The last thing Norm and I did the night before was discuss the next portion of our route. I-80 across the bottom of Wyoming would be fastest but was nixed by Norm as the road through nothingness. I-70 was a bit too far south although also fast and taking us through Colorado. We settled on Highway 40 which meanders through Colorado and over the Rocky Mountain National Park. It would be slower but, according to Vic, had a much higher fun factor without many semi-trucks. Norm had an aversion to semis which I didn’t understand until Nebraska. More on that later.
After packing and then tipping Vic, Norm and I fired up the scoots and left Zion about 0900. It was a sunny and cool day as we took I-80 north-east out of SLC and immediately got caught up in rush hour traffic. The semis were traveling faster than we were and commuters seemed to think it was a race out of the city, darting from one lane to another and around us. We had to take it slower due to our unfamiliarity with the highway and we had to watch for any unexpected deviations and the US 40 turn off. Near Park City we caught US-40 to Heber City where we took our first break. It’s a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. Nearby a hot air balloon was taking off which added to the already colorful scenery. The ride up to Heber was fun going up and through the Uintah National Forest and Wasache Mountains. This, to me, was the real beginning of the adventure as I had not been east of Salt Lake City before.
The fun of US 40 ran out near Starvation Reservoir. The geography had returned to the shrub-steppe landscape of outer Hogmanistan. We took a short break at Starvation Reservoir.
“In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cattlemen and homesteaders tried to make a go of it along the banks of the Strawberry River in the area now occupied by the reservoir and dam. Their story is one of hardship, perseverance and facing near starvation in a very hostile and harsh environment. Winters were hard, long and extremely cold. Their cattle and livestock often froze during these winter months, and the short growing season was hindered by flooding, hailstorms, early frosts and other calamities. They nicknamed the area “Starvation” and it was from this reference that the highway bridge, reservoir, dam and state park received their names.” (http://www.stateparks.utah.gov/park_
Although we left Utah and entered Colorado about mid-day the scenery didn’t change. It had a few interesting geological formations but remained bleak. Instead of magpies and crows feeding off road kill we flushed vultures into the air as we passed by.
About Craig, Colorado we began hitting the foothills of the Rockies and the scenery changed for the better. In the afternoon traffic was stop-and-go for about a mile somewhere between Hayden and Steamboat Springs. It turned out to be some sort of motorcycle wreck. As we passed the wreck all we could see was a burned out frame and a couple of wheels. Cringe.
It was soon after this that Norm whizzed by me and pulled us over. He detected me zoning out and cutting it too close to the center line with oncoming traffic. He took the lead after a break and we entered Steamboat Springs where we gassed up and replenished our food and drink supplies.
I had planned for us to stay at Stagecoach State Park, a low elevation that evening. Norm noted that this would take us about 10 miles out of our way. His map showed Walton Creek “Campsite” near Muddy Pass outside Steamboat Springs and right on US 40. I was reluctant because I had a minimalist sleeping bag on loan from my son. I had used it at Sturgis last year and it’s fine for 50 degrees and above weather but gets cold below that. Norm was insistent though so we found the campground that afternoon. It was about 200 yards off US 40 and rustic. No amenities offered. The elevation was about 8500′ above sea level. Norm and I pitched his tent (a three man) then prepared for a relaxing evening in the woods.
We continued to tell jokes, stories, etc. through the evening and by the time the stars were out in full glory and the cold had started settling in. At about 2300 we’d had enough and crawled into Norm’s tent. I never fell deep asleep because I awoke every few minutes to feel the cold sucking the heat out of my body. I could imagine Norm waking up the next morning to find a Hogman popsicle next to him. I was seriously worried as it got colder and colder. I tried putting my leather coat over the top of me and had my sweatshirt on but I could still feel the heat being drawn out of me through the night.
Walton Creek “Camp Site” = $12 for both of us, No Cell phone coverage or Wireless (duh!).