Sunday, August 22, 2021

Trip End Summary

What did we learn from 5 weeks in our new Winnebago Travato 2022 KL camper van? I learned that I could probably live in a tiny home (or at least a much smaller home) without much problem. Two adults and a dog lived comfortably in 135 square feet for 34 nights. I'm now wondering why I need all the rest of that stuff sitting at home. There is a balance, of course. Some things are needed to maintain a house, that aren't needed on the road. There are also some things, such as musical instruments, that bring joy at home, but we chose not to bring on the trip. But overall, I could live happily in much less space. Elena is not as certain as I am.

It was nice to get home, but I certainly could have gone longer. Elena said five weeks was about the right maximum. Bebop seemed ready to go again. As I was unloading items from the van this morning, she jumped into her seat and looked disappointed when we didn't drive away. She was a delight on the trip - perfectly well-adjusted to travel. Prioritizing experiences over stuff is very enjoyable and relaxing. Here was our route:

Road trip route (#'s are POI, not days)

Let's get to the data. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by my data and analysis of our 5-week road trip.

Miles Driven: 5,336.6 miles (only about 200 on the interstates; about 100 on gravel and dirt roads)
Average miles/day: 152
Average miles/day minus four days and 1,200 round trip miles in and out of Texas: 133
States outside of Texas: (6) NM, CO, UT, WY, MT, ID 
Time Driving: 130 hours
Avg Speed: 41 mph
MPG: 16.2 (many mountains and hills)
Gas Used: 327.8 gallons
Gas Cost: $1,114.52 ($32/day)
Highest temperature: 99ºF in Vernal, UT
Lowest temperature: 36ºF in old Snowmass, CO, and Creede, CO

Best MPG was on the downhill coming home

Highest elevation driven: 11,530 feet (Slumgulllion Pass, CO). Times across the continental divide: 12

Continental Divide Crossings
  • Cuba, NM 6,900 (W)
  • Yellowstone NP 8,200 (E)
  • Glacier NP 7,400 (W)
  • Butte, MT 6,400 (E)
  • Henry Lake - Reynolds Pass 6,800 (W)
  • Henry Lake - Targhee Pass 7,100 (E)
  • Yellowstone 8,300 (W)
  • Yellowstone 8.300 (E)
  • Yellowstone 8.200 (W)
  • Sslumgullion Pass 11,530 (E)
  • Wolf Creek Pass 10,900 (W)
  • North of Abiquiu 7,700 (E)
Sleeping locations - cost avg ~$21/night
  • State Parks (10)
  • National Parks (7)
  • Private Campgrounds (6)
  • Boondocked in the forest - not in any parking lots (4)
  • Moochdocked in driveways of relatives and friends (6)
  • Hotel (had points for one free night) (1)

Food - Cooked most meals in the van. Stopped for groceries about 7 times. Ate out a few times with friends. Avg cost per day = to what we would have spent at home. We ate very well, but increased activity (hiking) helped me shed a few pounds on the trip.

  • Flat Tire: (1) fortunately, just the mountain bike on the bike rack, not the van. The 31-year-old weathered bike tire blew out while on the bike rack during our drive through Glacier NP.
  • Sewer hose popped out of the hole during one black water dump. Yuck.
  • Grey tank valve was still open once when we removed the cap. Oops.
  • Awning deployed in grocery parking lot when the switch was bumped putting away groceries. It hit a light fixture pole, but both survived.
  • An accident happened on a rural road just before we topped a hill. We were greeted with big guardrail pieces strewn across the narrow road (no shoulders). Hit one piece and missed two. No apparent damage.
The smoke and haze obscured some mountain views for much of the trip, but we had a few nice days, and we focused on wildlife, waterfalls, and up close things.
  • The petroglyphs and bighorn sheep in Nine Mile Canyon (blog link)
  • Mom and young moose and bear with two cubs in the same day at the Tetons NP (blog link)
  • Bison and scenery in Yellowstone, and the Beartooth Highway drive (blog link
  • The hike to No Name Lake in Glacier NP (blog link)
  • Sheep Creek Geological Loop (blog link)
  • The smoke clearing the day we arrived at the Maroon Bells (blog link)
  • A nice soak in a clothing optional hot spring (blog link)
  • Numerous bighorn sheep along the La Verde Vista trail along the Rio Grande (blog link)
  • And though I didn't write a blog about our hike at the Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu or our camp site at Abiquiu Lake, they resulted in a few of the best photos of the trip.
Coming into the Ghost Ranch

Hike into the box canyon at the Ghost Ranch

Overlooking Abiquiu Lake

- Paul

Thursday, August 19, 2021

From Transactions to Relationships: Living in a gratitude-based world

 "The essence of the gift [economy] is that it creates a set of relationships.... [It] opens the way to living in gratitude and amazement at the richness and generosity of the world. [It] asks us to bestow our own gifts in kind, to celebrate our kinship with the world....When all the world is a gift in motion, how wealthy we become." 

---Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

Final Days of the Trip

Today (8/19) is our last day of activities. The final two days will just be driving 618 miles over two days to return home.

We departed our lovely camp site at the Riana Campground at Abiquiu Lake this morning. On the repeated recommendation of my friend Beth Michalak, we stopped at Bode's General Store in Abiquiu for a breakfast burrito. Beth raved about them, and she was not wrong. My goodness, that was a tasty burrito.

Sunrise over Abiquiu Lake

Beth with a final text recommendation before we departed her house

We then went to the La Vista Verde trail, which runs along the Rio Grande. Several people had mentioned bighorn sheep sightings there. We hadn't even reached the trailhead parking lot when one, who seemed to be acting as the greeter, said hi from the side of the road.

Welcome to La Vista Verde. Parking is just ahead on the left.

Elena, there is a bighorn behind you

Majestic bighorn

Bighorn closeup
Along the 2.7 mile RT hike we saw a couple of other bighorn, including one sunning on a rock. The end of the trail presented a great view of the Rio Grande gorge. That's the same river that was so small and shallow when we stood in it next to our campsite near Creede a few nights ago. On the way back to the van, we saw a group of bighorn making their way along the black basalt rocks.

Bebop surveying the Rio Grande

Find the five bighorns
Elena wanted to visit Taos, so we drove in. She ambled about the square while Bebop and I walked in a park. After that we took the high road out of Taos and through the Sangre de Cristo mountains toward Las Vegas, NM. They have had copious amounts of rain this year and everything was green and lush. It was a very nice drive. 

Bridge over Rio Grande gorge on the way to Taos

We are at Storrie Lake State Park for the night. 

Good night from Storrie Lake, NM

- Paul

Monday, August 16, 2021

Bebop on Hiking and Big Floating Donuts

This is Bebop with an update. We are still on our extended adventure. We've been gone for over 4 weeks now. A few days ago, we stayed at a free campsite along the headwaters of the Rio Grande. The camper next door had two large dogs who would go nuts if I walked past their camper. They would run from the front to the back of the camper, barking loudly while their owner yelled "shut up" over and over again. My dad tried to steer me in other directions, but I liked to walk past that camper. I minded my manners and was on my best behavior. 

On Sunday (8/15) we returned to the little town of Creede and drove into the mountains in an old mining area. We were thinking about driving the 17-mile loop road, but it was unpaved and rocky. We've taken a lot of chances already on the trip, and we don't have a spare tire, so we decided to walk up the road a bit.

We climbed high and saw many old structures made of sticks. Mmmm . . . sticks. It was a good decision to walk as we saw a truck with a blown out tire. 

Look at all those sticks. I'm going to need some beavers to help.

Good decision not to drive this road - this car did not fare well

Later that day we drove to a house in Pagosa Springs. The people who own it live near us in Fairview, but bought this house recently. I chased one of their rabbits right into his hole. I also saw several deer and made them run just by looking at them.

Sunrise at our friend's house

On Sunday (8/16) we took a long drive out to a river that had a hiking trail next to it. The road was about 10 miles of dirt each way, and some sections were that bouncy type of road. I think it's called Washboard Crap, because that's what my parents would say when we drove over it. 

Dogs were allowed to hike, and we went almost 4 miles total. It was pretty, and I drank from the river in a few places. On our way back, there was some excitement. As we rounded a corner on the trail, something big and white came at us out of the bushes. I jumped to defend our family and found myself face to face with another dog running free-range. I got into my play posture, and we chased each other around a bit. His owners came out shortly after and laughed. It was fun. I forgot to sniff where he was from.


That's me leading the way

Look, I'm an Instagram model

After the hike, we went to Pagosa Springs and mom floated in the river in a donut - I think they call them tubes here. It looked like the biggest donut I have ever seen. It was blue/green, so it must have been blueberry or mint flavored. I didn't bite it to check. Time to take my 4th nap of the day.

Mom in the floating donut


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Rocky Mountains (are) High

On Friday (8/13) we camped at a campground overlooking the very depleted Lake Fork reservoir (Blue Mesa Outpost). Saturday (8/14) we took a lightly trafficked road down toward the small town of Creede, CO. I think we drove our highest elevation so far at 11,530 feet across Slumgullion Pass. Then we crested another 11,000 foot pass. The scenery was amazing, as some rain late the day before had cleared the smoke from the skies. We drove across the continental divide a total of 8 times on this trip, as we end week number four.

Near the 11,530 foot Slumgullion Pass
Lake San Cristobal

We stopped at the
North Clear Creek Falls for a lunch break and short hike. Then, we dropped all the way to about 9,000 feet at our free forest service Rio Grande Campsite. There are just 7 sites along the headwaters of the Rio Grande, and there were still 4 available when we arrived on Saturday early afternoon. With our sliding door open, it’s about 50 feet to the river, where Elena immediately began to wade.

North Clear Creek Falls

Elena in the headwaters of the Rio Grande

After four weeks on the road, Elena was craving a little culture. She purchased tickets to an outdoor play in Creede, CO and we put on our best layers and went into town for the evening. We even ate out for the 2nd time in four weeks. The show was just cancelled due to nearby lighting. We really love having our house with us - it’s very convenient.
The play cancelling storm moving in
- Paul

Friday, August 13, 2021

Double Ducky Day

As we were passing through Glenwood Springs, we found ourselves with a free afternoon and Paul mentioned rafting -- my favorite thing to do in the world! Sure enough, a highly rated outfit had room on its early afternoon trip. Paul decided he would hang out with Bebop instead of coming along, so I was solo for this adventure. 

There was one complicating factor: mudslides. A year or two ago, there were massive wildfires in the area above Glenwood Springs, so when they got record rains this summer, the denuded mountainsides just flowed onto the highways, into the rivers, and all over. The interstate highway through Glenwood Canyon is closed, and Hanging Lake was badly damaged. For the rafting outfits, what this meant was that they couldn't drive upriver to do their usual half-day trip. Instead, they were offering a shorter trip through Class III-and-under rapids. The person who took my reservation said, "You could go on the raft, or you could take one of our inflatable kayaks" (aka "duckies"). I wasn't confident enough of my skills to go in a ducky, though. 

Then, as we were getting ready, my guide Thomas said, "Everyone else is going in the kayaks. The two of us can still take a raft, or there's a two-person inflatable kayak."

A double ducky? I had no idea they existed. All the extra fun of being lower in the water and more maneuverable, without the fear that I'd get caught in an eddy or dumped by a standing wave? Sign me up! 

Not me - but this is a double ducky. 
Photo (c) Whitewater Rafting LLC

Best. Day. Ever. 

The sections of rapids were just far enough apart that there was float-and-relax time but we never dried out or got hot. The rapids were splashy and fun. We even saw a bald eagle! 

I was also amused by a group of cows standing on the riverbanks. They were, of course, just chewing grass and watching the boats go by. I kept thinking of this Far Side cartoon: 

(c) Gary Larson,

What if they're really pirate cows, secretly plotting how to steal a raft? They could cool off in the river, charge other cows for raft trips ... man, they'd be the Jerseys from hell. 

All in all, a delightful day. No one tipped over, we all had a great time, and I give a big Bebop-two-paws-up to Whitewater Rafting, LLC, in Glenwood Springs. 



Clothing Optional

We enjoyed a second relatively clear day today. We departed Old Snowmass and made a stop at one of our favorite free hot springs. It's literally right next to the highway and hardly anyone knows it is there. The hot water trickles out from seeps under the road and into the Crystal River. People have used rocks to construct riverside pools that blend the extremely hot spring water and the cold river water to a perfect temperature. 

When we arrived today, there were only two other people there - two young women who were enjoying the clothing free option, and they were not shy about it either. They were in the best pool, but they pointed us to the next best area. After a bit they got up and gave us the prime pool which was a perfect soak. I didn't take photos this time (for obvious reasons of not looking like a creep), but I had a few photos from two years ago when we were there all alone.

Looking upstream at Elena
View of the pools from just off the roadway

Paul's feet pointing downstream

Then we decided to head into Crested Butte, since the smoke haze was almost nonexistent. You can go the long paved road, or the shorter dirt/gravel/washboard Kebler Pass road that's "only" about 30 miles long. We chose the short and super scenic route through Kebler Pass. We're certainly giving our new van a thorough "shakedown" as we bounced and vibrated along the narrow road. We enjoyed a lunch stop along the way and when we arrived at Crested Butte I pried Elena's white knuckled hands from the door and seat. She was on the outboard side of the narrow road with steep cliff drops. 

Lunch stop along Kebler Pass. Bebop is in the ditch.

We enjoyed a nice hike in Crested Butte. In the summer, that town has more bicycles than people. Bebop enjoyed the wildflowers and mountain views.

Mount Crested Butte behind Bebop

Bebop frolicking in the wildflowers

We are at our campsite for the night near the Curecanti National Recreation area. Tomorrow we head back into the mountains and visit the little town of Creede, CO.

- Paul

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Fractal Reality

Have you ever noticed how often a tiny new stream has the same folds, bends and miniature cliffsides as a mature canyon? Or the way each stretch of beach echoes the inlets, outlets, peninsulas and tidal pools of the larger coastline?

Reality is fractal. Even if you don't understand the formula for the Mandlebrot Set (I don't), you can still recognize the mathematical beauty in a Romanesco cauliflower. (Follow the link in the picture caption to read new research into how a cauliflower grows like this.)
image by Marc Pascual

The fact that fractals are so pervasive seems to me to indicate that there's a message to be heard, beyond the truism that everything is math. 

I started thinking about another truism, or proverb, that "how you live your days is how you live your life." Or "take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves." Our small interactions tend to repeat, to cycle, to build upon themselves. Ultimately, we end up where my mother wisely told me: People see in the world what they bring to it. Someone who is kind and friendly will perceive that others are kind and friendly. A con man will assume everyone is out to con him. 

This isn't rocket science, though it may be math. 

If you like the math, though, or canyons, here's a fun rabbit hole to run down:

So, given the fractal nature of reality, and also given that the only thing we can control is ourselves, I'm going to try to pay more attention to the tiny new streams of my habits before they become a Grand Canyon of sloth. 

Happy hiking, and may all your fractals be beautiful -- 



Bebop Blogging about Mountains

After three weeks of hearing my hoomans complain about bad smoke and haze obscuring their views, they seemed delighted today. We went to a place called Maroon Bells and the air quality was not perfect, but it was much improved. I had to ride on a bus to get there as they are trying to limit the number of hoomans driving into the valley. The people on the bus all wanted to pet me, as did many people on the trail.

Bebop selfie at the Maroon Bells near Aspen, CO

It was very pretty, I guess. I just wanted to smell things on the ground and drink from cool mountain streams. That mountain water is delicious - someone should bottle it. I also chewed on some sticks.

We hiked on some trails and took many photos. Some trails were off limits to dogs due to moose and bear activity. I added some more photos below.

These Aspen trees are very different from our trees at home

The Aspen trees grow in large clusters

Family photo at the Maroon Bells
The flowers and water were nice

There were pretty mountains in every direction

One of the delicious cool mountain streams

- Bebop

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Time Frozen, Folded, Slipped and Pummeled

I fell in love with rocks for their beauty: the way they catch and throw light, the shapes of mineral crystals, their different weights and textures. But what keeps me captivated is what rocks teach us about time.

In Glacier National Park, 2016

In geology, a million years is a rounding error. Humans are as inconsequential as gnats, here and (soon enough) gone. The basement rocks visible at the bottom of the Grand Canyon are approximately 1.8 billion years old, almost half the age of the earth. Because of a missing section called "the Great Unconformity," you can't just lay out the vertical rocks on a horizontal timeline; however, the rocks laid down during the Precambrian add to more than 12,500 feet in depth, not counting the basement rocks. The Paleozoic rocks, dating back to the Cambrian era 525 million years ago, add up to more than 3,500 feet in depth. The most recent layers  weathered away as the canyon was forming, so the rocks at the top are estimated to be 250-270 million years old. (See for more.)

During those not-quite-two billion years, the Colorado Plateau was taking a long journey around the globe, below and above the equator, as part of Pangaea and then broken free, below oceans and above them, as beach and as desert dunes. These rocks have been lifted, folded, squeezed and sometimes melted. They have been subject to forces we can barely imagine.

For comparison, modern humans appeared no more than a few hundred thousand years ago, and only developed language about 50,000 years ago. If all the missing rock layers from the last 270 million years still existed in the Grand Canyon, human history would represent a thin layer of dust on the top.

Kind of puts your office deadlines into perspective, doesn't it? 

Not the Grand Canyon - sedimentary layers visible in Utah

More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. Someday humans will be too, although whether we die out because we can't adapt to the damage we have wrought, or instead we evolve into some presently unimaginable form, we can't know. And the Earth doesn't care. Tectonic plates will continue to bang into one another, or rift apart. Mountains will be shoved up and worn down, grain by grain. Silicon dioxide will continue to form quartz, which makes hexagonal crystals whether or not we are here to judge them beautiful.

If I get too caught up in politics, or office work, or some puny individual concern, it helps to remember that all of it will pass away. For all our worry and upset and pain and judgment, time makes dust of us all. The best response is just to be kind, today, and let all the rest flow by like a river, carving its way through rock.  


I'm Not An Old Fossil

I’m 4 1/2 years older than Elena, so she often ribs me about being old. Today (8/10) we visited Dinosaur National Monument, where the ~150 million year old bones made me seem quite young in comparison. We first visited the quarry site, which is an incredible collection of bones just jutting from the hillside where they were found. Many of the full dinosaur skeletons you see in museums across the country came from this site. The deceased dinosaurs all washed in and collected in a muddy stream bed over many, many years. After the soil was compressed into rock, the Morrison layer was then pushed up and tilted to almost a vertical position in this location. Many Camarasaurus were found here, along with Stegosaurus, Barosaurus, and the bitey Allosaurus, among others, We had to wear masks in the visitors center since the COVID delta virus variant is spreading. I have a new theory that the dinosaurs were actually wiped out by fact resistant and anti-vax dinosaurs of their time.

One fossil; one not-a-fossil

Bones in the hillside

A very bitey Allosaurus

And though it’s not even close to the same time scale, I always think of this Far Side cartoon when I’m around dig sites.
 After viewing the wall and quarry exhibit, we walked the trail back to the main visitors center. There were fossils scattered in the walls and colorful rocks. Because of the tilt, there are about 6 major rock layers in this one area representing about 80 million years of deposits.
Elena studying a dino femur in the hillside

Reach out and touch some . . . rocks

Colorful tilted rocks

The eastern part of the park has a very scenic drive, but once again, the smoke haze really limited visibility. We decided to skip the 62-mile round trip drive that would present disappointing and hazy views at the end. We drove just a few miles to the first overlook.You can see the distant objects are hazed out. 

Overlook off Harper's Corner road

We headed for Rifle Gap State Park in Colorado for the night. After locating our very nice campsite, we went just down the road to Rifle Falls for a nice evening hike. We had the place to ourselves - except for the bear and cub that had been spotted in the area. We didn’t see the bears. We also explored some caves and various angles of the falls - even above and behind them. It is a state park, so Bebop could also enjoy the falls and caves with us.
Rifle Falls
I've looked at falls from both sides now

Bebop at the falls
Elena investigates a cave while Bebop stays on alert

- Paul