If you are afraid of bears, don’t go into the woods

The last five weeks felt like walking through a long and dark tunnel. A few days ago we departed Three Forks, MT for Missoula, MT and we stepped out into the light.

What happened? Cooper had ACL surgery at the Montana Verterinary Hospital in Bozeman, MT. The little guy stayed post-surgery for two days in the hospital being monitored by veterinary technicians. After that, he had to wear a cast for two weeks and Fentanyl patches to manage pain. I had to carry the dog in and out of the motorhome and going for pee & poo walks was a pain in the neck. When the cast was finally removed, he had to endure a pretty stiff bandage for another two weeks. Four weeks after surgery the bandage was eventually removed and he started his rehabilitation back to being a dog. The prescribed therapy was to conduct frequent slow leash walks and lots of rest. Cooper still receives a weekly Adequant injections to stimulate the production of joint fluids, the last two of these injections I will administer myself. At the time of posting this blog, Cooper is walking well and he feels strong and is obviously free of pain. In late September, if all goes well, I should be able to take the dog off the leash. By then we will be somewhere on the Pacific coast and running on a sandy beach should be just fine. Anyway, I am very much looking forward to walks without being tethered to a dog. I want to express my thanks to Dr. Dennis J. Moylan and his staff for their skills and guidance and for being a group of nice and caring human beings.

Needless to say, Dublin, the other dog, suffered from all of this incapacitation through a lack of activities. The only thing Dublin and I did was a nice hike up the Leverich Canyon when Cooper stayed in the veterinary hospital. It was there that we encountered a black bear right next to the trail. This was the first bear Dublin ever met and he was very curious but obeyed my command and stayed on my site, good dog. As Josef Stalin said, “if you are afraid of bears, don’t go into the woods”.

So, what about Three Folks, MT you may ask? After five weeks in that place we ought to know a lot about it. Well, not really. Here is a bit of information I learned, per the US Geographic Society the town of Three Forks marks the birthplace of the Missouri River at the confluence of the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin River in the Missouri Headwaters State Park. The Missouri River is the longest river in the USA (2300 miles/ 3700 km) and drains about 1/6 of the landmass of the lower 48 states into the Gulf of Mexico.

Visibility was low throughout our entire stay due to fires in the Glacier National Park area. Looking back at this year of travel I realized that fires have impacted our entire travel-route from New Mexico to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. There is good reason to believe that all of these fires are at least partially responses to climate changes. We should take these observations more serious. Always remember, the planet will survive, we may not. Stay tuned.

Ten Sleeps to Laramie

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 5.16.28 PMThe cute little 260 souls community of Ten Sleep has been named after an old Shoshone Indian location descriptor. From Ten Sleep to Laramie, WY used to be a ten day (sleep) trip. The town is located at 4200ft/ 1280m on the south-west side of the Bighorn National Forest bordering the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Cloud Peak is the highest elevation of the Bighorn Mountains at 13166 ft/ 4013 m.

Because of the low altitude of Ten Sleeps, the temperatures were definitively too hot for any meaningful outdoor activity. We did however find plenty of relieve in the higher regions of the Bighorn Mountains. The marvelous Cloud Peak Skyway (Highway 16) from Ten Sleep to Buffalo climbs within 20 miles/ 32km to the Powder River Pass at 9666ft/ 2950m. Up there the air was cool and crisp and much more to our liking.

We enjoyed some leisurely walks on Meadowlark Lake, hiked to the East Ten Sleep Lake and frequented the trailheads on West Ten Sleep Lake. Particularly the Misty Moon Trail and the Lost Twin Lakes Trail, both starting at West Ten Sleep Lake, were fantastic and offered great access to the Cloud Peak Wilderness. We saw a group of backpackers using large goats as pack animals. I never saw anything like this before, horses are frequently used to carry people and equipment, but goats were something new to me.

In general, Wyoming demonstrated a lively horse culture. Every little town has a rodeo place and cowboys and horses are always present. Folks bring their horses in trailers to the national forest campgrounds. These trailers frequently provide space for the horses and also provide a living quarter for the humans. Living with horses under one roof sounds like an interesting experience. Both Wyoming locations I visited this year were very enjoyable. Wide open spaces, dramatic and beautiful landscapes, friendly people, no crowds and a slow way of living. Life is good.

Meanwhile we made it to Three Forks, MT about 20 miles west of Bozeman. Cooper will undergo knee surgery on Monday. We will linger around Bozeman for approximately 6 weeks or as long as he needs veterinary support for the recovery. Let’s hope Cooper will be able to run again by the end of this year.

Last but not least, I hope you all pay attention to the action in Washington. Our orange Fuehrer is definitively loosing his marbles. What a nightmare.

 

You all stay tuned.

The Wind River Range

The Wind River Range has been on my bucket list for a long time. While I was living in California this item ended up several times on the bottom of the stack, but I never forgot. From Kremmling we drove to Lander, WY on the south-east side of the Wind River Range. I choose Lander in order to later move north-east to the Bighorn Mountains without having to circumnavigate the Wind River Range.

Entering Wyoming from northern Colorado is a lesson in sparsely populated landscapes. Wyoming is the 10th largest state in the union with an area approximately 60% the size of California. Per the last census, the state’s population is 580k. When I added up the population of the 10 largest cities in Wyoming the total city population can be estimated as approximately 280k. That means, only 300k people share the rest of the wide open spaces. Wyoming has the lowest population density in the lower 48 states.

Lander is a community of 7600 people located at an altitude of 5400ft/1650m. Raising livestock and farming grass seem to be mayor sources of income around town. We stayed for one week at a small RV Park on the north-side of town with three other campers. The place could be best described as the backyard of a farm. For $15/night it offered full hock-up services (water, electric & sewer). However, there was nothing else, no internet, no laundry, no washroom, not even a mailbox. The place was managed by an old couple, Joe and Marylou, that lived in a small cabin they had built themselves some years ago. I really enjoyed sitting with these folks in the evening on their porch and listen to their stories. These people were a reflection of the land around them.

While in Lander, the front of the motorhome was pointing west. One late evening, I observed the sky through the front window as a bank of clouds slowly moved eastward and a bright red strip developed way after sunset. This was a western sky, a big sky, a sky that is only visible in Wyoming and Montana.

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Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range is, at 13804ft/4207m, the highest point in Wyoming. However, there are another 40+ mountains in the Wind River Range that are over 13000ft/3962m. Glaciers have sculpted the mountains and valleys of the range and the landscape looks much like Yosemite Valley with its granite surfaces and carved smooth shapes. Access to the Wind River Range from the east-side is limited to a few entry points. I knew the west-side of the mountains would have been the better choice to stay, but I did not want to travel the extra miles. There will be another visit to the Wind River Range in the future, at that time we will stay on the west-side for sure. However, I really enjoyed visiting Lander, it was a great, beautiful and calm experience.

I hiked with the dogs up the Popo Agie Falls Trail and also visited the pools of the Popo Agie River. We explored the highway 131 corridor and stopped at a gazillion lakes, creeks and trailheads. Last but not least, we hiked the Lake Louise Trail. The trail is rated “hard” by Alltrails.com even though the elevation gain is only about 1000ft/330m. The trail is very rocky and roller-coast’s its way to the lake. While one gains only 1000ft/330m, one probably climbs 2000ft/660m on this trail.

We are all in a state of disbelieve. We all miss Gosia in our own ways and we all are reacting differently. Stay tuned.

Colorful Colorado (3)

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 3.33.31 PMOur plan to cross the San Juan Mountains in the motorhome vanished in a huge wall of smoke. Due to the “416 Fire” highway 550 was closed indefinitely on 11 June 2018 and we instead of moving 160 miles from Durango to Gunnison over three passes moved 265 miles over only two passes.

Traveling in Colorado has convinced me that there is nothing better than a diesel engine powering a motorhome. The alpine passes we crossed were as high as 11600ft / 3540m and it was impressive how the Cummins ISC engine pushed us up the mountains. Admittedly, the speed dropped occasionally to 40 miles/hour but there was never any question whether we are going to make it.

GunnisonThe town of Gunnison is located in a wide basin at 7700 ft / 2350 m and is surrounded on three sides by high mountain ranges. The west side of the basin is open and offers the only outlet for the mountain runoff via the Gunnison River. Over a few million years the Gunnison River has cut a gorge into the western Colorado landscape that culminates in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The landmark is protected since 1999 as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

A visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park is highly recommended. Even though there is not much to do with two dogs other than stopping on vista points to stare into the abyss. The first glimpse at the canyon reminded me vividly in Hell’s Backbone in the Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah. The canyon is steep and deep and dark

We checked out the High Alpine Brewing Company in Gunnison (where beer meets the treeline) and enjoyed some decent beer and food. We also visited the little charming town of Crested Butte, which, not unlike Telluride, is located at the end of one of Colorado’s high alpine valleys and represents a mayor skiing location. The dogs got to swim regularly in the Blue Mesa reservoir located in the nearby Curecanti National Recreation Area and the Mill Castle area on road 730 offered excellent hiking trails in the Gunnison National Forest.

In Gunnison we stayed in a city park that offered RV parking for a 55+ audience. The park was clean, well managed and everything worked perfectly. However, the audience accumulating in these 55+ ghettos is absolutely not to my liking. A little bit more diversity would be greatly appreciated, all these old and very conservative white people frighten me. Last but not least we dealt with a defective toilet in the motorhome, which was a mayor pain in the neck. Meanwhile, a new toilet has been installed and life is good again.

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 10.37.32 AMThe trip from Gunnison to Kremmling on highway 285 was very scenic along the eastside of Colorado’s highest mountains. The route led through the city of Leadville, the highest community in the USA, located at 10000 ft/3050 m.

The small town of Kremmling is located at 7400 ft / 2250m at the confluence of the Colorado River, the Blue River and the Muddy River. The city is best described as a mosquito infested hell hole. We did a little bit of hiking around Kremmling but were somewhat held back by the mosquitoes, high temperature, a broken windshield in the Honda Fit and later an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury by Cooper. The windshield got fixed within a few days but Cooper is still handicapped. We will have to find a long-term solution for him that will probably require ACL surgery.

We briefly visited the Rocky Mountain National Park and enjoyed the scenery. On the other hand, there were way too many people that did not know how to drive on alpine roads. In addition, as always, dogs are not welcome in National Parks.

Yesterday, Gosia returned to her homeland of Poland. This may very well have been the worst day of my life. On the other hand, I do believe it was the right decision for her to make. The boys and I will continue our trip through America and I predict things will change significantly. I will try to be as good a human as my dogs think I am.

In the short-term, after a 10 weeks stay we will leave Colorado tomorrow and travel to the Wind River Range in Wyoming. That place has been on my bucket list for quiet some time. You all stay tuned.

 

Colorful Colorado (Part 2)

Durango has served us very well as a home base for the exploration of the San Juan Mountains and the Four Corners Area. At a population of approximately 20k the city, located at 6500ft/2000m, offers pretty much everything one needs, including at least six decent breweries.

Two roads connect Durango to the rest of the world, highways 160 running east to west and highway 550 running south to north. It is highway 550 that is also known as the Million Dollar Highway connecting Durango to the communities of Silverton and Ouray on the north side of the San Juan Mountains. On it’s 65 miles/100 km stretch from Durango to Ouray the Million Dollar Highway climbs three times to elevations of approximately 10500ft/3200m. Our current plan is to leave Durango tomorrow and travel to Gunnison, CO and if possible we will travel on highway 550. Considering we are driving an 18 tons vehicle over these alpine passes with steep drop-offs, that trip will be entertaining.

However, whether we will be able to travel highway 550 through the San Juan Mountains tomorrow remains to be seen. A little bit more than a week ago the “416 Fire” started less than 4 miles from where we are currently parked. In the meantime, the fire has grown to about 16000 acres/ 65 km2, is only 10% contained and forced the repeated closure of highway 550. The RV Park where we are currently parking has been declared a pre-evacuation zone and depending on the fire development we may be forced to leave as early as tonight. Even the famous Durango-Silverton steam train is currently not operational.

Yesterday, the dogs and I took a very nice hike near Molas Pass in the high country of the San Juan Mountains. Upon return, a 10 miles stretch of the highway was closed. We waited approximately an hour until firefighters told us definitively that the highway would not open before 8AM the next morning. Well, we had to take the long way home traveling over Ouray, Telluride, Dolores to Durango. A 210 miles trip all because of 10 miles of road closure 15 miles from home.

While staying in Durango we spent two days at the Mesa Verde National Park to visit the Cliff Palace dwellings

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and the Balcony House dwellings.

The Mesa Verde dwellings can only be visited via guided ranger tours. It does not make a whole lot of sense, but tickets for these tours cannot be reserved online. They have to be purchased in person at the Mesa Verde Visitor Center. However, as we learned too late, tickets are also available at the downtown Durango visitor center. Tours have aduration of 1 hour and start every 30 minutes. The cost per person is $5.

We visited the old mining town of Silverton, located at 9300ft/2800m in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. During the summer months the small city is visited daily by one or two trains and flooded with tourists for a few hours. However, people around here told me that aside from the tourist disturbance in summer Silverton is a pretty cool place to live.

The hiking on both sides of highway 550 was fantastic before the fire screwed the access to the trails and the visibility of the vistas up. Some of the trails we hiked were the Haviland Lake Trail, Segment 25 of the Colorado Trail (the Colorado Trail stretches 486 miles from the Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver all the way to Durango), Cascade Creek East Fork Trail and the Crater Lake Trail. Some of these trails climb way above the tree-line to over 12000ft/3700m and afford great view of the Rocky Mountains.

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While in Durango I strongly recommend a visit to the small historic downtown area and a stop at the Durango Steamworks Brewery. These good folks offer a great selection of fine beers combined with very good food.

Last but not least a word about Anthony Bourdain. Over the years I had watched a large number of his “No Reservation Required” videos and was always fascinated by his taste and love for simple food. Only recently did I read his book “Kitchen Confidential” and started to appreciate his writing as well. Rest in peace Mr. Bourdain.

You all stay tuned.

 

Colorful Colorado (Part 1)

If I look at the lower 48 states of the USA, I see a large number of states I wouldn’t want to be buried in and a smaller number of states that I like to various degrees. For me, Colorado has always been an attractive state with beautiful scenery, great outdoor opportunities and a good standard of living. However, there is one thing wrong with Colorado, there is absolutely no access to an ocean. Over the last 4 weeks I am trying to answer the question whether I could live here?

We spent two weeks in Pagosa Springs, CO. I have never been to Pagosa Springs before but moving north from Santa Fe, NM the location of Pagosa Springs seemed to be just the spot for rest and exploration. When we settled in on the RV park things did not look well. It was cold, raining, hailing, snowing and there were still no leaves on the trees. What the hell is going on, after all it was early May? Pagosa Springs is located at an altitude of 7100 ft/2100 m.

The weather changed significantly within the first two days of our stay and all was good. One day after arrival we started delightful hikes in the Turkey Springs and Coyote Hill trail system through wooded areas interrupted by meadows with enough light for green grass to grow between the trees. It was there that Cooper caught, killed and delivered his 1st squirrel. The squirrel did not pay attention and once it realized the dog was coming it had absolutely no chance. Bad luck for the squirrel, good luck for Cooper. After all, he is a hunting dog and he clearly needs the thrill of a kill.

Driving on Piedra Road north, the road after 10 miles turns from pavement to a good gravel road leading toward the southern tip of the San Juan Mountains. Along the road one can find a large number of trailheads. We hiked the Piedra River Trail, the Williams Creek Trail and last but not least the Martinez Creek Trail. All of these trails are located in the San Juan National Forest and offer “out-of-the-world” vistas and very little traffic.

We have been traveling for close to 2 years now and I have gotten haircuts in local barber shops all over the country. The barber shop conversations always lead to the topic of me being houseless and living in a motorhome traveling across the country. Every time I mention these circumstances I hear people say that they want to do that at some time in their life too. I am convinced that this urge to live free is rooted somewhere in the American DNA.

This week marks what would have been the 100th birthday of legendary American physicist Richard P. Feynman. Feynman was one of the most brilliant scientific minds of the 20th century. His most celebrated work were his contributions to the theory of Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED). QED is an advanced theory of electromagnetism that incorporates quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of special relativity. God’s speed Mr. Feynman, RIP.

Albuquerque

I never spent any significant amount of time in Albuquerque before, but I was always fascinated by the location of the city. On the eastside of town are the impressive Sandia Mountains reaching an altitude of 10619 ft/ 3234 m and on the west-side is the vast expense of a high featureless plateau reaching to the horizon. The contrast of the landscape is very stark. Located at an altitude of 5400 ft / 1650 m the city celebrates in 2018 it’s 312th birthday. As such, Albuquerque is older than the good old US of A. Think about it.

We stayed in Albuquerque because I had to travel to Germany and therefore we needed access to an airport. Other than evaluating two local breweries (Bosque Brewery & Canteen Brewery) we really did not do much in the city. However, we explored the trails of the Cibola National Forest and had a pretty good time. We especially enjoyed the trails on the southeast side of the Sandia Mountains near Tijeras and on the northwest side of the Sandia Mountains near Placitas.

There is one more thing to be said about Albuquerque; the weather sucks. The early spring season is characterized by high winds almost on a daily basis and the air is filled with dust. Due to the altitude nighttime temperatures can be quite chilly.

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From Albuquerque we traveled for one week to Santa Fe and then moved to our current homestead in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Are you enjoying the Trump show? What you see is a president and his band of loyalists getting stuck in their web of lies and being increasingly pressured by the special counsel. My advise to Mr. Mueller is to grab them by their balls and I predict their hearts and minds will follow. All of these folks will have to understand that the presidency is more than the person in the oval office and that nobody is above the rule of law. Get the popcorn ready, this will be a hot political summer.

Stay tuned