April 29 (yes, note the date, think about it, then read on…)
Its early morning, Steamboat Springs, Colorado. A fresh “dusting” of about 1/2 inch of snow covers the ground outside my RV – and it is still snowing. But, I have “reached the point of “no return” – you know, when you start to break camp (especially after 6 months) and you’ve “undone” some things that you’d rather not “re-do” before setting up at your next campground.
You see, I decided that today, April 29 would be departure day and KNEW the road to Walden, Colorado, which required passage over Rabbit Ears Pass (elevation about 9500 ft) would be “borderline”, but considering the forecast called for only a “slight chance” of “scattered snow showers”, I reasoned “how bad can the roads be at this time of year”. So, I proceeded…
Exiting town, heading east, my first indicator that it might be a bit more wintry than I expected, there was a flashing road sign stating “icy roads ahead”. The temperature (thank God for digital temperature readouts in your vehicle!) showed 33F – chilly for late April at 10am, but not unheard of. The snow was just “flurrying”, so, I decided to “go for it” and start climbing the pass.
The roads turned from dry to wet… and then patches of snow and ice! (Remember, we are only about 7 weeks away from “peak sun” here in North America, so, again… I did NOT expect snow to “stick” to the roads. At about 9000 ft. I had to switch to “4wd” in the truck (I pull a 5th wheel), and well, to be honest, despite my extensive travel through the “north country” in winter months (I did travel from NJ to Utah in December 2011), this was my FIRST experience traveling with my 5er (pulling it) on snowy/icy roads.
I used all the skills I have acquired over the years when driving on snow and ice and tried to “forget” that I was pulling a 38 ft., 16000 pound trailer through the mountains – on snowy/icy roads!* My “lessons learned” in earlier years paid off and in about 2 hours, arrived in Walden (elevation 8100 ft) where it was STILL snowing and mid-day temperatures were hovering just above freezing – oh and it was WINDY as well! Not as bad as when I was crossing the pass (where blowing snow and the FRESH POWDER had attracted some late season cross country skiers!), but it was a “biting wind” – far more reminiscent of December, than 2 days shy of the first day of May. I even “broke down” and dawned my “mountain hardware” shell – a shell I wore even rarely all winter in Steamboat! (Am I getting soft?!)
*I share this not to say “look at me”, but to illustrate how when challenges occur, we all can rise to meet the challenge AND grow in the process.
Shortly after setting up camp at Granite Corner RV Park (see photos below – and click the link HERE to get a full review of the park and the region), the owner Kent stopped by, we had a nice chat and agreed to talk at greater length later in the day. I told Kent (and yes, he runs a GREAT RV park – its a small place, but Jackson County and Walden are WELL WORTH the visit. Plan at least 3 days to really take in this VERY rural area bordering Wyoming and the Continental Divide.
We spoke at greater length later that day and Kent advised me that the pass across to Ft. Collins had been closed due to the weather (we are on the “back side” of this giant storm system that spawned MANY tornadoes, killed many, and flooded wide regions farther east – up to the Atlantic Coast). Colorado was receiving the “backlash” in the form strong winds, well below normal temperatures, and snow – accumulating fast enough to close major roadways and passes! I believe had I left an hour or two later, I may not have made it over Rabbit Ears (springtime often sees “convective” activity increase in the mountains after mid-day – this translates to heavier showers, thunderstorms, and wind. None of which you want to encounter – especially when the showers are SNOW showers while pulling a large trailer.
By the way – the “air bags” (air lifters) I had installed prior to this journey, worked GREAT and I highly recommend them for those who are considering this addition to their truck.
Temperatures were in the low 20’s, the wind was blowing, and snow was falling lightly as I woke in Walden and debated whether to push on to my goal of Saratoga, Wyoming (great hot springs – and by now I needed them!) Having crossed Rabbit Ears yesterday, I reasoned, the trip to Wyoming which involved descending to 7200 ft. would be easier – well… not so fast!
Shortly after departing Walden, the snow picked up, the temperature held in the mid-20’s and soon enough, blowing snow began to accumulate on the road AND visibility was reduced (honestly, it was CLOSE to BLIZZARD conditions) – again – ONE day before MAY FIRST?!
Again, I handled the wheel gingerly, drove slow – but not at a crawl, and engaged 4wd for a good 20 miles of the short 67 mile trip. It did not feel like I was crossing a mountain range, but at some point, I did begin to descend and welcomed snow-free ground near Riverside just about 20 miles outside of Saratoga. (I later learned that Interstate 80 from Rock Spring to Cheyenne Wyoming had been CLOSED due to the conditions at the same time!)
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Arrival in Saratoga presented its own unique challenges. Saratoga Lake Campground is a muni campground – very basic (30A electric only), but they only charge $10/night. Very scenic (see my photos below) – but upon arrival, snow showers moved in (again) and the wind picked up.
Remember I mentioned driving 20 or so miles on snow covered roads? Well, that builds up on the 5th-wheel and I had to break through an icy-slushy mess in 37 degree weather before I could even drop the front legs of the RV! Fortunately, it was warm enough so it was not “frozen solid” – enabling me to set up camp despite the conditions.
RELIEF… A few hours after arriving in Saratoga, the wind let up, the clouds began to break, and sunshine made it feel more tolerable. Time for a visit to the town hot springs – yes, Saratoga is known internationally for a really powerful hotspring – and I DO mean HOT! (The main pool is often 109F or more.)
I’m writing this on May 1 – the photos below show what it looked like at dawn. The dawn of what looks to be a beautiful day. It is now about 10am (amazing what you can get done when you wake up at dawn!) The sun is shining brightly, the wind is behaving itself, and temperatures are responding to the MAY sun. Looks like 50F+ by afternoon, and nearly 70 tomorrow! Aaaah, SPRING! (and I trust the remaining snow/slush/ice will melt from the base of my slideouts and front of my 5er!
Be persistent! (Not reckless, but persistent)
Take time to smell the roses and appreciate what you’re experiencing – even if it is uncomfortable and challenging you.
Growth happens when you challenge yourself (should I find myself in similar conditions (or worse) in the future, I will be be MORE prepared as a result of this experience)
Take time to learn – currently, I am reviewing an astronomy course to prepare for my “duties” this summer at an Idaho state park. Further, I am reading about a man who “chucked” his life at about the age of 30 (he has a heck of a story) and started over with only a suitcase of clothes, his laptop and $10 in his pocket. I will share more on this in the coming days as it relates to helping us all learn how to adapt to our changing society. We are in the midst of a “conversion” from what we have known in the past quarter century to what is coming in the next – which is why you see me talking about “out of the box” ways to earn income. One of which can be seen by reviewing the information below. And… count on posts (likely on alansills.com that address building relationships and business online – which I maintain is the KEY for travelers like myself – and perhaps you, the reader as well!
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