Last travelogue left off with Cas perched at the top of Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat Springs, CO, easily one of the best boondocks I’ve experienced to date. Privacy, expansive views, and four bars of Verizon LTE without a booster: a winning combination.
Mornings tend to be mostly sunny, afternoons tend to bring scattered thunderstorms, with a little hail or slush mixed in. Nights are cool, with lows in the mid to upper 30’s. Up here in the mountains, summer won’t be lasting too much longer. On one night in the nine I stay here, the evening sky clears up and I catch a photo of last light in the pass.
A couple times I make runs into Steamboat Springs and take advantage of the excellent library where one can view the Yampa River and the spring the town is named for right from the seating area on the second floor.
The daily afternoon storms are making it hard to keep the Casita’s battery charged with only 100 watts of solar (and a laptop that is losing battery charge as it ages) – I need to put my portable kit away whenever there’s a threat of rain because the charge controller mounted on the back of it is not water proof. Hence the library, which has outlets as well as WiFi.
Steamboat springs is a ski town, and tourist oriented. As the name suggests it does have springs, one of which is a commercial recreation area. It’s nice to walk around and see them all.
The drive to and from town is quite scenic with the valley very visible from the top of the pass, but I’m glad I came in from the east when I was towing Cas. The west side of Rabbit Ears Pass is definitely steeper, with 7% grades for seven miles. Lake Catamount sits in the distance, glittering in the light and surrounded by trees. I don’t get out to visit the lake, but I do enjoy the little city parks in town.
On the 22nd I capture one of the best rig pictures I’ve ever taken of Bertha and Cas. At the end of my rainbow lies not a pot of gold, but the freedom offered by full-time RVing.
August 24, Wednesday
This morning brings a fresh challenge as I discover through the weather app on my phone that it’s potentially snowing in Leadville, CO right now, which is where I intend to camp next. As I hook up Cas and wave goodbye to my sweet site at the top of the hill, my brain shuffles through the options.
I let the problem simmer while I concentrate on the short stretch of rutted, rocky misery connecting the site to the maintained part of the road. I get a video of the proceedings that’ll show up on YouTube someday when I’ve got the time and bandwidth (maybe once I arrive at CamperForce next month) and get a picture of the hairiest part, where the Casita’s exposed plumbing misses a giant rock by a couple inches. This is why I brought up in a previous post that low-clearance vehicles would not be advised to try to make it to the top of the hill.
The rest of the drive down 40 to Kremmling is uneventful, the conifers of the pass give way to rolling hills of sage at lower elevations.
Clouds hug the peaks to the south of Kremmling, and the sun disappears as I split off 40 onto 9 and climb into the high mountains of Colorado. The forecast of snow has disappeared for Leadville, but there’s definitely evidence of new snow at higher elevations, possibly low enough to interfere with the pass I need to get through. My backup plan if the pass doesn’t look good is to come back to Green Mountain Reservoir, which has a couple Forest Service campgrounds.
I70 between Silverthorn and Copper Mountain is a beautiful drive, I’m not use to interstates being scenic but the mountains here are simply fantastic.
At Copper Mountain I exit onto 91, the potentially tricky part of this drive. The road climbs closer and closer to Fremont Pass and the snow line, dark clouds loom overhead. This is the highest elevation I’ve ever been at, to my recollection. The metal roof of Climax Mine comes into view, this is it! 11,318 feet. A record for me, Bertha, and Cas.
For being so high up, 91 is actually a pretty gentle incline, the single switchback just south of the mine is a little steeper, but it would be a pretty easy drive for most RVs. The road is wide and in good condition, so if you want to break your own elevation record, this would be pretty good place to do it!
On the way down the other side of the pass, the clouds finally release their burden. Just rain, phew. I continue down to where 91 meets 24, and turn west onto Mountain View Drive just as Leadville comes into view. I’ll definitely be checking out the highest elevation city in the US while I’m here, but finding a camping spot comes first.
The rest of the directions to my boondocking spot just ten minutes or so from town are a little complicated. Mountain View Drive ends at 9D. Follow 9D south along the train tracks until you come to a four-way intersection with 4. Turn right (west) onto four and cross the train tracks. The road splits into three routes (there’s a privately owned full-hookup campground at this intersection that I hear is alright), continue straight onto the dirt road (the other two options are paved) which is called 48 on maps. The dispersed camping area will be the first thing you see on the left. I leave Bertha and Cas parked on 48 and walk into the camping area to scout it out.
Shortly turning in there’s a fork and the right-hand path leads to two decent sites, but that road is very wet and I don’t want to chance it. The left fork is a little larger and in better shape, and that leads to numerous other camping spots, most of which are available when I arrive, likely due to the poor weather. While Leadville is surrounded by majestic mountains, none of the camping spots have a good view of them because of the pine trees, but that’s alright because you don’t have to go far for the view, this boondocking area is very close to Turquoise Lake.
I end up at a more open site that while still view-less, at least offers good solar potential. Sadly, it rains (often accompanied with hail) for the next, no lying, six days. But more on that to come!
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