Springtime to Delmoe Lake Rd

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Crazy Mountains in the distance

Further west today we climbed away from the Yellowstone river and northward toward Butte, MT. We found a camp-spot off of the road to Delmoe Lake and spent the afternoon under gray skies and an intermittent rain/ hail mix.

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The morning low was 33* and a heavy dew coated all the cold surfaces at sunrise.

 

 

 

 

 

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Laramie to Casper, WY

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A monument to the oil wellian west

Spent the morning going hiking and cleaning the house. It was a delight to be camped at Tie City. Spent the afternoon beating our way north into 30 – 40 MPH headwind/ crosswinds over some very wavy roads. Not rough like the top contenders on my Worst Roads List but wavy like driving over a black-top ocean. The ride in the truck felt like a giant hobby-horse gone horribly wrong. Wanna make america great again? Repave all her roads.

Driving into a 40 MPH wind is about the same as climbing over Vail Pass only it lasts for three hours! This leg of the trip seems like a repeat of the leg through southern Colorado into Oklahoma last April – HOT, windy, rough road, and ending at a truck stop. This time the truck stop is the Hat Six Travel Center and while the fuel is 20¢ more than the quicky mart the parking lot is ginormous!

 

 

State Forest State Park to Tie City Campground

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Called Tie City because this is where a LOT of railroad ties were cut it’s also a premier Mtn Bike riding area just east of Laramie, WY. We were there Tuesday night and got to watch the Tuesday night race series.

Wednesday morning I rode the race course. It was a super ride and I didn’t have to read a map or think about the route because the race organizers had marked it well and left the markers out (I was told there is a Wednesday night trail-run on the same route). It was about an 8 mile loop through forest, across meadows, and a hand-full of creek crossings.

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The drive up from Colorado took us through a recent wildfire area on the CO WY border. Many burned trees in the area and the fire danger was still very high as the fire crews mopped up along the side of the highway. A Red Flag Warning and a Fire Weather Watch were in effect during our visit to Larimie and the nearby mountains. I was almost caught up in the Hayman Fire (Colorado in 03 or 04 – I don’t recall the year) so now I’m leery of camping in the forest and when I do I really don’t like to disconnect the truck/camper in case we have to flee in the dark of night.

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The Tie City Campground loop is quite rough in places. The road is not very wide and it has deep ruts from rain cutting into it. That said I managed to pull at 23’ trailer past a 35’ class A and find a spot to park. There are 4 or 5 places a bigger rig will fit and the other 10 or so places are for tents, vans, or small trailers. There are pit toilets in the campground, but I didn’t see any water, sewer, or elect service. Cost was $10 per night in 2018. It’s $5 as a day-use area.

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Tech report: There was 3 bars of verizon 3G, enough for an internet connection. The LTE service fades in and out so I turned it off. Plenty of signal for talk and text.

Jacks Gulch to State Forest State Park

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After MeadowFest we journeyed farther up the Cache La Poudre River and over Cameron Pass (more than 10,000 feet high) towards Walden, CO. Truck 2.0 did not have any trouble pulling the pass at whatever speed I thought was appropriate and I’m happy about that! We stopped for the night at State Forest State Park on the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains.

State Forest State Park is very large and has a delightful lake in it. We chose to stay in the cheap seats ($10) on County Road (CR) 41. There are more than 50 primitive sites in the dispersed areas and they are first-come un-reservable sites. There are also many more sites with tables, fire rings, and nearby toilets ($18). Those can be reserved via the Internet. There is only one dump station and it’s near the Michigan Creek Park Entrance.

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We picked a spot next to a creek so we could enjoy the sounds of flowing water (Bonus! It was long enough to park the whole rig without disconnecting the truck). The humming birds were out working the flowers and occasionally stopped by to peek in the windows at the cats.

The north end of CR 41 is mostly quiet as the only activity at the end of the road involves hiking or horseback riding (and a little bit of logging-truck stuffs). CR 41 is only about 10 miles long and ends for automobiles at a big traffic circle/ horse campground. There is much more to do near the lake and in the campgrounds close to the hiking trails.

Tech report: There was 1 to 2-bars of verizon service where we stopped 8 miles north on CR 41. Enough for text and a couple phone calls, but not reliable enough for an internet connection.

Boyd Lake to Crow Valley Campground near Briggsdale CO

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East-bound out of Loveland and through Windsor on Hwy 392 which then curves north and crosses Hwy 14 at Briggsdale, CO. Crow Valley Campground is in the trees near Crow Creek just north of Hwy 14 and on the west side of Weld County 77. The area is part of the Pawnee National Grassland and a premier bird-watching area.

The campground is co-located with the Lee and Dorothy Rhodes Farm Implement Museum which to my eye looks like a pile of old broken metal bits. I imagine a conversation between Dorothy and Lee that went something like this:

“Lee, I told you to get ride of that old broken stuff cluttering up the yard”

“Okay Dot, I’ll get rid of it tonight”

Whereby Lee hauls it off under cover of darkness to the National Grassland and drops it in a cottonwood grove along with a sign which says “museum” so he doesn’t get fined for dumping.

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On the left is a hay mower – On the right is a hay baler.

The campsites are $13 per night for a single site and $18 for a double site (Spring 2018), but there is no water (except at the picnic pavilions), electric, or sewer connection. There are community toilets and shade trees. The best shade is in sites 6, 7, 8, & 10. 9 is okay and so is 1 but they get a lot of mid-day sun. 6 is a double-wide site. Since we can’t plug in and run the AC it is a bit toasty today. Tomorrow is suppose to be 10* cooler, day after that 20* cooler.

The next day on the Pawnee National Grassland’s windswept plains:

A thunderstorm drifted through here this afternoon and it’s so very pleasant now. Cool air smelling like rain and enough cloud cover to blot out the sun.

I found another farm implement “museum” today. On the corner of 3rd Ave and Milton in Briggsdale.

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I went into town to see the sites and found a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) for the Pawnee Grassland at the Briggsdale Market. It shows all the places where dispersed camping is allowed so I’ll be free camping the next couple nights.

The National Grassland is mostly not public land. From a look at the map it’s about 90 to 95% private land which means most of the Grassland is off-limits. A lot of the pubic lands are also given over to cattle grazing so there are fences, water tanks, and other items on public land which are someone’s private property. The Weld County roads are mostly passable in a car, but many of the Forest Service (Grassland) roads are only suitable for 4×4 high clearance vehicles. If you are pulling a trailer or bringing a motor-home here it’d be best to check out the roads in a car/truck first before committing the rolling house. Unless you’re driving an expedition vehicle, then go for it.

The MVUM shows a fair number of roads designated for dispersed camping. Most of them have never seen anyone camp on them so there are no turn-outs or trails looping around a fire ring. That said there are a lot of places you are allowed to just pull off the road and camp within 300 feet of it.

We found a quiet little spot on a road that I feel certain was once a driveway to a ranch or business. It’s paved and ends at what might have once been a sliding gate and some parking spots. Since it rained last night, and may rain again today, I thought parking on pavement was better than picking a spot that could be a mud-hole after a storm.

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Though I’m not much of a bird-watcher I did spot 3 Hawks and some Meadowlarks. There are also Pronghorn Antelope, Rabbits, and Cows near camp.

Tech report – Crow Valley Campground has 2-bars of LTE verizon service which was enough to use the internet. Briggsdale, across the street, has 5-bars of LTE service. Once you get out on the Grassland verizon service drops to 1 or 3 bars of 3G (no internet connection, but talk & text worked).
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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!