Traversing the Rockies

May 10, Wednesday

It’s rained a rather considerable amount the last two days here near Moab, UT. This morning, camp is mud. The ground on Klondike Bluffs road is clay, and it turns into a gooey mess when wet. Soon it feels like I’m walking on platform shoes because of all the mud stuck to them.

Luckily this being desert, the ground dries quickly once the sun comes out. By evening the road is fine to drive on and we can safely cross camp without sinking. Which is good, because I’d planned to leave tomorrow. Katina (from the hike on Saturday) joins Marshall, Kelly, and I for one last campfire. A full moon rises over the mountains.

May 11, Thursday

Snow in the Rockies has kept me in Moab longer than I’d planned on being. If you have to be stuck somewhere, Moab certainly isn’t a bad place this time of year. There’s a lot to see in the area (of which I only saw a fraction) and the weather is pretty good in fall and spring, but by this time of year I’m getting tired of the desert and looking forward to trees.

I say goodbye to to the Xscapers crew and am on the road well before noon. In fact I make it to my destination before lunchtime.

Its only the last fire until next time.

McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area is just across the Colorado border along I70. It’s run by the BLM and there are a few free camping options within. I opt for the easiest solution, which is Rabbit Valley camping area. All it is is a big open lot, a lot of ATVers park here as it’s easy access for any size toyhauler with equipment. To get here, you turn south on Rabbit Valley road from I70. Take the first left, and follow that road to the end.

There’s a 7 day camping limit here, and there are signs posted for no open fires (and bring your own toilet solution). I’m easily able to get level without unhitching, which is something I always look for when I’m only staying one night somewhere. When I arrive close to 1 pm there’s one toyhauler in the lot, by nightfall a couple others have shown up but the lot is so big there is no crowding.

I have not yet found the trees. McInnis Canyon is arid with small rocky hills and a lot of dried grass. The scenery is not spectacular, but I enjoy novelty and it is different enough from Moab (no red rock for starters) that I’m quite happy. There are a few flowers in bloom which are nice to look at.

Near sunset I go for my evening walk along ATV tracks. The weather is mild, the birds are singing, and it’s quiet and peaceful.

May 12, Friday

I’ve mentioned in a recent post that 250 miles is the maximum I like to go on travel days, and these next two days are 250 mile days. I want to get to South Dakota before my license expires.

Much of today is spent following I70 east through the Rockies. Many RVers voice a distaste of interstate travel because of traffic and how boring those drives tend to be (unlike little back roads which often have attractions to visit). I really enjoy this section of I70 though. Early in the day the road parallels the Colorado River, green Cottonwood trees grow along the shore.

East of Glenwood Springs the terrain gets mountainous. I stop at No Name rest stop (haha) for lunch in Glenwood Canyon and soak in the green. There’s growing grass here! And trees! Blue skies with puffy white clouds complete the idyllic scene.

Being a major thoroughfare, any size RV is fine on I70, but there are some grades and curves along the road naturally, it crossing over a sizable mountain range and all. In places the road is on two levels to accommodate narrow canyons. In other places tunnels have been blasted through massive cliff faces to allow traffic through.

Heading eastbound, the real grade starts just past Vail, CO, which still has some snow in the pass, although it’s been long enough now since the last snowfall that the road is perfectly clear. I70 is not in the best of shape here right now, and even if your rig is capable of powering up mountains at a good speed I wouldn’t because of the bumps.

Vail Pass Summit is the literal high point of this trip at 10,603 feet. A tip: if your engine starts getting hot on a long uphill climb, roll down your windows and blast your heat, it really does help with engine temperature. If you’re on the top of a snow-covered mountain, it even feels somewhat comfortable. Bertha would not necessarily have needed this treatment on this particular drive, but it doesn’t hurt to baby her since she’s getting older now.

The quickest way to Custer, SD is to stay on I70 until Denver, and then turn north on I25. But I’ve driven through Denver before and and would rather take a back route.

At Silverthorne I exit north onto 9 and coast down into a valley. I passed this way last summer, but I have a different stop in mind for tonight. At Kremmling I brake for supper, afterwards I continue north on 40 for about 15 minutes. An unassuming dirt road (I’d label it 1.5 lanes) called 27/103 allows access to the national forest land up in the mountains to the east. Like all dirt roads, you’ll want to watch the weather before committing, but as of today the road is in great shape.

It is uphill the whole way to my spot, about two miles in and at 8,267 feet. I found this area on Campendium and reviewers say there are even prettier spots about four miles farther in (and up), but again convenience is more important to me in an overnight stop and this large grassy field is flat enough that I don’t need to unhitch. And look at that view!

I don’t see a soul the whole time I’m here. This high up in Colorado it still gets chilly at night in May, and peak camping season is still a couple weeks off. I know I say this all the time but really, why would anyone pass a place like this up?

I mean this is great views in all directions, and it’s free.

Tonight’s evening walk features aspen trees, one of my favorite trees in the world. It’s interesting to look at a mountainside this time of year and see the leaves on them at different stages at different elevations. Here they have leaves, but are still quite small. Once they get bigger they’ll make that awesome rustling sound in the wind (which I think is why this variety is called Quaking Aspen). In the fall they turn a brilliant yellow.

Yes that’s the road curving around the hill up to the higher spots

May 13, Saturday

Ground squirrels scatter when I open the Casita door this morning. Otherwise, I still have no neighbors. Before long I’m getting back on the road.

The “rabbit ears” of Rabbit Ear Pass are decorated with snow, a stark contrast to when I camped up there at 10,000 feet last August. I’m not going through the pass to Steamboat Springs this trip though. Instead I veer off 40 and onto 14 heading northeast. Up here the aspen have no leaves. There are numerous little stream crossings, plenty of sage, and occasional farms.

The ears are those tiny notches on the tallest peak

At Cowdrey I turn north on 127. This road was something of an enigma when I was planning my route. I couldn’t figure out if it was RV friendly or not, but as I didn’t find anything saying it wasn’t, I decided to chance it. As it turns out, much of it is on a plateau at a higher elevation. The road passes through Medicine Bow National Forest (lots of pine) and crosses into Wyoming along the way where it becomes 230. Down the north side is a 7% grade lasting five miles, just use a lower gear and it’s fine for RVs.

I have no pictures between leaving the national forest and arriving at tonight’s camp in Douglas, WY, because the land is pretty much sage as far as the eye can see – goodbye mountains. 230 ends at Laramie where I turn onto 30 (287) north briefly, then cut across on 34 to meet up with I25 near Wheatland. I25 passes right by Douglas.

Douglas is pretty cool. Okay, actually it’s pretty hot because it’s 86 degrees when I arrive. But I mean it’s neat. It’s just another small town in many ways, but it boasts a small city park along the North Platte river which offers camping (dump station, dumpster, shower/toilets, and water spigot also) all for free, although with a two night limit.

And this isn’t like some typical boondocking spot. The grass is manicured, the bathhouse is clean, the spots have picnic tables and grills… most places you need to pay for something like this. I look around for a donation box but don’t see one. Well, thanks Douglas, WY!

The sites are arranged in a single loop and not well defined as you just pull off parallel to the drive. The number of RVs that can fit depend on the length of the RVs, but assuming everyone staying there is in a long rig, I’d say 12 would fit pretty easily (4 per ‘row’ and three rows). It being a Friday I was worried about crowding, but when I arrive there’s only one other RV, a second pulls in after me and us three are it for the night.

Canada geese hang out near the water’s edge, and even waddle into the camping area to give me a once-over when I pull in – I imagine they get fed often. I take my chair down to the water to read, but give them a wide berth. Two sets have goslings and geese can get mean if you provoke them.

Dark clouds roll in around sunset, but no rain falls. I take my evening walk over the bridge and around town.

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26 Responses to Traversing the Rockies

  1. Judy Blinkenberg May 17, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

    It looks wonderful! I always love your pictures. We are near Bishop, CA with plenty of wind. We have a graduation back on the coast so we are hanging off 395 till then. I love your pictures! I look forward to your next post.

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed this Judy! 395 is such a fun drive.

  2. Jodee Gravel May 17, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

    You are seeing some amazing country! Love that spot in Colorado with the incredible views. Glad the snow has held off, it’s been hanging around this Spring.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..A Few More Visits and Our First Time in Lassen National ParkMy Profile

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

      I intentionally timed my drive between snow storms Jodee, it can be tricky traveling in high elevations in May for sure.

  3. John May 18, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Thanks for another great post. The photos are great. I want to be at one of those campsites now but I have several more months at home before I can experience that.
    John recently posted..Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, WisconsinMy Profile

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

      You’re welcome John. It sure is nice getting a change in scenery after a long stay somewhere. Hopefully the time goes quickly for you!

  4. Marshall May 18, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    I thought I missed a Friday the 13th when I read your post. Turns out someone has their date wrong. 😜

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

      Date was right, just had two Fridays! Everyone wants more Fridays in the week, right? 😛

  5. Jimmy May 18, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    Timing is everything……… =)

    It’s is just past 10 am CDT on 5/18…and I see where about a foot – and some places even more – was dumped on the Front Range last night…….Rabbit Ears Pass currently shows 22 degrees and snow showers.

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

      Phew, made it just in time Jimmy! I’m at a lower elevation now and it’s still colder than I’d like, but no snow.

  6. Seana May 18, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    Love reading about the paths you choose on your journeys 🙂 good luck with your license!

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      Thanks Seana and I’m glad you’re enjoying these travelogues. 🙂 My DMV visit was once again quick and painless, more about that coming up.

  7. Marylu May 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    It’s always fun to read your post and see the photos. Your comment about the sage brush territory in Wyoming reminded me of our trip through there. We wondered who owned all that land! As I recall there weren’t even any cattle to break up the monotony. Safe travels.

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

      I did see cattle a couple times Marylu, mostly at too great of a distance to photograph. Mostly though it was quite empty. Thanks.

  8. Jimmy May 18, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    Forgive me if I barge in again………LOL

    Just bought your book. The good news is that I probably already knew 80% of it. For the 20% I didn’t……..PLUS the worksheets, which look to be exceptionally valuable as an organizing platform…….it’s well worth the 8 bucks.

    FYI – Don’t let it go to your head, but….LOL……..you are a darn good writer. Clear, well-structured, and engaging.

    PS…If I was to RV full-time/majority-time…….is it a mandatory that I start a blog? LOL Ever since my “ah ha” moment I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I have spent an inordinate amount of time learning from various other blogs and YouTube vids. It’s an seemingly endless universe of information and perspective. There’s a whole world I kinda, sorta knew existed but wasn’t fully aware of. All that is a good thing, of course.

    Thanks for listening.

    • Becky May 18, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

      Thanks for buying Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget Jimmy and I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I hope you get a lot of use out of it.

      Writing is something that always came naturally to me. This made starting a blog to help others hit the road, chronicle my trip for friends and family, and as a way to meet and keep in touch with other travelers a no-brainer. There are plenty of RVers who don’t have an online presence, but unless you’re on the road a lot yourself you aren’t going to know they exist because, well, they aren’t online. In the end it’s entirely up to you!

  9. Terri May 18, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

    Hi, Becky. I’ve been following you for a while, and recall that you spent a summer working for the Yellowstone Association. Did you consider working in the general stores instead? I’m hoping to work next summer in Yellowstone, and am looking at pros/cons to each. Would you be willing to share your reasons for your choice?

    • Becky May 19, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

      Hello Terri! I wrote a blog post about this the summer I worked at Yellowstone, you can find it here: http://www.interstellarorchard.com/2015/05/18/working-for-a-nonprofit-park-association/

      I applied for Delaware North (that’s the company that runs the general stores) and YA and for me YA was the clear winner because they paid more, no split shifts, and less hours. You’ll find more about that in the article.

      Wages and hours may have changed in the years since though, so you’re wise to do your own research too and apply to both to see what they have to say. Best of luck!

  10. Gloria May 19, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    Interesting. I never saw, or heard, of double deck highways. I much prefer your beautiful green views. Thanks.

    • Becky May 19, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

      You’re welcome Gloria.

  11. Barbara from Camano May 19, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

    I have been reading you posts for about six months now and just wanted to say thanks. I enjoy all the pictures, your detailed driving directions and seeing all the camps and the fun you have with friends. My best wishes to you.

    • Becky May 19, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

      I’m glad you decided to come out of the woodwork and comment Barbara. 🙂 Thank you for following along and I’m glad you’re enjoying these posts! Take care.

  12. RGupnorth May 21, 2017 at 6:47 am #

    I-70 across CO is pretty drive – except for the downhill part pulling a trailer. You were pretty close to Leadville at one point. Nice update onyour travels.

    • Becky May 22, 2017 at 9:48 am #

      It might be my favorite Interstate drive. Glad you enjoyed this RG.

      Yes spent quite a bit of time in Leadville last year when my truck broke down, pretty area.

  13. Pamelab May 23, 2017 at 1:42 am #

    Hi, Becky –
    So happy for you for your change of scenery. Your evening walks must give you a good opportunity for nice photos, with the sun being lower. That snow looks so refreshing to me, since I’m in Houston humidity. I plan on visiting Glacier NP in September with a Casita group. Really excited about that. I’ve been mostly stationary since November, with a couple of trips through Austin to Lubbock to see family. I have family in Houston as well. Got to get my solar and I’ll be ready to boondock! Thanks for you blog, Becky. I enjoy it. Pamelab in Houston for now. Happy Trails.

    • Becky May 23, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

      Glacier is beautiful Pamela! You’ll enjoy it for sure. In the meantime, hang in there with the Texas heat and humidity. Take care and thanks for following along!

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