Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Fall in the Rockies

Our Autumn tour of Colorado continuing...
on Monday Sept 21 we are located at the Prospector Campground,
one of many National Forest Campgrounds scattered around the shore of Lake Dillon.

A view of Lake Dillon

Morning outside

While here we planned a day trip into Denver (about 70 mi each way)
We took the more scenic route over Loveland Pass on old US6
Loveland Pass

Our trip into Denver was made to fetch some bottles out of the wine storage.

It's always a bit of memory lane to come here.   
In the 80's  I worked for a glass company that was located
just a few blocks down from here.

A few of the bottles.

Wine onboard, we began our journey back to Dillon.
We were shanghaied on Federal Blvd  when the sign below caught my eye.
Being lunchtime we hit the brakes!
Grandpa's was worth the stop.

We went in search of some Breckenridge color on Boreas Pass Rd.
Mid-week, the road was so crowded that we lost interest and turned around
in search of more secluded locations.

Boreas Pass Rd

On Thursday the 24th we were now headed to the Gunnison area.
Over Fremont pass - a gentle pass and alternative to Hoosier Pass to the east.

Fremont Pass

Into Leadville where the headwaters of the Arkansas River
begin their long journey to the Mississippi.

At Buena Vista we head west on County Rd 306 towards Cottonwood Pass.
Now, freshly paved on both sides, it is the highest paved crossing 
of the Continental Divide in the US.
Cottonwood Pass Rd east side

Until last year - the west side was unpaved.
A 2 year project paved both sides as well as upgrade and straighten the road.
Approaching the top at 12,119

At the top you get a magnificent view of Taylor Park, thousands of feet
below on the west side of the pass.
You now descend westbound and the road becomes county road 209

Unfortunately my photo is a bit blurry.

Both sides have numerous switchbacks and grades in excess of 10%

Finally down into Taylor Park, we pass by the reservoir
and turn south east on county road 742.

We continue our descent down Taylor River Canyon.
There are almost a dozen NF Campgrounds along this stretch of road.
County Rd 742 Taylor River Canyon

We pick up US 50 at Gunnison.
US 50/Monarch Pass would be the more sane alternative to Cottonwood Pass.

Heading west about 12 past Gunnison we arrive at our home for the next 5 nights.
Elk Creek Campground in the Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Elk Creek Campground

Our view at Elk Creek

I did a bit of research and found what I thought would be a good day trip in search
of some fall color in the Aspen Groves.

Forest Road 724 turned out to be one heck of a nice day!

Vibrant colors against the deep blue sky.

I love the Aspen Groves on a sunny fall day.

We found a great boondocking spot with a killer view.
Just not for a PartyBus.
A smaller trailer, or motor vehicle would work fine.

An orange Apen Grove

Another boondocking spot.

But down a skinny road...
Which is not PB friendly.

Soon it was time to head back down into the valley 2,500' below.

On Tuesday the 29th we headed southwest towards the San Juan Mountains of
southwestern Colorado.
Passing Ridgeway State Park, the reservoir was dry where we could see it.

We arrived at the Priest Gulch Campground on CO 145 south of Rico.
2 nights with FHU allowed us to do some laundry etc.

Its a nice place along the Delores River.
I booked last minute so I did not have one of those sites on the water but we still enjoyed our stay.

Colors in this part of the state were just amazing, so we took a drive back up towards
Telluride to take it in without the PB.

The yellow brick road

Looking up the valley towards Telluride

CO 145 between Rico and Telluride

NW of telluride is the Woods Lake NF Campground.

A beautiful spot to spend a delightful fall day!

While we were there it turned out that of all things....
They were using a helicopter to film footage for a Disney Park Ride.
Down the helicopter would swoop, pulling up just before the water, and rising up
the mountain slope beyond, barely above tree top level.

While intersting to watch - it did detract from what would have been beautiful
(and peaceful) surroundings.

Onward we roamed...  in search of the Yellow Brick Road

After a day filled with oh's and ah's - we headed back past Telluride

Thursday October 1st.
At first light, about 0630, we were wheels up headed to Flagstaff, Az.
About a 5 hr drive, we wanted to get to the Bonito Campground while we knew there would
be some decent sites still available.

Leaving the mountains and forests behind, we head across some sagebrush country.
US160 near 4 corners

Eventually to the red cliffs south of Monument Valley

And a slice of the Painted Desert

Soon we are climbing into the pines at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks
near Flagstaff.    Our home for the next ??days.
Now that we are less than a days drive from the barn - how long will I be able
to keep Kate from being drawn la casa?

A herd of Antelope graze at the campground in the am.

Well the how many days will we stay in Flagstaff question has been answered....
3 nights.

Thurs - Sat nights were spent at Bonito and Sunday morning with the sun, we headed south
to The Old Pueblo and I finish this post from home.

Here is a map of the past 2 months.

Time to start planning.....  


Monday, September 21, 2020

Colorado Part 1

Cool days and cooler nights!
Fall in Colorado is a special time!

After leaving the J Robb State Park in Western Colorado, 
we've just completed our 6 night stay at the Redstone NF Campground on the
Crystal River south of Carbondale.

Redstone has 3 loops.   2 with electric sites, and one (where we were) with no hookups.

We also were in an area with no internet or cell service so we have not been able to reply to all of you who left us messages on our last post.    We do want to say its nice to hear from you all and are glad that you are enjoying the ride along with us.

I've included a trip map below that will relate to the places we visited since our last post.

The red line above shows our Kebler Pass/Crested Butte excursions.

Arriving at Redstone, the fall colors were starting to grow in earnest and the yellow
of the Aspens blended nicely with the red cliffs which surrounded our new home.

Our stay was planned so that we could meet up with my good friend Frank from Denver.
Frank and I go back about 40 years to our days welding for Public Service Elec & Gas Co
of NJ in a Generating Station.

Frank is a special friend.  One of kind.

All my bumps and bruises over the years - it was always Frank looking down at me
when I woke up in the hospital - a smile on his face while shaking his head and
asking "what did you do to yourself this time?"

The one constant with Frank is his never ending smile.

Frank with his new r-pod

We took a day trip with Frank up onto Kebler Pass.

The 30 mile dirt road is also known as Gunnison County Route 12.    It runs between  Colorado Route 133 and Crested Butte, crossing Kebler Pass a shade over 10,000'

A scenic ride for sure with more changing Aspen.

Beautiful Aspens along Kebler Pass Rd

We found a nice potential boondocking spot along a stream and decided to have a picnic
there before heading back to camp.

A boondocking lunch spot

Just a few miles from Lost Lake - we took the forest road up for a visit.

Lost Lake Colorado

Frank was visiting us for 3 of our 6 night stay - and in no time at all, the 3 days had passed and
we said goodbye.

Frank heads home

Kate and I went back to the Kebler Pass Road as there were a number of potential boondocking locations that I had scouted out before we left Az, and I wanted to check them out in person.
Besides - the leaves were continuing to change and the views were the best!

More Aspens on Kebler Pass

A boondocking spot with great views about midway across the pass

Starting down the east side of the pass towards Crested Butte.

We took another side trip up to Irwin Lake about 2 miles north of Rd 12

Irwin Lake

Finally down into Crested Butte - we decided to leave our explorations of town for later when we'll be back in the vicinity as there were a few more boondocking spots that I wanted to check out.

A word about the Apens...

Aspens start from a single seedling and then shoot out rhizomes underground
from which new trees grow up out of the ground.
You will normally see Aspen growing in a grove and often the trees in that grove are really one single
living organism.

Aspen turn yellow in fall, but some turn gold and some orange.
All of the trees in the single root system will all be the same color as they share the same DNA

The individual trees can live up to about 150 years, but the root systems live much longer and 
a stand of Aspen in Utah is growing from an underground root system estimated to be
80,000 years old.

The largest living organism on earth is  that same stand of Aspen and another one in contention
for that crown is right along the Kebler Pass Rd.

Aspens outside of Crested Butte, Colorado

Spending time in an Aspen Grove on a clear blue sky Colorado day is a special treat.
The gentle breeze shakes and shimmers the sunlit golden dollar like leaves.

In my next post I hope to post a good video of this if I can get the right shot.

Meanwhile - back to this post - we were in Crested Butte and headed out 
to Washington Gulch for some boondocking site reconnaissance.

Taking Co Rd 811 out of CB it quickly turns to well graded dirt and only about 5 miles further you come to several areas suitable for dry camping.

Washington Gulch upper boondocking area

Good Cell Service and Great Views!
I had hoped that not many people knew about it but this is not the Colorado of my youth.
Way more people live in the state these days.

There were perhaps 20 or 30 rigs scattered about the area.

Views in every direction.

We eventually made a U-turn and headed back 2 hrs to our camp.
We had hungry Doodles at home and we better not be late!

Some fall color just before we met back with Colorado 133

Another side trip was to Aspen Colorado.
I've been many times but wanted to show Kate.

What amazed me when we passed by the Municipal Airport was the sheer number of private jets on the airport tarmac.    I estimated it to be well over 100!

For about 3/4 of a mile as we passed the airport, rows upon rows of large private jets!

Being a pilot - we had to stop so I could take a better look and the air hung heavy with the sweet smell of Jet-A exhaust.

There was even a line of planes waiting to take off.

Billionaires heading home from Aspen

When I lived in Colorado - I was a partner in a Piper Turbo Arrow (N8232L) which I used to fly up
to Aspen on a regular basis.     
Often, some bigwig would have arrived prior to me and had laid out a catered spread for his arriving guests at the General Aviation Terminal.

Once they were gone - the massive spread of leftovers were fair game - and I would fly up,  get a great meal for free, then fly home.

A photo of me flying Arrow N8232L over the Colorado Prairie

Aspen Airport is a fun - if challenging airport to fly into.
Surrounded on 3 sides by 14,000' peaks - it lies in a dead end valley.
You must land in one direction on the single runway, and then take off in the opposite direction as the mountains at the end of the runway are too high to clear.

Coming in from the east I would clear the 14,000' ridge by about 1,500' and then extend landing gear and full flaps while pointing the nose steeply down towards the earth in order to descend into the valley near the airport.

It was fun.

Aspen was crowed on Saturday and since we did not want to mask up to walk the crowded streets, 
I gave Kate a driving tour instead.

Downtown along the slopes

One of the many ski hills rising up from downtown.

Your typical "Deli"   Sandwiches and Caviar.

A nice park along Main St.

We curved off Main St into some of the residential areas.
Here are some of the homes of the "lesser billionaires"

I'm sure the ones with the Private Jets at the airport are living in gated and guarded communities where the likes of me wouldn't even know existed.

Sunday we hung close to home and I watched my Broncos get spanked by Pittsburgh and drop to 0-2
What has happened to my Denver Broncos?

The view out the front of the bus has grown decidedly more Fall-like over the past 6 days.

A view of our campsite from the hill behind.

This morning we were wheels up about 0900 and headed north on Co-133 towards 
Glenwood Springs and then east on I-70

I-70 is an engineering marvel as it passes thru Glenwood Canyon.
It is also normally a beautiful drive thru the canyon.

The problem this trip is that a wildfire was burning here just a couple of weeks ago and the highway had been closed for several weeks.   
The rain and snow a week ago finally put it out just in time for our visit.

Now open - it is down to 1 lane each direction while they work on assessing the fire damage to the upper roadway.

Below the fire actually jumped the interstate - and the Colorado River - to the opposite shore.

Further east - out of the burn zone - we go back to a regular 4 lane interstate.
You can see the westbound lanes above us.

The canyon returns to a more normal unburned look.

About 45 miles after leaving Glenwood Canyon, we pass thru Vail and 
then begin the climb to just under 11,000' on Vail Pass.

The colors of the low ground cover in the high country was quite beautiful.

Heading down the east side Vail Pass we pass Copper Mountain Ski Area, then enter the basin
between Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel on the Continental Divide.

Our destination for 3 nights is the Prospector NF Campground above Lake Dillon.
Nestled between Vail Pass and the Continental Divide our camp sits at 9,100'

From here we plan to make a day run into Denver tomorrow,
(about 90 min each way) to grab some fine bottles of wine out of my wine storage locker.

These are my old stomping (and skiing) grounds, so we'll also
 tour some of the local sites such as Breckenridge and Loveland Pass before moving on.

Prospector campground site #70

The view from near our Campground of Lake Dillon

After our 3 days here - we'll be heading west and south to another NF Campground for 6 nights 
(exact location to be decided) somewhere in the Gunnison/Taylor River area.

We'll cover our stay here and travels down the road next time....

Bye for now.