“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” John Muir
“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Janus Bahs Jacquet
After eight months on the road, we knew that we needed to upgrade to a truck that could haul our 7,000 pound trailer. Our Toyota Tacoma could pull 6,500 pounds max. We were pushing his limits, as he struggled up and over many passes at maybe 20 mph. In January of 2020, with a heavy heart, we traded in our beloved Tacoma for a 2018 Chevy 3500 HD Silverado.
After roughly 15 months on the road full time, I agreed to continue this journey for another two years. The only caveat was to find a bigger rig that would give us a little more living space. In January of 2020, we purchased a 2020 Columbus Compass Fifth Wheel.
I always thought that my first time in Big Sky, MT, would be to downhill ski – not happening in August. From Little Big Horn, we traveled north west on Hwy 90 to Bozeman, MT, and then south on Hwy 191. We had a reservation at Moose Creek Flat Campground, which is located about fifteen miles from Big Sky Ski Resort on Hwy 191, parallel to the Gallatin River.
Although there weren’t any trees for shade by the camper, there were trees along the river’s edge just behind us.
We took a drive to Big Sky Resort. I bet it looks a bit different in the winter.
The resort was open for biking and hiking, and one restaurant was also open with outdoor dining up on the deck. Masks were required while on the premises. Notice the “Yield” sign for bikes.
The next day we hiked Lava Lake Trail. The trailhead was less than 10 miles from our campground just off Hwy 191.
This 5.7 mile round-trip hike began with a steep upgrade. I was out of breath less than fifteen minutes into the hike. Can you tell?
There were many switch-backs, two creek crossings, and one foot bridge. Scott was eating the thimbleberries, but I wouldn’t. How did he know if it was poisonous or not?
It’s 1,629’ elevation gain brings you to a beautiful, clear lake.
On Friday, we returned to the ski mountain and hiked 7.24 miles round-trip. It took us just over eight hours to complete. Total elevation gain was 3,618’. The last mile was the killer in my opinion. The talus and scree made it tricky to climb up the steep mountain, but even scarier to climb back down. Below are some highlights.
The descent took us the same amount of time. I felt safer hiking up than hiking down. The scree was lose and slippery. Although Scott felt that this was a really good hike with a fun ridge line, I will ONLY return to this summit via the gondola. For the record, I said that this would be my last summit. We finally made it back to the base of the mountain. I looked back to see the summit of what we just hiked. See for yourself in the photo below.
We finally made it to Montana! This was a first for me, and Scott hadn’t been here since he was a kid. We took 90N all the way up until we reached the border of Wyoming. Little Big Horn National Monument is located in southern Montana.
This National Monument “memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. Here in the valley of the Little Bighorn River on two hot June days in 1876, more than 260 soldiers and attached personnel of the U.S. Army met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. Although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the military’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.” This was just the beginning of the struggle. They eventually were granted, by treaty, a large area of eastern Wyoming as a permanent Indian reservation. That only lasted until gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and then they were told to get out of there, too. There are many Indian reservations all throughout the west, but they are not in areas where the Indians wanted to be. The white man kicked them out. Disgusting. We stood on a once battlefield and read about the historical events that occurred many years ago. You can almost picture the brutal scene with many dead bodies and horses strewn across the land. It almost doesn’t seem real.
Our half-way point to Glacier National Park brought us to Columbus, Mt. It is a small town of about 2,000 people. Itch-Kep-Pe Park, is a city park that runs the entire length of the town, nestled in between the railroad tracks and the downtown shops.
On the other side of the town is the Yellowstone River. The park is completely free-of-charge, however there is a five-day limit for campers. There is also a “donation box” to support the upkeep of the park. It was high in the mid-nineties when we got settled. Scott blew up our Lipton inner tubes and we walked about 1,000 steps from our campsite to the Yellowstone River. First we took a dip, and then we floated on the refreshing water. Then, we walked back on the rocky shore to our starting point.
There were brown and bright, green flogs and tons of grasshoppers frolicking around.
That evening, the temperature dropped to the low sixties, and it was even a bit chillier in the morning. Not a bad place to break up the driving. Next stop, Big Sky, Montana!
We have been to Estes Park several times before, but this visit was different. Estes Park means family since this is where Scott’s dad lived since 1995. The last time we were here was in March of 2019, when we spread his dad’s ashes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This time we did not see family. And, because of Covid, entry into the National Park was limited between the hours of 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. You had to go online to purchase a daily pass with a two-hour time slot that would provide you entry. Ninety percent of the day passes were sold out months prior. The remaining ten percent of the passes were posted on line (recreation.gov) 48 hours in advance. So, at 8 a.m., you would sign on to purchase a pass for two days later. The problem was that they were mostly gone is a matter of seconds. We ended up getting four passes that gave us entry on Monday, 8/17, from 3 – 5 p.m., Wednesday, 8/19, from 2 – 4 p.m., Thursday, 8/20, from 3 – 5 p.m., and lastly, Sunday, 8/23, from 12 – 2 p.m. Not ideal times for summit hikes. We didn’t learn until Tuesday that we could enter the Park before 6 a.m. or after 5 p.m., but you still needed a day pass posted on your dashboard to avoid fines if caught. This process was certainly new for us. Like everybody else, we made the best of it. Below is a sampling of our visits into RMNP.
After Mount Ida’s hike, we took it slow and easy the next day with an easy, relaxing hike.
We had a pass to get into RMNP for 12-2 p.m. on our last day in Estes Park. We decided to drive through the park and take the kayaks out on Grand Lake, which is just outside the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is on the eastern side. It was mostly cloudy and only in the mid-seventies. There was a small group already hanging out, and we could see another kayaker in the water.
We only lasted about 40 minutes on the water. It began to sprinkle and the skies became quite dark. We rode back to shore, got the toys back in the truck and the sun came out! We sat and talked with a couple that had just arrived with their inflatable boats and were actually going for a swim. They were from Michigan. LOL. That water was far too cold for my liking.
We left Grand Lake and entered the western side of RMNP for the ride along Trail Ridge Road to get back to the other side. We stopped briefly where we had sprinkled Scott’s dad’s ashes last year. It was here that we met a massive friend who took my breath away. Literally! We walked down a small path into the woods and found ourselves standing not 20 feet from a bull elk. We were standing behind a scrawny, little bush about 5’ tall, when this big boy stopped eating and looked straight at us. When he finally turned his gaze, Scott gave me the hand signal to start walking back towards the car. OMG!! Of course, we had left our phones in the car. So, Scott took my phone and walked back down the path to find our large friend. He is my brave boy.
It was time to say goodbye to Colorado. On our last night in Spruce Lake RV Park, there was an elk party going on. A parade of elk decided to walk around the campground. This is not unusual this time as year since the rut season is about to begin.
We were here back in the winter of 2018 for six weeks. We stayed at Tiger Run, the only year-round RV Resort in the area. The purpose for our visit this time was to speak directly with the office manager to insure that we would be able to reserve a site for ten weeks this coming winter ski season.
Breckenridge takes on an entirely different look during the summer than in the winter. They had record snowfall back in the winter of 2018-2019, and there was white stuff everywhere.
Behind Tiger Resort is a section of the CDT and the Colorado Trail. This trail is for both bicycles and foot traffic, and dogs are also allowed.
We reached a point where you can get a clear view of Breckenridge Ski Mountain on the left.
Once we were nestled up high into the mountains, we saw a moose grazing in the fields.
She even blocked our path on our way back. We had to hang out for about five minutes with two bicyclists until she moved off the trail. Don’t mess with moose!
We left Tiger Run Resort at $110.00/night (full hook up but with no resort amenities due to Covid19) and we were able to get a site for two nights at Prospector Campground in Dillon for $24.00 (dry camping, beautiful, semi-private location).
This campground is located on Dillon Reservoir. There are a few other campgrounds on the lake.
“Dillon Reservoir, sometimes referred to as Lake Dillon, is a large fresh water reservoir located in Summit County, Colorado, south of I-70 and bordered by the towns of Frisco, Silverthorne, and Dillon. It is a reservoir for the city of Denver, and its waters are under the control of Denver Water.”
Swimming is not allowed, however motorized and non-motorized boating is permitted. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get our toys out on the water this trip. We did, however, get in a few hikes. Sniktau Mountain was only 3.66 miles, but the elevation gain was 1,276 feet. It took us 3:27 hours as I needed to make many stops as we headed up. We began at over 12,000 feet and my Asthma lungs were challenged.
I took a video about a third of the way up. At the very end, Scott is sitting on the trail above me.
After a tough hike, we stopped at the base lodge at A-Basin for a cold drink.
A few days later, we returned to Gold Hill Trail No 79 Colorado Trail. This trailhead is a few miles up the road from Tiger Run RV Resort.
We snowshoed here during the winter of 2018/2019. It looked completely different.
There had been fire damage to parts of this area back in 2000 that we were not able to see with the winter snow cover.
It was time to begin the job of packing for what was to be a two-week visit back in New Jersey. Due to Covid19, I was no longer comfortable with flying home. So, my wonderful husband said he would drive me back.
We found a storage facility in Bayfield, Colorado. Goodbye Columbus! Crossing our fingers that you will look the same when we return.
When we left around 2 p.m. for a short hike, there were two moose, a cow and her calf, walking down the road. I grabbed my phone and was able to catch one of them before they retreated down to the river. It looks like we have some neighbors.
There are several trailheads off Laramie River Road, which is why Scott chose this location. We drove a few miles to the trailhead for Trail 177. We hiked 4.35 miles round trip to three lakes: Lost, Laramie and Twin.
At times, the trails was difficult to follow, but I followed my guy through the soft, muddy grasses.
Our next hike would be our LONGEST EVER together. We hiked 14.29 miles round trip on West Branch Trail, which follows its fork of the Laramie River up into the Rawah Wilderness ending at Island and Carey Lakes. It took us almost nine hours through snow and overflowing trails as a result of snow runoff. Total elevation gain was 2,635 feet.
There were sections of the trail that were flowing with water from snow melt. We had to hop on rocks and walk on logs to cross over. I slipped and one foot went entirely into the cold water.
There was mostly snow on the trails for the next TWO miles to the lake.
With wet, cold feet, we tackled our way back through the snow. It was a pleasure to finally get back on a dirt trail. Only FIVE more miles to get back to the truck. We were two tired puppies at the end of this hike. We both slept like babies that night.
The following day, we felt refreshed but decided to take a shorter hike. We drove to Cameron Pass and bought a day pass to Colorado State Park for $9. You can buy an annual pass for $80 and get into all of the state parks, but we didn’t think we’d actually get to many more state parks.
It was already after three when we started this short hike. While it is only 0.8 miles to reach Agnes Lake, it is all switchbacks going up. Once you reach the lake, there are accessible, partly-snowy trails to walk around half of the lake.
On our last day boon docking in this area, we took an 11-mile bike ride on Laramie Ditch Road. The ten-foot wide gravel road gradually rose in elevation. On one side was a huge drop off to the meadow below. On the other side was a man-made ditch that connected runoff from the mountains to the Cache La Poudre River. This was part of an expansion project near the start of West Branch Trail. We passed and stopped to admire several waterfalls that were feeding into this newly created ditch.
It wasn’t long before we reached the end of the road.
Time to turn around. It started raining on our way back down, but the rain soon subsided. It is very normal this time of year to have rain/thunderstorms in the afternoon. Tomorrow, we will say goodbye to our peaceful solitude and return to civilization – complete with WIFI and a cell signal. Off to Breckenridge!
The campsites are spread out, but there were no trees to separate one another. We were not on the water side, but we were directly across the road from the water. After we got settled, we took a walk up the road to a trail that spanned the perimeter of the large reservoir.
Later that evening, Scott took a walk back up the trail to catch some sunset pictures.
On his way back down the hill, he caught a brilliant shot of the campground. Look at those storm clouds! If you zoom in, you can spot our white truck behind our fifth wheel with the toys still attached to the back.
The temperature was over 100 degrees when we arrived early afternoon. While it did cool down a bit overnight, it was still quite warm. This was not the type of place where I wanted to hang out in mid June. It was way too hot and I missed the beauty and the summer temperature in the mountains. That evening, we watched a lighting storm. It was pretty amazing.
Even though we did get out on the water with our paddle board and kayak, we had come here for one purpose only. Scott’s dad passed away in January of 2019. He wanted to spread his dad’s remaining ashes somewhere special. Scott was born and raised in Colorado. When he was young, his dad would take him hunting in Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, which is not far from where we camped.
Scott recalled how they used to stop at the Ranger Office to sign in and receive a spot assigned solely to them. The office was closed, due to Covid19, but Scott seemed to think that Site 8E was the last time he was here with his dad. So, off we went in search of Site 8E. The place was deserted. There was a two-foot electrical fence that we had to climb over. I chose to stay back on the road and allow him some time alone.
The next day, we drove through Pierce, CO, so that I could see the house where Scott lived in from Grade 8 – 12. He said it looked quite different from what he remembered.
Tomorrow, we head to a KOA in Fort Collins to do laundry and catch up on chores.
We had just left Buena Vista and were going over Kenosa Pass when a warning light came on in the truck. The coolant level was low, and Scott knew that we would not be able to drive straight to Sterling without checking it out. So, we quickly googled the closest campground in the area. We were lucky to find a place in Golden.
Dakota Ridge RV Park is located in a small suburb, Golden, just outside of Denver. It is a popular spot for travelers that want to be near the city and the mountains. They have a number of amenities including a beautiful pool. Unfortunately, the pool was closed due to Covid19. Scott reserved it for three nights since we didn’t know how long it would take to get the truck serviced. We were still waiting for a phone call back from the Chevy Dealer.
This RV Park is also located directly opposite from a biker’s hangout, Dirty Dog Roadhouse.The next day, Scott drove the truck to the Chevy Dealer roughly eight miles away. Unfortunately, he was unable to get a ride home from Uber or a cab. Nobody was answering the phone. It took him about two hours to walk back. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I decided to walk across the street to the bar/restaurant to pick up some take out dinner. I will say that some people (like me) were wearing masks inside the restaurant, but it was a completely different scene outside. I had never seen so many motorcycles in one place at one time.
You can see our trailer across the street.
When Scott returned, we ate our dinner while listening to live music.
The bar/restaurant is open seven days a week until 2 a.m. During the summer, there is live music on the stage seven days a week. I find it hard to believe that a popular “family” RV Park would be located next to this type of place. I asked the manager before we left who was there first. The woman emphatically said that the RV Park was there first.
We only stopped there because of truck issues and most likely will never go back. Once was enough.
The truck was ready the following day. It was loosing coolant and it needed to have a few hoses replaced. Simultaneously, the water pump on the trailer broke on the same day. Fortunately, Scott picked up a new pump for $125 at a RV store. He was able to do the replacement himself, which saved a nice penny. Everything had to be removed from the storage area, so that he could play with all the hoses.
If you are planning to purchase an RV in your future, I highly suggest that you only do so if you have a mechanical mind or a lot of money. Things do and will go wrong. Trust me.
We drove to Collegiate Peaks Campground in Buena Vista with the hope of getting a site for a few nights. There were a few spots open for just Thursday night, but they were completely booked for the weekend. (I guess that the masses are beginning to tire of social distancing.) A few miles down the road, across from Avalanche Trailhead parking lot, we found a BLM spot near the stream. It was a bit tricky backing into the narrow, uneven spot, but Scott made it happen. Unfortunately, we took up three campsites. There were still more sites open for more boon dockers.
The next morning, we drove to Cottonwood Pass and took a short walk up the Continental Divide Trail. There were still remnants of the white stuff on parts of the trail. As we got higher in elevation, the snow was much deeper in spots.
It wasn’t long before I refused to go any further up. We were just out to take a “walk” which was turning into a “get your feet are wet” hike. I encouraged Scott to climb alone up to the high point. Then I filmed him.
On the way back down, we encountered some deeper snow. I like when I am following Scott and am able to take a candid shot.
At least I could follow in his footsteps, even though it was slow going for both of us.
Two days later, we took another ”snowy” hike to Ptarmigan Lake. During the summer months, snow covered trails are to be expected in Colorado at higher elevations.
This is a relatively easy six-mile hike to the lake. It was a perfect hiking day with temperatures in the 50’s and mostly sunny. As we gained elevation and got closer to Ptarmigan Lake, it became windy and there was snow covering parts of the trail. It also became a bit colder.
We finally arrived at the mostly frozen lake.
We stopped to rest and eat some lunch, but it wasn’t long before we had to move again to get warm.
I had had a headache for two days and was feeling under the weather. I believe that it was a case of mountain sickness. The fresh air has a way of making you feel better, but I was a bit cranky in the beginning. That evening we had some visitors! My nephew was driving cross country from San Diego to New Jersey. As he travelled through Colorado, he visited a friend in Salida, which was only about 30 minutes from Buena Vista. The next day, we met Pat and his dog, Harley, for lunch. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was for me to see family again.
Later that day, Scott and I hiked up the Colorado Trail from the Avalanche Trailhead, which was located across the street from our campsite. We couldn’t leave the area without at least walking on part of it.
It got very cold that evening. This is what we woke up to the next morning.
The snow was gone by mid-morning. After five nights of boon docking, our next stop was the Buena Vista, KOA to take care of business.
Scott was up early to capture some sunrise pictures.
At this point, Colorado had begun to lift more of their restrictions due to COVID19. Restaurants were permitted to open as long as they followed strict guidelines. As we passed through Pagosa Springs, we decided to stop and have lunch. We dined “outside” at Tequilas Pagosa and enjoyed looking out at the place where we had honeymooned years ago.
I have to admit that it felt weird to be eating and drinking at a restaurant, but we enjoyed it! About 30 minutes from Pagosa Springs, we found a perfect place to boon dock along the San Juan River off East Fork Road. There are several dry camping spots scattered along this river and they are all free.
You need to see the aerial view to see how special this spot was.
We both slept soundly enjoying the constant sound of the rushing water just outside our windows. In the morning, I found my perch where I could enjoy my coffee and the view.
The trailhead for Coal Creek Trail was a short walk down the road. We hiked 5.72 miles round-trip with 1,797’ elevation gain.
The next day we took a drive along East Fork Road to Silver Falls. It was a short, steep hike to reach the vibrant falls.
We crossed the East Fork River and continued on East Fork Road. On a few occasions, we had to drive through one to two feet of water. One such crossing was Quartz Creek.
On the way back, I took the wheel. It is exhilarating to drive through water.
The next day, we hiked Coal Creek Trail again. This time, we made it to the top of the ridge. In total, we hiked 8.93 miles with an elevation gain of 2,933 feet. The trail is partially shaded by the many evergreen trees, with switchbacks that slowly gain in elevation. Although, some sections were a bit steep.
That evening, we were relaxing in our chairs when a forest animal came to visit. This was a first for me. The skinny creature looked hungry. We were surprised that it came so close to us. He ran away before I had a chance to.
The next morning, it was time to get ready to head out. I offered to get up on the roof and sweep the many pine needles off the top of the three slides.