Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Journey is Over

In inevitable was upon us.  Our vacation was ending.  We woke but didn't bother getting up.  The breeze was cool, as rain clouds were on the horizon.  Both trailer doors were open, Elly was napping at our feet and we just enjoyed the last morning.

Hunger won in the end, and we pushed towards Lake Mary Road.  Once there, we went the short distance to the Mormon Lake Lodge for a simple, country breakfast. Not quite willing to throw in the towel that early, we decided to check out some NF roads for future camping.

One camp spot had a distinct feature:

It sprinkled on and off during our short adventure.  We found some promising areas where the dreaded 5th wheel couldn't get to.  Just before hitting pavement for the last time, we stopped to break the dogs.

I noticed that our little jaunt through mud left interesting patterns on my wheels.

To say the least, I was depressed to be heading south.  Temperatures quickly rose to remind us why we left in the first place.  One of these days I will convince Mike to sell everything off, buy a plot of land in the woods and runaway.

One of these days....

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flagstaff Fiasco

We woke in our little pine nook and had breakfast again cooked by Mandy.  (She's amazing, have I mentioned that yet?)  Aside from chairs, we had little cleanup.

The road towards Tusayan wasn't nearly as atrocious as the way in and we made good time.  In Tusayan we noticed the NFS doing controlled burns in the town limits.  I'm glad we didn't camp further west.

The drive to Flagstaff was fairly uneventful.  We stopped at Five Guys for a burger before saying farewell to our camp mates.  Mike and I weren't too keen to head back home yet.  But first we needed to find a new water pump.  I wasn't expecting the endeavor to take 4 hours but it did.

Glutton for punishment, we headed out towards more AZBDR tracks.  We obviously didn't learn our lesson the first two times, having thoroughly NOT enjoyed the two prior tracks we followed.  We went south down Winona Ranch Road hoping to end up in the pines near Mormon Lake.

It. Was. Terrible.  Hey BDR folks, Arizona actually has TREES.  I promise, I've camped there. Try routing people through them.  Not down rocky, 4 low, slow, scrub brush landscaped roads.  BORING.  Frustrating. The dogs and I were tired of being tossed around the Jeep.  Mike was frustrated with being in 4 low for so long.

The only bonus was another enormous herd of elk.  I think this one was larger than the one we saw on Day 1.

We also saw a small herd of pronghorn antelope.  They were a distance out, you may or may not see them.

Miles later, we finally hit a serviced forest road where we could pick up speed and beeline for the pines.  Unfortunately, it was a weekend.  In Flagstaff.  During summer.  When every Arizonan wants to escape the oppressive heat and head for the hills.  Every campsite was within eyeshot of a fifth wheel or occupied by one.  Thankfully I noticed a sign for  two track heading towards Anderson's something or other.  It was rocky and unused.  This was the only time we were happy to find a rocky road.

Secluded, Mike went about replacing the water pump in the fading sunlight.  I cooked dinner and Elly kept guard while Rommel napped.

It wasn't the best day, but it wasn't the worst day either.  No matter, we were still on vacation, still with each other and still in the wild. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Farewell Colorado, Hello hot hot hot Arizona

Thankfully it did not rain on us overnight, so we were able to pack up a relatively dry campsite.  During breakfast we noticed an already steady upwards progression on FJ's traveling up to Black Bear.  Great.  Our road out is single lane and groups of 5-10 FJ's were coming up every hour.  We would have to time our exit perfectly.  We stopped off at the falls one more time to fill up the 5 gallon emergency water jugs.

Man I'm going to miss Silverton.

Prior to leaving for our trip, I was cornered by a coworker who was desperately in need of a honey wine. Having traveled to Silverton herself, two years prior, she bought a bottle and loved it.  They don't ship out of state.  Being winos, we agreed to stop.  I wasn't expecting to leave with 10 bottles just for myself.  But hey, they don't ship out of state.  If you're a sweet wine person, Honeyville is for you. 

After our expensive stop, we slabbed our way south.  It would be nice if there wasn't a huge expanse of desolate desert in between our favorite vacation stops and home.  Four corners makes the desert I call home look like a jungle.  You know its boring when the camera goes back into its neoprene case.

Pete and Mandy were intending to get home tomorrow, so we planned to camp again south of the Grand Canyon.  We were aiming for the eastern exit that the AZBDR notes.  By this time, the sun was setting.  It was going to be a late night.

The sky was hazy.  We initially thought the usual, dust.  But no, its fire season.  Somewhere west of the canyon there was a large fire and it was stinking up everything east of it.

Several miles into our journey, I was done.  This road was nothing but exposed rocks: bumpy and slow going.  It would be long past dark before we entered the pine trees and found suitable camping.

During our quick dinner, our water pump died.  Good news, the trip was almost over. Bad news, damnit, our water pump died.  Cheap Hecho in Mexico garbage.  Pete and Mike rigged it up to work for the short term, but we were going to have a to get a new one.  And since Mike and I weren't ready to throw in the towel on our vacation yet, we would be doing some shopping in Flagstaff tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Red Mountain Mining

We woke again to overcast skies and cool temperatures.  We haven't felt as gung-ho for difficult trails as we were expecting.  Mike chose an easy, but tall mountain climb, literally across the street.  First, our 30 degree downslope mentioned yesterday.

We made our ascent up to an old mining facility and explored for a while before rain chased us back into the Jeep.

On our way around the mountain, we discovered that through a long lens, we could actually see our campsite across the way. 

We briefly hit pavement before continuing on through the Red Mountain Mining District.  This entire route was littered with old mine sites.  Yankee Girl was my favorite.

We hit pavement again less than 10 miles from Ouray and decided that lunch would be consumed there.  We got some pretty good homemade pizza at the Gold Belt Bar and Grill and then hit the tourist shops.  Mike researched why we were seeing so many FJ Cruisers; the FJ Summit had just started.  Tired of the tourist trap, we made our way back to Silverton and camp. 

Mike and Pete stopped to wash the FJ off at the waterfall, while Mandy and I went to camp to wash up.  I left Mike with the camera.  He got some pretty good waterfall shots too.

Finally having sunshine over camp this afternoon, I was able to snap some late afternoon colors on the mountains behind us and of our camp. 


After playing, Elly put herself to bed.  We open the tent flap enough to fit a dog and they go in at out at will.  Once the temps dropped, she put herself to bed for the night. 

We have a killer view from camp.  I love it.  Rommel and I spent quite some time watching the evolution of the sunset.

We were on this road earlier this morning:

Its sad to think that our time here is coming to a close.  I think camping at 11,300 ft was probably a poor idea considering the headaches and weariness we've all been suffering, but I have such a fondness for Silverton and its beauty, that I never want to leave.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Silverton's Rich Mining History

We woke to overcast skies and low temperatures.  It has been refreshing to require a light jacket and hat. 

Mike continued with his daily routine and went exploring with the dogs. Elly is in love with tall grass and would run and run and run through it.  She's a pip when she's not grumpy and tired.

During any down time at camp, Mike would wander out and watch the vehicles climb up to Black Bear Pass.

We drove out to pavement a different way, hoping the road would be easier to drag the trailers out later on.  Not so much.  One spot sported a 30 degree downslope, and the switchbacks were too tight.

Two years ago, when we were last in Silverton, we did not make it to Animas Forks.  Today we wanted a bit of a lazy day, so we did the "short" drive out to poke around the old mining community.

Colorado just leaves water sitting around everywhere.

The old mining town was neat to explore.  They have been repairing the remaining structures.  We were chased away by rain, but had enough time to feel sufficiently like tourists.

On our way out we saw a small Jeep use a water crossing to wash off.  Since our Jeep got muddy on the drive in, we decided to partake in nature's car wash too.  (Thanks Mandy for the pics!)

The drive back to Silverton was uneventful but pretty.

We stopped in Silverton for lunch at the Pickle Barrel and to browse the shops.

On our way back to camp, Mike and I stopped to our waterfall to finish washing the mud off the Jeep. It rained sporadically throughout dinner. I didn't mind the rain.  The cool weather, and wet conditions are a welcome change.  11,300 feet is rough on the lungs, but as usual, I'm loving my time in Colorado.