Monday, July 30, 2012

Update from Colorado Wildlife Country

Hi all, Dianne here.  This is just a quick update from beautiful Colorado.   As you can see from the opening photo, there is no shortage of wildlife roaming through the RV park!  This beautiful buck shows up almost every morning.  What you can't see in the photo is that my neighbors behind were actually sitting right there in their lawn chairs while the buck wandered onto their site for a drink of water out of the tree irrigation well.   Close enough that they could have reached out and touched him!   They offered him a carrot, but he didn't partake.

Roger worked long and hard to find a safe place to park me for the three weeks he'd be in Indiana this summer.  His hard work paid off, because this is certainly the perfect spot.  It's a beautiful, well-managed RV park.  I am surrounded by very nice neighbors, in case I need help with anything (not likely).  It's far enough out of Colorado Springs that I feel very safe here.  And the wildlife, for an animal lover like me -- let's just say it's perfect!

First of several Robison girls (two generations of them) to get hitched at First Presbyterian Church in Frankfort, Indiana
Just have to say Happy 40th Wedding Anniversary to Roger across the miles.  40 years ago today two 22-year-old kids set out on an adventure that feels like it's just getting started.

Our First RV! 
So, what in the heck have I been doing all by myself?  Well, I have a to-do list that I try to mark off at least one thing per day.  I'm still putting off cleaning the stove....

My wildlife cam has been kept busy every night.  In fact, I need to adjust it, because last night I had over 600 photos on it!!  Almost all of them were this fox and his friend who came over and over again to get a snack.

This young buck paused on his morning trek through the park to get a snack, too.  

The girls pass by, too.  Usually all this activity is around 6:00 - 6:30 a.m.

On our morning dog walks we sometimes see a whole flock of wild turkeys.  I took a photo, but they were too far away for it to be "blog-worthy."  

A couple of times horseback riders have passed through the park.

This cat shows up day and night.  Not sure why he's interested in the bird seed....  

I assume it's a feral cat -- possibly looks pregnant.  He/she stopped by again in the middle of the night.  I hope it was only sitting on the bird feeder!  No "evidence" was left behind, and the fox and birds still eat the seed, so evidently it was just sitting there.  Actually, now looking at the photos it appears to be two different cats.  

Just to let you know, there are birds here, too.  This one's a pine siskin:

Also have seen ring-necked doves and Steller's and western scrub jays, plus the usual mountain hummingbirds -- rufous, black-chinned and broad-tailed.

The Doggies Miss Their Dad!
Every morning after our walk, the "kids" and I enjoy patio time until around 10:00, then I try to get something accomplished from my list.

Charlie the cat especially loves it here.  He spends his outdoor time stalking birds from behind a rock...

...or strategically situated near the bird feeder!  He can't quite reach it, but he tries.

Here's how I know that there's more than one fox:


My Puzzle Collection So  Far
One of the things I looked forward to this three weeks was working on jigsaw puzzles.  My favorite souvenir from the national parks visitor's centers are puzzles of the beautiful park scenery.  I figure they'll be fun even when I'm an old lady and no longer traveling -- I can "re-live" our adventures, even in a nursing home!  

Any of you who live with cats know that there is no possible way to leave a puzzle out on a table without it becoming a play toy.  It's also a problem when you only have one table to use for everything.  When I worked at Amazon in 2009, I came across this "Roll and Go Puzzle Carrier (shown in photo behind puzzles)."  It has a blow-up cylinder and a velveteen surface that you simply roll up after each puzzle session.  I find that it works even better with a layer of shelf gripper on top of the puzzle pieces before I roll it up.  Roger was very proud of me when I told him via phone that I used his air compressor to blow  up the cylinder.

So far, I have puzzles from Yosemite, Mesa Verde, Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce.  The first visitor's center puzzle that I bought was from a state park, Hearst Castle in California.  That's the one I decided to try first:
  As you can see, I've had lots of time on my hands!   Put my iPod on the speaker deck, pour myself a glass of wine, and the time melts away.

That's all from Colorado for now.  Roger and I talk daily, and he's having a good time in Indiana with our friends.  I may or may not post again before he returns; if not, just assume I'm hanging out with the foxes and deer!

The pet photo of the day is a shot of my speckled pups doing a little bird watching from the patio:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Colorado Springs - Home for a Month

Site #78 Mountaindale RV Resort

Roger here....  We survived our four days of boondocking at the forest service campground without incident.  We now know that if we are conservative with our fresh water, our holding tanks, and our house batteries that we are good for four nights.  It was nice to have a three-day vacation from all the political crap and the senseless tragedy in nearby Aurora.  We did not know about the Aurora shooting until our cell phone service kicked back in when we reached civilization.  We are likely to boondock again; it was a nice break. 

The two-hour + drive from Nathrop, Colorado to Colorado Springs along the Arkansas River was scenic and uneventful --- always a good combination.  When we arrived at our current camping spot, Mountaindale Cabins and RV Resort, we were greeted in the office by Ginger, a fellow RV Dreamer who we met a couple of years ago at the rally in South Carolina.  It is always nice to have friends in the campground.  Speaking of friends, Mike and Marian, neighbors from Retama Village and also RV Dreamers, have been here for several weeks.  We also met up with Mike and Marian in Kerrville, Texas last May at the rally.  After we got everything set up for our month-long stay, we were invited to their site for hamburgers.  Ginger, and her husband, Jesse, were there as well as a half-dozen new friends.  It was so nice of Mike and Marian to invite us for burgers and introduce us to their friends.  

This campground is amazing, among the very best places we have been in the last three years.   (Dianne here:  The true test of a special place is that people come back year after year; it reminds me of Bentsen Palm Village in Mission, TX).   The terraced sites are huge, private, and immaculately landscaped.  We are parked on pink gravel (absolutely no weeds) which also covers our outdoor living area.  

We have our own really cool fire-pit a couple of steps down from the main outdoor area, in its own terraced level.  Now that the campfire ban has been lifted in the State of Colorado, we intend to make use of it.  

We can always find some shade in our outdoor area, either from the motor home, or from the trees that line the site.  A picture of the living area below gives you an idea as to how large it really is.  You can see our blue hammock in the distance.  Our grill and food-prep table is nestled behind one of the recliners.  Wow, is this ever a great place to relax outside.

Every morning we have been taking the dogs on a mile-long hiking loop that starts just a few feet from our site.  The walk is gravel for about half the circle, then turns back toward the campground on a couple of non-busy paved roads.   (A nice country walk -- D.)  This is a beautiful area.  Here are a few pictures of the sights that we see every morning:

Here is a good view of our park nestled among the trees on a hillside near the end of the hike.  

Yesterday, the dogs enjoyed a romp in the fenced-in dog park on the way back to the motor home.   (If only it were grass it would be perfect for the "kids."  Unfortunately, it requires a wipe-down after every play time to get the dirt brushed off of them.  I have yet to find a RV dog park as good as our neighborhood park in Mission. -- D.)

We have already been here for three days.  We are going to be here for a month.  Well, Dianne, Bandido, Tequila, and Charlie are going to be here for a month.  Tomorrow afternoon I am flying to Indy to do presentations for my former employer.  I will be there for three weeks working, having an annual physical, getting new eyeglasses, and seeing friends.  I'm so glad that Dianne will be in such a beautiful, safe place.   (This will be the first summer we haven't driven the motor home to Indiana.  We knew we wanted to be further west this year, so we opted for him to do a "fly-in" this time.  --  D.)

Our frequent posts may be a little infrequent for the next few weeks, but ya never know.  Dianne may have a lot of things to write about while I am away :-).  (It should be interesting.  In 40 years of marriage, we've never been apart for longer than a week.  Roger quipped yesterday that "The first two days we'll probably be glad."  Ha!!  I know that in a couple of days the reality of being solely in charge of three animals and dumping the tanks, etc. will set in.  Our 40th anniversary will be July 30 while he is gone.   At least he will be with our friends Jay & Nancy, who were in our wedding (we were also in theirs a month earlier) and who actually set us up on our initial blind date way back when.   They'll just have to go down memory lane without me!  -- D.)

The Pet Picture of the Day shows Bandido along the creekside at our previous campsite.  I think it is a pretty good picture of my buddy.

Dad will miss me most of all!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Boondocking at Chalk Lake NFS Campground, Colorado

Site #10 - Chalk Lake Campground
Hi all, Dianne here. 
Well, we made it over the mountain pass with no problem at all (see prior post).  We did pull over and park on the way down for about 20 minutes during a 10% grade to rest the brakes and engine for a bit.  Roger said he was having to use the brakes more than usual, even going down the pass in second gear.  I’m sure we were being overly cautious, but we were in no hurry.  Our motor home behaved like a champ, though, and our mountain crossing was truly “no sweat.” 

Just to be prudent, we did not hook up the Matrix for this crossing and I followed behind.  Roger didn’t know that I was driving one-handed while I took the above photo of our beautiful “home” crossing the Continental Divide. 

Soon we arrived at Chalk Lake National Forest Service Campground just south of the small town of Buena Vista, Colorado.  The campground is situated along Chalk Creek and is surrounded by 14,000-foot mountain peaks, including Mount Princeton and Mount Antero.  Roger took the above photo after an afternoon rainstorm passed through, capturing the sun shining on the bald mountain peak and turning it to gold.

The sites are shaded by aspens, cedars, and ponderosa pines, like this view of the back of our site.

No electric, water, or sewer hookups, so we were truly boondocking off the grid. The tall mountain peaks surrounding us also meant ZERO cell phone coverage.  We were cut off from the world!  No TV, no internet, no cell phone.  Could we make it for four days?? 

No problem!  The first morning we took Bandido and Tequila hiking on the Agnes Vaille Falls trail that begins right across the road from our campground. It is a short, rocky trail up to a beautiful waterfall.  That is 14,276-foot Mount Antero in the background of Roger & Bandido's photo.

A perfect morning hike!  It’s a very popular trail whose parking lot fills with cars every afternoon.  We were fortunate to be able to just cross the road on our morning walks and have it all to ourselves.

Of course, we stopped for photo shoots here and there. 

The trail followed along a crystal-clear mountain stream and we had chances to scramble over large white granite boulders to view the Agnes Vaille Falls. 

Our campground is only a few feet away from three-acre Chalk Lake, so after our hike we walked over to take a look at it.  Lots of fishing going on at the lake.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing outside.  

Tequila could not relax, however, because a ground squirrel was taunting her with its antics.  

If you can’t make out the squirrel in the photo, here’s a better look:

This critter was driving her nuts!!  
He kept darting in and out of the fallen log, just enough to keep her on constant vigil.

Putting the dogs inside the RV didn’t help, either: 

Our speckled pups did not relax one bit while we were there; they were on “high alert” for the multitude of chipmunks, ground squirrels, birds, and rabbits which darted around the campsite.  There was so much wildlife activity around us that it reminded us of the opening scenes from Disney’s Bambi!  

This is prime bear country, but thankfully we didn't see one of those.  We did take our pepper spray with us on the hike with the dogs, though.  The signs at the campground suggest taking in bird feeders and grills at night, so I guess they really are there.

Just in case a bear did decide to visit us, I hung my wildlife camera outside on a tree.  The only shots I had were people walking behind our site on their way to the creek.  Oh, well....

The next day, after our short hike with the “kids,” we took chairs down to the back of our site next to Chalk Creek to let the dogs play in the water.

They had lots of fun, chasing sticks and playing tug-of-war.

That night Roger grilled filets and marinated vegetables.  Just because we’re boondocking doesn’t mean we have to live on hot dogs!
We were still at high altitude (8,700 feet), but not quite as high as Taylor Creek.  The weather pattern for the first two days was the same as we experienced there; every afternoon around 3:00 the rain clouds would form and give a brief shower, after which it would clear up and be sunny and mild.  Our last two days were sunny, mild and gorgeous with no rain.

Roger took some beautiful photos of the sun setting behind the mountains:

On our last day we took a short eight-mile drive down a dirt road to visit the ghost town of St. Elmo.

The scenic drive followed along Chalk Creek and passed through stands of white-bark aspen and showcased the mountains that were all around us.

We weren’t sure what to expect from St. Elmo.  We were surprised to find a lot of people walking around the town, many of whom had arrived by ATV.

Inside a partially renovated jail/court building there are some placards explaining the history of the town:

We skipped the few buildings that had been turned into shops and walked down to the end of town, peeking into windows as we walked along the wooden sidewalk.   

 Remember, you can click on these smaller photos if you would like an enlarged view.

I know this post was a little bit long and detailed, because it covered all four days of our stay at Chalk Lake Campground.  As I've mentioned before, we use this blog as a virtual scrapbook for ourselves, and these are all things I want to remember!

We've moved on to our home for the next month south of Colorado Springs.  We'll update as soon as we have something to write about.

The pet photo of the day shows my not-so-brave Bandido after he opened the door of Tequila’s dog crate and went inside to hide from the afternoon thunder.

Poor baby!  One look at those eyes made me put the camera down and give him a hug right there on the floor.  If I could have fit into the crate with him, I'd have gone in!