Our trip toward home continued on Saturday as we headed out of Gunnison and over Monarch Pass at over 11,000 feet. That was an experience with our big rig. We could not believe all the bicycle riders up there getting ready to ride down the mountain. It is the Continental Divide and I guess a real feat for them. But they sure make it a scary ride and hard on big rig drivers as there is no shoulder and no guard rail in many places. We proceeded carefully down towards Pueblo and I-25. Once on I-25 we could drive safely south and took a short pull-off break to change drivers and let the Leader rest up. Our destination for Saturday night was the Whittington NRA Campground just south of Raton, NM.
Whittington Center NRA campground
Now you don’t have to be an NRA member to stay here but it is a great place with 13,000 acres of wide open country and several large RV campgrounds, cabins, lodges and a small restaurant. There are many types of ranges here for all skills of shooters, both rifle and pistol, and they are located away from the lodging. We parked, unhooked then drove around to see the entire facility before getting a nice chicken fried steak dinner. A good night’s sleep then we would make the last push towards home with a stop on Sunday night , August 17th back at Old Town Cotton Gin RV Resort in Goodlett, TX. That makes our last day of driving shorter and gets us back home through the big city before rush hour. Another great trip for the Traveling Basenjis.
On Thursday August 15, we loaded up and headed through Montrose towards Gunnison, Co. We have a granddaughter in college there and wanted to visit her before heading home. The drive is scenic and passes through several small towns. As you near Gunnison, you go past the Blue Mesa Reservoir which is a prime fishing lake with over 96 miles of shoreline. It is the largest lake located entirely within Colorado borders and is at over 7500 ft. elevation in a high desert area. The dam was completed in 1965 and was the first one on the Gunnison River. The largest lake trout and Kokanee Salmon fishery in the country is here. We enjoyed the drive and stopped for a lunch break overlooking this beautiful body of water. We booked into the Mesa RV Park just west of town for two nights. That gave us a chance to see the town and visit family. When you drive into Gunnison it is apparent they have a lot of outdoor activities. We had to visit this store to see the hundreds of items for sportsmen available. Even picked up a fly rod and reel for our active girl here. She loved it! After that we looked for an ice cream store since this is a college town and kids eat ice cream! But to our surprise the only one was located inside the front of the True Value Hardware store and they served Blue Bell from the creamery in Texas down by Texas A&M. You can buy your PVC pipe, paint, and a vanilla cone all at one time!
The next day we went to the park to see the woodcarving show with the artists using chain saws. This man with one leg was doing a great job and enjoying the crowd. They were to have a judging later that day. Across the street there was an antique car crowd gathering and the next day was their show off on Main Street. A fun town with lots to see and do. And enjoyed the visit with our college kid!
On Monday August 12, we drove just inside the Colorado border and near Colorado State Monument to the small town of Fruita. Here is where we found our next great place to stay for a few days. James Robb Park is part of the Colorado River State Park system and the latest addition. It has 22 full service sites which are located in 1/2 circles off the main road. Each site has it’s own covered pavilion with picnic table and a nice graveled sitting area. The sites are also separated by native plantings. There is a great service building with laundry and bathrooms. We liked it so well we booked 3 nights there.
This stop gave us a chance to drive 9 miles into Grand Junction and see what a busy place it is. We were able to go to the grocery store, get diesel, and even get an ice cream cone. Nice to find some familiar stores and was the largest city we had been in over a week.
On Monday August 12, since we had stayed hooked up all we had to do was eat a quick breakfast then fold up and go. So we were headed north up Hwy 128 by 7 AM. What jaw dropping views all around us as we drove this route! As good as Arches, Zion and Bryce National Parks, just shorter! There are two first class resorts along this road, Sorrel River Ranch www.sorrelriver.com and Red Cliffs Lodge and Winery www.redcliffslodge.com. Both seemed to have big crowds as we passed and we could see why as the views are wonderful and access to the Colorado River adds to the ambiance. Horseback riding, great cabins and good food are some of the perks. This would be a nice return trip but in cooler weather since there are no hookups in BLM camps. We drove past the small town of Cisco heading onto I-70 then east into Colorado. Cisco is a modern ghost town since it barely survived into the 20th century but originally served as a saloon and water refueling stop for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The town died with the demise of the steam locomotive. There are a few ruins and old buildings here and nearby are recent oil and gas wells. Some of the scenes for Thelma and Louise were filmed here in 1991. I thought it looked like a place where they would drive off! We then headed on into Colorado for our next stop!
We were heading east past Price and Helper in the canyons then southeast toward Moab. Before we got to Moab we turned off Hwy 191 onto Hwy 128 into BLM land looking for our campsite for the night. We arrived early around noon and luckily were able to get into Goose Island Campground which is the closest to Moab and one of two that will accommodate big rigs.
Goose Island Campground
We carefully backed into #15 which was a big site next to the Colorado River and an awesome view of the red rock canyon walls all around us. It was hotter than we hoped and with NO hookups we had to adjust our thinking about boon docking! Took a nap waiting for the sun to set behind the canyon wall and hopefully cool off. We grilled one of our big trout from Idaho for dinner and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Bad thing about this location is the canyon is narrow and the road is close so you have traffic noise until dark. It did drop down to about 90 degrees by dark so we went to bed with all windows open and finally got some relief about 2 AM.
On Saturday August 10 we pulled back onto I-84 heading down into Utah. This has to be one of the most boring drives as it is miles of nothing but dry desert or irrigated fields of corn or hay. As you drive south past the Utah border, there are more irrigated fields and orchards. The Leader skillfully guided the big rig through Salt Lake City which is still in a state of road repair since last year’s trip through here going north. We did find a Cracker Barrel for dinner and enjoyed a meal with no dishes to wash before turning east for our night’s destination. Another pleasant surprise in Spanish Fork! We went to the RV park at Canyon View which is actually a city park sitting on top of the hill next to a big wind farm. The location is on Powerhouse Road so that tells it all. You park in a paved parking lot backed up to each power and water pedestal. But it was clean, with nice, grassy areas for the girls, and a short walk down the hill and you have the entire beautiful park to yourself early in the morning. Only problem is the wind blows steady which is why they built the wind farm here. Since it was still warm we used the AC for awhile that night. Best part is the price – $12.00 for the night. Next day we were up and on the road early.
Tie Fork Rest Area
Thankfully we were able to make a short stop at Tie Fork Rest Area. They were awarded for the design and construction of this park with it resembling a 1800s rail station including the steam engine and track.
They even have a fenced grassy dog area, that the Basenji girls had to smell all over then promptly go outside to tend to their business!
The pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail in the 1800s came to cross the Snake River at this location. In July & August the water level drops to about 3-4 feet, enough they could ford the river using the islands to reduce the hazard. In 1869 Gus Glenn built a ferry to expedite his shipments of goods for the people out west and he could also take 2 wagons across at a time. Many settlers used this method if they had the money. It cost $1.50 for a team and wagon. We visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center within the park and got pictures of the covered wagon and ferry that is preserved here. Great stopover! Only drawback is it is hot, had to run the air conditioner for the first time in 2 weeks. But guess it is going to toughen us up for the trip home as it has been over 100 every day since we left. The next morning we did a few chores then drove into town past the Carmela Winery which is a really pretty place and has a good restaurant but wanted to see what Glenn’s Ferry did for their annual celebration which was this weekend. Pretty small town but fairly clean! Went into the local pub and had a small burger for lunch. Couldn’t believe they serve frozen French fries in the land where Idaho potatoes are raised. Outside the stores and eateries on the main street are many decorative benches done by local artists. After lunch we went back to the park and took a long awaited nap!
On Thursday, August 8, we packed up to leave and headed south down Hwy 55 through Cardiac Canyon and into Boise. As we traveled you could see the rubber rafts as many people come here to raft the Payette since it has some of the best variety of rough water anywhere. And I can say that we have rafted before but I don’t want to get in that churning, bouncing current. Check this website for some pictures and info: http://www.cascaderaft.com/
Once in Boise we left onto I-84 heading southeast. We decided to stop for the night at Glenn’s Ferry, ID and stay at Three Island State Park. Wow, is this an oasis in the desert! They irrigate this park using water from the Snake River and have nicely mowed green grass, huge sites, level parking and big cottonwood trees. So we booked an extra night! And the girls enjoyed sitting in the shade like princesses!
The next morning July 24th, we decided to forego taking Hwy 55 north from Boise through Eagle as parts of it are known as Cardiac Canyon (narrow with rock outcrops and along the river’s edge), and instead we drove up Hwy 95 along Oregon border through Cambridge and McCall then down to Donnelly, our destination for next few weeks. Big mistake, as once again they are doing highway reconstruction so we had to drive almost 12 miles in one lane of gravel behind a pilot car to get to pavement again. Cough, cough! Stopping in McCall at Ridley’s Super Market we stocked up on food and ice for next few days. We have friends who have a place on the side of West Mountain in Donnelly and they are kind enough to ask us to stay for awhile. They have shared sewer, water and electric and in exchange for this we are planning to help them with some long planned construction projects while here. Our rear window looks over Lake Cascade and the guys are planning to fish several days. Not a bad deal and best of all it is cool here. Highs in low 90s and lows in the 50s make it better than Dallas in the summer. Located just up the hill is Tamarack Resort area, a planned ski and residential community waiting on the housing market to come back to be completed. So far it is very nice with many large log homes, ski lifts and lodges already done, some homes as much as $5 million.