trip report: Colorado, Montana - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-04-2011, 11:39 AM   #1
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trip report: Colorado, Montana

I thought I'd write up a proper report, with photos, of my recent 5000 mile vacation. After a couple of false starts, I finally got out the door on July 1st. From Tulsa I drove west on 412 to the panhandle and spent the first night in a little picnic area at the south edge of a tiny village called Felt. This was national grassland property and overnighting is permitted. I had the place all to myself, and it did not look like it had seen much use but was quiet and pleasant.

The next morning I made my way through the NE corner of New Mexico. Because of the fires, the national forests in NM were closed. So instead of continuing west through NM I went over Raton Pass and to Trinidad, then west. I went over Wolf Creek Pass and then found a boondock site along the East Fork Road, about 4 miles off the highway.
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As you can see, I was pretty close to the river. Except for the 4-wheelers going by during the daytime (noise and dust), it was a great spot.

The next day was spent driving a few of the back roads and taking pictures. The drive to the top of Lobo Overlook (above the pass) was blocked near the top by a snowdrift, but it was possible to park and walk the rest of the way. The views are worth it. Here is a self portrait (gotta love tripods).
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I really liked the look of this tiny lake. People were fishing there, of course.
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On July 4 I pulled out of the East Fork area and drove to Durango, then turned north. near one of the passes I came across this artistic lady. I told her I was no good at painting, thus I took up photography instead, and could I take her picture? She was kind enough to consent.
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Old 08-04-2011, 11:58 AM   #2
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Hi, Mike

All I can say is....

MORE! MORE!

Oh- and, welcome home, too..

Francesca
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:13 PM   #3
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By the time I passed Silverton it was late afternoon, and some rain came up, so when I saw some rigs boondocking off the side of the highway I turned around and found a spot to stay the night. Here is the view of this campsite from the direction of the highway.
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This spot, if I recall correctly from the GPS, exceeded 10,000 feet elevation. The rain stopped so I spent an hour or more walking trails in the near vicinity. I found that my legs felt fine but my lungs couldn't keep up very well in that thin air. But it was still great.

The next morning the sun was out and I continued north to Ouray. At the Ampitheater campground there's an overlook where you can see the town down below with the mountains all around. There was also some wildlife around the campground.
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This guy was an amazingly good shot, don't you think?
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Then I spent a bit of time walking the streets of Ouray. Some of the buildings look pretty interesting. Beyond the righthand upper corner of the Beaumont, you can see a waterfall.
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More to follow.......
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:16 PM   #4
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nice pictures, do you have a destination?
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:21 PM   #5
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He is a good shot, "look ma, no hands".
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:23 PM   #6
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nice pictures, do you have a destination?
All of these places were destinations, you might say. But my farthest destination was Glacier National Park.
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:57 PM   #7
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Great Report and Pics! Thanks!
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:57 PM   #8
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Now that you've brought it up, Jim, let me say a little more about my destination. Because I traveled with a different mindset this year than I ever have before, and I enjoyed the trip more with this new mindset.

In the past I would decide on a destination quite some distance away, and drive hard every day to get there. I found that when I arrived I would already have tired myself of traveling. I tended not to stay out long... my longest camping trip was 10 days, but most were only about a week long.

This year I decided to take it easy, poke along, and try to enjoy the entire journey. I spent several days looking online at boondock locations that would likely be near the end of a day's not-too-long drive, and thinking about what I could do to relax and enjoy the area once I got there. So each campsite became a mini-destination for me. I tried to find a way to enjoy the place with a short hike or a short little side trip to look for photogenic spots. Oh, and I had some novels to read, too, when I didn't feel like doing anything else.

I also stayed really flexible on most of the days. If I felt like taking a day off from driving, I did so. If I spotted something I wanted to see, I did that. Very loose on the 'schedule'. The only thing written in stone was, I had to be back to Denver for a business meeting July 17 & 18. Beyond that, everything was subject to change. Even my ultimate far-point destination, Glacier, was changeable if I decided to do something else instead.

I didn't 'push it.' Excluding the meeting days, I think I averaged about 300 miles per day. So I didn't burn myself out. (Everyone will have a different pace they find comfortable, but this average distance worked for me.) I might drive 500 miles one day and 50 miles the next, depending on what I felt like doing. This helped me feel more relaxed, more "on vacation," than ever before. Were it not for the busness-related thoughts that overtook me after the meeting, I probably would have stayed out in Colorado a few more days still.

I know this would not be for everyone. For example, my eldest brother in Idaho can hardly tolerate nonstructured time. He is happiest when everything is scheduled out to a T and it's Go Go Go the whole time.
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Old 08-04-2011, 01:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg H View Post
He is a good shot, "look ma, no hands".
I have to admit...
Picture # 3 in the second set made me do a double take, too...

Francesca
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:02 PM   #10
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Thanks for the compliments and comments. Yes Francesca, the height and angle of the water spigot was just right to create the illusion.

After Ouray, I headed north to Ridgeway and turned west. For a while the highway climbs in elevation again, and one has a nice view of the mountains SW near Telluride.
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Then the highway begins a steady descent. Through the aspens, it descends for a distance of some 10 or 12 miles, I think. Then comes the turnoff south toward Telluride, but I continued to the NW instead and the road descended for perhaps another 8-10 miles, into the San Miguel canyon (I never knew before that they named a canyon after me! ). I passed a young lady on a bicycle, coasting downhill all this distance, going perhaps 30 or 35 mph.... what a ride that must be! Then the road crosses my river (yup, the San Miguel River) and climbs rapidly up the canyon wall, topping out on a 7000' foot plateau of green pastures, hay fields and grazing cattle. This lasts for 10 miles, then the road gradually descends into some light colored, crumbly sandstone and the area quickly looks more desertlike. Mind you, from the 10K foot campsite to this area only took about 2 hours of driving! The rapid changes in climate and scenery were amazing.

From there it was not far to Moab, where I finally paid to camp for 2 nights... it was 100 degrees or so and I needed the A/C. From Portal RV Campground I visited Canyonlands' "Island in the Sky" area the first evening. If you look closely you might see a road down in the canyon (no, I did not drive there).
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The next morning it was Arches NP. I hiked to Delicate Arch before it got too hot. Then sat around reading during the day, and in the evening I headed to Devil's Garden.
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While there, near Landscape Arch, the moon was out and a jet happened to pass by.
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:24 PM   #11
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To paraphrase Donna in another thread, these pictures allow others to live the life they wished they could live. thanx
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:30 PM   #12
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Here are a couple more images of Canyonlands. First, an art-minded family. Looked like a mother (or grandmother?) who encouraged the young ones... they all were sketching pictures of what they saw.
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This one shows the river far below.
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And here I am at Delicate Arch.
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:33 PM   #13
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By the time I get to the last one, it will look like a chicken wish bone that has been broken or "wished" upon.
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Old 08-04-2011, 05:37 PM   #14
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Oh my stars! THANKS Mike for sharing your experiences and pictures with us. I'm thrilled Now, where's my bucket list notebook......
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Old 08-04-2011, 08:30 PM   #15
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Mike...what a SUPER trip and report....and those photo's are amazing...great job and thanks for sharing......I plan on taking about the same trip in Sept...live in San Antonio area.....couple questions...did you do the "million dollar highway" believe its 550...and if so what make of tow vehicle do you have...I have a 06 Nissan Xterra 4liter...and am a little concerned.....tell me its for-not!!!! Again thanks for the posting...if you have any advice...and camping/photo op suggestions...I'm all ears....Horst
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Old 08-04-2011, 08:53 PM   #16
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You we're less then a 1/4mi. from my home in Ridgway! One block north and you'd have seen a Trillium 4500, Love bug, and Scamp all in about 3 blocks. The fact that i can be in high alpine, farmland, and red rock desert all in the same day is what made me move here. "I want to be as close to SE Utah as I can get without LIVING in SE Utah". Wish I'd known you we're in the area! BTW, the ranch entrance with views of the Senffels range to the S. in your pics. is Ralph Loren's.
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Old 08-04-2011, 09:07 PM   #17
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FABulous, Mike! Thank you, thank you for posting.
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Old 08-04-2011, 09:51 PM   #18
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Thanks again, all.

Horst, I have a 3.5L V6, 270 HP Highlander and I'm towing a boxier trailer with more wind resistance. Yes, that road from Durango to Ouray is the Million Dollar Highway. Some of the time I put it in 2nd gear and went about 40 MPH, to spare the drive train unnecessary strain... and with the curves, often that's about all the speed you want anyway. As for camping, I found a lot of spots on Free Camping | RV Camping, Car Camping, Tent Camping | Campsites, Campgrounds and will be posting a few there that I found on my own.

Scott, so interesting that you know the people who live where I took that photo. It's such a great spot for a picture, I bet there are people stopping and snapping there all the time. Too bad I didn't know about you living there, maybe we could have visited a bit.

When I left Moab I drove west on I-70 and saw a bit of the San Rafael Swell, which is an interesting upheaval of land. Feeling rested from my two nights in Moab, I headed north on Hwy 28 and eventually joined I-15 around Nephi, then headed north to Idaho. All of this is very pretty country with green valleys and hills or mountains in the distance. When I crossed the Idaho border I got the idea to look for a campsite in the Caribou Targhee NF, just east of the highway. So I took Hwy 36 back SE and in about 4-5 miles I spotted a campground sign, pointing down a dirt road. Well, a couple miles down this road there was the CG... but the sign said "group campground," and there already was a group! They had reserved the CG for their bunch and plainly didn't want strangers to join them, but they pointed out that just past the grounds the road ended in a turnaround, and people often camped there. So I went the extra 1/4 mile east, and sure enough one family alreay had a spot staked out, complete with 4-wheelers. I found a good nook and parked, and it was a peaceful spot. Until morning! Some pickups arrived with dirt bikes, and soon the place was getting crowded with off-roaders, so I got back on the road fast.

I have a brother in Idaho named John, and I'd told him I was coming his way. So that afternoon we met up, and he led the way to his cabin in the woods and we started to visit. The next morning he took me up the road from his place to Sawtell Peak. Here's a picture of John:
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Then he proceeded to take me on a tour of Quake Lake, Henry's Lake and the vicinity. I never knew before that a 1959 earthquake tilted a big plate of the earth, caused a landslide that buried a campground full of campers, and created an entirely new lake! That area has some amazing history and geology.

In mid-afternoon I was getting the itch to be on my way, so I left John's place and headed north into Montana. Up US-287 to Ennis, then west on SH 287 through the Madison Valley...
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... and to the town of Sheridan. I'd read at the aforementioned website about a camping area aobut 8 miles east of Sheridan on NF land, and I headed that way. After 3 miles the pavement gave way to good gravel, then another mile or so and the road got downright rough... with a couple of dicey washout areas. But I made it through them (slowly) with barely a scrape of the jack foot, and another half mile revealed several good spots to pull off and camp.
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I walked around some, but I made sure I had my can of bear spray just in case!
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Old 08-04-2011, 10:45 PM   #19
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Your Report is getting better & better! I like your way of traveling, etc. It is how we prefer to go as well. Without rushing if at all possible. Thanks for sharing.

Not sure if you are still traveling, but if you are still on your way to Glacier, maybe some of this will be of help:

We have been to Glacier twice over the years. Both times we have stayed over by St. Mary and just off the Going to the Sun Hwy. But my son stayed down by Many Galaciers and then over on the westside as well. All are neat. On the last trip we spent a few days at Waterton Nat'l Park in Canada before going down to Glacier, nice up there as well. I believe I would try one of these on our next visit Many Glacier and Two Medicine and Sprague Creek. Seems like Glacier National Park - Many Glacier Campground Information would be the one for me.

Across from the Glacier Area, MT in Canada: We have stopped at Fort Macleod, Alberta when on our way to Waterton from Banff. It was were the first RCMP made an appearance. ("The initial force, commanded by Commissioner French, was assembled at Fort Dufferin, Manitoba. Their destination was Fort Whoop-Up, a notorious whiskey trading post located at the junction of the Belly and Oldman Rivers. Upon arrival at Whoop-Up and finding it abandoned the troop continued a few miles west and established headquarters on an island in the Oldman, naming it Fort MacLeod.")

It is in the general area of a neat site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

At Waterton, (we were there in '97 and stayed at least 2 days) we stayed at Townsite Campground because the Crandell Campground was full. Townsite - "Located at the south end of the Waterton townsite, this campground offers 238 sites (95 of which are fully serviced), hot showers, flush toilets, food storage and kitchen shelters. There are no individual firepits. This open, mowed lawn campground, exposed to winds from Upper Waterton Lake, is an excellent place for RV's or for those who wish to be within walking distance of town amenities." Crandell - "Located along the Red Rock Parkway in the scenic Blakiston Valley, this campground is set in a pleasant montane forest. It offers 129 unserviced sites, flush toilets, piped water, kitchen shelters, some fire rings and firewood, food storage, recycling bins, and a dump station. All sites are back-in, and loops may be tight. We recommend that only camping units shorter than 9.5 meters/30 ft use this campground." Camping But will need pass ports to do Canada.

We had a canoe with us on the second trip, my son & I canoed on Cameron Lake in Waterton. We canoed from the Canadian side to the US side and up to icebergs breaking off a glacier (what seemed like one to me anyway) at the far end of the lake. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...onLake-s01.jpg We had edged up to the glacier/ice formation(s), even under one. Small icebergs were floating around there as well. When about half way back, we heard this loud BANG echo across the lake from were we had been. I believe part of the ice formation had broken off & crashed into the lake. Not the wisest thing to have done to get so close.

We also canoed on St. Mary's Lake....we found that the small island with 'pine' trees growing from them in the lake is in fact two islands. We canoed between them. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi..._Mary_Lake.jpg

If close to Great Falls, MT: C.M. Russell Museum -Really neat if you like Western Art - HIstory. It was why I wanted to go.

Just across the border from Montana in North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park -Great Place to see Bison and Western Landscapes. But a somewhat out of the way detour.

On our first visit to Glacier, we were there in June and the road 'Going to the Sun' was not open yet. But of course there are many other things to see and do there as well. GoToSun Info

If you use US 89 in Montana to get to Glacier, they have a city park with camping at Choteau which is about 105 miles from the east entrance at St Mary's and 140 miles to West Glarier. We stayed at it, I believe, in '97, but do not remember a creek. We stayed in a city park, in the town, not sure if it is the same town. Looks about right on the map. There is overnighting at a rest area, closer to Glacier as well, near Dupuyer.
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Old 08-05-2011, 09:57 AM   #20
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Adrian, thanks. I'm back home now (have been for 2 weeks) but I'm slow getting the trip report posted up. Doing a bit here and there in between other tasks.

After a peaceful night by a swiftly flowing stream in the national forest near Sheridan, I drove north to I-90, then west to exit 174, then north toward Kalispell. All of this area was really picturesque and a pleasant drive. By this time I had decided not to camp in the park after all, but to get a campsite with electric, water and wi-fi at the private Glacier CG just a couple miles west of the turnoff into Glacier NP.
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As you can see, the place was nicely wooded and attractive. Well off the road and quiet too, although I could hear the distant trains as they traveled the tracks that run alongside the highway. WiFi was available at the office but not at the campsites... due to the trees, they said. I stayed here 2 nights so I could spend some time enjoying the west side of the park.

The first place I went in the park was the area with some gift shops and a restaurant and stuff, at the west end of Lake McDonald.
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I ended up coming back along this shore several times to snap pics or just to sit and enjoy the view. I think you can see why.

I also drove east to the end of the line at Avalanche CG (the Sun Road was still closed beyond that point due to the heavy snows), stopping many times along the way at turnoffs to take pictures and look. On the way back west I spotted a bunch of flowers that looked nice, but there was no place to pull off. So I went another 1/2 mile or so to a turnoff by Sprague Creek, got out my bike (Trek Pure Sport), and pedaled back to the flowers.
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While parked there, I noticed a row of these vehicles:
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They are operated by a concessionaire and carry perhaps a dozen tourists each. They are called "Jammers," apparently because in the old days they had stick shifts and the drivers had a tendency to jam and grind the gears. One sees these jammers traveling all around the park. They look pretty classy, don't they?

I spent considerable time pedaling around the Lake McDonald area. there is a nice bike trail around this end of the park, winding around the campground and then through the forest to the worker's homes near the park entrance.

One thing I don't understand is why McDonald's hasn't gotten one of their restaurants located here yet.
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