2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous       2011 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

   ROAD TRIP TO COLORADO SPRINGS
   + USAF ACADEMY FAMCAMP INFO

THURSDAY, MAY 26

 
"Please do not feed the wild animals, which may include deer, squirrels, 
wild turkeys, coyotes, bears, snakes, bobcats, and mountain lions."
 
~ one of the Peregrine Pines FamCamp rules
 
 
Gee, honey, let's feed the snakes and bears so they'll keep coming to our campsite . . .

Not.

PEREGRINE PINES CAMPGROUND

Here we are back at one of our very favorite campgrounds; it's located on the beautiful grounds of the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs. We were here twice last summer and loved it.


Welcome mat outside campground office door

The Academy makes a very pleasant stopping place for a few days on our way to the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. We'll be back for two weeks or more in July for more of a "destination" visit, and perhaps again in September/October.

Too bad we can't spend all summer here! Military retirees are permitted to stay at Peregrine Pines for only 30 days total during the warmer months from May to September. The rest of the year we can stay as long as we wish. I don't believe there are any time restrictions on active-duty families.


The campground is decorated with flags for Memorial Day.

We met one of those families parked near us when we walked around the campground this evening. The young couple was outside cleaning a cage and we got talking. Hubby is assigned to Peterson AFB here in Colorado Springs. They've bought a house but can't move in until July. While they wait to close on the house they're living in their camper at the Academy's FamCamp. (Neither Peterson AFB nor Fort Carson have campgrounds.)

So what critter lives in the cage they are cleaning, we asked?

Two large RATS!! The young woman brought one of them out so we could see (and pet) it. I couldn't believe how big it is:

I prefer mice, gerbils, and guinea pigs -- I've had those before. Rats just aren't as cuddly-looking.

So far in the first afternoon that we've been here the only wildlife we've observed in the campground are those cute black Abert squirrels with the pointy ears. These two shots are fuzzy and the fella sort of blends in with the tree bark, but maybe you get the idea:

 

If not, do an internet search for a better photo. Abert squirrels are very interesting and they're fun to watch in the campground. This guy looks like he found a Pringle chip -- not the best squirrel food.

When Jim checked us in at the office he heard about the bear that recently trashed one of the campsites, so everyone is on extra notice to keep trash and coolers inside. The large trash bins throughout the campground have special bear-proof mechanisms on them that make it difficult for arthritic folks like me to get into them, too!

I've seen deer and coyotes in the wooded areas along the Falcon Trail on Academy grounds, but no snakes, wild turkeys, bobcats, or mountain lions. I hope I see and/or hear coyotes again this visit.


Coyotes love wooded sections like this on the Falcon Trail

We've never had a choice of which particular site we are assigned at Peregrine Pines but we are asked certain questions when we make our reservation -- length of camper, whether we need 30-amp or 50-amp electrical service, if we have a satellite dish, etc.

We've learned to also specify if we want a pull-through site, if we want as far away from the train tracks as possible, and if we want to be near one of the laundry rooms.

Being close to the WiFi tower is moot this year; they added a second one since our last visit. Now we're able to get online fast and free in any site. We'll use our personal MiFi card only for secure financial business.


Site #102 is closer to the railroad tracks than we'd prefer
but it's a large pull-through site with no one on this side of us.

We have a good cell phone connection, lots of TV stations with only our RV antenna, a pull-through site with lots of room on the door side, full hookups with 50-amp electrical service, shade, nearby trails, lots of conveniences . . . and all for only $20/night.

We also got one night free with an old USAF frequent camper coupon we got back in 2004. We forgot about the coupons in the intervening years and used only one back then. We still have three more we can use. (Gotta remember that when we return in July.)


Another part of the campground

So we paid only $60 for four nights of camping here. That comes to a mere $15/night. Compare that to many private campgrounds that charge $40, $45, or more per night nowadays. I'm glad military folks get some consideration for their service to our country.

This is about the only campground where we routinely see other Carriage 5th-wheels -- either Cameos or Carri-Lites. Today there is only a Carri-Lite here, a 38-footer pulled by a special shiny black diesel truck:

We sometimes see larger trucks like F-550s and semis hauling long fivers or trailers with three axels. We always wonder if they bought the monster trucks specifically to haul the RV or if they use them for business purposes, too.

There is another nearby rig that intrigues us; the couple's set-up is a doozy. They're pulling a 38-foot  Excel 5th-wheel with a large truck that has enough room between it and the trailer to carry a little bitty Smart car, too!

We haven't seen this combo coming or going, but there are ramps to drive the car up on the bed of the truck so it doesn't have to be towed behind the trailer. Sure would like to see that in transit! Since the couple has SD tags, they're probably full-timers. I hope we get a chance to talk with them this weekend.

We have three full days to enjoy in the Colorado Springs area and we plan to stay busy running, hiking, cycling --and figuring out when we'll head to Wyoming to train for the Bighorn race.

Our reservation at the Foothills Campground is for June 6-20. The snow pack is so high now, however, that we won't be able to get on much of the course before the race. We're also concerned about all the flooding in the area, especially at Foothills -- it's right next to the Tongue River. We may stay at the Academy and/or the Black Hills longer than originally planned, and spend only a week in the Bighorns.

One of my goals while we're in Colorado Springs is to climb up the Barr Trail as far as I can before reaching the snow on Pike's Peak. Here's a view from the Academy grounds:

I don't know yet how far down the snow level is, but it looks like there's too much snow above tree line to get up there. Stay tuned for photos from that hike.

TRAVEL NOTES:  LOS ALAMOS, NM TO COLORADO SPRINGS, CO

We got to the Academy in a little under six hours today, hauling the RV. The weather was great, from the low 50s in Los Alamos when we left about 7 AM, to the low 70s in Colorado Springs when we arrived about 1 PM.

We drove 308 miles, mostly on two-lane roads.

Above and below:  NM 30 through the Pojoaque Indian Reservation

Elevations ranged from 5,700' at the low spot along NM 30 to 9,400' at La Veta Pass near Blanca Peak on US 160. We're at a little higher elevation at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs (~ 6,700') than we were in Los Alamos (~ 6,000').

Route, road conditions, traffic:

  • NM 502 east from Los Alamos, NM
  • NM 30 north to Espanola, NM
  • US 285 north to Alamosa, CO
  • US 160 east to Walsenburg, CO
  • I-25 N. to exit 150 (south gate of the USAFA)

We drove this same route the same time last year and enjoyed it -- so we did it again!


10,908-foot San Antonio Mtn. on US 285 in northern NM;
it doesn't look real high because the road is over 8,000 feet elev.

This is a good, fast route; routes for RVs don't get much better than this on two-lane roads through the mountains. They are four-lane in some areas and there are uphill passing lanes through the hillier parts of US 160.


US 160 east of Alamosa, CO


13,626-foot West Spanish Peak on US 160 south of the town of La Veta, CO

There was a lot of traffic on this weekday going the other direction toward the National Lab on NM 502 and 30 in New Mexico. Traffic was light on US 285 all the way to Alamosa. There was lots of traffic (and many RVs) on US 160 and I-25  in both directions but it moved well.

There were several stretches of new pavement on some of these highways, with only a few miles of bumpier surfaces that weren't horrible. (I.e., I wasn't worried about opening cabinet doors when we stopped!)


Pavement so new on US 285 in New Mexico that it hasn't been painted yet.

We averaged just over 12 MPG fuel usage at a fairly steady 60 MPH speed towing the 5th-wheel. The fresh, gray, and black tanks were empty in transit.

Observations:

  • We enjoyed beautiful mountain scenery the entire way.

>
US 160 on the east side of La Veta Pass in Colorado

  • There was some snow on the 11,000-13,000 foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Range in New Mexico but 'way more on the 13ers and 14ers in Colorado. Blanca and Pikes Peak have more snow on them this year than last. In general, the mountains in New Mexico got less snow than average this year and those in Colorado got more (the farther north, the higher the snow pack in the Rockies).


Southwestern side of 14,345-foot Blanca Peak from US 160;
Great Sand Dunes NP is between us and the mountain.

  • We wish the campsites at the Great Sand Dunes NP east of Alamosa were larger so we could spend a couple of nights there and hike through the dunes . . .
  • There were no leaves yet on the deciduous trees above 8,500 feet on the way up to La Veta Pass on US 160; it still looks like winter at the end of May:


Near La Veta Pass on US 160

  • We could see Pike's Peak almost as soon as we got on I-25 at Walsenburg, 100 miles away! It is easier to see from the south when it has snow on top because it is mostly hidden by lower mountains in front of it.   

 
Pike's Peak from I-25 south of Colorado Springs

"America's Peak" is like a beacon to me; I get a visceral reaction every time I look at it. I think it has affected many people like that, from Native Americans to modern travelers.

We're happy to be back in Colorado!

Next entry: cycling on the New Santa Fe Trail

Happy trails,

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

Previous       Next

2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-