so long. I did find a lovely space and eventually was able to register for it. It was midday now. We needed water! It was HOT HOT HOT.

The overpriced water I had just bought had burst. Going up the mountain caused the flimsy plastic to break at the seams. I saw it break but of course I was driving and could not do anything about it.  I now had my own lake on the floor of my RV and was drastically short of drinking water. There was a little harbor with a store on the dam, I tried to get in there.  Parking was way way way over there in the full blazing sun. I took all four dogs and hefted up the hot hill to the store; nope no dogs allowed on the porch, no dogs allowed in the deck near the store, no dogs allowed really anywhere other than in the blazing sun and burning gravel.  I was carrying Mason it was so hot.

I had to give up on getting water, it was now about 4 o’clock and the store was closing anyway. We’d have to ration. It must have been 100 deg or more and high altitude, I gave the dogs water but did not give myself any. I plugged in and set up all the sun blocking devices and turned the air on full blast. Mason was looking sickly. All the Lagotti had diarrhea, one of them threw up in the van.  I hefted all the soaking and messy floor covering and bed covering and everything else, rung them out and laid them in the scorching sun to dry. The CO2 monitor on the RV began to go through a series of loud screeching piecing alarms, terrifying the dogs, Jackson ran away and I didn’t know where he’d gone, the others were rolling their eyes and looking like they would puke again. I hauled everything else out of the rear of the RV.  I knew what it was so dug out my mechanic box and was able to locate, release, detach and the cut the wires on the back of the alarm.  Why they are made to do this, who knows? Fortunately Jackson hadn’t gone too far I found him, he was shaking. I got him a ball to play with and started to put the van back together. Mason just sort of collapsed, I wet him down which he hates quickly cooling his body temperature and force fed him what water I had. By this time my heart was struggling with rapid irregular beating, I was lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous and so weak I had to sort of crawl to get back in the van and shut the door with air on full blast. It was only about 10 deg cooler inside than out but the best I could do.

There were packs of happy deer all over the place.

It was hard to get air in my lungs and it hurt. I took off my cold weather clothes, ran the tank water and poured it over myself sipping on what I thought I could spare of the drinkable water for the dogs, I stuck my feet in water, and wrapped a wet rag around my neck and head, my hands were red.  I ate something salty in spite of feeling sick to my stomach. Mason had stared going into labored breathing. I did calming massages on him and applied water esp to his belly, the bottom of his paws, the inside of his ears and again forced him to drink by mixing in some chicken in the water and dripping it into his mouth and on his nose.  I also gave him something for his stomach. I gave all the dogs a treatment. I shut everyone inside and we just sat or laid there until my head stopped spinning. So far everyone was still alive. I fixed up a comfy bed for Mason and then took the others for a potty walk. Then I made very soupy and liquidity rice in the microwave and after the evening began to cool gave everyone a very hydrating dinner with the soggy rice and chicken. Mason ate some as soon as the long dusk arrived the temperature dropped. I had to take back inside all the drying and still soggy rugs and such.  I did the best I could. I put Mason’s jacket on him as now he was cold.

Eventually I took the 3 Lagotti for a fairly long walk. I’d had exactly 0 minutes so far that day to rest. I wasn’t sure if Mason was going to be alive in the morning. He wanted to be alone under the bed so I made him comfortable, his heart beat was back to normal.  In the morning he was weak but he had popped back out and was next to me as I was walking up. I gave everyone a ricey breakfast and took the entire gang for a walk. We walked slow for Mason. I think I slept about 4.5 hours.  It was pretty, scenic and rustic. We saw parades of deer, other campers were scarce likley out on the lake. The heat started early, I searched for a nice place for the Lagotti to swim but eventually gave up when the Ranger told me the place I found was not good due to stagnant water and pointed me in another direction that I was unable to find.

 

It was way too hot to think of spending another day at this location. I needed to find us something cooler and I needed to get drinking water.  The dogs can’t have local water. After a what seemed a very long (but scenic) drive I located a park in a nearby city with lush cool grass and we all walked, the dogs digestion was improving, they all got another pill with breakfast. I was illegally parked but I wasn’t’ bothered.

I went on to Estes Park and to Lake Marys camprground,  Bureau of Reclamation, a little cooler since we were up at over 9,000 feet but so windy I could barely stay on the road. Again it was still early and I landed a nice space with electric, they had several available.  It was available for 2 nights…  I should have taken that as a hint and reserved both nights. Was expensive but available – that was key! The town was super busy, well manged. Traffic moved efficiently including officers helping move everyone through the busier intersections. It was a relief to see the signage easy to understand.

Now this is a dog park! There were two of them, big dog and little dog. Only the big dog one had access to the beach. The little one had canine play equipment so they were both fun.

The camp hosts gave me info for dog friendly locations and we found a great dog park complete with a swimming beach!  All of us were overjoyed!!!! Mason came back to life, the Lagotti went swimming . It was cool and lush and green. We had to leave early as it started to get crowded with other dogs. I went shopping bought food, bottled juices, replaced the spilled water, filled up on gas, I even bought myself a hot dinner.

I left for the National Park before 7 am. the next morning which was my good fortune. Less than a 15 min waiting line to get in. In spite of Mason doing well at the dog park neither he nor I were out of the woods. I’d suffered a heat exhaustion or a partial heat stroke and maybe Mason had too. You have to act quickly, if you do it’s easy to reverse. If this happens to you, don’t wait thinking it will pass. I did not sweat, have any feelings of thirst or have cramps so more likely going into heat stroke; both my skin and Mason’s skin were turning red hot and dry.

 

These are the symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

It’s a Rocky Mountain High in Colorado on US 36

Hidden Valley, Rocky Mountains National Park

 

I did not let Mason out of the van as I climbed the road into the Park. There were already a lot of cars, not quite bumper to bumper but crowded, the line of us dutifully stopping at each viewpoint. It was lovely but I felt a bit like Disneyland with the slowly twisting climbing road, the cars with cheerful people popping out for pictures speaking a multitude of languages with big smiles and pony tails. I did see many dead and dying trees which depressed me deciding I would not head all the way through. Close to the summit I turned around. Almost no traffic going the other way, I took the side-roads and explored, managing to obtain parking at both Sprague Lake and Bear Lake. Truly lovely but I could not have my dogs as company, they are not allowed on any path or trail. There are tour buses and shuttle buses dropping off tons of people!

Bear Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

As I was leaving the lakes I notice a police / ranger blockade, the road was being closed due to overwhelming traffic congestion, even the shuttle parking lot was filled. As I left the Park the line to get in had gown to several miles!!!!

I would have loved to return to the fun dog park and then to my campsite but that area was now full. I headed down the scenic Hwy 7, little traffic until you get to the lake parking which is beyond jammed as is each and every wilderness campsite packed! crammed! even the muddy soaked sites are occupied. The Colorado people really enjoy being outdoors, which is great except there’s not enough space. I spent the rest of that day driving and driving, each and every campsite no matter where I went was filled. I drove through Boulder for a quick tour finding I could not stop downtown due to very confusing parking restrictions.  I couldn’t understand them and was not going to leave my dogs parked at a distance in the full sun in any case.

South east of Boulder I found a delightful camping area filled with petting animals, a heard of goats, glorious trails and water but completely filled. They were kind and tired their best to help me locate something anything in the region. Everyplace was filled. I hunted and hunted and drove and drove and drove as it got later and later and me more and more exhausted. It was simply too hot to just stop and face the weather. Way too hot. I longed for Wyoming and Montana but up there were fierce floods and to the South fires had sprung up forcing evacuations.

Dog walking area, across the road is the RV camp. It was hot and full 😦

Golden, CO

I spent my first night illegally camped and worrying all night long.  Every legal spot in the entire county was filled, A kind fellow owning a campground gave me advice on where to spend the night; he said ‘I didn’t hear it from him’ so I won’t repeat it but it worked. I was so nervous I never undressed.  I knew what to say, I was too tired to drive which was so true.  By law you must be allowed to sleep. No one disturbed me, it cooled off enough to be comfortable with just the fantastic fan running. I woke before 5 am and took off for a local park to walk and feed the dogs, eventually I had something to eat myself. By then I’d found a big parking area for a recreational space that quickly filled with joggers and walkers.  If I’d felt better about all this I might have tried again to get into a legal spot where I could get power for the air-conditioning and maybe shade in the City of Golden which I loved no matter being overpriced, and hung out with my feet in the river and had some well needed relaxation but I didn’t, I moved on. My brain and my body were exhausted, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was afraid to wait until the heat intensified and find no availability. I felt ashamed of my free night which was really silly, as if I’d stolen it. My mantra that day was that we were all alive. esp Mason.

Look at those faces. Downtown Golden CO

 

Much later I discovered the problem with Boyd Lake.  I might have done okay there for one night but it’s more an activities park than what I thought of as a State Park. They offer boating, fishing, 148 gravel camping sites, swimming, hiking, biking and hunting with motorboats, jet skies, fishing boats, sailboats being the main draw on a reservoir.  It likely was a zoo in there. Hunting and killing small game and waterfowl with bow and arrow as well as other weapons / firearms too. Sigh, don’t know why killing natures creatures is so fun it’s a big draw sport. In Colorado you can kill mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, black bears, pronghorn antelopes, elk, moose, coyote, bobcats, red, gray and swift fox, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mountain lions, beavers, raccoons, skunks, muskrats, ground squirrels, snapping turtles, cottontail rabbits, marmots, tree squirrels, opossum, voles, rats, porcupines, rattlesnakes, bats, salamanders, prairie dogs and all manner of birds including crows, magpies, starlings, sparrows, pigeons, doves, ring neck pheasants, blue, sage and sharp tailed grouse, prairie chicken, Bobwhite quail, Gambel’s quail, chukar and so on.

 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Lake Estes Dog Park, Estes Park, Colorado

 

Since 1911 “The Historic Virginian Hotel” has been the “gathering place” in southern Wyoming for over 100 years.  Set in Medicine Bow, Wyoming it was the biggest hotel between Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah and is registered a National Historic Landmark.

 

If you should get out to the little town of Medicine Bow be sure and see the Haunted Virginian Hotel and across the street, Medicine Bow Museum  I enjoyed the great collection around the railroad, Native Americans, ranching, homesteading, the US mail route, telegraphs, domestic inventions, working equipment, transportation, arts and crafts and the Virginian. Nostalgic, for those of us old enough and interesting. The River here was good medicine to the Plains Indians.

Found this cute photo on the wall in the bathroom.

 

Saw an entire top of a pickup truck, and still in one piece, flopped over in the roadway, some guys in their white truck coming to get it. Pays to keep your eyes active and not drive too fast. People sometimes tell me stories, heard about dogs, children, husbands, grandchildren and women, cats, mice, those wanting to retire. Guys with lots of tattoos, boots and cigarettes. Hate when the coffee I get doesn’t have enough caffeine in it but of course too much gives me the jitters.

Laramie on quick tour seemed to have a lot of bars, think there’s a lot of churches too.  Summer and Winter are the only seasons and Winter is long and the wind is strong. I Imagine though that they do have Fall and it’s likely beautiful. Wyoming is a Conservative state but these college towns are a mix. I didn’t find an easy or available spot for the night so another 45 minutes to Cheyenne. Lots of no vacancies even in the national forest land.

I did stay in Cheyenne, my protector Mom helped me out and continued to when I was stuck. And I got stuck plenty. I could swear I’ve been to this Park before, I remember the BBQ chicken and how the last time I was there (or I thought I was there) they also did not have any. The chicken needs to be watched and only one of their staff people apparently is able to do that and he’s not always working. Oh, the chicken BBQ is their most asked for meal but they don’t make enough and/or don’t make any. Weird, I was not happy as it’s a main draw for their campsite…  dinner!!!! I had to make do with being creative.

My passing image of Cheyenne were these boots everywhere and the pretty red brick architecture. The Wrangler Store and the Depot Museum were not open when I passed through. I did land a coffee and a bit of “comfort food” for breakfast.

Think they should call ’em horse-boys instead of cow-boys and girls! Don’t see too many real horses but I drive past enormous ranch lands.

 

Wyoming land of open skies, dramatic weather, wildlife, romances, shoot-outs, haunted relics, long winters and hardy active people, spectacular natural elements and scenery, where cowboys still roam and horses still buck. I did not stay nearly long enough in Montana and Wyoming. Go earlier or later than I did or make pre-reservations; it’s also full of tourists. I don’t like to reserve ahead as I never know which way I want to go until I get there….  and then there’s Mother Nature in a huff doing some rapid alterations all over the globe.

Missed posting this one from Big Horn National Forest:

Can you imagine a wagon train at about 2 miles per hour and walking across an unknown land. If you’re lucky 5 or 6 months or so more likely a year or two or never. So many did not make it.

Can you imagine the excitement of the first cross continental train? And flying? Taking a ship from New York to California was another option.

National Historic Trails, Casper Always Free. Fun place to explore with guided tours, information, art and interactive displays including a trip across the treacherous river by ox pulled wagon.

Advertisement For Rufus Porter’s Aerial Transport New York To California In Three Days – 1849

“Porter’s interest in aerial navigation dates from sometime around the 1820’s, when he began to ponder the design requirements for an aerial ship. His booklet “AERIAL NAVIGATION – The Practicability Of Traveling Pleasantly And Safely From New-York To California In Three Days,” published in 1849, set out his design in considerable detail. His AERIAL LOCOMOTIVE, with a hydrogen-filled compartmented gas “spindle” 800 feet in length and 50 feet in diameter, was to carry between 50 and 100 people at a speed of 60 to 100 m.p.h. The great machine was to be remain aloft for 12 hours at a time, propelled by two steam engines driving two “fan wheels or propellers” each of which would be 20 feet in diameter and revolve at 200 r.p.m. He estimated that the machine would weigh a total of some 14,000 pounds and would generate a total buoyant lift of 56,000 pounds, leaving 42,000 pounds for 200 passengers and luggage. Passengers were to be assured that they were in little danger, and each was to be provided with a parachute to further allay any fears. The gas-filled spindle would be constructed of a spruce framework covered with cloth and coated with “India rubber.” Porter believed that by revolving the spindle the resistance of the spindle through air would be reduced markedly; he thus termed his gas-filled spindle a “revoloidal spindle.””  

The Perfect Road! Gas is cheap and the roads are long. When you come over the ridge the road disappears and you just see clouds, you can jump into the clouds and fly.

All those masses rushing to be in the same place at the same time and out here there is such amazing space. With my trusty LTV nothing is impossible. Remember to gas up before heading out on these roads, no services and often no cell signal. The thunder clouds would form and dissipate, then reappear making shadows on the ground to drive though like secrete gateways.