Along the way just so happened to be another National Wildlife Refuge, so of course, I had to stop! Arapaho NWR sits in the North Park basin west of Rocky Mountain National Park and east of Steamboat Springs. The auto tour loop was easy to scope out before driving it, so I knew I'd be o.k. driving it with the RV/toad.
There were a few ponds of migratory ducks, geese, and this cute little pied-billed grebe--
and I found a small herd of pronghorn grazing in the distance of one of the meadows as well. But, other than that, on this very windy summer day, I only saw prairie dogs....lots and lots of prairie dogs!
After my pleasant mid-day diversion at Arapaho, it was up and over a few more mountains to get to my brother and sister-in-law's house where I'd stay for a couple days to acclimate to high altitudes before heading to my job at Bryce Canyon National Park.
First on the agenda-- a welcome beer around the fire pit in the backyard!
The next day, my brother and sister-in-law took me hiking up on top of Vail Mountain. The gondola ride helped get us about 3/4ths of the way up, and our hike got us the rest of the way to the top.
In the summer, Vail Resorts offers all kinds of non-skiing activities on the mountain. These folks were doing some zip lining!
You wouldn't think a super-busy ski mountain with gondolas and zip-lines would have many peaceful natural areas, but we found quite a few pretty things to see, like these mountain wildflowers--
distant mountain vistas beyond the back bowls of Vail--
quiet hiking trails through the forest--
and even a few pockets of unmelted snow!
As we descended back down, the view of Vail valley was spectacular!
Another quick ride down the gondola, and we were back to the bottom of the mountain again.
The next day, we headed over to Lake Dillon to do some kayaking. Randy and Karen rented a kayak...
while I took Karen's son out on my inflatable Sea Eagle...
Just a gorgeous, warm and sunny summer day in a spectacular setting. All the lush green and vibrant blue I needed to balance out all the red rocks of Utah to come!
Resuming my trek westward, I opted to pick up the pace and take I-70 the rest of the way. One of my favorite boondocking spots, Rabbit Valley BLM, is just off I-70 at the Colorado/Utah border. Arriving with some daylight to spare, I unhitched the Tracker and decided to go check out the tent camping spots overlooking the Colorado river about 10 miles south of my boondocking spot.
Wow, now these are some pretty amazing (and free) tent camping sites!
The happy Tracker thoroughly enjoyed its quick romp along the sandy trail...
My final trekking day took me across the fabulous San Rafael Swell just west of Green River, Utah....
and finished up at Camp Wally in Richfield, Utah where I was able to spend the night parked next to Wells Fargo's big container full of "Gold"!
I stocked my fridge one final time, got a quick haircut, and bid all the comforts of Wal-Mart and "city living" goodbye for the next couple of months as I made my final 2 hour drive up to the 8,000-foot Paunsaugunt plateau.
I rolled into Bryce Canyon National Park the next morning, and met up briefly with my new boss who guided me to my new home for the next few months-- a small loop of volunteer and ranger RV sites tucked into a quiet little valley of ponderosa pines.
One more evening of rest before the whirlwind of work begins!