11,318 Feet

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.11,318-feet (4)

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.

Sulfer Spring

Sulphur Spring

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

If you look close you can see the snow falling in the mountains behind

If you look close you can see the snow falling in the mountains behind

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.

What ends up being my site, yes there's a porta-potty in the background

What ends up being my site, yes there’s a porta-potty in the background

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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One last pic from Rabbit Ears Pass

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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.

31 Comments

  1. onemoregarden on September 3, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    how far would you say your boon docking spot be from the town of Steamboat? Or was it another town?
    What do you do for electricity when the solar is too weak to charge the batteries?
    Thanks



    • Becky on September 4, 2016 at 11:39 am

      My spot in Rabbit Ears Pass was about 20, 25 minutes from Steamboat Springs.

      When there isn’t enough solar, I charge my laptop and phone in the truck to save the Casita battery until the sun comes back out (this means idling Bertha for a while unless I have somewhere to drive). Or, I drive to someplace like the library mentioned here where I can charge things.



  2. Arkansas Sue on September 3, 2016 at 6:16 am

    In the past two years, I have been to Hannibal, MO, birthplace of Margaret Tobin Brown (aka Molly Brown) and toured her Denver mansion. These were just coincidences of our travels. Now we need to make a pilgrimage to Leadville. 😉 As I learned in my souvenir books, Leadville is where Margaret and her husband gained their fortune. (I love history!)

    Becky, I am in awe of your lifestyle and enjoy “traveling” with you through your blog. Safe travels and many more happy miles!



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Yeah Sue, Leadville has a lot of history too so I bet you’d enjoy it (I wrote a little bit about one of the historic buildings there on today’s post).

      Glad you enjoyed this post and my blog in general, take care!



  3. Ernesto Quintero on September 2, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I got a new location, highest point, for my bucket list, Fremont Pass, thanks Becky. Off topic, your headlights look like they are in need of plastic restoration to rid of the fogging, that issue greatly diminishes efficiency of light. Also look into installing a set of Sylvania SilverStar bulbs to improve the brightness next time one of your headlight bulb goes bad. Be safe.



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      You’re welcome Ernesto. Yeah, the headlights aren’t great. I don’t do a whole lot of driving after dark so it’s rarely an issue but thanks for the product recommend. Take care.



  4. Rob on September 2, 2016 at 9:58 am

    There are a lot of people using the 100w solar kit & I’ve never heard/seen any of them being put away because it might rain.
    Have you met anyone who has ever had problems with it?



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      Yeah. You can take the charge controller off the back and mount it inside the RV where it’s protected and it’d be fine to leave outdoors (a lot of people with portable kits do this) but I don’t have the skills to do the rewiring. There’s a lot of talk about this on the various Casita communities I’m a part of and I’ve heard from a couple people who ruined theirs.



  5. Judith Blinkenberg on September 2, 2016 at 12:45 am

    You have led me all this summer. I thank you so much. While I don’t know you personally, I think you are an amazing woman for all you do for the pictures you share. It has me so inspired. I’m so looking forward to next year. God Bless you.



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      You’re welcome Judith, I’m so glad that IO has inspired you to make a change in your life. 🙂



  6. Debbie on September 1, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Leadville is beautiful. don’t forget your down comforter.
    Debbie recently posted..Cheyenne Mountain State ParkMy Profile



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Yeah, it’s been cold Debbie.



  7. MnDreamer on September 1, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Great post!
    Yes, you have truly captured the perfect photo of Bertha and Cas. All of the photos are breathtaking. Such a beautiful life you are having! I know I shouldn’t be wishing my life away, but when I read your posts it’s difficult not to wish the next two years would zoom by, my retirement would be here, and I could get out there, following my own path, Becky.
    Take care and stay warm!



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      Before I was able to hit the road myself I found it helped relieve the travel itch to take weekend trips Dreamer, will your schedule allow you to do that? All the best to you as you prepare to hit the road. Two years goes by faster than you’d think…



  8. Don Matthews on September 1, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    We were in Leadville a few years ago. There was a steak house on the main drag that the only meat entree was filet mignon Your choice was the size and how you wanted it cooked. I went with the biggest I could afford. Hope you enjoy your stay. The drive up to the continental divide was very nice. Many things to see in and around Leadville.



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      I’m not a big steak person Don but that sounds tasty. I do really like the pizza place in town.

      Leadville is a neat area, I’ve enjoyed my time here even though the weather hasn’t been good.



  9. Jim on September 1, 2016 at 10:53 am

    If you show a picture of the back of your solar panel, I bet some smart folks among your readers could come up with a plan to protect it.

    I thought what I’d try in a similar situation in the short term is find a piece of cardboard with a shiny surface. Then using packing tape, create a box or perhaps just a hood that would cover the electronics of the solar panel. The shiny side would end up, by design, inside and the raw cardboard would be covered with the packing tape. Tada! Waterproof, at least for several months. Then tape it in place over the electronics.

    One thing I learned about the solar panels I used for a while, was that the electronics circuit inside the control box on the back of the panel was conformally coated…which means they are resistant to moisture. Wouldn’t want to submerge them, but they would tolerate periodic rain, or spilled coffee.

    I’d be surprised if yours didn’t have the same feature…resistance to rain…because after all, it’s designed to be placed outside.
    Jim recently posted..Blues Festival…My Profile



    • Becky on September 3, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      Yeah Jim I’m sure there is a solution for it out there, it couldn’t be bulky though or the two halves of the panel wouldn’t fold together to be stored. Thanks for the suggestion.



  10. pamelab on September 1, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Hi, Becky –
    Great photo of the pot of gold! I am enjoying your blog and always learn something. Thank you for sharing. what a pretty area. Not sure my Toyota 4Runner could pull my 17’SD up some of those mountain roads. Some day I hope to try those higher elevations.
    Happy Travels!
    Pamelab near Grand Rapids, MI for now



    • MnDreamer on September 1, 2016 at 6:17 pm

      Pamelab, I’ve been thinking pretty seriously about a 4Runner as a TV, when I do my vagabond dreaming. Are you serious about wondering whether it could handle the roads pulling a 17’SD? Because I will definitely want to do some boondocking and see those mountain passes up close. Thoughts?



    • Becky on September 2, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Pamela. I’m no expert on tow vehicles, probably the best thing to do is try it on lower mountain grades and see how it does before deciding whether to tackle high mountain areas like western CO.



  11. Dale on September 1, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Great post, Becky!

    I am also camped near Leadville on the Halfmoon Road which is southwest of town. For the last couple of weeks I was in the Gunnison National Forest, similarity in a high altitude camp, experiencing all the rain and cold that you talked about. I told myself to get down out of the mountains and find warmer weather, but I couldn’t leave without visiting famous Leadville first. Thanks for writing about boondocking places you find. Your information is so valuable to us fellow nomads. By the way, there is a trail just above my camp to Mt. Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado. I think I hear it calling your name!



    • Becky on September 2, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Yes I’ve been thinking about Mt. Elbert, not sure yet if it’s going to happen or not.

      You’re welcome and glad you enjoyed this post.



  12. Kent on September 1, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Great trip report and pics Becky.
    I must say; I would bet that your particular route across Colorado is one chosen by few and way cool, very creative route. I would have never thought of it.
    Leadville. Ranks at the very top of my favorite Colorado mountain towns. For several years running we had a “Picnic in Leadville!” day each Summer. It meant heading that direction from the Front Range, into South Park and then over Mosquito Pass. A 4×4 adventure for sure.
    My thought is that you will be seeing Aspen starting to change color about now. You are in for a spectacular treat!

    A big high five on joining the 11K footers club…. Hmmm.. Going for 12? Ohhh! Maybe bag a 14er whilst your in the territory!!



    • Becky on September 2, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      The aspens here in Leadville are just started to turn, another week or two and it’ll be quite beautiful although I’m hoping to be gone by then. Take care.



  13. Jodee Gravel on September 1, 2016 at 7:15 am

    A very sweet shot of the rainbow and your pot of gold! Glad the climb to 11+ was a good experience – and that the wet wasn’t snow on the way down. Beautiful pics of the area. Bummer you had so much rain after you arrived.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..More Solo Adventures in Western New YorkMy Profile



    • Becky on September 2, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Jodee!



  14. Sean Janson on September 1, 2016 at 4:05 am

    Do you plan to swing down to Denver before Sept 22? I have an unused spare 100W portable solar (2x flexible 50W + 10A MPPT controller) I can give you for free. Ping my email if you’re interested. I will be in DEN till the 22nd and after that, we’re starting full-time in the south / west direction (no specific plan yet, probably UT, NM).
    sean



    • Becky on September 2, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      Was in Denver yesterday Sean, just missed you. I won’t be there again before the 22nd, thank you very much for the offer though. I actually do quite well with my single 100W panel and I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone who can benefit from yours. 🙂



  15. Ron on August 31, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    The places you have been and the sights you have seen this Summer have truly been a pot of gold. What a grand Summer.



    • Becky on September 2, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      It sure has been Ron.



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