Chaffe CR 194 to Wheat Ridge, CO

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Looking out the window at the nice motel

After 2 nights boondocking in the cool quiet mountains it’s on to the big city for some warranty work on the RV and a visit to the dentist.

We left early Sunday morning to beat the traffic. In Colorado you have to leave early on the day before a holiday weekend ends or you will be stuck in traffic for half a day trying to get into the city. Really sad 😦

The drive was nice. We had a big ole tailwind blowing us across South Park and up and over Kenosha pass. The winding decent down-canyon along the South Platte River was green and the river was flowing strong. There appears to be more snow on the northern mountains than there were on the southern ranges near Salida, but even at that there is not much snow on the high peaks anywhere in Colorado. News reports say 2017/18 is the fifth-driest winter on record.

The boys (all 4 of us) are a bit freaked out that we are in a Motel instead of the RV. The RV needs a roof repair and we can’t stay in it while the shop works on it. In addition to the warranty work (which I might say more about when I write a long-time review of the Outdoors RV) we’re getting a Maxxfan installed.

We checked into the Pet-Stain Motel near where the RV is being repaired and didn’t like it one bit! The area seemed like a good place to be robbed and the motel was so bad I didn’t take my shoes off. Everything was sticky! Long-story-short I moved the RV to a better area for the night and took it to Ketelsen Campers the next morning. We got a much better room at the La Quinta in Westminster for the remainder of our stay. MUCH nicer motel! King-size bed, fridge, microwave, aahhh.

One of the first rules of RVing is if the area gives you the creeps – Get Out of There!

 

 

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Ridgway to Chaffe County 194

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Down river from Ridgway to Montrose was delightful! A slight following wind, green pastures, and baby animals lined the route (mostly I saw baby horses and baby cows). From Montrose to the top of the first pass the meadows were green with sweet spring grass and the creeks were running full. At the top of the pass the scene switched to grays, browns, and tans.

The trees lining the creeks feeding into Blue Mesa Reservoir were green, but all around was parched. We stopped for siesta at the east-end of Blue Mesa and afterwards were treated to a 20 mph tailwind. The tailwind held all the way through Gunnison and up Monarch Pass though I’m not sure how much it was pushing us at our 25 mph climbing speed.

Down the east side of the pass (again with the 25 mph thing so we don’t end up in a runaway truck ramp) to Poncha Springs – where the hot-springs water you could soak in at the Salida pool comes from – then North to Chaffe County 194/ BLM 5611. Ultimate Campgrounds (.com) showed me this place as I was searching and it’s very convenient being as it’s half way between Ridgway and Denver. It’s a small canyon area with plenty of sagebrush and pine trees.

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The sign post was leaning in a tree when we visited

There is also a State Park campground at the end of Chaffe county road 194 right on the Arkansas river. The turn off for the BLM land is not really marked. The sign post was leaning up against a tree when we were here. The road is between a couple of driveways and the only telltale was a fire pit in a turn-a-round area just south of CR 194.

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We got a decent spot on a slight slope and our nearest neighbor was 150 meters away. There was a pile of trash next to the fire pit when we were here. Seems someone remodeled a bathroom and left the debris at the camp spot (this is why we don’t have nice things). The elevation is about 7600’ so the high temp was 85-ish during the day. Clouds blocked most of the sun in the afternoon and night-time promised temps in the 40’s.

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There were 3 bars of 3G and 1 bar of LTE verizon service, but I could not get a useful internet connection at the campsite. I did manage an internet connection from the top of a nearby hill.

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The area is without services so bring it if you need it.
The closest town is Salida, CO and it’s got gas, groceries, and a hot springs pool.
The camp sites are within ear-shot of the highway so big trucks can be heard, but the cars on the highway are mostly inaudible The road to the river gets pretty busy on the weekends with rafters going to and fro.

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Ridgway to Ridgway

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We moved 6 miles up the road to Ridgway State Park. Still have stunning views of the San Juan Mountains to the south and we are nestled in the pine trees again.

Ridgway State park is perhaps the crown jewel of Colorado State Parks. It will be mostly full from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend. It’s open all year, but summer in the high-country is very popular. There is plenty to do around Ridgway from hiking, 4-wheeling, boating, and hot springs, plus Telluride is just around the corner.

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While we’re here lets talk about RV fresh water.
I have several friends who travel with RV’s and they seem to fall into two camps: Fill it with water before you leave, or pull it empty and fill it with water when you get to the camping place. I’ve tried both and while it’s nice to tow 664 fewer pounds (Mine holds 80 gallons) I have found it limits where I can go and how long I can stay un-connected when I start a trip with a mostly empty tank. For example, I recently had to make a side-trip to get water because I didn’t fill up at the last water stop.

I suppose if you are heading to a State park or Commercial campground you know has water then going empty might be better for you. If on the other hand you are like me and don’t have a clear idea where you are going next then having a full tank gives us a lot of freedom to wing it. Water and groceries are my limiting factors so the more I have of each the longer I can go without thinking about it too much.

 

 

 

Mancos to Ridgway, CO

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Soaking time! Two days soaking and a night of camping at Orvis Hot Springs. I first stayed here way-back in the mid nineties and can remember when the plants were small and there were not many of them. Now the landscaping is mature, the lilacs bloom in white and purple, and the shade trees blanket the ground with coolness. The town has changed too. Back then it was young people striking out into the wilderness in jeeps. Now there are a lot of retired Californians driving range rovers. Still there are one or two old bearded hippie types keeping it nostalgic.

The drive here from Mancos took about 4 hours. Google says it should take 2-3, but they don’t plan on stoping to take pictures or getting behind a logging truck climbing the pass. There are also two interesting towns along the way: Silverton and Ouray. Both are old mine towns turned tourist destination. Both could fill up a day of sight seeing and post-card buying.

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The last time I was over these passes was as a cyclist in the Iron Horse Classic bike event. I got rained and hailed on during that ride and I got rained and hailed on again coming over the mountains on this trip. If the trips weren’t 25 years apart I would be suspicious.

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On that first trip we were racing the train on bikes (the train won) this time I think I bested the train.

 

Green!!

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Gallup to Mancos, CO
We arrived just it time to experience the first real rain of spring! Water flowing in the gutters, new snow on the peaks, the whole enchilada!

We camped a little east of Mancos on top of a ridge at about 8000’ and got to sit through a couple of rain showers. The drive north from Gallup was downwind and that’s always nice.

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The scene was mostly shades of brown and tan until we left Cortez heading east and climbed into the mountains. As I recall it’s been largely brown and tan since leaving mid Texas. West through Texas and New Mexico, south into Arizona – all browns and tans. The green hills of southwest Colorado are a pleasant surprise!

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Marshall Lake AZ to Gallup NM

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Kitty soaking up the afternoon sun near Marshall Lake

Well that was interesting. The forest service told me they were closing the forest on Wednesday because of extreme fire danger. Then business I-40 in Holbrook was closed because of a fire. All of the camp grounds I’ve visited in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona have fire bans in place. I think we need some rain in the west!

Also, I feel compelled by the bruises on my spine to report the pavement on I-40 in Flagstaff is easily the roughest asphalt I have ever driven over – Argh! The only stretch of pavement that comes close to being as bad are the first few miles of Hwy 287 in Oklahoma.

Since Gallup is just an overnight stop on our way to Ridgway, CO we pulled off I-40 at a truck stop near a railroad crossing. We found a place to park in the dirt lot next to the retaining pond. The wind is gusting to 30 miles per hour and politely swirling dust into the RV. This is going to make our next planned stop in Durango seem like a mountain paradise!

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Got to get here early if you want a spot by the trains

FYI: Gallup Propane has great prices for tank refills. We had a 30# tank filled for only $15! That’s about 1/2 what it would have cost in Denver. Also the best price for gas and diesel seems to be on the north end of town heading toward Shiprock.

Flagstaff, AZ

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Camping near Marshall Lake at 7100’ the weather was delightful! High temps in the 70’s and a gentle westerly breeze. All the cats had a chance to go for a walk, roll in the dirt, and eat some grass. The Overland Expo was in Flagstaff at the same time we were there. After the Expo closed for the day we saw several adventure camp-mobiles roll past our camp site. I had half-a-notion to attend the Expo, but when I saw that the line to get in stretched from the Fairgrounds all the way to the Walmart (~ 3 miles) I changed my mind.

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Instead I grabbed a bike out of the truck and rode up the road around Marshall Lake/ wetlands. The lake is more of a wetland habitat for ducks and such. Not so much a house-boat lake or a water skiing lake. Did the hike-a-bike around the wetlands in the dry season so there was no mud to contend with. Speaking of dry, after siesta a Ranger came by and told us the forest was closing in a few days because of the fire danger. Time to skedaddle!