Base Camp Campground
Our final morning in Rocky Mountain National Park was a little stressful. As soon as we woke up, we realized the recently charged battery was dead. This meant no lights, no water pump, and soon the carbon monoxide detector began beeping. Ted quickly maneuvered the truck around to be able to power up off the truck battery, but it meant a speedy packing up and exit from the campground.
The trip back to I-70 was beautiful but windy. Ted is getting very good at switchbacks. Along the way, we reached out to our on-call RV mechanic to do some long-distance trouble shooting on the battery issue.
Once we had internet service again, I attempted to book a night at the KOA only to find them full. I called another private campground and was relieved to hear they had availability. We would have somewhere to stay.
We bypassed the area we planned to stay in to hit up a Wal-mart near Golden. Ted checked out the battery and bought a voltmeter at Home Depot. I stocked up on supplies.
We figured we needed to plug into someplace to continue working on the battery, so finding a campsite was our next priority. The problem was that is was still only about 10am and check-in at the campground we were eyeing wasn’t until 2pm. There was a nearby state park with electric so our best bet was to head up to that general area. Waze found us an extremely windy, narrow route through a canyon that was very pretty, but ranked up there as a road Ted did not want to take the trailer on.
Then, when we reached the state park, a sign indicated that RVs and trailers had to go another route to get to the campgrounds. Another day, another detour!
On our way around, we happened to pass by the Base Camp campground we called earlier. It was worth a try to see if they had something available, and they were kind enough to send their kids over to prepare a site so we could get in right away!
The Base Camp Campground is a little of an odd place. It is small, but friendly. I would say there is pride in ownership here and we feel like we have met quite a few of the staff/owners. A small convenience store/liquor store/gas station is great for light supplies. We were able to have our propane tank refilled. Wifi was available in the camp although the signal was intermittent unless near the camp store. This was important because there is little to no cell service here. I think the most concerning piece to me is that quiet hours here are from midnight-8am, so this place may attract a more raucous crowd that what we prefer. We heard a bit of music while drifting off, but the noise was not a big problem.
We had been on the road for a total of eight days at this point. A day of getting re-situated was exactly what we needed! I did laundry and looked ahead for our next stop on internet. Ted cleaned out the truck. We both reconfigured a few things inside. We made Cowboy Caviar Quesadillas for dinner, enjoyed a nice campfire. Clouds rolled in about evening, making the cool air, cold and clammy. Soon we were too cold to sit up so we retired to read and watch a bit of a movie before bed.
This morning Blue again let us sleep until 6am. I woke up a bit earlier, but was in a good part of my book, so we ended up having a bit of a lazy morning. Ted made a delicious breakfast that I got to enjoy in bed. Soon Ted and Blue started getting antsy, which Blue demonstrated by leaving dirty paw prints all over our sheets.
So we cleaned up the trailer and headed out for our next hike.
It was nearly an hour drive to the trailhead in the town of St. Mary Alice. We wound through the towns of Black Hawk and Central City and were shocked to see these traditional mining towns were struck with modern day gold fever in the form of gambling. Each small town hosted at least a half dozen monstrous casinos. As Ted remarked, “Just looking at these buildings, you have to understand just how much the odds are stacked against you in gambling.” We didn’t go in, but they were still fun to drive by.
We took I-70 a few exits west and then traveled up another winding road. We were surprised to see so many people at the start of this hike. A large parking lot was already halfway full. There is quite an operation with a fee station to pay the $5 parking charge. They do not accept credit cards, but a handwritten note helpfully suggests that if you need change, you can write down your home address and change will be sent to you less a $1 handling fee. I found that to be such a sweet notion I was tempted to try it. But not $15 tempted. It also seemed as though many people embarked on the hike without paying, but the $5 was not worth the hassle of a tow to me.
The hike to St. Mary’s Lake is about ¾ of a mile and the glacier/snowfield is only a bit beyond that. However, it is a rather significant amount of elevation gain in that short distance and many of our fellow hikers were struggling. It was easy to identify those who had recently come from lower elevations – they were the fit looking people who were dying for air.
The way finding on the trail isn’t great either. On the way up, we encountered three major intersections. Stay left for the first two, right at the second. Most of the times if we hesitated, descending hikers would soon show us the right way. If anyone ever attempted to do the hike at a less crowded time, it might be a problem.
The lake was a bit of a party atmosphere, with a couple groups having set up make-shift day camps – tents, hammocks, music, and all. A couple people flew drones. A few others even brought up skis and snowboards to get in a little winter sport action in July. I guess this is the trade off on open lands – we get to bring our dog and other people also get to do their thing.
It is less than a quarter mile climb up to the “glacier”. I have glacier in quotes, because what little I know about glaciology (not an actual field) lends me to think this is a snowfield that will eventually melt under the summer sun. Many social trails lead to various points on the hill and it seemed some people were even wandering up to nearby peaks. Amazing wildflowers adorned the paths and the views defied description.
We made it about halfway up the snowfield and gave Blue a chance to play on the ice. She took to it like, well – a husky to snow. She could have played all day, sledding, dancing and eating the snow. But she was hindered by her leash and eventually grew frustrated. And we didn’t bring any food, so it was time to go down.
We ate lunch at a quick scenic pull out and then cruised back to our camper. We briefly flirted with the idea of doing another hike at the state park, but a nap seemed more appealing.
Back at the trailer, Blue and Ted fell into a deep sleep while I read. We all awoke hungry and tempted by the many options we had seen in Idaho Springs. We checked Yelp and found that MTN Prime both rated well and allowed dogs on their patio – well worth the time into town. Once we arrived in town we were charmed by the Old West vibe. We split a wedge salad and I got a trout version of fish and chips while Ted tried the Elk stew. It would have been a perfect dinner, but the sun was a little intense.
We finished up quickly and made a stroll through town. We checked out an old narrow gauge rail car on display and walked along Clear Creek. It was all so Colorado.
We got back to the campground just in time to throw the dirty sheets in the wash. As we sit by the fire, the cool night air is rolling in. It is hard to believe it is nearly August. It is hard to believe this is our life.