Stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you’ve never done before can be both scary and gratifying. For many of us, this summer has been chock-full of new experiences and that is certainly the case for Al and me. Aside from dealing with a pandemic, he and I have been working on RV repairs, and let me just say, that has been mentally and physically challenging.
RV Tanks – the good, the bad, and the ugly
One of the reasons this summer has been a record-breaker for new folks embracing the RV lifestyle is the ability to vacation while social distancing. Camping looks a whole lot different this summer due to some of the restroom closures at many campgrounds. Thus the banning of tent camping in certain states is just one of several reasons there’s been an increase in people using RVs.
RVs allow the user to stay remotely at a national/state park or in the backcountry totally self-contained. No room service here! Hmm, self-contained? For those of you unfamiliar with RVs, allow me to give you a quick overview regarding RV holding tanks and why the term “self-contained” is used.
Most RVs come equipped with a kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower, and toilet. Anytime you use water, that wastewater has to go somewhere. The kitchen, bathroom, and shower wastewater drain into a “grey tank“. The toilet waste drains into a “black tank“. And depending on usage (lots of variables here), most tanks can hold up to a week’s worth of waste at which point a visit to a “dump” facility is necessary. Some RV parks have a sewer/waste connection right at the campsite while others offer a “dump station” that you’ll need to drive to.
The good thing about these RV waste holding tanks, along with an onboard fresh-water holding tank is the ability to be self-contained and vacation distanced away from other people. Therefore, this kind of travel is perfect for social distancing during a pandemic. You sleep in your own bed, use your own towels, and cook your own food. There’s very little interaction necessary with anyone else or anyone else’s germs.
The bad thing is the need to rid (dump) the RV of stinky waste. In reality, it’s not all that bad or difficult especially when you get used to doing this regularly. However, the really ugly thing is when something goes wrong with one of those holding tanks as did with our RV earlier this the summer. Pee-yew! Talk about a stinky mess that’ll stress even the most Zen of people.
The RV repair
Ok, I won’t gross you out with the smell of saturated insulation from a week’s worth of kitchen sink wastewater. Let’s just say, thank goodness a dumpster was nearby when Al and I removed the front half of the RV underbelly covering.
We were really scared and unsure of our abilities to fix the RV ourselves, but we had to figure it out because we were in a part of the country where the nearest RV dealer was a 45-minute drive away and their service department was booked at least two months out. 😕 We had to put our fears aside, pull out the tools, and dig in.
We fixed the leak a little over a month ago but left the belly exposed to make sure everything was in good working order with no potential for a future leak. We tested and retested, and once we were confident in our workmanship, it was time to cover up the exposed belly with new clean material. Easier said than done!
Imagine a large 6 foot by 12 foot area rug that needs to be installed with an exact reveal on all sides. Now imagine that rug to be somewhat ridged and installing it on the ceiling. How do you hold it in place while drilling in the screws? Sure clamps might work … to an extent. Therein lied part of our dilemma. Al struggled with the install. The plastic-like material would slip, sag, and cause the cumbersome sheet of material to repeatedly move which impacted the overall reveal on the metal framework which was totally unacceptable.
This was definitely a two-person job. Ingrid to the rescue! The photo above was taken near completion. I used my feet to smooth out the material while Al installed clamps further down. By me continuing to hold the material up, the clamps did their job and Al was able to do his. Try laying in that position for hours 🥴
Al’s brother-in-law happened to step out of the house when Al and I were in one of our many awkward positions and insisted on snapping some photos. He was duly entertained by our antics but also impressed by how well Al and I worked together.
The underbelly install took us two days to complete. And believe me, these 60 and 70 year old bodies were feeling it! We were hurting all over from all the unusual positions and movements that were required to get the job done. We feel so relieved to have this project behind us. Now if only the body aches would subside.
More RV projects!
Oh and as if my body didn’t hurt enough … I decided to tackle another project which required me to climb on top of the RV and give the old gal (referring to the RV) a good cleaning while Al worked on other honey-do items. My brother-in-law’s ladder wasn’t tall enough for me to reach beyond the name Laredo. So I needed to work from the top down scrubbing off all those wonderfully juicy Midwest bugs. Once she’s washed, she’ll need to be waxed. Are we having fun yet?
Next on our maintenance list is replacing some RV slide-out rubber seals. That Arizona sun can be brutal on our equipment and considering, we spend more than half our year in Arizona, this won’t be the first time that we’ve replaced the rubber seals and doubt it’ll be the last.
Near the end of the year, we’ll celebrate our RV’s tenth birthday. We bought her new and were such RV newbies at the time. Everything about the RV intimidated us and somehow seemed very complex. And here we are, almost ten years later, no longer newbies, considered seasoned RVers, performing all our own maintenance on the old gal. (It’s sad that ten in the RV world is considered old.)
There’s something very gratifying about doing the work ourselves and learning the ins and outs of how the RV operates. Even though we may still have doubts, we’re no longer intimidated or afraid to tackle RV repairs. The three of us (Al, me, and the RV) have grown and aged together, and although the RV will require a few more updates, Al and I feel confident in our abilities to tackle those projects … now if only our bodies would agree. Where’s that bottle of Advil?
“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
After a very stormy night, we awoke to an eerily calm, fog-covered morning. Lake Superior’s water was as smooth as glass; a rare treat to behold. Even though the campground is located on Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, creating some protection from the open waters of this Great Lake, a mere few hours earlier, she was showing her true personality with large whitecaps, waves crashing over the shoreline, and ominous clouds swirling overhead. Lake Superior is a force that demands respect.
As we sat in the comfort of the RV enjoying the view while sipping our morning coffee, Al and I discussed the plan for the day. There was still a heavy layer of cloud cover blocking any sight of the sun rising. Thus, when I suggested we take a scenic cruise of the Apostle Islands, Al thought I wasn’t thinking clearly and proceeded to fill my coffee cup in hopes more caffeine would improve my logic.
I was serious though and thought the day would be perfect for a three-hour Apostle Island cruise on Lake Superior, not that I didn’t have my doubts considering how the visibility was currently poor and the overall feel was very gloomy.
Visiting the Apostle Islands had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved looking at maps and am intrigued about places the more I study a map. That little passion of mine has lead us to explore some beautiful locations and this part of northern Wisconsin fits that bill.
As many times as we’ve driven along Lake Superior’s Northshore, her south shore eluded us until the summer of 2019. And believe me, she did not disappoint … Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Visiting the Apostle Islands
The picturesque little town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is the gateway to this national lakeshore. The Apostle Islands consists of 22 coastal islands in Lake Superior that feature lighthouses, sea caves, hiking trails, camping, sailing, and amazing kayaking. It’s said that the area offers some of the best kayaking in the world allowing kayakers to weave in and out of dramatic archways of sea caves.
Tent camping is allowed on several of the islands, but you’ll need to hire a water taxi if you don’t have your own watercraft. There is a vehicle ferry available for visitors interested in touring or camping on Madeline Island. Voted as one of the coolest small towns in the U.S., this Apostle Island is not technically part of the national lakeshore but worthy of a mention. (Personally, I feel the ferry is a tad pricey. Vehicle price is based on length with an additional per person charge.)
During the winter when the waters along the lakeshore freeze over, hikers are able to hike to these ice caves that are adorned with windswept icicles. Although northern Wisconsin winters are no longer something I feel a need to experience, I might change my mind in order to photograph these ice caves. It looks like a really stunning sight and adventure.
(In reality, I’ll stick to viewing pretty images of that winter wonderland from the comfort of my desert located RV. I don’t think I could handle the thirty plus below wind chill conditions anymore 🥶 I’m definitely out of practice.)
Cruising the Apostle Islands
Visiting the town of Bayfield is enjoyable, but in order to really see the beauty of the National Lakeshore, you’ll need to get out on the water. Apostle Islands Cruises offers a nice variety of tours to choose from. We loved our cruise and would definitely recommend.
During our visit in the summer of 2019, we chose to take the Sea Caves and Lighthouse Tour. I was really looking forward to taking another one of their cruises this summer, specifically the Lighthouse Tour, but the cruise company ended up canceling that specific tour during the 2020 season in order to accommodate Covid-19 safety guidelines, and thus, tours and schedules were rearranged.
Kayak tour from Meyers Beach in Cornucopia, WI
Lake Superior is a sailors delight. Plenty of wind.
Our boat for the 3 hour cruise – no Gilligan
Loving the ride – top deck is windy and cold.
Smooth as glass. Lake Superior is only this calm maybe 10 times a year and we scored.
Things to be aware of when cruising on Lake Superior …
Temperature – don’t dress for land, dress for the ‘sea’. Temps can be as much as 20 degrees colder once your away from land and the weather can change drastically in mere minutes. Thus, bring a sweatshirt and/or raincoat regardless of what the weather is like on land.
Open Water – the lake can get rough. Even though this is a lake, view it as a sea.
Wind – we enjoyed sitting on the top deck, but it’s windy as all heck and the wind is always cold. All that wind makes for great sailing though.
Camera and info – it’s beautiful so plan on taking lots of photos, and the captain shares fascinating information on the islands and happenings.
The lighthouse on Raspberry Island has long been known as the Showplace of the Apostle Islands. At scheduled times, the Park Service provides a narrated historical dramatization to tourists. In addition to the lighthouse, boaters often anchor about a mile away along Raspberry Island’s shoreline at one of the more scenic sand spits in the Apostle Islands, and hikers who arrive by boat can follow the trail between the lighthouse and the sandspit to explore.
We couldn’t have picked a better day for our tour. Since the morning’s weather was gloomy, misty, and less than optimal for a three-hour scenic cruise, our boat was barely half full that afternoon. Glancing at the sky while boarding the boat, there visually appeared to be more weather rolling in, but according to my weather app radar, it was looking good. The captain concurred that we should have a lovely day for a boat ride.
And what a lovely August afternoon it was! Aside from Captain Mike’s informative narration, he interjected his excitement regarding the rare optimal lake conditions as well as personal lake life tales and experiences. He hails from a generational seafaring family and his passion and love for Lake Superior and the Bayfield Pennisula was obvious.
He and his crew appeared to be enjoying their time out on the lake every bit as much as the passengers considering we were all experiencing a rare treat … a very calm Lake Superior.
According to Captain Mike, the lake is rarely that calm … happens maybe ten or twelve times a year… a year … and we were fortunate to have experienced it. The afternoon weather was gorgeous combined with the calmness of the lake made for a magical day. I don’t think we could repeat those conditions even if we tried. Luck was definitely on our side that day. A bucket list memory for the books! ⛵😎❤
Where to stay!
The charming town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, offers a unique variety of accommodations; small hotels, historical Bed and Breakfasts, and vacation rentals. The nearby towns of Washburn and Ashland offer additional lodging options.
RVing – There’s a variety of places to camp throughout the Bayfield Peninsula. We stayed in Ashland at the Kreher Campground which is a first-come-first-serve campground and is big rig friendly. Our second choice would have been at the town campground in Herbster purely for the sunsets. The Herbster Campground is also a great spot to stay if your goal is kayaking the sea caves which are accessed via Meyers Beach in Cornucopia. FYI – kayaking tours start in Cornucopia.
We also checked out the county campground in Washburn, and although workable, we thought the sites were pretty close together and the abundance of trees with low branches could be problematic. This CG is better suited for travel trailers, Class C’s, and tents, although we did see a couple of 5th wheels.
The Legendary Waters Casino in Red Cliff is an option for larger RVs, but expect close neighbors and unlevel sites, but the beautiful views might make up for the cons. The national forest campgrounds that we drove through we’d consider best suited for tents, vans, or popup trailers.
Obviously, we weren’t able to explore all the camping facilities in the area. So, for additional RVing options and more detailed information, please check with your favorite app. Our favorite apps are Allstays and Campendium. Happy trails!
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain
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This is Labor Day weekend here in the United States which usually marks the end of the summer camping season for many. Fortunately for us, we get to continue RVing and head south for the winter. I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to follow my feathered friends and migrate with the seasons, but I’m not ready to move on … just yet.
Prior to this summer, it had been years since I’d spent any time in northern Wisconsin let alone stay this far north into September. And this past week has served as a reminder as to why the camping season comes to an end after Labor Day Weekend in the north woods. It has been downright cold at night. I’m talking in the 45 degree Fahrenheit range with daytime temps struggling to hit 70 degrees F. Plus, the leaves are already showing signs that fall is just around the corner as they tease us with hints of gold and red. And it’s only the first few days in September! That said, there is a raw beauty to the landscape and a clean crispness to the air that I’m absolutely loving. Bring on the sweatshirts!
We really enjoyed this town!
So, with summer weather clearly in the rearview mirror, my thoughts drift back to some great finds that Al and I discovered this season … one of which was Ashland, Wisconsin.
Located in northern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay lies an interesting little town called Ashland. It was once a center for lumbering, mining, and Great Lakes shipping but today Ashland is a popular destination for tourists and anglers and is known as “The Historic Mural Capital in Wisconsin”.
This community of around 8,000 has eloquently preserved its history by painting murals on many of the downtown buildings creating a fascinating walkable history book. In fact, it may have more murals per capita than any other place in the Midwest. There may be large cities with more murals over a wider area, but Ashland packs a concentrated punch of murals in the town’s center.
The murals in this south shore town are special to locals because they portray folks who once lived in this small community. Some of these people had an influential role in the town while others were merely everyday people who contributed to everyday life. You could easily take in most of the murals on foot in about an hour depending on how long you spend at each mural and how quickly you walk.
Images of Ashland … to enlarge photos, click on any image
Downtown Ashland. Brownstone buildings are popular.
Dhooge’ Store Mural
Bay Front Mural
This was my favorite – Asaph Whittlesey Mural
The Police Station in a beautiful Brownstone building
The tunnel walkway is not to be missed.
10 Things to do around Ashland
Go on a Mural walk downtown
Bike or hike the trails
Visit a waterfall
Cruise the Apostle Islands
Shop the historic town
Take a scenic drive
Visit an orchard and pick your own
Wonderful Bike Trail
We really enjoyed walking around the downtown area and admiring the murals, but we also discovered the town’s amazing bike trail. We don’t have bikes anymore so we stuck to hiking portions of the trail system. Sigh … this was one time I truly missed my bicycle. This bike trail is perfect for my kind of biking; paved and gentle hills.
The bike trail even passed right by our awesome Lake Superior lakefront campsite.
Bike trail passes right by our site
Love the bike trail
Al and I have been spending the summer on private property at his sister’s lakefront home near Hayward, Wisconsin. Not wanting to overstay our welcome, our plan all along was to do some out and back trips over the course of our three-month summer stay. We enjoyed a great trip down memory lane when we visited the north shore in Minnesota in July and we were hoping for an equally fun trip.
I had spent hours mapping out our journey into Michigan’s Upper Pennisula. Blog posts and campground reviews were read. Stops, sites, things to see and do were clearly noted in my notebook. We bid farewell to sister and brother-in-law with the intent of returning in 7-10 days.
Our first stop was in Ashland; only an hour and a half drive away from the family. This would be merely an overnight …. or so we thought. The drive to Ashland was scenic, well as scenic as the same lush forest on a two-lane road gets. Once we arrived in town, we quickly found and drove through the county park campground where I had planned on staying. Kreher Park Campground is a first-come, first-serve kind of place and we missed snagging the last site by mere minutes.
The other option was the small county park at the opposite end of town also first-come, first-serve. After talking to the camp host at Kreher Park, we didn’t have high hopes for finding an open spot in town that night but we decided to drive through Prentice Park Campground just to make sure there weren’t any openings.
Luck was on our side and we snagged the one and only open site which was also one of the best. Prentice Park only has a total of seven sites. One for the camp host and a couple of others were taken by monthly RVer’s leaving only four sites that rotate. So yeah, we sure got lucky.
The next morning, we returned to Kreher Park CG just as an RV was pulling out of a lakefront site. Score! Someone was doing a happy dance. Can you guess who? 😁 The previous folks also left behind a stake of firewood … more happy dancing.💃
That evening as the sunset over Lake Superior, Al and I enjoyed drinks while a lovely campfire kept us warm. Ah, life is good! That’s when Al asked, “Where are we going tomorrow?” “What do you mean?”, I quizzically responded. “Well, don’t you have a whole trip planned out for us to explore the U.P.?” “Oh yeah, that. How about we just stay here? And on that note, the plans were quickly changed!
So all those hours of trip planning were canceled in mere minutes. Ah, no regrets on my part. Camping along the shores of Lake Superior was a goal of mine since we pulled out of Phoenix at the end of May. All the notes are saved and archived for next summers excursion. Yeah, I have a feeling we’ll be back next year.
A note about Kreher Park Campground: it is a first-come, first-serve CG with E/W only and an onsite sloped dump station. Most sites are unlevel, mixed sizes, and gravel/grassy. There are local construction workers renting sites on a monthly basis which makes this small campground even more difficult to find an open site. Have a backup plan and Walmart is not it (no overnighting at the Walmart). There is boondocking at a boat landing near the power plant for $20 a night but the air smells from the plant. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of camping options around here for RVs of a larger size. Small travel trailers and tents rule in the north woods.
The Best Drinking Water
One of the many reasons I wanted to camp near Lake Superior was for the drinking water. I grew up near Chicago and most municipalities in Chicagoland get their drinking water from Lake Michigan. Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are cold and deep and the water is clear and delicious.
These days, we find ourselves spending most of our time in Arizona and the local drinking water for most municipalities comes from the Colorado River … rich in minerals; minerals that cause calcification in our RV plumbing AND in our bodies. Intense filtering is necessary.
The moment we were set up at the Prentice Park Campground, Al opened our freshwater holding tank to let it drain (it was only a quarter full anyway). We then filled up with the excellent water at our campsite. Later, we were told the water came from an Artesian Well. This was the clearest and tastiest water that we’ve seen come out of a spiggot in years. It’s hysterical how Al and I are treating that fresh water in our tank as a precious commodity. “NO, you can’t use it to flush the toilet”, we both scream! 🤣
Turns out, there’s actually an Artesian Water fill-up station (not for RVs – you’ll need a campsite) at Prentice Park as well as at the Maslowski Beach along Highway 61. We filled up any empty or half-empty water containers we had in the RV. Seriously, this is the best water I’ve tasted in years and I’m so glad our freshwater tank is filled with this stuff.
A Cruise on Lake Superior
Our five days in the area were not only very relaxing but provided some fabulous sightseeing. High on my bucket list was a visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. My previous visits to Bayfield (gateway to the Apostle Islands) were either filled with other adventures or the weather was somewhat inclement. Once again, we lucked out and enjoyed a perfect day for a cruise around the Apostle Islands. But I’ll share that in another post!
Our five days in South Dakota were over before we knew it, and before long, the RV wheels were rolling down the road heading toward our summer destination in northern Wisconsin. It was the third week in June and with severe storms coming and going throughout the Midwest, we opted to move quickly and not linger along the way. We also decided to stick with Interstate roads where feasible. We were on a mission to get to our summer home as soon as possible and avoid getting caught on the road in one of those nasty storms.
Whenever we travel through a major city, we try to plan on doing so on a weekend morning in hopes of avoiding any rush hour traffic or other heavy traffic. Although the drive through St. Paul, Minnesota on a Saturday morning was uneventful, I think the next time we drive through the area, we’ll take the truck/bypass route (494 to 694 back to 35E).
Once we made it to Hayward, Wisconsin, Al’s sister met us at the local Walmart so she could help direct us to her and her husband’s place, our home for the summer. We were really glad we followed her to the house because our GPS was just a smidgen off. Normally that’s not a problem with just our truck, but when pulling an RV things get a little more difficult especially when the roads are densely wooded and there’s no spot big enough for us to turn around.
The road that will eventually lead us to Al’s sister’s place.
That’s some serious vegetation.
Our home for the summer
The Driveway 😯
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image)
The Happy Hooker
After a relaxing first day at our new RV campsite, it was time for some summer fun. High on our agenda was visiting the Happy Hooker. A few miles down the heavily tree-lined road from our RV site on private property is a cute little store called the Happy Hooker Bait and Tackle shop which is like an old fashioned country store that has a little bit of everything.
In addition to a large selection of fishing tackle & bait, they have gasoline, ice, beer, liquor, clothing, gifts, groceries, and most importantly … bug repellent. Just about anything you might need in a pinch with the convenience of not having to drive the thirty-minutes into the town of Hayward.
It was here that Al and I purchased our Wisconsin fishing licenses for the summer. Yep, the Happy Hooker is all about fishing. What did you think I was talking about?
That first week back in the Midwest took a bit of adjusting. First off, the bugs. Boy, I’d forgotten how annoying mosquitos are and as much as I tried to stay away from the harsh bug repellent, that first tick bite had me grabbing a can of spray-on Deep Woods Off. Yeah, bring on the “Deet“.
How many lakes does Wisconsin have?
Water recreation during the summer in northern Wisconsin is huge and the state is home to more than 11,000 lakes. With approximately 1 million acres of lakes to choose from, it’s no wonder that folks from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas flock to their favorite lake for a summer vacation, or better yet, they actually own a second home on lakefront property for regular weekend getaways. Who doesn’t dream of owning lakefront property? (Ok, maybe those of you who prefer oceanfront property 😄)
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, our family summer vacations were always spent at a campground on a picturesque lake, usually in Wisconsin. One of our family favorites was on the Chippewa Flowage just outside of Hayward, Wisconsin. We had a popup trailer at the time and my dad had a fishing buddy that would regularly join us so he could bring up our boat.
When my sister-in-law and her husband moved up to Hayward, Wisconsin, from northern Illinois, I couldn’t wait to visit them and revisit some of my childhood stomping grounds.
All that water not only provides a great deal of recreation, but it also provides a water source to an abundance of wildlife. When Al and I decided to spend our summer in northern Wisconsin, high on my wishlist was capturing a nice image of a Loon, one of my favorite birds. Not only are they a beautiful bird, but their sound is so unique. There’s nothing like a quiet morning on the water in a canoe listening to their calls.
Although we no longer own a canoe, we do have a pontoon boat at our disposal this summer … perfect for lake cruising and fishing. During one of our boat rides, I noticed something white in the tall grasses near the shoreline. Initially, I assumed it was a plastic (Walmart) bag and directed Al to get near so we could retrieve it and dispose of it properly. Before getting too close to shore and possibly getting the boat prop tangled in weeds, I used my camera’s lens to zoom in and confirm that it was indeed a plastic bag.
Surprise, surprise, surprise! It was not garbage but rather a nesting Loon. To say I was giddy with excitement would be an understatement. Al turned the boat so we wouldn’t get near the nest and disturb the beautiful Loon. Loons only have one or two chicks and the last thing we wanted to do was stress the mama and cause her to leave the nest.
Al slowed the boat and for the next ten minutes, we cruised by her a few times. With my 600mm zoom and a little crop in processing, I was rather pleased with a few of my images. For the first couple of weeks in July, every outing on the boat included a slow cruise past Lily the Loon.
We knew hatching time was near when her partner was easy to spot. Normally loons dive when a boat gets near them, but one evening, it appeared Papa Loon was becoming very protective and refused to dive or get out of the way of boat traffic (which is thankfully rather light around here). This forced boaters to go around him to avoid potentially hitting him. Most boaters, like us, slowed down to capture a few photos of this rare treat. Guess I’m not the only loonie one around here.
It was thrilling to have Mr. Loon swim right alongside our boat.
Trivia; The $1 Canadian coin is nicknamed the “Loonie” – derived from the picture of a solitary loon on one side of the coin. Canadian’s have the coolest currency. Eh!
More wildlife sightings
Although my encounters with the Loons have made every mosquito, fly, and tick bite worth hanging out in the northwoods, I encountered another wildlife first. I’ll save that for a another post.
For the latest and most up to date info on our travels, be sure and follow me on Instagram @ livelaughrv
When I think about the high-altitude mountain town of Steamboat Springs, I think of picturesque ski slopes and stunning mountain views. Although this beautiful mountain town does indeed offer powdery slopes, there’s an abundance of summer activities not to be missed.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers an Old West vibe rich in history. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver and a bit out of the way but so worth the drive.
Continuing with my Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-visit Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re too much fun not to.
Steamboat Springs is last on my list partly because one of these mountain towns had to be last, and secondly, it’s the town we’ve visited the least. However, it is the first place in Colorado that we traveled to with our new 5th wheel back in 2012, and we have very fond memories of that trip … well, except for the RV flat tire on our return home, but that’s another story.
15 Things to do this summer in Steamboat Springs
1. Camping – Camping options around here are awesome. We loved camping at Steamboat Lake State Park which is located 27 miles north of town. Not only were we surrounded by stunning views in all directions, but it also made a great home base to explore the neighboring area. Anytime I can park near the water, I am one happy camper.
This state park can accommodate most RVs and offers both dry and electric sites. Al and I chose to camp on the peninsula where the sites have no hookups, are definitely smaller, and there’s a large area designated for tents only.
Stagecoach State Park is another big RV friendly campground and is located 17 miles south of town and is a very popular boating lake. I recommend making a reservation for a campsite anywhere near Steamboat Springs. For a full list of campgrounds in the area, here’s a list with a breakdown of all the amenities offered.
Out of all the mountain towns we’ve visited, Steamboat Springs offers some of the best camping options. Frisco (around Lake Dillon) comes in at a close second.
2. Go for a paddle – With numerous lakes in the area and the Yampa River running right through Steamboat Springs, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding are popular and fun activities. No problem if you don’t have your own water vessel, there’s plenty of rentals around.
Several outfitters even offer rental tubes, so you can relax and float on Steamboat’s natural waterway and then catch a shuttle back to your car.
3. Soak in hot springs – Looking for more relaxation? Old Town Hot Springs is in the heart of downtown Steamboat and is one of the reasons the town is here. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a bit more of an adventure located on the edge of the Yampa Valley. Both offer a relaxing soak and a dip into Steamboat’s colorful history.
4. Alpine Slide – The first time I ever road an Alpine Slide was on a trip with my daughter to Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I had never heard of an Alpine Slide before, and let’s just say, one ride is not enough. So much fun! Nothing like taking a chairlift up the mountain and then shooshing down it on a sled like contraption. It’s a thrill!
I’ll admit, I was a little scared and timid the first time, but you can control the speed of your sled as you fly down the mountain. Did I mention how much fun this is?
Steamboat offers two exhilarating slides. The Outlaw Mountain Coaster is the longest coaster in North America at more than 6,280 linear feet. The track near Christie Peak Express descends more than 400 vertical feet and features dips, waves, turns, and 360-degree circles. The Howler Alpine Slide will wind you down a 2,400-foot track through the bends and curves of the natural landscape of beautiful Howelsen Hill. You’ll love the scenic views of downtown Steamboat as you ride the chairlift to the top.
5. Take a hike – I fell in love with the alpine forests, open meadows, beautiful aspen groves, lakes and streams around Steamboat, and my favorite way to enjoy these surroundings was via hiking. Numerous options range from a pleasant stroll along the Yampa River Core Trail, a short jaunt up to roaring Fish Creek Falls, or a couple hours on the Spring Creek Trail. For those more adventurous, you’ll be able to hike a full day or multi-day adventure in the Mount Zirkel or Flat Tops wilderness areas.
6. Mountain biking – The area boasts more than 500 miles of singletrack. There are so many different places to go biking that it can be hard to narrow down. For casual cruising, the Yampa River Core Trail is a 7.5-mile paved multi-use route connecting the mountain and downtown areas.
Scenic road-riding options range from easy pedaling along River Road or Twentymile Road to a challenging hill climb up Rabbit Ears Pass. Then there’s the Emerald Mountain trail system accessible from downtown or the Steamboat Bike Park, which boasts better than 50 miles of gondola-accessible trails on the ski mountain, with rentals available at the base. You can mix and match the area’s various trails to make the right length and challenge for your personal needs.
7. Fishing – The Steamboat Springs area is renowned for its world-class fly fishing. Beginners can take a lesson with any number of outfitters and learn about fly casting, knots, entomology and more. In addition to the Yampa River, there’s an abundance of streams, lakes, and reservoirs for the more experienced angler to check out.
8. Shopping, art galleries, concerts, and events – Browse fine art. Steamboat is a creative and artsy town. A leisurely stroll through shops and art galleries is always entertaining. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, and more. Usually, in early July there’s an art event set at the base of the ski area; Art on the Mountain.
The town is also host to events, concerts and theatrical performances.
9. Visit a museum – Steamboat Springs is known for its great appreciation of cultural heritage. The newly expanded and renovated Tread of Pioneers Museum offers something for everyone. The heart of the museum is a 1901 Queen Anne-style Victorian home with turn-of-the-century furnishings. The Western Heritage Exhibit, home of an extensive firearms collection, traces the areas agricultural history and the story of an infamous outlaw, Harry Tracy. The Tread of Pioneers Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and shares the history and heritage of the Steamboat Springs area.
10. Golf, Mini Golf, Disc Golf or Sporting Clays – Steamboat Springs has three 18-hole golf courses that challenge every club in your bag. Then there’s mini golf, disc golf, and even golf with a gun aka Sporting Clays.
11. Visit the Yampa River Botanic Park – Go for a walk in the park while enjoying beautiful flowers, trees, and more. Every garden has a different focus with a unique setting … its own slope, sun exposure, soil chemistry, trees and shrubs which determine what will grow. Since 1992 the Yampa River Botanic Park has grown from a flat, horse pasture into a six-acre gem of over 50 gardens with ponds, benches, and sculptures.
The Park is free and open to the public from May to October. It serves as a place of serenity, as a venue for a summer music and theater festivals, as a site for weddings and similar events, and a resource for individuals. The Park sits at 6,800 feet above sea level, but through the use of carefully developed microclimates supports plants from the entire Yampa River Basin, which runs from 12,000 feet in the Flattops Wilderness to 4,000 feet where it enters the Green River.
12. Horseback Riding – Single-day horseback trail rides and multi-day pack trips are an everyday event for local cowboys around here. Visit the Flat Tops Wilderness, Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Routt National Forest, or Howelsen Hill on horseback or ride for two hours or an all-day photo safari or dinner on the trail. You can even ride a horse-drawn wagon for dinner on a ranch.
13. Farmers Market – Fill up on food and fun when you shop, eat and browse at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market. This will give you a great taste of the local culture and unique personality of Steamboat. The farmers market runs from 9 to 2 on Saturdays starting in early June through mid-September.
It’s also a great place to pick up a meaningful souvenir that’s not just regular tourist trap kitsch.
14. Go on a scenic drive –
Al and I love exploring the backcountry. So, a scenic drive is a great way for us to take in the surrounding beauty. During our stay, we didn’t venture down any 4×4 roads but did explore the different lakes, campgrounds, and small towns.
One day, during our return to camp, we witnessed a sheepherder and his flock. I asked if it was okay for me to photograph him, but he spoke no English. If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably from South America. I did take a couple of quick snapshots and offered him a cold bottle of water which he seemed thrilled to receive.
You never know what you’ll see when you go off the beaten path exploring.
15. Dining – The dining options are endless. You’ll find everything from breweries to coffee shops to casual dining to fine dining.
This concludes my posts on my top 5 favorite mountain towns. I assure you, one visit to Colorado is not enough. The Centennial State’s crisp air, endless walking trails, inimitable Western culture, and stunning mountain beauty are just a few reasons to return time and again. I feel very fortunate that I was able to call Colorado home for over twenty years.
The changing of seasons can be an exciting time for many of us in the RV community, but it can be a sad time, too. For part-time RVers, this time of the year might mean the last summer camping trip is over, and it’s now time to winterize and stow the RV until next season rolls around.
For those of us that full-time RV, it’s time we keep those wheels rolling with a keen eye on the weather. You never know when you’ll get caught in a freak storm!
September is one of my favorite months for RVing. The weather is usually agreeable throughout most of the United States, including the high country. Sure, you have to pay attention to overnight temperatures in the mountains to avoid freezing waterlines, and you might even encounter a light dusting of snow here or there, but most winter conditions won’t begin to set in until sometime in October or November.
Plus, this time of year, the kids are back in school (yay!) leaving plenty of room for the rest of us to find open campsites.
Oh, and have I mentioned the leaves? Who doesn’t enjoy fall colors?
Yep, September is a great month to travel in an RV, but it’s also the perfect time of year to check that our important RV accessories are in perfect working condition. After all, there’s no sense in storing cracked hoses or damaged electrical cords, let alone carry them on to our next destination.
Top 3 Must-Have RV Accessories …
So whether we’re getting ready to put our RV into storage or we’re heading south to a warmer climate for the winter, we should check (closely) our RV gear … especially the necessary and most important gear like sewer hoses, electrical cords/adapters, and drinking water hose. (This post contains sponsored content and affiliate links.)
Al and I spend a great deal of our time traveling around the southwestern part of the United States where it’s not uncommon to enjoy as many as 300 days of sunshine per year. Yeah, we won’t complain about that! All that sunshine is great, and we love it, but that doesn’t mean that sunshine plays well with our equipment. In reality, sun and heat can play havoc with our equipment, especially anything plastic or rubber.
Sewer waste hose
One of our neighbors here in the RV Park in Prescott Valley, Arizona, just replaced his RV waste hose the other day. The hose looked fine to Al and me, and being somewhat nosy neighbors curious, we walked over to ask him why he was replacing the seemingly perfect waste hose.
He went on to tell us how every time he dumped his tank, he’d smell a bad odor. There were no visible leaks on the ground, just the odor. So upon closer examination of the waste hose, he discovered it was split on top in numerous places. Ah yes, that sun!
By inspecting the hose and then replacing it with a new one, he averted a potentially crappy situation 🤣… a situation that he nor his neighbors would have found humorous, but rather, quite disastrous.
Being able to empty our tanks with ease is crucial in the RVing world. Al and I travel with two waste hoses. It’s always a good idea to have an extra hose in case your existing one is leaking or in the event one hose isn’t long enough to connect to the dump site. I can’t tell you how many times having that second hose averted an inconvenience or even a potential disaster.
Electrical extension cord and fittings
Seeing the country in an RV can be an amazing adventure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. In an ideal world, we could just pull our RV up to an electrical pedestal at any campsite and plug-in and connect. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy, and the use of an extension cord might be necessary.
RV parks and campgrounds do not always offer the best layout for us to hook-up. Way too many are poorly designed and might even leave us perplexed and scratching our head in bewilderment, wondering, “Whatever were they thinking?” Therefore, being prepared for any scenario is advisable.
Not only do we need to be concerned about ample electrical cord, but we also need to make sure we check which type of hookup is available and if we have the correct connection. Some campgrounds or RV parks have a 50 amp connection on the electrical pedestal while others may have only a 30 amp connection. If you’re lucky, the pedestal will have both, but in the event it doesn’t, having various electrical RV adapterson hand will make your RV adventure that much more enjoyable.
Electrical adapters are a must if you ever intend to plug your RV into a standard household outlet. Whether you’re at a campground, RV park, or residential home, make sure you understand the various electrical hookups/outlets before plugging in to any outlet to prevent damage to your RV electrical system.
Drinking water hose
Access to fresh water is important when traveling in an RV, and a hose designed and designated specifically for drinking water is an absolute must. We always travel with two 25′ long hoses. First, you never know how far away a water connection will be, and second, you never know when a hose will fail. Yeah, there’s that whole damaging sun and heat subject again.
Extras we keep on hand
Now that I’ve covered the top 3 must-have RV accessories, allow me to share a few other little items that are great to have on hand. Sometimes it’s the little things that make our RV life a little easier.
WaterHose Y connector – this connector allows us to turn a single hose outlet into two outlets.
Water Pressure Regulator – this is a must. It protects our equipment, prevents pipe damage and increases equipment longevity.
Waste Hose couplers – these come in handy in the event we need to join two hoses together. We also keep a couple of hose clamps in our tool kit.
Waste Hose adapters – we replace these fittings from time to time due to use and sun damage. It’s always a good idea to keep an extra around.
RV waste cap – this is another item that we like having a spare on hand. A couple of years ago, after staying in an RV park for a month, Al went to disconnect our waste hose and attach the waste cap, but he couldn’t find the cap. We think a critter may have taken it.
A change of season – preparing your RV for winter
If you’re storing your RV for the winter, winterizing it properly is crucial. It’s no fun pulling your RV out of storage and getting it ready for your first camping trip of the season, only to realize you have damaged lines and/or equipment. You’ll want to consult your owner’s manual for instructions specific to your RV or seek professional help in winterizing your particular RV.
If you decide to RV in winter conditions, there’s some precautions to take to avoid waterlines freezing. Al and I do our best to avoid RVing in freezing temperatures, but sometimes, it’s unavoidable. This is how we’ve handled winter RVing … we go into “self-containment” mode.
Use your RV furnace to keep the RV warm. It’s okay to use another source of heat like a Mr. Buddy, but do not use it exclusively. The RV heating system usually has heat runs to the lower compartments, keeping waterlines and the water pump from freezing.
So, are you ready for the change of season?
I know we are, and as we prepare to hit the road along with the impending weather changes, Al and I remind ourselves of our favorite quote ….
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Ben Franklin
With all the repairs Al and I have done lately on the RV, we’ve asked ourselves many times if perhaps we should have purchased an extended RV warranty. It’s an important question every RV owner should ask themselves. Some RV repairs are easy, but many are difficult and expensive.
RVing is at an all time high and with higher RV demand, the manufacturers are cranking out production at a record high number.
With RVs being rushed down the assembly lines, the quality of the product has slipped and so has customer service.
Once that one year manufacturers warranty is up, RV owners are left to their own devices dealing with failing components.
It’s not a matter of if your RV will need repairs, it’s a matter of when. The first time we blew a tire on our 5th Wheel Trailer, it took out our waterlines and did some body damage. Oh, what fun that was!
Buying a RV Extended Warranty is Like Buying Insurance
An Extended Warranty is very similar to purchasing an Auto Insurance Policy. We never plan on getting into an accident. As a matter of fact, I think we’d all agree that we’d prefer not using that insurance. Yeah, no one wants to get into an accident, but when we do, thank goodness for that insurance.
RV components will fail, and when that happens do you have the knowledge, tools, and ability to fix your RV yourself or do you need to seek professional help?
Al and I are extremely handy and quite capable of working on our RV ourselves, but then again, we own a basic RV with few bells, horns, and whistles.
Even with that said, there are some things beyond our capabilities, and we know those more difficult fixes are expensive ones that will need to be addressed by a professional.
Having an extended RV warranty can offer peace of mind just like any other insurance policy … we hope to never need it, but when we do, we’re very glad we have it.
Reasons to buy a RV Extended Warranty
Complexity of the RV – The bigger and more expensive the RV, the more difficult and more expensive the repairs will be.
Big dollar repairs – RVs are full of many specialized components that can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in replacement costs not to mention the cost of labor.
Peace of Mind – having an RV repair emergency fund is crucial but knowing that account wouldn’t be depleted during a major repair offers peace of mind.
Resale Value – If you aren’t sure how long you intend to keep the RV, a transferable warranty may make your RV more marketable.
Should I buy an Extended Warranty for my RV?
Depends! We’ve spoken with many RVers via our travels and via this blog who have shared their horror stories with us about big dollar repair costs on their RV … RVs that are less than five years old. Imagine the cost of things like failing slide outs, cracked waste tanks, bent/broken frames, refrigerators and A/C units that won’t cool, and the list goes on.
Before we bought our new 5th wheel, we owned a truck camper that we also purchased new.
Shortly after the manufacturers warranty ran out, the camper fridge stopped working. The repair and replacement cost was over $1000. Yeah, over a grand for a little RV refrigerator in a simple truck camper.
Another costly situation happened to our 5th wheel when our waste tank cables broke during year two of ownership. Amazing what will break shortly after the manufacturers warranty expires.
So, should you buy an extended warranty? Again, depends! How big is your emergency fund? Do you have the wherewithal to service the RV yourself? We have several RV acquaintances that swear by their extended warranty and have said the warranty paid for itself. Knowing what I know now, we’ll definitely consider buying an extended warranty when we purchase our next RV. Isn’t 20/20 hindsight wonderful 🤔
Dealer sold warranties are money makers for the dealer
Many RV dealers will try to sell you an extended warranty when you buy your RV from them. Be sure you shop around before buying any warranty. Some dealer warranties are backed by the dealership itself and require you to get all the repairs done at that very shop … not very convenient when traveling across the country. Dealer-sold warranties are usually more expensive and less comprehensive than any warranty you can get externally. So, you’ll definitely want to shop around.
Some things to keep in mind when shopping for an extended RV warranty –
Understand transfer and cancellation policies
Know who’s backing the warranty
Are you able to use any repair facility
Verify any restrictions or limitations
Check the reputation of the warranty company
Understand deductibles, claim procedures, and term limits
Who do most RVers recommend?
A name that keeps popping up with positive reviews is Wholesale Warranties. We have several friends who’ve purchased an extended RV warranty from them and have been extremely pleased and more than one has said the extended warranty paid for itself.
What makes Wholesale Warranties a leader in the industry
Wholesale Warranties is dedicated to education and customer service. Their RV Warranty Specialists are fully trained on helping customers find the best policy for them, at the best price. With access to several different warranty companies, levels of coverage, and payment plans, they seek to educate the customer on the options available to them, and eventually help them narrow this down to the perfect policy to suit their needs.
Wholesale Warranties always provides customers with a full copy of the terms and conditions of their contract prior to accepting payment for a policy, and is dedicated to transparency. They want their customers to know exactly what they’re getting into, and this includes what they can expect to be excluded in their policy.
Wholesale Warranties does not simply disappear after the sale of a policy. They have a dedicated internal claims staff that is available to customers at any time during the life of the policy. Their claims specialists are happy to assist customers with any questions they have during the claims process, including facilitating communication between the warranty company and the repair facility, and addressing any questions about approval or denial of a claim. They stand behind the products they sell, and want customers to get the most out of their policies.
Wholesale Warranties is more than just RV Warranties!
They recently launched an RV Repair Facility directory called RV Repair Direct, where customers can find and rate mechanics in their area. This site also allows Wholesale Warranties customers to submit their information if they experience a non-emergency breakdown, and their internal claims staff will find a reputable repair facility or mobile repair technician that is able to complete that repair for them.
Final thoughts about an extended RV warranty
When shopping for an extended RV warranty, you’ll want to evaluate where your concerns lie. Are you mostly concerned about a catastrophic failure or concerned about the whole RV?
Knowing what type of RV repair bills you can and cannot afford will help you choose the best coverage for your personal needs.
If you are worried that RV repairs might blow your travel budget, or are just interested in getting a bit more information, you can click here and a warranty specialist from WholesaleWarranties.com will be happy to assist you. Mention that you are a Live Laugh RV reader and use code D-LLRV for the best price in extended warranties. Happy trails!
Some places we visit will always hold a special place in our hearts and Crested Butte, Colorado is one of those places. We moved to Colorado in the mid nineties when our children were young, and the first Colorado mountain town we visited was Crested Butte.
This former flatlander from Illinois was awe-struck with the majestic snow-covered mountains surrounding Crested Butte. Our family of four was immediately smitten, and subsequent visits to this lovely Colorado mountain town ensued over the years.
Although our first visit to Crested Butte was during the winter, Crested Butte is every bit as much fun during the summer as it is in winter. The town may be known for its awesome skiing and winter fun, but summers offer a whole slew of other activities. As a matter of fact, Crested Butte is considered the birth place of mountain biking. Although, I’m sure there are plenty of folks that might disagree with this statement. There’s an ongoing debate about where mountain biking originated 😏
This quaint little mountain town is also considered the Wildflower Capital of Colorado and home to the Wildflower Festival held each July when the mountain meadows are covered in blooms. Once Al and I became empty nesters, we skipped the winter excursions to the mountains and focused on embracing those summer get aways.
A memorable trip
July 2012 – It’s three o’clock in the morning and the dog is shaking and can’t seem to get comfortable. He’s laying in the tent on a blanket near my side of the air mattress and he is clearly cold. I grab my hoody and cover him, and he falls back to sleep. I’m glad one of us can fall asleep so quickly.
After tossing and turning for a bit, I decide to step outside for a moment. I reluctantly throw off the two layers of sleeping bags and scurry to the foot of the air mattress to put on my shoes. No need to throw on clothes, since I’m already fully clothed in sweatpants and sweatshirt. It’s cold at three in the morning camped at 10,000 feet in elevation …. as in 36 degrees Fahrenheit cold and this being mid July 😯
I’m not sure whose idea the tent camping excursion was considering we had a new 5th wheel sitting on the side of our house. Okay, it was my idea! We were such newbies at the time with the RV that we weren’t comfortable pulling it to the Lake Irwin Campground near Kebler Pass. Plus, there were only a couple of first come first serve campsites that we felt we would comfortably fit into.
I quietly unzip the tent and crawl out. I’m immediately awestruck with the most incredible vision while my face is assaulted with a blast of cold air. The stars and crescent moon are so vivid and bright that I have no trouble seeing around the campsite. I stand there taking in the incredible beauty surrounding me before I’m reminded as to why I’m standing outside the tent at three in the morning …. and shivering.
Hmm, I contemplate the walk to the restroom down the road. This is serious bear and mountain lion country. Since I have no inclination of being some animal’s midnight snack, I quickly take care of business at the edge of our campsite. I continued to linger outside admiring the sky before the cold has me crawling back into a nice warm bed.
After what felt like only thirty minutes of sleep, I’m woken by a very restless Brittany Spaniel. It’s only 5:30 in the morning and I’ve decided to rename my sweet little Bear…..”damn dog”. (ya know, I love my Brittany Spaniel and wouldn’t trade him for the world, but he wants a walk at fricken 5:30 in the morning in the fricken cold while it’s still dark outside). Al remains sound asleep …. grrrr!
Damn dog and I go for a stroll, not venturing too far from our campsite. I’m the only two-legged creature out and about. Did I already mention we’re camped in bear and mountain lion country? I’m on alert! “Hurry up, damn dog”. Finally with his “business” complete, we return to the warmth of sleeping bags and try to catch a few more winks of sleep.
By seven o’clock, the sun is rising and I hear other campers in the distance. Al awakes and informs me how great he slept (damn husband). In a not so pleasant voice, sleep deprived wife tells damn husband and damn dog, “We’re going into town for breakfast. I need a cup of strong black coffee”.
We drive aimlessly around Crested Butte looking for a place for breakfast. Eventually, Al has me pull to the side of the road and stop. He jumps out of the truck and walks over to a pretty blonde lady watering flowers.
He and blonde lady chuckle in a flirtatious engaging way (do I really care? NO … need coffee). When Al hops back in the truck, he proceeds to tell me to drive up Elk Street three blocks. “Blonde lady says McGills serves a great breakfast”. It was indeed a good breakfast, BUT the coffee was amazing and just what I needed.
A full tummy and two cups of coffee later, we’re back to “dear husband” and “adorable Bear”. I love my boys! Al and I discuss exploratory options for the day, but first I need a little retail therapy.
We enter a T-shirt shop. Al and Bear head over to the counter where Al strikes up a conversation with the young man behind the counter. We love the fact that this town is so dog friendly that Bear is able to go with us everywhere exceptinside restaurants.
We’re the only ones in the store and during the course of idol chit-chat with the shop clerk, he notes we drive a Toyota Tacoma. He drives a Toyota 4-Runner, sister to the Tacoma lol, and immediately recommends a backcountry scenic loop drive that we must experience.
We’re given a complimentary map along with a few pointers and warnings from this knowledgable local. Two t-shirts later, we hit the road heading into the backcountry … ready to explore.
A scenic drive
We head up Slate River Road, just north of the town of Crested Butte. As expected, the pavement ends quickly. We pass some beautiful homes early in the journey. As we start to climb in elevation and the road starts to narrow, we see campers , ATVer’s as well as local wildlife.
A little further into the remote landscape, I finally start seeing some wildflowers. Up to this point I wondered, “Wildflower capital of Colorado”? Say what? The drought conditions severely affected the display of wildflowers during the summer of ’12. Even though the wildflowers weren’t impressive, the scenery was spectacular.
I usually drive during these exploratory excursions to maintain marital bliss, but more importantly to control photo-op stops. Yeah, I can go a little overboard with the photo-op stopping which can get a tad annoying for a non photographer 🤗 Besides, Al says he likes being chauffeured around by a pretty lady. Awe, ain’t that sweet!
We continue up Slate River Road. It’s narrow but in good condition. This one-lane road is meant for two-way traffic which is why we like driving the Tacoma in lieu of the F-250 while exploring mountainous backcountry.
We pass the turn for Washington Gulch Road and continue toward Schofield Pass. The road gets narrower and more precarious. I can’t imagine two vehicles fitting on this road.
As we come around a blind switch back, we encounter a truck loaded with people heading toward us. The pickup truck is colored lime green and set up kind of like an open air safari vehicle with bench seating in the rear. “Oh dear! We are going to need to pass each other!”
I need to back up and get us as close to the side of the mountain as possible (thank goodness, I have the inside). The other truck and I both pull in our outside mirrors and we slowly pass each other within inches. He’s the one on the outside edge and I can see his tourist passengers are wide-eyed and a tad nervous. One slip, and down the mountain they roll. Once we successfully passed each other, the driver waves and comments, “Thanks, we got’er”, and the passengers started clapping. Since this is Wildflower Festival week, there are all kinds of additional tours, vehicle traffic and activities planned throughout the week.
We’re on the other side of Mt. Baldy now and we stop for a much-needed break. The scenery is breathtaking. Al checks his phone and is shocked. “It works!” No cell reception at the Lake Irwin campground, but it works up here.
This stretch of road is tame and easily navigated. Wish it had all been like this.
After a few photo-ops near Schofield Pass, we retrace that ledge of a road back to the Washington Gulch turn, all the while I pray I won’t have to pass anyone. That would put me on the outside edge … yikes! Fortunately my prayers are answered, and we don’t meet another vehicle for quite some time.
Washington Gulch Road does present its own challenges with a small creek crossing, but nothing the little truck can’t handle. We also noticed a few RV’s boondocking off Washington Gulch Road.
(We were such RV newbies at that time, that we couldn’t imagine pulling our brand new RV to any of the boondocking locations we saw. Now? Piece of cake and we wouldn’t give it a second thought. But then again, our RV ain’t so new anymore … as evidenced by the dings and scratches and as one person recently referred to us …. we’re “seasoned” RVers 😏)
What a great Day!
We had such a fabulous time exploring this stunningly beautiful landscape that I would highly recommend this excursion to anyone with a high clearance vehicle. However, please check at the local visitor center in the town of Crested Butte for up to date road conditions, and do note, there are some areas where the road is literally cut into the side of a mountain causing severe drop-offs. Thus, I don’t recommend it for anyone with a fear of heights.
For a more tame backcountry excursion, we enjoyed driving Route 12 from Crested Butte to the tiny town of Paonia. Paonia is a small community with wineries, lavender and agricultural fields. No four-wheel drive needed when we took this drive in July of 2012. Please verify and double-check road conditions before embarking on this remote stretch of road over Kebler Pass.
Quaking Aspen at Kebler Pass
As Al and I continued to explore Colorado’s backcountry near Crested Butte, we take in the sights and sounds of the stunning terrain. We travel from open mountain meadows, through scented pine forests, and pass through densely populated aspen groves.
The unique sound of quaking Aspen Leaves lures us in. The sound has us wondering if there’s a gentle waterfall in the distance or is it merely the fluttering of aspen leaves?
This particular grove or colony of aspen trees along Kebler Pass is derived from a single seedling and spread by means of root suckers. New stems in a colony may grow as far away as 130 feet from the parent tree. It’s kind of like there’s one mommy tree and all the rest of the aspen trees are children. Fascinating!
An individual tree can live 40-150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony can live for hundreds of years. Legend has it, the aspen tree can drive off evil spirits. An aspen stake was believed to be one of the few weapons suitable to kill a vampire🧛♂️
Colorado is synonymous with this famous white-barked tree, adorning golden leaves in the fall. Colorado gold comes in many forms. Beautiful golden leaves dotting the landscape and the peaceful sound of quaking leaves are just a couple more reasons to love Colorado!
For Coffee Lovers
After three days and four nights of tent camping near picturesque Crested Butte, it was time for us to break camp and head home, BUT first, we needed (or rather I needed) to have breakfast one more time at McGill’s to drink up some more of that yummy coffee.
Al is not normally a coffee drinker and when he does drink coffee he sticks with one of those designer concoctions like a macchiato or mocha, but after trying my cup of black coffee, he ordered a cup for himself 😲
While the waitress was refilling our coffee mugs, we mentioned how good the coffee was. She was quick to share the name and location of the local coffee roasters and the blend McGill’s uses.
With that said, we couldn’t possibly leave town without a visit to this coffee roaster. Camp 4 Coffee is a locally owned Crested Butte business and has a cute little shop just down the road from McGill’s.
There was no way I was leaving town without a bag or two of Camp 4 Coffee. I purchased a couple of pounds of the Sledgehammer roast and a pound of the Blue Mesa blend which is the blend McGill’s serves.
Can you believe, after thirty plus years of marriage, I turned Al into a coffee drinker thanks to Camp 4 Coffee. He still prefers those designer coffee concoctions, but when I splurge and buy a special roast, he’ll join me in drinking his coffee black. Wonders never cease!
Yep, Crested Butte, Colorado remains one of our favorite mountain towns and holds special memories for our family!
What could I possibly not like about northern Arizona near Page and Lake Powell? After all, I’ve been gushing about it lately. Just look at these photographs showcasing this amazing landscape.
I love starting the day with a beautiful sunrise
magical slot canyons abound
gorgeous Lake Powell
love my campsite
It’s pretty darn special around here, but it’s not a panacea. As a photographer and blogger, I like to showcase the best about an area and sometimes fail to disclose the downside. Yeah, there’s a few downsides … downsides I don’t like.
So let’s get real
Tourism is big business around northern Arizona (Spring, summer and fall). The town of Page is on the schedule as a stopping point for many international tours. You’ll see large tour buses (holding around 50 passengers each, give or take) all around town. You’ll see them parked at McDonald’s, Walmart, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, Horseshoe Bend overlook, the marina’s at Lake Powell, and of course, the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon.
What an unpleasant treat it is to get in line at Walmart after the bus load of tourists hit the registers or how about pulling up to a scenic area only to see buses unloading hundreds of tourists at a popular site like Horseshoe Bend 😕
enjoying a beautiful sunset at Horseshoe Bend Overlook
hundreds of other people also enjoy the view
Don’t even get me started with the tourists and their selfie taking …… 🤣
Speaking of Antelope Canyon …. Hiking a slot canyon is an amazing experience. The sight is magical and surreal, but sharing it with hundreds of other tourists and being rushed through the canyon is the reality for many. Most of these unique slot canyons lie on Navajo Indian land, and therefore, tourists must pay for a guided tour if they’d like to experience a slot canyon.
The two most popular slot canyons are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. There are a few other lesser known slot canyons where group sizes are kept smaller and some specialize in photographic tours. So depending on what your interests are in hiking a slot canyon (fun or photography), you’ll want to shop around.
I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I called northern Arizona / southern Utah a land of extremes. The land is stunning, perplexing, and wild and so is the weather.
During our four-week stay (April 2018), we experienced temperatures as high as 84 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to overnight temps as low as 36 degrees F and everything in between. On a nice day, winds were as low as 4 miles per hour, while on a bad day, we experienced sustained winds as high as 25-30 mph with gusts over 50 mph.
a sand storm
a sand storm quickly had campers packing up and moving on – only the hardy stayed
Those high winds made camping on a beach lively! The RVers that paid attention to the weather forecast usually packed up and left before the impending high winds started while others were caught off guard. Campers with a pitched E-Z UP didn’t fare so well with those excessive winds as evidenced the next day at the dumpsters.
On those extremely windy days, it was impossible to enjoy any outdoor activities without being sandblasted. I’m sure with all the wind and sandstorms Al and I endured, we ingested our bodily quota of minerals. The grit in our teeth confirmed no additional supplements were needed …. nor did I need to use any of my wonderful exfoliating potions as Mother Nature’s sandblasting quickly rid me of any dead skin cells 🤣
Another storm approaches
only the hardy ride out the storms
The upside to all that nasty wind was it cleared out the beach leaving only the crazy hardy to ride out the storm …. a reprieve from the crowds, I’ll take it.
But let’s face it, without all the annoying wind, we wouldn’t have this boggling landscape to ogle. And just so you know, March and April are the two windiest months out of the year. Guess we timed it right 😞
In my opinion, the camping options are sparse around the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area especially for the amount of tourism this area receives. Tourists driving RV rentals are everywhere and all vying for a place to overnight. The nicest and most sought after option is camping at the Wahweap Campground. It’s a beautiful campground if you can find an available site or have a reservation.
Then there’s the private Page-Lake Powell Campground. We stayed here several years ago and it was okay. But with the increase of international tourism and the renting of RV’s, this place fills up fast also.
During our stay, we camped most of the time at the Lone Rock Beach area located along the Arizona – Utah border. Although it’s dispersed dry camping, there is a fee and a stay limit. The cost to overnight is $14 a day with the use of an American the Beautiful National Park Pass or $21 without the pass – ($7 a night for holders of a senior national park pass) 2018 rates!
Although my photographs may make the Lone Rock Beach area look quiet and enticing, the reality is this can be the wild wild west. People come here to have a good time and in the process bring all their toys.
There’s a bunch of off-road trails at Lone Rock for folks to play on with their UTV’s. I’ll admit, it looks like a lot of fun tooling around on the hills and sand. With the water right there, the sound of boat engines can be heard all day long, and of course, a steady hum of generators keeping all the RV’s charged up rumble at all times of the day (Quiet hours are 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.). The sounds of engines, music, and laughter fills the air. This is not a place for quiet solitude, but it can be a very entertaining and fun place to hang out for a short time.
At the end of March, we even had some ‘Spring Breakers‘ show up for a couple of nights. Ah, to be young and silly again!
Yeah, it was party central and the music carried all the way to the other end of the beach. I was more amused than bothered. These college kids were there to have a good time and I’d say they succeeded, BUT temps were only in the low 60’s and seeing them lightly clad had chills running up my spine. I’m sure the liquid heat was flowing freely in the form of spirits so they probably weren’t as cold as I was.
Al and I no longer own any form of a watercraft … sigh! Although there are a bunch of things to do around Page, Arizona, the real draw is the lake – Lake Powell. Camping near the water became more and more of a challenge for me once the weather starting warming. I began to miss my boat and wave runners. Visiting Lake Powell and not getting out on the water with our own boat was probably the thing I disliked most about our stay.
me enjoying time on the water
taking a tour boat through Antelope Canyon
We looked into a bunch of different ideas to get out onto the water, but since it still wasn’t as warm as I prefer for boating, we forewent renting a boat and opted for a one-hour boat tour through Antelope Canyon. That was just enough to satisfy my boat craving …. for now!
So aside from not having my own boat, the traffic was my least favorite thing. The way some folks drive around here was down right dangerous. I can’t count how many near head on collisions there are every day. People getting impatient seem to take chances passing slower moving vehicles like RV’s on the two lane highways. Plus, there are so many tourists (foreign and domestic) that slow down and make turns on a whim. Yeah, it’s important to be a vigilant driver on these two lane roads.
Did I already mention there are a lot of tourists around northern Arizona? Not only are they forever taking selfies, they drive like they are the only ones on the road, and have a tenancy to gawk at wildlife. Check out the wildlife and the crazy tourists 😁
Beep – Beep!
wildlife on the beach
“Look …. wildlife!” Crazy tourists!
I’ll be back
Ah, it was still a very fun and awesome time spent amongst some of the most amazing scenery. Waking up every morning to a gorgeous view and beautiful sunrise made any of my minor dislikes about the area seem insignificant. Yeah, I’m already missing those killer views and stunning sunrises … sunrises that I could literally watch while still laying in bed. How awesome is that!!!
I can’t think of a better way to start the day than by watching a beautiful sunrise while drinking a tasty cup of hot strong coffee. Throw in some stunning scenery and it just doesn’t get much better.
It’s Easter Sunday and while enjoying the view this morning … and the sunrise and the coffee, I couldn’t help but feel grateful and did a little reflecting. You might say, I was feeling a little spiritual. Since I’m not one to get too serious about things here on the blog, let me just say, it was the perfect way to spend my Easter morning.
We arrived in Page, Arizona, last Sunday, and the week has flown by, but then again, we’ve been very busy …. and social.
Our adventure started on our travel day …
Last Sunday we bid farewell to Lake Havasu City. The drive from Lake Havasu City to Page, Arizona was just a little over 350 miles (564 km) and took us just shy of eight hours in driving time. I must add that in addition to stopping for gas, we spent over an hour stopped northeast of Flagstaff for lunch and to check out some boondocking spots for future reference in the Coconino National Forest near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
That stop would add to an already long day and for a split second we thought about overnighting right then and there (well, not exactly ‘there’ because there was a sign clearly stating no overnight parking 😔). We could’ve gone down any number of dirt roads in the national forest and found a place to camp, but at 8,000 feet in elevation at noon time the wind was already brisk and cold requiring us to don a coat. Therefore, we knew once the sun went down, the temperature would plummet …. burr. Time to keep the wheels rolling.
We don’t usually drive that kind of distance in one day. After all, we live on RV time and prefer to meander. Initially we planned to break the drive up by spending the night near the south rim of the Grand Canyon and boondocking in the Kaibab National Forest where we did last September, but the weather there was also too cold for our desert acclimated bodies – near freezing temps overnight. Therefore, the weather kept us on the move.
By the time we arrived in Page, we were exhausted and more than ready to park the RV. If we were traveling with only one truck, we could easily switch drivers making the long day less tiring, but since we were traveling with both trucks (Al in the F-250 pulling the 5th wheel and me in the Toyota Tacoma), it made for an exhausting day.
When we travel outside of Arizona, we usually leave the Tacoma at our sons home in Phoenix, but since we’ve hung around Arizona all winter, we’ve been traveling with both trucks. As our week progressed, we were glad we had the Tacoma available for a little back country exploring, but that tale deserves its own post.
Getting stuck in the sand
When we finally arrived at the dispersed camping area north of Page and Wahweap Marina, we were eager to assess the road and get the RV parked. The Lone Rock Beach area is a popular spot with day users and campers alike. Located along the shores of Lake Powell, this would be our fourth time camping here.
One of the things we learned during our second visit here is the lay of the land is ever-changing. The sandstone buttes, mesas, and monoliths that make the landscape so incredibly stunning are formed from wind and rain, which means you can expect a regular dose of wind around here.
And all that wind, likes to rearrange the sand.
One year, the best packed road leading down toward the water might be to the left of the restroom building while another year it would be best to take the road to the right. Folks get stuck in the sand here all the time and this year it was our turn.
In an attempt to make his princess happy and give her an optimum view, Al attempted to find a nice spot closer to the water than where we’ve previously camped. After all, there were Class A’s and 5th Wheels bigger than us camped at the shore. Unfortunately, the packed gravel like areas are mixed in with the pure sand areas making it a guessing game about finding a good place to park.
It was near dusk. The wind was howling and whipping up the sand. We were exhausted from the long drive. Al stopped the truck and RV so we could talk about exactly where to park (remember he wants to make his princess happy), but what he didn’t realize was when he stopped, the 5th wheel tires were in a soft sandy spot. Once he tried to drive forward, the rear truck tires started spinning and digging deeper into the sand.
Two teenagers camped in the Class A Motorhome came running toward us with a shovel and wood blocks. This was one time I was glad it was spring break with kids everywhere. Between rearranging the sand with the shovel, using the blocks under the tires, and locking the hubs into four-wheel drive, Al managed to pull out of the sand and kept his momentum going until he found a solid gravel like area to stop.
We kept the truck and 5th Wheel hooked up for the next two days while waiting for our friends to join us and then deciding together where to park our RV’s for the coming week. Little did we know, we’d be sharing some great adventures. What a week!
Here’s a hint of some of those adventures ….
a scenic overlook – Lake Powell in southern Utah
highlight of my week
The Tacoma is perfect for exploring the back country
Those tales will need to wait until I have some down time to write about them. Right now, we have some more exploring to do with our friends before it’s time for them to move on. Such is the life of an RVer!