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!


Nancy and Bill said...

Wow what beautiful scenery. We are so jealous of your cool temps. We just keep hoping it will stay below 100 degrees;o((

Glad the mountain travel has not been too difficult. Can't wait to see more of Colorado!!

Gayla said...

I wonder if the dogs had trouble adjusting to the altitude, causing them to be more hyper along with the squirrels. It takes me a few days to adjust over 5000 feet. Great pictures! Nice to "catch up."

Jim and Sue Kyes said...

Now Dianne, you know better than to encourage Bandido's fear of thunder by cuddling him. Wow, the scenery is amazing and you guys sure know how to get the most our of your trip! Does Roger hire out for cooking? That meal looked amazing! Have fun in Colorado Springs. We spent 6 months there in 1969 with the US Army. Sue and Jim

Tumbleweed Dee said...

We're in the same area you are. We're in Aurora, CO, Buckley AFB. We'll be in Colorado Springs on Tuesday. We'll be staying at the AF academy. I hope you have a lot of fun, maybe we'll meet up again for a few minutes.

Safe travels.