Friday, August 31, 2012

If Only Julie Andrews Was Here



Two hikes in two days had us singing “The Sound of Music”. Something about the Pagosa Springs area just has that effect. Yesterday we drove up to Wolf Creek Pass and the Lobo Overlook to hike a portion of the Continental Divide Trail. We’ve been on the CDT in other places, but none with this kind of scenery.

Park at the microwave tower to reach the trailhead at 11,500’.


As far as Colorado trails go, the portion we hiked was fairly level, although our lungs were aware of any uphill sections due to the elevation. Unfortunately there were many dead trees which we assumed was damage from the pine bark beetle that we’ve seen in other parts of the state.


We really had the feeling of being on top of the world.


This would be a great hike a little earlier in the summer when more wildflowers were in bloom. There were still some areas with healthy looking flowers, but most were past their peak.


Because this part of the CDT is in the Weminuche Wilderness, no motorized vehicles or even mountain bikes are allowed on the trail. Unfortunately horses are welcome and we passed three with pack mules going on an elk hunting expedition


Today we hiked a few miles on the Piedra River Trail, another lovely area north of town. Just the drive to both these trailheads is worth the trip.


The trail runs along the river, another fairly easy hike with not much change in elevation.


The river soon enters a canyon-like area with high rock walls. We couldn’t believe we picked two hikes in a row with such beauty.



Can’t you hear us singing?


So far nobody else has found our campsite and tried to join us for the weekend except a couple of deer and elk. Hope it stays that way.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

West Fork Rd, Pagosa Springs, CO



After a long, tiring day yesterday, we finally settled in at our new hangout near Pagosa Springs in the San Juan National Forest, about a half mile off Hwy 160 off of West Fork Rd. We may have company over the coming holiday weekend, but right now it’s just us tucked away in a pretty little out of the way spot.

Can’t complain about the price or the views.


Interesting how the color of the rock changes depending on the position of the sun.


Our phone rang as we were dumping tanks in Salida yesterday morning. Debbie was calling to tell us her Lazy Daze would not start. Nothing happened when she turned the key. And she had already started it and moved it to hook up no more than 15 minutes before, while all of us were still there. Since Chuck is more mechanically inclined she tried calling him first, but he didn’t answer. About then Chuck pulled up to the visitor center to fill up some water jugs, so Jim told him what happened and he agreed to drive back to the campsite to see if he could figure it out.

In the meantime, Debbie got out her Ford manual, and unbeknownst to all of us, there is a fuse for the starter relay. It had blown, and replacing it got her going again. Glad we all learned something we may need to remember in the future. Not sure what blew the fuse, but we were initially concerned that rats may have chewed some wiring, although she was the only one who had no evidence of any rodent visits under her hoods. We finally all met up at the top of Poncha Pass, where Chuck, Carla, Jim and I hooked up the vehicles to the motorhomes and we were on our way.

The drive along Hwy 160 between South Fork and Pagosa Springs crosses Wolf Creek Pass, at 10,300’. We stopped at a rest area for lunch about 40 miles from the pass and unhooked the cars. Sure glad we did as it was a good climb up and a really steep, winding road for about 10 miles going down the west side.

From reading other blogs, researching places to boondock, and talking to the forest service, we intended to stay somewhere along East Fork Rd, but the boondocking sites were about 4 miles back on a not-so-good dirt road, and when we got there it just wasn’t what we expected. Too much ATV traffic, and too much room to be joined by other campers over the busy Labor Day weekend. I think we were spoiled by our previous site near Poncha Springs, so we took the car a few miles back up the road to check out West Fork Campground. It was nice and there were several non-reserved sites we could have taken, but we asked the camp hosts if there were any dispersed areas nearby. They gave us a few ideas, but they were not really suitable, so on a whim we turned off a narrow dirt road and came to this lovely spot we are now in. We’ve parked in a way that should deter anyone from camping close by this weekend, but that remains to be seen.

This small lake is just down the road but there is no room for anything but tents or truck campers there.


On our last two days in Poncha Springs, we drove 5 miles farther north of where we camped into the San Isabel Forest to hike a different portion of the Colorado Trail, which shortly intersects with the trail to Mt. Shavano, one of Colorado’s 14ers. Four short miles and 4,000’ of climbing and we could have been to the summit. Fortunately we are smart enough to know we probably wouldn’t have made it, so we opted for the less aggressive Colorado Trail one day, and the next day we just hiked up the rugged Forest Service road past the trail head parking lot.

We turned around at a clearing under the shadow of Mt. Shavano.


Both were nice hikes. We saw a family of wild turkeys and a herd of cattle. I just don’t understand how anyone can eat them with those cute faces.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Continental Divide Trail to Boss and Hunt Lakes



It was a perfect day for a high altitude hike so we got in Chuck and Carla’s Jeep and drove about 12 miles up the road towards Monarch Pass, then another mile on County Rd 230, which the hiking guide said was a 4WD only road. And they weren’t kidding.


 The Hunt Lake trail is actually a 2 mile segment of the Continental Divide Trail, so a 4 mile round trip hike to 2 lakes sounded great. After starting up the road, it was so steep, rough, and rocky that Jim, Carla and I got out to scout out the road ahead. Carla thought they could make it so everyone but me got back in the Jeep. As slow as they were going I decided it seemed like a better idea to just hike the mile to the trailhead. I was sure happy that I walked. I know lots of people think jeeping is great fun, but I really get no pleasure out of being bounced around like a beach ball when I can walk almost as fast. I got to the trailhead only 5 minutes after they did.

Looks more like a trail than a road to me.


It was a nice mile hike to Boss Lake, where we stopped and took a break. Carla was not having a good hiking day, but that happens sometimes, especially at 11,000’.




Our second mile to Hunt Lake seemed longer, but we made it and had a snack in this alpine setting. We had the lake to ourselves.




Going back was much easier, downhill almost the whole way, and Jim was nice enough to walk fast with me so we could get down the road ahead of the Jeep. We were almost to the end before they caught us.


I just can’t say enough good things about this area. Last night we went to the Salida riverfront for a free outdoor jazz concert, then had dinner at Moonlight Pizza and Brewpub.


It was another great pizza and good beer, although Ska Brewery in Durango is our favorite so far. Salida is one of the few places we’ve come to in our travels where we might like to live, at least in the summer, although we have lots of other places to see before we ever settle down again.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Trouble in Paradise


A couple days after we arrived in Poncha Springs, Jim found the beginnings of a rodent nest under the hood of the car. We weren’t sure if they had started building it while we were at Curecanti NRA near Gunnison, or if the culprits were working on it here on our mesa.

Today we were getting ready to drive the Lazy Daze into Salida to dump our tanks. I was outside making sure we didn’t leave anything underneath that we might run over, when I saw what looked like a piece of insulation material on the ground under the front of the rig. Jim opened the hood, and this is what he found.


Lots of little prickly pear cactus pieces, bones, rodent droppings and insulation. It was everywhere! The majority was on the engine block that was very difficult to reach. Jim cleaned it out as best he could, with the help of some heavy gloves, Carla’s extra long tongs, and our hand vac. We also stopped at a car wash in town to use their super vacuum.  At least it appears they aren’t eating any wiring.

Just a small portion of what we got out.


Jim was going to prop the hood open to spray some peppermint oil, which seemed to help keep the mice away when we were in Missouri last summer, and when he opened the hood of the car he was greeted by a big rat sitting in there. It ran off and we sprayed like crazy. About an hour later we came back from a walk and he opened the car hood again. There it was again, and this time I got to see the hamster-sized rodent just looking at us! Guess the Colorado rats like peppermint.

We are leaving Monday so we will keep a close watch and make sure they don’t build another castle.

Neither Debbie nor Chuck and Carla had any nests under their hoods, but Carla did find peanut shells in their Jeep, and to their knowledge nobody has ever eaten peanuts inside the Jeep. Maybe that’s where they’re having happy hour!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Changing Skies


It is fascinating to watch the clouds over the mountains of Colorado.





Something about this landscape makes me want to learn how to paint.

It’s like looking at a mural, this doesn’t even look real.


It will be hard to leave….

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Hiking, Jeeping, and USA Pro Cycling Challenge


There is no shortage of hiking trails in the Poncha Springs/ Salida/ Buena Vista area of Colorado. We decided to take a hike on the Starvation Creek trail, but weren’t sure from the directions to the trailhead whether the road was doable in a car. Chuck volunteered to take us in their Jeep, but little did we know he was wanting to leave our BLM area by a different route, taking us on Washout Rd. Guess that name should have been cause for alarm, but it was on their map. Started out a bit rough and rocky, then became just what the name said, a washout. Jim, Debbie and I got out to try to look for another road, and Debbie found it a bit higher up. You can’t tell how bad this really was from the picture, but I was not enjoying the ride.


Once we finally got out of there and back on pavement, it turned out we had misread the directions to the trail. So we had to back track, eventually found the correct turn, and after a couple miles on a decent dirt road, the last 2.75 miles to the trailhead were horribly rutted, covered in big rocks, and took what seemed like forever. After an hour and a half drive to get 14 miles, we finally started our hike at 11:45. Not a very early start.


Some dark clouds were looming but we had our rain gear so the rain stayed away. This is a nice trail through the woods that climbs gradually towards the Continental Divide for about 6 miles. We probably hiked about 2.5 miles when we came to a huge rockslide and decided to turn around. We get burned out on hiking after two or three hours, so a 4-6 mile round trip makes for a good day.
Some images from the trail which paralleled the creek the whole way.
Red grass growing in the water.


The shade provided for lots of moss.


And a variety of mushrooms.


The trail is actually the rocks on the left.



And it was lovely strolling through endless aspens.


Yesterday we went to Buena Vista, about 25 miles north, and took the short Barbara Whippel loop trail above the river. We stayed in Buena Vista for a couple weeks in 2010, and really liked the area.
Houses in the new subdivision by the river, with the Collegiate Peaks in the background. The skies looked threatening but we didn’t get rain.


Both Buena Vista and Salida have engineered the Arkansas River for whitewater rafting and kayaking. Guess it paid off in tourist dollars.


Yesterday was also Stage 3 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a 7 day bicycle race that passed through Buena Vista as the riders rode from Gunnison to Aspen. 130 miles and crossing 2 passes over 12,000’. Had to be a tough day of riding.  And many of the pros who are participating had ridden in the Tour de France just a few weeks ago.
Of course we only got to see them fly by in a matter of seconds, but it’s fun to see all the support vehicles and staff that accompany the riders.


We spotted this recumbent and had to check it out, since we both used to ride Volaes like his. This was the first time we’d ever seen a bimini top on a bike, and he told us all about how he made it. People love talking about their bikes much the same as they do about their RVs.


We capped off the day with another pizza and beer at Amica’s in Salida. It was so good the first time we just had to go back, and we’re glad we did. If we lived here, this would be a regular hangout for sure.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Now We Know Jack


This isn’t Jack.


After two months of carrying around our new Jack antenna in it’s box and using it as a coffee table, we finally had a day of dry weather forecast, so Jim decided it was time to get back on the roof.

After the experience he and Debbie had while installing one on hers in Durango, he was not looking forward to the day he put ours up. But with some help from muscle-man Chuck, and the knowledge they gained from the previous installation, it took them less than 2 hours with no foul language.

Jim and Chuck hard at work. Chuck is the one lying on the roof while Jim supervises.


The finished product.



It doesn’t have to be raised or lowered and never needs maintenance like the old batwing, and doesn’t shade the solar panels. And it’s sleek and pretty, no higher than the air conditioner shroud.


It remains to be seen if we will get reception equal to the old antenna. Here we are only getting 4 over-the-air channels, and we were getting 6 with the old one, although they are barely watchable. For some reason Debbie is getting 4 digital channels but less over-the-air, but she is parked a good distance away from us. At this point it doesn’t matter as we rarely watch TV in the summer anyway, so it may be awhile before we can tell how well it works.

The weather forecast was correct, no rain yesterday, so the caulk had plenty of drying time. And it was the clearest day we’ve had in a couple weeks. It’s beautiful here. They may have to force us to leave.


And be sure to check out the latest post on Life on the Open Road. Now I don’t have to do my own post about Salida because Diana covered it so well. Thanks!