Grass Valley, Oregon

The Crook County Fair is coming to Prineville leaving all the campsites booked solid well in advance so it is onward. Leaving Prineville we headed north on 97 to Grass Valley. Grass Valley is about half way between Bend and The Dalles and we could get into the campground. The Campgrounds in Oregon are booked full this time of year. The campgrounds in other spots are booked with vacationers and nomads like us. Grass Valley was spared by the Substation fire (barely, it ended by the first road out of town); so I figured it would be relatively safe and not too far of the route to our next reservation at Westfir, Oregon.

The Grass Valley RV Park is small, right on 97 and a little rough on the edges. The folks who run it are super. As with so many campgrounds, this is their second year in ownership and are working on upgrades. Grass Valley itself is an interesting little town. The Oregon Speedway is here, there is a new hemp processing plant in town (cranks out CBD oil like there is no tomorrow), a nice public park that gets a lot of use, the rock store, a restaurant and a combination liquor store, grocery, deli, restaurant and general meeting place. Scout and I took a couple of walks and you can get a good flavor of the town from the pictures linked below. 

Peg and I took a road trip that wound its way south east to the Deschutes River Valley then northwest to Mt. Hood and The Dalles before returning south to Grass Valley. This route followed the south east edge of the Substation fire into the Deschutes River Valley where we found this very interesting water fall on the Indian reservation. Here the river is cutting a narrow canyon into the basalt with amazing force. There were people fishing on the other side who had set up camp and built platforms over the river. I took several pictures of the countryside showing the blackened devastation caused by the fire. Of note the pictures of the fire border taken in the Deschutes River Valley were overwhelmed by the South Valley fire less than 24 hours later and the people fishing would have been evacuated less than 12 hours after these images were taken.

The South Valley fire started near Dufur while we were on our road trip. In fact we almost headed to Dufur but decided it would be out of the way and skipped on ahead to Mt. Hood. Along the way we found White River Falls State Park. This is an abandoned PG&E hydroelectric facility built in 1910 and turned over to the state in 1964. Very interesting to see how the natural geology of the land was used to create the power station. This was a great drive with interesting water falls, abandoned water works, dense forests, beautiful Mt. Hood, the always impressive Columbia River Gorge and great food. We were traveling on I84 toward The Dalles when we first saw the smoke rising into the afternoon ski. We stopped at the intersection of I84 and 97 to get gas and double check our route back to Grass Valley. We back tracked a couple of miles and took 206 out of the Gorge back to 97 and on to Grass Valley. We drove through some pretty heavy smoke and strong winds arriving safely at the campground. The television stations out of Portland do a wonderful job of getting helicopter pictures of this fire and these pictures clearly show why you do not want to be in the way of one. Wind driven at 20 to 40 mph the fire flows across the landscape like water, flowing across the grass stem tops then sinking to the ground below leaving charred ground in its wake. Something close to 200,000 acres of this part of Oregon have burned in three separate fires so far this season. Nothing we wanted to stick around for more of.

We began our trip visiting the snow and now in the middle of our journey we have visited fire. Yes, we shortened our stay in Grass Valley and retreated back to La Grande and the Grande Hot Springs RV Park, which is surrounded on three sides by water! We are staying here until we catch up with our reservations on the 14th taking the time here to get an oil change for the Bronze Brute and change out the house batteries in the Montana. On the 14th we move west to Casey’s Riverside Park in Westfir, precluding there is no fire in the area. Next town over from Westfir, Oakridge, was hit pretty hard by fire earlier this year. We go forward with crossed fingers!!

RV living is an adventure and we have been at it for three years now and still love it. The people we meet, the country we see, and the challenges we face make this a wonderful experience. I wish my writing and pictures could do justice to the places we have seen and the things we have done. However amateurish they may be I provide them forthwith and look forward to your feedback.

Thanks for reading.


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East of the Cascades in Oregon Catch Up

Peg and I have been having a great time in Eastern Oregon this summer. We left La Grande Hot Springs RV Resort and headed to Lake Simtustus in Madras, Oregon for a month long stay.

Lake Simtustus has been our first real miscue in 3 years of camping. Lake Simtustus RV Park is a unique place, just up from the dam on a remote hillside consisting of 3 levels twisting down to the lake. Unfortunately, communications broke down somewhere as to the length of our 5th wheel and the size of the campsites. There was no way we could fit into any of the available sites. The folks who run the park are really nice and mean well but left us in limbo. All our money was refunded on the spot (which was unexpected and very nice); however, finding another place at 5 pm on a Saturday night was a challenge. Mt. View RV Park in Metolius, Oregon took us in for four nights and the search was on.

On RV Trip Wizard (the best planning tool around), Grass Valley RV Park was available so I booked it for a couple of weeks and moved on. Peg, Scout and I took a couple of road trips to the surrounding area that included Lake Billy Chinook, Round Butte, Redmond, Bend and other spots. Great scenery, deep river canyons, rivers and lakes with the view of the Cascades always in the back ground. Of course we found a couple of excellent wineries. Margas has this wonderful Tempranillo of which we bought a few bottles along with some white wines for Peg. 

Wednesday evening we got a phone call from Grass Valley. The gentleman stated that they were under a level 2 evacuation order and we should check back in the morning to see if we could come into the campground. I thanked him and began to wonder about the fire and started researching what was by then named the “Substation Fire”. This fire did not look like anything I wanted to deal with so back to the search. Luckily, I found Crook County RV Park in Prineville, Oregon which had 2 open spots. We took one of them! Good choice, when I called Grass Valley to let them know we wouldn’t be coming, they were under a level 3 evacuation (get out now!!). We couldn’t have gotten there anyway as the only highway to them US97 was closed. 

The Substation fire grew to 80000 acres killing one man and leaving a lot of farmers without a wheat crop. Fire is a way of life here; however, this one was a month early and extremely large. The Deschutes river valley from the Columbia south was devastated with all the trees and structures except the campground and marina were burnt to the ground. It looks like the City of Grass Valley was spared so we may finish up our open time in August there. 

On the RV life side of things, we have had a failure of two of the slide toppers we had Pete’s install last fall. They were still under warranty and Pete’s was super in taking care of us. It took a couple of shipments of parts to be able to put the kitchen slide topper back together and it worked well until we got to Mt. View where it failed again. Fortunately, there were enough spare parts sent that I was able to replace all the broken components. I left the canopy off so we wouldn’t have to worry about it until we get back to Apache Junction in the fall. As these things happen, we ran into the Premier Disc Brake representative at La Grande during the Northwoods RV meet up. I had talked with him last winter at Quartzite about putting disc brakes on the RV; however, the timing and location was bad for both of us. It was a pleasant surprise to run into him and we quickly struck a good deal and now have upgraded bearings and new disc brakes. Wow do they stop the trailer! These things will not only stop the RV but will bring the Bronze Brute to a stop also. So the Montana perseveres and we motor on. 

Prineville is very pleasant. The campground is very nice. Good wifi, solid utilities and very nice staff. The Park is connected to the fairgrounds which has planned events every Friday and Saturday. There are two large dog parks across the highway, one grass and one dirt so Scout has had some off leash time. Scout and I have explored up the Crooked River some but haven’t found a good place for him to swim. Prineville is the home to two large data server farms, one for Apple and one for Facebook. There appears to be a lot of industry in the Bend – Redmond area to the point of there being unbelievable traffic on US 97!!

In summary, it has been a great summer so far and we are looking forward to our journey. The links to Flickr are for several albums relating to this area and the La Grande album has been updated with some more photos. Thanks for reading and enjoy!


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Hat Point Overlook on the Snake River Hells Canyon

Hat Point Overlook is 7990 feet above sea level and looks down well over 6000 feet to the Snake River as it flows through Hells Canyon. The Overlook has a fire watch tower, campground and picnic tables. It is safe to say that this is remote. Access is up a one lane gravel road consisting of one section 7 miles long that is a continuous 16% grade over rutted gravel and dirt road that hangs onto the edge of the mountains very tenuously. The journey begins at Imnaha and climbs about 6000 feet in 20 miles. It was an exciting excursion with many white knuckle moments for Peg!

We began the day driving to Joseph where we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center for a map and general directions. The lady, Debra if I remember correctly, was most helpful. The Center had all kinds of maps and sights to see. Debra asked us where we were going and Peg told her Hat Point. You could see Debra’s eyes light up, she came half way out of her chair grabbing a map and highlighter pen. “Has anyone told you about the road to Hat point?’, she asked in a kind of excited tone. Uh no, I thought to myself. “It starts out with a 16% grade, you know. Does your vehicle have good brakes?” Sure, the Bronze Brute has this one. “The road has pull outs,” Debra continued, “so when you see someone coming pull over and wait”. I recognized right away that our trip was going to be challenging and loads of fun. The blood drained from Peg’s face. God, I love her, she is such a trooper.

We buckled up and headed to Imnaha where we exited the highway and took off on the USFS road. It was asphalt for a little ways, just to fool the casual driver. Four wheel drive, on, engine braking, on, transmission in trailer/haul mode, smile on face. Off we went.

Frankly, the road was pretty bad, more of a path in some places. It got really interesting as we headed up on the side of the mountain with ruts, washouts, blind corners, no guard rails and who knows how far down the steep grassy mountain sides to the cliffs below. It was a quiet ride up to the forest. Traffic was lite. Peg was quiet. Scout slept on the rear seat.

5 Mile Overlook was great. Wonderful view to the Snake river valley that shows the river cutting through the mountains creating this scenic canyon. One interesting item is the effects of wildfire here. Along the road the east side was burned very badly at some time (Maybe the Summit fire of !989). On the west side the trees still stand, leading me to believe that fire was fought to a standstill on this road. Although higher up at Hat Point the Summit Fire of 1989 raged on over the top and beyond.

Granny View Vista as well worth the trip itself. Parking lot, toilets (clean this time of year), pretty trail that had outstanding views of the valley. Scout and I walked the trail and got some nice images. Heading up the road we moved into heavy forest that had escaped fire and logging. Wonderful to drive through. We stopped at Horse Creek Overlook which is poorly maintained. The trees have grown so high and dense that the view is mostly blocked. Horse creek drops 5000 feet into its own canyon as it flows to the Snake. This is like being in Chicago and having a mile of rock on top of you!

Hat Point did not disappoint. First we drove by the campground then parked at the base of the tower. The first thing I noticed was the old burned out trees. It is hard to believe that the Summit Fire was almost 30 years ago and these dead trees were still standing. It is also a testament to how hard the climate is at this altitude. Coming from the east side the trees have not really recovered, on the west side 30 year old trees of about 20 feet in height grow in abundance. They are sheltered from the wind and, I imagine, get more water. 

A group of young folks had climbed to the top of the watch tower and I marveled that they were not even breathing hard when they got down. Top to the tower had to be around 8100 feet, Peg and I just looked at each other and walked on. Never to speak of those kids again. Got a great image of Peg walking the trail to the picnic tables. It seems odd that there is a campground and all these picnic facilities at this spot. This is remote. Quiet, beautiful, peaceful and powerful in a way.

The mountains to the east (over in Idaho) are called the Seven Devils. We took the time to count them and yes there are seven distinct peaks. From this point it is about 7000 feet down to the Snake. There is a good view of the place where a mountain slide occurred thousands of years ago that blocked the Snake. The remaining rapids are clearly visible as is the original height of the slide on both sides of the river.

Turning around and back down was fun. It really didn’t seem that steep on the way up; however, going down was a bit nerve wracking, even for me. About half way down was a large pull off where you were recommended to stop to cool off the brakes. The Bronze Brute’s brakes are guaranteed for life so we didn’t bother to cool them off. We just kept on. I do believe that Peg finally took a breath when we crossed the last cow crossing and found asphalt. 

A fine day on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway! Enjoy the pictures.

Note: the linked album is edited with the colors enhanced. Some of you might prefer the unedited originals located at



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La Grande Oregon

La Grande Oregon is in the northeastern corner of the state. This is a wonderful round bowl shaped valley with mountains everywhere you look. The valley is named “Grande Ronde” from the early French trappers and explorers. The early explorers admired the grand round view from the valley. The valley was an important rendezvous site for the Native people of the southern Columbia Plateau. In the summer, Nez Perce, Umatilla, Cayuse and others came here to hunt, fish, gather roots and trade in peace. The Indians often called this Peace Valley, White settlers heading further west to the Willamette Valley came through this area and some stayed and settled the area. This caused friction with the Native peoples and violence ensued beginning in 1862 during which time the US Cavalry killed or captured many Natives.

The original settlers were followed by gold miners who came to this area to mine in Idaho and eastern Oregon spurring growth in the farm communities. The railroad followed in 1884 cementing La Grande as the hub of the valley. In 1875 Blue Mountain University was established by the Methodists and in 1929 the Eastern Oregon University was founded. EOU continues to be an important part of the fabric of the community and is the only state liberal arts university east of the Cascades. The economy now is an agricultural one. Crops include hay, grass seed, alfalfa, wheat, and various other plants. 

La grande is a popular year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Anthony Lakes Ski Resort has some of the best powder in the Intermountain West. The 6000 acre Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is super for birdwatching and hunting area and home to the largest hard stem bulrush marsh in northeastern Oregon, which is a glimpse of what the valley looked like before agriculture took over. Geologically, La Grande is between the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa mountains with the Grande Ronde River being the major waterway. There are many major faults that run through the valley (our campground sits right on top of one) and several geologic hot springs like Grand Hot Springs where we are. The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is on the eastern border and not to be missed. At over 8000 feet deep it is the deepest gorge in the US and the views are outstanding. Water rafting abounds!

Peg and I have been taking in the northeastern side of the valley, enjoying the mountain terrain and views. We took a trip on the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway from Baker City up through the mountains to the Idaho side of the Snake River where we had lunch and marveled at the dam and canyon vista. Hell’s Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States, deeper than the Grand Canyon. Driving to the Hell’s Canyon Dam (owned by Idaho Power) is breath taking. The road follows the river into the canyon as the walls become steeper and steeper. I must admit there is a sinister feel to the canyon as the walls close in on you. The road crosses the dam and follows the cliff walls down to the visitor center and on a short walk to the river boat launch. It is quite a leap of faith to start over the dam road as visually it runs straight into a sheer cliff wall, it is only when about half way across that you catch a glimpse to the road down. It is a couple of tight turns, for sure! 

The people here are wonderful, friendly and welcoming. Peg, Scout and I took in the fireman’s pancake breakfast in Elgin where ate in the local firehouse. We were treated just like we had always been there. The Elgin River Fest had an antique car and tractor show which was nice. The pictures don’t do the cars justice. Someone in this area really knows how to paint cars, just beautiful workmanship. We talked with several of the exhibitors and they are one proud group, as they should be. 

Another small town near the park is Union. Union has a grocery store with character and a drug store with a real fountain service. We took in a couple of real chocolate malts while sitting outside. Scout was the big attraction getting petted by everyone going in and out of the drugstore. One very nice lady gave him ice and then some ice and Diet Coke. Wasn’t sure about the Coke but Scout enjoyed it and no harm came of it. Other than he is more spoiled now. 

Yes we are having a fine time here in this very interesting part of Oregon! Hope you enjoy the pictures. 

Thanks for reading!


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On the Road to Oregon!

Our summer trip to Oregon has been great! We left Craig, Colorado traveling to Manila, Utah and the Flaming Gorge. Manila is a junction in the road on the Utah-Wyoming border close to Washam, Wyoming with a KOA, True Value/grocery store, gas station, and this really nice restaurant that makes wonderful chocolate malts. From the KOA we could see Kings Peak (13500 feet) the tallest mountain in Utah and down the road was Flaming Gorge lake. Pretty and well run campground by very nice folks, we would stay there again. The Uinta Mountain range certainly determined our weather. Using Manila as our base we travelled to the Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River, to various spots on the lake (we had a nice lunch at the Lucerne Valley Marina), and traveled the 50 miles up to Green River, Wyoming for groceries. Manila is a very remote beautiful part of America. Coming up here on Utah 44 took us through the middle of one of the world’s largest phosphate mines which is an interesting drive and it seems that once you get beyond the tourism business, mining is the main driver of the economy.

The Sheep Creek Canyon Geological drive is worth the side trip. Amazing rock features and quite a climb up through the mountains. We met a couple who were dropped off close to the highest point on the road so they could ride their bikes down to the bottom. I was jealous of their plan to just ride down, save a lot of that hard peddling and sweat! We were here just at the start of the tourist season so it is hard to know how busy it gets, but my impression is that it is pretty hard to make a living here. This album is a collection of the pictures taken in this area

From Manila, we traveled up Wyoming 530 to Green River then east on I84 to Rock Springs where we picked up US 191 for the drive into Jackson. This was one of those wonderful road trips with gorgeous scenery and an interesting view into the ranching, mining and oil business in this part of the country. As we closed in on Pinedale, the Wyoming Mountain Range came into view giving way to the Wind River Range as we traversed Bondurant and our wonderful friends, Tom and Ginger Rooks place. 191 picks up the Hoback River in Bondurant and follows it closely as it cuts through the peaks on its journey to the Snake at Hoback. I have been here twice and the drive into Jackson through the mountain passes is always a treat, not always easy, but always rewarding. And to top it all off, The Valar Horse Facility with our host Pia Valar! Peg and I always feel at home here. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, took a couple of bike rides, one from Wilson to Teton Village and one from the Teton National Park entrance to Jenny Lake. There are paved trails all over the place in the Jackson area so bring your bike and prepare to have fun. We were fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with Tom and Ginger plus a bonus lunch in downtown Bondurant. Took in water aerobics a couple of times and put Scout in daycare once. He played for a solid ten hours or more and was exhausted. It took him two days of rest, stretching and walking gingerly to recover. Always nice to relax and enjoy friends. Enjoy the pictures.

Arco, Idaho was a two day stay to see Craters of the Moon National Monument. Arco is famous for being the first nuclear powered city. In the 1950’s a breeder reactor was built east of Arco which made history in 1961 by being destroyed by an operator maintenance error. Three people died in the accident which were the only people ever to die in the United States from a nuclear power plant failure. Peg and I were much more focused on Craters of the Moon and the Big Lost River. The Monument is very interesting and easy to navigate. Nice new roads and paved trails. The lava flow occurred in the 1500’s or so and is well preserved in the high desert climate. We continued on from Craters to travel the scenic byway through Sun Valley Ski Area up to the summit above Stanley. Beautiful and interesting drive (very long). The trip took us through the gold mining areas along the Salmon River, now mostly river rafting and fishing. It made for an interesting day and you may note in the pictures that Scout is getting pretty good at posing!

Arco to La Grande, Oregon was a long day on rough roads. US 20 is very bumpy and I was thinking I84 would be better but not by much. Now we are in Oregon for the summer! La Grande Hot Spring RV Resort is a great place with a real hot spring spa! We have been doing things and taking some of the sites around here and I will update with pictures on a later post.

Some thoughts on our journey so far. As always, the people we meet are very nice and become friends easily. On this trip I think this is particularly so due to the fact that our travels are have been through working America. The people we run into are ranchers, farmers, miners and small business folks. All working very hard to be successful. It is great to talk with them and share our adventures. Another observation is that we have seen so much hay! Good Lord, the hay that is grown out here is unbelievable. Hay has been our constant companion. Big fields of hay, almost all heavily irrigated, big stacks of bailed hay, big trucks of hay, big rows of mowed hay drying out waiting to be bailed. And the rivers, the Colorado, Salmon, Snake, Hoback, and Big Lost River all cutting through mountains and full of spring runoff. It has been an introduction to part of America that I had not seen before and I am very impressed.

Thanks for reading and look for posts of Oregon coming up!


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Doggy Day Care Hangover, Oh My Scout!!

Erp. Erowwwh. Ohhhh, why? Sure make new doggy friends, the Big Dawg said. Play a little it will do you good. Arf, arf and tail wag sounded good to me. No one told me it was like 10 hours of unfettered running, jumping, chasing, being chased, oh my and all the butt sniffing! Totally lost all control. Played, played,and played until I dropped. How do you stop with so many dogs to sniff?

Urghhhh, erp, why so much? What fresh hell is this? Oh the pain, do I really have a muscle there? I should have stopped to think, but what do I know I’m just a teenager. Ohh, the hurt. Thought maybe some breakfast would help, oh no puke it up. The Big Dawg asked, “Did Scout have a good time?” You betcha Big Dawg, now clean this up. Puke, retch, arf, retch. So much for breakfast. Oh, oh, oh I gotta go lay down in the shower next to the drain, just in case. Doggy day care, who knew??


Scout would like to give a special thanks to DogJax of Jackson, Wyoming ( for providing a wonderful facility and great staff for his first doggy day care day. Even though he overdid it and had a long day of recovery, it was worth every minute and he is ready to go at it again, well, almost..


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Silt to Craig Colorado

The trip to Craig from Silt was an enjoyable journey up Colorado 13. This route travels through West-Central Colorado providing great mountain views and a look at the working landscape of the state. Ranches, farms, oil and gas fields, coal mines and one very large coal fired generating station, working Colorado. Craig is a city of approximately 9500 folks who share the western ranching culture of round ups and hunting with the extraction industry of coal, oil, and the occasional gold nugget.

Forty miles east of Craig is Steamboat Springs home of all sorts of winter sports. Ski runs are everywhere and include the only ski jump facility of its type in the US. Hot springs for year around fun and rafting, hiking, for the summer. Twenty miles to the west is the Sand Wash Basin Horse Management Area with the 8120 foot Outlook Mountain. Beautiful wild horses in abundance on some 155000 acres. Very interesting country with down to earth friendly people.

Our visit to Steamboat was great. The city was in all its springtime glory with the downtown streets adorned with blooming white dogwood trees and flowers everywhere. Much nicer than Aspen, I think. The ski runs and Yampas River provide the backdrop for a community with an international flavor. Peg and I were there to see Fish Creek Falls.

The falls are on Forest Service land and has interconnecting trails to several other places in the region. While we were there, Forest Service employees and volunteers were doing Spring maintenance, removing dangerous trees and maintaining the trails. I made sure to thank them for their work. The falls are excellent. The creek is running full with snow melt which makes the falls splendid!

Fish Creek Falls

We had a good day in Steamboat and I would recommend it for any season, for any reason.

Peg had a real desire to see wild horses. Some of our Weavers Needle friends have been here and suggested a visit to Sand Wash Basin. Peg said we would be on remote gravel roads, so I was all for it. Doing the wise thing for change we filled up the Bronze Brute in Craig on the way west to Sand Wash, this turned out to be a very wise thing as there is nothing, absolutely nothing out there except open land, horses, and two other travelers (one was the “Plant Lady”???) the other looked lost.

The horses are really neat. My expectations were to see some starving old nags hanging around begging from passers by (see our Custer State Park buffaloe and burro pictures from a couple of years ago). But no! Big beautiful healthy horses in the open range. There are approximatley 450 currently in the carefully managed herd.

Sand Wash HMA Two Horses

The best thing was Outlook Mountain! When I saw the road off in the distance, I knew that was the road to take! Yes indeed, about 2000 feet up a dirt road. Wow!Road to the top of Outlook Mountain

I could tell Peg had reservations but Scout was all for it. We followed the gravel road to where the road sign pointed to Outlook Mountain just a few miles up the dirt road. I put the Bronze Brute into four wheel drive and took off. What a trip. Loose dirt and sand road with some damn near vertical sections, some hair pin curves that I am sure left one dually wheel hanging over the edge and a superb view from 8120 feet. Took some interesting pictures of leichen (sp) and the surrounding views. Also, found a triangulation marker from 1937. You may note that Peg stayed in the truck, she was frozen in thought and trying to absorb the recent trip up the mountain. At least she got to see wild horses. It was a great day and good fun.

The Craig KOA is ok. New owners who have only been here for two weeks or so recently from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. These folks are working very hard on restoring the park and adding new features. Great service and Peg and I wish them much success. We have enjoyed very good cable television as trees blocked satellite tv, and reasonable WiFi. From here you can see the coal mine off in the distance. The mine has taken quite a lot off the top of the mountains and reportably there is between 25 and 30 years of coal mining left up there. However; the coal fired power plant that uses the coal will start closing down in 2022 and be out of service in 2025. The power plant has great distribution access, including to the SRP in Pheonix, so perhaps solar or wind can be installed on the site.

Should be obvious that we are enjoying our Colorado journey and look forward to coming back one day. Monday we head to Flaming Gorge, Utah on our way to Pia’s in Wyoming. Links to pictures are below.

Thanks for reading – don’t forget to like us!


Fish Creek

Sand Wash HMA


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