We stopped at Gun Creek Campground on Rend Lake in central Illinois for a week. Our plans originally were for Barry to make calls in southern Illinois and south-eastern Missouri, however, other calls came up and he spent the week between here, St. Louis, Springfield, MO and Mattoon, IL…..lots of miles on the car! This gave me a great opportunity to work on some spreadsheets for the company, it’s called StL Packaging Systems, by the way!
Each day though, the Corgis and I managed to make time for long walks along the lake, in the woods or along the trails. The lake is a Corps of Engineers lake and is banked most of the way around by great big white chunky rocks that are hard to clamber on with 2 little dogs on leashes. There is a little sandy beach they have built near our campground but it has mostly washed down into the water leaving just a muddy-sandy beach in between those big rocks and plantings of some type of bamboo. The trails are paved but wander along until they just stop without warning. There is a large power line cut behind this campground and the Corgis and I hike along that and into the woods where possible. Briars grow wild here and most of our treks ended in thickets too dense to part.
The sun has been out some of the time, it rained heavily one day and knocked more leaves off the trees. They are still beautiful here with lots of bright oranges and yellows left on the maples and persimmons on several trees.
We really love stopping at this campground; full hookups, great views, quiet parking and dark at night! We stop here whenever we are working in southern Illinois, know the good places to eat, and use this campground to recharge our souls. (Notice I recharge in nature? That’s a good thing!). Our next stop will be in Nashville for a Thanksgiving celebration!
Today we said goodbye to the incomparable beauty of Yosemite NP and headed south and east toward Las Vegas. Snowy mountain tops along the Sierra Nevada said goodbye to summer and hello to fall (whaaat?) and we kept them in our view throughout most of today.
The drive routed us east along a pass between the White Mountains and the Inyo Mountains and through miles and miles of dry, desert lands. Beatty, Nevada, near the Sheep Mountain Range, was just far enough to give us a nice warmer overnight stop before heading further south to Las Vegas. As we drove along, the landscape changed from pine forests to sage brush, then, after we left California and got further into Nevada, the Joshua Tree (a type of Yucca) appeared. They only grow in the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts in this part of the world!!! That is awesome!
As we got closer to Beatty, we began to see burros along the highway. They have wild burros in Nevada and Arizona!!!
We arrived in Beatty, turned at the only stoplight in town(!), and pulled into Death Valley Inn & RV Park. It is about the only nice hotel here and looks decent from the front, with a pool and nice tree plantings. The RV park is next door, all gravel with very small lacy trees planted along each site — and a view of the discarded old mattresses and furniture behind the hotel. It is small, but has 50 amp FHU’s, decent shower house, and very clean laundry house; for only $35 a night, it was a nice stopover in the desert!
After freshly made lasagna and roll and cake (!) at the local diner, KC’s Outpost, we drove out to Death Valley NP. I visited here many years ago with my family for a spring desert bloom, but Barry had never been here. The eastern boundary was only 8 miles outside Beatty, past the ghost town of Rhyolite, along a long straight highway.
Tomorrow we drive a couple of hours to Las Vegas! Our first “big” city in 2 months!!
On Drew’s day off, he and I left Tahoe and drove East over the mountains toward Carson City. The hailstorm earlier in the week had damaged our 10 year old A/C covers on the roof and I was going to buy a new one at an RV parts store. It was a tiny little quonset hut with “stuff” all over outside, including where ever they stored their parts. We loaded it into the car and headed out toward our real destination: Virginia City, Nevada!
Virginia City is the site of the discovery of gold and silver in 1859 at the Comstock Lode and Brunswick Ledge. They have retained the “Old West / Wild West” feel of the area by retaining the old storefronts and wooden sidewalks while making it a popular tourist destination.
Gambling continues to be a major source of income in Nevada and Virginia City is no different. Gaming houses and saloons line the streets with current opportunities to gamble and historical references also.
Virginia City is set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has a tough uphill climb in and out, and is hot, dry and dusty most of the time. Of course, I found the local cemetery and made Drew walk up and down and all around it. It is unlike any other cemetery I have seen with little fenced plots barely under the soil and clinging tightly to the side of the hill. Gravel, sagebrush, and knurled trees were the only vegetation in the cemetery and horse droppings were everywhere. Most of the grave sites are organized by social/fraternal/civic groups: Masons, Jewish, Catholic, firemen, etc.. Many of the gravestones note the state or country of origin of the deceased, very few of the deceased were actually born in Virginia City.
While we were at the cemetery, Drew pointed to a rather new house below us. A small herd of wild horses were wandering around the end of the street there! We returned to the car and headed in that direction, and, right at the end of a street, there they were!
We got back in the car to head back to Carson City and came by this herd just hanging out by St. Mary’s Art Center!
Heading back down the windy road, we passed through the town of Gold Hill with skeletons of old mining equipment along the way. We passed an active mine, Comstock Mining Company, tucked back into the hills.
We had such a very good day on the dry side of Lake Tahoe!
While in South Lake Tahoe, we both had different days to explore the area. One day, Barry and Drew left to go trout fishing. They went south of Carson Pass to fish in mountain streams still open — the rivers in Tahoe were already closed for the season. The cooler mountain air and cold water were great for Barry and he enjoyed the chance to have some Dad/son time and practice his fly casting.
While the guys were fishing, I took the Corgis to the Upper Truckee River nearby to hike a bit……these Corgis love the water and after that initial cold shock, I had a hard time keeping them Out of the water!
Another day we drove all around the lake to show Barry the sites along the way. Our first stop was in Tahoma to explore the Hellman-Ehrmann Mansion. I.W. Hellman bought about 2,000 acres on the lake for his vacation home and built the mansion in 1903, using mainly local materials. Isaiah W. Hellman founded the Farmers and Merchants Bank of California as well as the University of Southern California! He named the property Pine Lodge and boated most of the visitors to the property.
We drove all the way around the lake, visited Tahoe City for lunch, and returned back through Cave Rock (remember the tunnel that our Garmin routed us around?).
Later that night, as we returned to the coach, there was a visitor at the campground. Seems like the management here would go to greater lengths to prevent bears from dumpster diving; as the month passed and the campground cleared out, the easy access dumpsters were re-located away from all the parking sites.
We continued our westward travels, left Ft. Collins, CO, spent a couple of nights in Rawlins, WY, and then moved to McKinnon, WY for Labor Day weekend. We stayed at the Red Desert Rose Campground in Rawlins, this was our first experience at a “western” campground; dry, dusty, treeless! They have a fenced dog park, but it had very little grass. There is sagebrush all around town, I kept my eyes open for wildlife, but to no avail. The staff here were ever so nice. Although the sites were all gravel pull-through’s, we did have full hookups and took this time to catch up on laundry and and life! From the middle of June, Barry has been working a ton, both here in the RV and traveling around each area making lots of calls; this is our first stop to just settle down and catch our breath. Rawlins is an interesting old town, lots of cowboy references and old “Mom & Pop” type motels; it is the first exit off I-80 to Jackson, WY and further on to Yellowstone NP, it is also a shipping location for cattle and some historical sites are here also.
I made reservations earlier this spring for a campsite on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming for Labor Day, this was our next destination. My parents were NP Rangers at Dinosaur NM just south of Flaming Gorge in the early 1990’s and we have not been back to this area since that time; I could not wait to relive some of those memories! We pulled into Buckboard Campground on Friday and prepared for a weekend of sight-seeing. This is a State Park Campground, again, dry and dusty with very few trees and little clam-shell covered picnic areas. We had a 50 amp, electric only site that was not very level but had a little look at the reservoir from the front. There was also a full hookup private RV park nearer the water for only a few dollars more; I would have rather parked there had I known in advance. We also found the Lucerne Campground further south on Flaming Gorge that will be our first choice the next time we visit this area.
Saturday was the start of the College Football Season (notice that is all caps?!!) and we spent the entire day watching all the games we could possibly see! But, in the afternoon, I needed a project and took that time to work on the bathroom backsplash. (Refer to my post RV Life, April ’17 –http://corgishopperblog.com/2017/04/27/rv-life-april-17/ ) I had found a product called Smart Tiles online, purchased them at Home Depot, and decided to apply them today. All-in-all, it was an easy finish to this project; I used my math skills (whaaat?!!) and lots of measuring before cutting, but ended up with great results, can’t wait to finish the rest of the coach with it!
Sunday was going to be all about traveling around Flaming Gorge……..please enjoy these photos that brought back so many memories for me!
So many more photos and memories from this area!!! It was so good to be back!
After I saw bears in the mountains, Barry could not wait to go out into the mountains with me! We spent a day driving northwest from Fort Collins along the Cache la Poudre River valley on Highway 14, aka, Poudre Canyon Road. This is just a lovely drive that follows the river through the canyon alongside lots of rushing water and pull-out spots. At one such spot, we noticed a car stopped and a man standing outside with his camera pointed upward into some rocks. We slowed, then pulled to a stop on a bridge and we jumped out of the car to see a bear in the bushes along the river there! Barry grabbed my camera and watched and photographed that black bear!
That bear got tired of photos and climbed further up and over the hill and out of sight…..we returned to our much more lovely drive!
We found a little spot right on the river to stop for dinner, The Mishawaka. It is a concert venue / bar / restaurant, and truly just eating here alongside that wonderful water made the food delicious! On the opposite bank, the hill rose up high to a solitary cross but I kept watching for wildlife as we enjoyed dinner.
We left Poudre Canyon Road and climbed up and up on Stove Prairie Road that would take us back to Horsetooth Campground. As fun as the river road is to drive, this road is equally delightful with so very much to see!
We left Broken Bow and headed to Sydney, Nebraska to stay the night at the only Cabela’s campground anywhere! Sydney was the site of the beginning of Cabela’s business, and they have a monster property there with a campground, horse corrals, and a store with everything!
The next day we began the real drive across the prairie and headed toward Colorado! If you have ever driven in snow country, then highway closures are nothing new to you; but to us, they serve as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature! At most of the exit ramps, were signs warning of the closure of the interstate ahead — Get Off The Highway Now kind of signs!
After miles and miles of prairie, we crossed into:
We continued on I-80 westward until we came to Cheyenne and headed south towards Fort Collins, Colorado to spend a few days near the Rocky Mountains! Horsetooth Reservoir Campground is west of Fort Collins, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies and is a county park property. We had 50 amp electrical service only at our dusty campsite, but had a lovely view of the reservoir and surrounding mountains outside the coach. South Bay site #17 had big shady trees that helped keep the coach cooler in the hot summer heat, but none of the amenities — WiFi, cell service, water or sewer. It did have frequent mule deer visitors though and delightful views of water, mountains and sky!
On the first day, while Barry worked, I took advantage of the proximity to the mountains and headed west toward Estes Park. I had been this way once before, on a trip here with Barry & Tyler about 15 years ago and remembered the upward drive through Big Thompson Canyon and into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). It is still a fantastic drive between narrow canyons and alongside the Big Thompson River, winding higher and higher into the mountains. I was going to try out my back-packing skills for the first time, hiking at elevation with a loaded backpack; I left the highway and followed McGraw Ranch Road up and then down to Cow Creek Trailhead, just inside the boundary of RMNP. I hoisted my pack on my back and headed off to test my skills on the North Boundary Trail. After only hiking about 1/3 mile, I turned and retraced my steps back to my car, thoroughly disappointed with myself. But I did learn! I could do this, if I worked at acclimating to elevation without my backpack, I might be able to try again.
I left this area and headed over to Estes Park to explore the little touristy town a bit. It is the “end” of summer and lat-minute tourists and traffic crowded the town……..time to leave!
After leaving Estes Park to return down Big Thompson Canyon and back to Barry, I chanced to find a little pull-out park alongside the river, Sleepy Hollow Park, and stopped to see the water! I love the sound and feel and smell of running mountain water and will take every possible chance to get close. No other cars were parked in the small lot, the map marked trails nearby, a few picnic tables dotted the grassy area: Perfect!!
After I finished filming a video of the running water, I noticed some movement in the bushes at the turn of the river. As I watched, a black bear and her two cubs popped out of the bushes and began working their way along the river toward me!!! For the next 15 minutes, I watched the three of them move along the rocky areas above the river, looking for berries to eat along the way. She kept an eye on me as I backed up to lean against a tree and stayed still as they scrambled along the rocks; I made sure the car was unlocked and I could make a speedy retreat, if necessary!
Too soon, they turned and made their way up the rocky incline and further away, I returned to my car and left, with a smile on my face from ear-to-ear! I had seen bears in the wild!!!