Thursday, May 24, 2012

Colorado-First Month (continued Part II)

(May 11-24, 2012)
May 24, 2012???
The White River National Forest, Colorado is one of “the nation’s most visited National Forest – with more than 10 million visitors annually – the White River National Forest lures folks to the Rocky Mountains with it’s diverse alpine landscape and dramatic scenery.  From skiing to hiking to boating, the White River offers unlimited outdoor adventures.  I-70 cuts through the heart of the forest, providing easy access from Denver.  Home to 10 peaks over 14,000 feet high, this Colorado forest also incorporates eight wilderness areas where nature prospers in all its wild glory.  To ensure the forest’s resources remain healthy for both humans and animals, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) will focus on watershed restoration and wildlife habitat restoration.”
The above is from “YOUR NATIONAL FORESTS” Winter-Spring 2012 magazine.  (
The National Forest Foundation engages Americans in community-based and national programs that promote the health and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System, and administers private gifts of funds and land for the benefit of the National Forests.
Day before heading up the mountain to my work site, I saw this moose in North Fork Campground. They see lots of them there.  There was actually another one in the brush out of sight.  We had a little snow and lots of rain delaying my departure for my camp.
But finally, I got to get on “into the wild.” I’ve been on the mountain now for four days.  Drove up Monday, May 21. As I headed up the mountain, I passed a grey fox along the side of the road with a mouse in it’s mouth.  It was no more than 10 feet from my van… but I didn’t have the camera ready.  I’ve never been that close to one before.
Then a little farther up the mountain I saw three young bucks beside the road. 
Once in camp, I saw five or six deer (a large collared female, a couple of yearling bucks, and what looked like a couple of younger females). They were grazing right next to where I am now camped for the season.  If they visit this little meadow often, I can just look out my window and watch them. On the drive up here with my boss last week, we didn’t see anything.  Maybe a good sign that I saw all this in one day?
May 22:  I spent part of the day settling in and drove through the campgrounds.  Only one camper present.  No signs up yet so can’t charge them.  There were about six fisherman at the lake.

Sleeping at night has been uncomfortable.  I had trees to the west of me that cast shadows on my site most of the day (not good for solar power or Sun Oven cooking).  Also, the prevailing winds are from the West… and those trees are very close and some are 200’ tall.  If one fell on my site, my van and trailer and all I own would be crushed.  Moving tomorrow, and will be just off the left side of the above photo.  Worked today cleaning up 10 of the 30 sites (raking the sites, and cleaning out fire pits), and cleaning four restrooms.
And I even had visitors today, two Forest Service volunteers (who didn’t expect to see anyone up there so early) and the hosts (it was their 44th Wedding Anniversary) from Rifle Falls State Park, who came to see if I made it up here.  They came on back trails in a jeep, with a friend (taking the photo above right).  Wow, first day on the job and five humans and a dog (Bear loves snow) came to visit.
May 23: After moving my camp across the road, I went out to continue cleaning up the campgrounds.
I rigged up a little luggage rack cart with a Rubbermaid tub to hold rake, shovel, and trash can… and packed a backpack with water and snacks and hauled it around to the sites I was cleaning.  This will have to do until they get me a golf cart. 
And today, I discovered “snowshrooms”… heck I don’t know what they are really called, but they look like dirty snow.  Must be eatable, as something is nipping them off.  Interesting.
It began snowing about 2pm so I had to stop working.
May 24:  Last night it snowed about 3”. 
This is what I woke up to this morning.  Wednesday is suppose to be my day off anyway.  So had to clean snow off my solar panel, and sweep the car off.  I heard voices so decided to drive a bit and see where the people were.  They were at the lake but I could only see them with binoculars. The road was slippery and muddy, so I turned back to camp.  Hard to believe, but all that snow melted off during the day today.
Here are some pictures taken today, May 24, 2012.
There are chickmunks all over the place… and with the early snow melt, there will probably be a population explosion this year.
My new campsite is in full sun from about 10am til 8pm.  OK, gotta get the Sun Oven out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Into The Wild–am I really doing this???

All my life I wanted to be a Ranger, Park or Forest service, but the competition for those jobs has always been really tough, i.e. 5,000 applicants for ONE job.  Well, today Smokey the Bear and I turned 68 years old and tomorrow I head into the wild to work for the National Forest Service through California Land Management (CLM).  I just can’t believe this is happening.
And competition… nadda.   I went to Quartzsite AZ last winter to learn about turning rocks into jewelry.  While there I took the opportunity to become a sawyer (someone cuts those rocks into slabs like slices of bread).  Another sawyer was talking about “camp hosting’ jobs and referred me to a guy who runs the CLM contract with the White River National Forest.  I called him.  We talked and he hired me on the spot.  He was thrilled to find a single person who wanted a remote site.  He joked yesterday at a training session how most people he hires ask, where’s the water, where’s the electric, do you provide this and that.  He told others, all I asked was if there was water nearby for my kayak.  It is kinda funny.
So, my camp will have no water, no electric, no nothing, nadda.  But it will have lots of people… and I will have to deal them and with the money and math, and I’m not good at any of that.  It’s a popular spot for ATVing.  Ick.  But I am committed and will make the best of it.  Should make for a very interesting summer.
And since it’s my birthday, my son called me on Skype (which we had not been able to make work right) but today it worked and my grandkids got to talk to me, see me talk, and move and show them things.  The 4yr old girl was fascinated with my van, my bed, my solar shower, my refrigerator, etc.  I am so fortunate to have her daddy as my son.  This was the best birthday present ever.  Thanks Chris.
OK, I will try to post updates here when I come to town monthly to resupply.  Everyone have a fun summer.
Into the Wild I go. 

Happy Birthday, Smokey.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Colorado–First Month (May 2012)

O.K. so much for the plans of mice and men and Swankie.  I don’t know when I will begin working… so will post when I can instead of monthly.  A training session is scheduled for Tues. 5/15 and maybe I will know something then.  Until then… here’s what has happened so far in the merry month of May.
This was the plan:  Get to Colorado the first week of May, get up the mountain to my campground about May 5-6 and begin acclimating to the altitude.  Attend a training session on 5/11 and then begin working.  So much for the plans of mice, men, and Swankie.
May 7.  The other day I stopped by the Forest Service office for an area map and any other free literature on the area so I could “study up.”  I was informed that the road was closed to my campground and that normally they can’t get up there until July, but with the light snowfall here this winter, we might be able to start in June.  JUNE? I screamed inside my head.  I’m very tired of hanging around Rifle with their limited stores and supplies.  I can’t even get Butane for my cooking stove here.  I can, however, get a free shower at the Fairgrounds.
Frustrated, I headed out of town and ended up going through Rifle Gap where some artist hung a huge drapery across the gap some years ago. Here it is… .
IMGA0819I then drove on into Rifle Gap Falls State Park.  I was greeted by the hostess who told me to go ahead and “snoop.”  I had introduced myself and told her I couldn’t get to my camp… so I was just snooping around and could not afford to stay in their nice campground at $23 + a night.  She informed me that it was snowing at my camp today and the road up there was very very rough.  Ughhhhh!
I hiked up to see the Waterfalls, 3 falls, and they are suppose to be #6 on the list of top 10 waterfalls to see.  It was really nice.  Limestone caves, a hike to the top of the falls and getting to look back down on the falls.  Weather was drizzly and a bit cold but it was an easy hike and very enjoyable. 
On the way back out of the Park the Host and Hostess came out to chat and gave me directions to free BLM land… so I am now boondocking there tonight… it’s 6pm and I don’t want to go back to town.  The silence is almost deafening.  I should sleep like a baby.
Ten miles away from Rifle… no cell or internet service.  The Host and Hostess of the Park said after several years of frustration over that, they finally got Satellite internet.  I’m going to have to think on that and plan for it since I will most likely spent the majority of my future doing remote boondocking.  I’m going to have “internet” withdrawal this summer.
May 8 – Slept like a baby, NOT so much.  Tossed and turned… but finally fell asleep only to wake a couple hours later, freezing.  Luckily, I had a nice big blanket nearby… so covered up and went back to sleep.
When I woke in the morning, I had that headache, loss of appetite, and general icky feeling you get with slight altitude sickness.  I’m probably 1500 ft higher than I was in Rifle.  Then I realized it was my son’s birthday and I couldn’t even call or email him.  (“Happy Birthday, Richard.  You will always be my “bouncing baby boy.”)”  More ickiness feelings.  I applied the Lavender Oil to my neck, forehead and temples and followed that up with a Migraine pill.  I don’t know which one worked but I began feeling better after about an hour.
Then I continued with the task of taking stock of my food stock.  Big job since food is in so many different places.  I couldn’t do this in town as it required pulling stuff out of the trailer and the van and swapping things around.  But here out in the open on BLM land… I can finish the task.  I have now gotten all food inside the van, rather than having some in the trailer.  If a bear comes snooping, the van will be a little harder to tear open than that thin-shelled trailer.
I am absolutely astounded at how much food I have on hand.  I have told everyone that I had at least a 3-month supply of food… and that could very well be true.  Short on veggies and fruit and I’m working on that.  My goal this year is to acquire a great store of dehydrated staples and organize the trailer so it’s all readily available… but maybe not.. there is that bear thing again.  But now I plan to put my inventory on a spreadsheet, and calculate what I need for a month to stay healthy and well-nourished and then make up the deficit next week on payday, and then head out for the mountains.
I only drink bottled water right now.  Figure it is not worth the risk of ever drinking local water in all the different places I go.  There will be no potable water at the camp, so I will have to make sure my needs are covered by me, myself and I, at least the first month.  I’ve made room under my bed for several cases of bottled water.  I have two 7-gallon water containers and may buy a 3rd one.  I’ll need them anyway whenever I do extended boondocking.
I took a lunch break and fixed a burrito with fresh onions, chopped zucchini and a new product… Kroger brand, mini turkey pepperoni.  It does not need to be refrigerated until opened.  It’s a 4 oz. package in a zip-lock bag… and I found them very good.  I recommend vandwellers give them a try if they can find the product.  I won’t consider it a “staple” only a treat. 
The burrito was delicious and I have enough of the stuffing to make another burrito for supper.  Sealed the leftovers in a small snack zip-lock bad.  Very handy.
It’s 2:30pm now.  The inventory is done.  Think it’s time for a walk and then to begin on the spreadsheet.  Finally got a chart made and a spreadsheet ready… to record what I consume in camp, and will resupply based only on what I use up, or what I haven’t thought of yet.  Might be a good plan.  (July 2, 2012... o.k. that "recording" is not working... too busy!)
Curious to see if I have another headache in the morning… then I may go explore a little bit more, but can’t do much without spare gas money.  Have a sketch to finish up as well.  It’s been a good day.  First day without internet and it makes me feel a little squirrelly but sure got a lot done.
Harvey Gap State Park – I really really wanted to kayak and will go back there soon.
May 10 – My income tax refund is in the bank.  I can buy gas.  Wednesday, May 16 is not only my birthday, but payday.  I’m heading out someplace to kill some time away from Rifle.

And cowboys here too… getting ready to move a herd across the road to greener pastures.  I really wanted to get on a horse and help. Smile

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Monthly Blog Posts (May 1, 2012)

Next to the Forest Service Office in Rifle, CO.
I am announcing that beginning in May 2012, I will only have ONE post per month.  It will run a little like a letter to home… and I will be printing and mailing it out to a few people who don’t do internet or email (very well if at all).  It is very likely that I WILL NOT have internet or cell service at the remote campground I am hosting this summer.  I won’t know that for sure until I get there, which could be two more weeks as the road is impassible at this time.  Hurry up and wait… that’s what it was like getting here.
Also, I will not be posting the location of the remote camp on my blog but if you feel you want to come to visit, contact me via email: . Camping is not free and it costs $17 per night unless you have an Access Pass and then it is only $8.50 per night.  I don’t know if I will be able to give anyone free camping.  And I don’t know how long a guest of mine could stay either.  There could be limits.
I do have a personal satellite tracking device (SPOT) which will notify ten key people/contacts that I am O.K.  I will be sending out that notice on a weekly basic.  It also has a 911 button and will dispatch the first responders to my location in the event that I (or anyone else I’m with) is injured.  That will work without internet/cell service.
Email, I don’t get a great deal of email anymore and so should be able to reply to any I do receive while I am in town monthly to resupply.
USPS mail:  My mail will go to my SD address and be forwarded here on a regular weekly or monthly schedule.  If anyone chooses to mail something (money, photos, photo retouching work, etc.) to me in Colorado… that would be to:
Charlene Swankie
32201 County Road 8
Meeker, CO 81641
Mail will be brought up to me by co-workers.
My Colorado Welcoming Committee.
That’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it… maybe!  Smile
Have a great summer everyone.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.