The End of the Season

30 10 2020

On the 24th of October we enjoyed a balmy 71 degrees in Southern Colorado  .  However, nights have been chilly (mid 20’s) and the forecast is for lows in the single digits over the next few nights.  Unfortunately that means it’s time to get the winterization tasks complete.

First Snow on the Spanish Peaks

To say the least, it’s been an interesting year!  Starting out in early February we enjoyed what appeared to a “normal” Spring Road Trip.  Little did we know that Covid was on it’s way to the US.  By the time we departed Arizona in mid-March everything had changed.  We were figuring out how to fold no-sew masks, mix sanitizing solutions and make due without products from bare grocery store shelves.  We feel very fortunate to have the ability to travel and spend time in the RV.  With the exception of the year we were living in the RV full time, we set a record number of nights: 181!

Again this year we visited favorite places across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  In Southern Colorado we found new favorites in Alamosa, along the Rio Grande in Creed and Del Norte, near Blue Mesa reservoir and all the way over to the Four Corners area in Dolores.

Apishapa Arch, Cordova Pass, Spanish Peaks

Current plans include a mid-January departure for Arizona, this time starting out in Yuma before moving back to the Phoenix area.  More from Arizona…





A Southern Colorado Loop

27 09 2020

Gunnison Pioneer Museum

We’re off to some of our favorite campgrounds in southern Colorado, starting with the Gunnison KOA.  This KOA is participating in the VKR Appreciation Weekend allowing Value Kard Members to book Friday, September 18th at regular rate and get Saturday, September 19th for free.

We’ve visited this KOA before: Gunnison KOA, August, 2019  This trip we’re parked in site #16 which is a standard back-in site on the western edge of the park.  During this visit we learned that odd numbered sites are pull-in, or what they call nose-in sites.  In some cases these odd/even sites share hookups, making them fairly close to each other.  We prefer the even numbers sites on the outer loop, #20-#40.  While in town, we enjoyed time at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum.

Gunnison KOA Park Map

From Gunnison we’re returning to Dolores River Campground.  We’re parked with friends in sites 39, 55 and 56.  These central sites are not nearly as roomy as site #14 back along the pond and river.  We visited Canyon of the Ancients National Monument on this visit.  Unfortunately the visitor center was closed due to Covid-19, however we enjoyed exploring the ruins at Lowry Pueblo.

Dolores River Campground

After our stay in the Four Corners area at Dolores, we’re headed to Alamosa where we’re back to Cool Sunshine RV Park.  Conveniently located in downtown Alamosa, the park provides an easy walk to places like the San Luis Valley Brewing Company.  We’re parked with friends in C6 & C8 and D3.  Either D3 or A9 provide nice private corner locations. From Alamosa we enjoyed an afternoon trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Cool Sunshine RV Park





Hecla Junction, along the Arkansas River

14 09 2020

We’re parked in site #1 (now called 1101) at one of our favorite Colorado campgrounds, Hecla Junction along the Arkansas River near Salida, CO.  This is an entirely “dry” campground, no water, no electric, not even any trash service.  We’ve tried for several years to find any type of cellular service, but again this year outside access is very elusive in this quiet canyon.  Set along a beautiful stretch of the Arkansas River, this is certainly our favorite and probably one of the most picturesque campsites in Colorado.

 

A relatively small campground with only 23 sites, we prefer low numbered sites which overlook the river.  There’s a drainage area that crosses the main campground loop road between sites 1104 & 1106 and sites 1117 & 1118 which presents problems for low clearance truck beds or jacks. Any of the sites from 1101 to 1104 will allow reversing out of the campground to avoid these low areas.  And, upper sites 1123-1120 also have good views and would avoid the drainage area by reversing in.  There’s also a very large combined site at 1117 & 1108.  However, these sites are very sloped, and it would be real challenge to level any except the smallest rigs.

Hecla Junction, AHRA





Woods & River RV Park

30 08 2020

Wood & River RV Park, Del Norte, CO

We’re parked at Woods & River RV Park, in Del Norte, and only about 15 miles downstream along the Rio Grande River from South Fork where we camped just 12 days ago.  Sites here are classed as Standard ($35/nt), Meadows ($40/nt) and Riverside.  We’re riverside in site #10, a spacious and well shaded site right on the banks of the river.  These sites offer 50/30/20 amp electric hookups and water taps.  Because of the closeness to the river, these sites do not have septic, but twice weekly pump out service is provided for stays of 5 nights or more at no additional charge.

 

Woods & River RV, Del Norte, CO

Meadow sites are in two rows off the river, also with twice weekly pump-out service.  Standard sites are above, provide full hookups, but are much tighter and much less shade.  The WiFi is non-existent in the lower Meadow or Riverside sites, but both T-Mobile and Verizon hot spots worked well.  Satellite aiming is a challenge in the shaded sites along the river, but we managed to find 2 of 3 satellites.

Woods & River RV, Del Norte, CO

Woods & River RV, Del Norte, CO

These Riverside sites are pull-thoughs, but facing the river.  For rear lounge rigs, it would be best to pull in backward and deal with connections on the “wrong” side.  We liked Woods & River, and will probably return.





Dolores River Campground

24 08 2020

Dolores River Campground, Dolores, CO

Leaving Lightner Creek, it’s a very short trip (less than 1 hour) to Dolores River Campground, just north of Dolores, CO.

We’re parked at site #14, a nicely shaded back-in site on the fishing pond, with the Dolores River beyond.

 

Dolores River Campground, site #14

This is a 50/30/20 amp, full hookup site complete with a concrete pad and picnic table.  Most of the sites along the pond are well shaded, which might make for a bit of a satellite dish aiming “challenge”.  The other challenge here is the lack of cellular service and what appears to be fairly low bandwidth WiFi service. The WiFi worked for casual browsing and email, but we had to head back to town to confidently make phone calls or download any large files.

Dolores River Campground

Dolores River Campground offers about 80 RV sites, both serviced and rustic cabins, a 1953 Vintage Airstream, 2 Yurts, 2 beautiful Conestoga Wagons and several tent sites.  We enjoyed our stay and plan to return soon!

Dolores River Campground, Yurt and Conestoga Wagon

From Dolores we’re back to Ridgway State Park where we last stayed early June.  We’re in site #179, up on the ridge overlooking the Dakota Terraces Campground.  The views are great, but the downside to these ridge sites is that you get some noise from highway 550.  We like our last site (#86) better, and it provide more privacy.

Ridgway State Park, site #179

Ridgway State Park, site #179

From Ridgway we’re bound for a 2 night stay in Del Norte.  More from there…





Lightner Creek Campground

19 08 2020

Lightner Creek Campground, Durango, CO

We’re parked in site #34 at Lightner Creek Campground, just outside of Durango.

SITE MAP

Our site is a “30 Amp Creek Site”, with full hookups.  With friends in #33, there’s plenty of room between and in back of both rigs.  Unfortunately Lightner Creek is dry this time of year, but the tall shade trees along the creek provide welcome shade to the afternoon sun.

Other than the full hookups, these sites are fairly rustic with level gravel/dirt back-in area and a picnic table but no pad or fire ring.  There’s a fair amount of deferred maintenance in the park from crumbling asphalt driveways to untrimmed trees.  But, the park did provide trash pick-up at each site – daily at 11AM sharp!

Lightner Creek Campground, site #34

We are configured “awning-to-awning” with a motor coach in site #35. There’s a semi-private wooden fence between the two sites, but it was as if you were in conversation with your neighbors, and their dogs lunged and barked loudly at the fence anytime we walked outside.

Lightner Creek Campground, site #35

Lightner Creek Campground, site #36, premium patio site

The pool and laundry room were open on an appointment basis, all other public amenities closed, dog park, shower house, office, camp store. The pool was cold – even though they advertise a “heated pool”. They told us they have switched to “solar power” (which seems to mean, we’re no longer heating it), but are doing nothing to retain the heat during the cold overnights.

Lightner Creek Campground

Lightner Creek is a nice location, but at a bit over $60/night, we don’t rate this campground as a good value.  Next time we’d probably check out other parks in the Durango area.





Mueller SP and South Fork Campground

15 08 2020

Mueller State Park, site #35

We’re parked in site #35 along Conifer Ridge in Mueller State Park – one of our favorite State Parks.  We last visited Mueller nearly 1 year ago to the date.  Colorado Springs is less than an hour away, making camping reservations (especially with a group) a real challenge.

With friends in sites #30, #31 and #33, we’ve established a convenient group space along the mid-way point of Conifer Ridge.  We like #35, it has a fairly level entry area, plenty of shaded space to the rear and offers a threaded water spigot across the road for any extra water needs.  All though, site #34 is also very nice, with an awesome view towards Pikes Peak.

All sites along Conifer Ridge are electric (30A) only, with the water spigots scattered throughout the campgrounds and at the dump station.  There are vault toilets in each of the 7 main camping areas, plus a large camper service building with hot showers and a laundry room.  There is no apparent WiFi provided by the park, but up here along Conifer Ridge the T-Mobile signal is strong, and provides streaming quality hot spot access.

Mueller State Park, site #34

Mueller State Park, site #34

On Saturday, we visited Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, located only about 12 miles further west near Florissant, CO.  These fossil beds are the petrified remains of nearly 1700 species of insects and plants including huge sequoias that grew here around 35 million years ago on a warm, temperate, wet environment.  Volcanic activity formed the perfect preservation environment for these specimens including the remaining huge sequoia trunks.

Florissant Fossel Beds – The “Big Stump”, 38 feet in circumference!

Florissant Fossel Beds – Giant Sequoia

After 5 nights at Mueller, we’re headed west to South Fork, CO.  We were last in this area in July when we stayed just 10 miles further west outside of Creede.  We’re in site #26 at the South Fork Campground, along the banks of the Rio Grande in a quiet grove of cottonwood trees.  There are about 50 sites here, many are carved out between trees along the perimeter and the central pull-throughs that we’re in. Best sites here would be the back-ins from 8-16 and most any of the riverside sites.  The park offers a small store, propane refills, a dump station, several single tent sites and a group tent area. WiFi is strong, and the free service provided streamable speeds while we were here.

South Fork Campground

South Fork Campground, River Site

South Fork Campground, Site #11

South Fork Campground, Site #26

From South Fork we’ll continue west, over Wolf Creek Pass to Lightner Creek Campground outside of Durango.  More from there…





Devil’s Tower

28 07 2020

Belle Fourche, SD – Geographical Center of the Nation

After departing Deadwood, we’ve made a brief stop in Belle Fourche, SD to see the “Geographic Center of the Nation” monument.  While not quite the center (the actual point is on private property), the city of Belle Fourche has created a beautiful park for the carved granite monument and gift shop.

 

Belle Fourche, SD – Geographical Center of the US

 

Belle Fourche, SD – Geographical Center of the US

From Belle Fourche, it’s just a little over an hour along the scenic route of highway 34 (24 in Wyoming) to Devil’s Tower. We’re staying at the Devil’s Tower/Black Hills KOA.  This KOA is literally at the entrance to the National Monument, and provides a stunning view of the towering monolith.  With over 100 sites, this KOA has something for everyone. We’re parked in sites 162-164, 50A/water back-in sites with good shade on the edge of a central park area.  Beyond with no shade are large 50A full-hookup pull-through sites.  On the west side are some very nice premium back-in “view” sites.  On the north side of the property, along a gentle bend of the Belle Fourche river are beautiful tent sites, KOA Kabins and even 5 teepees.

Within the complex is a camp store for everything from RV supplies to beer, a gift shop for t’s and Indian crafts, a (closed) pool, nightly hayrides and a nightly presentation of Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was filmed in the campground and at other locations around Devil’s Tower.  Besides exploring the Tower Monument, some of our group visited the small town of Hulett and the slightly larger town of Sundance.

From Devil’s Tower we’re headed home with stops at the Douglas KOA, the Wellington KOA and Chatfield Lake State Park near Denver.  We were last at the Douglas KOA in 2017 for the solar eclipse. We’ve never stayed at the Wellington KOA before.  It’s a nice park off of I-25 just north of Ft. Collins that works great for a quick overnight.  However, during our stay it suffered from a strong manure (horses or cows or both) smell and lots and lots of pesky flies.  We doubt that we’d use this park again, the Ft. Collins/Lakeside KOA Holiday is much nicer.

Chatfield Lake State Park, site #36

Chatfield Lake State Park, site #34

At Chatfield we’re parked in site #34.  It’s a nice end site on the center A loop with lots of trees and privacy.  We’d stay here again, or at site #36 which offers a bit more late-day shade and just as much privacy.  This is our last stop on the Cheyenne Frontier Days and South Dakota trip.  We’re at home for a week before once again heading out – more from Mueller State Park!





Cheyenne Frontier Days & the Black Hills

24 07 2020

Crazy Horse Memorial, Crazy Horse, SD

We learned in late May that the 124th presentation of Cheyenne Frontier Days had been cancelled due to Covid concerns.

Still wanting see friends and support the owners of AB Camping, we’ve kept our original arrival dates, but cut our stay short and added a South Dakota loop to explore the Black Hills.  Our cancelled concerts of Thomas Rhett and Blake Shelton have already been rescheduled for 2021, which is already know as the 125th anniversary.

After a couple of nights at Boyd Lake State Park to visit family, we’ve arrived at AB Camping in Cheyenne.  We’re parked in the South section, center row, site S10, with friends in S11, S12, S19 & S20.  While certainly different than past years, we enjoy the relaxing times and a fun evening at the Accomplice Brewery at the historic Cheyenne Train Station.

Departing Cheyenne, we’ve spent 2 nights at Glendo State Park, a favorite and this year, in electric sites TM46, TM47 & TM48.  While these sites aren’t as visually appealing as the cliff-side sites, it’s sure nice to have A/C as temps push up close to 100 each afternoon.

Whistler Gulch RV, Deadwood, SD

After our relaxing time at Glendo State Park, we’ve arrived at Whistler Gulch RV Park in Deadwood, SD.  This 100+ site is tight, but affords a unique location just on the outskirts of town.  Built up a long gulch, the park offers a (closed) swimming pool, a long row of tiered pull-throughs along with some back-ins where the gulch widens a bit. Along a narrow dead-end road to the front of the park are 10 of the best view sites.  It’s about a 20 minute walk into town but the regular trolley service stops at the office and is only $1 for each trip in or out of town.

Whistler Gulch RV, Deadwood, SD

 

We’re in Deadwood to explore more of the Black Hills after being here at a family reunion about 15 years ago. We’ll see the typical sites of Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial plus make the beautiful drive along the Needles Highway in Custer State Park.  We’ll wander through the “old western” town of Deadwood and check out the beautiful painted buffalo statues in Custer. And, we’ll be entertained by a boisterous “pro-Trumper” at the RV park in Deadwood!  After Deadwood, we’re headed to Devil’s Tower, WY.  More from there…





Cottonwood Cove Guest Ranch

2 07 2020

Wagon Wheel Gap Station from wikipedia.org

Welcome to Wagon Wheel Gap, Colorado!

Located along the upper Rio Grande River about half way between South Fork and Creede, we’re parked at Cottonwood Cove Guest Ranch and RV Park. Cottonwood Cove provides a comfortable oasis of 27 guest cabins and 21 RV spots along this gentle curve of the Rio Grande.  During “normal” times, an onsite restaurant and gift shop are available.  Currently only the pizza parlor and ice cream shop is open.

Google aerial view of Cottonwood Cove Guest Ranch

 

Cottonwood Cove Guest Ranch

Driving north towards Lake City, the summit of Spring Pass and the continental divide are at 11,000 feet. Here the headwaters of the Rio Grande eventually flow nearly 1900 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.  And, just beyond are the headwaters for the Lake Fork of the Gunnision River, which joins the Colorado River on it’s 1400 mile journey to the Gulf of California & the Sea of Cortez.

Continuing north you reach the higher Slumgullion Summit at 11,500′.  The north side of Slumgullion has the steepest grade of any continuously paved road in Colorado – 9%!  Named for the Slumgullion earthflow, a gigantic landslide whose yellowish soil reminded early miners of slumgullion stew.  This slide was so large and cataclysmic that it blocked the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and created Lake San Cristobal, Colorado’s second largest natural lake.

Slumgullion Slip

Lake San Cristobal

Along the way, beautiful North Clear Creek Falls make the dramatic 100 foot drop over a volcanic ash cliff that was deposited during an eruption about 27 million years ago!  The new observation platform, paved parking and restrooms make this an easy, must-see when visiting the area.

North Clear Creek Falls

We enjoyed the South Fork/Creede area and will be returning to South Fork in mid-August.  But, before that trip, we’re headed to Cheyenne for the now-cancelled 124th Cheyenne Frontier Days.  More from Cheyenne…