In The Boonies

Robin and I were off camping with Allyson and Kyle for the past couple of days. It was our first such outing this year, and we had picked an area between Montrose and Steamboat Springs in which to do it.

Here’s how to get there. Wait, you ask, where is “there?” It’s the North Fork Campground, and from Montrose you drive 157 miles northeast to Meeker, Colorado, where you take a right and then drive 32 miles back into the White River National Forest. By this time you have tried to call somebody or check something on your phone and realized that you have cut a more than a few ties with the civilized world. The facilities’ name derives from its location along the north fork of the White River.

This campground contains 28 sites, has running water, decent privies, and Bob. Bob is the campground host. Many of you who are not accustomed to camping might not know what such a “host” is. He is the custodian of the place. If the area and facilities are clean and in order, it was Bob’s doing. If you need information on what to do now that you are surrounded by all those trees, Bob can provide guidance. If you need wood for the evening fire, Bob’s your man.

We rented one site, and by plunking down a few bucks extra we received permission for a second vehicle, which was Ally’s truck. So for about the price of a movie each we shared a small patch of wild Colorado as our very own for two days.

Robin and I arrived first, and were halfway through setting up our tent camper when we were interrupted by a deluge. A solid rain that lasted for an hour and then cleared off. No more rain that day, though.

When our friends arrived around 2:00 P.M., we four for another drive 12 miles deeper into the forest to a place called Trapper’s Lake. It’s a beautiful lake in a nearly perfect setting, really. So lovely that when Arthur Carhart came by in 1919 well … here’s the story taken from the Forest Service website.

In the summer of 1919, the Forest Service dispatched its first landscape architect to Trappers Lake with instructions to survey 100 planned summer home sites and a road around the lake.  The 27 year old surveyor, Arthur H. Carhart, completed his plan and returned to Denver.  But he closed his report with a strongly-worded recommendation that the area remain roadless and undeveloped. “There are a number of places with scenic values of such great worth that they are rightfully the property of all people.  They should be preserved for all time for the people of the Nation and the world.  Trappers Lake is unquestionably a candidate for that classification.”

In an unprecedented move, the Forest Service set the plans aside for further study and the proposed road was never built.  Mr. Carhart went on to work with conservationist Aldo Leopold. The memorandum detailing their shared approach to preservation became the foundation and heart of the Wilderness concept.

In 1964, the Wilderness Act was signed into law. It set aside nine million acres of National Forest lands for the use and enjoyment of future generations. Since then, the system has grown to encompass lands in National Parks, Forests and Wildlife Refuges, as well as properties managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Flat Tops Wilderness, home to Trappers Lake, was designated in 1975.

U.S.Forest Service: Trapper’s Lake

So we peons owe a lot to Art and Aldo for suggesting that the country hold off on making bungalows for billionaires in every beautiful spot in the US, and set some of that aside for use by commoners and corporati alike. Thus, Trapper’s Lake has no road around it, no campground directly on it, and no motorized boating is allowed. You can, however, portage your canoe from the parking lot to the lake and be a very happy man.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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Here’s a gallery from the camping trip. Besides Trapper’s Lake, we hiked to Spring Cave, along the trail to Mirror Lake, and sat out another longer rain shower. We dined on Pork Vindaloo, White Lightning Chili, et al. (No, Bob did not provide the food, we’d brought that along with us)

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On the wall of the privy and facing the user was a space that had obviously once contained a sign of some sort. Having nothing in particular to think about at the time and having brought along nothing to read, I started to wonder what it might have said and came up with four possibilities:

  • Do Not Sit Down! The facility has been treated with an arsenic/lead disinfectant solution which can be absorbed through the skin.
  • Please check for snakes before use. The Mountain Privy Rattlesnake nests in the vicinity.
  • Trump/Pence
  • Jimmie – we meant to rendezvous with you and Mrs. Hoffa but don’t know where we are. Hoping you see this note.

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Ends of the Earth, by Lord Huron

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