Still, they looked good, and it made me worry some. Should we swap which week we spend in Colorado with which one we spend in Utah? Ultimataely, no, I thought. I really do need to go to some new places and see things I've always wanted to see. Part of the reason for this extended journey. There were still large swaths of green aspens among the yellow ones.
Moab, here we come.
The further west we got in Colorado, though, we noticed that the mountains were not the same. They were more crumbly, less dramatic, and more and more desert vegetation started taking over. They were less and less the Front Range and Sawactch Range type Rockies I fell in love with. And we pressed on.
At one point we got of the highway just to take a gander at it and make sure the trailer was riding ok. Things like this make a drive interesting.
Some of the mountains were more and more white ... like limestone. At one point I noted a large mountain that I thought had snow covered slopes up high, but it was more like ... gypsum sand or something. It was easy to imagine Western Colorado was made out of gypsum. Things were getting dusty. Sagey. Deserty.
By the time we got to Grand Junction, it was easy to imagine we were already in Utah. Oh well. Limon looks a lot like Western Kansas, I suppose. We filled up at Grand Junction. I figured we were getting pretty "west", and I was just waiting for a "Last Gas for 500 miles" sign somewhere.
As we got into Utah, there was more and more "butte" type landscape. I'm sure it would have looked more impressive, but for the haze from the smoke, which was now so thick it affected views of a mile or less.
One of the things I started to notice were signs for exits with the caveat on a blue sign below, "No Services" exit after exit. Which weren't really that close in the first place. I started to feel pretty good about filling up in Grand Junction.
Vicki fell asleep. She hadn't slept well the night before, and could not seem to get warm all day. I was wondering if she wasn't getting sick ... some virus or something.
I stopped the car at a Utah Visitors' Center near I-70 and 191. I asked the lady there about the smoke. She said the entire North West was basically on fire. There were fires in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, even a couple in Utah, she said. I told her what we were planning, basically, on our trip, and she suggested we stop at a place called Hovenweep on our way to Mesa Verde. Handed us some literature, and we struck out for Moab.
We could see bits of the red sandstone and landscape of Arches National Park to the left as we drove down 191 and red cliffs rose and fell on either side of the road.
I had read that there was camping up 128 in Moab, and some BLM sites off of 191, and other commercial camping in Moab. I had thought, from looking at a map, that 128 was basically in Moab, and figured those were commercial sites as well. But we got to 128 and it was definitely not in town. As a matter of fact, it went up a deep sandstone canyon on the Colorado River and was some of the most striking scenery we'd seen yet in Utah.
The book the lady at the Visitors' Center had given us indicated that these campgrounds were not commercial at all up this road ... they were BLM. No services, though, other than vault toilets. No running water. Nothing. But from our experience in Missouri ... it would be nicer than being jammed together in a commercial site.
We went by a couple of campgrounds that appeared pretty full. The sites on the river side of the drives had some short, scruffy willows, maybe 8-15 feet high to provide some shade. We cruised on up to Big Bend, the largest campground with the most RV sites (the popup is considered an RV for these purposes). We found a site, #13 ... we thought looked great. It was empty. We started to go back to look for a nicer site closer to town (we're about 7 miles up the road here) but then decided we wouldn't find anything nicer and turned back. There was still nobody there so we set up camp. The awning. The solar panels. The electricity. Made the beds, stashed stuff away on my makeshift shelf. And then went to put our reservation slip on the post.
There was already one there. We could swear there wasn't one there the first time we hit it. But the shade of the slip was very close to the shade of the pole.
We would have to tear down and move. There's no way to move the thing set up.
I went and told the Camp Host what happened, and he said the campground was full. He said he could let us set up overnight in the parking lot by the group site, which was empty, and then ask around in the morning for a site (the campgrounds there are first-come first-serve). So we set up ... not the nicest place. But it was a place. And really, we ultimately just needed a place to sleep.
We went to Moab to check it out and ate at a place called La Hacienda. Good enough Mexican food. Then came back to camp, where we ran into some people from Connecticut who were interested in our popup and how it worked. They were in site #10 and said they would be leaving in the morning. They also said they'd camped all over the country and never made a reservation anywhere.
Meantime, the Camp Host had told us that we happened to be there at peak season. I figured it was well after school started in the fall, and things wouldn't be crowded. He said ... nah, nobody's there in the summer. Way to hot. September and October ... that's when the campgrounds are full and the two parks are crowded.
A guy and his girlfriend in #9 who had built his own little metal camper moved out around 7:00am. We didn't wait for our friends in #10 to get up. We swiped it. No trees, but it was a site, and was ours for as long as we needed it. We reserved it through Saturday morning, and took off for Arches National Park.