It’s a Blur

Alliance, Nebraska. Cloudy and sputtering rain and wind and temperatures changing every few minutes.

Bear Lake Park last day 001Usually, when rv-ing somewhere, I have maps and photos to help me keep track of where I have been and where I am going.   I write leisurely stories with pretty pictures that remind me of our tours and travels and have fun doing it.  At the moment, at the Sunset Motel and RV Park in Alliance, Nebraska, the last four days are just one big happy blur. 

Day 7 (23)We were camping in one spot, driving nowhere in the MoHo, and five rigs and several tents filled up the group site at Bear Lake Regional Park near Morrison, Colorado, within site of just the tips of the red rocks of Red Rocks Amphitheater.  I took literally hundreds of photos, mostly of family, and many duplicates of group shots trying to get all those faces turned toward me and everyone’s eyes actually open.  I have managed to keep up with photo processing, but I have a feeling that the Verizon signal in this remote little Nebraska town isn’t exactly photo friendly.

Colorado to Nebraska (7)I did think it might be nice to throw in an update for friends checking in, so here it is, sans photos.  We are fine.  We had breakfasts, and dinners out, and bike rides and some kayaking, and walking and laughing but no campfires.  In spite of that, we managed S’mores over the bbq grill for some city kids who experienced them for the first time. 

Today as we left Colorado, I stopped in Sterling to see my grandson, married there just last September.  Our big group has dropped to just two rigs, with Roger and Nancy parked beside us and ready for our travels to South Dakota tomorrow.  I’ll try for some photos, but in case it doesn’t work, at least you know we are no longer out of touch. There will always be time later to catch up and write about  everything in more detail

Map Rock Springs to Alliance Nebraska

October Heaven

Home on a quiet Saturday afternoonAs much as I love the delight of Spring, I don’t think there is any time of year in Rocky Point more beautiful than early fall.  Our springs can be wet and cold, and when they warm a bit, the mosquitoes tend to visit.  Mosquitoes bring bats of course, a good thing, except a bit the lawns are still nice and green in the morning lightunnerving when they swoop down from the eaves while we are in the hot tub.  As summer progresses, the frogs proliferate like the proverbial rabbits, tiny little green guys lining up on door sills, and sometimes sneaking into the hot tub for one last too warm swim.

When October comes, however, all is still.  The leaves haven’t yet turned, flowers still in bloom, mosquitoes have gone to sleep and frogs are thinning out.  Morning sunlight filters through the trees lighting up the now lush grass. It takes much of a summer for Mo to get that grass as thick and lush as she likes, with careful attention to dry spots, brown spots, moss, and edges.  She is the lawn person, and am mostly the flower person.  It works well.

I wait very impatiently for October 1st, refusing to put up any kind of fall or Hawedding_190lloween decorating before then.  Then down come the bins, out comes all the fun stuff, the fall harvest flags go up, and we start building morning and sometimes evening fires.  I love the smell of the juniper when it catches, and the feel of that warm glow.  Jeremy loves it as well, lounging in front of the flames stretched to his full length to absorb all the warmth.  The knitting comes out, wedding_310homemade stock for soup on the stove, and the evenings are dark before 7.

Of course before this auspicious day, I had many things to do to fill up the last great week of September.  My grandson, first daughter Deborah’s son Matthew, got married last weekend and I was able to fly to Colorado to share in the wedding.  It was a lovely occasion, held at the only golf course in Sterling, with a sweet ceremony and a sit down supper and dancing afterward. Jessi’s family all live in Colorado, but our family is a bit more scattered and all weren’t able to be there.  As always, weddings are such emotional times, with moments of gaiety and moments of nostalgia all wrapped up together in the tradition.

Sue and Deborah at Edna's for lunchDeb and I had a day long layover in Denver and decided to spent it with Mo’s sister Edna.  We visited at home with a chance to once again have lunch with dear Lucille, now 103 years old.

Lucille comes to lunch in the dining roomThen Edna, Deb and I checked out the Bear Creek Regional Park, a lovely campground not far from Edna’s home where she is planning a big family reunion next summer.  It looks like it will be a perfect spot as long as Colorado doesn’t hit all of us with really hot summer temperatures.  There are miles of biking and hiking trails, some shady escapes from the heat, although not actually in the campground itself.  There is a swimming beach, and three reservoirs for kayaking and dog swimming.  The group site holds 5 rigs with electric hookups and room for tents as well for only $70 per night for all. In addition, for family without RV’s there are two very lovely comfortable yurts, one in beautiful shade. 

Denver (127)After exploring the park, the three of us drove 15 minutes farther east to Morrison and the southern entrance to Red Rocks Amphitheater.  It was Deb’s first time to see the historic venue and she was enthralled. As a lover of music, Deb at Red Rocksshe really enjoyed all the posters and history of so many great artists who have played there in the past. We enjoyed the gorgeous view of Denver from high above the stage, and especially enjoyed reading about the history of Red Rocks.  Again, this is a place that would not exist without the efforts of FDR and the CCC who built the amphitheater around the existing natural stage of red rock.  In the early teens, musicians would play there and the visitor center has some truly great photos of those old performances. The geology of the place is magnificent, with the great unconformity of the Rocky Mountains in full view here below Dinosaur Ridge. As a lover of the wild red sandstones of Utah, I thrilled at the color and beauty of this place carved from the same stuff.

Our flight back to Portland was uneventful, even though we arrived close to midnight and Deborah had to work the next day.  I drove south on the 5, thinking of Russ and Donna, but they were off somewhere else having a wonderful time in Therapy so I didn’t stop in Eugene.

crystal clear water on Harriman CreekThen Tuesday morning Mo’s brother Roger and his wife Nancy came down from Lone Pine to share a few days with us at Rocky Point.  They just bought a brand new motorhome, a 2012 Winnebago Aspect, 28 feet, with a full down queen sized bed, something I do envy! They decided to leave it behind and take advantage of our little cabin instead.  The cabin is really comfortable, with cozy furniture, lots of farm and ranch antiques about, a very good little wood stove, hot water showers, and a composting toilet. My favorite part of the cabin is the light, huge windows on the east bringing in morning sunlight in a way I don’t get here in the main house.  It’s lovely, and it’s always nice when folks choose to stay in the cabin.

visit_35We spent one day kayaking Recreation Creek, and the next day paddled south into Harriman Creek to the springs and back.  It was perfect weather for being out in the boats and we had a great time. 

Thunderbolt CaveAfter our morning kayak on Thursday, we all decided that a trip to Lava Beds National Monument was in order.  Time for a bit of caving!  I was game, although going down into caves isn’t particularly on my list of important life events.  Even in Carlsbad Caverns I didn’t feel particularly comfortable.  I was awed by the beauty and the formations, but still just didn’t want to be down there.  Caves are a place for unearthly beings.  Spirits and ghosts and who knows what.  Bats and white crawly things and dampness.  Ugh.  Oh, right, I am a scientist, who supposedly doesn’t believe in spirits and ghosts.  Ask me again when I am in a cave sometime, which won’t be in the near future!

visit_107Still it was a fun trip.  Lava Beds is a quiet park, in the middle of almost nowhere beyond the Lower Klamath and Tulelake Wildlife Refuges and resting below our favorite Mountain Lake Highlands from which it emerged.  Lava has flowed here for thousands of years, last time was less than 800 years ago, so the area is fresh and hot with jagged a’a lava.  There are many lava caves, some as yet little explored, and only one that has light.  We chose instead to follow the cave loop and see how many caves we could see in the time we had left on this afternoon.

visit_102After checking for our possibility of carrying bat disease, the ranger gave us a brochure that listed all the caves, with check marks for “can walk upright” “Must duck walk in some part” “Must crawl in some part” and the length of the cave.  We started with Thunderbolt, and the very scary, very uneven trail descended some steep steps before crawling off into blackness and low hanging rock guaranteed to give you a serious head bump if you stood up too quickly. Deep into the tunnel, we did the thing all cave tours do and turned off our flashlights.  That lasted just a few seconds before we all creeped out and turned our lights back on!

visit_103The next few caves that we explored weren’t quite as deep and black, but I still wasn’t exactly having fun and was glad when we emerged from the last cave of the day. Even with my heebie jeebies, it was still fun to go exploring and a great thing to do with company who have never been to Lava Beds.  I guess if I have company again who want to see the park, I will have to go down in the caves once more.  Ugh. We topped off our visit with a trip up to Lake of the Woods for a great dinner before the restaurant closes for the season.

I love having company, and I love when I have no company.  Quiet days with a bit of gardening, some knitting, catching up on the DVR recordings, no deadlines, nowhere to be.  Next week will be full again, I will work another 40 hours and hopefully the guys staining the house will eventually complete the prep and get to the actual staining!  Toward the end of the week, another round of excitement will come to Rocky Point with a visit from Laurie and Odel!  Yippee and Hooray!  We are really hoping for a few more perfect kayak days to take them out on the creek, for what I think will be their first time kayaking. 

September 25 The rest of the Rockies

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here

Rockies to Utah (54) Today lived up to my expectations of what the Colorado Rockies would be.  I spent much of the time wondering if I couldn’t breathe because we were at 10,000 feet or because the views were just so breathtaking.  Again, we spontaneously rerouted and after visiting Ouray decided to go south to Telluride and then take the San Juan Scenic highway south to Dolores and into Utah at Monticello.

What a great choice.  Mo had camped in Ouray in the late 60’s and we stopped and walked through town to see if we could find the campground where she stayed.  No luck on the old campground, but the town was delightful, with galleries and shops filled with truly amazing art and some very expensive wonders. 

TRockies to Utah (74)he aspens lit the mountains like yellow flame, accented perfectly by the dark green spruce.  I took a ridiculous number of photos, and with a small point and shoot with a normal lens it is impossible to capture that light and those vistas.  Of course, I tried, and my photos will help me remember what it felt like to be in this part of the Rockies. 

After Telluride, and the last pass, the road followed the Dolores River, and within a very short distance we were over the mountains and on the Colorado Plateau, approaching Monticello from the east.  I knew of a small RV park in Blanding, a simple overnight stop when necessary, so we though maybe that would do if the state parks were full.

Just beyond Monticello however, on highway 191, Mo caught a sign on the west side of the road for the Devils Canyon Forest Service camp and the road even looked paved.  It took a mile or two to turn around, but it was worth it.  This campground has 42 sites, all spaced well, with campfire rings and water available.  After cruising the nearly empty campground, we settled on a pull through spot, and paid our five dollar fee for another night of dry camping. 

Rockies to Utah (98) We walked a couple of miles through the rest of the campground before settling in to supper and a quiet evening.  One more walk around the loop took us past an RV all set up with  a solar oven, TV antennas, satellite dish, the works.  I saw a woman at the window and asked if she was getting TV.  She laughed, and said, “No, I just saw all the other people had theirs up so thought I would try it”.  We laughed too, saying that is exactly what we had done!

Kate was friendly and fun, and jumped right out of her motorhome to come and share with us all sorts of information, including her great solar oven, some nice small lightweight chairs she got from WalMart, and her blog,  Being a full timer, she knew all the full time bloggers, and we laughed about what a small world it is.  Made for a fun evening.

Rockies to Utah (99)


September 24 Over the Rockies

Chatfield to Gunnison (9) We headed west over the Rockies today, no more agenda, no more visiting or guests, just homeward bound.  Of course, between here and home lie the red canyons of Capitol Reef, my heart home and sweet spot on the planet.  Before we slip into canyon country, however, I thought it might be fun to wander west via a different route than the fast, winding interstate across the mountains out of Denver.

We chose Highway 285 south from Littleton, across Kenosha Pass, famous for its mountain bike trails, turning west on US 50, the road that crosses the US from coast to coast.  Another climb, Monarch Pass, looked challenging on the map.  How in the world do we haul the baby car over 11.300 feet?! The best part of the day was going to be the ability to drive as long as we felt like it, and then stop wherever we wanted to stop.

Chatfield to Gunnison (31) The passes were a piece of cake, really, most of the way had two lanes and the steepest grade was maybe 6 percent.  The MoHo has an automatic transmission downshift, so that  makes the downhill sides of the passes easy and safe as well, even though we don’t have any extra brakes on the car.  The aspens are turning at the higher elevations, and the colors were backlit by the afternoon sun.

The only problem with this plan is that it all went by much too quickly.  We saw two forest service campgrounds on highway 50, just before 1pm, and thought it was way too early to stop.  Once over Monarch Pass, however, the west slope of the Rockies opens up into big wide ranching country, and by the time we found a place to stop around 3, the landscape was as barren as any we have seen in Nevada.

Chatfield to Gunnison (20) Don’t get me wrong, I love the desert.  Rabbitbrush and sage are familiar to me and camping in the wide open spaces is something we actually seek.  But on this day, somehow, I thought I would be camping in the Colorado Rockies, among spruce and aspen.  Instead I am at the Stevens Creek BLM campground on a reservoir of the Arkansas River, surrounded by sage and silence.  The skies are clear, and at 7600 feet, I am sure the stars will be breathtaking. 

Not far north is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a dramatic National Park, and yet the drive there looks tortuous and we have decided to continue west on 50 tomorrow morning and camp tomorrow night in Canyonlands, at the Island in the Sky, at Horse Thief BLM campground.  Canyon country calls, red canyons, not black ones, and I am a bit like a horse heading for the barn.

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>

September 21 The Santa Fe Trail to Las Animas, CO

The rest of the photos for today are linked here>

Dodge to JohnMartin (12) I saw a different picture of the west today, and now I have added William Bent to my list of western heroes. I learned about his life and his story today as we toured Bent’s Old Fort this afternoon. This morning as we continued west from Kansas into Colorado, I kept seeing signs for the “Santa Fe Trail”. What we hadn’t known before is that we were traveling along the route, now an official National Historic Trail administered by the National Park Service, with a history that predates Coronado’s historic search for the Cities of Gold in 1540.

Dodge to JohnMartin (5) In the small town of Lamar, Colorado, we stopped at the excellent Colorado Visitor Center to get information on the trail, the history, and the towns along the way.  Once again, the visitor center was staffed with a great volunteer, who gave me all sorts of brochures about the Trail, and suggestions of what would be the best way to spend our time today.  In addition, with the simple exchange of my email address to the state of Colorado, I became the proud owner of a “colorful Colorado” baseball cap.  I know, I know, but I can always delete the email when it comes in, telling me all the great things about visiting Colorado.

Dodge to JohnMartin (39) Our campsite destination was another state park, the John Martin Reservoir SP, built by the Corps of Engineers in conjunction with the dam, but now operated by the state.  We drove in to an almost completely empty, very large and open campground, situated below the dam among huge old cottonwoods and locust trees, with half a football field between sites along the small overflow lake. Electric, but no water or sewer, but a dump station and a threaded water spigot nearby made it just fine.  We settled Abby into her crate, safe in the MoHo with the air conditioner going and set out to explore.

Just 30 miles to the west was the site of Old Bent’s Fort, the highlight of the day.  Dodge to JohnMartin (28)The actual fort burned down in 1849, was carefully excavated and reconstructed  by the National Park Service in  1976 based on original drawings, historical accounts, and archeological evidence and is a faithful reproduction. The fort sits alone on a terrace above the Arkansas River, surrounded by natural grasslands and wetlands, and framed by the winding course of the cottonwoods along the river.  It feels silent, and as we walked from the parking lot on the 1/4 mile trail to the fort, I felt as if I had stepped back in time. This spot was a significant center of fur trade in the 1840’s on the Santa Fe Trail, influencing economies around the world. It was a trade fort, not an army fort, and William Bent married a Cheyenne woman and was considered part of the tribe. 

Dodge to JohnMartin (20)The fort in 1840 was constructed with adobe bricks, when William Bent brought in 150 Mexican workers because he so admired the adobe buildings he had seen in the Mexican Territories.  The reconstruction in 1976 was built exactly the same way. We walked through the fort gates into the dusty courtyard, surrounded with rooms cooled by the thick adobe walls.  It was quiet except for a very few visitors.  I felt the era so thoroughly in this place, it was an amazing experience.  The National Park Service is to be commended for this treasure.

DSCN4228 After our visit, we continued to the town of La Junta, also on the trail, and then home through Las Animas to our campsite on the lake. Our travel time was short enough that even after our road tour, we had time to unload the kayaks for a spin on the lake.  There were white pelicans, reminding me of home, and at least ten blue herons on the shoreline as we paddled by.  The moon was rising, nearly full, in the early evening sunset, and the breeze was just enough to keep us refreshed.  Perfect way to end a perfect travel day.