Part 29: Meadow Creek Lake, CO to Saratoga, WY


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The Trip

We left Meadow Creek Lake at 10,000 feet happily.  It was pretty cold, it rained, it was muddy around the campsite and both Kathleen and I were having some altitude sickness symptoms.  From Meadow Creek Lake in the White River Mountains, we descended to the river below and generally headed north toward  Steamboat Springs, CO.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

As we descended from the mesa where Meadow Creek Lake is located we got a nice view of the canyons to the northeast.  There were still plenty of clouds and it looked like it might rain early in the day.

Unlike the arid lowlands, the mountain crests were covered with thick grasses and flowers.  Due to the altitude, the blooming season of the flowers was late.

This open meadow had tons of yellow flowers.

Down the road a bit, we spotted a pair of real cowboys working for a living.  Note the muscle tone on the flanks of his mount; his horse works for a living as well.

As we descended to the river far below we had a great view of the valleys to the northwest near Craig, CO.

We went through a very small town of Buford, WY and as we were crossing the river a helicopter came overhead.

As we discovered later, Buford has great trout fishing and the helicopter was bringing in fishermen to lodges in the valley.

The area must have sufficient clients to merit a helipad with fuel.  Above, the ground attendant opens the door for the clients.

We reviewed the map and decided that we would check out the campground next to the Flattops Wilderness.  The camp was OK but it was too early in the day to park so we just did a drive-though and I spotted this ruggedized popup pull trailer.

The end of the road had some nice views of the Flattops.  The naming of the mountains is obvious from the photo above.  There was a burn in this area recently and the dead trees are a testament to the fire.

Large tracks of timber were burned in this valley.

There was a nice lake at the base of the mountain and there were some folks fishing in the rain.

We continued down the dirt trail and took a side spur to Chapman Reservoir.  The place was empty and the timing was right so we spent the night there.  We had quite a bit of rain that night.  Next morning the sky had cleared and the light was conducive to a reasonable photo of the reservoir.

The mountains on the far side of Chapman Reservoir were part of the Flattops.

We headed east from Chapman Reservoir to the valley of the Yampa River.  From the river we spotted this cool volcanic plug sticking up from the sediment of the valley.

Looking west toward our previous night's camp we got a nice view of the Flattops.

The path to Steamboat Springs took us through Oak Creek and I spotted a small road-side mining exhibit so thought I would check it out.  Since Thor has no "stealth mode", we were immediately cornered by the local firemen to ask about the truck.  The fellow above passed us oncoming and turned around to come talk to us.  He later gave us a tour of their station and showed us their rigs.

The area around Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs is coal country.  The road-side exhibit had some interesting old equipment from the coal mines and a description of the history of Oak Creek.  Above is a muck bucket and the bottom half of a trolley "motor".

Some of the mines in the area were strip mines and this dragline bucket was used in those operations.  The bucket removed overburden to allow access to the coal seam underneath.  The bucket was so big that I wondered how they got it from the mine to the exhibit area.  A doubt that anybody stays awake at night concerned about theft of the bucket.  The plates with holes in them were welded on my the miners to replace steel that was worn off during use.  Also visible are the cross-hatching due to welding with hard-surface rods to replace lost material.

Part of a coal conveyer system used to put coal into muck cars for portage out of the mine.

A coal undercutting tool.  Note the chainsaw-like cutting blade at the front of the machine.

From Oak Creek we went north to Steamboat Springs for a resupply action and lunch.  And, since we had not had internet in about a week, we snuck a peek at the outside world through our ever-accumulating inbaskets and web news.  After lunch and uploading photos and web pages, we headed north out of town toward Steamboat Reservoir.  We checked out the state park at the reservoir and were singularly unimpressed, so we motored on.

We went further north from the state park to a Forest Service administered campsite near another reservoir.  We were again unimpressed and elected for a remote camp at the end of a logging road.  En-route to our camp we got a nice view of this pronounced peak.  Note the structure on the top; we were never able to figure out what it was.

Our remote camp was great.  It was not too cold and it did not rain.  Next morning, we broke camp and continued north on a dirt road toward Hog Creek Reservoir.  We checked it out, but it was too early to stay so we motored on.  We continued north over several passes and then descended to the asphalt road at Battle Pass.  We headed east, then north toward Saratoga, WY.  Rain had been dogging us all day and above you can see a rain squall in the valley.

The terrain around Battle Pass was grassy with trees in the gulches.  I am guessing that fire has swept the area repeatedly leaving trees in wet areas only.

North of Saratoga we encountered a sign for access to the Platte River.  Since we still had daylight, we drove the dirt road to the river.  There was a small camp site there and we encountered a fellow in a UTV with his kids.  He told us that he owned the 5N ranch that surrounded the camp area and that he had granted an easement to the Wyoming Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to allow access to the river.  He told us that it would be OK if we camped on the cobble bar next to the river, so we did.  We were all by ourselves and treated the situation accordingly.

The bluffs eroded by the river were visible to the west.

The site was reasonably level and we settled in for the evening.

It got dark and started to rain.  It cleared briefly to allow a view of an acceptable sunset beyond the bluffs.

The setting sun rendered the scene in some subtle colors.

As the sun continued to set the colors got deeper.  The rain was to the west of us, but coming our way.

As the sun continued setting, I had to jack up the ISO setting of the camera.  The increased sensitivity revealed some additional subtle colors.  After sundown, it started raining again and we were treated to a major electrical storm to the south of us.  The storm was close enough to be exciting but far enough away to not be a concern.

Next morning, the winds were calm and the surface of the Platte River was mirror smooth.  I could hear fish jumping from inside the camper.

The camp at the Platte River was the bomb.  The rain and lightning after dark provided a perfect accent to a remote camp all by ourselves.  Next morning, we headed into Saratoga again for a nice breakfast at the only restaurant in town then headed west on the dirt into the mountains.


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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
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