My Solo Wanderings of the West

jvsontheroad

New member
Thanks For Keeping Us Posted

Kenny-Glad to see you are back on the road. Enjoy your posts. Keep it up.
When you get to San Diego area, shot me a PM. There will be parking space, a hot shower
several good meals and some wine!

Jack
 

kennyj

Explorer
Wow, what a great welcoming back! Thanks for all the kind posts. It is really good to be on the road again and sharing it here. And Jack, thanks (again!) for the great offer. I will keep it in mind if ever I get down there.


This year, in preparation for my travels, I did a <lot> of work on the van. There are a number of improvements inside, and outside; I made some improvements to the bike carrier rack, and added mounting for a new cargo box. It’s huge, and frees up storage inside the van. I mounted a new 11 pound propane cylinder next to the gas can. The van got new KYB monotube shocks, completely rebuilt front brakes, a set of AirLift air bags in the rear, and a set of 5 LT C-rated Cooper Discoverer tires. I’ll feel much more confident going down harsh and rocky road surfaces, and the airbags seem the perfect solution for the extra weight on the rear of the van. And, if you look close, the bike got a new rear luggage rack!





I have always wanted to visit the Museum of the Fur Trade, so before I left Chadron I spent a morning there. This is a world-class exhibit and I learned a lot about the Fur Trade period on the developing plains. If you’re ever in that area, don’t miss it.




I had thought about visiting the Toadstool Geologic Park in the Oglala National Grassland, and that very morning I read Fortel’s trip report that convinced me to go. Unfortunately, with rain all week and a heavy rain the night before it was a very muddy trip. With about 20 miles of muddy road to travel, most of it had a solid base with a few sloppy areas that I had to power through with some sliding. But with only about 3 miles to go, the road became impassable; myself and 4 or 5 other cars turned back when we came to a section of deep mud about a quarter mile long. A four wheel drive pickup was stuck in the middle, trying to get through the section. This was taken on the drive back out.




Continuing west toward Wyoming was another place I’ve wanted to visit, Fort Robinson, Nebraska. I spent a few hours touring the grounds and walking through some of the buildings open for exhibit.




Here’s the van after my attempted drive to Toadstool. I was familiar with this Nebraska mud from my 2013 trip through Pine Ridge; It’s a lot like drywall mud and the wheel wells and under the van had an inches thick coating.




So, my next stop was a car wash in Douglas, Wyoming. More than $10 worth of quarters couldn’t remove all that mud!


 

kennyj

Explorer
I have spent time in the Laramie Peaks area south of Douglas, and have always noticed Ayres Natural Bridge on the map. I found out it was a free camping area so I decided to head there for the night. It was a beautiful spot and an unusual natural bridge as it actually has water flowing under it.


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The park was really a park, operated by the county with a resident caretaker and beautiful grounds, with picnic areas and park benches and playground areas. When I arrived this photography club from Casper were enjoying the sights.


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The next morning I hiked all around Ayres, and ended up getting a late start. After some stops in Casper for gas and supplies I headed for my destination near Alcova on the Platte River southwest of Casper.


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I thought this was to be a free BLM campsite, but it had been recently improved and was now a fee area; with my geezer discount card I think camping was $2.50 for the night. This seemed to be a popular fishing and rafting area; the campground was full of fishermen, in waders and on kayaks and drift boats.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The next day I drove across the high plains to Lander, then headed up into the Shoshone National Forest and the Wind River range. Leaving Lander the road goes up a deep canyon then up miles of numerous switchbacks. Here’s the view back toward Lander.




And the view of the snow-covered Wind River mountains.




Driving past Frye Lake.




The pavement ends then continues about 30 or 35 miles; I found a dispersed spot to camp in a clearing. I was camped up around 9,500 feet, my first high altitude camp for the year, so I had to acclimate.

 

kennyj

Explorer
I spent 4 days up there, and explored everywhere I could on the bike. There were a lot of really fun spur roads.




This is Fiddler’s Lake.




A great view of the area and the high mountains.







After a few days i moved down to a beautiful lakefront campsite in a campground on Louis Lake.




Evening view of the lake from my camp.


 

kennyj

Explorer
I spent that Saturday on a pretty challenging hike into the wilderness area. With the snowpack melting there were a lot of tough water crossings and swampy trail, and the mosquitos were unbearable. I did enjoy the workout and getting used to hiking at 10,000 ft plus. On the trail I met up with this guy.




Sunday I was leaving the Forest when I discovered my iphone missing. I spent the rest of the afternoon backtracking, trying to locate it, thinking I knew where I could have dropped it. I ended up in Lander late in the day, looking for a place to spend the night, when I learned that Lander City Park had free camping. It was a beautiful spot on a river and into the evening more and more cars arrived. I found that many of them were homeless, people living out of their cars and sleeping in tents. I spoke to a number of people staying there, and didn’t even think about the camera or taking pictures.

The next day I left Lander. (BTW, I recovered the lost phone; driving along the rough forest road it had fallen into an unseen place behind the van’s seats. It did cost me some time de-activating then re-activating the phone number.) I drove through the Wind River Reservation, stopped in Ft Washakie to look for the grave of Sacajawea, stopped in the neat little town of DuBois, then headed into the Bridger-Teton Forest.

This guy really didn’t want me to continue…




I stopped on top of Togwotee Pass for the first real good view of the Tetons, then went wandering over miles of forest roads for a spot to camp. The next day I would continue into Grand Teton National Park.


 

Rbertalotto

Explorer
Thanks for sharing such a great adventure.....I'm going to be heading out this fall for a few months and I need to figure out how to find free or near free camping spots like you seem to do.....
 

fortel

Adventurer
Kenny

Great to see you're back on the road. Sorry you didn't make it to Toadstool, but I can't imagine trying to get there with the road any wetter than it was when we were there a few weeks back. Anyway, safe travels to you sir.
 
Thanks for sharing such a great adventure.....I'm going to be heading out this fall for a few months and I need to figure out how to find free or near free camping spots like you seem to do.....
Check out http://freecampsites.net/

It's a resource I used throughout my trip to find great campsites, both free and paid. But following Kenny along his trip really gave me a sense of how to get off the main roads to find dispersed camp sites when I set off on my own, which was very helpful as I didn't have much camping experience prior.

Thanks Kenny, I enjoyed following your last trip, and will be again this time around. Safe journeys!
 

dsm02c

Adventurer
Great thread, one of the best trip reports I've read! Your pace and the way you write about your experiences has me re-evaluating my own perspective on traveling, thank you!
 

kennyj

Explorer
In case you still check on here. I have a question. it seems you covered a lot of ground but took your time. I love taking the back roads too and find I get caught up in the driving around the next mountain. How did you decide when to stop? How much do you think you drove each day? My thought was that next year when i hit the road with the dogs, I'll limit myself to four hours a day, regardless of how far I get. I want to relax and hike and paddle in lakes and rivers not be on the road all day. Any thoughts Kenny?
Hi Sarah, finally a reply to your question from quite a while ago...
I think what I enjoy the most is not being locked into a travel plan. I only plan a day or so ahead and even then I have made an unplanned left turn when I thought I was going straight. The other day I made a move of only 35 miles, but it was into a completely new surrounding. Then I stayed a day longer than I had planned because there was much to see. If I find a place I really like I will stay for 3 or 4 days. The last time I drove more than 4 hours in a day I only covered less than 100 miles because it was a stretch of incredible scenery. But, in the next day or so I will probably do a good highway stretch of 300ish miles. I actually do have a bigger plan; I’m presently heading toward Glacier National Park, I would like to be in northwest Washington by late August and in southwest Utah by late October. The fun part is moving along and seeing what I can discover along the way.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Rbertalotto and johnnytravels, thanks for the nice comments. I wrote some thoughts about free/dispersed camping...
As more people contribute to it, freecampsites.net has become a pretty useful site. It’s good for finding no-fee camping in places like BLM campgrounds, county and city parks, and no-fee campgrounds in National Forest areas. For real dispersed camping in National Forests the Motor Vehicle Use Map, or MVUM, is the greatest tool. I usually download them in advance from the forest service web site but also try to pick up paper copies at the district ranger stations. The same roads can usually be seen in Delorme Gazetteers but not with the same detail, and the MVUMs show specifically where dispersed camping is allowed. However, just because the map says dispersed camping is allowed along a road doesn’t mean it’s actually possible, for instance when that road is a narrow shelf along a mountainside for miles. Dispersed camping on BLM land is some of the best but also some of the hardest to find. Information from the BLM is inconsistent but occasionally useful. Most of the Delorme books show BLM land and often tracks that lead to good camping. I’ve also come to really like Scenic Maps for iPad and iPhone, but that’s a whole other review.
Finally, to find good camping, ask around. It can’t hurt to talk to the local guy driving a rig at the gas station or grocery store. You can ask about dispersed camping at the district ranger stations but I have found that in general to be a frustrating exercise. The Forest service employees that know the good camping aren’t usually going to be working the front desk at the office, although a few times I have gotten good information. Campground hosts seem to know their area well and often know where good camping is outside of their campground.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Fortel, it’s good to see you following here again. I have a feeling your traverse of Nebraska was only days or a week ahead of me! It is beautiful country and well worth spending time to see.

Maffew, and Chet, good to see you here again. I always looked forward to your comments.

Dsm02c, thank you for that really great comment.
 
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