Newsletter Volume 13

           Aug - Christmas 1997

In 1995, Jeff and Cyndie set aside their careers to pursue personal interests: travel, flyfishing and adventure. They lived in a 5th wheel trailer that had been converted into a fishing cabin on wheels. Their Ford F350 pickup and custom designed inflatable boat took them to places where dreams are made. Rowdy, their Golden Retriever, came along for the adventure.

This newsletter was produced 6 times a year to chronicle and share the adventures. It was distributed to family, friends, business associates and folks they met along the way.

Late Update on our Adventure  Actually, a very late update. We had this newsletter almost ready to send to you over two months ago. It was meant to chronicle our adventures late August and September and to end with our return to Austin in early October.

Somehow, we got to Austin, stayed real busy for a few weeks, decided to take a quick trip over to Florida and the next thing we knew over two months had slipped away and we never finished it.

So, if the following article sounds like it might already be a bit dated, it is. The first half of this newsletter has the articles you were supposed to get in October. From there we go on to tell you about the rest of our fall adventures and our plan for the winter and spring here in Central Texas.

It's been a busy fall for us. We're finding out all of this traveling around and adventuring can turn out to be a lot of work, particularly if you have to stop every so often and get a job in order to keep it up. We've had another great year and are looking forward to telling you about it.   

Roamin' the Rockies RoundUp  Our best of the west tour of 1997 is about to come to an end. Just a few days ago we pulled our trailer out of the mountains of Central Colorado, having already witnessed the first snowfall of the season. Mother Nature provides plenty of hints as to when it is time to leave this country, if you’re not planning on staying for the winter. The beauty of fall colors in the mountains sings the siren song, but the chill in the air and the snow building on the peaks warn you of the struggles that will come if you linger too long.

As much as we love to fish in the big rivers of the Western US, we are clearly summer players in this wonderland. With winter headed towards the Rockies, we turn our attention back towards home in Austin and the warmer climates of the south.

But, before we leave the west, we have some more stories to share with you. We've spent the last month in three great destinations. Our first stop is on the Big Horn River in Eastern Montana. Then we move back to the Green River in Utah. Our summer finishes in   familiar territory, in Taylor Park, Colorado. Over the past month we've shared the magic of the wilderness with some very good friends. If you haven't been out to visit us this summer, then this is our chance to share a bit of the adventure with you.

Big Horn Revisited  Back in the summer of 1995 we visited the Big Horn River for the first time. Known in flyfishing circles as one of the great western fishing rivers, it was one of the places we felt we had to add to our flyfishing portfolio. It turned out to be one of our favorite rivers and was added to our Roamin' the Rockies tour stops for this summer.

This area of Montana is rich in history, much of which we wrote about during our first visit. Just to summarize, the most notable historical significance to this area has to do with a dude named Custer who thought he'd come over here and kick a little Indian butt. Well, as you probably know, it didn't quite work out that way. That's just the well known story. There's lots of other colorful local history in this area, much of it revolving around skirmishes between settlers and Indians. In fact, the campground where we're staying is the site of the historic Hayfield battle, where a whole bunch of people got killed. Now, there's a pleasant thought.

But, we didn't come to the Big Horn to get involved in any fights ourselves and really didn't spend much of our time dwelling on fights that had gone on in the past. We went to float and fish the Big Horn.

The Big Horn River is located in Montana, but it is in eastern Montana. So, unlike the image you may have in your mind of a big, powerful, whitewater river running through a canyon in the Rocky Mountains, the Big Horn is a big, flat river, running through the plains off the eastern slope of the mountains. The river runs through and irrigates some of the richest agricultural country in the US. Also, unlike the image you may have in your mind of cool mountain days, the Big Horn river valley in mid-August can be brutally hot and sunny.

Another thing that is important to know about the Big Horn river is that it can get quite crowded. Big trout bring people from around the world to this very remote area. Most all of the land along the river is Indian Reservation, so access to the river is limited to only a few boat ramp areas. To effectively fish the river, you have to float it. On busy weekend days there can be so many boats on the river that just getting downstream can involve negotiating a drift boat traffic jam. We have developed several strategies that help us avoid such crowds and allow us to enjoy a peaceful day on the river.

First, we never float the river on weekends. We're usually in an area for a couple of weeks and we generally just take weekends off. Secondly, we almost always start our floats about mid-day and stay on the river until about dark. This gets us on the river well after the guides have taken their clients downstream and keeps us on the river well after most people have already called it a day. As a result, we often spend the day drifting the Big Horn almost by ourselves.

During this trip to the Big Horn River we were in the area for 12 days. Over that 12 day period, we floated the river 7 times. On the days we took off from floating, we found other activities to keep us busy. Almost every morning, we took a long run down the endless and perfectly flat section roads that run along the farms in the river valley. One day, we drove up into the Big Horn Canyon area on the reservoir upstream of the area of the river we were fishing. The colored canyon walls in this secluded area are fabulous. The Big Horn remains on our list of favorite places to visit.

Green River Gathering  If you've been reading our newsletters for a while, you probably know that one of our favorite events is to have company come visit us on the road. Not only do we get to be in one of our favorite places on earth, we also get to spend quality time with good friends. So, when some of our friends from the Texas Trout Unlimited Chapter said they wanted to make a fall trip to the Green River, we re-arranged our schedule so we could meet them there.

It was the first week of September when Alan Bray, Eric Battaille, Walter Zoch and Walter's father-in- law, Dean Vander Stoep headed over to the Green River. Alan, Jeff and Eric are the past three Presidents of the Texas Trout Unlimited Chapter.

We'd been on the Green River for a couple of weeks in August and had a really good time. Fishing had been good and we'd discovered some new areas of the river we really liked to float and fish. So, it wasn't very hard to convince us to head back over to the Green to meet the group.

We booked a large group campsite near Dutch John, Utah. This allowed us to camp together and to have a common area for sharing an after fishing drink, cooking campfire dinners, and planning a strategy for the next day.

Fishing actually wasn't' all that good on the Green during this week. River flows had dropped compared to when we bad been there just over a month before. The week started with some long, hot, sunny days that can define the dog-days of summer out west. Days like this can make the fishing impossible and what we found was only about one notch above impossible. The first several days spent fishing in the upper canyon area just below naming Gorge Dam proved to be tough. However, the camaraderie of fishing with friends provided a dimension to the experience that allowed it to be measured more than in terms of the number of fish hooked and landed. Together, over the course of this week, the six of us formed common memories that will bond us for a lifetime.

You really get to know people when you camp and fish with them for a week- During this trip we learned that Alan Bray, a PhD. physicist and president of a prominent Austin technology company, has musical tastes that he describes by stating, "I like music my mother wouldn't like. Some of the music I like is even too progressive for my teenage daughter " Eric Battaille, who had just completed a 30 hour drive with Alan, was more than willing to confirm that Alan is indeed a rocker.

Later in the week, we led the crew as we adventured into Browns Park area of the lower Green River. This is land that formed the Outlaw Trail and the Browns Park area is where Butch and Sundance hid from lawmen that pursed them along it. We had discovered the magic of this area of the river during our visit in August and were anxious to share it with our friends. Not only was the fishing better in this section, but we spent several days sharing the river with only our friends from Austin and no other boats. A pleasant respite from the crowded conditions on the upper river.

It was the time we spent on the lower river that yielded a couple of the most memorable events of the trip. First, there was the incident where Jeff, distracted by his desire to photograph Eric with one of the largest rainbow trout of the trip, allowed his $1,000 flyfishing outfit to fall off of the boat an into the Green River. Fortunately, he remembered to put down the camera before he dove into the river after the rod, which he saw sink before his eyes in swift, deep water. Alan, Eric and Cyndie watched as Jeff spent the next half hour swimming in the cold river. Finally he snagged his flyline with his hand while he was groping around in the rocks and recovered his flyrod.

The other adventure occurred the day Jeff took Walter and Dean floating on the Swallow Canyon section of the Green. A half day float was planned at which point Cyndie would meet the crew at a take out point. The spot had been identified on a map but neither Cyndie or Jeff had never been there. As luck would have it, Jeff floated the guys past the takeout point just moments before Cyndie drove up and the crew floated on downstream.

Walter and Dean showed only minor concern when they finally realized they were lost on the Green River. But, when a surprise storm blew into the valley, dumping a torrent to rain and hail on the crew, the situation became a bit more tense. Not only were they lost and the weather was bad, they were over 50 miles from any sort of civilization and the red clay mud on the roads was melting into muck.

Fortunately, Alan and Cyndie got together and realized the crew must be lost. They set out into the storm to find the guys. Only a short time later they were located, huddling under a group of trees for shelter from the weather.

The week ended way to quickly and our friends had to return to Austin. Our time on the Green River had ended for another season. We spent almost three weeks in this territory and reconfirmed it on our list of favorite places.

Taylor Park - ShangraLa  There's a book by this title that tells the history of this area. Shangra- La pretty well sums it up for us. If there is any place in the world that our hearts call home, it's Taylor Park in the summer.

Other than last summer, when we went to Alaska, we have visited Taylor Park in Central Colorado for at least two weeks each of the past 13 years. But, all of our visits had been in the middle of the summer, when the grip of winter has been released and summer brings warm, sunny days and lush green vegetation. Earlier (his summer, we spent 5 weeks in the park, watching the last of the snow melt away from the peaks we looked upon from our campsite in Lakeview campground.

We wanted to get to know this special place in a new way. A return to Taylor Park in the fall would give us a chance to see color come to the mountains and winter begin to regain its control over this region. As it turned out, we were not disappointed on any front. We arrived back in Taylor Park in mid September. We were greeted by aspens, just starting their change from the lush green of summer, to the shimmering gold of the fall. In less than two short weeks, the transformation was be complete. By the end of September, yellows, golds and oranges covered the mountains that form the continental divide.

Taylor Park in the fall is a completely different place. Most of the people who visit the area in the summer are now gone. They days are much shorter. A little light begins to show about 7:OOAM, but it is still way too cold to get up and greet the day. By 8:OOAM, a fog falls into the park, covering the reservoir and our campsite. It will be several hours before the day can be called. Some days, the fog bums off and by 10:OOAM the mountains appear. Beautiful clear skies and wonderful sunny days may be our draw for the day. On other days, the fog never quite lifts and clouds of drizzle keep the warmth from building. Both types of days are beautiful, in their own way. We dress appropriately for whatever the weather dishes out and head for our favorite fishing hole below the dam.

Then, one morning, as we lie in the warmth of our bed and wait out the cold, morning fog, winter comes to Taylor Park. The fog takes a little longer to lift this morning and a bitter chill is in the air. Around noon, the sun finally bum through the clouds. When the mountains emerge, they are covered with a thick blanket of fresh snow. This snow will soon be joined by other snows and will not leave these peaks until next summer.

After two weeks in Taylor Park, winter pressed us to leave. Saying goodbye to ShangraLa was hard. The only other place in North America we have found that compares to beauty of this area is Alaska, almost 4,000 mile farther north and west. We held on for as long as we could. But the short and cloudy days made it impossible for our solar power systems to keep up. After almost two weeks we had to leave. When we pulled out of Lakeview campground, the camp host locked the gates for the season. We had closed Taylor Park down for this year.

Restaurants of the West  In our last issue, we made note of a real good steak restaurant we had found in Montana. Until then, the newsletter had not been in the restaurant review business. But, I guess if we write about a good place to eat two issues in a row, you can call this a regular feature.

The only disadvantage to liking to spend our summer in the western mountain states is that its hard to find good Mexican food. Living in Austin, the Mexican restaurant capital of the world, most any place you find in the Northwest is just not going to stack up. Mexican food is one of those things that has become a part of our regular diet in Texas and after a couple of months without it, we're usually pretty desperate for a fix. So, we've kind of developed a list of places out west where we can get good Mexican food and whenever we pass thru, we're sure to take full advantage of the opportunity.

The place we're going to tell you about this month is definitely not a place you'd probably give a try if you were in search of a great Mexican meal. In fact, the only reason we tried it the first time was that there really wasn't much of any place else to eat at in Vernal, Utah. So, when we first saw Jerry's Pizza and Mexican Food a couple of years ago, we just stopped in to see if we could grab anything to eat before we headed out into the boonies of Utah for a couple of weeks. The special that day was an all-you-can-eat Mexican plate and the waitress talked us into trying it. We were very surprised to be served a plate of really good Mexican food that was so big we couldn't even get through the first plate, much less even hope to eat seconds.

Now, every time we're through Vernal on our way out to fish the Green, we make sure we pass through town on a schedule that allows us to eat at Jerry's. Jerry's Mexican food holds us over until we can move across the country to another good place in our Mexican food database. If your one of our readers that fishes in some of the places we recommend, check out Jerrys if you head over to the Green.

Family Time in Albuquerque  After leaving Taylor Park, but before returning to Austin in early October, we made our regular stop in Albuquerque. We'd seen two of Cyndie's brothers this summer in Taylor Park, but it had been a while since we'd visited in Cyndie's third brother Barry Shelton, his wife BJ, or Jeff's brother and his family, Dan and Chapel Schmitt and nieces Sarah and Kristen.

We spent a long weekend in Albuquerque. As has become an annual tradition, we generally break something just before we get there, so that we can run all over town trying to get it fixed. We've developed quite a few good places to get things fixed in Albuquerque. One of the things we did during this years visit to Albuquerque was to buy a bunch of green chilies and bring them home to Austin. We bought the first batch to split with Barry and BJ. But, it was so fun watching them roast them over an open flame, we bought another batch just to see it all again. We now have a freezer that is well stocked with green chili if you need any.

A Brief Return to Austin  By early October it was time for us to come home. What started as a plan to take a couple of years off, and then return to full time work, has evolved in to Plan B. We've been having so much fun this past three summers we just can't stand to think that the adventure is over. So, our plans now involving taking a couple of more summers off and working in Austin in the winter and early spring months. So, we returned to Austin with the objective of nailing down some projects, consulting jobs, employment or whatever we could find that would finance another adventure to Alaska next summer.

We got into Austin at the first of October and both of us went furiously to work at finding some kind of employment. We'd been writing some letters while we were on the road this summer, so we both had some leads. Within three weeks, both of us had nailed down interesting projects that would keep us busy for the winter.

Cyndie has taken a legislative consulting (lobbyist) position with the Texas Council of Community MHMR Center. She will help guide the Council through the upcoming Sunset review of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. This project will take her through the end of the next legislative session in May of 1998 but will still allow us to be in Alaska next summer.

Jeff has landed several consulting projects. He will do acoustical consulting work for both Dell Computer, where he consulted last winter, and with his former employer Acoustic Systems. In addition, Jeff has been named as an Acoustics Laboratory Assessor for the National Institute of Standard and Technology, where he will be reviewing acoustical laboratories around the United States on an ongoing basis for the next several years.

Both Jeff and Cyndie's projects were slated to begin the first of December. But, it was only the third week of October. Our objective of finding work in Austin was complete and we had a bit of time of on our hands. What to do? Road Trip!

Just Takin' A Break in Florida  A fall trip to Florida was not completely unplanned. There was an acoustics seminar in Orlando that was to be held in mid-November and Jeff had wanted to attend this seminar for several years. We figured that, if we could get a couple of jobs lined up in Austin by the end of October, we could drive over to Florida, Jeff could go to the seminar and we could have a little fun in the sun, too.

By Halloween night we'd made the 1,300 mile run from Austin to Titusville, Florida, where we decided to settle in for a week or so before the seminar in Orlando. We picked Titusville for a couple of reasons. First, it was pretty close to Orlando, which was the focus of the trip. Secondly, it looked like there would be a lot of cool things to do in the outdoors around Titusville. And thirdly, there was a real interesting campground in Titusville that we wanted to check out.

The campground is called the Great Outdoors and it is the most incredible place we have every stayed. There is an publication called the Trailer Life Campground Directory that provides ratings on campgrounds. The Great Outdoors is one of only 4 campgrounds in the country that gets a perfect 10.

The facility consists of thousands of acres of land. Only a small portion of the land has been developed but there are close to 1,200 campsites. The remaining land is a wildlife refuge. The campsites here are pretty elegant. Most of the people who stay here actually own their campsite. Some campsite owners have built everything from small, outdoor screened rooms to full, plush homes on their site. The amenities include fabulous landscaping, a golf course that is woven in amongst the sites, several pools, hot tubs and lots of activities and entertainment.

Although the campground itself at the Great Outdoors was nice, the wildlife refuge that surrounded it proved to be of the most interest to us. Within a short walk from our trailer we were able to see alligators, wild turkeys, wild pigs, deer, raccoons and an incredible variety of wetlands bird life. There was also some pretty good freshwater fishing right on the property.

While in Titusville, we also got a chance to do a little saltwater fishing and do some adventuring on our own. After spending a day with a guide doing a little sight casting to redfish, we were able to locate a few areas that we could take our inflatable boat out into safely. We spent a day with manatees and porpoises around our  boat as interested in us as we were in them. We have some incredible photographs from this day, particularly of the pelicans, herons, egrets, osprey and other sea birds that we were able to approach very closely in our boat.

After spending 10 days in Titusville, it was time to move over to Orlando. While Jeff attended his acoustics seminar, Cyndie got a chance to spend a week playing at Disneyland. We chose the Ft. Wilderness Campground on the Disney property for our home base during this time. Ft. Wilderness is also one of the four campgrounds in the country with a perfect rating. While it is a really nice campground, it doesn't even compare to the setup at the Great Outdoors. However, it's big advantage was that it put Cyndie right in the heart of the Disney complex with over a week to see the attractions.

During her visit to Disney, Cyndie got a chance to visit each of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot and MGM studios) two days. In addition, she took a behind the scenes tour through the tunnels under Disney World and learned about a lot of the secrets of how the parks are operated and managed. On another day, she enrolled for courses at the Disney Institute. During a morning class, she received professional instruction in outdoor photography. In the afternoon class she participated in the production of a TV news cast.

At the end of the week, Jeff's course was over and there were a couple of more days left to play at Disney. Our good friend. Bill Choate, who has floated in the Alaska wilderness and backpacked into Yellowstone with us, joined us for a little less remote adventure. We spent three days playing and partying in Disney World with Bill. One of the more amusing events during Bill's visit was when we got the idea to put Mickey Mouse ears and eyes on our satellite TV dish and place it out by the road where the Disney shuttle buses run. For the next three days, the bus drivers in Disney World made the "Mickey Dish" an official part of the bus tour.

A short three week visit to Florida was about to have time run out on it but we still had time for one more event. Jeff's uncle Tom Schmitt lives in Florida near Miami. We had hoped to get down to Miami to visit Tom, as he had just opened an exhibition of his art work from the 1960's at a local art museum. However, some mechanical problems with our trailer prevented us from making the 300 mile trip to the south. We managed to work in a visit with Tom and Jackie, when they agreed to drive north and meet us over in Titusville.

We shared a nice day visiting with Tom and Jackie in Titusville. We shared a memorable event when we all watched the launch of the Space Shuttle for a beach restaurant-

Three weeks in Florida was way too short. We were just there long enough to discover that there are a lot of great places worth spending some time at in this area. We're hoping to work in another Florida trip some winter.

Fishing Recap  This issue recap covers four fishing destinations.

In late August we were on the Bighorn River, floating our raft and fishing for trout. Seven days on the river produced varied results, with the final score being something on the order of three good days of fishing catching three slow days of fish catching and seven great days on the river. Most every fish we caught this year was a brown trout, probably because I go to the Bighorn to throw big streamers and brown trout love big streamers. All of the browns on the Bighorn are above average size fish and a couple this trip went well over the 20 inch mark. All and all, the Bighorn is a great place to fish. Late August can be awfully hot.

Back to the Green in early September. Summer had not let its grip go of the desert canyon. Hot, sunny and bright are the condition and the fish were just plain sluggish. Add to that a group of friends that you've told to "come on up here, the fishing's been great", and you've got a nearly impossible situation. We had a couple of days of almost no fish hooked while floating through the incredible beauty of the upper canyon. One good day on the lower river salvaged the fish catching goals for the trip for most of the group that floated the Green together on this trip. Rainbow, cut-bow (a cross between a rainbow and a cutthroat trout) and brown trout, with a slight edge towards the browns, were the catches during this week.

Our return to the big fish on the tail waters below Taylor Reservoir proved to be extremely challenging. It is amazing how smart these fish can get with just a couple months of experience in the summer. Lower water made the fish much easier to see and almost impossible to approach without spooking. A few well placed first casts with 6X or smaller tippet yielded some hookups on some big fish. While only two months earlier Jeff was able to hook a trout over 10 pounds every day for five weeks, only one fish of this class was hooked in over a week of fishing in September. That hookup did not end in a photographed fish, but we did managed to land and photograph  several rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout in the five pound plus range.

On our way to Florida we stopped in Gilmer, Texas, for a day. While Cyndie visited with Representative Bob Glaze, Jeff headed over to one of Bob's ranch ponds. He found a bunch of feisty perch and largemouth bass that were willing to chase small jigs and topwater poppers. Though the ponds reportedly had some big bass in them, the best Jeff could find were a couple in the 12" to 14" range. Lots of fun.

Now I'll jump 2,500 miles across the country to the brackish waters around Cape Canaveral in Florida. On the day we hired a guide to take us out in a skiff on the flats we got several shots at sight casting flies to very large (20 pound plus) redfish. Two of these shots resulted in the fish picking up the fly, but both ended within seconds after the pick up. Cyndie brought a nice 8 pound red to the boat on spinning tackle that day, and a couple of smaller speckled trout grabbed flies meant for the redfish, but that was all of the fish landed for the day.

We took our inflatable raft with a small outboard motor into a canal that connects two saltwater flats area. The current through this canal made it much like the rivers we are used to floating out west. So, we would motor up current, cut the motor and then drift the raft under oar power down the banks of the canals. If we could have done this several days (our outboard motor broke a drive shaft at the end of our first day), this probably would have turned out to have been a really neat fishing opportunity for redfish, trout and snapper. As it turned out, we did score a species first on the one day we spent in this area, landing several snook on flies. During our stay at the Great Outdoors campground in Titusville, Florida, we checked out the fishing ponds on the grounds. Here we found both perch and largemouth bass that would aggressively hit a topwater popper. In these clear water ponds it was possible to spot and sight cast to fish, and then watch them chase down and inhale a fly. There were lots of beautiful birds and even a small alligator around these ponds, which made this an even more exciting experience.

With our travels over for this season, we return to Central Texas and the Guadalupe River. This river is truly our home waters. Not only do we fish here, we have worked with our hands to improve this river. We've led the effort to pass laws to protect the Guadalupe River and helped to plant the trout that will be the seeds of what we hope will someday be a self-sustaining trout fishery. While the fish may not be as big as some we admired this summer and the waters may not cross remote wilderness like some of those that we spent our time on, we are still looking forward to the first Guadalupe River trout that is fooled by our flies this fall.

Cyndie's Wildlife Sighting Report  A veritable potpourri of wildlife sightings to tell you about this time. The best sighting for this issue I didn't even get to see. Jeff was riding with Alan Bray, Eric Battaille, Walter Zoch and Dean Vander Stoep on the roads near Dutch John, Utah when a jack rabbit darted across the road just in front of the car and disappeared into the brush. With their attention tightly focused on the path the rabbit had just crossed they saw why it ran so fast. A bobcat, sleek, strong and running at full throttle, was hot on the tail of the jackrabbit. Stick a fork in that rabbit, it was done.

Still in the Green River area of Utah, the fall weather brought the elk down to the lower elevations around the campsite. There's not any fanning anywhere around Dutch John, so when a couple of domestic sheep, wandered out of a ravine and up into the campground, we figured they must have gotten lose and gone wild in the area.

A immature golden eagle served as our company one day as we floated on the lower end of the Green River.

Over on the Bighorn we got a real close up view of a pair of sandhill cranes when our raft floated quietly up on them near sunset one evening. Of course, the camera was low on film and we got only one, poor shot of these beautiful, red headed birds.

In Palo Duro Canyon we got some great photos of a flock of wild turkeys that were running around the campground area.

Now, I'll take you down to Florida, where our wildlife sightings were way too numerous to completely list here. In addition to an incredible number of wetland birds, I'll highlight just a few of them.

We walked right up on an alligator on at a pond we were fishing at the Great Outdoors. Jeff got a couple of great, full-frame head shots of the gator from only a few feet away before we spooked him.

We'd never seen wild pigs before, so it was a treat when we walked up on a small group of them rooting around in some mud in the St. Johns River wildlife preserve. Got a couple of good photos here.  

We were able to take our boat out and get close enough to reach out and touch a manatee with a calf in the saltwater canals near Cape Canaveral. Just behind us, a porpoise hammed it up, trying to draw our attention.

Out on the saltwater flats of the Florida coast, sea life abounds. Amongst the things we saw while we were out in the boats were sting rays, horseshoe crabs and lots of brown pelicans.

Campground Recap  Since this column forms the official record of the campsites we have visited on our journeys, I'll first correct an omission from our last issue:

Yellowstone National Park, Backcountry Campsite 2S1, on the second meadow of Slough Creek - During our Yellowstone Park backpacking adventure with Bill Choate, we spent two nights in this site. It is 5 miles up a trail in Yellowstone National Park. A couple of memorable things about this site were the huge set of elk antlers in the brush nearby and the horse drawn stage that came out of the fog and across the valley one morning. Maybe it was a commercial outfitter or maybe were in the Twilight Zone.

After we left our backcountry site on Slough Creek we returned to Yellowstones Edge RV Park, on the banks of the Yellowstone River, which I covered in our last issue. So, now we pick up where we left off.

Billings KOA, Billings, Montana - We started this day at a site just a few feet off the banks of the Yellowstone River and tonight we find ourselves 150 miles downstream camped along the banks of the same river. I figure the water I was fishing yesterday morning will flow bv here sometime this afternoon. I think I'll walk down to the river and find some of the flies I lost. We stay in a lot of KOA's when we are moving across country and the Billing KOA advertised itself as the original KOA campground. Of course, claiming to be the original KOA is just the marketing departments way of saying it is the oldest KOA. It is a nice campground with a lot of amenities but it was built before large rigs like ours were common, so it is a bit cramped. We spent two nights in Billings before we moved to our next fishing destination.

Cottonwood Camp, on the Big Horn River near Ft. Smith, Montana - We spent a couple of weeks at Cottonwood Camp two summers ago and found it to be a comfortable place to enjoy fishing on great waters. Unlike many of the campsites we stay at while out fishing, this one has full hookups (electric, water and sewer), which means we can live in a bit of luxury while floating the Big Horn River each day. Cottonwood is located only about 1 mile from the best float trip put-in. On top of that, the folks that run the camp take care of moving your vehicle downstream so its there waiting for you at the end of your float. We spent 11 nights at Cottonwood Camp this year and would highly recommend this place if you are planning on fishing the Big Horn. In addition to the nice RV sites, they also have tent sites and cabins for rent.

Casper KOA, Casper, Wyoming - After leaving our camp on the Big Horn, Casper turned out to be one good days drive down the road towards our next stop on the Green. We pulled into this KOA for a couple of nights so we could regroup and resupply ourselves.

Rock Springs KOA, Rock Springs, Wyoming - Whenever we pull our trailer over to the Green River in Utah we never drive the last 50 miles at the end of a long day of driving. The last 50 miles into Dutch John is some of the steepest and most difficult towing terrain we have encountered in our journeys. Usually, we are coming in from the south, so this means a night in Vernal, Utah. This time we were coming in from the north and Rock Springs was the best overnight stop before the tough towing. This campground was basically a large, gravel parking lot with RV hookups. Not much to write home about.

Dripping Springs Campground, Group Site #1, Dutch John, Utah - We discovered this site by accident this summer, when we had to spend a couple of nights camping in overflow space while we waited for our reserved campsite to come available. It is a huge, well isolated site with 10 nice tent pads, it's own bathroom and a great, huge group fire ring. When Alan Bray and his group said they were looking for a campsite for a fishing trip to the Green, we thought this one would be perfect. Although the site is large enough to have accommodated up to 50 people, we only had 6 in our group. We all had lots of room to spread out and enjoy ourselves in this site. We spent 5 nights here with the group and three more nights by ourselves.

Clifton KOA, just outside Grand Junction, Colorado - Grand Junction has become a regular stop- over for us as we journey across the west. Located halfway between the Green River and Taylor Park, it has become a standard resupply city for us. When we visited in July, it was unbearably hot in Grand Junction. Now, in mid-September, we find the weather a bit more pleasant and spend a couple of nights here. This is one of the nicest KOA campgrounds we have run across.

Lakeview Campground, Site 24, Taylor Park, Colorado - This site (or site #3 in the same campground) is our favorite place to be in all of North America. We've written several times about the awesome scenery from this campground, having only seen it in July. Now, seeing it in the fall, with the accent of yellow, orange and gold in the mountains, we've developed an even deeper love for this small piece of real estate. The other great thing about the fall is that everybody else is gone. In fact, after we left this site on September 24, they closed the gates to this section of the campground for the season. Whenever we're in our backyard in Austin, with the blinds on the trailer closed, it is the site of the mountains over Taylor Park that we hope will be out the window when we draw the blinds. They'll be out there again, someday.

Raton KOA, Raton, New Mexico - Raton proved to be a one day drive out of Taylor Park. We pulled in to Raton a little after dark and struggled just finding this place. We met a nice couple who had just bought the campground and were now running it as their own business. Sometimes, we fanaticize about buying or building a campground ourself, so we found their story intriguing.

Albuquerque Central KOA, Albuquerque, New Mexico - With four brothers living in Albuquerque, it has become a regular stopover for us. The options for campgrounds in Albuquerque are not good. They are all way too expensive and none offers a particularly nice environment in which to live. We've tried them all and like this one the best. At least it is centrally located and close to all of our family. However, our site is only a couple hundred feet from a very busy interstate, so it can be quite noisy at morning rush hour. We so hate to wake up early.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, just outside Amarillo, Texas  We'd driven past the signs for this park so many times on our way out west but . had never stopped. We just had to stop to see if there really was a canyon out there. Driving along the road within a mile or two of the canyon, we thought the whole thing must be a hoax. We didn't see any canyon. But, sure enough the flat, desolate land dropped into a beautiful canyon area. We just stayed one night and spent about a half a day looking around. Worth a visit.

Dallas North KOA, Denton, TX This campground has become kind of a standard stop for us, both leaving Texas and on our way home. Not because we particularly like the campground, but because it is close to a big RV store called Camping World and we always seem to need something. Our own backyard, Austin, TX We've got a pretty good setup for our trailer on the one acre of property on which our house is located in Austin. Our house is rented but we live in the backyard, pulling our trailer into kind of a "docking station" that gives us 800 sf of deck, a screen porch and a storage room/office adjacent to our trailer. We were here in October for almost three weeks.

American RV Park, Corsicana, TX  A stopover on our way to our way to Gilmer.

Gilmer Yamboree Grounds, Gilmer, TX - Gilmer is the home of State Representative Bob Glaze, who Cyndie worked for last session. We stopped in to visit Bob and stayed on the grounds of the famous Yamboree festival, where thousands of people gather to celebrate the fall sweet potato harvest. Of course, the Yamboree festival was the week before we were there, so it was really just a big, empty parking lot. Dr. Bob, and his wife Jean, were wonderful hosts.

Best Western, Magnolia, AR - This is basically a parking lot next to a hotel. But, was about the only campground for about 100 miles, so we took it.

Browns RV Park, Mobile, AL - After a 500 mile run, we pulled in here for some rest. We then hit the road again early the next morning. We don't even remember the place.

Cape Kennedy, KOA, Titusville, FL - Finally, 500 more miles and we arrive at our destination, we headed for familiar territory at a KOA. Compared to the campground we found the next day, this place was nothing to write home about.

The Great Outdoors, TitusvilIe, FL - This is probably the best overall campground we have ever stayed at. And, short of the next one, it was also the most expensive. Given the generally high prices for campgrounds in Florida, it was worth every penny of it. We'll be visiting this one again.

Ft. Wilderness Campground at Disney World, FL It was both fan and convenient to camp right on the Disney park grounds. The shuttle to all of the parks stopped about 50 feet from our campsite.

The Great Outdoors, Titusvflle, FL Our time in Florida was about to run out. We'd had such a good time at this campground during our previous stay, we chose it as a good place to meet Jeffs uncle Tom Schmitt. It proved to be another enjoyable stay.

Tall Oaks Campground, Pensacola, FL - We made a lot of miles from Titusville to Pensacola and needed a place to crash. This really wasn't a very nice park. We felt uncomfortable the next morning when we unhooked the truck and left the trailer while we  got the oil changed. But, it all worked out and we were on the road again.

Oak Leaf Park, Orange, TX Too bad we didn't allow time to stay here for a couple days, because this looked like kind of a nice campground. It was well spread out in a wooded area with a nice lake nearby that looked interesting. Unfortunately, we pulled in at dark and left pretty early the next morning.

Back in our Own Backyard, Austin, TX - Home again, home again. This time until we hit the road again in May. Hopefully, there will be a few weekends away this spring. Until then, we'll just have to imagine that the view out the back window of the trailer are the mountains of Taylor Park, not just our own backyard.

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's Back to Work We Go  Now it's back to work for five months. Although we're both looking forward to the projects we have lined up, working doesn't generate much good newsletter material. Most of our readers know the story of eat/sleep/work all too well and don't want to be reminded of it. Of course, some of you get at least some satisfaction out of the fact that we do have to work at real jobs in order to support our adventures.

This will be our last issue until we hit the road for Alaska. Our plans for our return to the Great Land are well underway. You know we like company, so if your planning on being in Alaska next summer, let us know and we'll go float a river together.

A Merry Christmas to All  If all goes according to schedule, this will show up in your mailbox just in time to serve as both our Fall Windup Issue, and your official Christmas card from us. We think of every one of you each time we stick the labels on the newsletter, so even though we may not have seen you for a while, your in our heart and minds more often that you think. Keep in touch and have a happy, safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.

And to All a Good Night  It's been another good year for us. Our Roamin' the Rockies tour was both an adventure and a relaxing visit to some favorite places. Our fall trip to Florida gave us a chance to experience new adventures in new places. All have made for great memories and newsletter material. We hope you've enjoyed reading about them as much as we've enjoyed sharing the stories. See you next year.   

Contents:

Big Horn, Montana

Flaming Gorge, Utah

Taylor Park, Colorado

Mexican Food out West

Albuquerque, NM

Titusville/Orlando, Florida

Fishing Recap

Wildlife Sightings

Campground Recap
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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