Trappers Lake, Colorado

On July 11, 2017 we left Starvation State Park at about noon and drove nearly due east. We drove through Meeker, Colorado and headed up into the Trappers Lake area on Highway 8. We eventually turned right onto Highway 8a. Just after the turn we took a dirt road to the west and found a very nice spot for a few days of camping. This was the first time we had truly boondocked rather than staying in a campground.

We arrived at our private spot about 6pm, cooked dinner, fired up a generator and watched the latest Power Ranger movie as a family. Beautiful drive and an easy to get into spot. For an exact location of the places we have camped see the Where We’ve Been page. I have made my best effort to drop the pins on this page in exactly the spots we’ve camped. While this area had several great spots, we only saw one other car during our stay and they headed down the dirt road to the trailhead. It was quiet, peaceful and beautiful.

The next day we drove up the canyon to Trappers Lake Lodge where they helped us buy two Colorado fishing licenses. It turns out in this Internet age, small stores no longer sell fishing licenses because there is no margin and you can buy them online. They did let us come behind their counter, use their computer and print our temporary licenses. The folks at the lodge were friendly, sold the basics you may need, served food, organized horseback trips, and rented boats, toys and cabins.

From the lodge we drove a short distance to the Trappers Lake Trailhead. There are no roads to the lake because it is in a designated wilderness area. We hiked a quarter of a mile to the lake through sunshine, rain and hail. Yes we experienced all that in just a quarter of a mile. We arrived at Trappers Lake which was stunning. The lake is located at high altitude, in a wilderness area and surrounded by lovely mountains.

Walking around the lake a bit led us to the dock where the lodge’s rental boats were tied up. While at the lake we tried fishing from the shore with no luck. We decided that we’d rent a canoe the following day and try again.

At about 10 am the next day we repeated our trek up the canyon to Trappers Lake Lodge, collected a couple of paddles and life jackets and headed to Trappers Lake. The three of us got in a canoe and I set my fly line out the back trolling while my wife and son fished as I paddled slowly around the entire lake in a counter clockwise direction. I ended the day having caught two fish. My wife had two on and brought one all the way in, but it was the biggest fish of the day, a 16 to 20 inch Colorado Cutthroat. It was not only long, but it was fat and well colored. A beautiful day of fishing.

We returned the canoe at about 3pm after surviving quite a bit of rain, lightning and thunder. I’m always a bit concerned with 10 foot fly poles in a canoe out in a lake with lightning all around, but we survived yet again.

After fishing Trappers Lake we drove to a pretty little lake called Scotts Lake and gave it a try. We had no success at all. We could see lots of small fish jumping, but not even a bite for our efforts.

We returned to our trailer and cleaned up. While washing the dog under the outside shower we found a dead mouse in the wash basin. Later in our trip we found his best friend chewing on stuff inside the trailer and had to buy traps. We’ll keep a few traps on hand in the future. Evidently these little guys like trailer camping as much as we do.

We spent some time in the evening contemplating our next move. We decided to leave this area in the morning and head southeast towards the Pike’s Peak area. We didn’t have any connectivity in this area so we decided to go in that general direction and fine tune our decisions while driving with connectivity and the availability of Google Maps.

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Beach Campground, Starvation State Park, Utah

After leaving the Washington Lake Campground, we headed to Heber City, Utah to run a few errands. We had no definite plans for the remainder of our adventure, other than to visit Carlsbad Caverns. With that goal in mind and being in need of a dump station, we headed east to Starvation State Park.

When we arrived an hour and a half later and with the day coming to an end, we asked if there were any sites left at the Beach Campground. We ended up in site 16 for two nights and enjoyed the stay. While site 16 is not on the beach it is away from other campers and was a peaceful spot to rest and relax. The site had water and electric hookups. The electricity was appreciated because the temperature at Starvation State Park in July necessitated the use of air conditioning. This was the first time we had used the AC in the trailer and while it doesn’t cool down quickly it is eventually refreshing.

On Monday we invited one of our daughter’s family to join us at the lake for a day of swimming and fun. The three grandsons and their parents were a lot of fun to interact with. At the end of the day we fed them and sent them on their way. It was the last time we would see family for nearly a month and was an emotional farewell for me. There were many times during our trip where we mentioned how fun it would be to have family with us.

While at Starvation State Park we had great cell connectivity that allowed us to take care of a few things online, including determining where we would next stop. We determined to head to Trappers Lake in Colorado.

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Washington Lake Campground, Utah

On July 2, 2017 we arrived at Washington Lake Campground in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. This was our second stop on our summer adventure and we were here from the 2nd of July to the 9th of July. As the map indicates, we travelled nearly due south from Idaho down to Utah and then east up into the Uinta Mountains. Washington Lake is at an elevation of 10,000 feet and is one of hundreds of lakes in this area.

We have camped in these mountains many times over the past 30 years, but this is our first time in a trailer. The Washington Lake Campground is much more developed than our previous stop and we’ve always thought it would be good for trailer camping. Each site is paved, has a table, fire pit, and a dutch oven cooking table. The campground has a host and well maintained pit toilets. The sites are also much closer together than they were at Pole Bridge Campground in Idaho. However, our site was easy to get the trailer into and the neighbors never bothered us.

One feature this campground lacks is water. There are no water faucets in this campground and while there are faucets a short drive away, at Lost Creek Campground, it was inconvenient. Fortunately, we carry several six gallon water jugs that we filled several times and brought back to the trailer. Without these we would have had to move the trailer after four or five days.

The lakes in the Uinta Mountains are typically small and sometimes you stop and wonder whether what you’re looking at is a lake or a pond. However, Washington Lake is a rather large reservoir that has plenty of room for the many visitors that enjoy it. Fishing is moderately good, children and adventurous adults find the water warm enough to play in, and kayaking or non motorized boating is entertaining. The scenery is breathtaking!

Nearby lakes include Crystal Lake, Ponds Lake, Lily Lake, Trail Lake, Wall Lake, and Hope Lake. Trial Lake can be reached by vehicle and has a very nice campground associated with it. It was closed the week we were there due to snow delayed cleanup, but we managed to get our bicycles around the gate and enjoyed riding in a deserted campground. The other lakes can be reached by trail. My wife and I with three sons, two daughter-in-laws, and two grandchildren hiked from the Crystal Lake trailhead to The Notch. The hike included beautiful scenery, nice weather and a reminder that summer comes late at nearly 11,000 feet, snow. The younger crew couldn’t pass up building a snowman in July, and here it is.

On the way to The Notch, the crest of the pass, we stopped and played at a very small high meadow lake called Hope Lake.

 

The children had fun playing in the water and catching waterdogs and tiger salamanders. We’re going back next year to have the children collect a few salamanders for our backyard pond. Utah law allows the collection of up to 50 specimens and the children will love seeing them in and around the pond.

From The Notch the view was amazing. We could look back and see several lakes. The hike back was a little warm, but overall it was a great day.

On Saturday of our stay, my son and I went to get water for both of our trailers. On the way back we noticed people parking a very long distance from the trailhead due to the Saturday crowds and a lack of close parking. We stopped, gathered a small crowd into the back of the truck and took them up to the trailhead. Each trip for water resulted in another small group getting a ride to the trail. Who knew our adventure would include starting a shuttle service.

On July 9th we said our goodbyes to family and headed to our next stop. However, we didn’t actually know where our next stop was. We drove down the mountain to Heber City, Utah and ran some errands. We couldn’t find a dump station and we knew we wanted to head east, so we headed to Starvation State Park to use their dump station. After arriving at the state park we asked if they had any sites available, and after receiving a positive response we decided to stay a couple of nights.

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Pole Bridge Campground, Idaho

On June 29, 2017 we arrived at Pole Bridge Campground in Southeast Idaho on the banks of the upper portion of the Warm River. This was our first stop on our one month excursion. We were here until July 2nd when we left to meet family in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, more on that later.

We approached the campground from the south on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway turning right on Forest Service Road FS 150. However, continuing north on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and then heading east on FS 315 and then south on FS 150 yields a smoother ride on wider roads.

The campground is primitive, but each site includes a table and fire pit. The sites are well separated, easy to get into and the price is right, free! The campsite we chose was at the southern most area of the campground as indicated by the blue pin on the satellite view. This view includes the entire campground, shows FS 150 and the Warm River which is quite small this far north. 

Our site was gorgeous and sat right on the banks of the Warm River. As small as the Warm River is we did catch some small fish and had fun in the river. The Warm River gets much larger where Warm Springs dumps into it further south. Warm Springs is worth visiting and is only a 20 minute drive from the campground. Upper and Lower Mesa Falls are also nice to see and are also about a 20 minute drive from the campground.

For those who love fly fishing, the Island Park area, to the northwest of the campground, has much to offer. A few examples include the Henry’s Fork, South Fork, Harriman State Park, Henry’s Lake, and the Maddison River. We’ve been out with guides in the area a couple of times and have really enjoyed the services provided by Henry’s Fork Anglers.

While in this part of the country we decided to visit a part of Yellowstone National Park we hadn’t visited before, Cave Falls. We had never visited this part of the park because the road simply takes you to the falls and a trailhead; you cannot get to other parts of the park in a vehicle via this entrance. The river was impressive and the falls were beautiful. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get to the falls from the campground with little but scenery to see on the way. It is a nice drive, worth seeing, but literally isn’t on the way to anything.

Pole Bridge Campground was a great starting point for our adventure. There is much to see and do in the area and the campground is relaxed, uncrowded and quiet. We’ll certainly camp here again!

On July 2nd we headed south to our next stop in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. On our way we discovered a Flying J truck stop that had a fuel isle with diesel, a dump station, potable water, and even propane. We took care of the trailer and continued south to Washington Lake Campground.

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5 States, 31 Nights, and 4200 Miles

On June 29th, 2017 our family of three hitched up our trailer and took off on an adventure. We travelled to 5 states, camped for 31 nights and put 4200 miles of road behind us. My wife and I thought it was great and our 11 year old son thought it was “good”. However, I view a “good” rating from him as a positive sign. It means he liked many of our activities and likes us, both good things!

We travelled to Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. We learned a few things along the way:

  1. We’re glad we didn’t select a trailer larger than the one we did, 27′. Small trailers have fewer campground limitations, they’re easier to pull up steep mountain passes with tight switchbacks, and into and out of tight gas stations. When we buy another trailer, we’ll purchase the smallest one we can be comfortable in.
  2. We love having a solar panel on our trailer and are now glad we purchased only one. When the sun is out, the one panel fully recharges the batteries by early afternoon. For fall or winter camping another panel would be nice, but the cost of a second panel is equivalent to the cost of a generator, which is mandatory even in the summer when you might experience multiple days of cloud cover. One solar panel means you’ll seldom need the generator, but when you do you have one.
  3. While camping in a trailer you have several scarce resources: electricity, propane, fresh water, and limited holding tank capacity. With a solar panel and backup generator electricity is not very scarce. In the summer propane seems to last forever. Our trailer has two 30 pound tanks that hold 7 gallons of propane each. In 31 days of camping we went through both bottles. We have an 80 gallon fresh water tank and it lasts three of us nearly a week. Our experience has been that the gray water holding tank is the most limited resource. Nearly all of the fresh water we use goes straight down the sink and shower drains and fills this 40 gallon tank in 4 or 5 days. We could of course be more conservative, but …
  4. We chose to purchase two 2kW Honda generators that can be connected in parallel to generate enough power to run everything in the trailer, including the air conditioner.  One of these generators is sufficient to run everything but the AC and we never used both on our adventure. We did connect one of them periodically to watch a movie or play a video game on the large TV. The generator was quiet enough that we locked it to the front of the trailer and it never bothered us inside. While we chose the Honda, I later found that Costco offers a very similar Yamaha generator for half the price; I should have looked!
  5. We’re glad we chose a trailer over a 5th wheel because I really utilized the bed of our truck for extra water, fuel for the generators, firewood, etc. I’m sure we would have loved a 5th wheel, but any fear we had about towing a trailer has dissipated.

When we left we had some trepidation about traveling in New Mexico and Arizona in July. However, both states have significant mountains and associated national forests. We stayed above 5000′ in elevation nearly all of the time and enjoyed reasonable temperatures, seldom if ever exceeding 80 degrees. The one exception was our three day stay in Carlsbad, New Mexico. While there we chose to stay at the Carlsbad RV Park and Campground, and while this isn’t our idea of camping, the facilities were clean, the staff was friendly and helpful, the pool was simple and refreshing, and most importantly we had electric hookups that allowed us to run the AC nearly 24 hours a day.

Our adventure was amazingly fun and relaxing. As we headed home on the last day we passed the I-70 East ramp and I just wanted to take it and continue our summer fun. The next few posts will describe each of the places we camped and the fun things we found to do there.