July 27, 2016 Cimarron, Colorado

North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte

A Week of Exploring the Back Roads

Lupines
Lupines

I have spent the last week traveling over 600 miles on the gravel back roads searching for fields of wild flowers and wildlife. Haven’t been terribly successful with either.

Sheep Grazing Among the Lupines
Sheep Grazing Among the Lupines

The best shows of wildflowers seem to occur at an elevation of over 9000 feet, so the Prius has had to work hard this week and has taken me places I probably shouldn’t be going. Even had the thrill of having to change out a flat tire while coming down a 10% grade at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, got to gasping a bit for breath while doing that task.

Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers

Though finding a few spots where the meadows were quite colorful, just not finding all that many areas where there are more than two or three types of flowers in bloom at the same time, not as nice as some of the images I have seen online over the years.

Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte

I made a day long 240 mile trip to check out the mountain roads around Crested Butte, the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado” that yielded some dramatic mountain scenery but not all that much in the way of wildflowers.

North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
Backroads near Crested Butte
Backroads near Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
Sunrise, Black Canyon National Park
Sunrise, Black Canyon National Park

Also did a quick morning trip into Black Canyon National Park, a place I have visited before, and not one of my favorites.

Black Canyon National Park
Black Canyon National Park

If you are ever here, the road down to the East Portal is something to see … and drive, a 16% grade that runs for over two miles down to the river. The Prius complained a bit on the way down but really moaned driving back up and out. One very SERIOUS descent and ascent, needless to say, no trailers or motorhomes allowed on this road.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet

Despite all the miles covered on back roads at high elevations, wildlife sightings have been few and far between. I have yet to even spot an elk.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet

This is one of a group of four mule deer bucks, still in velvet, that I did encounter.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet
Shiras Moose
Shiras Moose

And this is Shiras Moose, the smallest of the moose subspecies, and not all that numerous here in Colorado. Though I couldn’t get a good shot of it, this cow was accompanied by her young calf, but the calf was a little camera shy.

Black Canyon RV Park
Black Canyon RV Park

I have been staying at a private RV park on Route 50 just a little past Cimarron, Colorado called the Black Canyon RV Park and Cabins. A very neat and clean park with a wonderful owner and surprisingly quiet. Most of the campers here are long term with just a very few overnighters. The sites are reasonably spaced on fairly level grass pads. Full hookups with the absolute best campground WiFi I have ever encountered, which was a big plus, since there is absolutely no Verizon signal here whatsoever.

My thirteen year old refrigerator died when I first pulled in here and I have spent a good deal of time trying to find anyone who would be able to install a new one and get me back on the road. Campers World in Colorado Springs said they could squeeze me in on September 10th ! The RV dealer in Montrose could maybe get me in by the middle of August. I finally found a place in Delta, CO that will replace the refrigeration unit only, and they are going to do it for me tomorrow. Though this saves me about a grand, versus a new refrigerator, I am not completely certain this is the way to go, but I need to get the refrigerator back on line so I continue of my trip with a series of paid reservations down the road, as I make my way to Leadville and on to Estes Park.

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July 15, 2016 Ridgeway State Park, Colorado

Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird

Exploring Back Roads Through the Rockies

I have spent most of the last week taking day trips out of the state park hitting many of the county roads that head up into the mountains around Ridgeway. These are all dusty gravel roads varying in condition, mostly washboarded, narrow in some places, and some bad enough to force me to turn around and backtrack, wishing I had a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle. Most have yielded little more than the opportunity to travel to higher, thus cooler elevations, escaping the heat down below, few have yielded any great panoramic views, and wildlife sightings have been few and far between.

Ridgeway State Park
Ridgeway State Park

Ridgeway State Park

The image above is of my campsite in the large, crowded, campground here at Ridgeway State Park. I was fortunate that the park ranger found me a level site after the site I had reserved online was way too severely sloped to even get close to level even maxing out my hydraulic leveling system. If coming here, and this is a very nice campground, be aware that at least half the sites are unusable for larger rigs, not because of length, but because of slope.

All interior roads and sites are paved and there are water spigots located throughout the campground for filling tanks. 30 amp electric is provided at each site and some, not all, sites have a shelter. Sites are reasonably spaced and there is a pretty good Verizon signal here. The campground is full every night this time of year so reservations are necessary. I would stay here again, but would probably do so in the fall for foliage, just a little too warm for me this time of year even at an elevation of 7,000′, mid to high 80’s every day, but cooling off nicely to the 50’s at night.

Along Last Dollar Road
Along Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road to Telluride

Open Range
Open Range

After reading quite a bit about the Last Dollar Road, a county road up through the mountains to Telluride, off Route 145, I figured I would give it a go and see how far my Prius could make it. Surprisingly, I made it all the way, though certainly would have been turned back had there been any rain lately, the road would be way too slick and deeply rutted for a low clearance vehicle in wet conditions.

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove

There was one weird aspen grove on the ascent, where the trees were all twisted and leaning in every direction, not the straight, erect forest you usually encounter.

Above Telluride
Above Telluride

After a loooong steady climb on the northern end of the road through meadows and forests, the road makes a long, steep, very steep descent towards Telluride. As I inched down this road, a herd of sheep was being driven out of the woods below to a large field.

Above Telluride
Above Telluride

As I watched they spread out and grazed for a short while ….

Above Telluride, Shepherd and Dogs
Above Telluride, Shepherd and Dogs

… then the shepherd and his two dogs hurried them back into the woods. Kind of fun to watch how quickly and efficiently the two dogs worked from this vantage point. When I looked at the photo above on my monitor, I noticed the shepherd had a rifle slung over his shoulder, must be for coyotes ?

Boondock Site Above Telluride
Boondock Site Above Telluride

At the bottom of the long descent, just a short distance above the spread of multi-million dollar homes and ” ranches” you encounter before coming back down to the highway just outside Telluride, I found a few folks camping on this spot ( image above ), what a great view from this popular boon docking spot, one I might consider approaching from the south end, but certainly not from the way I just came. If you look closely at the image above, you will see a local resident  using the rocks surrounding the fire pit as a vantage point to take in the great view.

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove

The beautiful aspen groves here near the campsites are, of course, marred by carvings.

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove

The weather during my stay here has been incredibly consistent, 85 and sunny days, cool, clear nights in the 50’s, every day. A little warm by day for my tastes, but if you drive up into the surrounding mountains, it becomes fairly comfortable. So far, the afternoon thunderstorms I was warned about, have not made an appearance.

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