Yesterday, I decided to hop onto the Aurora e-bike and see what other campsites existed, and how they may relate to the Defiant’s peculiarities. The first time I came here, it was immediately before sunset and the pickin’s looked pretty limited. I had driven about a mile further than where I ultimately settled – where I am now – and almost had some excitement as darkness settled in. A trail branch I could use to back into and turn around with was slightly downhill and surprised me with deep sand and pea gravel. It took 4WD and considerable wheelspin to ease the 7,000-pound tub forward again. I considered myself fortunate to find a workable space at all.
Now, wandering the same trail in broad daylight, it didn’t seem like the same place at all, apart from the cozy familiarity of its brutal washboard surface. There are actually many, many campsites, several of which are fully adaptable to the Defiant’s needs. Accessibility or slope carve off quite a few of course, including one where some projecting granite shows the unmistakable polish of vehicle crossmembers and oil pans. Still, the overall quality of dispersed campsites here has a wow factor that is difficult to match. Few are those which lack either an embrace of large boulders, or a vista grand enough to restore the spirit. Or both. Add some ground clearance and trim off excessive overhang, and you have choices that boggle the mind. Wet weather may require 4WD, of course. Everything has a slope to some degree.
Oddly, I spotted not a single motorhome of any size. Possibly, it was pure luck. Possibly, there’s an intimidation factor along with the availability of the $10/night Veedauwoo camp near the I-80 exit. But there are several great sites that are conquerable by the obnoxiously picky Defiant, so I’m stumped on that one.
It turns out that the branch that I almost got stuck on leads to the parking area for a cross-country trail open to hiking, horses, and bicycles. Indeed, I passed a couple along the way there who were packing up their horses into their trailer after a day-long ride. I walked the Evelo past, but the lady told me that these two horses would not be spooked by a rider – though the horse they left at home would have been. There are many walking trails here, both on open ground and between boulders and slopes. I hope to hit one today. Anyway, that wheelspinning branch was hardly recognizable now, the only point of familiarity being that deep, loose sand mix at its intersection with the main trail.
No doubt about it, this place is a keeper. I can’t picture anyone becoming bored with it from repeated visits. Maybe, if you only ever stay in the Veedauwoo campground itself, but venturing outside it? No possible way. Biking down one branch after another, I pictured myself with a more normal rig and found myself saying, “Oh, I’d have to stay here…and this one, definitely…and this one would be superb! Look at that!” Over and over and over. There are easily over a dozen “absolute musts” for a more goat-like, high-clearance rig, and that’s only on a round trip of just over seven miles. This is a very big place.
I was there for two weeks and both weekends I saw parades of RVs on their way in on Friday and out on Sunday. Okay, maybe not parades, but there were a good dozen tucked back in there somewhere, deeper in than me.
I would have gone deeper in, myself, but I’d only been nomadic for a month by then and still a little too afraid of getting lost. I’ve been easing my way out of my comfort zone with respect to that over time, but it’s still a concern.
I have something called geographical agnosia which basically boils down to everyone being amazed when I actually show up at their doorstep because, well, it is a pretty amazing thing. Kind of like a blind person in a cave actually finding that black cat that wasn’t there.
I hear ya! My awesome trailblazing skills appear to be energized by blind luck, particularly in overcast when the sun is hidden. The compass app on my iPhone helps if there is absolutely no signal available. Otherwise I have found the free MVUM maps (Motor Vehicle Usage Maps) for each National Forest invaluable. An app called PDF Maps displays them and pinpoints your current position relative to the trail network. A magnetic compass and the GPS stay in the Mighty Furd.
Even so, if the MVUMs do not apply, or other locators like US Public Lands or Maps can’t work well, I never go far in when numerous trails start to tangle. No way I’m going to remember the way out through several intersections/crossings. Trails can bend every which way, so if the compass is all I’ve got, I simply won’t go very far in. For my purposes, there’s no need anyway. Here, most branch trails are stubs or loops off the main road, so getting lost would take some effort, even for the geographically-impaired – or so I like to think! On this bike trip, I wasn’t sure on the return of a branch whether I was seeing another intermediate branch segment, or the main road. Seeing the familiar washboard was a comfort!
Walking trails are a different story entirely. Here, I use a line from the film Ronin as my guide: “If there is doubt, there is no doubt.” If I am not certain that I’ll be able to pick my way back at any time, that’s the turn-back point for me. I don’t pick up local papers very often, but when I do, there’s too often some recent event there about the end effects of getting in over your head. Not all Adventures stay clear of Unfortunate Incident territory. Risk management plays a part in there somewhere, and Know Thyself (something you have nailed). Probably also, the ability to accurately sense the line between adventurous spirit and foolhardiness. That’s a very individual thing.
Never live by someone else’s code of risk management, no matter the inspiring propaganda factor. It will either bore you or get you hurt – at best. Some promoters will knowingly and deliberately withhold the serious risks or downsides of things, for fear that those might dissuade you from following their own personal ideology. If you take the leap of faith and something goes amiss, they then dismiss the result as stupid decision-making on your part. Insofar as you believed them, it was!
Although I myself try to take the positive view of things just for my own sake – I can get all melancholy when I find that I’ve purchased paper towels that do not tear into those handy half-sheets – even a semi-comatose reader will also pick up on an inordinate amount of whining on this blog. There are downsides of sorts, particularly if you’re a highly social person, I suppose. And despite the free boondocking, this lifestyle ain’t free by any stretch. Except for the rent or mortgage and real estate taxes, all the other expenses stick like a tick. I avoid the financials simply because they are so highly variable – because there are so many ways to do this. But at least you will not hear me announce that “you can live live a king for $5,000 a year!!!” That one needs a strong back, a good shovel, and some tall rubber boots.
Nothing like what’s actually there, JR! It was actually a let down to get back and look at what the photos completely missed! I enjoyed it, but didn’t try hard enough on the shots.
It’s so hard to capture the magic of Vedauwoo in photos. I tried really hard and fell short every time. The real magic for me is locked in my memories, where the iconic image is my black-and-white cat chasing grasshoppers through the tall grass, surrounded by whimsically-shaped boulders and golden sunshine.
I think I would have the grasshopper chasing the cat. Makes it even more memorable. 😉
Poor Mr. Kitty, the grasshopper has been about the only thing that didn’t chase him. These days, he tends to just lay around inside the van, even when I open all the doors and issue an engraved invitation to wander.
His last straw was some growly thing in Paoli, Indiana. I think it was probably a dog. Maxine suggested it might have been a tiger. Whatever it was, I heard a low growl somewhere off in the trees, followed by Fermat streaking back to camp in a panic and he hasn’t wandered since.
Trauma! I’m leaning towards a raccoon. I heard one flopping down a chimney, and it wasn’t happy. I was glad the flue was closed, though it was all too easy to lever open. Fortunately, the critter somehow managed to climb all the way back up and out. I’ve heard cats attempting to take on raccoons at night, with their Mighty Hunter mindset. From the sound of it, they eventually had to shift to Plan B and give it up, which is very difficult for them. Prey is not supposed to fight back effectively. Mr. Kitty is one discerning feline.
Oh, man! Raccoons are scary critters, indeed.
A bit more than a couple of decades ago, I was living in a stairwell of an old, run down, Victorian-era house (quirky living arrangements, but the rent was so low it was non-existent.) A raccoon got into the attic and then figured out how to open the door to the stairwell. I came home from work one evening to find a hissing, growling monster on the landing above me.
Above me — that was sort of the tipping point for me in the confrontation. Never fight your way *up* a flight of stairs. I don’t know how they find the bravery to do it in those Eroll Flynn movies. Fighting up, just not a good strategy. I slept out on the porch that night.
If the growly thing in the woods was a raccoon, I don’t blame Mr. Kitty one hit for fleeing in a panic. I’ve done the same thing myself.
Yep, high ground is tough to take, though if you’d had a cutlass, a flintlock pistol, knee-high boots and a broad-brimmed hat with a big feather, you might have stood a chance. Without those, the porch is the better choice. They’re not inherently nasty though. I was working on my daily driver one night in my driveway in front of my too-small garage, trying to fix something underneath. Had it all jacked up. I’m under the driver’s seat and look to the passenger side to see daddy, mommy, and two young ones sitting up on their haunches in a close row under the passenger rocker panel, just quietly watching the entertainment. I eased out the drivers side on the mechanic’s crawler, and went into the house. A few minutes later, I went back out to continue, and they were gone. Didn’t return. Apparently, not that entertaining.
I feel like that a lot when I go back and look at the pictures I’ve taken on a photowalk.