Devel’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…

 





Island Acres & Ridgway State Parks

28 05 2020

Island Acres site #12

Island Acres is located in a narrow De Beque Canyon just east of Palisade, with railroad tracks on one side and busy I-70 on the other.  Sounds great huh?  Well, even with this “location” problem, we’ve spent time in this beautiful park at least 4 times.  De Beque Canyon was formed by the Colorado River and all of the sites are within easy walking distance of the river. RV facilities include 80 sites, both Full Hookup and Electric only.  All sites are 30Amp except 61-63 and 79 & 50 which are 50Amp.  There’s a swimming beach, stocked fishing lakes and a guest services building with showers and a laundromat.  All campsites provide a fire ring, a picnic table (some covered) and a grill.

In the past we’ve tended to select low-number sites, along the river and as far as possible from I-70.  This weekend we’re in site #12, an interior back-in site.  Friends are in site #16 and #20.  Site #12 has a nice shade tree to the east – however, after being parked under this tree for 4 days, we understand how messy a honey locust can be – dripping sap and lots of fallen branches make for extra clean-up work on the top of the slides and in the outdoor mats and chairs.

Ridgway, Elk Ridge, Site 86

From Island Acres, we’re headed to Ridgway State Park, only about 2 hours away, and just south of Montrose.  We think Ridgway is one of Colorado’s most beautiful State Parks.  There are 3 campgrounds along the Uncompahgre River and Ridgway Reservoir, Dakota Terraces with sites 1-79, Elk Ridge with 80-187 and Pa-Co-Chu-Puk with 200-280.  We’re parked in site #86 in Elk Ridge.  The back-in site provides 30A electric along with a paved walkway to a gravel tent pad and a large shady area with a picnic table and fire ring.

Ridgway, Elk Ridge, Site 86

After Ridgway, we’ll make one more stop at the new Cool Sunshine RV Park in Alamosa.  Located just behind the main train station in Alamosa, this park provides a great location for short walks exploring downtown Alamosa.   After 9 nights traveling through south western Colorado, we’ll make the quick trip over La Veta pass and back home.  It’s been a great “first of season” trip. In 3 weeks we’ll return through Alamosa for a trip to Creede, CO.  More from there…

Cool Sunshine RV, Alamosa, CO





Blue Mesa Recreation Ranch

27 05 2020

Blue Mesa Recreation Ranch

After Alamosa we’re headed to Blue Mesa Recreation Ranch, a private membership only campground nestled in a canyon overlooking Blue Mesa reservoir, the largest empound on the Gunnison River. With over 250 sites, PARK MAP this campground offers a bit of everything:  Cottages, Cabins, Tent sites, Premier sites, a playground offering shuffleboard, horseshoes, mini-golf a fishing pond and even a tranquil adults only area with a pool and hot tub.  Internal roadways are paved, with wide graveled sites.  Sites offer a cement slab with a picnic table and surrounding sage brush to provide a bit of privacy.

Blue Mesa Recreation Ranch

We’re parked in site 374, high along the northern edge of the ranch with great views over the lower sites and beyond to Blue Mesa.  Nearly all sites are very long back-in’s, with all utilities at the rear.  This configuration makes good sense from a construction standpoint, but generally takes extra lengths of all connectors.  Running along this same utility corridor, WiFi access points are mounted on posts above every 10th site or so. With both excellent signal and speed this WiFi network had no problem handling an IP phone and Roku streaming TV.  This is a nice resort, we’ll be back!

Blue Mesa Recreation Ranch

Blue Mesa Recreation Ranch





Alamosa KOA

26 05 2020

Island Acres, James M Robb – Colorado River State Park

With friends returning from a month on the Oregon coast, others that are picking up their trailer from winter storage in SW Utah, and a few more “locals”, the Grand Mesa area of western Colorado looks like an ideal meeting point.  We’re bound for Island Acres, a section of the James M Robb – Colorado River State Park.

Enroute to Grand Junction and on a fairly quick overnight, we caught up with friend that are now the owners of the KOA in Alamosa, CO.  We last visited this park in 2015 on our way to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  Just a few miles east of Alamosa, the park offers nearly 270 degree views of beautiful Colorado mountain peaks. With nearby Blanca Peak on the southern stretch of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and north, and the rugged San Juan Mountains to the west – the views are spectacular!  Especially from the parks premium end sites.  We’re parked at #24, centered in the park, complete with a fire ring and picnic table and even a couple of shade trees.  The full hook-up sites offer conveniently placed water, sewer portal and electrical.  The free WiFi runs along just fine even for Roku TV streaming!  An in-progress expansion include 14 new sites including 5 patio sites.  Things look great Les & Deb, thanks for hosting us for a quick overnight!





Back Home!

11 05 2020

After departing Van Horn we were back at Boot Hill RV in Alamogordo for 4 nights.  It was just about 8 weeks since we were last at Boot Hill – how the world has changed in those 8 weeks!  From Alamogordo we’re headed home, after 1 quick overnight in Santa Fe.

It’s been over 4 years since we were last at Santa Fe Skies.  Continued upgrades along with the growth of shrubs and trees is turning this into a very nice park.  We’re in site “Daylilly 7”, one of the back-in sites that provides views to the west and north across the city of Santa Fe.  Santa Fe Skies has done one of the best job of pandemic changes.  From their website we first placed a reservation request.  The response from this request was a confirmation along with an optional “Cancel my Reservation” link.  On the morning of our arrival, an Online Payment email with a “Pay Now” link was received.  Once paid, we received an Online Check-in email complete with site assignment, directions to the park, a park map and the “handy handout” with pertinent information such as WiFi password, park rules and local restaurants.

Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, NM

Speaking of WiFi – back in 2010 this park provided stream-able WiFi – a huge accomplishment 10 years ago!  Then, just 4 years ago the same WiFi system barely provided browsing connections.  Their website notes major upgrades since our last visit. While the signal is a bit weak along this side of the park, once connected we noted stream-able speeds again.  And, there’s now an option to have a hardwired connection in Daylilly sites 1-10 and Yucca 5-14.

Santa Fe Skies, Santa Fe, NM

 

After the quick overnight in Santa Fe, we’re on the final leg of this 100 night trip.  We’ve traveled nearly 4000 miles and stayed in 27 campgrounds, RV parks and even a beautiful driveway.  We’ve had great times at spring baseball games in Phoenix,  explored over the border in Mexico, spent wonderful time with friends & family, and then, on the second half of the trip, learned how to fold no-sew masks, create a bleach sanitizing solution and have been virtually locked-down in near total isolation on South Padre Island.  Truly a trip of contrasts!  Our “home county”, Huerfano, is still tightly locked down – so no travel plans at this point until things ease up a bit.  Stay safe, wash your hands and be healthy!

Spring Road Trip, 2020





Into West Texas

5 05 2020

Canyons RV Park, Sanderson, TX

Departing Uvalde, we’re headed to Sanderson, TX and Canyon RV Park. We’ve traveled through Sanderson several times on our way in or out of Big Bend National Park. In the past we’re always decided that Canyon RV wasn’t for us. Located between the highway and railroad tracks, the park looked old and rundown and received fairly bad reviews. But, hoping for the best, we decide we’ll try it, or – if things don’t look good, continue to Ft. Stockton.

On a weather note, somewhere between Uvalde and Sanderson we cross through the “dry line”. Humidity this morning in Uvalde was 100%, this afternoon in Sanderson it’s 20%!

The Texas Dry Line

Pulling into Canyon RV, we’re surprised by the bad reviews and what we remember as a “do not stop” park. Sites are wide, level and graveled. Several of these sites have large pine trees on opposite sides providing some welcome shade from the late afternoon sun. Concrete utilities islands are designed for 50A usage on one side and 30A usage on the other side in “back to back” configurations. However, the park isn’t nearly full enough to require any back to back parking and in fact, we’re the only overnight guest. There are another half-dozen or so longer term residents including a FEMA team working onsite. Rates are $30, cash or check only, and deposited in the “Piggy” mailbox. We didn’t try it, but reports are that the new fiber install in town has boosted WiFi to stream-able speeds. New owners are making tremendous headway in changing this to a great stopover park for Big Bend visitors or those escaping the heat of the Texas Hill country or the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Thanks Kevin, we’ll be back!

Departing Sanderson, the original plan was to head north on 285 to join I-10 at Ft. Stockton for an overnight in Van Horn. However, we decide on the much more scenic drive across highway 90 through Marathon, Alpine and Marfa. RVTripWizard.com notes a low tunnel on the west side of Marfa at 13’11”. Arriving at the railroad bridge, the signs note only a 13’7” clearance, making it way too close to what we believe is a 13’6” trailer. After a bit of careful backup work, and directing blocked traffic around us, we head back into Marfa determined to find an alternate route. As it turns out, there is an easy route to avoid this low bridge. Approaching from the east, turn south on 11th street to Murphy Ave west. Follow Murphy to the West Mosley Loop and rejoin the highway just beyond the low bridge. Voila, problem solved!

Alpine, TX

In Van Horn, we’re parked at the familiar Van Horn (former KOA) park in site E8. From here we’re headed to Alamogordo, more from there…

Van Horn RV Park





Departing South Texas

2 05 2020

With temperatures (and humidity) beginning to get way too far into the uncomfortable range, it’s time to head north!  As is normal, we’ll plan to stay as close to the Rio Grande as possible to avoid those nasty spring storms that can bring tornadoes and hail to northern parts of Texas.  In verifying availability at parks on our route home, we find that about 50% are still closed or not accepting overnight guests due to county or state regulations related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Our first night will be at Mustang Hollow Campground on Lake Corpus Christi.  This former KOA has an “upper” and a “lower” lakeside section.  We’re initially assigned site D7 in the lower section.  Set among mesquite trees, the parks internal roads need both grading and widening.  Especially the lower roads!  After being escorted to our site through rough and low-clearance roads, we attempt for nearly 30 minutes to get into the site.  To start, or escort climbs up on the trailer roof and proceeds to cut down a half dozen fairly large limbs.  This site has a steep downhill grade to it, and a large drainage gully on the right site.  Even after many attempts, we can’t get anywhere close to being able to level the trailer.  And, as we move around in the site, more of the low hanging limbs are poking at the front cap, roof and awnings.  Eventually the escort gives up, calls the office and arranges for us to move to site A18 in the upper section.  After another harrowing trip back up through the ruts and trees, we are shown into a level, well trimmed site right next to the swimming pool.  Whew…what an experience.  Never again will we accept a “lower” site!

Mustang Hollow Campground, Mathis, TX

Mustang Hollow Campground, Mathis, TX

Mustang Hollow Campground, site A18

After Lake Corpus Christi we’re headed to Uvalde and Quail Springs RV Park.  Quail Springs is on Main Street in central Uvalde occupying an oasis of huge old oak trees.  The 80+ site park appears to be mostly long term Winter Texans or even longer term residents. We’re parked in a pull-through site #153 which provides full hookups with 50A service, cable TV, a small cement pad and picnic table.  Back-in sites #148-#164 would offer the most privacy and most are shaded.  We liked Quail Springs and would probably stay here again.

Quail Springs RV Park, site #153

Quail Springs RV Park, Uvalde, TX





Back to Harlingen

28 04 2020

We’ve moved back into Tropic Winds RV Resort our stop-over for at least a few days when departing South Padre and before continuing the trip north.  Arriving on Saturday, we know the office won’t be open on the weekend.  However, first thing on Monday we call to pay our bill for 7 nights.  The response is surprising… “you can’t stay here”! For some unknown reason, after allowing us to stay 25 days earlier, and as Texas and Cameron County begin to relax stay-at-home and isolation guidelines, Encore Resorts has shut down all of their parks to new reservations and arrivals.

Encore owns the RV Resort market in much of the Rio Grande Valley, however we had no problem finding several smaller, private parks that were open and welcoming new guests.  By late on Monday we’ve moved across town to Sundance RV Village, a small park of 80 sites, a spotlessly clean (and open) laundry room and free & fast WiFi.  We’re parked in site #44, a mid-park site with a large shade tree directly overhead.  The rate at Sundance is $20/night for weekly visits ($46/night at Encore Resorts), there are no resort fees and the WiFi which runs along at about 20Mb is free (compared to daily Tango Internet fees at Encore Resorts)  We like it here – and may be back next year!

Sundance RV Village, Site #44

Sundance RV Village, Harlingen, TX