Cost of Vanlife: Spending Update – 2017 Q2

Spending Update

Two of the most common questions asked of people who travel full time are: “How much does it cost?” and “How do you earn an income while traveling?”. In this post, I’ll share my spending details for the first three months of 2017. I’ll continue these updates each quarter. This may help you estimate how much you’d spend living a similar lifestyle. In other future posts, I’ll share more details of how I saved and invested in order to create (what I hope will be) enough lifelong income to fund all my spending.

I want to show you that a lifestyle like mine – full of travel, adventures, living in beautiful places, meeting fascinating new people, and even pursuing hobbies that aren’t exactly inexpensive – can be had for quite little money.

First, some clarifications

  • I will share a spending update at the end of each quarter.
  • I track and include every single dollar of spending. These updates are not just the money I spend on travel or my van, it is every dollar I spend.
  • I’ll share the total of how much I spent, and details of what I spent the money on. I’ll differentiate between spending on what I’ll call “essentials” and “extras”. If you’re thinking about how much you’d need to spend for a certain lifestyle, it’s likely my “essential” spending amounts will be more useful than the “extras”. The lists below show what I include in each category. As you’ll see, there are grey areas, and a lot of what’s in the essentials category is not truly essential. But for the sake on simplicity, this is how I’m categorizing them.
    • ESSENTIALS:
      • All Van-related costs (gas, insurance, registration, maintenance, repairs, improvements, tolls, tickets, etc.)
      • Food (including eating out)
      • Healthcare (Insurance, any services, any supplements)
      • Hygiene products, household goods, internet, clothes
      • Anything else that doesn’t fit in the “Extras” category
    • EXTRAS:
      • All spending on hobbies
      • Any extra travel (like if I fly somewhere to see family or friends)
      • Dating
      • Alcohol, tea
      • Books, movies/shows, concerts
      • Any other spending on entertainment
      • When I sell some hobby equipment, I count it here as negative spending
  • I have a more or less fixed income of around $1,500 per month. I spent a decade being a good cog in a large manufacturing machine. I invested much of my income and those investments are now the source of my ongoing income. So far, the $1,500 per month seems like more than enough to fund my lifestyle. I’m motivated to spend less than that, but I don’t much desire to spend as little as possible. Many other travelers are in different situations. Some work full time and need a way to find enough income to cover their spending. Some who travel have saved up some money and are spending that cash. Once they run out of money, they’ll go back to work. These last folks have much more motivation to spend as little as possible because it means traveling longer.   My income will continue no matter what I’m doing, so I don’t have those reasons to reduce my spending as low as possible. Other people who travel or live in a vehicle full time have told me they spend only $200 per month.
  • One of the reasons I’m sharing my spending is to help dispel a common misconception people are indoctrinated with from childhood: that spending money makes you happy. For the most part, there is little connection between spending money and happiness or joy. Recent data currently shows that happiness increases as income increases, but only up to $75,000/year, and then it doesn’t really make a difference. Consider for a moment that this data comes from a population indoctrinated that more money means more fun. Much of the money I’m spending is not to “buy happiness”.  It’s mostly just to exist as I do. My happiness and joy come primarily from the perspective from which I view things, and secondarily from how much I’m learning/growing and how many fun things I’m doing. Much of my spending on “extras” is to buy things that I will use and many many times. It’s not trading money for one-time happiness or entertainment. It is important to break yourself of the common misconception that spending money = entertainment/happiness. I don’t mean to say that spending money on experiences is wrong for absolutely everyone, but I do think many people spend money this way indiscriminately. I’ll surely rant on this in later posts.

Spending Update – 2017 Q2

For Q1 of 2017, my average monthly spending was $895.  This is a little higher than I’d like, but not bad. I spent an average of $813 per month on essentials, and $82 on extras.

My “essentials” spending was higher than normal in June.  I paid for 6 months of van insurance ($186), and bought a bunch of new clothes ($376). That clothes spending would fit better in “Extras”, but I’ll just stick to the categories as I set them up.

 

 

Spending Vs. Income

The chart below shows how much I spent each month (the red bars) compared to how much income I had (the green bars) and a running total showing the surplus/deficit (the area). This chart starts when I started traveling full time in the van.

Here’s the same chart, but starting the surplus/deficit from scratch at the start of the year:

I’ve saved and will reinvest 40% of my income so far this year. Nearly all the income came from investments. YAYY!  I also got a tax refund, because I worked the first half of last year. With that, I’ve saved nearly 60%. While not even working.

Investment changes. More income!

The vast majority of my income is from dividends. I didn’t like my old employer’s 401k investment options, so after retiring, I converted my 401k money to a Traditional IRA. In that IRA, I put the money into a handful of Vanguard funds that pay decent dividends. I’m not a big fan of them, because the dividends vary and seem a bit unpredictable. The yields also aren’t all that great. 

In June, I converted some of my Traditional IRA money from VYM (a well-diversified fund of large companies paying moderate dividends) to some REITS: OHI, WPC, and SBRA. These pay much higher dividends. 

In my Roth IRA, I had money that I converted from Traditional to Roth earlier this year, plus some more from dividends within the Roth. I bought O (Realty Income Inc.) with that money.

These changes resulted in a $1,900 per year increase in dividend income. I’ll probably convert more of the Vanguard funds into individual stocks over time. 

Cost of Vanlife: Spending Update – 2017 Q1

Spending Update

Two of the most common questions asked of people who travel full time are: “How much does it cost?” and “How do you earn an income while traveling?”. In this post, I’ll share my spending details for the first three months of 2017. I’ll continue these updates each quarter. This may help you estimate how much you’d spend living a similar lifestyle. In other future posts, I’ll share more details of how I saved and invested in order to create (what I hope will be) enough lifelong income to fund all my spending.

I want to show you that a lifestyle like mine – full of travel, adventures, living in beautiful places, meeting fascinating new people, and even pursuing hobbies that aren’t exactly inexpensive – can be had for quite little money.

First, some clarifications:

  • I will share a spending update at the end of each quarter.
  • I track and include every single dollar of spending. These updates are not just the money I spend on travel or my van, it is every dollar I spend.
  • I’ll share the total of how much I spent, and details of what I spent the money on. I’ll differentiate between spending on what I’ll call “essentials” and “extras”. If you’re thinking about how much you’d need to spend for a certain lifestyle, it’s likely my “essential” spending amounts will be more useful than the “extras”. The lists below show what I include in each category. As you’ll see, there are grey areas, and a lot of what’s in the essentials category is not truly essential. But for the sake on simplicity, this is how I’m categorizing them.
    • ESSENTIALS:
      • All Van-related costs (gas, insurance, registration, maintenance, repairs, improvements, tolls, tickets, etc.)
      • Food (including eating out)
      • Healthcare (Insurance, any services, any supplements)
      • Hygiene products, household goods, internet, clothes
      • Anything else that doesn’t fit in the “Extras” category
    • EXTRAS:
      • All spending on hobbies
      • Any extra travel (like if I fly somewhere to see family or friends)
      • Dating
      • Alcohol, tea
      • Books, movies/shows, concerts
      • Any other spending on entertainment
      • When I sell some hobby equipment, I count it here as negative spending
  • I have a more or less fixed income of around $1,500 per month. I spent a decade being a good cog in a large manufacturing machine. I invested much of my income and those investments are now the source of my ongoing income. So far, the $1,500 per month seems like more than enough to fund my lifestyle. I’m motivated to spend less than that, but I don’t much desire to spend as little as possible. Many other travelers are in different situations. Some work full time and need a way to find enough income to cover their spending. Some who travel have saved up some money and are spending that cash. Once they run out of money, they’ll go back to work. These last folks have much more motivation to spend as little as possible because it means traveling longer.   My income will continue no matter what I’m doing, so I don’t have those reasons to reduce my spending as low as possible. Other people who travel or live in a vehicle full time have told me they spend only $200 per month.
  • One of the reasons I’m sharing my spending is to help dispel a common misconception people are indoctrinated with from childhood: that spending money makes you happy. For the most part, there is little connection between spending money and happiness or joy. Recent data currently shows that happiness increases as income increases, but only up to $75,000/year, and then it doesn’t really make a difference. Consider for a moment that this data comes from a population indoctrinated that more money means more fun. Much of the money I’m spending is not to “buy happiness”.  It’s mostly just to exist as I do. My happiness and joy come primarily from the perspective from which I view things, and secondarily from how much I’m learning/growing and how many fun things I’m doing. Much of my spending on “extras” is to buy things that I will use and many many times. It’s not trading money for one-time happiness or entertainment. It is important to break yourself of the common misconception that spending money = entertainment/happiness. I don’t mean to say that spending money on experiences is wrong for absolutely everyone, but I do think many people spend money this way indiscriminately. I’ll surely rant on this in later posts.

Spending Update – 2017 Q1

For Q1 of 2017, my average monthly spending was $670.  This is right about where I like it.

Spending Update

I spent an average of $500 per month on essentials, and $165 on extras.

My “essentials” spending in Q1 was mostly food and gas, and the level of spending is about what I want and expect. My food spending feels pretty high, but I’m eating very well.

Spending Update

The “extras” spending in March included:

  • Some tea
  • Bike parts – tubeless tires and some parts for setting them up
  • Bike parts – a smaller inner chainring (I’ve been riding up some really steep forest service roads and have to walk sometimes)
  • Drone parts – two batteries and a battery charger

If you remember the last post I made about spending, in which I shared how much I spent over my first 6 months of travel, my spending was much lower these last three months. This chart shows what changed:

Spending Update

I expect my ongoing spending to be close to what I spend over the last three months.

 

Spending Vs. Income

The chart below shows how much I spent each month (the red bars) compared to how much income I had (the green bars, with income shown as a running 3 month average to smooth it out), and a running total showing the surplus/deficit (the light red area, which goes negative).

Spending Update

In another month or two I will have gotten back to zero from the big camera purchases I made in October. That was a very uncommonly large purchase for me.

Like all types of numbers, the way this data looks depends a lot on what I select to show. I did my taxes in March and got a fairly big federal return. That money is not shown in the chart above because it’s really essentially just getting back my own 2016 income. It doesn’t apply to what I use the chart for.

If I start this chart at the beginning of the year, and include that tax money, I have a surplus of over $4,500 because I’ve spent only 30% of my income. YEAAH BUDDY!  Got it made.

Spending Update

I’ve wanted to start earning some income from hobbies.  As you can see, as long as I don’t spend a lot, that investment income easily covers all my spending. Months like January and February where I ended up with an extra $1,000 per month don’t motivate me to earn more income.

What about you?

Earlier today, I listened to the latest Mad Fientist podcast. His guest was a personal finance icon: Vicki Robin. She’s the author of “Your Money or Your Life“. If I had to recommend one single personal finance book to the wide population, this is it. In it, she helps you remove unhealthy views of money and spending (feelings of sacrifice, or guilt, or “I deserve it”). She teaches you how to properly quantify and analyze your money as your “life energy” (your time). Also, she shows you how to spend money more intentionally, in line with your personal values and with what brings you joy. She shows you how to take complete control of your spending. No more feelings of guilt or sacrifice.

Near the end of the podcast, the host asked Vicki “If you could share just one piece of advice for our audience, what would it be?”. Her answer was: track and review your spending.

Do you track your spending?

If you do: what do you get out of it? How much do you spend per month on average? Are you happy with that amount?

If you don’t track your spending: Why not? And, if this is you, stop whatever you would’ve done after reading this, and read Your Money or Your Life.

Rigs of the RTR

Rigs of the RTR

I spent a week at the 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). The RTR is a gathering of people living nomadic lifestyles. It lasts 13 days and has been happening each year in January near Quartzsite Arizona since 2010. There were, by my own very loose estimation, about 750 different vehicles present at the RTR while I was there. Some there the entire time, some that stopped for just a day or two.

While there, I started a fun little project I’m calling “Rigs of the RTR”. It’s pictures of various mobile dwellings. I’ll share nearly 50 of them here. I wasn’t trying to shoot every vehicle, but rather to capture a good representation of what was there, and to shoot some of the more interesting rigs.

While there are some people here and there who were ~forced into this lifestyle through financial struggles, for the most part, each rig below represents a person (or two) who chose adventure, who set off boldly to pursue a better life. These are people with open minds and curious souls. They aren’t all full of bravery and bravado though. If you want this kind of lifestyle but have fears or reservations, I present these rigs as evidence of people who [i]used to[/i] have same exact reservations.

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

Thanks for looking. And thank you for Dreaming.

 

 

Jackson, Grand Teton, Yellowstone

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

In late July 2016 I was on my way to Seattle and Portland to see friends. I passed through the area containing Jackson, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park (and also West Yellowstone and Red Lodge).

JACKSON, WY

Jackson is a cool town. I’d never seen so many obvious Vandwellers. Flagstaff comes close, but there it’s more overland trucks and SUVs.  The bad part about Jackson: the super-tourists and super tourist shops at the town square.

I observed the vacation process of the female Asian social media-obsessed tourist:

  • Always, ALWAYS walk with phone in hand. Half of the time, phone pointed at face either taking selfies or participating on social media.
  • Walk up to something (could anything that stands out: maybe the arches made of (fake?) elk horns at each corner of the town square, or maybe the war memorial in the middle of it)
  • Look at that thing for 2.5 seconds. Don’t read any of the text.
  • Take selfies for the next 280 seconds. After the perfect selfie, take a picture with various combinations of your travel partners. If you are in front of a statue, pose just like the statue.

This was not at all specific to asian women, but they appeared the most developed in this phone-centric vacation process.

I saw a guy who sealed the deal on the Jackson town square image: he was walking across the street recording what was probably a video using a phone on a selfie stick. Halfway across the street, he finishes the video and tucks the selfie stick under his arm. He had a DSLR hanging from his neck. Ok, maybe next he will use that to take a picture? Nope. Syke! He pulls a TABLET out of somewhere, and holds it up in front of him to take a picture (probably of the elk horn arch he was approaching) This man has fully mastered the art of juggling multiple devices to produce the highest rate of Facebook and Snapchat spam.

The town square is not all bad. There are cool shops there. I was impressed with the hats in those shops. I don’t know hat names – these are big round ones, but not full cowboy hats. They seemed like ok deals for how nice they appeared. I could use a hat like that, but I don’t know prices or how to judge quality. So I passed, assuming they are as overpriced as some of the other things in their store.

A great thing about the town square is the free Wifi. There is Jackson city-provided Wifi there. It works better towards the south side of the square. The reason this was important is that the Verizon cellular data in Jackson is so slow it’s worthless for anything other than text.

BOOTSTRAPPING FROM A DUMP TRUCK TO SILICON VALLEY RICHES

The best thing about the square was a conversation I had there. I was sitting on a bench reading a book, and an older gentleman sat down on the other end of the bench. He wasn’t doing anything, just sitting there and looking around. He had been there 20-30 minutes when I got to a stopping point in my book and struck up a conversation with him. He’s had an interesting life. He grew up in NYC and at age 15, right after his father died, he quit school and bought a dump truck and a chainsaw. He went out to Western NY and hustled himself a job doing tree maintenance at a College. Then he went to school there. He went down a few career paths, leading to him being involved very early in the semiconductor industry, and eventually getting a big windfall from the sale of a startup company he co-founded. He’s traveled to a many different parts of the world and is a thoughtful and clear-speaking guy. He had very good advice, but it was nearly all about work. I tried to get some advice from him on long-term self-actualization, but the best I could get was advice on where to spend time this fall/winter given my outdoor activity interests (he said California).

I didn’t take any pictures in Jackson. I need to start taking pictures in the towns also.

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

I spent about a day and a half in Jackson. I got maps and good advice at the visitor’s center, and bought a one-year National Parks pass. Next, I drove up into Grand Teton National park. I went to Jenny lake to go for a bike ride. There aren’t any good roads for road cycling in Grand Teton, but there is a 22 mile bike trail going from Jackson to Jenny lake. So I drove up to the lake and road to Jackson and back. I rode hard and and it wiped me out. I used to be in WAY better shape. I need to get back into longer rides gradually and let my body catch up. There silver lining in this is that I can get great workouts in without having to ride very long 😀 😀

The Tetons are really cool mountains. As my brother described to me about a week before, the area is pretty flat, and all the sudden the mountains shoot up steeply. They are very different from the Colorado rockies. They were similar to the mountains I saw years ago in Canada at Banff. I had a good clear view of them while driving up and while bicycling south. But when cycling back north, a lot of smoke from one or two of the nearby forest fires had rolled in. By the time I got back to Jenny lake, it was really smoky and hazy. Enough to spoil all the good views. I didn’t take any pictures in Grand Teton before the smoke, and once it was there, it wasn’t worth it.

I was going to drive over to the National Forest east of GTNP to camp, but as I started driving that way, I could see it was smoky over there too. I decided to head up into Yellowstone and see if it was better there. So I drove north and the smoke gradually faded from view.

This was after I’d been driving north a bit, and it was less smoky than in the middle of Grand Teton, but still enough to spoil a view.

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

I stopped at some of the geysers/hot springs/whatever they’re called. I did stop at Old Faithful. I was really hungry and decided to eat before I walked over. It erupted while I was eating. It was too late in the evening to wait around for the next one, so I continued west.

YELLOWSTONE

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

If you fall off, CERTAIN DEATH!

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

When gusts of wind blew toward me from this, I felt pockets of air 30+ degrees warmer than ambient. wow!

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson

(That’s a “Overdrive off” light, not a check engine)

I drove out the western edge of Yellowstone, to the town named West Yellowstone. I like this town much better than Jackson. It’s also a complete tourist town, but it has a different feel. It feels older. Simpler. Less like it’s trying to be something it shouldn’t. It felt like a town suited to it’s purpose – to house, feed, and supply people going in and out of Yellowstone. No fancy jewelry stores. No designer clothes stores. It does have a few too many T-shirt stores, but if that’s a town’s only issue they are doing very well. Also, even while there were a lot of obvious tourists, including Asian women, almost NO ONE had their phone in their face. People here seemed more in the moment. More connected with their travel partners. After the Jackson town square, that was very refreshing.

I’ll be going back through West Yellowstone on my way out of the area, and I promise I’ll take pictures then. I felt like I had been doing too much and moving too fast, so I spent about 36 hours holed up in West Yellowstone. When I left, it was to drive back into Yellowstone, taking the following route:

Jackson, Grand Teton, Yellowstone. This is the route I took

Route in google maps 

I stopped to hike up Mt. Washburn

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

These are, I believe, Pronghorn Antelope. I’d have thought these little guys are slow, but supposedly they can run up to 60mph! They are the fastest mammals on foot in the western hemisphere.

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone. Pronghorn Antelope

This building is a the top of Mt. Washburn. What kind of waves were shooting through my body?

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Mt Washburn hike in Yellowstone

Then I carried on driving towards the eastern exit of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone, Jackson, Grand Teton

Yellowstone, Jackson, Grand Teton

Yellowstone, Jackson, Grand Teton

Yellowstone, Jackson, Grand Teton

I was surprised by how many waterfalls are in Yellowstone. I saw probably 15 so far.

Yellowstone, Jackson, Grand Teton

Yellowstone, Jackson, Grand Teton

Bison in Yellowstone!!

Bison in Yellowstone!!

I was wondering if these bison are living as wild, or if they are cared for or managed. Anyone know? They seemed as docile as fully domesticated animals. If these act the same as the bison did two hundred years ago, it’s clear how easily a group of people could hunt them to extinction. It seems like someone could walk up to these bison and shoot them execution style any they might not take a step in any direction other than falling over. They are every bit as huge as you may think. I wasn’t aware of the sound they make. They sound like a cross between a cow and a dragon!

Bison in Yellowstone!!

Up next, camping at the northeast border of Yellowstone and driving the Beartooth pass. The views are about to get BIG!

The Most Beautiful Lakes in Colorado

camping and hiking at the most beautiful lakes in Colorado

Before my last week of work, I found the most beautiful lakes in Colorado. I’m not qualified to make that statement, but I do anyways.

(note: I started traveling full time in July 2016, and started this blog in December. I’ll be catching up on these trip reports for a while, so the post dates and dates of when I was actually there will me many months off)

I had the week of July 4th off work. My last week of work would be the following week. I helped my brother move, and then had 4 days before work.  I asked my brother for  a camping recommendation west of Boulder. He said to go check out the Jenny Lake area (which is about 10 miles west of Nederland).

 

Getting There

There are two main lakes up there (Yankee Doodle, and Jenny) plus various smaller lakes. It’s nine miles of forest service road to get there. The road was a pain in the ass – tons and tons of medium-sized rocks. It took me 2.5 hours to drive those 9 miles.

This is the road going west from the highway. It follows the current railroad until that railroad enters a really long tunnel. (That rail line replaced the original line that was built passing up by the lakes I visited).

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

On the way up the Forest Service road.

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

Lake and Campsite

I got there Friday afternoon. There weren’t many campsites on the way up to the lake. There is a handful right by the lake though. Only one of them was occupied. I got a very good spot where someone had leveled out the ground to make a parking spot. The lake is surrounded on most sides by a steep hill, so some of the camp sites don’t have good flat spots for tents or parking. The views from some of the campsites are incredible. The kind that make you with you didn’t have to leave.

 

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

vanlife best lakes in colorado campervan

(Want to see the van interior? Check my Vanlife Photo Gallery)

 

Are these the most beautiful lakes in colorado?

This is Yankee Doodle Lake (the one I camped next to)

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

I tell you what, this lake makes for a VERY refreshing swim.

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

Here’s Jenny Lake:

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

Hiking

There is a big ridge line up above the two lakes. This is either the continental divide, or is close to it. At the top of the ridge you can see a LONG ways in all directions. It’s up at 11,500 feet and looking east, you can see over/past all the hills in some spots and see Boulder (or some city that way) and beyond.  I don’t think there are any official hiking trails around this lake, but hiking was very easy because there were many tree clearings that you could see up to the ridges easily. I hiked a bit the afternoon I arrived and decided I wanted to hike along the big ridge. The next day I did so.

 

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

 

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

While hiking the first day, I wondered if I could walk up along that ridge that’s visible in the center of this picture. I decided to leave fairly early the next day to try.

best lakes in colorado
This is an interesting area. Clearly someone had worked very hard a long time ago to make this pass. The road continues up past the lakes and over the ridge line. It appears they had originally tried to tunnel straight through right from Yankee Doodle Lake, but they only made it about 30 feet into the hill and gave up on that.

The hiking here was amazing. This was definitely the most scenic hiking I’ve ever done. When I first looked up at the ridge line the first afternoon, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it up there. It turned out to be quite easy.  (I didn’t follow the road, I went up an older path/road (what had been a wagon trail) that was a shorter and much steeper route up to where the tunnel is.

This tunnel  is straight up above the lakes. It’s called Needle’s Eye Tunnel. I thought it a little strange to make the tunnel so close to the top of the hill.  I guess that must have been easier than blasting the rock entirely out of the way

 

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

This is looking the other way from the tunnel. The pass continues about half a mile to reach it’s high point.

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

Making my way up along the ridge:

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

Up at the top of the ridge. The lake visible below is Jenny lake. Yankee doodle is around the corner to the left. You can just barely make out the tunnel entrance up above the lake.

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

Having lunch: camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado
Here’s the view in the other direction. I continued to the left along the ridge. That patch of snow towards the left side of the picture had about 20 people walking up it and skiiing down.

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

I came upon a handful of shelters built up high on the ridge from local rocks. My imagination was running with ideas of who would have built these. The crew who made the pass? Hikers and campers? People who brought livestock up here? They were up at/near key spots (places with views, and there was a huge one above the tunnel). Wikipedia says they were built by Native American hunters.  They built the walls as blinds, and they also made rock walls as game drives. They would chase an animal towards it, and the drives would guide the animals in a certain direction. Then I suppose someone would shoot it from the blind. GOTCHA!

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado

 

Driving back down.

camping and hiking at the best lakes in colorado
On my way down I passed an old guy riding up the road on a mountain bike. A mountain bike with an electric motor. I stopped to talk with him and he told me all about the area, some of the history of the pass, and about a train crash that happened here. The railroad was steep enough that they used an extra engine car, a “pusher” to help trains get over the pass. The pusher would then come back down the pass. One time, after finishing their pushing and starting back down, when the engineers tested the brakes, they noticed the brakes had failed. They jumped out of the car while it was still moving slow and let it ghost ride down the tracks. It came off the tracks at high speed and fell some 50+ feet. Remnants of the crash are still there.

 

Do you think there are more beautiful lakes in colorado? Where? Tell me and I’LL GO THERE!