Author Archives: tilster

We Stumble into Camp Hosting at Lake Mead

We were camped at Echo Bay, on the shores of Lake Mead, 20 miles south and west of Overton and planned to stay for only a few nights. A few nights turned into a week and then into a few weeks.…of dry camping! (Having more or less mastered the basics of full-time RVing with full hookups, we were relative newcomers to DRY camping.)

Our ‘DRY’ camp site looking out over the wadi – a great place to walk and spot wildlife.

The view from our back window on those days when it was too windy to sit outside.

We put on lots of walking miles here in the Echo Bay wash.

Echo Bay Campground is actually two campgrounds – an upper and a lower. We liked the lower one and stayed there but often walked to the top one when we became hosts.

Hiking up from our campground to the upper one.

During that time, we met the couple who were taking care of maintenance at the campground. From them we learned that Echo Bay needed a camp host. We went so far as to check out the host camp site at the entrance to the campground and started dreaming of how nice it would be to live in this beautiful, peaceful setting, to have a lake close by for kayaking, lots of desert trails for hiking, AND to have a full hook-up. Dreams turned into investigations and research, phone calls, an informal interview, and before we knew it, we were signed up to be the new camp hosts starting at the beginning of February and lasting for three months! From our perspective – it was PERFECT! We couldn’t have asked for anything better.

   

After a month long sojourn re-uniting with friends in Indio and Mesa, we returned to start our new duties as camp hosts.

It wasn’t as quiet as before  – Echo Bay used to be a booming tourist ‘hot spot’ with snowbirds and locals alike flocking to the area to either camp or to stay at the hotel and marina. Over the years, as the level of the lake diminished, so did the number of people coming to the area so that, by the time we got there, it had the appearance of being a ghost town – the hotel was boarded up and the marina was high and dry out of the water – inaccessible to boat traffic.

The white line you see on the the mountain? Locals call it “the bathtub ring” – mineral deposits from when the lake was higher.

The marina being dismantled.

We discovered upon our return that the National parks had contracted to have the marina removed. The previous quiet which we had so enjoyed turned into the sounds of downshifting gears in the huge big dump trucks as they came down the hill beside our site to turn into the ‘collecting’ area where the marina remains were being dumped. But that was only one minor inconvenience in all of the other wonders of Echo bay…..

….constantly changing weather conditions created constantly changing landscapes….

….every evening we were treated to the pink, orange, indigo, and violet ‘abstract art’ of con trails overhead from the many flights in and out of Vegas….

….the sounds and sights of the local wildlife …..

There was a herd of wild mustangs…

..a very rare climbing, blue desert tortoise…. (inside joke… https://wp.me/p21ccR-Cv)

….the first time I heard the wild burros I thought they were some sort of alien creature outside our door!

….the strangest beetles we’d ever seen…they seemed to like our mat and would stick their heads down through the mat with their behinds pointing skyward….

….and of course, the desert bighorns – we saw a lot of them…

….the desert hiking…..

….the kayaking in crystal clear waters…..

Scouting for a place to put our kayaks in.

Our beautiful Lake Mead waterfront.

…..tourist sites to visit such as Hoover Dam and the Historic Railway Trail (https://www.nps.gov/lake/planyourvisit/hikerr.htm) to the dam…..

The awesome Hoover Dam.

Downstream from the dam. You can see a boom crossing the water. Just beyond it is where boaters/rafters/kayakers must hire an outfitter/guide company put their boats in to do the ‘Black Canyon Water Trail.”https://www.nps.gov/WaterTrails/Trail/Info/50

….and neighboring ‘Valley of Fire State Park’!

We were volunteers for the National Parks Service. We gave 32 hours a week of our combined time and in return we were privileged to spend three months in one of the most beautiful places in Nevada. The best part of the job? Meeting such a variety of like-minded people; fellow nomads, like us.

Exploring Temple Bar in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area

On another day of exploration, thinking we might like to camp there on a future trip, we set off to explore Temple Bar on other side of Lake Mead, in Arizona. To get there, we headed back to Boulder City and from there, took HWY 193 south, past Hoover Dam until we reached the turn-off to HWY 143 which took us east to Temple Bar, another National Park Campground. The scenery was spectacular – sandy colored monuments rising up from a sparkly blue lake. We stopped at the Ranger Station to get more information about the area but like so many others in this Recreation Area, it was closed. Next stop…..the campground. 

Not a soul was there. Driving around the campground, we were startled to see a car and said to each other, “Oh! Someone IS camping here after all!” We checked out the license plate – Texas. Then we looked past the car for a tent or other signs of habitation and found quite the opposite….a body was hanging from the tree beyond the car. I said to Michael, “Some idiot has taken one of those blow-up dolls and made it looked like a hanging body!” At this point we were startled and still inching forward past the scene so decided to go around and take a better look. The next time round I said to Michael, “Don’t get out of the car! It’s probably some weirdo who will turn around and shoot you!” I couldn’t get it through my head that it was a real body. Michael hollered at it – nothing! We took a single photo in case we needed to show it when we reported it – not knowing where that would be in that moment.

We zoomed out of the campground in a panicked daze; found a marina that looked deserted but which turned out to be open. Entering the building we saw some staff members on duty. Stuttering and stammering over how to share our discovery, we showed the picture (which we deleted right after) – the three girls in the office gasped in horror but….they took immediate action and called the ranger. Fifteen minutes later, the ranger came flying in on his float plane…turns out he’s also a pilot! I had never seen this before but after landing smoothly on the lake, the pilot/ranger drove that float plane right out of the lake, up the boat ramp and parked at the door to the marina. 

…arriving….

….and leaving again after the scene was secured….

Mike went with the ranger to show him where it was and soon came back, verifying that indeed it was a “real” body hanging there and that it was a suicide (the suicide note having been found on the dash of the car.) Until then, I still could not believe it was a real body, hoping and praying it was a hoax of some sort. The image stayed in my mind for weeks and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and how sad and lonely this person must have been. I kept wondering what would have caused a person to come to this far-away, seemingly forgotten place to die and what the circumstances were….how could this have happened….or been prevented.

It was a sober, thoughtful drive back to our own camp at Echo bay.

CAMINO COMPLETED – NOW WHAT??

38 days of continuous walking followed by another 3 weeks of exploring northern Spain….it was time to go home. We left from Charles de Gaulle airport on an early morning flight.

We flew to Atlanta and from Atlanta, back to Denver, arriving in time to catch the shuttle back to Laramie WY. We spent a few nights in Laramie being happily reunited with kids and grandkids….

….joining in the excitement of the Laramie Christmas Parade….

……..getting settled back into our little home on wheels, and seeing the dentist before heading to Lander. We left Laramie and arrived in Lander on a beautifully sunny day and got ourselves all set up. That night there was a big snow storm.

That’s the night we found out that this is not really a 4 season rig – maybe in Florida but not in Wyoming at 22 degrees F. The water pump wouldn’t work properly,the line from the fresh water tank was frozen solid – in a trailer boasting heated tanks, which we discovered were the black & gray tanks ONLY not the freshwater -, air was getting into the system, PLUS there was a hole at the top of the fresh water tank from a misplaced screw….and on and on.

The good part was the spectacular views we had of the snow-covered Wind River range…

    

We stayed until we thought South Pass from Lander to Rawlins would be passable – it turned out to be 3 nights. We took an exploratory trip up the pass just to make sure and decided we would be safe enough to drive the next day. 

We left mid-morning the next day and got as far as Nephi, (south of Salt Lake City Utah) hoping to finally find warmer temps. No such luck – it was colder that night than any other before it! We basically froze. Early morning breakfast at Dennys and then onwards along I15 to Mesquite where it finally became warm enough to melt all the ice accumulations on the AF. At Mesquite we turned off and when we entered Overton, we decided to stay the night at the Robin’s Nest RV Park. Good rates and friendly people as well as a leaking fresh water tank prompted us to stay for a week while Mike tried to figure out what was wrong. We liked Overton…Sugar’s Restaurant, Lin’s grocery store, The Inside Scoop for ice cream, a great senior’s center, 2 hardware stores, and an excellent library, warmer temperatures – we had everything we needed to be happy. 

The week we stayed in Overton, we also went to explore the area. First we went to see Echo Bay, the first campground in the Lake Mead Recreation Area. More about Echo Bay in a separate blog because we ended up becoming the camp hosts there for three months. The next campground was Callville Bay, 30 miles along Northshore Road from Echo bay. At Callville Bay is a fully functioning marina, marina store and cafe, as well as a Ranger Station, campground, and pay showers. From Callville Bay we continued west around the end of Lake Mead to find Las Vegas Bay Campground which boasts a “no generator use” section for campers who hate those noisy conveniences we RVers must sometimes rely on. Now heading back east on the other side of the lake, we discovered Boulder Beach Campground, the largest and most popular of all of the campgrounds in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area or LMNRA. We ended up this particular day of exploration with a visit to Boulder City, vowing to return to check out the Historic Railroad Trail from Boulder City to Hoover Dam, the main avenue for supplies to reach the workers building the dam.

McLeod Montana – our new home for 5 months

We arrived early afternoon, from Cody WY, in the pouring rain. Our first views were magnificent despite the clouds hanging low over unseen mountains. The road was paved most of the way from Big Timber except for the last 2 miles when the pavement changed to mud and gravel. In dry weather, no problem. In the pouring rain, pulling a fifth wheel trailer, not so much fun but with 4 wheel drive engaged, really no problem at all. We were just covered with mud!! That is….the truck, trailer, running boards and our feet.

The road the next day – still muddy but not nearly as bad as when we arrived.

First glimpse of our new home. This is the entrance to the Historic Main Boulder Ranger Station. The road climbs up and turns – important when towing a fairly large rig.

The Historic Main Boulder Ranger Station. (The road you see in front? We backed up on the little dirt road!!)

The next set of pictures show how we had to get into our spot – backing up the whole way! We are still not quite sure how we managed to do it so easily – without killing each other.

   

Here are a few of our first glimpses into the wonder of where are:

There are so many sandhill cranes in this area. Wherever we go, we see them, in the meadows, flying, or we hear them…they have a very unusual call. I think there is a mating couple or maybe even a few couples close by because we hear them constantly.

 

The day after we arrived, we just had to go exploring our territory so we decided to take a drive up the Main Boulder Road (which is the road we drove in on) to check out some of the campgrounds we will be responsible for. The first thing we were impressed with is how many deer there are – everywhere, including jumping out in front of us on several occasions – thankfully the road was rough so our speed was very slow.

 

We also took a drive into McLeod, 12 miles back along Main Boulder Road, to see if we could get a mailbox at the Post Office there. Sure enough, we can.

Also found these cute little cabins for rent in McLeod, right beside the raging Boulder River – high and still rising apparently.

The next day, we went exploring again into Livingston which is where the Forest Service office is and where we will be on a weekly basis. We took the “back road” there. Again, spectacular views.

The “Crazies” as the locals call the mountains you can see in the distance. One of our campgrounds is in the Crazies.

Zoomed in view of the Crazies.

On the way to Livingston.

So many beautiful ranches too.

The Beartooth-Absaroka Ranges.

The town of Livingston.

We consider ourselves so very lucky to be here…lots of wildlife, spectacular scenery, great colleagues in the Forest Service, and lots more places to explore!

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FINAL FAREWELL

Adios España!

The last step on our journey; we took the bus from Gijon to Bilbao and then from Bilbao to Irun, not knowing that the bus would actually go all the way to our final destination just across the border, Hendaye. Hendaye is a resort town in France, on the southwestern-most point on the border with Spain. It was a good day to travel as it rained steadily all day. The rugged, mountainous countryside made us realize how much more difficult the Camino del Norte is (we had initially planned to do that Camino). We are happy with our decision to have started with the Camino Frances!

We were ready to get off the bus in Irun, thinking that it was the final stop but then Michael noticed another passenger staying on the bus and asked him if the bus was continuing on. The answer was yes so we hopped back on. (In Bilbao we had tried to buy tickets to Hendaye but hadn’t recognized the Spanish form “Hendaia” as one and the same!!) We crossed a bridge and presto – 5 minutes later we were in France. The bridge spans an inlet from the Atlantic called “Le Bidoasoa” – the border between Spain and France runs right down the middle. We had booked a hotel close to the train station as we would be catching an early morning train to Paris. The bus stopped across from the station! What an easy last step!

I wish there was some way to thank Spain, it’s generous, always welcoming, warm-hearted and helpful people, the agencies responsible for maintaining the Camino Frances, the many wonderful ‘hospitaleros’ at the albergues and Hostals/Pensions that helped make this journey not only memorable for us but also affordable. As we walked along, day after day, through village after village, each with its own special flavor, we often talked about what it must be like to have this endless, constant stream of people inundating your neighborhood/village/country, day after day, regardless of season or year or even century for that matter….and remain so friendly and interested in us as ‘pilgrims.’ Many times we remarked about the huge amount of trash, mostly in the form of discarded tissues, littering the “Way.” As a matter of fact, once, in a lunch break chat with a Swedish couple, it was suggested, “Why do they make the tissues white? They could at least make them a dark color.” LOL!

Now, as we wait to take the train to Paris and for our final departure from Europe, we find ourselves equally excited and just a bit apprehensive to leave Spain and to resume life in N. America. The Camino is deeply life-changing, in a way we can’t fully understand at this point. We have a lot of processing to do. The Camino and Spain have been our home for the past 60 days.

THANK YOU BELLA ESPAGNA!!!

Next Stop – Gijon

From A Coruna we took the bus to Gijon, also a large, coastal city. For much of the drive we got glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, the drive was once again a lot longer as we stopped at few out-of-the-way towns, even though it was an “Inter Urban Bus.”

The city of Gijon (pronounced Heehon) is larger than expected but it’s our favorite so far. We arrived mid afternoon after a 6 hour trip and did what is now becoming our routine: went for a cervesa/vino blanco at a wifi bar/cafe where we could locate ourselves on the map while at the same time, checking on Booking.com for a hotel close to where we were (close to the bus station). We have discovered that we like to be close to the station for easy access to the buses on travel days but also because very often in the city where it’s easy to lose your bearings, there are often signs pointing the direction to the ‘estacion de autobus.’ We check into our hotel/hostel/pension, drop our packs and usually set off to explore our newest neighborhood. Here is a map (our very enthusiastic man at the reception desk explained where things were in detail LOL). The old city is the part in between the two sandy beaches towards the top of the map with the circle drawn around it.

Found a marvellous hotel, Hotel Central:

By the time we set off to explore, it was evening. We found the beach and the promenade and so many people out enjoying the unseasonably warm weather;

The next day we explored the old city with the fort on the top of the hill with beautiful views:

Pigeons bathing in the old fountain:

The port:

Lots of beaches in Gijon and I learned from the sweet man at the reception desk of our hotel, that they are some of the best surfing beaches in Spain.We walked one way along the beach, barefoot, captivated by the antic of the dogs and their owners:

Stopped at a seaside bar for a cervesa. When I went into the ‘Ladies’ I found these floor to ceiling pics in the cubicles. Michael found the same in the men’s (of the opposite sex of course) LOL:

And on the way back were equally entertained by the many surfers, watching them try catch just the right wave, wondering what the criteria were:

We loved our stay here in Gijon.