Curecanti National Recreation Area, CO
It was time to break camp at Cheyenne Mountain state park. I took a short walk to drop off the trash in the bear-proof dumpster, and the camp host gave me a cheery wave and a big “HEY! How’s it going?” as I walked by. I thought he was being a little enthusiastic for a casual greeting, but when I returned to the campsite I found the ranger standing there and she said:
“Are you the guy who posted that nice blog about us?”
Turned out she’d been tipped off by Google Alerts. Everybody’s using it now, and that means within a few hours of my posting anything, random people are coming to blog to check it out because it mentioned something they’ve asked Google to monitor for them.
I’ve got to be more careful. Sometimes I don’t like a campground or a town. If I post my thoughts before we depart, the rise of technology means that people in the local area will find out before we’ve safely escaped the area. You might think I’m paranoid, but it has happened before. I once was threatened with a lawsuit for “defamination” by a campground owner in Creede CO for expressing my opinions. He carried on a campaign against me for weeks, with phone calls, faxes, and emails. I still get angry comments on the Tour of America blog for having dared to write sarcastic remarks about Solvang CA. I’m not afraid of the counter-criticism, but I’d prefer not to have to deal with grumpy locals at my campsite.
Fortunately, I can say nice things about our overnight stop. We drove the beautifully scenic Route 50 from Canon City, through the Royal Gorge, and up to Salida, Gunnison, and eventually to Curecanti National Recreation Area. I recommend this road trip to anyone who likes western scenery. We are parked in one of eleven campgrounds strung along the edge of Blue Mesa Reservoir (the largest body of water in Colorado). The Blue Mesa’s name is apt, as the water is stunningly blue at times, almost rivaling the color of Crater Lake. All around this long reservoir are pinnacles and scrub-covered hills, and the road follows it for many miles from just west of the town of Gunnison to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
We have stopped at the Lake Fork marina and campground, 27 miles west of Gunnison. There are only two other campers here, since it’s so late in the season. The visitor center is closed, there’s no campground host, and the campground is dry and self-service this time of year, but that’s all fine. Frankly, having nobody at the desk just means we can check in a lot quicker. I bought a $6 overnight ticket from the self-service machine and we picked a spot. Every spot here has a view of the water.
On the way here, we paused at Monarch Pass. The last time we stopped there was in 2006, and the grade leading up to Monarch Pass hasn’t shallowed one bit since. It’s a long pull to the top, several miles of 6% grade leading up to over 11,312 feet of elevation. I took this photo for those who still don’t believe that you can tow an Airstream comfortably in the mountains with a V-6 turbodiesel. The car was perfectly content to haul us up the hill, and the engine stayed at normal operating temperature.
As I write this, the sun is rising over the reservoir. It was cold last night, and right now the official temperature in Gunnison is 18 degrees. If I’d thought it was going to be so cold I would have run the catalytic heater instead of the furnace, to save electricity. The Tri-Metric battery monitor says we managed to use 40% of our battery capacity in one night, and most of that was due to the furnace cycling on every few minutes, sucking up 7.5 amps as it ran. I got up at 5:45 and switched over to the catalytic heater but the damage to our power supply was already done. Fortunately, the skies are projected to be very clear again today, so we’ll probably get back to 90% charge by afternoon.
The plan for today is to continue heading west on Rt 50/285 through Montrose and up to Grand Junction. That’s about as far as we’ve gotten with it. We need to decide today if we are going to Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado (a big detour), or Canyonlands National Park in Utah, or both. Since it is getting cold at the upper elevations, weather will be a big factor in the decision. We can see the end of our travels in this part of the country approaching quickly, but we’re milking it for all we can.