November 16, 2017 Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Finally, Back on the Road!

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Greetings!

At long, long last, I departed Bend, Oregon after a six month stay, and drove Route 20 east to Idaho and picked up I-84 east. Normally I prefer taking secondary highways over driving the Interstates, but I knew I was heading into potentially hazardous winter weather conditions and wanted to make time heading east then south, hopefully avoiding the snow. Heavy rain hit around 4 PM, but the temperatures stayed around 40 degrees as I made it though Boise then Twin Falls. Nasty driving in the darkness with continued heavy rain and lots of big truck traffic causing near continual truck spray blackouts, but I didn’t dare pull off for the night until I could be reasonably sure I was far enough south of the approaching snow to safely spend the night.

Around nine and after over 400 miles travelled, I overnighted in one of the I-84 rest areas, getting a few hours of fitful sleep amidst the belching diesels. After not having moved in six months, this was a rough way to restart my travels and I have to admit to waking up the next morning a little worse for wear. But at least I did  beat the bad weather, for I was greeted with morning temps now around 50 degrees and the rain had tapered off to just light sprinkles and the highway was thankfully free of ice. I continued on east I-84 then picked up I-15 south to Antelope Island State Park located in the Great Salt Lake near Ogden, Utah, arriving around noon and checked in for four nights.

Antelope Island State Park, Bridger Campground
Antelope Island State Park, Bridger Campground

Antelope Island State Park

After last night among the trucks at the rest stop and six months on the busy hospital grounds in Bend, I was really looking forward to some peace and quiet without a lot of traffic and close neighbors, and that was my reasoning for picking Antelope Island for my first stop on the road south. But the absolutely deserted campground was kind of a pleasant, yet shocking surprise. Of course, with snow forecast for Friday with temperatures plummeting to the low twenties, I guess most intelligent people would be somewhere other than here.

Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.
Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.
Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.
Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.

The Bridger Campground in Antelope Island State Park is a favorite of mine and I have visited here twice before.

Bridger Campground
Bridger Campground

The 23 primitive campsites are nicely separated, most have a paved, level pull through long enough for almost any type of rig, and have a concrete patio with shelter, picnic table, fire pit, and grilling platform. There is a dump station located within the park but there is no fresh water available anywhere in the park. Included for all the sites is a great view out over the Great Salt Lake. For four nights, the charge was all of $51.

Approaching Cold Front Over Great Salt Lake
Approaching Cold Front Over Great Salt Lake

After getting set up ( and taking a short nap ), I loaded up the camera gear and headed out to look for wildlife under some very threatening skies.

Antelope Island Horses
Antelope Island Horses

Making Acquaintances

” Hey, Sam, look! I wonder if those guys could be wild horses. Not aware that the island has wild horses, but there aren’t any fences around here and it seems strange that anyone would just let their horses run wild out here. ”

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Greetings!

Oops, guess they aren’t wild horses after all.

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose

 

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Nosey

 

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Greetings!

Almost as soon as I stopped to take the first shot above, the two horses rather quickly approached the car, seeming very interested in the small white dog popping her head out the window and growling warnings. Sam was a little intimidated, can’t say the horse were, but still went nose to nose with both of these guys. The whole episode just cracked me up and after about five minutes of nose nuzzling, I had to all but push the horses’ noses out of the car before I could eventually take off.

Bison Bulls
Bison Bulls

Only Bison Today

I covered all the roads within the park today and only ran into bison, no deer, no pronghorns and very few birds other some crows and a few magpies.

Antelope Island Bison Herd
Antelope Island Bison Herd

This late in the year the bison have split up and are segregated by sex, the young and their mothers gathered in a couple of large herds …

Bison Bulls
Bison Bulls
Bison Bull
Bison Bull

… and the bulls scattered all about in small groups or off by themselves.

Bison Crossing Road
Road Hazard

These are just enormous beasts!

I have to say it sure does feel good to be back out doing a little photography after six months off. The animals may not have been out and about today and the lighting was terrible and the weather bleak, but it still was one of the best of days for me.

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July 11, 2016 Ridgway, Colorado

Columbine
Columbine

Exploring Back Roads Searching for Wildflowers

The last couple of days I have been driving the dusty, washboarded back roads around Ridgway and off the Million Dollar Highway, searching for mountain meadows carpeted with wildflowers. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any.

Columbine on the Edge of the Woods
Columbine on the Edge of the Woods

Columbine is in bloom along several of these roads and I have found some small patches with several clusters of flowers, but nothing on a grand scale … yet.

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove
Columbine
Columbine

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this single clump growing out of the sheer face of the road cut  along the Million Dollar Highway. It was hanging on about twenty feet up the sheer vertical face of the rock cut and with no shoulder on one side of the road ( just a straight drop down about 200 feet, no room for a guard rail ), and the rock wall just three feet from the fog line on the other side, the only way I could get the shot was setting my tripod up on the road, dodging in and out of traffic.

Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive
Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive

Caught in Yet Another Cattle Drive

Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive
Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive

This is getting to be a regular occurrence for me, I believe this is the fifth cattle drive I have gotten involved with in the past couple months.

Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive
Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive

I’m getting to be an old hand at staring down these bovines.

A Young Cowboy
A Young Cowboy

And this is definitely the youngest cowboy I have photographed to date !

Approaching Red Mountain
Approaching Red Mountain

More Shots From Route 550 and Roads Outside Silverton

Approaching Red Mountain
Approaching Red Mountain
Along the Million Dollar Highway
Along the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
From Yankee Basin Road
From Yankee Basin Road
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton

Caught Up in My First Sheep Drive

Sheep Drive
Sheep Drive

I ran into three large and empty livestock carriers ( tractor trailers, 18 wheelers ) parked on the side of a narrow dusty road outside of Silverton and assumed I was going to run into yet another cattle drive, but when I rounded the next corner I encountered my initial “sheep drive “.

Sheep Drive Chaos
Sheep Drive Chaos

Several hundred sheep, one sheepdog, one guard dog, three shepherds on foot and another walking with a horse. At times the sheep were bouncing all around the place and the three shepherds were running like crazy trying not to have the herd breakup.

What made it really interesting was the fact that they were driving them down the road and one side of the road was a National Forest designated camping area, full of people and tents … and many of the sheep were running through the campsites and among campers and their tents as the men and the sheepdog attempted to get them back to the flock. I felt kind of sorry for the campers because the road and all the ground in the flocks’ path was now covered with sheep droppings, and several hundred sheep leave a lot of droppings.

Sheep Drive
Sheep Drive

Eventually the flock was driven off the road and up the side of the mountain.

Sheep Drive
Driving Them Up the Mountain

And the side of this mountain was very steep, probably a 30 degree slope or more and they were being pushed straight up by the shepherds. These guys had to be in some kind of great shape for this job since this location is about at 10,000′ elevation and they were driving the flock straight up the mountainside and it was a long way to the top. How they don’t lose individuals is beyond me.

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June 27, 2016 Pagosa Springs, Colorado

View From Route 160
View From Route 160

On the 23rd, I made the short trip from Navajo Lake State Park in northern New Mexico to my new home for the next two weeks in the San Juan National Forest at the West Fork Campground. I had an uneventful trip north on New Mexico Route 511 to Ignacio, CO where I picked up Route 151, then Route 160 to Pagosa Springs, with a stop at Walmart to reprovision and add air to a leaking tow dolly tire, only took a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the weather remains quite warm and temps were in the upper 80’s by noon when I arrived at the West Fork Campground and got settled in on my site.

View From Route 160
View From Route 160

Since there are no hookups in the campground, running the AC is not an option and the interior of the motorhome gets quite uncomfortable by early afternoon, and doesn’t really cool down until late in the evening. So I packed up the dogs and headed up to Wolf Pass, just 9 miles from the entrance to the campground, assuming the temperature would be a little cooler a couple thousand feet higher up … and it was, from 88 down to the mid sixties.

View From Route 160
View From Route 160

On the way up, about three miles from the bottom of the long climb to the pass, is a scenic pulloff area where I got a few shots of the valley looking south towards Pagosa Springs. The campground where I am staying would be just out of the picture in the lower right.

Colorado Pasture
Colorado Pasture

There is an abundance of great scenery in the area, such as these cattle grazing along Route 160 just north of Pagosa Springs.

Colorado Pasture
Colorado Pasture
Unknown Wildfower
Unknown Wildfower

Thankfully, the temps drop into the 50’s overnight and the mornings are pleasantly cool, so there is relief from the unusually high temperatures. I have taken to heading out in the Prius to explore the forest roads during the heat of the day ( so I can use the car’s AC to get some relief ), and there are plenty of forest roads to explore in this area.

Wildflowers are starting to bloom along the roads, although the best show is yet to come, I am told. I found a small patch of these gorgeous blue and white columbines along the road up to Navajo Peak. These small white, ground hugging wildflowers are all along a lot of the gravel roads in the area.

First Columbine of the Summer
First Columbine of the Summer
Jacob's Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder
Mulie Doe
Mulie Doe

Mule deer are encountered on a pretty regular basis and I have seen one or two elk cows in the higher elevations.

View along the road to Navajo Peak
View along the road to Navajo Peak

Sometimes I can only make it up a short distance on these Forest Service roads before they become too much for the Prius, and other times I am amazed to find great conditions for many miles in to some incredible viewpoints. One never knows.

Navajo Peak
Navajo Peak
Colorado One Room Schoolhouse
Colorado One Room Schoolhouse

I had to stop for these two horses seeking relief from the noon day sun in the shelter of an old abandoned one room schoohouse.

Colorado One Room Schoolhouse
Colorado One Room Schoolhouse

I have absolutely no Verizon signal at the campground and have to travel 15 miles to the Pagosa Springs Library to do a blog post, so it may be a while between posts. Also am having a few problems that are demanding my attention, an aging dog in her last days, refrigerator problems, a DirecTv satellite receiver that has died and I am finding it near impossible to get it replaced here, plus some tow dolly problems, so please bear with me.

June 12, 2016 Heron Lake State Park, New Mexico

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove

Exploring Southern Colorado

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage

At these high elevations, this Skunk Cabbage seems to grow prolifically just about everywhere.

The West End of Colorado FR 103
The West End of Colorado FR 103

I had checked out FR 103 on my New Mexico and Colorado Atlases and wanted to see if I could drive it in the Prius to try and find the catering building of the Cumbres & Toltec RR out in the middle of nowhere in Colorado. The atlases showed  a few miles of drivable gravel road before it appeared to turn into 4-wheel drive road, when you entered FR 103 from the west, so I figured I would see just how bad it got.

As you can see from the image above, the road starts out in pretty good shape as you head down into a beautiful valley, but after about four miles, as it heads back up into the woods, it deteriorated quite rapidly, forcing me to turn around at about the five mile mark.

View From Colorado Route 17
View From Colorado Route 17

So, back out to Route 17, and north across the state line into Colorado to try FR 103 from the east side. The image above is from the side of the road as you descend into Colorado. If you look closely, the gravel road on the right that heads uo into the mountains is one I will take a little later in this post.

At the summit of Cumbres Pass there is a gravel road to the west that takes you about two miles up to the Trujillo Meadows NF Campground, so I had to check that out. There is a very nice campground up there at over 10,000 feet of elevation with several sites that would easily handle my rig, but, unfortunately, the campground looks like a bomb hit it. It used to be a well wooded campground but the bark beetles have killed a very large portion of all the surrounding woods up here and the forest service obviously felt the need to take down all the dead trees in the campground, leaving it completely bare, nothing but stumps. Still a nice place to truly get away from it all.

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove

I continued east on Route 17 to Road D-5, just past Fox Creek, and that connected me to FR 103’s east access. FR 103 is a fairly decently maintained gravel road with a fair share of washboarded stretches for about 14 miles in, where it becomes a little narrower, slicker, and less well maintained.

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove

I passed several aspen groves along the first several miles and finally had to stop and get some shots.

Approaching Storm
Approaching Storm

At about 6 or 7 miles in, the sky began to darken and I could see lightning flashing to the north.

Afternoon Storm
Afternoon Storm

In this area, there were a couple of meadows where one could possibly pull off the road and find a decent boon docking site, something I may well do in the future. I think I would dare take the motorhome out to at least this point, though I don’t think I would dare go beyond these meadows as the road does get narrower and there are no obvious places where a large rig could get turned around.

Afternoon Storm
Afternoon Storm

The rain was soon upon me as I made the final push to get to the catering building, about 15 miles in from the east end of FR 103.

Switching Track
Switching Track

kLunchStop

All these shots were taken in the rain so they are a little dull and spotty, but I found it kind of interesting to see all these people and all this activity out here in the middle of nowhere.

lLunchStop2

The Cumbres & Toltec RR serves a complete dinner, included in the price of your ticket, out here in this building. The road at this point became so bad that I could not get down to the building to check it out, plus the rain was really starting to come down heavy and I had a narrow, winding uphill to do in what was now a very muddy road, so it was time to turn around and head out.

Approaching the Water Tank
Approaching the Water Tank
Cumbres & Toltec Railroad Engineers
Cumbres & Toltec Railroad Engineers

As I slid and sloshed back up the road, the heavy rain turned to marble sized hail and within seconds the road was now white with hail. This was my first experience with the summer season’s afternoon storms, and it was a little terrifying for a few minutes. At 10,000 feet of elevation, I guess you must be right inside the storm as I could quite literally “feel’ the thunder as it seemed to explode around me and the hail was so heavy, I could not see the narrow road in front of me. But it was all over in a few minutes and I was able to make the return back out to Route 17, no worse for wear.

Cumbres & Toltec Open Gondola car
Nice Ride !

A shot of the open gondola car as the train passed in a little nicer weather.

My Second Cattle Drive
My Second Cattle Drive

Exploring Colorado Route 250 to Platoro

Only a few miles up Route 250, a wide, well maintained gravel road ( though quite dusty and washboarded in sections ), I encountered my second cattle drive of the season. This lone cowboy and his dog were single handedly driving about a hundred cattle up the road to greener summer pastures.

Mom Looking Out for Junior
Mom Looking Out for Junior

Just as with the first cattle drive I encountered back outside Raton a couple weeks ago, the cowboy came up to me and told me to just slowly head into them,” they’ll move “. And they did, but it took about five minutes of looking at the messy butts of a lot of cows and calves to nudge through the herd and get back on my way. I could easily have reached out my window and touched many of these cows as I made my way through.

rBlocked

These next few shots are actually are from my return back down Rte 250 later in the afternoon, this and the next few taken through my windshield, when I met up with the same cowboy and cattle drive about 3 hours later. Turns out to be a slightly different feel when you run head first into them and they have to make their way around you, than when you work your way through them from the rear.

Hereford Bull
This Guy Has Me Worried

This lone bull, about the size of my Prius, had me more than a little worried when he seemed to look down at me from in front of the car, as though he was trying to decide if he should push through me, or go around. Thankfully, some cows to the left moved around me, giving him room to move that way also.

Hereford Bull
That’s a Lot of Animal
Colorado Cowboy
Colorado Cowboy

Quite a job to tackle by himself, I would think. When the herd was moving through this area of cabins with no woods or fences along the roadway, the cattle were scattering all over the place and he was bouncing from one side of the road to the other trying to gather them all in and keep them heading in one direction. I wish i could have gotten some shots of his dog, looked like a sheltie/sheepdog type, as he raced all over chasing strays back to the road, seemingly without any commands that I could see or hear, from his master.

Elevation 9,000 Feet and Still Climbing
Elevation 9,000 Feet and Still Climbing

Views From 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet

I ended up going about 18 miles into the mountains on Route 250, mainly to check out the two National Forest Campgrounds, Spectacle Lake CG at about 6 miles in and South Fork CG about 18 miles in. Both campgrounds were secluded and fairly nice with interior roads and several campsites that were able to handle larger rigs. I might well try one or both someday in the future, this is just breathtakingly beautiful country.

Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet

I got a little spooked as I was taking the shots above, when rocks began crashing down into the road behind me from the steep slope on the other side of the road.

Mule Deer
Rock Throwers

I looked up and there was the reason, two mule deer does scrambling up the steep talus slope, probably to get away from me.

Colorado at 10,000 Feet, Impossibly Green
Colorado at 10,000 Feet, Impossibly Green

The hillsides are an unbelievably brilliant green and the sky an incredible blue. The air so clean and dry … WOW !!!   Spring in the Rockies!

Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet
Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Years ago, I made a trip out here and had a little trouble with the altitude. This time, I suppose because of my slow, months long pace of gradually climbing up in elevation as I made my way north and up, through New Mexico, thankfully, I am not experiencing any of the same symptoms. Just another perk, I suppose, of the leisurely pace of a fulltimer.

Sunbathing Horses
Sunbathers

Had to take a shot of these two, seemingly really enjoying the warmth of the noonday sun at 10,00 feet.

Abandoned House
Abandoned House

And I can never pass by a deserted building.

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