Sunday, July 10, 2011

Camping on Lake Granby, Colorado

Stillwater Campground on Lake Granby, Colorado

Deep in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Stillwater Campground sits on the shores of picturesque Lake Granby and is surrounded in all directions with snowcapped peaks, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife.  Although the pine trees at this campground have been removed because of the pine beetle infestation, this is still a favorite camping destination of mine. I  stayed 2 nights here in my T@B, watching sailboats drift across the lake during the day and stars crowd the skies at night.  

Grand Lake village and Rocky Mountain National Park are just 7 miles away and make great day trips.   Grand Lake is a popular summer destination and offers many activities including boating, fishing, hiking, swimming (brrrr), and horseback riding, to name a few.  If you are inclined to a more relaxing pace, the main street through town has many interesting tourist shops, restaurants, bars, and an old fashion ice cream parlor on just about every block.

Kauffman House Museum/Hotel
One unassuming treasure that is easy to overlook when visiting Grand Lake is the Kauffman House Museum.  For a $5 admission visitors are transported back to the early 1900s to a 5-room, 2-story log hotel filled with colorful artifacts and period pieces that offer an intriguing glimpse of the people and places in early Grand Lake.   I'm generally not a huge fan of museums, especially when on a camping trip (I'd rather be hiking or biking), but this was an exception for me with a very friendly and knowledgable staff that gave an enriching tour of the hotel.  If you are looking for something at a more relaxed pace - this will fit the bill.  I give it two thumbs up.

Second only to my love for old camping trailers is my fascination with antique boats.  As luck would have it, there was a small antique boat show on Grand Lake this weekend.  Some of these gleaming wood beauties were over 100 years old, and one even had a small steam engine.  One owner, in particular, was very proud (and rightly so) of his Chris-Craft runabout named CC Rider.  As I walked by, he began to regale me with all the details about his boat and boasted that the engine had a triple intake.  I had no idea what the significance of that was, but I nodded as though I did.  He was like a proud parent showing off his new baby and didn't seem to mind or notice my mechanical ignorance.  He introduced me to some of the other boat owners with the same exuberance and enthusiasm about their projects as his own.   I envy people like him who are so passionate about their work.

Elk off Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road is also close, and it runs through Rocky Mountain National Park.  It is a perennial favorite drive of mine between Grand Lake and Estes Park, and so I took this route home over the "highest continuous highway in the U.S." reaching a chilly and snow-covered elevation of 12,183'.  I towed the T@B with a Nissan Xterra and had no difficulties pulling the camper at this altitude and steep grade,  taking extra caution, of course, on curvy and narrow sections and near the sometimes stomach-wrenching drop-offs.

Hello Marmot
The drive not only offers top-of-the-world views, but also frequent glimpses of wildlife near the road, making this a perfect opportunity for a photo safari.  I saw many diverse wildlife including herds of elk, a moose, and even a typically shy marmot greeting passers-by.

I continue to enjoy the T@B camper and the adventures it offers on these short get-aways.    Sadly though, another weekend flew by too quickly.   

More photos here.

If You Go:

Lake Granby
Stillwater campground is located 6 miles south of Grand Lake, CO, and sites can be reserved on  I stayed in site #94, which was smaller than most, but it was a perfect size for a T@B camper and tow vehicle.   The campground is built on a hill, so some sites are terraced with separate levels for tent pad, picnic table, and parking.   The main drawback about Stillwater campground is that, like many in the area, the pine trees have been cut down because of the pine beetle infestation.  So, shade is hard to come by, but it also means that most sites have unobstructed, spectacular views of the Lake.    The campground has showers (sometimes the water is even hot) and flush toilets.  Some sites have electricity and water, and there is a dump station at the entrance.  In addition to the $20/day camping fee there is a daily use fee (~$5) for entrance into the Arapahoe Recreation Area where the campground is located.  A multi-day pass can be purchased with a credit card at the entrance to the campground.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moraine Park - Rocky Mountain National Park

Loch Vale
This was a banner year for snow pack in the Colorado Rockies, which was evidenced by high drifts of snow and streams and falls running fuller and faster than I have seen in my 20+ years of living and hiking in the area.  Water falls were particularly spectacular especially at Alberta Falls and also at the Alluvial Fan region near Horseshoe Park.

Alberta Falls
The highlight of the trip was a hike to Loch Vale, a crystal clear lake nestled at the base of a rugged mountain peak and set against the baby blue Colorado sky.  In a word, "spectacular", but that doesn't even come close to doing it justice.   It is about a 3-mile (one way) hike from the Bear Lake parking lot, and it has close to 1000' of elevation gain.  The trail also passes the stunning Alberta Falls, which this year was roaring full of water due to the heavy snow melt. It is rated as a moderately difficult trail, and it sees very heavy use.  I recommend getting there very early to avoid the crowds.
We were lucky to see a wide variety of wildlife in and around Moraine Park including a red-tailed hawk soaring above the meadow, elk herds roaming across overflowing streams, a fox slyly searching for its next meal, and a speckled fawn with its mother climbing to safety up a slope of fresh green summer growth. 

Moraine Park Campground
We stayed at the Moraine Park Campground, which is one of RMNP's biggest with 245 sites.   Although it is often full on the weekends, it didn't feel crowded since the sites were well-spaced over a large area, and many of them, especially on the campground's perimeter, had exceptional views of Rocky Mountain scenery.  Cost for an RV site was $20/night plus a separate park entrance fee.   There is no electricity nor water hook ups, but some of the restrooms have flush toilets and there are water spigots located throughout the campground.   Hot showers, groceries, and restaurants can be found just minutes away in Estes Park.  Check the visitor's center in Estes Park for more information.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Buena Vista, Colorado 2011

My Favorite Colorado KOA campground
Although Buena Vista, Colorado, is known for its outdoor sports activities like white water rafting, hiking, kayaking, and fly fishing, this visit was all about relaxing, reflecting on life, and taking in the spectacular views.

We stayed at my favorite Colorado KOA campground, just a few miles S.E. of Buena Vista, on a ridge that overlooks the Arkansas River Valley with the towering Collegiate Peaks as a backdrop.  Sunsets are rich and full of color, and the starry night skies are just as spectacular.

Buena Vista sits between two great day trip destinations - Leadville and Salida.    Leadville is a historic mining town with museums and antique stores.  Salida, is more of an artist community with many studios, coffee shops and boutique stores.  Both towns are fun to explore.

We hope to return again soon to take advantage of the adventurous side of Buena Vista and check out the rafting and hiking opportunities.   This time though, Buena Vista made a perfect destination to just sit back, relax, and recharge.

If you go:

Enjoying some of the art displays in Salida
Buena Vista is located about 120 miles SW of Denver, and it is about a  2 1/2 hour drive.  We stayed at the Buena Vista KOA, which offers many amenities such as a laundry, hot showers, flush toilets, game room, horse rides, ice cream socials, breakfast canteen, and pizza on Fri and Sat nights.  The campground is mainly dirt/rock roads on a terraced and groomed hillside.   Many sites have water and electricity, and some have sewer hookups.  For the best unobstructed views that overlook the campground and the Arkansas Valley, I recommend sites B28 and B27.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Estes Park, CO - Our First Trip of 2011

T@B camper in Estes Park
We rolled the T@B out of moth balls and headed for Estes Park, Colorado, this past weekend for the first trip of the season.  We couldn't have asked for better weather, which lent itself well to exploring Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and enjoying nearby hiking trails.

Deep snow in May at Bear Lake
Wild Turkeys in RMNP
We stayed at Spruce Lake RV Park on the edge of town, just a short 10 minute drive to the entrance of RMNP.   The national park is abundant with wildlife, but we only had to travel a few yards from the campground to see a herd of elk.  In fact, there was fresh evidence of elk activity right at our campsite when we arrived, which made after-dark trips to the restrooms a little bit like running blindly through a mine field.

One day after breakfast we drove up to Bear Lake in RMNP.  We started out in dry and warm, summer-like, conditions, but found that Winter still has a firm hold on areas at elevation.  Bear Lake was covered in ice and snow, and there were many areas where the snow depth was still several feet deep.  On the way to the lake, we saw wild turkeys, which was a first for me in RMNP.

Gem Lake with views to the Continental Divide
On another day we hiked 4 miles roundtrip to Gem Lake.  This is a small, shallow body of water surrounded by rock cliffs that form a unique location that is picturesque, relaxing, and peaceful in spite of  its popularity and many visitors.  It makes a great hiking destination that is relatively easy to get to, although it has some (950') elevation gain.

More photos available here.

If you go:

Estes Park is located about 70 miles Northwest of Denver, CO.  It is a small tourist mountain town with a variety of restaurants, souvenir shops, and many family activities.  It is also the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, making it a favorite summer destination.

Help - Get me out of here!
The Gem Lake Trail is a short hike that begins at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and offers panoramic views of the Continental Divide.  It is about a 4 mile roundtrip hike with 950' of elevation gain that passes many interesting rock formations.  It is rated as a moderately strenuous hike.

Spruce Lake RV Park is located adjacent to the Big Thompson River with full RV amenities including water, electric, cable, sewer hook ups, and a dump station.  The resort also includes a small fishing lake, putt-putt golf, pool and hot tub (not open during our early season visit) and easy walking access to shops and restaurants.  The campground has hot shower facilities and restrooms, which we found to always be very clean.  Check their website for reservations and the current fee schedule.  We recommend sites closest to the river for privacy and campsite viewing of the stream.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trim Cracks

New trim with spacer piece
Hopefully other T@B owners out there have a little better luck than I did with a recent trim repair.   

Over the winter, several trim cracks developed on the upper rear pieces of my 2010 T@B camper.  Apparently this is a common problem, and , in fact, when I took my camper in for repair at a former T@B dealer, there was another new T@B in the shop with the exact same issue.   

The service staff suggested that the reason for the trim cracks is because the trim is fastened down by screwing directly through the trim piece. This can cause little fissures in the plastic that expand in hot/cold extremes and can result in cracking over time.

They said the solution is to drill small holes in the trim first and then screw it down.  

So, the shop affixed a couple new trim pieces, but when I called to check the status, they said that the new trim cracked overnight.    They didn't have a good explanation, so I am not sure what the cause was - I can only speculate that maybe it was damaged on installation or maybe it was just a defective piece to begin with and cracked when the temperatures got below freezing.  

They then reordered some new pieces, only to find out that the trim length wasn't long enough on one side, leaving a gap.  

Long story short, after a month in the shop, I got the camper back.  It is not quite good as new, but close - they had to add a small "spacer piece" at the top to make up for the gap.   The repair guy pointed out several times that this was a very difficult job, that it took 10 hours to finish, and he did the best he could.    To their credit, the shop didn't charge me anything for this repair, even though the trim was long past its 90-day warranty, and the job took several hours. So, overall, I feel fortunate with this outcome, and the repair looks much better than it did when I took it in.  My fingers are crossed that it will last.

I hope this is informative for anyone else seeking repairs and that the fix is a little more straight forward for you than it was for me. I'm just happy to have the camper back, and I'm looking forward to a long camping season. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ending the summer with a bang - a crash, a fire, and a lake cruise

This Labor Day weekend camping trip was peppered with several highs and lows, including crashing a bike, pontooning across a windy lake, swimming in a river stream, and returning home to a raging forest fire.

Six of us from a Colorado cycling club camped at the Arkansas Point Campground in an assortment of tents, motorhomes, and trailers at Lake Pueblo State Park, a 4600-acre reservoir just west of Pueblo, Colorado.  Turns out the T@B's A/C option was a worthwhile investment, especially this scorching weekend.

Afternoon highs pushed close to 100.  So, after biking and soaking our paws in a cool stream that flows out of the reservoir, it was a real treat to be able to escape to a cool spot in the T@B for an afternoon siesta during the hottest part of the day.   This high desert plain is a land of extremes though.  The evenings cool off very quickly, and it is not uncommon to run the A/C during the day and the furnace at night.

Minutes before the gymnastic flip

The weekend had a few challenges, including when a friend visiting from New York, somersaulted over the handle bars on a loose, rocky incline during a single track ride the first day.  He landed on his shoulder and suffered scrapes literally from head to toe.  Fortunately, New Yorkers are a tough lot, and he was no worse for the wear except for sporting a few new badges of honor (a.k.a. bruises and scrapes)  that are sure to make good conversation fodder when he returns home to his office.

I had my own cycling issues too, but they were more painful to my pocketbook than my body.  When we started out the first day, I didn't even make it to the trail before discovering a badly bent chain ring.  It was soon clear that there was no way I would be able to ride the trails without getting it repaired.  So I headed into town to a bike shop to get it fixed and ended up leaving the store with a whole new bike!  This turned out to be my most expensive camping trip to date.
Cliff jumping

On Sunday we were joined by a few extra members who hooked up with us for the day.  The group rode the trails in the morning, and then for something completely different, we rented a pontoon boat at the marina for an afternoon "cruise" on the reservoir.  It was a great way to beat the heat and cool off on the choppy lake waters.  I had fun playing "ship captain" for a few hours as we leisurely explored the many coves and cliff enclosed inlets.     We also enjoyed watching water skiers, tubers, jet skiers, and even some cliff jumpers making the most of this Labor Day weekend.
Pontooning on the Lake

It would have been an almost perfect holiday, except that when we returned home to Boulder, Colorado, the skies were darkened by what seemed to be storm clouds.  As we got closer though, we realized we were seeing dark smoke from a large forest fire that was raging in the mountains to the west.  That evening I could see flames on the mountainside and the skies glowing red from more than 20 miles away.   As of this writing, a day and a half after the fire started, it is still 0% contained, has doubled in size to over 7000 acres, and almost 100 structures and homes have been burned.  Fortunately, there have been no reports of injury or loss of life.
Large fire west of Boulder, CO

So, another Labor Day passes, and in spite of the bike crash and forest fire that bookended the holiday, we had a great time enjoying the Lake, friends, food, cycling, boating, and star gazing.  There is just something about getting out of your every day routine, exploring new territory and taking on new adventures, that is good for the spirit and the soul.  The T@B continues to be a great little camper that makes getting out and enjoying the outdoors a little easier and more comfortable.  I am already looking forward to the next trip!

If you go:

Lake Pueblo State Park is located 125 miles south of Denver. The park requires an $6/day vehicle pass + camping fee ($20/night). The Arkansas Point Campground has paved pads (many of them are pull throughs), electrical hookups, picnic shelters, and fire rings. There are flush toilets, laundry, and pay shower facilities ($.50 for 3 minutes) on site. There are fresh water spigots scattered throughout the campground, but no water/sewer hookups at individual sites.

Pontoon boats can be rented at the South Shore Marina, which is adjacent to the Arkansas Point Campground.   Cost was $165 for a half day, 20' rental that seated 8 people.  Other pricing information and details can be found on the marina's rental page.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

South Park, Colorado

Lodgepole Campground
As summer begins to wind down in Colorado, I'm trying to make the most of the few remaining camping opportunities.   This past weekend I took a trip with a cycling club to the South Park Colorado Basin.   Although, these days, the area is probably best known for giving its name to the animated TV series South Park, it is also a great camping, fishing, hiking, and cycling destination.

Moose Sighting
This 1000 square mile grassland basin is located  60 miles SW of Denver at about 10,000 ft.   We camped near Jefferson, Colorado, at the Lodgepole Campground in the Pike National Forest.    This is a heavily forested area near streams and bogs, and on our first night, during a hike at dusk, we spotted a moose just a few hundred yards from our campsite.

The second day we were up early and rode the Gold Dust Trail that started at Boreas Pass.   This is my first year back on a mountain bike, and it is taking me a while to get the knack of riding the rocky trails and dodging the trees and bushes that seem to fly past even when I am white knuckling the brakes.  These downhill rides are a thrill, and the scenery is spectacular (when I'm not watching the rocks and stumps zip by).  The ride ended at Como, Colorado, where they were celebrating "Train Days".  So, we took in a tour of an old railroad round house and a slide show of the area's train history.  
Railroad Round House

The first day was all down hill, so the second day we stepped it up a notch and did an in/out ride from our campsite up to Georgia Pass and back.  This was a heart pounding, lung beating work out, especially as we approached the top of the pass and the Continental Divide nearing 12,000 oxygen deprived feet.    It was all worth it though - the views were incredible and diverse as we rode through tundra above treeline,  and then down through lodgepole forests, aspen groves, and shrub meadows.

View from near Georgia Pass
The weekend did not disappoint, and as we begin to see the first hints of the changing seasons, I'm already starting to sketch out tentative camping plans in the hopes of a long and warm Autumn.  With the many large stands of aspen groves in this area, South Park would also make a colorful Fall destination whether it be a day trip or an overnighter.

More photos are available here.

If you go:

The Lodgepole Campground is one of 3 primitive camping facilities located about a mile from Jefferson Lake.  There are 35 sites, a pump spigot for drinking water, and pit toilets.   There is no electricity nor showers at this campground.   Elevation is 9,900 feet, so expect chilly nights (it dropped to below 40 degrees during our stay), but it warms quickly once the sun comes out.  You can reserve a site through the website.  There is a one time $5 charge to enter the Jefferson Lake Recreation Area and daily camping rates are less than $15.  There is a small grocery at a convenience store in Jefferson where you can replenish camping supplies and purchase snacks.  Many more services are available in Fairplay, less than 20 miles from the campground.