Beautiful Bozeman

We came up to Bozeman via West Yellowstone and Big Sky. A beautiful drive, and I was excited to see a new city in Montana. We have friends here, Brian and Sarah.

Brian owns a bike/ski shop in Bozeman called the Gear Wizard, and they’ve lived in Bozeman for years now. We set up the truck in their driveway (and got more than a few questions from the neighbors) and spent the weekend with them.

Brian took us for a super-cool mountain bike ride, although it was also super difficult (for me, anyway). The Stone Creek Trail sits west of Bozeman and gain 2,300 feet in elevation in the first six miles. If you follow us in Instagram you saw the picture Michael put up. Brian kept giving me words of encouragement – that the climbing was almost done, that it gets less steep after this, etc – all lies. That trail was hard! But I made it to the turnaround point and thoroughly enjoyed the downhill.

Brian and Sarah were so generous with their hospitality! It was wonderful to take a shower or two, and do laundry, and clean out the truck a little. Sarah took an afternoon and gave us the tour of downtown Bozeman. What a great town! Even in my journal I wrote, “I like it here.”

On Monday, we hit up a local CrossFit box for a workout – Coldsmoke Crossfit. We called the owner to make sure a drop-in was okay. He said it was, and that he’d let the coach know we were coming.

This was a beautiful gym. Huge! With equipment enough for everyone. But the coach (I can’t remember her name) had no idea we were coming. There were a couple of other new people in the class (one said he was completely new to CrossFit), yet the coach made no introductions or anything. It was strange.

The kicker for me was when we went for the skill: back squats. 5×5 @ 60% 1RM. In English, this means 5 sets of 5 reps at 60% of your 1 rep max. I happen to remember my 1 rep max, which is 150lbs. Anyway – the coach did not demo the move, which to me is amazingly bad. When I first started CrossFit, I wasn’t allowed to squat heavy until I had the technique perfected. I remember complaining about it! But form is so important when you’re lifting heavy. So I found it hard to swallow that this coach didn’t say a word about it. In fact, what she said to me was that all the weights in this gym were in kilos only, not pounds, and that she couldn’t convert. So she suggested I just lift what I was comfortable with.

Needless to say, I was not impressed. If we were going to spend more time in Bozeman I’d give the gym another chance – with a different coach. I’ll chalk this one up to a learning experience.

I miss my old gym.

But – eventually we did head out of town. We have friends in Missoula, and they told us that they had tickets to this special concert at the north entrance to Yellowstone that was happening on Thursday, the 25th. So we had a couple days to kill, but apparently this concert was a big deal and we wanted to go. Brian recommended we head east towards Red Lodge, then go over Beartooth Pass and get into the park from the Northeast entrance.

Hence, our campsite just outside of Red Lodge:

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It was a great site – not even remotely level, but we made it work. We relaxed a bit while I worked on the Yellowstone photos. The next day we checked out Red Lodge (which is an awesome little town!) before heading over towards Beartooth Pass.

I think we owe Brian some coffee for sending us this way. Because Beartooth Pass is amazing.

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This isn’t even the top. But with the weather moving in, the view got more interesting…

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We passed this along the way, and had to stop to check it out.

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I have no idea when this lift was active, or who used it. But we saw the bottom, and it was pretty awesome too.

 

 

 

This was pretty close to the top, and now the weather was definitely closing in.

 

 

 

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After this point, visibility looked a lot like this:

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Eventually we made it down though, and set up camp just outside of Cooke City. We knew we were in for a chilly night – I saw snow on the not-so-far-away peaks.

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So we set up the annex for the night. We cooked dinner in there (with one of the doors open for ventilation). That wonderful annex kept us out of the wind and so after dinner we set up our chairs and watched a movie in there before bed.

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At this point, however, I was absolutely cursing my decision to leave my down booties in the storage unit back in Colorado. All I have are wool socks with my Chacos, and my feet were cold. It kills me that I might have to buy another pair of down booties, but I can’t handle cold feet… Good thing we’ll get to spend some time indoors for the next couple weeks.

Next post: what it was really like at “An Evening at the Arch: Yellowstone Celebrates the National Park Service Centennial,” plus… Missoula!

 

Yellowstone (part 2)

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As I mentioned before, Yellowstone is waaay too big to cover in just one day. Therefore it’s too big to cover in just one blog post. The adventure continues!

 

 

Continue reading “Yellowstone (part 2)”

Yellowstone (part 1)

Yellowstone might just be too big for a single post. We ended up spending a total of five days in and around this amazing National Park. We drove up through the south entrance on the 15th, arriving around 5pm or so, and our first stop was the West Thumb area. I was excited to show Michael his first thermal pool.

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He was kind of blown away. I am too, looking at this picture again. It’s just so deep. I love all those shades of blue.

We wanted to see Old Faithful on that first day, but we arrived at 7 and the next eruption was predicted for 8:10pm. So we headed out towards the west entrance. And promptly got stuck in a traffic jam. I hoped it was for something cool, like a bear.

It was elk. Doe elk. The things we’d try to avoid back in Colorado, so that, you know, they won’t total your car. But there are people in the world who haven’t seen an elk before.

They should still have the decency to pull off the road… instead of causing a traffic jam because of a stupid ELK. Just sayin’.

Anyway – we found our campsite with (literally) the last light of day, along a Forest Service road called Whit’s Lake Road.

The next day we breezed through the west entrance and headed south at Madison Junction. Our first stop: the swimming hole on Firehole Canyon Drive. Yep, we went swimming in Yellowstone National Park.

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The beauty of traveling in a tiny tiny house on wheels is that I have my entire wardrobe handy, in a dufflebag that lives on top of the truck. So after getting a few pictures of Michael swimming, I changed clothes and joined him. It was nice to clean off after a week without a shower.

After reluctantly leaving the Firehole River, we continued on. Both the Midway Geyser Basin and Biscuit Basin parking lots were full, so we went directly to the Old Faithful complex. I call it that because in addition to the geyser, there are two hotels and several stores. And lots of parking. We found a spot in the shade and made lunch, first, in order to watch the eruption on a fully belly.

If you’ve been to Yellowstone recently, you’ll recognize this image:

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Old Faithful is very popular… but not with Americans

It was fun to listen to the crowd as Old Faithful erupted, though.

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By the time we headed back north, most of the parking lots were emptying out. So we (finally) got to see the Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin.

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GoGoTacoNegroAs the water drains from the pool, is passes through a series of ledges like this one, before ending up in the Firehole River.

 

 

 

Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the Park, and it dumps more than 4,000 gallons of boiling water per minute into the Firehole River. This image is just one of the drainages.

 

That explains why the water was not freezing cold downriver, where we swam.

It was dusk when we headed out of the Park, once again through the west entrance. And got hit with another traffic jam.

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At least this time it was a bull elk.

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone adventures continue in the next post…

 

Grand Teton National Park, Adventures in off-roading, and the Elvis dilemma

We made it to the Tetons today!

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After camping last night outside of Moran Junction, we headed into the Park around 9am and spent most of the day there, including a nice picnic lunch and a 6-mile hike out to Bradley Lake.

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Even with dogs the group pic is tough.

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Bradley Lake

Eventually we headed out of the Park, driving on a paved forest service road (that eventually became dirt) to find a campsite. Along the way we started leapfrogging with another couple, checking out various potential sites. The other couple were in a very nice (and fully decked out) 4-Runner. Eventually though, we came across the driver, who was flagging us down. He asked us if we had traction devices (which we did). Not for himself – he pointed down a steep dirt two-track, to a small Volkswagen that was stuck on the hill.

The 4-Runner couple was Travis and Chelsea, on vacation from the LA area. I never got the woman in the Volkswagen’s name, but the guy was Omar. How long they’d been stuck there, I don’t know, but Omar had shredded his car’s floor mats in his attempts to get out.

We set up the traction devices, and they helped, but in the end it took 2 tow ropes and Travis’s 4-Runner to pull them out. I thought about getting out my camera to document this whole thing. I mean, it was pretty cool for us. But I wondered how Omar would feel about it. Would he think I was documenting his failure? Making fun of him somehow? Guys can be funny if you wound their pride, so I just observed and watched out for the dogs.

After sending Omar and his woman on their way, Travis suggested we share the sweet spot at the bottom of the hill, since we were both eyeing it and it was big enough for both vehicles.

We talked for a while – about California, LA traffic, and Toyotas. What an awesome couple! I turned in around 10:30 or so, ready to sink under my down blanket. It had been a big and I was cashed.

I don’t know what time it started. My watch doesn’t glow in the dark, and it was pitch black outside. But Elvis was freaking out in the back of the truck. I could hear him whining and jumping around. Amazingly, Michael heard it first and went down to check it out. I heard him let both dogs out, and after a few minutes they both went back into the truck and Michael came back up. I thought all was well.

Then the barking began.

I haven’t heard Elvis do this before, and all I could think about was our neighbors, Travis and Chelsea. I mean, they said they have a dog too, but come on. Nobody can sleep through that.

This time I went down to check it out. Elvis was waiting for me as soon as I lifted the topper lid. I put my hand on his chest and he leaned into me, swaying just a little bit, but leaning farther and farther forward. It’s like he was asleep on his feet. Or suffering from dementia. Do dogs get dementia? Anyway – he seemed to calm down, so I went back up to the tent. Before I could even zipper the door closed the barking began again.

Michael suggested bringing him up to the tent with us, but I just could not picture how we’d haul that dog up the ladder. So (I’m pretty sure I let out a long, dramatic sigh and/or said something snarky as) I went down the ladder, opened up the topper, and crawled inside. Commandeering both of the dogs’ sleeping bags, I tried to get comfortable. Yeah, right. Sandwiched between the dogs, the water jugs, the pantry (a Rubbermaid tub), and the cooler, I had sandbags for pillows.

Sandbags are not pillows.

Bailey cuddled up on one side, and Elvis flopped down on my feet and went to sleep immediately. And I mean, slept like the dead. I put my hand on his side to make sure he was still breathing.

At least I wasn’t cold. I was wearing my down jacket, and those sleeping bags weren’t awful. Plus, the dogs wanted to snuggle. At some point, apparently, Michael tried to talk me into going back up into the tent. (He told me later that it was about 4am). I vaguely remember this. What I do know it that he brought me one of the Crazy Creek chairs to put under my butt, which helped with my comfort level enormously. Although my legs were starting to cramp up from sleeping in the fetal position for so long.

At 7am, Michael got up for good – and once he let the dogs out I went back up to the tent and slept for 2 hours. It was so nice to stretch out! And stretch out on something soft.

I woke up to a beautiful sunny day – time to charge all the solar batteries!

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Left to right: Revel Gear lights, Voltaic Systems solar panel, and Luci Lights

I’ll put up a post dedicated to just our solar devices soon. For now though, I would like to give a special shout-out to Revel Gear, who gave us the string of lights (attached to the charger on the left). The LED bulbs are attached to a copper wire, so I can put them up just about anywhere. But I tend to wrap them around the guylines for the tent – it looks cool! When we camp near people, we get lots of compliments on them. But for me, the best part… is that they act as a nightlight when I have to pee in the middle of the night. 😉

I am exceedingly fond of Lander

There is a stall in the women’s bathroom at the Planet Bluegrass Festival Grounds, and on the wall it’s written, “I am exceedingly fond of Andrew Bird.”

That’s pretty much how I feel about Lander. I haven’t been here long enough to love it, but so far there’s a nice, relaxed vibe here. People are friendly and there are my kind of people here: dirtbag climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, mixed in with actual cowboys. We fit right in.

The drive getting here pretty much super-sucked, but Lander is so fabulous that I’m willing to overlook it. See, the drive out of Steamboat Springs started out okay. But once we hit Craig, CO, and turned north, the landscape became acres and acres of rolling rabbitbrush and greasewood. No trees. Not even a lot of cows. It’s one of those empty parts of the state.

Then there were the winds. Holy crap, was it windy. We followed what looked like a food truck for over an hour. This vehicle was also towing a trailer, and the driver was having a heck of a time with the wind. The worst was a big gust that almost blew him off the road. That same gust also ripped the A/C cover right off the top of his rig.

Yay, wind.

We stopped for an obligatory picture when we crossed over into Wyoming (you might have seen it on our Instagram account). Taco Negro has been to Wyoming before, of course. We love to mountain bike at Curt Gowdy State Park near Cheyenne. But now we were much further west.

The landscape didn’t change. Neither did the wind, through Rawlins, and basically all the way until we descended down into Lander. First stop – of course – a bike shop. Mike gave us the beta.

There is free camping in City Park, he said, along with a municipal tap to fill our water containers. There is dispersed (free) camping outside of town, and one is just up the road from a network of mountain bike trails called Sinks Canyon.

We set up camp at a sweet spot right next to the river. GoGoTacoNegro

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In fact, I found a big fat rock that was perfect for watching the water flow by. We ate dinner up there too, much to the dogs dismay.

 

 

 

 

 

The next day promised to be a warm one, so we tried to get our ride in early. Not entirely successful on that part, but we still had a fun ride. Except for the cows. Yes, there were more cows on this trail. It wasn’t as fun this time. These cows didn’t get off the trail as they ran away – no, they just kept heading further up the trail. Eventually we got past them and then had a lot of fun.

I made a stoner recovery meal: mashed banana with peanut butter and a little bit of Cholaca. GoGoTacoNegroThere is no “after” picture, as it looked pretty gross. Tasted delicious though, and that’s what counts. Right?

Then came second breakfast. GoGoTacoNegro Yep, it’s good to travel with a chef.

Even better, Michael made us beef stew for dinner. The original plan was to use charcoal, but that takes 2-3 hours. Somehow time got away from us (funny how that happens, even now that time is kind of irrelevant), so he put the dutch oven on the stove.

Thursday morning we packed up and headed back towards Lander, with stops at Sinks Canyon State Park along the way. The name comes from a spot where the Popo Agie river “sinks” or disappears into the rock, resurfacing about ¼ mile away. GoGoTacoNegroHere’s the cool thing: despite the short distance, dye tests have shown that the water takes over 2 hours to travel that distance. Even cooler: it’s not all the same water. So is there another source? What’s going on down there? Nobody knows. The cave the water disappears into is so tiny and narrow that nobody can explore it.

We came back to Lander and set up camp in City Park. Yep, that’s where all the dirtbaggers (like us!) were hanging out. Some were in tents, some were in campers and RVs. City Park has picnic tables, trash cans, and flush toilets. We found a nice spot in the shade.

We decided to walk down to Main St and hit up the Lander Bar. It’s also a brewery, and they have pretty good beer. Very good wings, too. A crazy mix inside, of college students, cowboys, and people in shorts, Chacos, and down jackets. Good people watching.

We’re headed north next. We stopped in the local Forest Service office and were already advised of a place to avoid – hard-sided campers only. Apparently a grizzly sow and her cubs come back to that area every summer. We asked about roof-top tents, and the nice lady said no. Apparently a couple years ago a bear crawled on top of a trailer to get to the roof-top tent…

Come hell or high water, we’re going to Yellowstone.

High above Steamboat Springs

It was a beautiful day when we arrived in Steamboat Springs. Beautiful! Not a cloud in the sky. We finally got away from the rain.

Saturday afternoon in August… Steamboat Springs was packed. Still, we found a place to park in the shade and checked in at a local bike shop. The guy there let us fill our water containers from their spigot, and gave us some info on dispersed camping (which is free) on an area called Buffalo Pass Road.

There is a rodeo that happens every Friday and Saturday night during the summer in Steamboat, and I sure would have liked to have seen it. But it started at 7:30, and that meant we would have been searching for a campsite in total darkness. So after getting what we needed in town, we headed up.

Good thing. Just about every site was occupied, and there was a reason the empty ones were empty. Mostly the reason was level-ness. It was hard to find a flat spot along Buffalo Pass Road. We have a leveling kit but these sites were just too much.

There are small offshoot roads from Buffalo Pass Road. We took the first one – and I immediately got a lesson in how to read a topo map. This road was steep and it went straight down. Too narrow to turn around, we made it all the way to the bottom. And the bottom site was occupied. The nice couple occupying it offered to make room for us, and that would have been fine if the site had been a little bigger. As it was, it took a 6-point turn to get us turned around.

Higher and higher we went along Buffalo Pass Road. Then another offshoot road appeared. I checked the map – the grade was much gentler, so we took it. The guy at the bike shop had told us this area was a bit of a free-for-all, and we found this to be true. People just pull off the road and set up shop wherever there’s a fire ring.

And that’s exactly what we did. Michael found us a nice, (fairly level!) site with a huge view. We even had enough time to appreciate a fabulous sunset while Michael made dinner.

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I asked Michael to be serious for a moment. This is the result.
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Ok, better

 

The next day, the purge began. Downsizing is hard, and not in the way I thought it would be. I’m no hoarder, and I don’t have a problem getting rid of things. We are just living in such a small space. Every time I want to get out my laptop, I have to wade through a sea of stuff. How much of it do we really need?

We spread out a tarp and went to work. First on the dufflebag full of our clothes. It’s a big bag, and it holds a lot of things. And we got rid of a lot. Extra t-shirts, mostly. Extra everything. I mean, do I really need three Buffs?

We organized the rest of the rig, too. It’s not perfect. It might never be. But we’re a work in progress, and we made good progress today.

I mentioned earlier that this campsite had a fabulous view. Did I also mention that Michael checked the weather before we left town? Over the weekend, the chance for rain was 0%. Zero! That’s the number I kept repeating as we watched the storm clouds approach, complete with lots of lightning.

Well, at least we had plenty of time to put everything away. And we weren’t surprised when the first big, fat raindrops fell.

*&@(! rain. Is it following us or something?!? At least there were no bears.

Monday morning was clear, and we broke down camp and headed into town. We splurged on breakfast out – I have to say that it was okay, but not really worth what we paid for it. I guess Aunt Alice’s Restaurant in Longmont spoiled us. (We were such regulars there that we told the staff about our trip, so they wouldn’t wonder why we suddenly stopped coming in.)

Anyway – by the time all the necessary stuff we had to do was done, it was 1pm. Our next stop is Lander, Wyoming, and that’s a five hour drive. Michael suggested we get moving.

I suggested that we ride the trails at Emerald Mountain, hit up the Hot Springs for a shower and a soak, and then camp along Buffalo Pass Road for one more night. After all, most of the sites were empty and we could camp a lot closer to town.

Michael agreed. We found a place to park along the river, with shade, and set out on our bikes. Emerald Mountain is a blast! We learned from another rider that the area used to be a bunch of horse trails, and that the mountain bike trails here were specifically constructed to have no more than a 5% grade. We took some fun trails – Lupine had some nice, rocky sections. We came down a swoopy trail called NPR. Not sure what the initials stand for, but this trail reminded me of a trail in Fruita called PBR. There, the PBR stands for Pumps, Bumps, and Rollers. No matter – NPR was a super fun way to get back down the mountain.

The Steamboat Springs Hot Springs are wonderful. Those of you familiar with the area may wonder why we didn’t go to Strawberry Park Hot Springs – it’s because they don’t have shower facilities. The soak was a nice way to end the day, but we were both really after a shower.

Actually, the soak was even better than the shower.

Look out, Lander, here we come!

Adventures in Crested Butte

Michael politely suggested I change the subtitle of this blog, to “let’s go traveling” instead of “let’s go adventuring.”

See, the thing is, adventures are not always fun while they’re happening. And Crested Butte was an adventure.

We arrived under sunny skies, near dusk on Tuesday, and quickly found a nice spot to camp along Slate River Road.

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Those Revel Gear Lights sure are coming in handy.

The tarp in the picture above is from the Tarpestry. We bought it at RockyGrass, before either one of us could talk the other out of it. It’s pretty kick ass so far. The dogs love it, too.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear, although clouds built throughout the day.

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The table was made out of scrap wood with help from my friend Justin. We’re still getting used to it, but so far it’s pretty handy.

We got a ride in, doing parts of Upper Lower Loop, Lower Lower Loop, and the KB Connector Trail.

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There were cows on the trail, so that was interesting.

Cows on the trail

 

I never thought I would ever ride a trail while shouting “hey cow!” every five seconds and ringing the bell on my handlebars. Check that one off the bucket list.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday night it drizzled a bit. Thursday morning it started raining. And it never entirely quit.

GoGoTacoNegroThat’s only half the fun, though. Actually, the rain wasn’t the worst – we have the RTT and we set up a tarp so that we can sit outside, cook, etc. But we couldn’t ride due to the rain, and the dogs were bored out of their skulls. We did manage a bit of a walk along Slate River Road.

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As soon as we got back to camp the skies opened up. To the point that a river formed under the truck, soaking the stuff we’d stored there. The river made its way down to the tarp we’d put down as well. Just about everything we had was all wet. The one champ? Our Cabela’s waterproof duffel bag. So we at least had a change of dry clothes.

Sick of the rain, I went to bed at 8:30. Embarrassing but true. And the real fun began around 2am. I heard something outside the rig. I couldn’t tell how big it was but it appeared to be rummaging through the stuff we’d left outside.

Before you judge – everything we left outside was in a covered container. We didn’t leave any food out in the open. You might judge a little though, because the day before, someone told us a bear was in the area.

Anyway. I woke up Michael and we peered around through the windows of the RTT. The cool thing about this tent is that all the screens also zipper completely open, so we could lean out the windows for a better view.

I started hearing a sound. Munch, munch, munch. The sound of the dog food being eaten. Dammit. Peeking around, we figured that whatever it was, was up along the hillside in front of the rig. Michael put his shoes on and went down the ladder. “Do not zipper this thing closed,” he said.

I watched the beam of his headlamp scan the hillside. “Look there,” he finally said. I focused my light on the spot he wanted, and all I saw was a good-sized splotch of black that was even darker than everything else outside.

Munch, munch, munch. The eating of dog food continued.

“Hey!” I yelled. In reply a pair of eyes glowed in the beam of light for a moment. Then disappeared. Probably a bear. Most likely.

Munch, munch, munch.

It was at this unfortunate moment that I realized I had to pee. “Go now,” Michael said, returning to the tent. “While he’s still eating.” I went down the ladder barefoot and squatted right there next to the truck. I was somewhere mid-stream when I realized the munching sounds had stopped.

Shit.

“Get up here,” Michael said. I shot up that ladder like my ass was on fire.

At this point, all was quiet and Michael went right back to sleep. It’s not that I was worried about something getting us or anything – that’s the beauty of a rooftop tent – but I just wasn’t sleepy. Going to bed at 8:30 will do that to you, I guess. So I read for a while before lying back down. It stayed nice and quiet outside the rig. Even the rain had stopped.

Our visitor returned just before dawn. Michael and I woke to a ruckus happening, this time on his side of the rig. And this time, there was no confusion: it was a bear. A black bear. And it was trying to get into our cooler. I shouted “hey bear!” at it, and the bear stopped for a moment. I would swear it looked uncertain. So Michael put on his deepest, gruffest voice, and said “HEY BEAR!”

The bear chuffed and ran off towards the creek.

Once again, Michael put on his shoes and went down to investigate. I stayed up in the tent and kept an eye on the willows next to the creek. But the bear did not return.

Our (extremely expensive) Yeti cooler was upside down, but still latched. There was a claw mark along one edge. But it survived. Along with all our food, and our Cholaca supply.

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Suddenly all that money we spent on the Yeti seemed worth it. I think we’ll invest in locks next, though. Then it will be truly bear-proof.

Maybe 10 minutes after the bear left our camp, we heard a car alarm go off. We were just up the road from another camping area – a crowded one. Apparently our bear was making the rounds.

When we packed up camp (in the rain, I might add) later, I went up the hillside to retrieve what was left of the plastic container we used for the dog food. But it was still intact. That bear could have just smashed it open, and instead he knew how to flip the latches. He also knew to go for the dog food. And the cooler. Smarter than your average bear, apparently.

Cholaca Pour

 

Packing up camp in the rain was about as fun as it sounds. I tried to embrace the suck. The necessary ingredient – Cholaca in our coffee. (Especially since the coffee was Starbucks Via.)

 

 

 

 

So we drove into town under dark skies. After seeing that rain was forecasted for the Crested Butte area for the next week, we headed out of town. It’s too bad – CB seems like a cool place, and one I’d like to have gotten to know better. Maybe some other time.

We’re in Buena Vista now, drying out. Although it’s supposed to rain here too, it’s only a 40% chance. So we’ll give it a whirl, before we head up towards Steamboat Springs.

Ah, adventure.

RockyGrass Recap (part 1)

Our first stop as official, full-time travelers? RockyGrass. For those of you who don’t know, RockyGrass is an amazing bluegrass festival that takes place every July in Lyons, CO. We’ve been going since 2009 and every year seems like the best ever.

Even though we used to live just down the road (fun fact: we bought that house because of its proximity to Lyons) we have camped every year since 2010. RockyGrass is its own universe, like living in a friendly, bluegrass bubble, and once I’m there I don’t want to leave.

Camping is a big deal for this festival – we tried to camp “on-site,” but that works via lottery and we were denied. What does on-site look like? A little like this:

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Yeah, it’s crowded. And getting in there is kind of a nightmare for anxious people like me. But (in my opinion) the best after-hours picks happen on-site. Of course, if you go to bed early, on-site is NOT for you. On Sunday morning I was told about a pick that went on until 7am.

We camped at Riverbend again this year, which I mentioned in my last post. Camping is pretty tight there as well…

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Riverbend is also home to a collection of tiny houses. WeeCasa, billed as “Colorado’s first tiny home hotel,” WeeCasa consists of about 20 or so tiny houses of different shapes and sizes.

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They offer tours, but we got a little busy with bluegrass, so we had to settle for peeking in a couple of windows.

A little bit more about camping at RockyGrass. At some point (Thursday?) I called my parents to let them know we closed on the house, etc. My dad asked me something about my camera, and I said “I don’t know, it’s back at the tent.” This was met with dead silence. My dad knows my camera wasn’t cheap and he seemed to be a little shocked that I’d just leave it unattended like that.

But here’s the thing: first, there is probably tens of thousands of dollars of equipment sitting around the RockyGrass campgrounds. Tents, chairs, tables, cookstoves… the list goes on. People bring a lot of stuff with them! And then there’s the instruments. RockyGrass is widely known as a picker’s festival – so there are lots of instruments sitting around as well.

So yeah, there’s lots of expensive stuff. But RockyGrass is a bubble, a little universe that exists outside of normal reality. I mean, where else would you smile and wave at a nice couple walking down the street with their little boy… only to realize that the couple is Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck (with their little boy Juno)?

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A fine example of that “little universe” mentality of RockyGrass? A cell phone charging station, full of phones. Nobody was watching them. Everyone just trusted everyone else.

But I’ll tell you a little story that I think illustrates the RockyGrass mentality best. We brought along both of our solar chargers. One, by Voltaic Systems, is a good-sized panel charger with a battery, and we use it to charge the phones and the laptop. The other, by Revel Gear, is attached to a string of lights.

 

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We wrapped the lights around our tent so that it would be easy to spot after dark.

On Friday, we left the chargers sitting out to charge in the sun. And at some point on Friday, it rained. A lot. We were on-site at the time, and Michael and I wondered if we should run back to camp and move the chargers. We figured we’d never make it in time and decided to hope for the best. Well, when we got back to camp – easily found with our awesome lights –

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We found that our chargers and our chairs had been placed inside the rainfly of our tent. Wow! We found out the next day that our “Yanni neighbors” (so called because of this sign at the edge of their camp) figured we wouldn’t want our stuff to get all wet.

 

 

 

 

And that’s what it’s like to camp at RockyGrass.

Of course there was music! But I think I’ll save that for another post. I’ll share this picture with you as a teaser, though:

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