I discovered this site a couple years back after reading a review about a cute, little camping area in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. Excitedly I packed my stuff, jotted down some directions and headed for the road. After passing through a narrow canyon and a small town, I continued my journey on a small mountain highway. The ride was most delightful and, as usual, I felt the weight of society lift off my shoulders.
“Well, this can´t be right”, I exclaimed as I entered a dead-end mountain neighborhood about an hour later. After verifying that the road in fact ended at a large barn, I decided to head back to the main road. Either I´d find the actual camp site or stay at a different one; it really didn´t matter to me. The area itself was beautiful; just a single lonely road curving around mountains and leading up and down the hills of an old pine forest. No cell phone reception for 20 miles either way and barely any houses around. Perfect! Now I only needed to find that darn camp site.
After another 30 minutes, I was slowly but surely loosing my nature induced cool. I decided to follow the directions one last time and see where I´d end up. Again, I found myself on the dirt road leading to the neighborhood. “Damnit”, I shouted when I saw a “No Forest Access” sign by the road , and angrily looked for a place to turn around. As I pulled over, I realized that the shoulder was unusually large. Then, it hit me: it wasn´t a shoulder at all, but a well camouflaged dirt road. The road was badly washed out, and I am pretty sure I heard ´are you out of your mind?´ coming from my SUV as I began making my way down that hill.
Deep trenches, randomly distributed mounds, and loose rocks made the descent difficult to say the least. Soon my car began making hollow distress sounds, which undoubtedly originated from the unevenly distributed pressure on the vehicle´s frame. We began tilting sideways and I could feel my hands beginning to sweat out of fear I might tip over. This, thankfully, did not happen and instead I gazed upon a gate as we turned the corner! This was it! I found it!
Although, I was glad to have reached the national forest in one piece, I was rather confused. The description online claimed RV´s could easily access the camp ground. After bouncing down that sad excuse of a road, I´d call bull on that. As I reached the gate, I realized what was going on. In big letters a sign stated “Entering burned area. Falling trees & rocks. Flash floods possible”. Unfortunately, I´ve seen many of these signs in Colorado in recent years due to the 2012 fires (read more here and here). The review regarding the camp ground must have been written before a fire devastated the area.
About half of the landscape was littered with dead trees, while the area further south remained untouched. The roads were mostly washed out and impossible to pass with any non four-wheel-drive vehicle. Lower areas were prone to flash flooding and mud slides, as trees no longer grew roots to stabilize the ground. This is great! I had found myself the perfect spot! Difficult to access and “ugly” enough for the mainstreamers to stay out of my hair, yet right next to a beautiful forest. I found myself a nice little bay right off the “road” and soon this spot became one of my favorite.
My last weekend there was a rainy one. I built myself a little rain shelter and covered my firewood with bark to keep it dry. I had explored everything within a 5 mile radius in the past and thus wasn´t particularly motivated to go hiking. Instead, I spent my weekend reading, staring at the fire, collecting firewood, cooking, and enjoying nature. What a life! Despite the beauty of the forest, there is also a darkness that lingers in the area. Surely, the massive fields of dead trees to the north contribute to the feeling, yet I am not sure that´s all there is to it. Especially at night, when all forests typically look the same, there is something slightly unsettling about the area. I have never seen the moon up there. Not once in over two years. Millions upon millions of stars, but the moon always seems to be hiding behind one of the mountains.Anyway, I decided it is time to retire this spot, let nature recover and move on to a different area. In the last couple years, I´ve watched old burned wood decay and new pine trees sprout from the ground. I´ve burned massive amounts of dead wood, watched deer and coyote return to the area, and even found some fresh bear tracks. Just nature doing her thing.