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.