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.
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.
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.
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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