May 5, 2014
A reservation at the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, Colorado, was the only reason we departed Moab, Utah. We usually feel ready to go whenever we break camp and head to our next destination. But not this time. We just didn’t get enough of Moab. So after spending 2 weeks in and around the Colorado National Monument, we are now back in Moab, excited to spend another couple of weeks here before heading north again.
But this post is about our visit to Colorado. Let me begin by admitting that we were warned by our friend Ingrid about taking The Bear up the Monument. She thought we were nuts. We should have listened to her! The park reservation system said we could fit in the campground. And after Ingrid’s warning about the tunnels, we called the park to confirm we could drive through them. Our hearts skipped a beat when we turned onto the Monument Drive entrance and read the sign warning that the tunnels were only 10’6” high. We measure almost 12 ½ feet! But the ranger at the park entrance booth said, “no problem, just stay in the middle.”
We took the Bear through this tunnel!
Winding road up to the Saddlehorn Campground
I have to say this was one of the most frightening drives we have ever done. It was only 4 miles up to the campground, but it was the longest 4 miles of my life. The shoulder-less road is skinny and winds up the steep hill with lots of switchbacks. One inch over the white line and you would fall off the cliff. I knew immediately that I would not be going down this road in the RV. We would definitely disconnect The Cub and I would have to drive separately when our stay here ended. Our stay here ended sooner than we had planned.
This is a campsite?
The campground is too small for a 40’ RV!! We spent 4 hours trying to set up in 4 different sites. They were all so slanted we couldn’t get level no matter what we tried. We finally squeezed into a skinny site, which was really just a cleared parallel parking space on the edge of the road. Our slide-outs hung into the street. There wasn’t a sitting area, but we were level. We were practically on top of the next person. Plus, this is a no hook-up campground. We need to run our generator to charge the batteries. The only hours allowed for running generators is 8 am to 8 pm. I’ve explained in previous posts that it is hard for us to go 12 full hours without running the generator mainly because of our residential refrigerator. We wanted to get a good charge in before turning in for the night, but at 8:04 pm we got a knock on our door by the camp host telling us to turn off the gen. It was against the rules. Really? 4 minutes over?? And the campground was empty. Nine days here? I think not. We were ready to walk away from the pre-paid 9 days in this campground. The money wasn’t worth 9 days out of my life.
The next morning we pulled in the slides and hit the road. I drove separately, of course. The drive was actually quite beautiful from a car. I met Mike at the Island Acres State Park in Palisade, Colorado. We got a very large site in a pretty park next to the Colorado River. We were happy campers and enjoyed walking Lucy along the path next to the river.
Our spacious campsite at Island Acres State Park next to the Colorado River
Since we were feeling the need to make up for the money we lost at the first campground, we wanted to find a free spot to camp. We went to the BLM office and got directions to some open land out beyond the airport. It was perfect! Wide open spaces, sweeping views of the mountains, level ground, and not a soul in sight.
Free campsite on BLM land in Grand Junction
This area is obviously popular with the ATV crowd. We could see all the tracks on the hills around us. Occasionally a few bikes would come around and jump the hills, but it didn’t bother us at all. It was entertaining. And none of them were camping. We had the place all to ourselves at night. Oh, and I also found out that I was getting a refund for my unused nights at Saddlehorn Campground, so I’m very pleased.
A little daytime entertainment
Then we got a weather report calling for high winds and rain for a couple of days. We considered staying put, but the thought of getting stuck in mud convinced us to go to an RV park until the storm passed. We found a Passport America park in Grand Junction and battened the hatches. Then we went to the movie, ate popcorn and watched a comedy. Perfect way to spend a rainy day!
The typical parking lot style RV park, but we felt secure here for the storm. This was our view.
Unfortunately, when it came time to check out, their electrical box shorted and caught fire as Mike was unplugging us. It fried our 50-amp plug and we’re just grateful that we have a good surge protector. Mike just went to the local RV parts store, bought a new plug, and everything is fine.
Burned up the 50-amp plug
Our friends, Al and Ingrid from Live Laugh RV, are also visiting Grand Junction. They had a few days reserved at James Robb State Park in Fruita during the same week as us. That was great fun! We had nightly campfires and lots of socializing. And lots of eating! Ingrid is a wonderful baker and we got to enjoy the fruits of her labors (cookies, pies, cake). Mike was in heaven and I have no will-power around goodies like that! The four of us have many things in common and spent hours sharing stories and laughing a lot.
Our site at James Robb State Park in Fruita, CO
The view from our bedroom window
BBQ dinner with Al, Ingrid, and family
Aren’t these lovebirds cute?
A night-cap. Al builds a fire, Mike brings the Frangelico. Oh yeah.
Lucy enjoys a run on the grass by the lake
Ingrid and I take a stroll around the lake
Of course, our time here absolutely mandated that we enjoy the hiking opportunities. There is a lovely hike around the lake at the state park campground which I enjoyed several times. Another nearby hike which Lucy is permitted on is the Dinosaur Hill Trail. The trail climbs up and wraps around a hill where a 70-foot-long, 30-ton Apatosaurus dinosaur was discovered in 1900. The highlight of that hike was spotting a yellow-collared lizard. What amazing colors!
Hiking around Dinosaur Hill – excavation site in view
Yellow Collared Lizard
Dogs aren’t allowed on the trails within the Colorado National Monument, so Lucy had to stay home for our hikes on Corkscrew Trail and Lower Monument Canyon. These were challenging and utterly beautiful hikes that we took on perfect weather days. It felt so good to work out like that!
Climbing the switchbacks up Corkscrew Trail in the Colorado National Monument
The view from Wedding Canyon trail
Enjoying the scenery on the Lower Monument Canyon Trail
Wildflowers covered the ground
View of Independence Monument
We saw lots of big horn sheep on the hillsides, but I didn’t have my good camera with me, darn it!
On our final day here, we got the bikes down for 18 miles on the Colorado Riverfront Trail. Going out was great! Coming back was another story. We had 25 mph headwinds that wanted to knock me off the trail. We felt like we were peddling up a steep hill! And I worried about my face getting wind burned. Fortunately, the brewery near the trailhead was having a Blues and Brews Festival that day. So we were able to sooth our weary bones with some great microbrews and replenish our depleted energy stores with beer-battered fish, onion rings, coleslaw, and an angus burger smothered in mushrooms, sautéed onions, and melted Swiss for Mike. We just completely un-did all the good calorie burning from the bike ride.
Riding our bikes on the Colorado Riverfront Trail
So here it is, May 5, and we just got settled in our boon docking spot back in Moab. The wind is kicking up to 30 mph today and will go even higher tomorrow. So we’ll just sit tight and wait for this to pass. Beautiful weather returns on Wednesday, and our Moab explorations will resume. Can’t wait! In the meantime, we’re celebrating with margaritas since it is Cinco de Mayo. Cheers!