Monday, September 30, 2013

Favorite Boondocking Spot

This National Forest boondocking spot is a favorite stop on my travels when passing through Arizona's Verde Valley. With great views, quiet and a Verizon 4G signal, what's not to like. Urban Cottonwood for shopping is just a few miles west.

The red rock escarpment (color didn't show up well on this photo) to the north is the backdrop for Sedona -- about 15 to 20 miles distant as the crow flies.

With a few other rigs parked here, the odds were that I would know one of them. That one was Mobile Kodger.

No doubt there are a few more road acquaintances in the Verde Valley Thousand Trails park down the hill to the right of the photo. For five years I had a Thousand Trails membership. I gave up the membership when there was little usage of Thousand Trails parks.

With a stored solar power in Wandrin Wagon, the price is right for this great location.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Heading South

When your home is on wheels, moving is simplified. This time it was the weather that made me hitch up. With Southwest Colorado predictions of snow at higher elevations and night time temperatures in the thirties, it was time to migrate further south. There also were freeze warnings. I would rather be warm, so I headed out.

With several options of travel to the southwest, I had explored several of them in past journeys. Looking at an Arizona map, I noted one place I had not explored previously. Homolovi State Park was right where I wanted an overnight stop.

The campground at Homolovi State Park has wide open views. Large spaces. Water and electricity at the sites. Dump available. There were lots of empty spaces to choose from. Arriving at the campground, I was the fifth camper. However, soon the place was swarming (actually there were about ten) with Airstreams. Must have been some kind of camping club.

The park provided some new exploring as I wandered around the various ruins dating from 1200-1400 AD. For more information about the history of the park and the ancestral Hopi that were here 700 years ago, see Homolovi State Park at this Wikipedia entry.

After touring some of the ruins, I joined a ranger led tour to ruins that are not publicly available. The ranger was a wealth of knowledge and answered many of the questions posed by the group -- including me.

The kiva at this site was rectangular rather than the round that I had expected to see.

The ground at all the ruins was covered with pottery sherds. Some of the sherds are from pottery made locally, but many more were from the trading route.

Making of stone tools through knapping was also in evidence with these stone shards.

No ruin site from the southwest would be complete without petroglyphs. This was only one of many petroglyphs at the ruins. Prior to state ownership in 1986, the area was a ranch and locals contributed the 20th century petroglyphs.

The Hopi ancestors that settled here were farmers using water from the Little Colorado River. In addition to corn, bean and squash, according to archeological research their diet included rabbit. They didn't get them all.

I always enjoy learning. Today was a great day.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fix $10 Haircut

Wondering what Larry's rates were, I peered through the window, but could see nothing. Were his rates higher or lower than $10. Larry fixes those cheap haircuts or those expensive haircuts. I still didn't know.

A long time ago when I had hair it was a business man's cut for me. There was no way to fix the disaster I ended up with after one haircut. A buzz cut was the only real solution. That is when you recall the barber's motto, "The difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is about two weeks."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cool Rainy Day

A photo of a street light through tree branches (iPhone 4S, Lightroom, Photoshop).

Durango was rainy most of today. Several warnings of area flooding. Mid afternoon the clouds let loose with hail. Too loud to hear anything, I had to end a phone call with my daughter. The hail ranged in size from a half inch to the infrequent one inch size hail. Those make a lot of noise when they hit the roof. I don't want to know how large hail has to be to crash through the roof -- or the Fantastic Air Vent cover.

Predictions are for a sunny day tomorrow. That's great.

Reading, a crossword puzzle, internet surfing and travel planning kept me occupied indoors on this cool and rainy day.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Nature Remodels

After several months of little hiking, yesterday was a short hike. Today it was just under six miles round trip on the Colorado Trail from the Durango terminus. That should make me sleep quite well tonight.

As a weekend hike, I wasn't the only one on the trail. However, most don't go much further then the rock outcrops on the river where the kids and dogs splash. That is about a mile hike on the trail.

The bridge across Junction Creek was my turnaround point. A short distance before that point, the trail had been modified by nature. This was a recent event. It may have happened just a couple of days ago when the area was pelted with a couple inches of hail and lots of rain.

Several other hikers and bikers had preceded me across the avalanche of rocks, trees and dirt. The creation of a new trail left lots of texture to the trail. For this guy with balance problems, it wasn't an easy crossing.

About fifty feet below me on the river/s edge were several rocks and one very large rock that probably started the avalanche. The rock had the evidence of concussions with other rock on its tumble down the slope.

Looking uphill through the still standing trees, I spotted a location about 100 feet up slope where the rock was before the fall.

It was a great hike including seeing nature's remodeling of the landscape.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

No Clouds

When I awoke this morning at Navajo State Park, it seemed brighter than usual. After getting upright and stumbling around I realized I was still alive as I saw a reflection in the mirror. The brightness was natural sun lighting -- not some celestial world I was experiencing.

Opened the blinds and looked to the west. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. I had not seen cloudless skies in over ten days. After donning clothes, I went outside to check the skies in all directions. There was a single cloud far north over distant mountains.

Great traveling weather. Time to move on. Soon I was on autopilot as I secured and stored things, dumped the tanks, filled with fresh water and I was on the road with Durango the destination.

This time I had a Plan B in the event I found Lisa and Steve's field too muddy to take a chance. Walked their field before pulling in the driveway. Looked safe. If it wasn't, it was going to be some very expensive towing.

There may be a few clouds here, but nothing that looks like rain.

It was a great day to travel. Tomorrow will be a great day to hike. Finally.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Always Have a Plan B

Considering the off and on rain conditions, I didn't know if I was going to get out of South Fork. Ever. I don't travel in the rain. Some vague planning was done on my next camping stop. Really vague. And no Plan B.

Two days ago in South Fork, the morning was cloudy once again. No rain. With SlowG internet speeds, rainy/cloudy days and the rent was due, it was time to move on. After a one week stay of clouds and frequent rains, I had done very little exploring and no hiking.

I hitched up under cloudy skies. Hoped it would stay that way. Starting at 8200 feet at South Fork and heading west on CO Hwy 160, it is a gentle climb to Wolf Creek Pass. Driving along that section of Hwy 160, the hillsides were mostly dead trees with an occasional green tree. Looks like it is only a matter of when a forest fire will occur. If no fire, the dead trees will collapse to become recycled nutrient for the healthy trees taking their place.

The pattern of dead trees continued to the Wolf Creek summit. The road was damp with a few rain drops falling from the light clouds drifting around this almost 11,000 foot pass.

Cresting the pass, the roads were more damp. Wet roads do impact traction. With no reason for hurrying, I maintained a steady 40-45 MPH going down hill with a down shift and the truck exhaust brake. That was when I was passed by some guy pulling a trailer going over 50. Hoped he didn't have to make an emergency stop on these wet roads or to avoid going over the edge on the tight turns.

That southwest downhill side of Wolf Creek Pass was scenically beautiful as the road followed the San Juan River drainage. The dead trees were on the other side of the pass. Seems this side of the pass had a different kind of pine. No dead trees.

Losing more elevation, the drainage widened to ranches and grassland pastured by black and red cattle. Sure looked like grass fed beef.

My camping destination was a Forest Service CG west of Pagosa Springs. Unfortunately, I didn't think about grocery shopping as I passed through Pagosa. I was out of edibles -- particularly the vegetables and greens that make my salads. When I arrived at the CG, I discovered it was well shaded. Solar was not going to work. Without a generator, I was going to go to Plan B.

There was no Plan B for a backup camping spot. With that planning omission, it was back on the road wasting lots of fuel. Finally stopped at a private park and parked less than 100 feet from the highway. Sometimes, I don't think clearly. Sounds like a symptom of attention deficit disorder.

Once Wandrin Wagon was parked, I headed to Pagosa Springs for grocery shopping. Then it was back to the RV park to listen to the traffic on Hwy 160. I would prefer the occasional train whistles to the continued road noise from trucks and fast moving vehicles.

This morning's commute traffic awakened me. The day could only get better.  I had my morning shake and was on the road by 8:30 and at Navajo State Park by ten. Parked and setup by eleven. Pleasantly quiet here and only two other camping spaces occupied in this loop.

Yesterday's bad day wasn't a total loss; I learned a lesson (again) about making a Plan B for alternate camping options.

Today is a great day at Navajo Lake SP with great views, mostly alone and great 4G cellular access.

Monday, September 16, 2013

True Beauty

"If nature was beautiful and instructive, it was also heartless, terrifying, and cruel. It was so many things at once, and I came to feel that that’s where its true beauty lay." -- Frank Bures in The Painted Bird

Mount Hood from the shores of Mirror Lake

Big Thompson River after
Front Range Colorado heavy rains and flooding

Photo by Andy Cross/Denver Post from a series of photos at Colorado Flood damage aerial views posted at the Loveland Reporter Herald.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013


The Millenicom MiFi unit indicates it is 3G speeds at South Park Colorado. Could have fooled me. Typical internet speeds during the daytime have been slow. Very slow. Best description is SlowG. Checking with internet measurement tools, download speeds ranged from 10KiloBytes/sec (KBs) to 30KBs. That is during the day time.

Not sure why the big change after ten at night, but the speeds magically improve. Some of the speed tests reported 100KBs. That is much better. Those late night tests also included a few tests of 30KBs. Never any at 10KBs. I remember the days when I was happy with 10KBs --National Access 1X speeds. But hey. This isn't the old days. This is 2013.

The really frustrating part of today's internet is all the graphics and advertising that accompany any page download. The requested information is accompanied with sidebars loaded with advertising. Sometimes the information requested includes words and teaser graphic for a video of a talking head saying what you could easily read.

And there is no way to turn off the graphics with a single click on a browser icon. That was possible in the old days of the internet.

Firefox is my browser and the PageTweak add-on is used to reduce some of the advertising. It helps, but some graphics still appear. The advertising that can't get through PageTweak just becomes a challenge for some programmer to get around that limitation. It's only a matter of time before PageTweak has to improve the algorithms and rules to stop the latest programmer innovation.

The advertising and web page developers work in an unreal world. Their in-house internet is speedy and there is no concern for large graphics or videos in the requested text or in a side bar.

Those of us who use the cellular network exclusively to get to the internet are at the disadvantage. Web page developers and advertisers create for 99% of the users accessing the internet using high speed cable or equivalent speeds. Those users don't experience the impact of all that graphic material on every web page. It just happens.

Back to 3G at South Fork. The cell companies monitor traffic and usage on their towers. They recognize that their 3G bandwidth is not meeting local demand at South Fork. South Park is essentially a vacation place for the summer months. By the end of September, the summer traffic will be gone and many businesses will be closed for the season. No doubt year round usage dictates company policy for improving the 3G bandwidth or adding 4G to the local towers.

If I return to South Fork next year, will I have better download speeds. Guess I will have to come back to find out. Since my stay here was mostly indoors due to rain and clouds, a revisit in 2014 would be a good idea so I can explore and hike the area.

In the near term, I will head to Durango where I hope the internet speeds are better than SlowG.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another Cloudy Day

Today was another cloudy day with the threat of rain. Never did rain. By late afternoon, the sun burned off some of the clouds leaving a few clouds to reflect the sunlight at sunset.

My stay at South Fork has been cloudy and rainy. No bright sunny days. Yet. With the forecast of more of the same for the next several days, I will leave here before less cloudy sunny days return.

Today would have been a good day to go for a hike, but my concern was for the predicted chance of rain -- 60%. Hiking in rain with air temps in the 50s is not comfortable.

My hiking will wait until the next extended stop at Durango.

May sound like it was a bad day. Nope. It was a great day. I was here to enjoy it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Break In The Rain

The boon docking was too crowded on the Arkansas River at Salida, so it was time to move on. Stopped at South Fork (8200 foot elevation) and settled down in an RV park. Headed to Creede for the first exploring day. It was a cloudy day and soon it was raining and continued to rain far into the evening. Expecting rain yesterday, I embarked on a project to eliminate some of the ballast in Wandrin Wagon. Ballast being things that have not seen the light of day in a couple of years.

Today started out clear so I headed to Creede once again. Colorado Hwy 149 to Creede follows the banks of the Rio Grande River. Yes. That river. The Rio Grande headwaters are in Colorado near Lake City and the river flows through Colorado and New Mexico and down to the border with Mexico. There it provides the border between Mexico and Texas and eventually the Rio Grande ends in the gulf.

Wonder if anyone has done a canoe trip from the Rio Grande headwaters all the way to the gulf. Or at least to the Mexican border at El Paso. Along the way there are some dams that would require a portage.

The 20 miles along Hwy 149 follows the river. Over a million years, the river has carved its way through the mountains leaving slopes of trees and meadows. At one time this was Ute summer hunting grounds. Utes were replaced by miners searching for precious minerals. With the miners came the cattle ranches. Today a few cattle ranches remain and coexist with the numerous summer (and permanent) homes that line the banks of the Rio Grande along the 20 miles between South Fork and Creede.

Almost into the middle of September, I had hoped to see more color in the aspens on the slopes. A search for a closer look found no way to get there. So this telephoto shot of the color will have to suffice.

After several photo ops along the way, I arrived at Creede. Walked up and down the main drag with the usual galleries and gift shops appealing to the tourist. With the nearby Rio Grande, I noted three fishing outfitters. There were numerous places to eat and a couple of coffee shops. Add to that a hardware store and a grocery store. That was the main drag.

From downtown I drove up into the canyon of mines that provided jobs and wealth for the Creede community. At the mouth of the canyon, a mine had been turned into a mining museum and community center. Still wondering what was holding up all that rock over the community center room. It was not a small room. Suppose I could have asked, but sometimes I like mystery.

Silver Slug wasn't designed for this kind of road. Narrow and steep (~20 degrees). A shorter wheelbase and overall vehicle length -- like a 4X4 Jeep -- would have been a much better choice for the journey. Eventually I found a turnaround, did a five or six point turn and returned the way I came.

By mid afternoon, I was back home and it was raining again. Approaching nine this evening, and it still rains off and on.

Perhaps a Jeep and no rain would have made it a more pleasant day, but I have no complaints. When I got up this morning, I looked in the mirror and saw me looking back. Yup. It was a great day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lost Your Emails

Suppose you -- or your company -- lost your computer backups. No problem. The obvious solution is to restore from the government sites. They have the data. Just hack the government website and restore the lost data. That was the subject in the latest Dilbert cartoons.

This Dilbert strip of September 6th sets the stage:

The Dilbert strip of September 7th has Dilbert negotiating with the government spooks to save himself. 

Wish I had thought of that solution to lost data. Considering what the government spook is holding in his hand, maybe that would have been a bad idea.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back Pack On Wheels

That is what Glenn calls his home on wheels. When I last crossed paths with Glenn, he was living aboard a Chinook (a class B sized van).

To continue stealth camping and not paying dollars** to camp, Glenn has further downsized to a 1988 Vanagon. The full story of his new "wheeled" home is at The Van.

The van is his home, his office, his studio and his transportation.

Reading of Glenn's travels at To Simplify, I found he was in nearby Leadville. I drove up the long hill to Leadville and we chatted for a couple of hours at a coffee shop. We solved world problems. We shared thoughts about big city living. We also talked about our paleo way of eating. He mentioned a grass fed beef ranch north of Durango which I will check out when in the area

I don't recall all the subjects we discussed and chatted about. However, I always appreciate the opportunity to have intelligent conversation which will challenge my thoughts and beliefs. The downside to living alone is that beliefs become truths.

When on the subject of full time living, Glenn told me that I could also live in a Vanagon. Maybe. If I really wanted to. Might be okay for a couple of weeks of exploring. With a Vanagon in my life, I would be living in sticks and bricks. A Vanagon or similar sized vehicle could be transportation as well as a home on the road. Not for full time living.

The subject of a different RV and sticks and bricks has been discussed by Wandrin Lloyd in previous posts. The most recent post was Wandrin Snowbird in April as I departed Tucson after a six month stay.

Visiting with Glenn and seeing the completed Back Pack on Wheels meant it was a great day.

** Glenn has purchased a National Parks Pass for some additional camping opportunities on nationally administered lands.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Book Tour On Bicycle

While visiting Linda and Bill, Linda invited me to join her at an authors' night at The Book Haven bookstore in Salida. Isabel Suppe was the last of the four authors to speak.

Quoted from The Book Haven web site:
Isabel Suppe's book, Starry Night, is based on the story of a real life experience involving a 1,100ft fall while ice-climbing in the Bolivian Andes where she had to spend two days and nights dragging herself over the ice in order to be rescued -- and to return to climbing on special crutches.
Isabel's book tour is done mostly on bike. However, some of the travel is done courtesy of others. The store owner Lisa introduced each of the authors. During her introduction of Isabel, Lisa said that Isabel was looking for a ride the next morning to Buena Vista.

Since I was going to Leadville the next morning, I could do that service. After giving others at the event time to offer their driving services I waited until people started to leave. I went up to Isabel to ask if she already had a ride. Nope.

Next morning I picked up Isabel, her bike and her "luggage". On the 30 minute drive to Buena Vista, I learned much more about Isabel. Speaks five or six languages. Driven. Adventurous. Still does technical climbing of very tall mountains.

Everyone has a story. Isabel's story is one of inspiration. My potholes in the road of life are a mere inconvenience by comparison.

Adventure is a great portion of Isabel. How else to explain a book tour on bicycle.

Isabel Suppe's Starry Night web site

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Around Salida

Downtown Salida is still in business. There were no empty store fronts. If there were any, I missed them. Remodeling of old buildings was in progress. The paint on the old commercial buildings is new. The new paint on this building dated 1890 is an example of what could be found all around the downtown.

Preserving the old is also important for Salida with this painted advertisement on the side of the Manhattan Hotel. The Coca Cola painting overlaid the Snowdrift shortening advertising. 

Considering the roof rack and the smoke stack on this one time delivery truck, this flowered vehicle must be a home on wheels.

During my stay on the Arkansas River, the campers' homes were tents, vans, fiberglass trailers, to 40 foot class A coaches. A relatively new SUV pulled in with this trailer.

Since my arrival on Sunday, every afternoon it clouded up and there was rain every day -- some days more than others. Today was the hot day. And no rain. This morning I noted the Arkansas River looked like flowing talcum powder. Found out later that was the result of a rain cell yesterday that dropped a lot of water on the Chalk Creek drainage.

I wonder what happens to the trout in the stream. Do they survive this. It would be pretty hard to see anything in the water. Nature can be beautiful, but nature can also be very cruel.

It's not a perfect world, but I still had a great day.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Denver to Salida

After three months in Denver preceded by six months in Tucson, I am looking forward to travel once again. Perhaps I needed the break from travel. I'm ready for nomadic exploring. This initial 150 mile day is the first leg of my journey to San Diego. Vague planning will get me to San Diego late November. Maybe December.

At 8:30 this morning, I hitched up Silver Slug to Wandrin Wagon and started the climb to higher elevations from Colorado's mile high Front Range. Traveled US Hwy 285 through the mountain towns of Aspen Park, Conifer, Pine Junction, Bailey and eventually arrived at 10000 feet at Kenosha Pass. As I drove, I recalled many hiking adventures that required the drive on 285 and beyond Kenosha Pass.

Stopped at the Kenosha Pass summit for a rest break. Leaving the summit and on the turn heading south on 285, South Park from Kenosha Pass comes into view. It is natural beauty. That scene is a wide open space ending at distant mountains on the horizon.

Across South Park at 9000 feet, it is miles of ranch grassland and several passes. The last pass was shortly after Antero Junction to see the Collegiate Peaks ahead. Continuing to lose elevation following the Arkansas River drainage, I arrived at free camping on the Arkansas River south of Salida on US Hwy 50.

After living wall to wall at the claustrophobic spaces at the Elks for almost three months, these camp sites on BLM are unmarked. Just pick a place to park. Arriving in the middle of the Labor Day weekend limited my choices. Since everything was level where I parked, I stayed hooked up in the event a primo space opened up on Labor Day after the weekenders headed back home.

Arrived shortly before noon. Since the freezer was off since early this morning, it was a good time to defrost. More appropriately, it was deicing. Whole lot more space in the freezer after the defrosting/deiceing.

It's great to be away from the fast pace, too many wide roads and too many people. Time for a quiet recharge for this loner.

Note: Three bars of Verizon 3G access using Millenicom WiFi.