Our stay at Ridgway State Park near Ouray, Colorado was too short. We were enjoying the area very much and found plenty of adventure. You can read about that here. We wanted to stay longer. Even after five days, we weren’t ready to go. We tried to book a longer stay at the state park, but there was no way to find something over the weekend.
We looked at nearby campgrounds. Some place where we could stay for a few more days. It was challenging. Every place we called was booked for the weekend. It wasn’t surprising. The area attracts tons of people. It seems as if every other vehicle on the road is some type of camper. There is just a crazy amount of people camping right now. Maybe we could have found a boondocking site in the national forest, but we’re not set up for that kind of camping. We don’t have a generator or solar capabilities.
I’ve written in this blog before about how we like the flexibility from not making reservations too far in advance. Now we are starting to question ourselves. With an influx of campers, we might need to rethink that strategy. I think going forward, it’s something we’ll need to stay aware of.
Just when we were about to give up, a stroke of luck came our way. We found a spot at Uncompahgre River RV Park in the town of Olathe only 30 miles away. It’s a lovely well maintained adult only campground (fifty and older) with concrete sites, neatly manicured lawn and amenities like cable TV and a laundry facility. Occupied mostly by retired seasonal campers, it was a quiet and relaxing place to stay. We liked it so much we stayed for ten days.
We slowed our pace and did plenty of relaxing and chilling-out. The people in the park were very friendly and we met some nice folks. We especially enjoyed what I call the evening social hour. It’s after dinner when people come outside to either sit in a lawn chair or take a walk around the park. We met a couple, Dick and Vicky, from Williston, Florida, a small town near Gainesville. Astonishingly, it’s where our daughter lives. It sure is a small world! Nearly every evening we would greet each other, then talk about the news coming out of Williston. For a small town, there was a lot of news to talk about.
We met another couple, Woody and Kathy, from Seffner, Florida. They now live full-time in a class A motorhome. For their daily transportation they tow a Jeep. Woody enjoys playing corn-hole and was always up for a game. He liked to boast that he was undefeated in the park. Grammi and I took the challenge. Grammi gave him a run for the money but Woody’s record remained intact.
We took care of some things that we’ve been putting off. I got an oil and filter change and bought new tires for the truck. You can read about that fiasco here. I bought a new fresh water hose, filter, and emergency break-away cable for the camper. We went shopping for new clothes. JC Penney’s was having a going out of business sale. I washed the truck. We did laundry. We stocked up on groceries. We bought two new folding lawn chairs. It was a much needed time to recharge and reset.
It wasn’t all chilling-out and running errands though. We made time for some adventures too. We explored the charming town of Olathe with it’s tiny one block of weathered store fronts and diagonal street parking along Main Street. We discovered a store with all sorts of Mexican baked goods, the names of the pastries I was not familiar with, but they were delicious. It became a regular stop during our stay.
We explored the surrounding area seeing the results of the Gunnison Tunnel. A National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Gunnison Tunnel opened in 1909 bringing water from the Gunnison River to the Uncompahgre Valley turning arid land into viable farmland. We saw irrigation ditches filled with water and thousands of acres of irrigated crops, orchards, and vineyards. We saw farm stands stocked with local fresh vegetables. We stopped by a couple of them and bought some veggies, a delicuous cantaloupe and a watermelon.
One morning we were invited to join Woody and Kathy for an off-road back country drive. They led in their Jeep and we followed in our four-wheel drive Ford F250. Olathe is surrounded by thousands of acres of undeveloped Bureau of Land Management land with miles of unpaved roads and trails. They took us first to Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area west of U.S. Highway 50 then to Gunnison Gorge east of U.S. Highway 50. We saw stunning scenery that you can’t see from the highway. We stopped many times so Woody and Kathy could point out the points of interest and see the views. It was a fun drive and we appreciate that Woody and Kathy showed us around.
On another day we drove the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. A 63 mile route rising 11,000 feet above sea level passing old growth forest, numerous lakes, and magical views of distant mountains and the Grand Valley below. There was a bit of excitement when a black bear ran across the road in front of us. We stopped were the bear ran into the trees and saw him about 100 feet away walking up the hill. He paused for a second, turning to look back at us before disappearing in the forest.
We also took a day to explore Colorado National Monument. Located near Grand Junction, it’s 31 square miles of a nationally protected high mesa with colorful cliffs and abundant wildlife. We entered the park from the west near Fruita and drove the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive stopping at many of the overlooks to take-in the gorgeous views.
We drove back to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park for the second time to see some things we didn’t see on our first visit. You can read about that here.
The weather has been very good. The dry air brings daytime temperatures in the upper 70’s with nighttime lows approaching the 40’s. Many of the folks we talk to in the campground are preparing for their journey south. It’s getting to be that time of year. Woody and Kathy have already left for their summer location in Arizona. Dick and Vicky are leaving in a few days for their home in Williston.
A WW2 veteran parked next to us is slowly packing away his things. I’m guessing the guy has to be in his 90’s. He is so hard-of-hearing that our conversation were comical. “How you doing?” “Huh” “I SAID HOW YOU DOING?” “Oh! I’m just packing up a few things.” The best I could tell, he was going south soon too.
The forecast called for cold and wind early next week. I heard a conversation in camp about maybe crossing over the mountains before the roads are closed down. We will check out on Sunday. Maybe I’ll do that.
Until next time…happy days and safe travels.