40th Anniversary Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

10 10 2011

It’s been in the planning stages for months, finally on Wednesday we loaded up the camper and begin travels to Albuquerque for the 40th annual Balloon Fiesta. Spanning 2 weekends, 9 days total, Mass Ascensions are planned for mornings and Balloon Glows with fireworks in the evenings on both weekends. This year the schedule calls for a Special Shapes Balloon Glow on Thursday followed by a Special Shapes launch on Friday morning with the traditional mass launches and glows on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll spend one night at Trinidad Lake State Park before arriving in Albuquerque on Thursday afternoon.

The first weekend of the Fiesta opened to typical New Mexico fall weather, calm winds, abundant sunshine and temperatures in the low 80’s – perfect for flying balloons. Unfortunately by the time we leave Colorado, a cold front is approaching, threatening to bring wind, rain and colder temps to the entire mountain west. As we depart from Trinidad Lake State Park on Thursday morning, the front has arrived – temperatures have dropped nearly 20 degrees and strong winds make travel with campers and trailers difficult. Arriving in Albuquerque, winds and drizzle make it nearly certain that the evening Special Shapes glow will be cancelled. Friday turned out to be very cold and wet, with Mass Ascension and Balloon Glow cancelled. We did manage to enjoy Mass Ascensions on Saturday and Sunday plus a Balloon Glow with fireworks on Saturday. We departed Sunday afternoon with an intermediate stop in at Trinidad Lake before continuing home on Monday.





South Meadows Campground

18 09 2011

 

Double Site #52

Double Site #52

South Meadows is among the Federal campgrounds in Pike National Forest near Woodland Park, CO. Several campgrounds are found along each side of Colorado Highway 67 which connects to Highway 285 via Pine, Buffalo Creek and Deckers. This area was the origin of the worst wildfire in Colorado history when in 2002, the Hayman fire claimed 130 homes and buildings across nearly 140,000 acres of private, state and federal forests. A federal forest officer later was convicted of starting the fire.

South Meadow campground is set in a dense lodge pole pine forest to the west of Highway 67, just 5 miles north of Woodland Park. The campground is organized around a large loop that is split into 4 quarters and one “old” loop on the far south end. There are a total of 64 sites, most can be reserved with a few set aside for first-come, “walk-up” camping. There are 5 or 6 double sites, extra long pull-throughs that accommodate 2 camping units, up to 2 additional tents and a total of 16 people. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. There are vault toilets and water hydrants scattered throughout the campground.

We choose double site #52, basically in the center of the campground. Another good double site is at the far NW corner, #32. On the far southern loop, appearing to be the original campsites, #13 is a good double and single sites #14 (pull-through) and #15 (back-in) are quite private and overlook the creek and meadow area.

On Saturday, we explored nearby Mueller State Park, about 10 miles west of Woodland Park. Mueller is one of the largest parks in the Colorado system with 132 campsites organized along a long ridge with loops to each side. The best sites appear to be on the very first loop, sites #1 – #5. Other more private sites would be at the end of the various loops, #45 &#46, #116 & #117. After exploring Mueller, we checked out the Woodland Park Oktoberfest before returning to camp.





A quick trip to Lake Pueblo State Park

21 08 2011

One of our favorite warm-water lakes, within about 2 hours of home, Lake Pueblo State Park is about 10 miles west of Pueblo, Colorado.  We’ve decided to make this a short weekend trip, down to the lake late on Friday afternoon and back mid-day on Sunday.

We’ve reserved spots #431 and #432 near the North Shore Marina in the Yucca Flats campground.  These electric sites are not optimal, but still fairly close to a small swimming cove.  They are also near non-electric sites in the Kettle Creek campground.  With our purchase of a generator this year, these sites are now possibilities.  Before we hit the water on Saturday we walk around Kettle Creek and spot a few possibilities.  On a small loop closest to the water, sites #524 through #529 are all possibilities.  Each has a fairly short driveway, so with the boat and jet-ski, an auxiliary “parking” site would probably be necessary.   The best site with a good lake view is #526.

After reviewing sites on Saturday we launch the boat and jet-ski about noon.  Today’s boating isn’t without problems – first, the boat failed to start. After pulling back up the ramp and a quick jump-start we were on the lake.  After making a few rounds to (hopefully) charge the battery, we anchor in a  quiet cove to enjoy the warm water.  About 30 minutes later we begin to wonder where our lone jet-ski rider has gone.  Shortly after that we receive a phone call – the jet ski had become swamped, had been towed back to the marina and needed a good draining.  With two on-water mishaps, we decided to chalk this weekend up to “experience”, returned to camp to watch a pre-season football game and headed home mid-day on Sunday

Yucca Flats Site #431

Yucca Flats Site #431

Yucca Flats Site #432

Yucca Flats Site #432

Kettle Creek Site #524

Kettle Creek Site #524

Kettle Creek Site #525

Kettle Creek Site #525

Kettle Creek Site #526

Kettle Creek Site #526





Back to Collegiate Peaks

1 08 2011

This weekend we’re once again headed to Buena Vista and the Collegiate Peaks campground along Cottonwood Creek.  We first camped at Collegiate Peaks last September, just a few weekends before it closed.  Located about 14 miles west of Buena Vista, CO – this primitive campground has about 60 sites situated along Middle Cottonwood Creek at 9800 feet.  The sites are organized along a main road and 4 outer loops.  Many of the sites are creek-side, and nearly all set in tall pines and willow trees.

Collegiate Peaks Music Festival 2011

This weekend is the Buena Vista Music Festival.  We’ve never been to this music fest, but might decide to check it out.

Arriving about 4:30, we hoped that at least one of the 16 first-come first-serve sites would be available.  We quickly found the campground host who we had met least year and found that unfortunately, all of the sites were already reserved or occupied.  He suggest we head back down the canyon toward Buena Vista and try to find a “dispersed” camping site.  These sites provide free camping in the National Forest, but don’t offer any amenities – no water, showers or even site markers.  These are basically four wheel drive paths that have been carved out between the main roadway and the creek.  Without site markers, there is no limit to the number of campers, tents or people who may end up in these areas.

Dispersed Camping along Cottonwood Creek

Dispersed Camping along Cottonwood Creek

Based on the knowledge that a site may become available at Collegiate Peaks, we decide to stay one night in the dispersed area.  We end up parking on a narrow driveway just a few yards off the highway.  Just as we make the decision to spend the night, the rain starts and soaks the tall grass, ground and encroaching trees along our driveway site.   By the time we find a somewhat level spot, relocated a rock fire ring that was in the middle of the path, set the truck jacks, and unpack a few items from the camper, we’re all soaked and questioning our decision to stay in this muddy “ditch”.

Collegiate Peaks Site #22

Collegiate Peaks Site #22

After a warm dinner, a few cold beers and a good nights sleep, our “ditch” looks much better in the warm sunlight of the next morning.  We’re planning to return to Collegiate Peaks around 10AM, based on the advice of the camp host.  Arriving at 9:59, we’re pleased to learn that a site will be available.  And, this isn’t just any site – its site #22!  Located along the main road, this site is beautiful.  Very private, deep and enclosed on two sides by creeks, this site was the #1 selection when we were here last year.  Score!  We quickly purchase the necessary camping tag, put our reserved sign on the post and head back to move out of the dispersed campsite “ditch”.

Collegiate Peaks Site #22

Collegiate Peaks Site #22Collegiate Peaks Site #22

Sunday we’re planning to head over Cottonwood Creek pass to see Taylor Park Resevoir and some of the several campsites in the area.  But before heading over the pass, we decide to take a detour into Buena Vista, check email and pick up a few more supplies.  With our luck of snagging this great site, we’re going to stay 1 night longer, so we’ll need a bit more food and firewood.

The east side of Cottonwood Creek pass is paved while the west side, down to Taylor Reservoir, is unpaved.  The traffic headed over the pass on this Sunday afternoon is heavy, making for a slow, dusty drive.  Arriving at the reservoir, we first headed north along the west shore on highway 742.  There are two campgrounds in this direction, Rivers End is the first and located relatively close to the lake  on a bluff where Taylor River enters the Reservoir. To the north and east of Rivers End campground, sagebrush and tall grass stretch toward the mountains while to the south and west is the blue of the lake. Campgrounds, such as Dinner Station and Dorchester, well away from Taylor Park Reservoir, are tucked into forests next to rivers feeding the reservoir with sites offering views of prairies and mountains.

Heading south along the Resevoir, we come to the largest campground, Lakeview. Located well-above the lake and close to the lake’s only marina, these sites offers panoramic vistas of the Taylor Park Reservoir and the surrounding mountain ranges.  Most of the sites are deep, level, spaced far enough apart for privacy with picnic tables and tent pads. 

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview campground

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview site #30

Taylor Park Reservoir - Lakeview site #30

 Returning over the pass, we enjoy a quiet evening at Collegiate Peaks before heading home mid-day Monday.





Camping at the Tongue River Reservoir

18 07 2011
Lake Glendo, WY

Lake Glendo, WY

Last weekend found us at the Tongue River Reservoir in southern Montana.  About an 8 hour drive, we opted to take off late Wednesday night and travel part-way, spending a short overnight at Lake Glendo.  Arriving at Glendo about 10pm we found our favorite cliff-side site on the small loop, just in time for a big thunderstorm.  After setting in the truck for about 40 minutes while it poured, we leveled the camper while a friend set-up his tent while trying to avoid puddles, had a quick beer on the cliff and went to bed.  The next morning we were up early, checked email and headed north.  We arrived in Sheridan about 4pm, just in time to do a last minute email check before heading into the “weak-at-best” cellular coverage around the Reservoir.  As it turns out, CDMA cellular is spotty, but available.  T-Mobile didn’t work at all except just a few miles from I-90.  Verizon was available in various spots, with enough for text, phone conversations and very slow data transfer at our campsite. 

The Tongue River, with headwaters in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, winds its way north before meeting the Yellowstone River at Miles City, MT.  The river’s name is believed to come from Native American languages, although its exact meaning isn’t clear.  One theory holds that the meandering of the river was like a white man’s crooked tongue.  Another says that the river was called “talking river” and later interpreted incorrectly as “tongue river”.  Still another account tells of tongue-shaped formation of trees and rocks on a hillside at the headwaters of the river.  Whatever is the true meaning, the river and reservoir just north of Decker, MT is great for camping and a beautiful lake for boating and fishing. 

Tongue River Reservoir

Tongue River Reservoir

We arrived at the reservoir around 3pm to meet family and friends that had set-up at the end of North Pee Wee campground.  We had 4 sites around a small loop, all with great views of the reservoir and lots of privacy, away from other campers.  Each of the individual sites have a picnic table and a fire ring.  Nearby were very clean pit toilets.  In the center of the campground was a fresh water tap.  A marina was also available for ice, those “forgotten” food items, plenty of fishing supplies and a boat ramp. 

Tongue River Reservoir

Tongue River Reservoir

Much of our weekend was spend on (or in) the lake.  The water temperature was near 80 degrees, the warmest that we’ve experienced this summer.  Lazy afternoons were enjoyed hanging out in quiet coves on the pontoon boat and exploring the lake on jet skis (thanks D&R!).  Early mornings and late evenings were allocated to the dedicated fisherman, which didn’t have much luck on this particular weekend.  We had a great time with friends and family until it was time to pack up on Sunday morning.  It was a long drive home – about 8 hours.  Whew…it’s a long drive, but a great, fun, beautiful place to camp and boat!





Independence Day at Lake Glendo

7 07 2011
Glendo State Park, Red Cliffs Area

Glendo State Park, Red Cliffs Area

Last weekend we traveled to central Wyoming for another 4th of July weekend on Lake Glendo.  Located about 110 miles north of the Colorado state line, east of I-25, Glendo is a unique Wyoming State Park that offers some of the best boating and camping in the region.   There are 10 distinct campgrounds around Glendo, we prefer Two Moon, a high bluff area just beyond the marina.  The 100 or so sites at Two Moon are situated around 3 loops – a large loop with many bluff side sites, an outer loop with a group area and sites along the main road and a smaller loop with both bluff side and road side sites.   

Our favorite sites are on the small loop with nearby cliff access and large back-in and pull-through arrangements.  Our “scout” group has done a great job of securing 3 adjacent sites for our group of 9.  We occupy a large outside, back-in site that we share with two tenting friends, another pickup camper on the site next to us and friends camping in their truck on a third site across the loop.  We also have a small nearby parking area that works well for our “toys”, the boat and a jet ski.  Two Moon is very busy this weekend, and unlike past years, most of the campers are in RVs instead of tents.  The word about this wonderful RV spot seems to be out!  The facilities are basic at Two Moon, pit toilets and several water hydrants scattered through the campground.  In general the pine and cedar wooded sites are spaced far enough apart for plenty of privacy and offer picnic tables and fire rings. 

Arriving late on Thursday, we spend Friday in camp due to high winds and Saturday and Sunday on the lake.  With 9 in our group, we enjoy wonderful meals, great boating including some late-day wake boarding /skiing and plenty of relaxing time anchored in quiet, sunny coves.  The lake is high, about 2 feet over flood state, but not nearly as high as last year.  Launching at the marina is easy, the dock has been moved to allow 2 launch vehicles side-by-side on the boat ramp.  By mid-morning Monday everyone is packed up and ready to head south to Colorado and back to work on Tuesday.  In a very impulsive decision; we decide to stay one more night. 

With just 3 of us choosing to stay an extra night, we don’t want to launch the boat, but the 90+ degree temps are urging us back to the water.  Without lake access at Two Moon, we opt to check out other campgrounds on the west side of the lake.  As we depart Two Moon we scoured empty campsites and found plenty of “free” firewood. The first of the campgrounds we explore is Reno Cove.  Reno has two launch ramps and is very popular for campers that like to beach their boats or jet skis because it offers easy access from many of the campgrounds to the lake.  But, to our surprise, lots of RVer’s have decided to stay through the holiday and there are no sites available.  Continuing to Red Hills camping area with about 20 sites, most sites are not level, but do provide access to the lake.  We opt for a long back-in site at one of the highest points along the Red Hills access road.  These upper sites are small and offer little protection from the wind, but do provide (with a fairly steep downhill walk) lake access.  The site we choose is deep enough for the boat with a small (almost level) tent pad, a new aluminum picnic table and large, deep fire ring.  The best aspect of this Red Hills site is a beautiful view of a red rocks cove and a small level area right next to the lake.  There is also a nearby sandy cove for access to the water.  After leveling the camper, securing the boat and unloading the “acquired” firewood, we make the short hike to our private cove, take a quick cooling dip and then enjoy watching a lighting storm as it rolls out on the eastern plains.  As the sun sets we retreat back up the hill, enjoy a quick dinner and sit around a large bonfire as the temps drop. 

The next morning we quickly pack up and head home.  It’s been another great 4th of July at Glendo!

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Father’s Day at Lake Pueblo

19 06 2011
Lake Pueblo State Park

Lake Pueblo State Park

As has become almost a tradition, we’re at Pueblo State Park for Father’s Day and our first boating weekend.  Lake Pueblo is a fairly large impound (4,600 surface acres) on the Arkansas river just west of Pueblo.  We like making this our first boating of the season since the water tends to be warmer here in southern Colorado and the campgrounds are enjoyable. 

We are in “T Loop” of the Yucca Flats campground.  This loop provides large pull through and back-in sites with closest access to a small protected cove that is ideal for non-boat swimming.  Yucca Flats is made up of 5 loop with about 12 or 15 sites on each loop.  There is a camper facilities building in a central area with showers and laundry facilities.  Each of the loops also provide restrooms with toilets and sinks.  All of these sites provide 30 amp power, but all water is shared with hydrants scattered throughout the campgrounds.  Each site has a fire pit and a covered picnic tables next to a paved parking area.  There is a dump station at the entrance to Yucca Flats as well as several others scattered throughout the park. 

Pueblo County is under a Stage II fire ban which means we’re not able to have a campfire this weekend.  Its’ very dry in southern Colorado this spring with two large wildfires currently burning, one about 50 miles west near Westcliffe and one about 100 miles south along the Colorado/New Mexico state line.  The Duckett fire near Westcliffe has charred nearly 3000 acres and the Track fire near Raton has burned about 28,000 acres and caused closure of I-25 for numerous days.

This is traditionally a very busy weekend at Lake Pueblo, last year there was over an hour wait at the boat ramp.  But, this year is much quicker – we’ve completed the mandatory mussel inspection, applied the 2011 registration tags and are in the water in about 20 minutes.  With traffic and a bit of a breeze that has come up, the main part of the lake is very rough.  After a quick tour of the dam and swim beach, we anchor in a quiet cove to enjoy the water and sun.  The lake is possibly the highest we’ve ever seen, creating more surface area, hiding a few underwater hazards and providing new coves for relaxing.  The water is about 68 degrees, great for a refreshing plunge, but not warm enough for extended swimming.  By 6pm much of the lake traffic has departed and we head for the boat ramp.  Back at camp we enjoy a tasty dinner and a calm evening. 

We need to vacate our campsite by noon today – so we’ll have breakfast and maybe some swimming in the cove before loading up and heading home.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!