Free Camping near Durango

Free Camping near Durango

Our friends often ask where we are going next or where we’ll be in 3 months etc and the truth is we don’t plan very far ahead.  When we left Indianapolis in May, we first planned to head to Colorado but due to cold weather, we changed routes the week before we left and made our way to Arizona instead.  We’ve basically been playing it by ear ever since.  

In early June, the weather in Colorado started to look warmer and we saw less snow in the forecast so we decided to make our way north from the Grand Canyon.  

Leaving early on a Wednesday morning we drove 3 hours northeast to a Harvest Host location in Teec Nos Pos, AZ.  The Teec Nos Pos Trading Post consists of a small grocery, gas station, and Native American goods store.  The staff was friendly and we were able to buy some groceries for dinner that night, the only downside was a complete and total lack of cell service or internet.  With no Netflix or Hulu, I dug out the very few dvds that I brought along and made Alex choose one.  (I sold almost everything I own and yet for some reason, I couldn’t part with some Disney classic movies and Gone with the Wind? Stupid.)  So we watched Gone with the Wind and went to bed early.

On Thursday morning we stopped at the Four Corners Monument and snapped the obligatory photo of our feet in all four states at the same time.  Then we drove only two hours to Bayfield, Colorado.  

Alex chose this next boondocking spot based solely on online reviews and its proximity to Durango. What I love and hate about boondocking is that you don’t really know what you’ll get until you get there.  We scour online reviews and Google maps but ultimately, you have to see the area in person to know if it will work.

Saul’s Creek is in San Juan National Forest in Bayfield, Colorado and it’s pretty easy to find.  We camped at the very first pull off, before you even drive back into the more forested area.  To some, this location would have been a bummer-it was right off the main road and had very little privacy with only a fine view, but the minute we saw the small pond and the bird houses lining the fence, we knew this was where we wanted to be.  We worked so hard to get into that spot-it took us almost an hour to get the RV level.  Despite that initial frustration this campsite was one of our favorites thus far and for the first time, we stayed the maximum 14 day free camping allowance.

We sat near the pond each morning with coffee and each evening with margaritas.  We keep a log of the birds we see on our travels and here we added: Violet Green Swallows-they played all around our RV, a Canadian Geese family, Red Winged Blackbirds, Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, a Northern Flicker, lots of Black-Billed Magpies and our favorite-a Ruddy Duck (his bill was bright blue because it’s mating season!)

Large herds of cows wandered around our camp and they had no reservations about getting right next to the RV.  Often I would hear a noise outside, go to the window and see a cow inches away, staring back at me.  

Alex ran through the forest trails almost daily and we hiked the Horizon Rim Trail together with Jane.  

 

We took a day trip to Durango  It’s a beautiful small city with a touristy downtown area with lots of restaurants and shopping.  We gave Fired Up Pizzeria a try and loved it!  We returned a few days later to visit the Durango Saturday Farmer’s Market.

On the recommendation of a fellow Instagrammer, we drove an hour to Vallecito Lake, CO and did some hiking.  That was the first hike where I really experienced altitude sickness.  As we climbed higher, I got slower and slower and had tons of nausea and I eventually threw up on the side of the trail.  Altitude sickness is a weird thing-my mind and spirit were still totally willing to continue up the mountain-I really kept wanting to see what was around the next bend, but my body just couldn’t keep up.  I just couldn’t catch my breath.  We only hiked about two miles total but they were beautiful and if it weren’t for the altitude we probably would have continued for several more miles.

Later that week, Alex was on his daily run and noticed a familiar Class A motorhome parked a few miles back in the forest not far from us.  It was our friends, Jeanette and Eric of JenericRamblings, whom we first met back in Flagstaff, AZ.  Jeanette and Eric are full time travelers and have been on the road for a few years-they give excellent advice, always know cool apps and websites, and are basically just super fun to have a beer with.  We met up with them at a dive bar in Bayfield called the Billy Goat Saloon and scored $1.00 PBR’s on draft.  After a few hours of catching up, we arrived back at our campsite after dark.  We let Jane outside to go potty and then decided to grab a couple more beers out of the fridge and watch the stars outside for a while.  Having both grown up in the city, we still marvel at the amount of stars we can see each night.  As we finished our beers and decided to call it a night, we tried to open the front door to the RV only to find it had somehow locked behind us.  We looked at each other, both realizing that we had no keys to the RV, no keys to the truck and no open windows to try to shimmy into.  The only positive was that we knew Jeanette and Eric were parked nearby and we could always walk there!  

Thankfully before we made the late night hike, Alex decided to try the roof.  With the aid of a flashlight and a screwdriver, Alex was able to break into the RV through the old rooftop bathroom vent.  Problem solved, although it did cost us $60 in the long run to replace the vent, probably cheaper than a locksmith. The design of the new fan won’t allow for any subsequent break-ins though, don’t get any ideas  :)

So that was our time in the Bayfield/Durango area.  We stayed the full two week maximum, did some great hikes and bird-watching, learned to break into our home and celebrated one month of being on the road.

We’re excited to see more of Colorado and our next destination is Cripple Creek!