Camping in the Snowies

Camping in the Snowies

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2016 Summer Camping Odyssey: Part II

Dave and I said goodbye to Laramie and pointed the Toyota north through the Shirley Basin. Wouldn't you know it, the only Rest Area on this long stretch of road was closed but we made it to Starbucks in Casper without incident. North out of Casper onto I-25 to Buffalo WY is another long stretch of highway. Soon the beautiful snow capped Big Horn Mountains came into view and grew larger on the left as we approached our destination; the Johnson County Fairgrounds. We were the first of our "group camp" to arrive so we tucked Bambi Luci into the back corner and got set up. 

    Dave gets in a little fiddle practice. Nice hat!

Within the hour come our Montana friends, Jamie, Janet, Suzanne and Molly McGehee (plus Maggie the black Lab) and their stunning vintage Silver Streak followed shortly by Jill Flikkema and her vintage camper. 

   Dave and the Silver Streak

   Janet, Jill and Sherri keeping cool under Jill's canopy. 

Jill waits her turn as Katelyn paints Suzanne's fingernails. 

Sherri and Janet smile for the camera. Big Horn Mountain foothills in background. 

Eventually our trailer camp expanded with Jeannie Buckley ( two Corgi's) and her trailer, Lon and Joann Mitchell pulling Jo-Bawb's Barbecue fifth wheel, Sherri and Warrie Means (and special mutt Taz) with a fifth wheel, newlyweds Reid and Kayla Buckley, Taylor and Kelly Buckley and toddler Maggie and baby, Kayla Buckley's parents in a big motor home, Katelyn and Tony Swanson and a tent, and Fred Buckley squiring his mom, Betty, and Warrie's mom, Elsie. Doug Ezell was last to arrive in his VW camping bus. He brought the pie.  He and Fred and Tom Wilhelm took turns doing announcing on the two stages during the Big Horn Bluegrass Festival, the reason we were here. 

   A view of part of our compound. 

Warrie set up a big jam tent, we came and went as we pleased taking in the festival offerings as we desired. Lon cooked wonderful barbecued meats on Friday and Saturday nights with everyone pitching in for the pot luck style meals. Special mealtime  guests included entertainers from the Jeff Scroggins band and the Helen Highwater band. 
Lots of picking and grinning happened day and night. The Buckley family band entertained us as they practiced for the band competition. Dave shared his new tunes including the "Pie Song". We needed more pie so I cooked a cherry pie in my little Bambi oven. It turned out great! 

The Jeff Scroggins band from my vantage point in the audience. 

Lon Mitchell (Master Barbecue Chef) cooked up cheesy grits with spicy sausage for Sunday brunch. Then after a bit more festival, folks started leaving. By Monday morning, we were almost alone in the campground. We spent Monday night in a Buffalo RV park so we could do laundry and use their full hookups and showers. We did have a nice visit with our AZ friends Fran and Bob Denoncourt.  They were in Buffalo for Longmire Days as fans of that TV series. The author is from Buffalo and the city celebrates with a huge gathering almost overwhelming the small downtown. Bob reported standing in line for three hours to get celebrity autographs. 

                 Bob Denoncourt, Dave and I at the Buffalo WY festival. 

Turning back south on I-25, we stopped for lunch in Casper with Al Kalbfleisch. It was good to catch up on the news of his Salsagrass band and hear how his wife Mary is doing in the nursing home. 
Back on the road south and east at Orin Junction, we headed to Nebraska and the campground at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford NE. We met sister Sandy who camped with us for a couple of nights. 

 Nebraska state line sign through the truck window. 

Fort Robinson has a long history as a cavalry base and canine training station plus being a POW camp in WWII. It was decommissioned and became a Nebraska state meat research station and finally a state park. Many fine buildings remain and others were rebuilt to augment the historical experience of visitors. 

       Sandy and I at the playhouse for the Fort's production of "Spamalot." 

    The view from a bluff above Fort Robinson.

    A panoramic view from the bluff. 

   The Fort employs farriers to keep the horses used for trail rides shod. Mules are used to pull the stagecoach. 
Soldier Creek flows through the campground. 

   There were lots of this kind of dragonfly along the creek on this day. 
   Morning and afternoon the Fort's bison herd crosses the scenic loop road.

After a lovely few days visiting, we told Sandy goodbye, hoping she can visit us this winter in Surprise. 

Continuing south and east, our destination was Colby KS. The wheat harvest was in full swing and we meet several combine crews headed north as we drive south through wheat country in Nebraska and Kansas. 
The Colby County fairgrounds was our location for the weekend. It is the venue for Picking on the Plains, a bluegrass festival that this year features Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Monroe Tradition and Rhonda Vincent and the Rage bands. A great lineup. We camped with banjo and mandolin player, Mike Metzger, an old friend from the band Turtle Creek. 

Dave and Mike played some tunes in front of his Scamp trailer. We were thankful for 30amp electrical service so the AC would work during these hot dusty days in Kansas. 

     Doyle Lawson and his band feature wonderful vocal harmony singing. 

 We had front row seats inside the barn on a rainy Friday evening. 

   Monroe Crossing band commented that "someone turned on the big fans." It sure was windy on Saturday and again Sunday. 

   Rhonda brought her big bus and her great band. She sang all her great songs, performing Saturday night and Sunday. 

  Under the big tent, Rhonda sang gospel songs Sunday morning. 

Underway and again headed south and west into Colorado. Near LaJunta we detoured to see Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site. It is a meticulously restored reproduction of the trading fort established by the Bent brothers who traded with the Native Americans for buffalo, beaver, coyote, mink hides. They also replenished wagon trains in the old west before the great western migration really began. 

A hot day on the eastern Colorado plains. 

The interior of Bent's Old Fort. A docent in period dress gave a guided tour showing us trade goods, living and dining quarters of the inhabitants, blacksmith and woodworking shops, kitchen, storehouses, water well, and other areas. The structure in the middle of the photo is a buffalo hide press. The hides were compressed and bundled for easier transport by wagon to a port on the Missouri River and then to Europe or the east coast. We were glad we stopped!

Back on the road and finally the Interstate at Trinidad. Over the Raton Pass and west at Cimarron toward our camp for the next three nights at Cimarron State Park. 

The view from our front porch. Mostly RV's here with closely spaced sites and some noisy generators. There was trout fishing in the rapidly running creek nearby. Our neighboring camper had been here fishing for two weeks. He had been coming to this campground for 30 years having camped here as a child with his grandfather. It was an odd state park stretched out along the creek in three camping loops. Our loop was all paved, no grass except along the perimeter. I did see a western tanager and lots of hummingbirds; broad-tailed, rufous and Anna's. 

The last leg of our five week trip started with a stay in a very nice KOA camp in Bernalillo NM. We enjoyed the clean showers and went out to eat at our favorite restaurant, the Range Cafe, which features New Mexican cuisine in a quirky atmosphere. 

The Range Cafe street view. 

Dave and a tasty NM stew. Note the papier-mâché bus sculpture in the background.

Blue corn chicken enchilada. Yum!

   Toy ranges on display. There are other Range Cafe locations in Albuquerque but this is the original. 
High temperatures make the A/C a blessing. Rested and refreshed we are once again on the road to our final festival, a bluegrass gospel Campout southwest of Winslow AZ above the Mogollon Rim, in the cool pines. 

             Back in Arizona!

Our camping neighbors are Rick and Leslie Rhodes in their newly restored 80's trailer. They brought their small dogs, Banjo and Mandolin along. Note the doggy corral complete with puppy playpen. 
We met many folks new to us and enjoyed some good gospel groups. 

Mary and Bob Thiesen along with Rick and Leslie Rhodes are Fireside band. 

Nehemiah band. Dave, Terry Hutson and James Tarrance are visible here. 

Leslie Rhodes plays the bass for Nehemiah. 

Leslie, Rick Rhodes on banjo and Dave on fiddle. 

There was good jamming, a big campfire and a tasty potluck Saturday evening. A rain squall cooled us off, settled the dust, and enhanced the piney woods smell. Good sleeping weather. 

Sunday morning we broke camp. Here we are helping Rick stuff the canopy fabric back into its package. It took all three of us. 
Nehemiah band played for a church service in a small church just down the road. The friendly congregation treated us to a potluck dinner on the grounds after the service. 

Over the Rim and into the low country. Tall pines gave way to shorter piñon pines, then desert scrub, aloes, cactus and finally saguaro. We got onto I-15 then west to the 303 loop north of Phoenix and finally Bell Road and Sun Village. Luci was parked in front of our house and as quickly as possible we pulled everything out that needed to come out. We dealt with the rest in the morning when it was cooler. The thermometer says 106. Welcome home!

Monday, July 25, 2016

2016 Summer Camping Odyssey: Part I

The day we left Surprise, June 20th, the temperature was 118 degrees. We had planned to stay the first night in Show Low AZ but wildfires near there changed our plans. Canyon Point Forest Service campground near Heber AZ fit the bill for a nice change of elevation and temperature.
We stopped in Payson for a break to take in the Rim Country Museum and Zane Gray cabin and to enjoy the lake and green space that surrounds it. 

     A cormorant poses on the bank of the Payson lake at the Rim Country Museum

            Mother coot and fledgling dabbling in the reeds. 

On up the road and into the high country, our campsite in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forrest is surrounded by tall pines. 

             Dave relaxes in the cool mountain air at the Canyon Point campground. 

An Abert's squirrel, cousin of the Kaibab squirrel that inhabits the north rim of the Grand Canyon. 
This one was habituated to humans and came begging for handouts. I had dropped a pretzel piece which he quickly found. 

We had another change of plans--this time due to hot weather and no hook ups at the Chinle AZ campground. A visit to Canyon de Chelly will have to wait. 
On up through the reservation through Shiprock, the scenery is otherworldly. 

      Desert rock formations, neither of which is the famed Shiprock. 

The destination for the next three nights was Junction Creek, another Forest Service campground a few miles west of Durango CO. All the campsites were well separated. As with most forest camps there were pit toilets and water but no electricity. Junction Creek and the Colorado Trail were nearby. 

          Our secluded camp for three nights. 

Durango is a busy place with a fun Main Street that features lots of shopping and places to eat. We parked in the high school parking lot and took the shuttle downtown. A fruit vendor near the parking lot caught our eye. We bought sweet cherries and apricots. 

Up and over the high pass we skirt Silverton on our way to an RV park in Ouray CO. 

A mine with tailings was featured at an overlook where we stopped on the road to Ouray. 

Our campsite in Ouray had full hookups plus a nice laundry and a restaurant. It was located on the outskirts of the town along the Uncompahgre River. The famous hot springs pool was nearby and was a nice relief after a jeep ride up into the San Juan National Forest. 

               A cascade through the narrow valley and under the bridge into Ouray. 

One of the three red mountains our jeep driver pointed out to us. He does jeep tours in the summer and drives a snow cat at the Purgatory Ski Resort in winter. 

We visited an abandoned mining town at the end of the jeep tour. 

Taking advantage of the amenities at the RV park, we did laundry and refreshed Luci the Airstream. On the road again we detoured to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It is a stunning canyon and so different looking than the rest of the canyon/gorges that we have seen. 

Dave posing on a Black Canyon rock. We toured the rim of the canyon and continued on our way to Laramie WY. 

      Glenwood Canyon CO
We were meeting friends for lunch in Walden CO and were surprised to have to slow and stop for two moose who jumped a fence and crossed the highway in front of us. 

    Back in Wyoming 

Marilyn and Tom Bryan graciously offered us a berth on their acerage near Laramie. They host a yearly 4th of July jam. We were happy to see them and many friends at their nearly finished home and to play music, eat pot luck and socialize. 

Dave jamming with Tom Wilhelm and Julie and Ron Lynam. 

       Pete and Judy Ellsworth enjoy the music at the Bryan's jam. He got busy and organized a benefit concert for a Hospice of Laramie project. It was held at the Woods Landing Resort. 

Getting the microphones set up. 
Warrie Means, Bill McKay, Brian Peel
                 Tom Bryan, Tom Wilhelm
              Dave and unnamed elk
In spite of a few electrical difficulties, a nice sum was raised for Hospice and a good time was had by all.
Laramie hosts a July 4th celebration in Washington park with music, food, entertainment, games and free water, watermelon and ice cream! We took it in, setting our folding chairs up in the shade. 
      Bill McKay, myself and Warrie Means enjoying the day. 

             Picking at Bill's house. 
        Dave and Mae (Bill McKay's grandaughter) play a tune. 
    Brian Peel keeps the rhythm. A fun 4th of July.

The Luci relocated for a few days respite to the Means ranch. We petted Taz and Lucie cat, helped Sherri replant her garden after a disastrous rain and hailstorm, did our laundry and took care of some other business in Laramie. Now we are ready for the next leg of our summer journey.