Autumn is coming to the high country

25 Aug, 2016
St. Charles Lake Campground, San Isabel NF, Colorado

Morning Sun followed by afternoon thunderstorms

I remember this pattern from backpacking in Colorado many years ago.  Hike fast and get off the ridges and set up camp before the rains hit.  I have several photos of myself wearing a huge, wet poncho over me and my backpack when I missed the timing.

Setting up camp is a lot easier now - I can even leave my wet rain gear hanging outside under the awning - luckily, there's been no wind.  I can even continue to cook outside.

Shortly after taking this, I had to angle the awning to let the hail and rain drain off!

All the white is hail!

Hail on the picnic table - and the bear box in the background!

My campsite has been soggy for 3 days now!

When it's not raining, I have a lovely place to sit by the creek.

A cup of tea, a good book, the sounds of thunder and pitter-patter of rain on the trailer roof and a sleeping kitty on my lap - what a delightful way to spend an afternoon (or 3).

A Hike in Squirrel Creek Canyon

24 August, 2016
Rye Colorado

The first developed recreation area on National Forest land!

Following the Ludlow Massacre in 1914 near the Rockefeller's Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation camps, there was a surge towards labor reforms which, among other things, resulted in the first developed recreation area in the National Forest system.  Increased leisure time along with rising automobile ownership and developed roads meant that more people were visiting the National Forests.

A landscape architect was hired to manage the impacts of so many visitors to the Squirrel Creek Canyon area.  Arthur Carhart had been a sanitation officer during WWI and was appalled at the health risks he encountered - trash, stream pollution, denuded slopes and the dangers of uncontrolled campfires.  Carhart's solution would revolutionize how public lands would be handled in the future and saw the creation of recreation areas that balanced responsible recreation, wilderness and commercial interests.  

The campgrounds in Squirrel Creek Canyon have been maintained in close to the original style (the picnic tables are constructed of massive logs!).

We didn't hike the entire creek trail as it appeared to follow the creek forever (and all downhill on the way out - which, of course, meant all uphill on the way back).  The trail was partially a wash, partially a constructed ATV path and crossed the creek a number of times.  We could see small fish (maybe brook trout) in the clear water.  A very pleasant hike and it wasn't too hot in all the trees.

One of the more open parts of the trail, just at the beginning.

Bishop's Castle

On the way back to camp, Julie took a detour to show me one of the more colorful aspects so far in the San Isabel NF.  A guy (named Bishop) 'claimed' ownership of some land in the NF - and has built a most eccentric structure (the Castle).  He has a cafe and let's folks tour the castle (if they dare, it certainly isn't built to any formal code).  He has signs up around the property that remind me of the meandering label on Dr. Bronners soap bottles (only more anti-government and paranoid).

See the dragon head and wings?

City Mouse; Country Mouse

23 Aug, 2016
Rye, Colorado

City Mouse . . . 

I just spent a week outside Denver, Colorado visiting friends and relatives.  The close-by state parks were all full, so I stayed in the Dakota Ridge RV Park in Golden, Co.  This was convenient and I had hook-ups so that my air-conditioning could combat the high temps.  The RV park was very tight - easy to hear conversations on either side of me.  But there was a picnic table, full hookups, a pool, a hot tub, laundry, book exchange, curb-side trash pickup every morning, propane fill, etc - a very nice full-service park.  There was even a dog walking path out around part of the park and up onto a rock outcropping that gave a birds eye view of the valley and the mountains.

My tiny trailer is down there somewhere!

After a week of visiting and accomplishing city chores like shopping, I was ready for the mountains!  

Country (mountain) mouse . . . 

I have reservations for a week in the San Isabel National Forest in Southern Colorado.  My friend, Julie, has been camp-hosting at St. Charles Lake Campground where it is about 20 degrees cooler than in the valley.  

Even in Denver, I have been enjoying the late afternoon thunderstorms so common to late summer in Colorado.  Refreshing and enjoyable now that I don't have two terrified greyhounds to deal with - Faye Wray isn't bothered by all the thunder and lightening and I love it.

I hadn't expected all the aspen - I wonder if I'll still be here when the leaves begin to turn!

Scrub-a-dub-dub - en Plein Aire gets a bath

15 August, 2016

Whenever I see a do-it-yourself car/truck wash, my rig veers towards it!

I can only stand so much road grime and smashed bugs (the awning arms are particularly nasty with bugs!).  So, weighed down with a ton of quarters and fully prepared to get wet, I pulled into a truck wash in Green River yesterday.  I guess I'm glad it's still so hot, because I always get as wet as the trailer when I wash it - but yesterday, it just felt refreshing!

In between adding quarters (almost $10 in total), I took the time to take a couple of pictures of the pink soapy procedure.

I'm sure the textured material on the cargo box is good for not marking when hit with gravel, but the dirt and bugs sure get stuck to it.

Cleaner than it was - and my chore for the day is done!

Grand River Vineyards!

14 August, 2016
Palisade, Colo.

My first stay with a Harvest Host!

Well, you can stay in a truck stop or a Walmart if you just want a quick overnight in populated areas - OR, you can stay in a beautiful vineyard with a tasting room and views (although you'll still be parked in a parking lot).

Grand River Vineyard is just off I-70 in Palisade, Co.  It is one of the oldest wineries in Colorado.  They only use locally grown grapes (about 10 acres of their own grapes as well).  They make an impressive variety of wines, although dry reds are their specialty.  

The vineyard is sheltered by 'The Books' to the North - a ridge of rock that I've been following for the last 150 miles.  The winter sun bounces off the Books and keeps the vines from freezing in the winter - although a hard freeze did wipe out their chardonnay grapes a few years ago.  

Some of the vineyard, with the impressive 'Books behind them.

They usually harvest in late October or early November, but it's been so hot this year, they are expecting an early harvest - probably early October.  They are producing about 4,000 cases a year.

Not quite ready yet!

Canals bring water up from the nearby Colorado River to irrigate the farm land.  Irrigation is cut-off after harvest in November.

After a tour and a tasting (and spending $$ on wine), I retreated to a shady picnic area with a breeze and am contemplating opening my recent purchase - a 4 yr old reserve Cabernet Franc - Yum!

oops - I guess I succumbed . . .
One last benefit of camping with Harvest Hosts is that after wine tasting, and even a glass, one doesn't have to drive home - just meander back over to the trailer.

Vetere Melons - Oh, My! Such Sweetness!

13 August, 2016
Green River, Utah

What could be better on a really hot day than a cold slice of melon?

All over the small town of Green River are signs advertising farm stands full of locally grown melons.  Most have samples in big coolers - this was handy because there is no way I could buy a watermelon - they were all huge (but oh, so sweet!).  Luckily, most of the stands also have a good selection of other melons - some I've never even heard of.  

A watermelon float! Found in the parking lot of  the John W Powell museum.

The ones in front are Israeli melons - quite yummy!

The big blue cooler held samples!

I intended to buy only a cantelope - but, after seeing (and tasting) all the different varieties, I wanted one of everything!  It didn't help that one family was buying 8 full-size watermelons and a bunch of the smaller ones (for a big event down south a ways). 

 I finally settled on a small ripe cantelope and an almost ripe small Israeli melon.  The Israeli melon should be ready to eat just about the time I finish the cantelope.

Wind!  The natural enemy of trailers and tents . . .

Late this afternoon as I was inside the trailer cutting up my cantelope, the wind picked up outside.  Then the wind REALLY picked up - for about a minute, the trailer was rocking and the trees outside were cracking!  The micro-burst truly lasted only about a minute - but when I went outside, I saw that quite a bit of damage had been done around the campground. 

This whole tree was uprooted!! Luckily, not on top of  the nearby trailer!!

On the golf course

Right onto a campsite - fortunately, unoccupied!

Luckily, although there were a lot of branches downed and the one tree - it didn't look like any trailers cars, or people were injured! 

And even though about 1/2 of the tents in the park were collapsed, they were all staked well enough that none of them blew away.

Hopefully only collapsed - and not broken or torn!

Feeling lucky as I finish my day!

Meteors, bunnies and barn owls

13 August, 2016
Green River State Park, Utah

Persied Meteor Shower

Last night I took my recliner and set up on the boat launch here at the state park to watch the show.  Unfortunately, none of my cameras (or the photographer) were up to the task of getting any pics.  But the show was pretty good!  One of the best I’ve seen – especially since I wasn’t really in a very dark sky area.

Those late nights take more of a toll these days!

I didn't get much sleep yesterday - and I felt it.  Fay Wray and I took a long nap not too long after breakfast.  Then, so the day wouldn't be a total loss, I drove a few blocks into town and did my laundry.  

Finding the laundromat was an interesting exercise.  I get so reliant on Yelp and Google to find things as I travel.  But, no where on line could I find a laundromat closer than Moab - almost an hours drive away.  But, I just felt that that was wrong.  Sure enough, as I drove around, there was a big laundromat sign on the main road.

Barn Owls and Bunnies

Tonight I was taking a bike ride around a nearby golf course at just about dusk.  I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and there was a barn owl landing on a fairway.  I was thrilled!  I’ve only seen a few owls in the wild.  I dashed back to the trailer to get my camera and then back to the fairway.  On the way back, I saw some pretty dumb bunnies out in the open.  By the time I spotted the owl again, she had caught something and wasn’t being very cooperative about being photographed.

This bunny lives to see another day

The owl got this bunny; the owl will live to see another day.

Back in Red Rocks Country!! Every turn produces another gobsmacking view.

August 10, 2016
Green River, Utah

I can’t explain why the scenery in Utah affects me so strongly!

Over the years, I’ve been drawn back to Utah every few years.  I just can’t get enough of the dramatic and colorful bad lands.  This trip I drove I 70 East into Green River.  Just North of Goblin State Park and Arches, the views here are just as fantastic.  There were numerous viewpoints – a good thing, because the views are spectacular.  The highway is a bit winding and steep, and today, quite gusty – so I really had to focus on driving – quite the challenge with all the gorgeous scenery.

The best scenery day; the worst camera day

I pulled off at a viewpoint, grabbed my 200mm focus camera hoping to get some good landscape photos.  I scrambled down the path to a good viewpoint – turned on the camera – nothing . . . . totally dead battery.

Yup, back up the trail so I can grab my smartphone and all these pics were taken with my Android.  Tonight will be a major battery charging evening.

Tonight's campsite isn't fancy - but I like the neighbors!

Tonight I'm staying in an RV Park in Green River, UT - not fancy or scenic, but convenient to the highway, gas station, grocery and hookups for AC and charging up my cameras.

The added assets - several horses to pet and a neighbor that increases my sense of safety!

State patrol officer lives in the trailer next to me!

Yuba Lake State Park, Utah

August 9, 2016
Yuba Lake State Park, Scipio, Utah

U.B. Dam!

In 1902, work began on the dam.  Workers over the next 15 years (that’s how long it took to complete) would sing, “UB damned if you work, and UB damned if you don’t work”.  Eventually, the name U.B. Dam was changed to Yuba Dam.

The most amazing thing about the lake was it’s color – emerald green in early afternoon.  I would have loved to paddle it – but there were very high wind gusts the day I was there – the trees were practically horizontal!

The pic doesn't do it justice - it was bright emerald green!

Again, the temperatures were in the upper 90’s – what was I thinking routing myself through central Utah in August!  Glad I have AC and a power hookup.  Also, feeling grateful that my fridge is keeping up with the high temps.

A bit of water in a dry land

August 6, 2016
Clyde Holliday State Park, John Day OR

Clyde Holliday State Park is an oasis in a dry land

The John Day area has great rock formations, dry ranch land and not a lot of water.  But, I enjoyed several days in the campground as I explored the area.  I liked the hook-ups as the weather was in the upper 90’s!

Past it's prime, but still a spot of color in a bare landscape.

The stream behind my campsite

Along a nature path that followed the stream was a small fishing pond.  I didn’t see any fish – but there were a LOT of tadpoles.  I was not surprised by the frogs – the nights were full of the sounds of them!


Small fishing pond 

 This fisherman was clearly engaged in wishful thinking!

Could have landed a shark with that hook!!