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Cherokee State Wildlife Area, Colorado

Perhaps we are turning the corner on luck. Our drive along I-80 in Wyoming was uneventful, which lately is unusual for us. We stopped and checked those darn lug nuts at 10, 20, 30, 50, 70, 100, 150, and 200 miles. At the first few stops, 2 or 3 of the new ones I installed would move a tiny bit, but eventually they all seated and stopped moving. That’s normal, according to everyone I talked to.

So hey ““ I fixed my own trailer and I got 200 miles without a problem. And now I know exactly what to do if this problem ever recurs. That’s a great feeling!

The only bad luck today was at the last lug nut check. After I checked them, the new torque wrench fell apart in my hands. Apparently one of two screws that holds the assembly together vibrated out during travel. It has disappeared. The other fell out roadside and the next thing I knew, little springs and cogs were sprinkling down by my feet. We gathered all the pieces for re-assembly, but I may buy a better quality torque wrench instead.

If that’s the worst thing that happens, I’ll be grateful. Hopefully I can turn this blog back to the enjoyable part of traveling. (Although I must admit there’s a unique satisfaction in having rescued oneself, by doing a repair on your own trailer with your own hands “¦as long as the opportunity doesn’t present itself too often!)

I-80 in Wyoming is a vast arid landscape dotted with gas tanks and other signs of the petrochemical industry. The Green River Valley area is the hub of oil shale in this country, and we saw plenty of action out there. Further east, there’s a refinery in Sinclair, and all along the Interstate there are yellow Union Pacific diesel-electric locomotives running east-west with long trains behind them.

I suppose some people would call this landscape boring, but I liked it. I guess today I would have liked any landscape that we were not broken down in.

The camping options along I-80 are horrible. Most of the campgrounds are desolate gravel parking lots right next to the highway, with the requisite noise all night long, and sites so jam-packed you can reach out and touch your neighbor. For a view, choose from Interstate highway or oil tanks.

We were flying without a plan today, because we honestly didn’t know how far we’d get. By 4 pm we were in Laramie and I decided to follow Garminita’s advice to take Rt 287 south from there into Colorado. It looked like a nice scenic and quiet roadway, which might present interesting boondocking possibilities.

That was a great decision, if I do say so myself. Take Rt 287 south from Wyoming sometime. Once the road crosses into Colorado, you enter the most marvelous landscape of layered and eroded rocks, stacked like pancakes among the evergreen landscape. It is beautiful, open, and unpopulated. I kept thinking, “Why isn’t there a state or national park here?” It’s that nice.

About 20-30 miles into Colorado, somewhere between Virginia Dale and Livermore, we passed a white sign that said, “Cherokee Park.” WHOA. I hit the brakes, made a U-turn, and down the red dirt Cherokee Park Road we went.

I was hoping we’d make another “find” like we did last October in Iowa when we found a little county park way out in the farmlands, and had one of the most lovely nights of boondocking we’ve ever enjoyed. We had no information on this Cherokee Park other than the sign: no idea where to find it, how far down the road it would be, whether we could park there overnight, or even if we’d be able to turn around. But if you want to find the places “off the beaten path” you’ve got to be willing to take a chance on the unknown.

The red road twists among the fantastic rock formations, and climbs briefly at what I would guess is about a 10-12% grade. We had to switch to 4WD mode to keep the rear wheels from slipping. About 6-8 miles along, Cherokee Park Road descends and brings you by a dirt parking area with a set of signs that identifies the Cherokee State Wildlife Area, Lower Unit.

Cherokee site.jpg

Parking in the lot is OK for up to 14 days, according to the signs. You can leave your rig unattended for 48 hours to go exploring. This is horse country, but an ATV would work well too. The scenery is fantastic. The spot is quiet and isolated. It’s great boondocking, and if we had more time I am certain the hiking would be superb as well.

One caveat: you are supposed to have a “Habitat” sticker to use this area. We’ll buy one, to atone for our minor sin of parking here without one. I think buying a sticker which supports the preservation and access to such beautiful lands is a small price to pay.

Cherokee site 2.jpg

There’s only analog cell phone service here (and not much of that), so this blog entry will be posted in the morning as we head to Aurora CO. Other than running some backups on the computer and typing up this entry, I’m taking a night off. After all the stress of the past few days, I need a little break before the work week begins. This seems like a nice place to relax.

One Response to “Cherokee State Wildlife Area, Colorado”

  1. Stanley & Eileen Hinson Says:

    Hey Rich, you’re doing a great job keeping your chin up. Remember you could be stuck in an office all day like some people you know. Hi to all the family. Best, Stan & Eileen