May 19 until May 28 -2017, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota
Unfortunately it make no sense to wash our RV on Friday May 19th because it’s raining cats and dogs, so we limit ourselves to the dumping of grey water and then drive to the interstate, the only road nearby. Just after we passed the State border with Colorado we find a Welcome center that gives us welcome information about this new State. Unfortunately also bad news because in Estes park at Rocky Mountain NP is 2 feet of snow and the roads we wanted to drive to get there are both closed, the first because of the huge amounts of snow and the second because of a land slide, so access is not possible for some time.
It is also 34 degrees and around us we have snow-covered Highlands, so we are in doubt. Does it make sense to drive over the high mountains of Colorado at this time of year? “No” is the answer, so we decide to go further South to find some heat. And we are sure about our decision after crossing another plain covered with snow and when we fill up with diesel we are freezing. Even with a jacket it feels if you are naked. So we leave Colorado Springs. You cannot see a mountain because of the pouring rain, low clouds and icy winds. We drive to Pueblo, CO where it’s not allowed to stay overnight at Walmart so we proceed to a nearby State park. Despite the fact that it is Friday night, we find an empty spot with a beautiful view over the Lake and the mountains. The latter we see in the evening as the clouds dissolve and give way to a blue sky.
Although it is still too cold to eat outside we can have breakfast on Saturday morning in the sunshine. The weather is great and we really enjoy this spot. But we want to go further south, so after breakfast we drive to the Great Sand Dunes National park. As we arrive before noon in this National Park, we find on the “first come, first serve” places a very nice spot. Fortunately, our new RV, 25 feet long and shorter than the old one, fits in it. With a slightly longer RV we had never made it here. After paying for the place we take a cup of coffee and enjoy the view of the Great Sand Dunes, the tallest in the United States. Although I don’t like sand, this high slopes (the highest sand dune is 750 ft.) attracks me, so after enjoying our coffee we walk to the visitor center, look at the movie and learn how these dunes were formed and what lives in it.
Then we walk to the Creek that encloses these dunes, take our pants high up and walk through the water to the other side from where we can climb the dunes. However it’s end of the afternoon, we don’t have much energy, we already walked 5 miles, so we climb to a top, but not the highest one and after running down the dunes, and we walk back to the campground where Dick prepares delicious pork on the grill. We don’t eat outside because the clouds came in and the wind increased. Outside it is no longer nice, too cold with 50 degrees.
During the night the temperature drops to 40 degrees but if we wake up around 6 am the sky is steel blue with sun. No more clouds. We decide to stay another day. Yesterday I told Dick again and again and again that I really should have climbed the highest sand dune. You understand that Dick did not like me anymore and he needs only time to say: “I take care of the payment of the campground, now it’s your chance to climb that dune”. So at eight a.m. I walk with short pants, hoodie (it’s still chilly) and backpack (with drinks and camera) to the creek. The water is freezing cold and it’s no fun to cross the many streams but at the other side, after walking through wet and cold sand waits the warmer sand, drying my feet, so after a while I can put on my shoes. After studying a beetle, which decides to attack me if I come too close, I ‘m falling down a sand hill.
Then it’s going up, climbing and climbing and climbing. There is always a higher hill to climb. By the light of the early morning it’s hard to see which way up is the best so I conveniently choose for the shortest way up. Not always wise because some slopes are very steep. Eventually, after reaching yesterday’s top, I only need 30 minutes of continuous climbing to reach the top. It’s nice sitting here for a while then I climb the last part, over the rim and finally reach the highest Summit. It is cozy place. Together with a group of students from Southern Illinois and a father with three children from Denver we stay there nearly two hours, looking around and chatting. The people below, near the river, look like ants and the attempts that one undertakes to climb the dunes is fun to look at.
The sun burns already and it’s understandable that the temperature can rise here to 140 degrees in summer. When bigger groups reach the summit and it’s getting crowded up here, it’s time for us to leave. Down at the creek I look for two geocaches and afterwards I walk back to our RV, mostly through the creek. From the high dunes I had a good view at our RV. Our high sand dune turned out to be 2, 5 miles away of our RV. In the meantime Dick made efforts to fit our insulation screen in such a way that, if it is necessary, we can put it on the front and side Windows within 10 minutes. And he met our new neighbors, Paul, Lucia and Jason from Denver. Late afternoon dark clouds take the place of the blue sky and my walk through the creek is less pleasant. Still I have to go that way because I need an answer for a geocache and want to have some more exercise to a total of 7, 5 miles. Despite the cold winds and dark clouds we stay outdoors with Lucia, Paul and Jason. Lucia made a lot of food, too many for the three of them, so she invites us to have dinner together. After having a delicious meal, Sophie and Theresa arrive, 2 cyclists from Germany and Austria.
They love to eat the leftovers and enjoy our Dutch cheese with toast. We chat with each other, have some drinks and enjoy the evening. At half past eight we are so cold that we go inside, the temperature dropped down to 40 degrees and we changed into ice cubes. After saying goodbye to our friendly neighbors we leave Monday morning May 22nd. The weather is good but there are more clouds than yesterday. We drive through the San Luis Valley to the North. Around us are white, snow covered mountains. In Florissant, CO we stop to look at Fossil bed National Monument and walk around the petrified remains of Redwoods.
Nice to see but I think Petrified Forest in Arizona is nicer. However, the most impressive fossils ever, are found in this place. Through the hills we drive to Colorado Springs where we stop at “Garden of the Gods”. We first get some information at the visitor center and then drive in a traffic jam through the park. At the largest complex of rocks, impressive by their bright red color, we easily find a parking spot because almost all other visitors have a car and there are special lots for RV’s. We hike sometime between the towering rocks.I want to climb them, especially if people hanging in their ropes. Unfortunately Dick’s climbers heart is not pumping any longer so we walk just around instead of finding our way vertically.
It’s very busy around so after we have seen all the rocks and took many pictures, we drive away. At Balanced Rock we even don’t stop. There are too many people here and it is late in the afternoon and it’s starting to rain a bit and we have to find a sleeping place. At the three Walmart’s we visit we find the sign “no overnight stay “so we decide to drive to the East and in the town of Calhan, CO we find a place to sleep at Cadillac Jack. By now it’s storming and the rain is pouring down. Unpleasant weather so we eat some leftovers in our RV and go to bed early. Fortunately, Tuesday May 23rd the weather is better although on the surrounding Plains the wind blows fierce. Across the campground is a coin laundry where we wash our clothes and bedding. Our laundry bag is filled up to much and doesn’t fit in the shower anymore. When everything is clean and dry we drive North West to Golden, a small town West of Denver. Unfortunately, there are no tours in the Coors brewery. It’s a pity because we would like to see how our favorite beer is brewed. So we continue towards Rocky Mountains National Park. Because I think that late afternoon, before Memorial Day weekend there will not be a place in the park we look for a place to sleep elsewhere. At Walmart it is not allowed, the State parks are full, on a public park was snow up to 2 ft. so the places are too soft and they do not accept guests and even with Good Sam discount another campground in Estes Park ask 68 dollars. (I don’t want to buy the whole campground).
So we drive to the National Park. It is now 4:30 pm and the entrance is abandoned. Without a map we drive into the park, not really a good idea because we have no guess where we have to go. 4 of the 5 campgrounds are closed because of the amounts of fallen snow and of course there is no indication where to find the open campground. We drive along the park without any idea where we are and where we have to go. It’s not unpleasant, the sun is shining and the snow is great to look at but it makes no sense if you want to find a place to sleep. We end up in a Valley where we find, between the snow drifts, a map. At the same time Dick discovers that our Hakuna recognize the name of the campground so within 15 minutes, at half past five we arrive at Aspenglen campground. There are places available!
When paying for the campground I also take a bundle of firewood. There will be a celebration with a wood fire tonight. Not long after we have a crackling wood fire and a glass of wine. There is almost no wind so outside you can relax despite the temperature of only 55 degrees. Wednesday May 24th we wake up and again the sky is clear blue. It is only 50 degrees but we are on higher grounds, at an altitude of 8400 ft.
After breakfast we drive to the visitor center to watch the movie and then we leave with good maps to go around in the park, to Bear Lake. There we have a beautiful walk around the still frozen lake, ploughing through deep snow. We envy the American people with snow shoes, they look comfortable. The first outdoor shop we see will be visited to look at those shoes. But, the Sun is shining and burns and sinking into snow is quickly forgotten. After the nice hike and talking to different people who want to know everything about our different looking RV we drive on the Trail Ridge road to where the road is blocked at 10840 ft. This closed road made that we could not approach Rocky Mountain NP from the West. It’s too bad that we cannot proceed but if we drive higher and higher the snow walls next to the road get higher and higher too. At the road closure we admire the view from above and then after many viewing stops we go back to the campground. Slowly people come in to occupy the places left and Dick publishes a new part for our website (thanks to the Mifi from Verizon). Thereafter we fire our wood again and with a glass of wine we enjoy this wonderful day in the mountains.
Thursday May 25th we wake up early and enjoy a herd of Elks who stay in front of our RV. It is a beautiful sight and the antlers of the many males are already impressive. After an hour they climb up the mountain slopes and we leave this beautiful park, with a detour; the road (34) we supposed to take is not open because of a landslide. After half an hour dark clouds gathering over the Rockies and moments later we also have a part of the rain. If we pass a propane filling station we stop. Our European gas cylinder is extensively studied by at least 3 people. But we succeed and our aluminum propane cylinder is filled up. After crossing the border with Wyoming the Welcome center provide us with sufficient map material for the next part of our trip. In Cheyenne we stop because our window was hit by a stone and cracked. Fortunately, Walmart sells repair kits for windscreens so, while I do some shopping, Dick tries to fix the scratch. Then we drive a little further on over the hills and endless steppes of this part of Wyoming , seeing herds of cows grazing. Around three o’clock we stop in Wheatland where we have a beautiful camping spot on the edge of the town (free of charge) next to the rail line.
While Dick publishes the English part on our website, I do some geocaching in town. The two caches are not special but the town has a lot of nice wall-paintings on buildings. 2 ½ hours later and with 4, 5 miles in my legs I’m back and longing for a Coors light. As this park has electric power, we can work on our laptop listening to the always fantastic music from Dire Street and Marc Knopfler. When we wake up Friday morning, may 26th , the sun shines. There are still some clouds but blue has the upper hand. After breakfast we drive to the dump station where we dump our grey water and have a chat with Rita and Jeff who live here. It’s nice to talk together and time flies. But we are in no hurry; we’ll see where we end up tonight. End of the morning we drive on small roads over the plains of Wyoming.
Of course we stop at Register Cliff. A place full of history, here along the Platte River, the settlers on their way to Oregon passed by. We walk along the Cliff to look for their names and we find them. It’s special to see names carved of people who wanted to let known that at least they managed to get here on their way to the West. Some miles further away is Fort Laramie. It also played a decisive role when the wagons went West. Not only the pioneers could do their repairs and purchases the necessary supplies here, the fort also made agreements with the Indians to let the Western settlers passing by safely. Unfortunately, these agreements were violated again and again and again with the result: wars with the Indians who lived on the Plains.
Before we arrive in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, we must have patience because two long, long trains want to pass, this time there are 153 wagons. At Walmart, we may stay overnight and fortunately, before the rain starts pouring down we can walk around to find some geocaches. Nearby is a Chinese restaurant where we get some food after walking in the pouring rain. It’s very tasty and is more like that in China. After taken many, many pictures with my Sony camera, it’s showing some defaults. The huge sand mass and wind at the Great Sand Dunes has not improved my camera. At this moment I cannot make good pictures anymore. So we go to Walmart and search for another camera. The choice is not as difficult as there are not many models and finally we buy a Nikon Coolpix 500. At least I can make pictures again.
Friday May 25th I have the opportunity to skype with auntie Ank and then we drive to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Along this high rock more than 250,000 pioneers travelled on their way West to a better future from 1841 to 1869. From the top is visible how decisive this rock formation was. Unfortunately we cannot go there, the trail is halfway closed, the RV is not allowed to drive up because of the narrow tunnels and the shuttle doesn’t run yet. So soon we continue along Chimney Rock that dominate the landscape and was visible to the pioneers from far away. Then we arrive at Carhenge, near the town of Alliance, Nebraska. Here, American cars from the 1950s and 1960s are put down in such a way that they form a replica of the stone circle at Stonehenge, England.
To get more uniformity in the cars they are now all Grey painted. It is awesome to walk between the cars and from a distance, with the threatening sky in the background; the cars seemed to be the stones in Stonehenge. We enjoy it very much and it is worth visiting here. Finally we drive on to look for a place to sleep in Chadron, in the north of Nebraska. The rest of the afternoon and night we enjoy the blue and black skies, sun and rain. Dick is in the Walmart, logging all our found caches in the computer and I walk around Walmart, it never bores. It’s a special Walmart as there are almost no cars parked and at night it is completely quiet. Sunday, May 28th , it is still quiet in the parking lot and we enjoy our breakfast in the sun. After buying some Greek yogurt and bread we continue our travels. Unfortunately, our delicious “Dave’s Killer Bread” with a lot of seeds and only 2% sugar, is not available here so we have to do it with “Orowheat with 38% seeds”. Via small roads we drive through Indian Territory (the Oglala, Lakota and Sioux) to the Badlands. The landscape is nice and green, there are many hills and behind every hill you expect to see a huge herd of Buffalo’s hunted by Indians. But the only thing pops up when Dick stops in the middle of nowhere (cause I want to make a picture) are two Indians who wish us a good trip but also want money. We shake hands, wish them all the best and leave this place. Then we arrive at Wounded Knee. In 1890 a massacre took place here among the Indians. There is a meeting on the hill and I want to go there. After walking around on the parking lot, Dick says that’s wiser to leave. There is one other car with whites (white man as one of the Indians calls it) who stay in their car, and otherwise there are many huge Indians loitering around. Dick thinks it is not wise to leave our RV behind and take a walk for at least half an hour. So we drive away from this abandoned and not inspiring place, we will never attend it again. Not much later we arrive in Badlands National Park.
Unfortunately the campground is fully booked so we drive back to the town of Interior, SD where a Good Sam campground offers almost the same price as in the park. The rest of the afternoon we chat with fellow residents, we do our laundry and make a walk to find some caches. We find out that we have to take care, walking on the dirt roads in the town. In the opinion of a 15 year old boy we get too close to his farm. Aggressively he asks what we are doing here and at the same time he is clinging to the revolver at his waist. Fortunately, he takes his hand back as I tell him that we have taken the wrong road. We love to see the beautiful sunset, we read and do our administration in the RV. After a rain shower late afternoon the heat is gone and it’s too cold outside.