August Adventures – Part 1 – Colorado

Colorado

For the first three weeks of August, I moved southwest through Colorado from Denver. I’d done a ton the previous month Utah – lots and lots of hiking, exploring, landscape photography, and waking up at night to shoot stars. Then the family trip I went on in July that included a TON of driving also kind of wore me out. All this adventuring and traveling can wear a guy out :-D. I was ready to take it easy. So I didn’t do a lot of photography or hiking in Colorado.

 

Map of travels:

 

Frisco:

One of my friends got arrested many years ago in Frisco. He said the jail had a window with a nice mountain view.

Leadville Library

whoaaaa baby. Fancy.

Camping near Independence Pass (On the way from Leadville to Aspen)

This was the first place I stopped to camp in Colorado outside of cities. It was so rich and fertile – with plants, water, and animals all over. Lots of trees, grass, flowers, strawberries,  deer, marmots, birds,  and streams in every canyon. Once the snow melts away up here, this land provides an incredible surge of life.

It was also pretty cold up here! I’d put on more clothes or take off clothes every hour or two.

I found a beautiful place to camp. Just spectacular.

This place filled me back up – with energy, wonder, creativity, and new ideas.

 

Spot near Ouray

Ouray is a cool town. It is touristy, but it’s good. There are really steep rocky mountains shooting up on three sides of the city. I guess there’s some hot spring pool on one end of town that I didn’t check out. The downtown strip is nice. There’s a bookstore there with a very good selection of  books on outdoors subjects.

There’s also a road just outside Ouray with places to camp within walking distance of town. I found myself one and set up there for a week. It was great being able to stroll into town when I felt like it. That gets me the best of both worlds – I can stay put camping somewhere and not have to move the van, I can go for hikes from there, but I can also go into town to get food, get rid of trash, and go to the library if I want to use my computer on a very cloudy day.

I’d been looking for some books on foraging edible wild food. They can be hard to find in bookstores, but a store in Ouray has many, so I bought a couple. Now I need to forage $60 worth of food just to break even on the 3 books I’ve bought.

There were a lot of plants with berries out where I was camping. Here’s the first plant I identified: Serviceberries. They’re tasty.

 

At age 35, I’ve started drinking Coffee

There was really no need to. I’d been perfectly happy without it all my life. I always like how it smells but don’t like any of the bitterness that a lot of coffee has.

Sometimes in coffee shops I’d get tired of drinking tea, because the tea they have is often crappy, or they don’t know how to make it right, and coffee smells so damn good. So I started trying lattes. And man, they can be nice. Of course, if you know me, you know that if I’ve started drinking coffee, I’m certainly going to start making it myself.

 

So, here is one of my earliest attempts at making a latte. I’ve started out using an Aeropress, some old (Expired!) Starbucks coffee that I ground at the at a tiny grocery store in Ouray,  and frothing milk by shaking it in a jar.

Over the next few months I’ll be trying out some different equipment, and seeing if I can make real and good espresso myself in my van in the middle of nowhere. I’ll let you know how it goes. I know a lot of you will need to have your precious coffee while traveling 😃. (as I write this, on 9/8/17, I’ve gotten a nice grinder, a manual espresso maker, and a stovetop milk steamer. I’m halfway through my first bag of coffee using these, and I can make a latte significantly better than Starbucks. I still have a lot of testing and learning to do.)

If you know of really good coffee roasters in the southwest corner of the U.S. (CA, AZ, UT, NV), please tell me about them.

 

Another Campsite:

I hung out in Durango for about a week. It’s a nice town. Then I camped a bit to the west off of highway 161, but didn’t find a great spot:

Patreon Account:

When I was visiting and talking with my family in July, some of them urged me to start up a Patreon account and see how interested people were. For those not familiar, Patreon is a platform where folks who enjoy the creative output of people can give them a few bucks per month or per podcast or whatever, and sometimes the creator gives those supporters access to extra material.

So, I’m trying it out. You can see my Patreon profile here. I’ve enjoyed sharing my travels and photography here and on Instagram, and I will continue doing so just the same.  On Patreon, I will be sharing more:

A map of all the places I’ve camped:

  • It shows every place I’ve camped, outside of cities. These are nearly all completely free places to dispersed camp. They are spots where you’ll have spectacular views and likely have your own space, away from other campers.
  • I update this each month with the new places I’ve camped. I’ll be exploring more parts of the western U.S and filling in more areas with awesome places to camp.
  • For each campsite, I share these details:
    • A subjective rating of how good it is (x/5)
    • A picture of the campsite or area
    • The type of land this site is on (BLM, National Forest, etc.)
    • Notes and details describing the site and the area
    • Whether it has a Verizon cellular signal
    • The altitude
    • Road conditions on the way to the campsite
    • If I’ve made a blog post containing pictures or details of this site or area, a link to it.
  • There are currently over 50 campsites documented on the map (as of August 2017). Most of them are in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Here’s what it looks like:

How-to articles for living and traveling in a vehicle or camper:

  • These are thorough and detailed articles showing you how to start traveling, and how to live very well on the road.
  • Most posts are over 3,000 words and have many pictures.
  • Here is a link to a free post, so you can see what they are like:
  • I expect to publish one new How-To Post each month
  • These are the posts I’ve published so far:
  • List of future How-To posts:
    • Using My Maps and Google Maps to save locations
    • Logistics of Full Time Travel – Getting Mail and Packages
    • Logistics of Full Time Travel – Residency
    • Exercising anywhere, without a gym
    • How to live well and have fun while spending little money
    • Vehicle Type choice for living and/or traveling in
    • How to deal with the police
    • Cooking and eating healthy and tasty food in a van
    • How to drive – for better fuel mileage and longer life
    • Finding WIFI in cities
    • Making Money while Traveling
    • Avoiding Trouble in Cities
    • Key Lessons for van interior building
    • How To Be Well-Prepared when Going Camping
    • How Not to Die While Camping
    • (and I’m open to requests and suggestions)

 

I’ve posted about it a couple times on Instagram and have a few patrons so far. If you’d like access to these extras, or if you’d just like to throw a couple bucks my way per month because you like what I share, here’s where to do it.

Moving on – into Utah:

I never got excited about the eclipse to make sure I was in the right part of the country for it. The moon blocks the sun for a bit and it gets sort of dark. Ok. That seems a lot less spectacular to me than a nice sunset or seeing a lot of stars. The eve of the eclipse, I did look at the coverage map compared to the direction I’d be traveling, anyways, and decided to move on earlier than I would have in order to get a bit more north where there would be a little more coverage. So I went up to Moab the day of. I think there was about 85% coverage there, which, it turns out, is quite underwhelming.

 

 

The Last First Day, Camping in North Clorado

The Last First Day Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

July 18 was my last first day of being retired and traveling in the van.

(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 bought and started making my van into an Adventure Mobile in April 2015. Since finishing the van around March 2016, I’ve had a number of what felt like “First Days”. The first was moving into the van. I did that on March 25. Then I sold my house and drove the van out of St Louis for good – that felt like a big first day. Then I finished up some work in Iowa and could drive the van west to Colorado. Then I had my first camping trips (of this year) in Colorado. Then I had the van in and around Denver for 3-4 weeks – what felt like a transitional period.

I had my last day of work July 15. Within a couple days, I made my preparations to embark – to leave Denver and head northwest. This time, there would be no more going back to work. There would be no more ‘launch days’. This was it – this was the Last First Day.

 

 DRIVING NORTHWEST

I drove north from a Family member’s house near Denver and then west on Poudre Canyon rd. I went up to camp near Old Roach, in what I believe is part of Roosevelt National Forest. The drive up 103 (from 14/Poudre Canyon rd, to Hohnholz lakes) was wonderful. I loved it. It had a lot of open spaces and ranch land. I prefer that over dense trees you can’t see beyond.
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Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

HOHNHOLZ LAKES

I wanted to jump in for a swim, but when I stopped at one (lake #2) it was cloudy and felt too cold, and the next (#3) had an extremely muddy and silty bottom and I just didn’t feel like swimming then. So I carried on into the National Forest  and found a camping spot.

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

There was a mostly smoldering fire west of this part of Roosevelt NF. You can see the smoke in the picture above – straight ahead of the van at the horizon. The next day I drove through the smoke and saw some area that burned very recently.

The Last First Day Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

This place and this day felt like a dream come true. I guess that’s because it was!

 

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Heres a video showing parts of the drive:

 

 Campsite for the night

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

When I laid down to go to sleep and turned the lights off, I noticed some lightening off in the distance. This group of clouds was lighting up at least once per second. It didn’t photograph well because the lightning was just within the clouds; you couldn’t see any bolts, and because there was a full moon.

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

 SAND DUNES! In Colorado!

I never knew there were sand dunes in Colorado until my brother told me so. Actually, when I told him where I was going, he asked “oh, will you go to the dunes?”. I probably said “huh? What dunes? SAND dunes?”.

I camped just one night in Roosevelt NF and the next morning I drove west out of the NF land and south to the sand dunes. I was surprised by how sandy they actually are. The sand is fine, soft, and deep. I almost got the van stuck a couple times.

Driving to the Sand Dunes in Northern Colorado

 

San Dunes in Colorado

 

San Dunes in Colorado
Up next, Wyoming….

 

 

Camping in the Rockies & quitting my job

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado - Landscape Photography Sunset

This summer I spent a 5-6 days camping in a place that can hardly be beat. So nice, it helped inspire me to quit my perfectly good job!

(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 taken the van out to Colorado once already, back in 2015. I was in the middle of converting it and brought a vanload  of stuff to store in a family member’s basement. We went up for a couple of camping trips while I was there.

Now in the summer of 2016, I ‘d finished converting the van. I went out to Colorado for about a month. This was my last month of work. I’d achieved all of the criteria I set for quitting my job: saving a certain amount of money, finishing the van, and selling my house. But I wasn’t yet mentally prepared to quit. I kept myself very busy while building the van and finishing the house. I also had a girlfriend who I chose to spend a lot of time with. So I didn’t let myself think much about the actual quitting. I just focused on whatever I needed to do next.

If I was going to keep working, my best option seemed to be to travel while doing so. I worked in manufacturing and traveled each week to one of our factories. This meant I had the opportunity to move the van and myself around the country. Each Monday I would fly from wherever I happen to be to the city I needed to work in that week. But I’d be on a short tether during the weekends. I’d have a couple days for camping but need to make it back to the airport the next Monday. I’d also have to plan where I would spend my weekends quite a while in advance for booking flights.

So, I wondered if I could still work some, but significantly lengthen my tether. Like, 2 weeks of tether. I’d worked for my employer for 11 years. I’d seen people work part time while on leave to care for a newborn. I’d seen people work part time when they had health problems. I had never seen a single person work part time just because they felt like it. Well, I asked anyways. I practiced the conversation with my boss and got my proposal very convincing. The same day my house sale finalized, I called my boss and proposed the change. I also told him I was so sure about this that I was either quitting or working part time. I didn’t give him the option of just saying no and keeping me at full time.

It worked!

We came to an agreement that I would work 2 weeks per month for at least 6 months. By the time my first week off came around, I had the van out in Colorado. I headed up into the mountains early in the week. I found a great camping spot a bit southeast of Jefferson CO.  I like open spaces and big views so I spent half a day hiking around the area and checking out all the possible campsites. This was the best one.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

Now I had time and a place to slow down my mind. Now I had time to think about what was important to me. I spent an afternoon sitting at the log pictured below,  looking out over the valley, reading, and thinking.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

While there, a line from Meditations came to mind. (The quote was actually about dying. But hey, it works here too)

You boarded, you set sail, you’ve made the passage. Time to disembark

It took less than two days camping here to decide to quit my job entirely. Why quit right after getting the nice part time arrangement? There were some logistical reasons. My work schedule ended up being mostly alternating weeks of working and not working. So I’d have 9 days off in a row. While in Colorado I started thinking about going to places in western Colorado. It’s a long ways to a major airpot from Crested Butte. I didn’t want to drive that much. But the main reason was that I just felt like it was time. I’d finished the van, I’d sold my house, I’d saved my money. I’d set myself up to travel full time. So now I should do it.

 

On the way out of the valley around Jefferson:

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

At the campsite:

Vanlife: Wonderful campsite in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado.

 

 

Colorado Rockies Sunset Landscape Photography

 

This is a guy deciding to quit his ‘perfectly good’ job.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

Views like this from my table/desk have made me very happy my van has windows

View out the window of my self built campervan in the Colorado Rockies

 

My brother and dad came out for the weekend. I’ve camped with them more since I bought the van than all the rest of my life combined.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

 

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

 

Landscape Photography - a sunset in the Colorado Rockies

 

 

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

We went to Jefferson lake one morning and my dad fished while my brother and I walked around the lake.

Vanlife fishing at Jefferson Lake in the Colorado rockies

 

Here’s a video of the sunset one night. You can also see us setting up the fire ring and starting a fire, sitting around, cooking dinner, and settling in around the campfire. The next night the sunset was much better. I tried shooting another timelapse again, but forgot to hook up the external battery and charge cord to my GoPro, so it’s battery died.