We say the same thing year after year when we roll into the Foothills
Campground (below) in little Dayton, WY: "It sure is good to be back in the
Sure, it's a lot of fun to discover new places for the first time when
we travel, but it's also comforting to return again and again to the ones we
already love. There is still a lot of room for discovery, for seeing things
differently on many levels.
We've been to Foothills so many times it feels like an annual family
reunion, especially when friends start to show up in their tents
and campers for the Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic Trail Runs.
I've lost count of the number of Bighorn races we've run since
The race doesn't start until the 18th, however, so we'll pretty
much have the campground to ourselves for the next week. It's
still a little early in the season for tourists to be flocking
here. Meanwhile we'll look up our friends who live in the area
and visit with them.
We had a pleasant two-day drive to Dayton, WY from Black Hawk,
CO. We drove 309 miles on Sunday and 174 miles on Monday,
allowing for later starts/earlier stops than on days when we go
farther distances. The scenery was great both days. The weather
started out great but deteriorated along the way. We
really were in the right place at the right time, however.
We had several choices of roads to follow, including taking I-70
east toward Denver, I-470 around the northwest metro area, and I-25 and I-90
all the way to northern Wyoming. That option would have been
mostly freeways, fine if we had been in a big hurry.
But we weren't in a big hurry and that route seemed too mundane when
there are scenic mountain roads that parallel I-25 closer to the
Front Range foothills!
View of Continental Divide from CO 119
north of Black Hawk
I lobbied to continue north from Black Hawk to Estes Park before
aiming east for the freeway. Jim was concerned there would be
too much traffic in the Estes Park-Rocky Mountain National Park
area. He wanted to head east sooner than that. I conceded that
his route would be almost as scenic as mine and probably
less of a hassle. It turned out that traffic was pretty heavy
all morning as we wound through north central Colorado.
We can highly recommend all of the roads we followed for driving
or hauling an RV of any size. Just take your time on winding,
hilly mountain roads, watch out for all the cyclists you'll see
in Colorado, and enjoy the
Here's our route:
- North on CO 119 from the Black Hawk area to Nederland. We drove
part of this highway last week to be sure it was a good road. It is,
and they weren't working on it on Sunday. It's also very scenic, with
great views of the Continental Divide to the west (see photo above).
- East on CO 119 to Boulder. The road followed a creek full of
snowmelt as it descended through a beautiful canyon. Closer to Boulder
there is a popular running/cycling path along the creek. Many years
ago I ran on that trail.
Fast-flowing creek in upper
Boulder Canyon (another canyon photo below)
- North on US 36. Oops! That wasn't our plan. We intended to take CO
119 northeast to Longmont but missed the turn. US 36 was straight and
fast, however, with scenic views of the Front Range to the left and
dozens of cyclists in the bike lanes on either side of the road. It
was a gorgeous Sunday and lots and lots of road bikers were getting in
a strenuous workout.
- East on CO 66 to I-25.
- North on I-25 to Buffalo, WY, where I-25 ends.
- North on westbound I-90 to exit 9 at Ranchester, WY (sounds
confusing, but from Buffalo, WY to Billings, MT I-90 goes more
north than west).
- West on US 14 another few miles to Dayton, WY and the Foothills
DODGING MORE BULLETS
We dodged some weather bullets again. Once we got into Wyoming
late Sunday morning we could see storms brewing to the west of us.
We hoped we could outrun them. We also crossed our fingers that
they weren't headed
to the Midwest. The previous day there were numerous tornadoes in
Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and northern Ohio.
We did get into a few minutes of rain between Cheyenne and
Casper, WY on Sunday afternoon but we were far enough north to
miss the severe storms that hit the Ft. Collins, CO area during
the mid-afternoon. We passed through that area about noon. Whew!
High rock walls through the canyon west of
Boulder, CO on scenic Hwy. 119
It was windy and cloudy (but not raining) when we arrived at our
destination late Sunday afternoon: the huge parking lot
shared by WalMart and Sam's Club on the east side of Casper, WY
at exit 185. We were one of
three RVs that spent the night, along with a couple semi cabs.
A truck driver near us said there were about ten campers in the lot
the previous night! We asked permission from the manager on
duty, as usual, and thanked him for letting us park (not camp)
Also as usual we got supplies and groceries at both Sam's and WalMart. The next morning Jim got a breakfast burrito at Subway
-- so handy. We joke that our "free" night of parking
cost us over $100!
A warning to RVers about the Flying J at exit 185 in Casper
(note that we are usually avid fans of Flying J):
there is no RV lane. The car lanes are usually full when
we've stopped here and the truck lanes were 10¢
higher than the car lanes for diesel fuel this time. We waited until we got to
Sheridan to get fuel on the way to Dayton. If you need fuel
between Casper and Cheyenne, there's more maneuvering room and
cheaper gas/diesel at the Conoco station at exit 140 in Douglas,
WY. It's half a mile off the freeway but worth the extra time.
On Monday morning we "slept in" to
avoid rush hour in Casper. I'm not sure there is a rush
hour in Casper but if there is, we avoided it!
Here's another RV travel hint:
When we're in transit from Point A to Point B and stay
overnight in a metro area, we usually try to stay on the far
side of the city to avoid any rush hour traffic on weekday
mornings. Then we can leave as early as we want and not have to
worry about traffic. We were on the "wrong" side of Casper
Sunday night simply because it's a small city and doesn't have a
WalMart or Sam's Club on the north end of town. We probably
could have left before 9 AM there and been OK.
Heading toward Dayton, WY on US 14 on
Tuesday: the mountains are mostly obscured by clouds.
Our trip from Casper to Dayton was relatively short on Monday. Traffic was
very light all through Wyoming. That's not surprising, since it's one
of the least densely-populated states in the nation. I think we
saw more antelope along the freeway than other vehicles! The sky
was overcast and we had some rain during the drive but it looked
much worse in the mountains to the west than overhead.
The sky had mostly cleared by mid-afternoon in Dayton, however,
when I took the sunny photos of the campground and adjacent park
at the top of this entry and in the next section.
Last summer we stayed at Foothills for a month. Their monthly
rate can't be beat. We paid almost as much this time for two
weeks as we did for that whole month last year. It would have
been even more if we'd been charged a daily rate; fortunately,
the Hoods have a reasonable weekly rate, which increased by
$10 to $130/week this year. That's not bad considering we have a
large, shaded, grassy site, full hook-ups (water, sewer, and
50-amp electrical service), free WiFi, a good phone connection
-- and the finish of the Bighorn races in the city park
In previous stays we've had some problems with cell reception on
our Verizon phones and the campground's WiFi was useless if
another rig was parked next to us because it blocked the signal.
To our delight, both problems have been solved. Verizon bought
the local Altel tower and service so we have a strong
connection. We can make clear phone calls from the camper and I
can get online with our Verizon broadband service. Marshall improved the WiFi to the extent that Jim's been able to get online with his
laptop even when a large Class A motorhome was parked next to us
one night. Hooray!
TV reception still stinks, however. We don't have satellite so
Jim opted to pay an extra $1.50 per day again for a cable
hookup. Now he can get a gazillion stations. Whatever makes him
happy . . .
One thing that makes me happy is how quiet it is in the
campground with few campers here now and NO TRAINS nearby. That
was the one downside at the Air Force Academy and many other
places we stay -- noisy trains. I like trains;
I just don't want to camp next to them.
As soon as we got set up in the early afternoon yesterday Cody
and I went out for a walk through the campground and Scott Park.
Temperatures were in the low 60s, cooler than we were accustomed
to at higher elevations farther south in Colorado Springs and
Black Hawk. The elevation at Foothills is a little under 4,000
feet. We worry a bit about losing our altitude acclimatization
but we are hoping to be able to get in some good training
runs/hikes at higher elevations in the mountains the next few
We've been very curious about the Bighorn weather predictions
and the amount of snow in the mountains because that will affect
our training runs and Jim's race. What will we find up there??
We're guessing there's still a fair amount of snow but hoping
it's not as deep as the last two years. What snow we could see
yesterday on the Bighorn peaks from I-90 seems less than the
copious amounts they had this time last year.
Cody heads for the river in the campground
The Tongue River is running high and fast by the campground and
Scott Park but we can tell by the matted grass that it's receded
some this week. At least it's not up into the grassy tent area
in the campground, like we've seen it before.
Above and below: the Tongue River flows
high past the Bighorn race finish area in Scott Park
Leah Hood confirmed that the area received only about 70% of the
normal snowfall this past winter. However, there was enough late
spring snow to make up the difference. That snowmelt has been filling up the rivers and creeks
late May and
It's obvious that Dayton has received plenty of moisture
All the greenery is very lush at this elevation and the park
trails next to the river are more eroded and wet than usual.
There are several areas like this in the
park where something BIG has matted down
the tall grass during the night. I
joke that the critters must be wooly mammoths!
I noticed some improvements in the park: the band shell
(below left) that was under construction last year is finished, and the two
large shelters have been remodeled. The shelter in the
photo below (to the right in the background) is the one we'll use for the
Bighorn race finish party and 100-mile briefing.
Here are some other pictures I took on walks around the park
yesterday and today:
Many tall cottonwood trees grow near creeks
and rivers in this area.
A type of tall phlox is blooming all over
On a bike ride this afternoon I "caught" these antelope in a
field at the edge of town next to someone's yard:
Today we also hiked up and back the Tongue River Canyon Trail.
(Faithful readers might remember that's where Jim got his
rattlesnake bite four years ago.) I'll show photos from that
hike in the next entry.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil