Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Excellent Boondocking on the Green River

Since leaving Grand Lake, CO we've entered Wyoming and have traveled through a lot of wide open space and rolling sage brush covered land. The first day, right as we entered Wyoming, the skies opened above us in a brief but torrential downpour, complete with some big scary lightening.

We spent the first night in unremarkable Rawlins, WY, at a RV park near the freeway (ear plugs were our friend). In over ten months of full time RVing this was our first one night stand.

The redeeming factor for Rawlins was the lovely nine-hole disc golf course (complete with deer) that we played in the morning before hitting the road. The town was full of deer, probably because it was the only green area to be had for miles around.

Hans keeps a close eye on the deer as he picks up his disc.

The park was a very pretty setting against the rocks. No wonder the deer liked to hang out here!

The destination for our second night in Wyoming was the Warren Bridge BLM site along the Green River, 20 miles North of Pinedale, WY. We had learned about this boondocking site from Deas and Jen...Thanks so much for a most excellent recommendation! Another first was in store for us...after ten months on the road we had yet to boondock in our Montana 5th wheel.

After being spoiled by the green of Colorado for over two months, Wyoming, so far, had been a lot of brown. The Green River valley was a lovely sight for sore eyes. Warren Bridge BLM has two separate camping areas. On the West side of Hwy 191 is a developed dry camping area with picnic tables, BBQ pits, pit toilets, water and a dump station for $10/night. On the East side of the highway are 12 separate riverside camp sites, spread out along nine miles of the river, with picnic tables, BBQ pits and pit toilets (well away from the camp sites), for free.

We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon and discovered the two free sites in Area 1 were empty. We took one of them and had the entire area to ourselves for our one night stay. Area 1 is a very level grassy area. We hiked down to Area 2 and noticed those grassy sites were quite bumpy and would have been a bit of work to get level.

There is a good dirt access road through the BLM area and side roads drop down to each camping Area. Some of the camp sites have a boat launch site...though the water was too low (in my opinion) to put a boat in. We did not check out the sites beyond Area 2, so we cannot vouch for their accessibility.

We had decent 3G Verizon signal at our site using our booster. Without the booster we might have been in a black hole.

This was a fantastic boondockimg site, all three of us loved it! We absolutely would return here.

Camping Area 1, as seen from the main access road. Our rig is the white speck all by itself next to the river.
As you can see, privacy was excellent!

The Green River runs right behind the trailer.
The second site in Area 1 is right beyond our trailer, though each site is huge.

We walked up the river trail to Area 2, which also can accommodate two rigs.
The road in the distance leads to Area 2 sites.

Rosie loved this site too!

Stare down!

Fabulous sunset!

A rainbow greeted us in the morning!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Campground Review: Elk Creek Campground and RV Resort, Grand Lake, CO

Elk Creek Campground and RV Resort seems more like a state park campground than your typical private RV park. Located about one mile from the quaint town of Grand Lake, CO and just outside the Western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, the park is situated among conifers and willow bushes with lots of grassy areas, a little creek and a small trout pond (which is no longer stocked, it was attracting bears!).

The park has 50 RV sites (some with full hook ups, some water and electric only), 13 tent sites and 14 cabins. All sites have decent separation, often with bushes between the sites and many have grassy open space as well. All sites have a picnic table and BBQ/fire pit.

We made reservations in February for two weeks. I believe the early reservations (and longer stay) are the reason we were assigned a large, well situated site. We were in site RV-19, which sits at the top of an oval ring of sites that back on to a lovely grassy and treed open space.

The thing about site RV-19 is it is a pull out site that you have to back in to and the utilities are separated with water and electric at one end and sewer at the other end. Fortunately the owners are aware of the problem and offered us an extra power supply cord so we could reach the electric pedestal. It took a lot of effort to get into this site, BUT it really is one of the best sites in the campground. The site is quite spacious and open with nice views of the open space and of mountains in the distance.

The site quality here varies greatly. Some sites have little to no sitting area (bushes and grasses are right up to the edge of the pad), some sites are very private with many bushes between them, some are open and grassy. If you make reservations you might want to discuss what type of site you want to have with the office.

BONUS: Moose are a common sight in the RV park during the summer! We saw them several times during our two week stay, munching on the willow plants.

Amenities include restrooms/showers, playground, game room, laundry and wifi. Using our Verizon wifi we had 3G with fair speed during most of our stay. The parks wifi was decent also, though it would occasionally disconnect you.

We stayed here during the middle of summer. The park was full each weekend and at least three quarters full on weekdays. This is typical in the summer at any RV park or campground in this area. There were a lot of families (lots of kids) camped here. We enjoyed our stay here...but, if we were to return, we might try staying just up the road at the Winding River RV Park...we spoke to another couple who felt the sites there were larger, more open and the park seemed to have fewer families.

Site RV-19 is a pull out situated at the top of an open space.
Water and electric were at the front, sewer at the back, causing us to borrow
an extra electric cord from park management.
We also had to use our sewer extension hose.

View from our front door down the open space.

Our site from the road.
Obviously there are vehicles going by sometimes during the day
but at night it was very quiet.

At 6am our first morning in camp we spotted this guy eating right across the road
behind our neighbors trailer!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

So Long Colorful Colorado

We've had an amazing nine weeks traveling across Colorado. We spent quality time in 6 different sites (Mancos/Mesa Verde, Durango, Ouray, Gunnison, Buena Vista and Grand Lake); each was beautiful in its own way.

The state slogan, Colorful Colorado, is so appropriate; from the moment we crossed into Colorado we were entranced by the colors around us. Predominantly green, but so many shades and textures of green! Transposed against the brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds, it's been a photographers dream.

Now it's time to move on, into Wyoming for a couple of days, then Idaho for a couple of days, then a good long stretch in Montana. Here's a last few images from the past week in Grand Lake.

Old wooden pipeline along the Tonahutu Trail.

Big Meadow

Green Mountain Trail is en excellent moose sighting corridor!

Never Summer Mountain Range.

Jungle Rosie stalking her prey...

Ahhhh...he got away.  

One more's the recipe for a delicious Corn Chowder we had the other day, enjoy!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lone Pine Lake, a Long but Lovely Hike

If you've got the time and the stamina for an 11 mile hike, the East Inlet Trail to Lone Pine Lake is a wonderful way to spend a day. Starting at the Eastern edge of Grand Lake, CO, the trail heads up a beautiful glacially cut valley, alongside gorgeous meadows, between towering, boulder spiked mountainsides, through lush, cooling forest and intermittently meanders along East Inlet creek which alternates between clear and serene or roaring over rocky rapids.

The trail head sits at just about 8400 ft elevation and gains almost 1500 feet over 5.5 miles. There are numerous sets of stone stairs to climb over the course of the trail. The views are incredible and several folks we met on the trail had seen moose (even right on the trial!), though we did not. Fishing on East Inlet Creek in the meadow looks wonderful and we saw many trout in Lone Pine Lake.

We turned a corner and were presented with this beautiful sight:
East Inlet Creek flowing through a gorgeous meadow.
Our trail heads up the left side of the valley before us

This little guy seemed to be posing for a photo!

We've started to climb and the view back down the valley toward Grand Lake is spectacular!

Once we started climbing we had immense rock walls on our left, aspens provided shade,
and wonderful views into the valley on our right.
The canyon walls opposite us were slabs of rock broken up by
pine beetle damaged forest.

One of many sections of stone stairs...
Stairway to Heaven?
East Inlet Creek is one of several creeks in the area that feed into the Colorado River.
Lone Pine Lake
Rainbow cloud!
Here's one more shot of this gorgeous valley in the better afternoon lighting.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Exploring the Alpine Side of Rocky Mountain National Park

In the past week we'd experienced some heavy afternoon thunder storms, especially in the local mountains. Knowing we wanted to hike on the alpine tundra, we picked a day with no rain in the forecast to drive Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) from Grand Lake (where we are staying) to Estes Park, and back.

We were hopeful that making the drive on a Monday would have fewer crowds...but that was not to be. Mid summer, on a beautiful day, and the crowds later in the afternoon seemed as bad as any weekend. We got a fairly early start (8:15am) on the day, so the trail was not too busy when we arrived at about 9:30am.

We chose to hike the Ute Trail at Ute Crossing. The trail sits right about treeline, 11,400 ft, and stays around that elevation for about two miles, offering incredible views of the surrounding mountains, before dropping steeply down to Beaver Meadows on the Estes Park side of RMNP. We just hiked the upper level, enjoying this amazing, unique terrain and several animal sightings too.

First though, the day started off with another moose sighting in the RV park! We've noticed that they are more likely to enter the RV park on the quieter week days...

It is so exciting to start the day off with a moose right outside your window!

View from the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park.

At a stop on the way to the trail head we saw our first group of bull elk:

Take a look at the view these elk get to enjoy all day!

The views into the alpine basins were amazing.

At the trail head we struck off across open tundra. The tundra here was different than tundra we have recently hiked near Ouray; it was drier and supported fewer and much smaller flowers. It reminded us of tundra we have hiked near Ustaoset, Norway: low, windswept mosses and grasses among small boulders...though this was much drier than Norway.

One felt dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape all around.

Close up of the tundra...nature's ground cover.
Scattered haphazardly all over the mesa were these lovely rock ponds.
A sampling of tundra flowers.

Nearing the edge of the mesa before it drops down in the direction of Estes Park.
The peak near the center is Longs Peak.
View down into Estes Park and Beaver Meadows.

Heading back towards the truck we went off trail to climb some of the big boulder piles nearby
and discovered a herd of female elk with their young just out of sight of the trail!

Another pretty pond...any "trees" growing on the tundra are very
close to the ground. Though small, they could be hundreds of years old.

Another fabulous view not far from the trail head. You can see we are right
above the tree line. Look closely at the rock in the center of the photo...

A couple of marmots sun bathing!

After this wonderful hike we continued our drive through the park. At this point we had reached the East side of the park, closer to Estes Park and much closer to major metropolitan areas of Colorado, and the traffic and number of people exploded! As we drove through Estes Park, headed for a grocery store, we were amazed at how congested the area was compared to Grand Lake, CO where we are staying. We were extremely happy we had chosen to stay on the West side of the park, away from this madness!

Following the necessary grocery stop, we took the one-way, dirt Old Fall River Road back to the West side of the park. This road comes out at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of the park. It was shorter than driving back the way we had come, but was also rather frustrating. It's a good dirt road so many, many people take it, and some are driving 5 - 10 mph, with very few turnouts or places to park. If you drive this road make sure you are feeling patient!

Very little snow remains near the Alpine Visitor Center.

Notice the number of people on this short, paved trail at the Alpine Visitor Center!

We really enjoyed the hike on the tundra and seeing lots of elk during our drive and hike in RMNP. The summertime crowds in the park in the afternoon are extreme, and this was on a Monday. Get an early start to a day in the park and you won't be disappointed!