End of Season Camping at Ruby Mountain

3 10 2010

Ruby Mountain campground is 1 of 5 camping areas within the Arkansas River Headwater Recreation Area managed by the state of Colorado.  Located about 10 miles south of Buena Vista, Ruby Mountain has only 19 primitive sites, most located alongside the Arkansas River.  We selected sites #1 and #2, both back-in sites with fire ring and picnic table. 

Ruby Mountain - Arkansas HeadwatersOriginally we were headed to Railroad Bridge, another Arkansas Headwater campground.  About 10 miles north of Buena Vista, this campground promised to be the most remote, and according to the park ranger we would probably have it all to ourselves.  But, after arriving at Railroad Bridge, we understood why no one liked these sites.  Sandwiched between the old railroad line and a dusty, dirt road, these handful of sites didn’t offer any appeal  for us.

Even before deciding to try out the Arkansas Headwaters area, we had planned to head to the southwestern corner of Colorado to stay at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  But, with only a 2 day weekend available, we opted to drive 2 hours from home instead of 5 hours.  Hopefully we’ll get to explore camping at the Black Canyon next year.

During the two days we spent at Ruby Mountain we were treated to beautiful high-country blue skies with warm daytime temps and crisp cool evenings.  On Saturday afternoon after driving into Buena Vista for some firewood, we returned to the campground just in time to see a real western cattle drive.  About 200 cattle and several cow-pokes were on the final leg of a two-day round-up moving the cattle from high summer pastures to their winter home.  Their path took them right through the campground and across the river.  Dodging cow-pies, we joined several other campers at the edge of the river to watch the cowboys, cowgirls and dogs managing the reluctant yearlings through the swift waters.  That evening just before dark, one lone yearling wandered into the campground obviously looking for the group that had left him behind.  After several aborted attempts to get the young one across the river (we aren’t cut out to be cowboys) we watched as momma crossed back to our side of the river to retrieve her youngster. 

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With snow beginning to appear on the highest peaks of the Collegiate range, this may well be the last camping of this season.  If so, this blog will be idle for a couple of months until it’s time to once again get the camper ready for the trip to Texas, 2011.

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End of Season Boating at Glendo

3 09 2010

Labor Day weekend has long been on the calendar as the final boating trip of the 2010 Summer season.  During the summer we’ve discussed many destinations, from Navajo Lake on the Colorado/New Mexico state line to Flaming Gorge on the Wyoming/Utah border.      

Lake Glendo - September, 2010

Lake Glendo - September, 2010

But, with the high water levels at Lake Glendo, we opted to return to one of our favorite boating/camping areas.  Normally below safe boating levels by now, the lake is near end-of-July levels this first weekend of September.  We’ve seen two “firsts” this year, the highest water we’ve ever experienced at Glendo (July 4th Weekend) and now the lowest – down over 40 feet since the flood levels of early July.     

We’ve departed on Thursday, planning to make this “last blast” a long weekend – we won’t return home until Tuesday.  Arriving at Glendo around 5pm, we’re surprised to find most of the cliff-side campgrounds already occupied.  It’s looking like a busy weekend!  We occupy a site in lower loop that we’ve camped at more times than any other site.  Originally a reservable site, this was the very 1st place we camped at Glendo. This cliff-side site has a shallow parking area, a few flat tent sites and outstanding cliff side views.  The site directly across the street is convenient as a second site with lots of parking and convenient to the restrooms.     

Launching at Glendo - Halls Marina

Launching at Glendo - Halls Marina

Friday, Saturday and Sunday all turned out to be excellent boating days.  The weather was mild, plenty of sunshine and little wind.  However on Monday, a cold front has moved through with very windy conditions and temps in the 60’s.  Brrrr!      

Instead of staying around camp, we opt to do a bit of sightseeing and head south to Guernsey, WY.  Guernsey is home to a smaller, downstream reservoir (of the same name) on the North Platte river.  We’ve often noted that this reservoir might be a worthy alternative to Glendo when water levels drop.  Plus, there are some interesting sights nearby, the Oregon Trail Ruts, Registry Rock and several interesting CCC buildings.    

The town of Guernsey is located about 15 miles south of Glendo, and about 15 miles east of I-25.  The resevoir is just north of town.  Entering at the south gate, we choose to explore the south rim of the canyon with the impressive Guernsey Muesum just inside the Park.  This Muesum, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, is a beautiful example of early rustic architecture.     

Guernsey_State_Park_Museum

Guernsey_State_Park_Museum

Guernsey State Park Audio Tour  

Created as part of the Roosevelt post-Depression “New Deal” legislature, the CCC employed thousands of 17 to 25 year old men in federal public works projects.  Guernsey was perhaps one of the most important of these projects, introducing the first cooperative venture between the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corp.  In another impressive point of history, Guernsey dam was engineered by Elwood Mead, who was key in drafting the water laws of Wyoming and Colorado.  Mr. Mead later became the head of the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, overseeing some of the most the complex projects in US history,  Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee and Owyhee Dam. The largest water project in the US, Lake Mead, takes its name from Elwood Mead.    

Continuing along Lake Shore Drive, we explore some of the water-side camp spots that hold promise for future camping & boating weekends.  Among the best are sites #29 and #30 in Long Canyon located near the north entrance. Backtracking along Lake Shore Drive, we cross the dam and continue on Skyline Drive.  Built by the CCC to provide scenic vistas across the reservoir, Skyline Dr boasts two of the most impressive features of the park.  Brimmer Point, overlooking the canyon and dam.  During the days of the CCC, festivals and celebrations were held at Brimmer Point, complete with the spectacle of rolling a car over the cliff into the canyon below.

Further along Skyline Drive is the Castle.  Another example of the impressive CCC Rustic architecture, the Castle is perhaps one of the most elaborate picnic shelters in the US.  Sitting high on a bluff overlooking the canyon and resevoir, the two story Castle has two arched walkways on the lower level which align with Laramie Peak, the highest peak in the region.  On the upper story, the observation platforms provides views of the Guernsey area.

Guernsey_State_Park_Castle

Guernsey_State_Park_Castle

Departing the Castle, Skyline Drive continues to water’s edge at a group of campgrounds surrounding a bay on the southwest corner of the resevoir.  Several sites have potential in these campgrounds – At Cottonwood Cove, sites #2, 3, 4.  At Sandy Point, sites #22/23, #27/28 and #30/31.  At Sandy Cove, Sites #5, 6,7.





Greetings from Collegiate Peaks Campground

28 08 2010
Collegiate Peaks Campground

Collegiate Peaks Campground

In a rather spontaneous departure, we decided we wanted to get away for the weekend, loaded up the camper and were on the road by 5:30 on Friday.  We headed south on 285, up over Kenosha Pass, past Jefferson Lake, through Fairplay and into Buena Vista.  We’re headed for a Federal campsite about 10 miles outside of Buena Vista.  The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area encompasses 168,000 acres in central Colorado, between Buena Vista, Leadville and Aspen.  Collegiate Peaks campground is about half way up Cottonwood Creek Canyon, situated between the creek and County road 206.  About 1/3 of the 40 sites have direct creek side access.  All of the sites are rustic, no paved roads or site pads here – several water taps (without threaded attachments) and convenient, clean vault toilets.

Mt Princeton

Mt Princeton

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is locally known as the home of the 14’ers, with 5 peaks topping out at over 14,000 feet named for famous universities and colleges:  Mt. Harvard, Mt. Oxford, Mt. Yale, Mt. Princeton and Mt. Columbia.  This area is also the headwaters for 3 important rivers in the western US, the Arkansas, a major Mississippi River tributary; the Gunnison and the Roaring Fork, both tributaries of the Colorado River.  The Gunnison River flows toward Gunnison forming the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the longest, narrowest and deepest gorge in the world.  (and the location of a future camping adventure).  For hiking, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area is crossed by both the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

Site 5

Site 5

Arriving around 7:30, night was falling and we choose site #5, very close to the campground entrance  and site host.  The host was a friendly retired gentleman, who when asked “where’s home”, answered “home’s wherever my rig is parked”.  He’s been hosting at Collegiate Peaks for the last 5 years, and has been a “full-time RV’er” for 13 years.  Arriving from Arizona via Lake Powell or Lake Mead, he spends the summer at nearly 10,000 feet in these beautiful Colorado mountains.  But, with a self-professed “allergy to snow”, he’s anxious to head south on September 13th when the campground closes.

Site 21

Site 21

Nearly all sites are back-in, with pit fire rings and newly painted picnic tables.  Site #5 was set back in the trees with easy access to two of the vault toilets.  However, after 1 night here we decided there was too much main-road traffic and opted to make a move on Saturday morning to site #21.  Originally, based on the online reserveramerica.com map, we had selected site 22 or 31 for creek side access.  However both sites were occupied when we arrived and didn’t become free when we were looking to relocated on Saturday morning.  Sites #20 and #22 have some of the best creek access, deep, heavily wooded sites have great flat spaces right next to rushing Cottonwood Creek.

Buena Vista City Park

Buena Vista City Park

Collegiate Peaks campground is well outside of cell coverage that comes from Buena Vista, so after selecting a new site on Saturday morning, we took the short drive down the hill into Buena Vista to do a quick email check and make some phone calls.  In Buena Vista we parked in a beautiful city park with a small Lake, several picnic tables and public restrooms.  The cell coverage was exceptional, so we fired up the Verizon broadband connection for email and some web surfing.  After a quick stop at the local grocery store, we made our way back up Cottonwood creek canyon.

Cottonwood Pass Summit

Cottonwood Pass Summit

About 10 miles beyond the campground was the summit of Cottonwood Pass at 12,125 feet.  The paved road ends at the summit of the pass where a well maintained dirt road continues down the western slope to Taylor River and reservoir in Gunnison County. There appear to many great campgrounds along the Taylor River that beg for exploration – next year.

Views from the Continental Divide

Views from the Continental Divide

Taylor Park Dam and Reservoir are part of the Uncompahgre Water Project that provides water to over 76,000 acres of land between Montrose and Delta.  The project includes Taylor Reservoir, the Gunnison Tunnel, 7 diversion dams and over 500 miles of canals.  The project is within the Colorado River basin.

Views from the Continental Divide

Views from the Continental Divide

Back at Collegiate Peaks, we spent a quiet afternoon relaxing, walking around to meet a few fellow campers and enjoyed a dinner of grilled brats and corn on the cob.  Not long after dinner the clouds rolled in and drizzled on our campfire until we decided to give up the fire and go to bed.

Sunday morning brought another sunny, beautiful day when we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up and headed back home.  Collegiate Peaks campground is defiantly a campsite we’ll keep in our list of favorites for next year.

Site notes: #22 deep near creek, slightly unlevel; #21 close to vault toilet, good site in combination with #20 or #22; #36 upper loop, close to bathroom, high (up stairs) firepit and table; #5 too close to main entrance road, dusty, noisy; #20 long area to creek, level, lots of tent space.





Camping & Boating at Lake Pueblo

21 08 2010

Sunset at Lake Pueblo
Sunset at Lake Pueblo

Good morning from Pueblo, CO. In a rare Friday departure we loaded up the camper, hooked onto the boat and were on the road before noon! Arriving around 2:30, we decided to just enjoy the lake in a cove convenient to our campsites. With chairs, coolers and sunscreen we set-up our “day-camp” at water’s edge for an afternoon in the sun. 

The lake looks beautiful this morning.  We’ll have some breakfast, clear out the boat and hit the lake!  Tonight the Denver Broncos play their second preseason game against the Detroit Lions.  With a dinner menu of burgers, and pan fries – we’ll undoubtedly enjoy a few beers during the game.





Chatfield State Park

31 07 2010
Chatfield State Park

Chatfield State Park

Welcome to Chatfield State Park, an “urban” camping area on a small lake just South of Denver. We’re so close to the city that there are only rare night star appearances and you can hear the traffic on the nearby highway.

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw

But, we’re not here to enjoy the lake or the camping. Tonight is the Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum concert at the former Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre (now renamed Comfort Dental Amphitheatre), a small outdoor venue in the Denver Tech Center. We’ll just overnight here, as an alternative to driving back “up th hill” after the concert.





4th of July at Lake Glendo

6 07 2010

In middle of Wyoming, you’ll find an unlikely gem for boating & camping in the Rocky Mountain West.  Glendo reservoir, just a few miles east of I-25 at Glendo, Wyoming is a beautiful lake with calm coves,  soaring canyons and pine & cedar treed campsites.    In a tradition that started several years ago we had long been planning to spend the Independence Day weekend at Glendo.  About 2 weeks before the trip news of flooding at Glendo started being released in the media.  On July 1st, the flooding was expected to be nearly 12 feet above “full pool” stage, putting many boat ramps and campground facilities under water! 

We’ve always camped in the ‘Two Moons’ campground, high above the water on a cliff that offers beautiful views over the lake and to the mountains in the west.  Since many of other lower campsites were flooded, we decided to arrive at Glendo on Wednesday instead of Thursday before the 4th weekend.  Fortunately we had a “scout” party arrive early and secure one of the best cliff-side campgrounds available in Two Moons.  The site was deep, with two separate parking areas, fire pits and picnic tables.  Our camping rigs included a 30′ trailer, 1 tent and 2 pop-up truck campers.  We could have easily had additional cars, tents or camping units – this campsite was huge! 

Thursday morning was our first exploration of the marina and the flooded boat ramp.  While launching wasn’t difficult, it was slow because of reduced ramp width and access roads.  The marina itself had been pushed out into the lake further than normal and the dock no longer reached the shoreline.  Implementing a unique solution, an old pontoon boat was fashioned into a makeshift ferry providing transportation from the end of the boat ramp to the marina docks. 

With some expectation of floating debris, we cautiously motored out of the marina into the main channel.  Heading for a favorite swimming cove, we noticed very little of the anticipated debris.  And, the lake was very quiet – the media attention had obviously been effective – it promised to be a very quiet weekend.  After enjoying the sun, some wake boarding and exploration we returned to camp.  Sites were filling up, but even late on Thursday there were places available. 

Friday we decided to explore the far north end of the lake.  Traveling across the main channel past flooded Sandy Beach we cruised through the Red Canyon and continued to the Elk Horn bay area.  Beyond Elk Horn lies a beautiful sheer walled canyon that is very rarely navigable because of low water levels.  Taking advantage of the high waters, we were able to motor nearly all the way through the canyon.  On the way back to the marina we came across a stranded boat near Red Canyon.  Having run out of fuel, they were in need of either a tow or a lift back to their campsite.  We towed them part of the way back to Reno Cove before having to abandon the towing  because of high wind and waves.  Their captain opted to anchor the disabled craft and ride with us the rest of the way back to retrieve fuel. 

On Saturday it was obvious that things were going to much busier – the marina launch ramp was jammed with loading and unloading traffic.  We opted to explore the ramp at Reno Cove instead of wait in line at the marina.  Launching and parking at Reno was easier and we again enjoyed a sunny day on the lake.  Saturday evening arrived with thunderstorms, heavy rain and even some hail.  It was wonderful to crawl into the warm, dry camper!

Sunday was a wet, cool, gloomy, over cast day.  We decided to hang out at camp instead of launching the boat.  On Monday we packed up and headed home.  It was a great July 4th – flooding, thunderstorms, hail and all!





Lake Pueblo State Park

21 06 2010

This last weekend we were at Lake Pueblo State Park.  One of the largest lakes along the front range, Lake Pueblo typically warms up first making it a good early season destination.

This is also the first time we’ve combined the camper and the boat. 

Since the camper extends about 10 inches beyond the rear bed of the truck, we purchased an 8″ hitch extension from JC Whitney.  Sliding the extension into the hitch receiver on the truck and the ball into the extension one day before departure, I discovered the ball piece of the hitch was about 1/4″ too long.  This extra length prevented the pin from locking the two hitch pieces together.  I quickly called the welder/metal workers in the local area and located Ben’ Jamin metal works. It turns out that Ben is located very close, and offered the use of his metal band saw that quickly cut the hitch to the proper size.  Ben does beautiful metal work, his website can be found here  Ben’Jamin Custom Metal Works.

Along with the extension, I stopped by U-Haul to pick up light wiring accessories knowing that the new length would require a bit of rewiring of the trailer wiring.  It wasn’t until we went to hitch things up that we discovered the safety chain and brake cable also needed more length.  Quickly customizing the safety chain by moving it to one side, we were soon on the road for Lake Pueblo. 

At the lake, we had reserved campsites #459 & #460.  One pull-through on the outside of the loop and one back-in inside site gave us plenty of room for the two campers, the boat, the jetski and the two trucks.  Another “first” was accomplished this weekend, we removed the camper and used it off-the-truck. 

Fathers Day weekend turned out to be very busy at Lake Pueblo.  Most of our day was spent in the wakeless cove to the south of the marina, listening to music, swiming and watching the cliff jumpers.