2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  BACK IN THE BIGHORNS

TUESDAY, JUNE 8

 
"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."
 
~ Henry Miller
 
 

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 Bighorns!"

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 1997.

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.

GETTING HERE

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 views!

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 CG.

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) overnight.

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 per gallon 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.

FOOTHILLS CAMPGROUND

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 next door!

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.

MINI TOUR

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 days.

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 tent area

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 during late May and early June.

It's obvious that Dayton has received plenty of moisture recently. 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 town now

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.

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil