Rough Road into the Rockies

June 19, 2015


After a few days freshening up in very comfortable hotel room in Rifle, we left western Colorado’s sandy mountains with their stunning “dirt rainbows” behind and headed toward the Rockies from the West. We passed through Glenwood Springs accidentally during their Strawberry Days Festival. Since we happened to stumble on a festival, we decided to wander around the artist’s booths for awhile. The natural beauty of Jerry Locke’s cut stone mountainscape sculptures caught our eyes. Since before setting out on the trip I had been looking for the perfect adventure hat and found it at The Hatters booth. We were surprised to find a van painted with black chalkboard paint covered in inspired chalk drawing and writing, and a web address: These two kindred spirits are traveling the USA looking for the “h’Art” of America, manifested in the art of the communities they travel through and serve with their passion for travel, art and photography. Definitely take a minute to check out their Instagram (@untraveledroadsmedia) for some great adventure pictures.

 We hit the road again to travel deeper into the Rockies, away from the outrageously hiked hotel prices, and toward what we thought would be a free campsite in the White River National Forest near Frisco, a very prosperous town we guessed from the trendy downtown full of many well-dressed people enjoying the summer evening as some sort of event on their main street was closing down. We drove past the lake where a marina filled with yachts and sailboats looked poshly picturesque in the mountain-ornamented sunset. I wish I had pictures, but by this point my camera battery was dead and my phone was being used to navigate.

Frisco Marina (not mine)
not my picture

I had selected a campsite from the dispersed camping list, and we headed for the campsite at Indiana Creek Road #593. As we drove, twilight darkened into actual darkness. We followed the directions on the page precisely and in accordance with Google Maps on my phone. But we stopped short where the paved road ended and stared in exasperated disbelief at all the signs: “Private Property,” “Firearms in Use,” and “Enter at Own Risk.” We turned around, retraced our steps, looking for a missed turn. But we found that we had, in fact, followed the directions. We tried choosing a different campsite nearby, but found the level of detail in Google Maps insufficient to tell if we were making the correct turns.

Eventually, exhausted and frustrated, we decided to turn around and head back to Breckenridge, then Frisco looking for a standard campground, anywhere to set up and sleep for the night.  But apparently the event in town (Colorado BBQ Challenge 2015) filled up the campgrounds. Completely exasperated, and too tired to drive anymore, we parked at Walmart, and settled in for the night. I climbed into the middle row of seats and stretched our make-shift curtains (some scarves secured to the door with magnets) over the windows. Morgan opened our windshield sun shade and then used two other small sunshades to block the front seat windows and slept in the passenger seat. After a restless night’s “sleep” we hit the road early and got the hell out of Frisco, which looked much less romantic with all its yachts and mountains after a night spent sleeping in the minivan.

White River NF Dillon Map Bit

As we headed for Denver, we passed the Dillon Ranger District Station, where we should have picked up a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUP), which would have shown us the roads we were trying to navigate in great detail. Lesson learned, Google Maps just won’t cut it for trips into the National Forests.


6 thoughts on “Rough Road into the Rockies

  1. So this is where you got your hat! Great story. This is typical of most of my camping stories and why I did not camp more. It is always wise to not go down roads that are private, especially when
    there might be firearms in use. Smart phones are wonderful but sometimes you really need a map.
    I am so glad that you share your adventures with us.


    1. It’s pretty easy for adventures to turn out a little more wild than expected, especially without a map. I wish the National Forest Service maps were more readily available online. They have printable versions available, but they’re hard to print and almost impossible to look at with a smart phone. We should have just driven a little farther to the Ranger station though


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