On Friday, things got really real when Glenn and I pulled up chocks and rolled out of Mountaindale RV park after a six-week sojourn.
The extended stay there had served its planned purposes – and more:
- It was close enough to our townhouse that we could make multiple trips per week to downsize and pack, yet it was also far enough away from town to provide the outdoorsy feel we’re generally seeking.
- For those considering a stay there, please note the unavoidable issue of large, loud semis towing gravel trailers and making trips along the road next to the park nonstop every weekday. All day. Obviously, this isn’t an issue if you’re away at Cheyenne Mountain State Park hiking or biking, or visiting the nearby bug museum, for example. But for us, it proved an exhausting intrusion on an otherwise tranquil setting on rest days from packing and moving.
- It featured full hookups, which removed the nuanced factors of metering power and managing water usage from the long list of systems and functions we knew we would need to learn in general as complete newbies to RVing, and familiarizing ourselves with Libbie in particular.
- We did a week of simulated boondocking (camping without hookups), which we’ll post about another time. We were quite happy with the results and comforted to learn our limits when we weren’t in the middle of nowhere.
- There was also a large, experienced staff available in case we needed a lifeline on some minor technical urgency. Plus, we weren’t too far from our RV dealer’s service center if we discovered any major malfunctions.
- Thankfully, neither were necessary. We did have a close call when one of our 12-volt outlets stopped working, but we were able to puzzle our way through that fix ourselves.
- While our plan is to spend most of our time in more remote areas away from people, for our first major foray, it was reassuring to be surrounded by (generally) like-minded neighbors whom we could trust to keep an eye on our camp while we were away for the day.
- That nearness to others came with its costs, however, in the form of innumerable and ever-present barking dogs, the occasional obnoxious child, and an utter lack of privacy from some busybody neighbors.
Overall, our first experience in this kind of RV park was helpful in teaching us what we do (and don’t) want to experience on the road so we can adjust the ratio of our stays in such parks versus more remote settings. Our original, naïve perspective was that we’d target one week in a commercial, full-hookup park for every two weeks boondocking. Our new target is now more like two or three nights for every three weeks boondocking. We’ll see how that pans out over time.
Meanwhile, here are pictures from our scenic drive across the Palmer Divide along between Colorado Springs and Denver.
Riding the Storm Out
The primary reason we relocated north to Bear Creek Lake was to be in a centralized location where we could host friends and family, granting them tours of our new teeny home, and reassuring them with the research and preparation we’ve undertaken to be safe and comfortable while on the road (because moms worry, I’m told).
Labor Day weekend around Denver set records with temperatures topping out over 100⁰. With that heat, no clouds to block the blazing sun, and turbulent winds whipping up every few minutes or so, the already raging mountain wildfires swelled further beyond the control of their desperate fire crews.
By Sunday, those fires had grown so much that Colorado’s typically bright, azure sky was darkened to a hazy, eye-stinging and lung-burning orange. As we took refuge under our shade pavilion, Glenn and I watched small, white flakes of ash drift down and collect on every flat surface until the next gust escorted them away to make room for the next ephemeral cemetery of our forests’ cremated flora.
This was the somber, sweltering backdrop for our farewell weekend that had already been dampened to accommodate social distancing practices. We hosted small groups of friends who stopped by in shifts, many of which were conscientiously scheduled to ensure properly segregated time windows. Despite these limitations, it truly was delightful to connect in person one last time until next year, when we will eventually swing back into Colorado before heading back out again to continue our exploration of this beautiful continent.
Monday afternoon, the forecast called for a precipitous, record-breaking temperature drop, with a late summer snowstorm(!) to follow on Tuesday. A welcome change for firefighters, but not good news for campers.
With urgency that marks major news events, our phones started to sing, ring, ding, and chirp as a constant stream of excited weather experts issued alerts and warnings and generally carried on about the historic nature of the impending storm. Each successive entry seemed to top the other. Predictions of an unprecedented temperature dip of 50⁰, then 60⁰, and maybe even 70⁰! Snow accumulations started at a few inches, which became four, only to balloon later to possibly a whole foot!
Just as our last guest pulled into our site at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, a violent wind howled its announcement of the cold front’s arrival. Thus, that last visit included a hasty group activity of packing and stowing our outdoor screened pavilion, chairs, and bikes before the storm rolled in (thanks for your help, Dewey!).
While a somewhat harried experience, it was a welcome change from the previous days’ communal languishing in the stifling heat, guzzling water to avoid heat stroke, nibbling on sun-seared snacks, and huddling in the meager shade, all while trying to observe a semblance of social distancing.
The dire weather forecast for Tuesday shooed away all the holiday weekend tent- and group-family campers, and ushered in a more serious group of RVers, many of whom were, ironically, retreating to lower elevations from their previous mountain escapes from the heat.
With all our hatches battened, we weathered the storm with this intrepid group of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts.
Late Tuesday night, a peek outside showed streams of warm light leaking out of our new neighbors’ windows into the silent, snow-filled air. This was reassuring evidence that we were in good company, each of us sealed up tightly in our heated capsules, safe from the storm.
After a cozy night’s rest, Wednesday’s gray morning revealed only paltry snow deposits on trees and grassy areas, well short of the fantastic piles of powder the weather prognosticators had portended.
Come Friday morning, all evidence of the storm will likely vanish along with our new neighbors … and us.
We had originally planned to leave on Tuesday or Wednesday. With the crazy summer snow storm, however, our planned drive over Kenosha Pass’ 10,000 foot elevation – the initial leg of our trek southwest through the Rockies – will have to wait.
In anticipation of sunnier conditions, Friday morning is when our journey will begin in earnest.