Entering Colorado

August 14, Sunday

It’s been a quiet, pleasant three nights at the Foote Access Area along the Platte River just north of Saratoga, WY. Mature cottonwood trees provide ample shade and a safe haven for all manner of critters. Twice I catch deer walking through camp, nibbling at grass still green beneath the leafy boughs. Two of three evenings I hear owls hooting shortly after sunset.

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All three days, a camper comes in late in the afternoon, and leaves early the next morning. I have the campground to myself the rest of the time. I sit out and read my Kindle, poke about on my computer, watch the chipmunks and birds, and generally have a good time.

This morning I hitch up and leave bright and early (hey, for me 9 am is an early departure), and mosey into Saratoga, which is pretty quiet, maybe everyone’s at church. Works for me.

Out from under the trees, this area is quite dry

Out from under the trees, this area is quite dry

Saratoga has a public hot springs, open 24 hours and free of charge. It’s too warm during the day to enjoy, but coming in the morning like this is perfect. There are a few people about but it’s by no means crowded.

The small, rock-lined pool is closest to the source of the spring and is quite hot, too hot for me. The concrete-lined pool around it is about 104 degrees, and just about perfect. The bottom is sand and slabs of rock, and little bubbles pop up where the spring feeds it.

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It feels great. I get to talking with two friends from Colorado staying in a hotel here, one of them is fixing up a class C and is interested in full-timing once it’s road worthy. We talk about what I do and how I do it until I feel ready to go, I give her my business card on the way out so she can find IO and read more.

I fix up lunch in the parking lot in front of the Saratoga’s city hall/police station and then continue south on 130/230. Just outside town truck and trailer crest a rise and my experienced eyes pick out a column of smoke against the hazy sky in the distance, directly in the direction Bertha’s nose is pointing. My first thought is oh no, not again. My second thought is while traveling in the dry western states at this time of year, it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to check for wildfires along my intended travel route ahead of time. Naturally I have no signal out here to check for road closures now.

entering-colorado (5)Well, nothing for it but to keep going and see. The smoke smell becomes noticeable near Riverside/Encampment and the billowing plumes of white and gray more visible, and there are no caution signs about road closures on 230, so I continue southeast.

I find the leading edge of the fire near the Colorado boarder. It’s burning in the conifers to the west, far enough from 230 not to be a hazard, although the smoke is blowing across the road and there are signs about reduced visibility. Gravel roads granting access to the national forest have naturally been closed down, and I am passed several times by pickup trucks with firefighting equipment.

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Behind the leading edge, much of the woods is reduced to acres of blackened matchsticks, stretching almost all the way to Cowdrey, CO where the fire trucks turn down a road with an orange sign proclaiming “Incident headquarters”. I later look it up online and learn that this is the Beaver Creek Fire, which has been burning since June 19th. 57 days, yikes.

Fortune smiles upon me, and the part of Routt National Forest I’m intending to camp in is in the clear. At the town of Walden I veer onto 14 until it meets up with US40, then I climb westward into Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426′).

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That little notched bit near the middle are the rabbit ears the pass is named for

Forest Road 302 is located centrally in the pass off the south side, a little west of the highest point – it’s relatively easy to pick out from the ramp of dirt needed to connect it to 40, and possibly the most hair-raising part of the drive. After the ramp, 302 proper is actually (at the time of this posting) in pretty good shape and is traversable with almost any vehicle.

I drive two or so miles to where 302B splits off to some dispersed camping sites. I’ve heard that the very end of 302, another two miles or so down the road, is where the best sites are located, but it’s on the top of a hill and the last couple hundred yards of the drive are described online as a “nasty, mean, rutted, rocky, dangerous path”, not something I want to tackle late in the day on an empty stomach. So I settle for one of the sites on 302B tonight and resolve to come up with a further plan tomorrow.

The sites near 302B are nothing special

The sites near 302B are nothing special, but adequate for a night

August 15, Monday

As it turns out, it gets pretty cold at night at 9,500 feet, even in the middle of August. It takes an extra dose of effort to drag myself out of my comfy warm bed.

Once I do, I’m faced with a dilemma. The forecast looks pretty wet and stormy. It’s going to be quite exposed on top of the hill, and over 10,000 feet. If the last section of road is bad now, it’ll be even worse when muddy.

The higher you go the prettier it gets

The higher you go the nicer the view gets

The smartest thing to do would be to unhook Bertha from Cas and drive the truck alone the last two miles to scope it out. But that’ll waste time. The sun is shining now and I want to get the solar going before it clouds over this afternoon.

So I take a chance and tow the Casita up without scouting it out first.

The last 1/8 mile isn't pleasant, but it's short

Fun? No. Doable? Yes, at least for something the size of my rig.

It could have ended badly, but it doesn’t. There’s no one camping at the top, and the last 1/8 mile of road, while rocky, rutted, and narrow, isn’t horrible. I take it at about 2 mph and manage just fine. The online reviewer had a trailer ten feet longer than mine, and that makes a difference. It’s so much easier getting into tight boondocks with a smaller rig. The trees at the top are tall and straight, which lets me know that the wind up here can’t get too bad.

And the site itself is, well, I’ll let you decide. What do you think?

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

38 Comments

  1. pamelab on August 20, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Hi, Becky –
    Beautiful views from up there. Your effort paid off. I bet the air is wonderful, as well.
    I have my Casita, Purl, and after going back to Missouri City for a few days, continued on to Georgetown TX and now am in Lubbock TX.
    I plan to leave here next week and make my way up to Grand Rapids, MI where I will be visiting good friends.
    My propane tanks are full, but I haven’t used them yet. Still a bit tentative, but I can hitch and unhitch without my check list. I check myself afterwards.
    I’m trying out having my bed on the side and using the back as a table and longer bench seats. Sleeping on the side bed is ok, but it could be a bit wider for my comfort in turning over.
    Thank you for your great blog, Becky. It is entertaining and fun and I enjoy your photos.
    Happy Trails.
    Pamelab in Lubbock TX for now.



    • Becky on August 21, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Heya Pamela,

      The air would be better if that big fire wasn’t burning north of here, but most days it’s not bad.

      Sounds like you’re settling in well with your Casita. It takes time to get comfortable with the way everything works so I wouldn’t worry about it too much right now. Take it one thing at a time.

      I know another woman with the Spirit model who uses the side as a bed and the back as a dinette, she had a piece of plywood cut for the bed that gave her 4 extra inches and says it makes all the difference, although when you go that route you need to get something else to use as a mattress.

      Best of luck to you, enjoy!



  2. David H on August 18, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Becky,
    Another place for boondocking in CO is East of Craig at “Sawmill Creek Campground” in the Routt National Forest. And there is a nice gravel road up to it. It gets light use and is now officially “dispersed camping” but in the late 80’s, I stayed there when hunting, but I think the outhouse is now gone.



    • Becky on August 19, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Thanks for sharing David.



  3. Christine Humphrey on August 17, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Hi, Becky! I enjoyed your photos and descriptions on this portion of your travels. I was able to trace some of your path using Google Earth! You are definitely in a beautiful and remote part of the country! And yes, you chose a great camping site, well worth the effort, with a beautiful sunset to boot! Thank you!



    • Becky on August 18, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      You’re welcome Christine! Our country sure is a beautiful place.



  4. Jeremy Osenga on August 17, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Becky,

    Thanks for the inspiration. Or family just bought an Airstream that we plan to renovate a little then move into full time. We’re actually near Boulder, CO. Let me know if you’re coming through, we’d love to get you a cup of coffee and swap stories and thoughts.

    Cheers and enjoy colorful Colorado!



    • Becky on August 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Happy to hear that you’ve found IO inspiring and helpful Jeremy. I bet you’re really excited to be getting on the road, best of luck to you!

      If I travel near Boulder I’ll let you know.



  5. Julianna on August 17, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    very nice!..happy for you it is all working out well, your posts are so encouraging..



    • Becky on August 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying IO Julianna, thanks for reading.



  6. Barbara Harper on August 17, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    We spent enjoyable time in Colorado last year and loved the hot springs but didn’t find free ones. Thanks for the info for next time.



    • Becky on August 18, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      You’re welcome Barbara, although the free hot spring was in Wyoming near the boarder.



  7. Rejean Robidoux on August 17, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Beautiful spot. Realy enjoy follow your blog. Rejean from Canada
    robidouxrejean.blogspot.ca



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying IO Rejean, take care!



  8. Mike M on August 17, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Hey Becky, Awesome photos.
    Bob Wells is (was?) a few miles away in Steamboat Springs. Do you cross paths with him frequently?

    I’ll be on the road as soon as I finish purging years of possessions. Taking longer than expected, Ugh! (Why do I have 2 kayaks, canoe, rowboat and a sailboat?) Definitely leaving before snowflakes are in the air here in central NY!

    Again, thank you for the motivation



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      Have a couple times Mike, he’s a great guy.

      Best of luck on the downsizing, I remember how agonizing and long that process was for me, and I didn’t even have a lot of stuff to begin with. I hear you on not staying in NY for another winter!



  9. Christi on August 17, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Gorgeous!

    Enjoy! Hope you have good weather.

    It is 100 in Mississippi. Feels like 150 with the humidity! 😳😳😳😳

    Christi



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      It’s sprinkled a little every day and there’s been a little lightning, but not bad. Today is suppose to be the worse day though so we’ll see what the afternoon brings.

      100 degrees, no thanks. I hope it cools down for you soon!



  10. Mike on August 17, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Beautiful.



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      🙂



  11. Ron on August 17, 2016 at 4:06 am

    The Hilltop site was worth the drive in my opinion. Beautiful. Will have to remember those hot springs.

    Really enjoy your posts. Travel safe



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      I think it’s the most beautiful site I’ve had to date Ron, the view is just incredible. hope you get the chance to visit that hot spring, take care.



  12. lindaandmike on August 17, 2016 at 3:32 am

    peaceful place



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Yep!



  13. Shad on August 17, 2016 at 2:54 am

    I love Saratoga, the Snowy Mountains to the east made the passage from my alma mater in Laramie splendid. Nice work on scoring the camp site, gawd after reading the description of the road I’m not sure I would have…naw I would have done the same. Enjoy.



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      It’s like a challenge, reading that description Shad. Like the road has to be traversed just to prove something to yourself. 🙂



  14. Judith Blinkenberg on August 17, 2016 at 1:09 am

    So, so pretty! Wish I could park aways away, far enough you couldn’t hear my generator! I would sit outside and sew!



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      It’s a very inspiring view for also sorts of creative endeavors Judith, I’ve been getting in more poi spinning time here than I have in a long time.



  15. Rene Kipp on August 16, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    Free hot springs, I’m in 🙂 Your hilltop campsite looks amazing! What an awesome view you have 🙂
    Rene Kipp recently posted..SALE PENDING!!My Profile



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      It’s real hard to argue with free Rene! It felt fantastic.



  16. Ron on August 16, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Just beautiful, if you get near Mesa Verde National Park is is just Amazing.



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Yeah Mesa Verde is on my list Ron, dunno if I’ll make it this time through.



  17. Lucy on August 16, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Beautiful spot, hopefully the wind don’t blow or the snow don’t begin falling ! LOL

    Enjoy.



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Sitting inside the Casita looking out the back window, it seems like I’m right on the edge of a precipice and it wouldn’t take much to send Cas over the edge. From other angles it’s not that precarious, barring really strong wind I should be alright. 🙂



  18. Debbie on August 16, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    It feels so good to be back in Colorado with the cooler temps for us also. You are right about having a smaller rig. That’s what we like. Looks like a very nice spot you have there.



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      I’ve been enjoying the cooler temps Debbie, I don’t get grubby as fast up here which is great when you’re boondocking without a shower, haha.



  19. Jerry Minchey on August 16, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Sometimes taking a chance pays off. Your camping spot looks beautiful.



    • Becky on August 17, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      Yeah Jerry sometimes it does.



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