Our Colorado trip was about as perfect an excursion as one could ask for...and we didn't stick to the plans originally made. We made reservations prior to departure at Big Meadows Reservoir - a BLM campgound close to Southfork. Little did we know Big Meadows would become not only our first camp, but also the last camp, and everything in between as far as RV camps went.
We departed late Wednesday and drove straight through arriving at Big Meadows early Thursday morning after a quick stop in Pagosa Springs for some breakfast goodies. Perfect weather all the way there. After setting up the Casita and eating our breakfast we hit the sack for six hours for some shuteye. That evening we putzed around camp and got a little more organized before sunset. Two 10-point bucks wandered within twenty feet of our Casita. Samantha snuck up to within twelve feet of them with the help of our Camp Host next door. Quite a surprise to see these deer so close and unafraid. We then relaxed and enjoyed our first night under the starry Colorado skies. The night air was cool and crisp - about 42 degrees F. Great for sleeping with the windows cracked open.
The next morning we drove to Southfork to purchase fishing licenses and live bait. We headed back to camp and set out in the canoe for some fishing. Neither Samantha or Cynthia had ever caught a fish (we first tried in Beaver's Bend but they didn't have live bait - hence, no luck there) There on Big Meadows reservoir, just as quick as I could put nightcrawlers on the hook, Samantha reeled in three Rainbow trout in a row! Cynthia caught her first rainbow a bit later that same outing. Now I have to say if nothing else had gone right the rest of the trip - that day on the lake would have still made all the effort to get there worth it. And the fishing just got better as the days went by. Nights were spent gazing at the amazing skies - the bright bands of the Milky Way, counting the shooting stars as they streaked by and the satellites puttering along.
After a couple more days in camp we took a break from fishing and fun at Big Meadows and day tripped to Durango to get tickets for the Durango-Silverton train ride. We also elected to scout Vallecito Reservoir - our next planned move. And a good thing we did. What a mess that place is....it is heartbreaking. To add to the woes caused by a wildfire ~two years ago, this Spring apparently brought unprecedented rain and the Vallecito area was inundated with mudslides. I barely recognized it as being the same Vallecito we had camped in 10 years ago. Fishing in a canoe would also have presented a difficult launch (a drive up the road to the dam) with the exception of the last RV park on the remote backside of the lake at the end of the road. This RV park was quite difficult to access and was a bit crowded for our liking. We decided to stay on at Big Meadows given the crowded quarters at the RV parks and the generally unattractive view rendered by the burned-out mountainsides surrounding the Vallecito reservoir.
We proceeded to Durango to make our train reservations, watched one of the returning trains, and then headed back to Big Meadows. We stopped in Pagosa Springs for pizza given the late hour of our return. Over the next three days we enjoyed camp life in the Big Meadows area. We hiked up the Archuletta trail (about 3 miles into the Weminuche, just to the bottom of the switchbacks) and back again. Samantha did amazingly well for her first real backpack excursion having hiked six miles round trip! "I'm totally exhausted!" she declared as we made our way into camp that afternoon. We relaxed at camp and had a few cold drinks to refresh ourselves.
Over the next few days we took the canoe out, continued fishing for Rainbows. Some days in the early morn, some in the afternoon and one into evening well past dark. Samantha packed in her daily limit on one of our outings (four trout in under three hours) and Cynthia came in a close second hauling in three trout that same day (Though she hooked a fourth and reeled it towards the canoe, it got away at the last moment! ) We cooked them on the campfire that night and had a feast!
The next day trip out was back to Durango for the train ride. We chose to take the Gondola (covered roof, open sides) The Gondola is the right choice - great views compared to the normal passenger cars. A very pretty ride up to Silverton. The return trip became overcast, as it often is there in the afternoons, and we hit just a bit of rain as we got close to Durango at the end of the trip. Great fun overall and I took lots of pictures (See below).
With three days remaining our last scouting venture out of Big Meadows was a daytrip back through Southfork and up the scenic Silver Thread Byway (149) into Creede for brunch, then up through Slumgullion pass and into to Lake City for shopping and to scout Mill Creek/Williams Creek BLM campgrounds and the public campgrounds on Lake San Cristobal. We proceeded up to Mill Creek. We found Mill Creek overrun with RV campers who also brought their 4-wheelers and/or dirt bikes - It appeared to be a mix of hunters and folks who were buzzing up and down the roads, back and forth over the pass along the Alpine Loop. Not the quiet, peaceful, serene camping we had imagined. Williams Creek looked a bit more hospitable, however, the girls had caught that fishing bug and didn't want to give it up. (Me either to be quite honest). San Cristobal was very pretty, however most of the lake access appears to be privatized and has either been developed or is soon to be. The public campsites were all well above the waterline and without access to the lake. We all voted to return to Big Meadows and camp there for the remainder of our trip.
Back in camp the girls and I were back out in the canoe every day trout fishing. I believe we hauled in twenty three trout in all.
So to sum it up, the weather was near perfect, we saw most everything we had planned to see, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The mix of BLM camping, canoeing, fishing, and our day trips that included shopping and sightseeing kept us entertained and plenty busy. And there were the quiet times in and around the camp for playing games, cards, reading, playing guitar, campfires (Smores!!), and sipping a glass of wine too. The Casita kept us comfortable and cozy. The Honda generator did its job well. Did I mention we went fishing The last day at camp was a good day of rest before packing it in for the return trip. And Cynthia tried to get me to fish one last time on the way out! Hooked she is, methinks!
P.S. Sighted four other Casitas during our two weeks in the area. One was parked in the Big Meadows public fishing area as we were returning from the hike up the Archuletta Trail, and the other three we passed along the highway during our trips to Durango and Southfork.
Edited by Gary J. Carter, 18 September 2007 - 07:55 PM.