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Fort Collins: Fermented Paradise and Laundry

This post jumps back to our late spring trip out west.  Leaving the Vedauwoo Recreation area between Laramie and Cheyenne, we backtracked and drove southeast to Fort Collins, Colorado. We had several reasons for making Fort Collins our destination. First, Julia has an optometry school friend who resides there.  Her husband is a lawyer.    And they both like to hike and drink good beer, so lots of things to talk about after not seeing each other for a number of years.  Second, after a week without hookups, we needed to resupply, shower, do laundry, dump tanks,  and plan our next journey into the mountains. We checked into Boyd Lake State Park for a two day mid-week stay.   All of Colorado State Parks are expensive for camping and charge an additional $10 each day for non-residents. At Boyd Lake, sites are tight. Coin showers with out-of-order change machines.  No firewood for sale. On the plus side, the on-site laundry facilities were excellent.  Also, it was very convenient to use

Sage Creek Campground

As we drove west from Blue Earth, it started to rain steadily. And the forecast was for more rain on the next day. When it rains in the Badlands, the ground turns into a soft, sticky gumbo, known for trapping vehicles, trailers and shoes.

Plan A was to camp along Nomad’s View near Wall, South Dakota. I camped there several years ago. It’s free, and the view of the Badlands is beautiful. But the wet gumbo there is treacherous after periods of rain. So we went with Plan B. Sage Creek campground is also free and within the Badlands National Park.  It’s accessible to tents, truck campers and very small trailers after about a ten mile drive on winding, gravel roads. There was gumbo here also, but it was flat and more gravel.  To get to Nomad’s View, there is a steep, deeply rutted dirt road to climb.

Sage Creek Campground

Tenters camp on the inside of the circle. Outside the circle is a bit of a free-for-all for tents and small trailers. The photo above was taken from one of the high bluffs behind the campground, where I found, paradoxically, solitude and four bars of internet. 

We stayed here four nights. As the weekend approached, it became more and more crowded, until we eventually had to leave. Unlike most dispersed camping, people packed in tight, vehicles sometimes passing less than a foot from my doorstep in order to squeeze past our tenting neighbor, an older, disabled Asian gentleman from Chicago.

What is the draw for camping here?  I’m sure some people come simply because it’s free and on the way to Yellowstone. But for us and most others, it was the chance to camp with the wild bison found here.

These guys were just a few feet from the front of our camper. Now let’s get things straight.  Nearly all of our close viewing was done from inside the Scamp. At least a dozen of the animals came through every day.  

On the other hand, we saw quite a few people who seemed to think that these wild bison were in the same class as dairy cows.

And I didn’t get photos of the most amazing interactions. One of the tenters was loading his car trunk when a bison leaned into the open rear passenger door. Another time, a dog on a long rope broke its tether and began running after the closest bison. The bison’s tail went straight up ( a sign of agitation), and it squared off against the dog.  I honestly thought the dog was going to get killed.  But the bison did not charge, and the dog’s owner got it back to the vehicle.

There were parts of Sage Creek that I absolutely loved. The trails in the surrounding bluffs were amazing. The chance to see bison close-up on their turf was a privilege. In the end, I was defeated by the encroachment of crowds of people and associated human behavior. We eventually headed over to Nomad’s View, which had finally dried out. If I ever return to Sage Creek, it will be off-season and mid-week.

There are no bison at Nomad’s View, but there is more free space and quite a view.


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