We’re Getting the Band Back Together

After a day’s work for each of us, Jenn and I met at Maryland Creek Park just north of Silverthorne. This was just a standard day use park (not like Meeker Town Park), so we still had to find a place to camp. Jenn said her sister had stayed at Prairie Point Campground about 15 miles up the road and enjoyed it, so we decided to check it out for ourselves. We liked what we saw. We were the only ones there to camp, so all of the campsites were open and available for a two-day stay, according to the signs. We crammed our vehicles into a single campsite, making the cost $18 per day, plus $7 for a second vehicle, for a total of $50 in the slot. The known-good two-night stay would give us time to scout the area for a less expensive, preferably free, camping option.

The next day we woke up to pleasantly cool temperatures and clouds that obscured the tops of the hills surrounding us. I felt like we were transported from Colorado to somewhere in Middle Earth, and that we should be keeping a lookout for orcs. The clouds burned off after a while, returning us to Colorado.

We were camping at around 8,000 feet elevation. I was amused at the way sealed containers I hadn’t opened in a while were practically bursting at the seams from the lower air pressure a mile and a half high. My salad mix, in particular, had turned into a balloon, taking up a great deal more space inside my refrigerator. I actually punctured the bag with a knife to let some air out so it would take up less space. I ate it soon afterward so it wouldn’t go bad.

This was one of several campgrounds in the area that were owned by the state but operated by private companies. A nice young woman stopped by to verify that we were staying for two nights, and made the appropriate notations on our receipt to validate our stay. Following my “always ask a local” philosophy, I asked her where there was some good dispersed camping in the area that we could go to afterward. She recommended two spots. I completely forgot the complicated directions to one of them, but the other was a spot closer to Silverthorne that I’d actually found on iOverlander. Having a live human verify that this information was good gave me even more confidence.

Jenn’s Jeep had a broken hood latch. She’d taped that side of her hood down as a temporary fix, and bought a new pair of metal latches to replace the stock rubber ones, which had degraded with age and sunlight. I helped her replace the latches, taking the opportunity to temporarily transform myself into a Jeep to try to understand the “Jeep thing.” It didn’t work.

Later on, I hopped on my bike to go scout the new campsite. There was a well-maintained gravel road, then a turn onto a not so well maintained road. The KLR handled it fine, and though it was bumpy, it seemed like my van could do it. It was probably the roughest road I’d want to take the van on. Even then, I wouldn’t go more than halfway up this road, since there was a steep rough incline I wouldn’t even try in the van. Jenn has a Jeep, so I had no doubt she could follow.

There were several campsites along this road. Site #2 looked big enough for both of us, and even Honey Badger if we were still there when she arrived. At 9,294 feet elevation, temperatures would be even cooler than at the campground. The following day we packed up, and Jenn followed me to the new campsite.

I know that the KLR is made to handle off-road travel, and my van and trailer are not. However, I still underestimated just how difficult this road would be in the van. I was positively crawling, slower than walking pace in some places. Sometimes I had to come to a full stop so that my suspension could settle and stop rocking after a particularly bad bump before continuing on. An oncoming Subaru tried to pull over and let us pass, but there was no room. It ended up backing up to a wide turn so we could get around. When we arrived at the campsite a Bronco pulled over precisely where we intended to go. Even a turn signal and hand gestures didn’t give the driver the message. We managed to get around him anyway and park.

To say our nerves were frazzled from the drive would be an understatement. Driving up that road was a terrible idea. My van was okay, but when I opened the trailer to assess damage I found that my shelves along the front wall had torn out of their anchors and fallen on top of my bike’s front fender. Miraculously, the bike had not fallen over. I pushed the shelves upright again. The bungee straps had held all of the larger items on, but many smaller items had fallen all over the floor, and one of my larger storage bins had broken. The fender was scratched where the shelves had fallen on top of it, but a little paint would fix that. The bike was otherwise undamaged.

I felt terrible for dragging Jenn up here. She was not thrilled, to say the least. I gave her some time to calm down from the drive, then discussed our options. Jenn was going to remain worried about getting back down the terrible road for as long as we stayed here, so we decided to abandon this campsite, go back to Silverthorne for lunch and supplies, and come up with a new plan. The drive down was similarly difficult. I dropped my transmission into 1 and still rode the brakes most of the way down, but we both made it without further damage or incident. I let her choose our lunch stop, Timberline Craft Kitchen, and I bought us lunch to make amends for my error in judgement.

Over lunch we came up with a new plan. My Instagram friend christina.coloradoan, who I’d met up with in person when we both stayed at Senator Wash near Yuma, saw we were in the area, and gave us some tips on good campsites. We decided to take a drive to Williams Fork Reservoir Campground about 45 minutes away based on her recommendation.

This was the best idea we’d had all day. We found campsites next to the water, with decent Verizon signal as well as a clear sky for Starlink. Rather than dispersed camping, there are toilets and dumpsters, as well as picnic tables and fire rings. Best of all, it’s free! We’re allowed to stay for 14 days, leave for seven, then allowed to come back. After the experience we’d just had, Jenn and I agreed that we’re perfectly happy staying here the full two weeks before moving again.

I dropped Christina a message on Instagram thanking her for the recommendation, and told her how much it had saved our butts. Unbeknownst to me, she was already camping here! In fact, the next morning, I realized that I could see her camp from mine. What a fun coincidence. We’ve seen each other regularly ever since.

Besides the good company, the views around here are amazing. The sunsets over the reservoir are spectacular. Some rainstorms came though during our second night here, creating a double rainbow above us. There’s all kinds of wildlife — many types of birds, prairie dogs (Lister loves chasing them), and even some antelope that call this area home. I’d never seen prairie dogs nor antelope before. This is a truly special place, one that Christina spends a lot of time at during the summer.

We’re still at about 7,800 feet elevation, so we’re avoiding a true August summer, with temperatures barely breaking 80º. The nights dip down into the high 40s, but as long as I close up the van at night that just makes for good sleeping weather. There are countless dirt roads in the area for me to explore on the motorcycle. This is a good place to be.

And then, on top of all that, Honey Badger decided to cannonball not only back into the US from her Canada adventure, but to drive all the way here a week earlier than expected. We’re back together again, and loving it. But that’s a story for another day.

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