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  • J.F. Rowan

Adventure to Leadville

We said our goodbyes to the Durango House Sit and set our sights forward to our Tiger Adventure Vehicle Rally at Camp Hale Memorial Campground located in Leadville Colorado. We had about 5 days to get there so we were not in any rush. However, with RT 550 being closed because of the “416” fire, our path now took us first westerly before turning north starting with route 160. The route was still scenic, and as fate would have it, we found one of the nicest views of our trip along the way.

Route 550 north closed due to the "416" Fire.

Elevations varied. We could be at 7000 feet during lunch only to be above 10,000 feet by the time our head hit the pillow. Our first night found us in a campground called Cayton Campground near Rico Colorado. Clayton was a little campground near the Dolores River, just off the highway. We got there just after sunset and left the next morning before 8 am. Nothing fancy or much to tell, it was just a nice place to sleep at the end of the day. It was a bit strange though to have to run the furnace when the calendar claimed it was June! The next morning we were off to find some coffee and breakfast and Telluride seemed like it might fit the bill. Putting my trust into the trucks navigation once again, we were led on a 15-minute goose chase through a local ski area with a promise of a local breakfast hot-spot. It was not to be. But, in true “Bandit” fashion, we regrouped and went with our instincts and to be rewarded with a great breakfast and wonderful views from the quaint little town of Telluride. Expensive maybe, but there was enough food to negate the need for lunch later on...maybe.

Gunnison Black Canyon

Once on the road again, we wanted to check out the Gunnison Black Canyon. Initially, we thought we would also camp there for a few days and take advantage of some hiking and photographing some of the oldest rock formations known to man. Yea, right. When we arrived it was clear that camping there was not only impossible but if we wanted to make a reservation, the first opening would not come available for over a month. We did spend some time looking down into the canyon from various vantage points. It was gorgeous and we hope to be able to return at some point and explore this area in depth. But, after spending a few hours we got back on the road and wiggled our way north out of Gunnison to our “plan B”, Crawford Lake State Park. A manmade recreation-oriented lake in Crawford CO., we found a nice spot overlooking the lake and as is the norm when we are in this mode of travel, arrived just as the sun was setting. A cute little park that wasn’t too busy and made for a nice place to rest overnight.

Leaving Gunnison area. Steep drop offs and rain earn us a cocktail at the end of the day.

Sunset at Crawford State Park, Crawford CO.

Another one of our routines at night, we huddle inside the coach, put on a little music and break out the maps. Since plans change, sometimes daily, the end of the day is spent taking stock, learning from what the day has brought and planning routes for the next few days. In this case, we decided on a new intermittent location, Paonia Lake State Park. And, since a place called Erickson Springs Campground was close to Paonia, we were going to have a “Plan B” as well. So the next morning, back on the road. After getting to Paonia Lake State Park, it was pretty obvious even our slim-formed “Bandit” was a bit too pudgy for this campground, so we diverted to the next option, Erickson Springs not 3 miles away. But though this option seemed within easy reach, we would make a wrong turn that would end up being the ultimate learning experience thus far.

A wrong turn onto a too-narrow road. We would end up backing all the way out...3/4 mile.

Yvette walks ahead checking for obstacles and also checking my clearances.

Talk about a set of circumstances that can lead to a calamity, this was one of those times. As it turns out the road I took was wrong and actually off limits to anything other than a goat, ATV or snowmobile. It took me about 3/4 of a mileof narrow road before I pulled the plug on my ego and stopped. Plus there was a boulder the size of a small cow in the middle of the road. There was so little room, that turning around (even if I could drop the trailer) was not an option. With Yvette outside checking clearances, I proceeded to back all the way out. To paint a more clear picture, the backup camera decided it was taking the day off. Great! The trailer is narrower than the tiger so when the trailer is straight back from the truck, I can’t see any part of the trailer in my mirrors. But if the truth is told, I loved every minute of it. I put the truck in low gear and took my time. Yvette did a great job calling out rocks and other obstacles as I slowly backed down this mountainside goat path. She had a huge responsibility checking everything under and over the truck and did it well. It took us about ten minutes to get up the road, and about an hour to back all the way out. No one got hurt, nothing got broke and we learned from our mistake.

Parking for lunch after passing up on Erikson's Springs.

Once back on the road, we eventually found Erikson Springs but due to the cramped quarters, we decided to explore one more campground just up the road (13miles), Lost Lake Slough. This was definitely a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! So much so, I’m going to devote the next blog post to this spot. So stick around.

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