Thursday, August 17, 2017

Rifle Gap State Park, Colorado

Monday, August 14
From our campsite at Greens Lake, Utah, it was a beautiful three and a half hour  (182 miles)  drive to Rifle Gap State Park, in Colorado.  The drive to the park, and the park itself, provided another opportunity to view the beautiful geology of this area of the state.

Rifle Gap Dam
The park includes Rifle Gap Reservoir, an earth dam structure that impounds both East and West Rifle Gap Creeks. They really like that name around here and have used it wherever they can!

The park campground consists of five small, separate campgrounds, some with only a few spaces. There are also day use areas and a swim beach.

The RV sites are mostly paved with immaculate graveled pads, fire rings and tables with shade covers. The tent sites aren't paved, but tucked artfully in among the sagebrush. They also have the tables with shelter roofs and gravel pads.

Our site was at the highest point of the highest loop, so we had a nice view all around, including a view of The Gap. Behind us was a log fence, and BLM property behind the fence.

At first glance the park didn't seem very "dog friendly" and the first time we asked about dogs swimming we got a negative answer, but each person we talked to gave us a bit more information and we soon got the feel of the "system".  We could take the dogs out into the BLM property for walks (but beware of the cactus!) and they can swim in the lake, just not in the human swim areas, which is pretty standard.

To say the park is well maintained would be an understatement, and they have to work hard at keeping it so tidy. We saw park employees hard at work scooping up copious amounts of mud that invaded roadside and campsites alike in a recent down pour.

The lake provides boating, fishing and swimming opportunities, as well as hosting wildlife. There's an accessible nature trail near the office, as well as several day use fishing areas.


Time to stock up on vittles, so we headed in to the town of Rifle. Rifle is an old ranching town, founded in 1882 and functioned as the center of cattle ranching in the area for many years. The town is named for the nearby creek, which got it's name, so the story goes, from a surveyor who left his rifle near the creek while working. The oil industry has provided a lot of jobs in past years, but that has dropped off recently, and some of the ranching still continues.

Rifle is working hard at pleasing the traveler.  Beautifully cared for old buildings line the streets, along with some interesting shops and many really well done murals. Unfortunately, parking and traffic being what they were, I couldn't get many photographs that did them justice. The residents take obvious pride in their history and their community. The town's population now is around 9,000, so most any service you need is available.

More interesting facts about the town  on the Chamber of Commerce web site.

After stashing the groceries and a quick lunch we headed up the road to Rifle Falls State Park. The campground area there is small, but still has nice size sites, and the area is beautiful, much more dense forest than where we are camped. The sites at the falls are not paved, but are fairly level, and they have electricity but no water hookups. Water is available however.

The falls are beautiful, and it's an easy walk from the parking lot to a good viewing location. From the base of the falls you can follow a short trail to explore small but interesting limestone caves and other unique rock formations.

And you never know what else you'll see - a doe nearly ran over some of us while we were walking up the path. On our way back to the truck a chipmunk ran out on a nearby rock and tempted the dogs. I think we were in the path back to her nest as she seemed pretty anxious to get past us.

Back to our own camp to pack up. We are heading out Wednesday morning. A last note, we found cell service at Rifle Gap rather dismal. Though the park isn't far from town, it's in a basin, surrounded by rather tall mountains. Make plans accordingly!

More photos in the album.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, Utah

Friday, August 11
We had black storm clouds chasing us as we arrived at Green's Lake Camp Ground, where we had reservations for our three days at the gorge.

We arrived just about lunch time, but no time to eat!  We flew through our fastest set up ever and piled into the trailer just as the icy raindrops started falling. It's funny, the dogs love swimming but just hit them with a cold raindrop and you'd think their tails were on fire!

By the time we finished lunch the storm had moved on so we took a short drive to the nearby Red Canyon Visitor Center. Wow, what views of the lake and the canyon from the rim of the gorge!

Even with the clouds dimming the light, the rock formations are impressive. The visitor's center is small, but does a nice job of touching on human history as well as the geology and natural history of the area. We talked with the volunteers and gathered up tour info for the next day.

Our site was wonderful - really deep and wide so there was lots of space to spread out, or at least, not have the other campers too close. There are a couple of trails close to the entrance to the campground for walks with the dogs, or for enjoying the flora and fauna.

The campground is one of many in the Red Canyon area of the reservoir, and we also had our own little lake, and a trail immediately out from our site (#4) goes directly to it. It's only a short walking distance around the edge of Green's Lake to Red Canyon Lodge, which offers cabin rentals, horseback rides, a restaurant, and many other amenities.

Unfortunately the weather was too chilly and the rocky beach too steep for the pups to be able to swim. They had to make do with playing ball among the many pine cones and chunks of sandstone that surround us.

The forest here is largely Ponderosa pine, Douglas Fir and Mountain Cedar, with some stands of poplar thrown in for variety. There are chipmunks and marmots aplenty to annoy and tease the dogs with all their chirping and squeaking. It's a little like dog TV as far as entertainment value goes.

When the majority of campers moved out each morning the magpies moved in, checking to see what morsels had been left behind and plucking the berries from the shrubs.

Bright and early we headed out for the Sheep Creek Scenic Geology Loop, which wanders through a variety of really scenic formations, along a creek and through ranch land and then veers north to the town of Manila.

We had picked up a small brochure in the visitor center that provided geologic details for each of the well labeled stops in the 10-mile tour through Sheep Creek Canyon.

We began the tour with a short trip down a spur road for a brief stop at the  Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower.

The tower is one of many build by the CCC in the 1930's, and has been restored to look as it would if it were in daily use.

It is fully functional, but is no longer used for the original purpose, serving as a point of living history for visitors, and offering exceptional views of the surrounding territory.

The volunteer stationed at the tower was well versed in the details of its history as well as the restoration and we really enjoyed talking with him - he even took our photo!

Leaving the lookout tower we continued on, following the little guide book and the informative signs along the way. There are frequent pull-outs for photography or for just admiring the amazing geology.

The formations in this area are of such varied ages, some so old that they contain some of the oldest rock and fossils in North America. The colors and textures of the stone are fascinating, and change with the light and cloud cover. The views are so vast it's hard to convey it all in photos, no matter how wide-angle the lens. A few of the most striking views are included in the album.

Looking toward the Wyoming shore of the lake
At the north edge of Manila we caught the western-most edge of the lake, and dipped our toe just across the Utah/Wyoming state line. The character of the landscape is very different in this area.

A beautiful sunny  morning beckoned, so we harnessed up the dogs and started out down one of the trails at the edge of camp. We hadn't gone far when we came upon a huge Ponderosa that appeared to have exploded.

We poked around the still fresh-looking branches and determined it had probably been hit by lightening during the storm on Friday. 'Sure glad we weren't parked next to it!

When we returned to the visitor center in the afternoon we saw a tree with a sign stating it had been struck by lightening, so we compared the features and determined our conclusion was correct.

After lunch we headed out, hoping for a dam tour, but the dam elevator was broken. Besides that, the afternoon storm - complete with lightening, had moved in, so tours were cancelled.

We made do with a driving tour around the dam and through the little burg of Dutch John, and took a few more photos. One striking feature is the Cart Creek Bridge. It stands out like a work of art against the red cliffs.

Cart Creek Bridge, near the Flaming Gorge Dam
Back to camp through the rain. There's a lot of history and beautiful scenery here that we didn't have time to touch on, but it's time to begin packing up as we head out Monday for Colorado.

About Flaming Gorge Recreation Area  
The Flaming Gorge Recreation Area is within the Ashley National Forest,  under the management of the U.S. Forest Service. A great deal of information about the area can be found on the Forest Service's web site. Flaming Gorge Reservoir is the result of the Flaming Gorge dam, in Utah, containing the waters of the Green River, which flows south from Wyoming. A large part of the reservoir is in Wyoming, but the widest part, near the dam itself, is in Utah. The Green River eventually flows into Lake Powell, which is another really beautiful area. We haven't visited there in many years but still remember the vivid red sandstone cliffs against the blue sky and water.

There's additional information attached to many of the photos in the album. If the information panel doesn't display just click the circle with the "i" in it at the top right to display the panel. This album is fairly large, so if you're loading the album view please give it time.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Park City, UT - Jordanelle State Park

We've stayed at Jordanelle State Park three times in the past (the 2013 post includes links to the other two visits), as it's a convenient base to visit family in Park City. The lake looks quite different this year than it did during our last visit in 2013 - there's water in it now! Well, it wasn't totally dry before, but really low, and it's really up to reasonable levels now.

You can tell by all the sailboats and paddle boards (out there in the distance) that everyone is really enjoying it too. They tie up in the evenings close to shore, but during the day they are all way out on the water.

It's a busy park and reservations are definately recommended. . . but don't choose site 98 (Hailstone Campground, Wasatch Loop), as we did, unless you are up for imitating a mountain goat.

The park is basically situated on sloping ground and we decided this is probably the most un-level site in the park!

The good thing about the site location is that it's right across the road from the "day use" area, where dogs are allowed off-leash, and in the water. Most of the shoreline is off limits for the canine set.

We've had beautiful weather here. It was a bit smokey when we arrived, but after a brief shower the first evening the air cleared.

The lake is surrounded by hills and the view is very pretty. The huge thunderheads that build in the afternoon really add to the view. They sometimes evolve into thunderstorms but there's not been enough rain to cause a problem.

One of our first chores upon arrival was to get the truck checked out for an error message that cropped up pulling the grade into park city (Karl Malone Dodge dealership in Heber City was great!)

We had a really nice 3-day visit with sister Diana. Here we're getting ready to tuck into plates full of Steve's world famous BBQ'd meat loaf.

And.... surprise! I even found time to visit a quilt shop! The woman who owns Davidene's Quilt Shop is very fond of moose as an overall theme, and she's designed several quilt patterns featuring the lovable but lumpy creatures.

The canine portion of our group got to swim in the lake twice, so I'm sure they count it as a successful stay too.

Now, we're heading to Flaming Gorge!