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

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