TrailManor Owner's Forum  

Go Back   TrailManor Owner's Forum > TrailManor General Discussions > Recommended Campgrounds and Places to Visit
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 10-03-2004, 12:05 PM
RockyMtnRay RockyMtnRay is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 823
Arrow Almost Heaven: Brainard Lake NRA, Colorado

Yeah, yeah, I know John Denver didn't use the phrase "Almost Heaven" in his song Colorado Rocky Mountain High....but I think he would have if he'd seen the Brainard Lake Nat'l Rec Area first. It's about 60 miles NW of Denver at the very edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. Here are some pics from my visit there the week of July 11th, 2004.

Let's start with a view of Mt Audubon (13,233) from the campsite just after sunrise:


And some scenes from around my campsite in the Pawnee Campground that were taken that morning and the evening before....

East side...this campsite is really tucked into the forest:


A shot from the west side (notice the complete privacy):


A couple of notes about the strange appearance (and small size) of the trees and shrubbery. The correct term for this type of tree where all the branches are on the lee-side is Krummholz...literally "crooked wood". Brainard Lake is at an elevation of 10,300 feet (just below tree-line) and has a sub-arctic climate (despite being at the same latitude as Virginia and central California). It's only snow free from early July until early September; in the winter the winds howl through with hurricane force (sometimes well over 100 mph) and temperatures drop to below -50.

Moving down to Brainard Lake itself (a short 200 foot walk from my campsite), here's a view of the Isabelle Glacier reflecting in the lake.



Heaven is not easy to get into. In case any of you are thinking this looks like an ideal place to visit (it really is!), you do need to keep in mind a few things.

First, the climb up from the plains around Denver involves an enormous amount of ascending in a very short distance....5000 feet in about 25 miles. There are a couple of miles of 10% grades coming out of Boulder and the first two miles of the access road to the NRA involve a 1000 foot ascent with some quarter mile stretches of 20% grades. It is STEEP! Going back down is equally challenging...I had my truck in 1st gear for maximum engine braking and still had to repeatedly and heavily use the wheel brakes to keep my speed under 30 mph...and to bring it down to 10 mph to negotiate several hairpin switchbacks. I would caution against trying to pull a TM in here unless you have an engine with at least 300 ft-lbs of torque and very low gearing (around 3.91 axles).

Another issue is waste water. There is fresh water at the campground but the closest dump station is 5000 feet in elevation and 25 miles down those tortuous and steep mountain roads. Having a full grey water tank really adds to the excitement of the descent.

And for you hookups types...no, there is no electricity. None at all...not even for the campground facilities.

This area is extremely popular so if you want reservations, you need to reserve at least 30 days in advance for a weekday stay and about 90 days in advance for a weekend stay.

Unfortunately, the board software only allows 4 images to be embedded into the post so you'll just have to click on the rest. Attached images are....
  • Another of Brainard Lake with Mt Audubon reflecting
  • View from inside the TM while eating breakfast
  • Another view of the campsite
  • Nearby Mitchell Lake (about a 1 mile hike) with Mt Audubon again
  • A nice cascade along the trail from Mitchell Lake to Blue Lake (there are 5 lakes total in this NRA). Yes, it was mid July and that's still remnants of last winter's snow
  • Blue Lake with Mt Toll in the background.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	brainard_lake_reflection_mt_audubon_sunrise_071204a.jpg
Views:	548
Size:	129.8 KB
ID:	150   Click image for larger version

Name:	brainard_lake_tm_view_from_window_071204a.jpg
Views:	485
Size:	75.2 KB
ID:	151   Click image for larger version

Name:	brainard_lake_tm_sunset_front_071104b.jpg
Views:	622
Size:	189.9 KB
ID:	152   Click image for larger version

Name:	brainard_lake_mitchell_lake_mt_audubon_071204a.jpg
Views:	506
Size:	146.6 KB
ID:	153   Click image for larger version

Name:	brainard_lake_cascade_on_trail_blue_lake_071204b(cropped).jpg
Views:	602
Size:	245.8 KB
ID:	154  

Click image for larger version

Name:	brainard_lake_blue_lake_wideview_071204c.jpg
Views:	593
Size:	155.8 KB
ID:	155  
__________________
Ray

I use my TM as a base camp for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and climbing Colorado's 14ers


The Trailer: 2002 TM Model 2720SL ( Mods: Solar Panels (170 Watts), Dual T-105 Batteries, Electric Tongue Jack, Side AC, Programmable Thermostat, Doran TP Monitor System)

The Tow Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Tundra V8 SR5 4X4 w/Tow Package (Towing & Performance Mods: JBA Headers, Gibson Muffler, 4.30 gears, Michelin LTX M/S Tires, Prodigy Brake Controller, Transmission Temperature Gauge)


Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 10-03-2004, 02:52 PM
Windbreaker
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default

wow!

You sure make it hard for me to stay at lower elevations!

Did you put the smiley face in the snow at the cascade?
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 10-03-2004, 04:17 PM
RockyMtnRay RockyMtnRay is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 823
Smile Glad you liked my pictures!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windbreaker
wow!

You sure make it hard for me to stay at lower elevations!
Yep! Thought I'd show you "lowlanders" what you're missing.

According to the guidebook "Colorado Campgrounds: The 100 Best and All the Rest" the campsite I was in is arguably the most scenic in the entire nation. That book, BTW, is my bible for locating the most stunningly scenic campgrounds and specific campsites in Colorado.
Quote:
Did you put the smiley face in the snow at the cascade?
Hehe....nope, 'tweren't me that did that. Nicely done smiley face though!
__________________
Ray

I use my TM as a base camp for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and climbing Colorado's 14ers


The Trailer: 2002 TM Model 2720SL ( Mods: Solar Panels (170 Watts), Dual T-105 Batteries, Electric Tongue Jack, Side AC, Programmable Thermostat, Doran TP Monitor System)

The Tow Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Tundra V8 SR5 4X4 w/Tow Package (Towing & Performance Mods: JBA Headers, Gibson Muffler, 4.30 gears, Michelin LTX M/S Tires, Prodigy Brake Controller, Transmission Temperature Gauge)


Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 10-04-2004, 08:35 AM
BobWilson BobWilson is offline
Site Sponsor
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: San Diego CA
Posts: 130
Default Campground

Is this really a campground? Looks like you just backed into some trees in the middle of nowhere. Doesn't look like you have a picnic table or fire ring. Do you have any pictures of other campers or campsites, or restroom facilities? If there are flush toilets then you can carry your gray water to a toilet. It's not too much work just takes time to make a few trips. It does make you be conservative on water.

By the way. This thread should have been placed under "Recommended Campgrounds and Places to Visit". That category I like to scan for new places to go.
__________________
Bob W. 2003 2720SD 2006 Tahoe

Last edited by BobWilson; 10-04-2004 at 11:27 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 10-04-2004, 12:14 PM
RockyMtnRay RockyMtnRay is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 823
Default Yes, it's the Pawnee Campground

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobWilson
Is this really a campground? Looks like you just backed into some trees in the middle of nowhere.
Yes, it most certainly is a developed National Forest Service campground...the here's its listing on ReserveUSA. The campground has 55 sites, most reserveable. The reason it looks like I was in the middle of nowhere is most of the campsites are spaced quite nicely...around 100 to 150 feet apart with a thick forest between sites.

I avoid as much as possible any campground where the site spacing is so small that I can even see another campsite. IOW, if I have to close any of my TM's side curtains to obtain privacy, I feel the campground is way too jammed together. The good news is I usually can find campgrounds with enough spacing between sites that not only do I not have to see any other campers but I don't even have to hear any voices from adjacent campsites. I came close to that in this campground...no voices but I could faintly hear a generator somewhere a few campsites over.

There was another TM in the campground and ours were by far the largest trailers there...the sites are quite narrow and small...and that really challenging climb up the access roads apparently keeps out the bigger rigs. (I did tell the other TM's owners about our website but they've never shown up here).


Quote:
Doesn't look like you have a picnic table or fire ring.
Yes, I believe my campsite did have a fire ring and a picnic table...IIRC, both were in a small clearing directly behind the trailer. The high altitude climate is usually not conducive to outdoor eating...summer evenings are usually quite cold and often fairly windy...even in mid July the windchill usually drops into the 40s at sunset. Hence I don't recall ever using a campsite picnic table. And after the massive wildfires of 2002, I stopped having a campfire. Since I never use the picnic table nor the fire ring, I never even think to include them in a picture. Sorry.

To be honest, the only folks I typically see using a campsite's picnic table are the tenters...basically everyone who has some form of RV (even a popup) eats inside where it's warm! Accordingly, the tables seem to be usually placed next to the campsite tent pad (which most sites have) and seldomly anywhere near the site's parking area. And it's my observation that not very many folks have campfires either...probably only around a quarter to a third of the campers do so. Again, too cold plus a lot of concern about wildfire...and at $6 for a small bundle of firewood, a campfire's not cheap either.

Quote:
Do you have any pictures of other campers or campsites, or restroom facilities?
No, sorry, didn't take any other pictures of the campground but recall that most of the other sites were even more forested and even smaller than my site. The ReserveUSA link above does have a "Photos" link with some additional campground pictures.

Quote:
If there are flush toilets then you can carry your gray water to a toilet. It's not too much work just takes time to make a few trips. It does make you be conservative on water.
The toilets were mostly the very old style, rather stinky pit toilets; one was a new style "no stink" vault toilet. None were of the flush variety...given the subarctic climate with bedrock just under the surface, my guess is a sewage/septic system is totally infeasible. So, no, there's definitely no option of draining the sewage/waste water into a tote and dumping it down a flush toilet. And simply dumping the grey water on the ground is absolutely prohibited due to the extremely fragile ecosystem of the campground area...anyone who would do this would be shortly paying a large fine to the Federal Magistrate in Denver. The ONLY way to get rid of waste water/sewage is to haul it 25 miles and 5000 feet down to a public dump station in the Town of Lyons. The round trip would be in the 1 to 1.5 hour range due to the extremely curvy, low speed limit roads.

Very, very few of the Forest Service campgrounds in Colorado have flush toilets and most of those that do also have dump stations since they have to have sewage systems anyway.

Quote:
By the way. This thread should have been placed under "Recommended Campgrounds and Places to Visit". That category I like to scan for new places to go.
Good suggestion. Perhaps we can get Chris to move it...or once Chris finishes with the "Mod" features, I can move it there myself.
__________________
Ray

I use my TM as a base camp for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and climbing Colorado's 14ers


The Trailer: 2002 TM Model 2720SL ( Mods: Solar Panels (170 Watts), Dual T-105 Batteries, Electric Tongue Jack, Side AC, Programmable Thermostat, Doran TP Monitor System)

The Tow Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Tundra V8 SR5 4X4 w/Tow Package (Towing & Performance Mods: JBA Headers, Gibson Muffler, 4.30 gears, Michelin LTX M/S Tires, Prodigy Brake Controller, Transmission Temperature Gauge)


Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 10-04-2004, 04:31 PM
BobWilson BobWilson is offline
Site Sponsor
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: San Diego CA
Posts: 130
Default Widely Space Campsites

That fact of having such widely spaced campsites is an interesting concept. Typical California style camping is more like 15 to 25 feet minimum between neighbors, some have more space, maybe 40 or 50 feet. But typically the terrain is hilly that limits the campgrounds to groups of campsites that are reasonably flat enough to park and put up a tent. I like about 25-30 feet unless the neighbors are particulary noisy because I like the social aspect of camping. I have even thought about being a campground host. I don't like the RV parks with 10 to 12 foot spacing and no trees.

Eating outside is what we prefer and most of the time the weather is nice enough for that 3 meals a day. If it gets a little chilly then we eat at the fire ring. But too cold for a fire? Hmmm. Never camped in Colorado but eventually we will try it. Thanks for the warning.

Bob W.
__________________
Bob W. 2003 2720SD 2006 Tahoe
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 10-04-2004, 06:00 PM
RockyMtnRay RockyMtnRay is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 823
Default I gotta have a LOT of space!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobWilson
That fact of having such widely spaced campsites is an interesting concept. Typical California style camping is more like 15 to 25 feet minimum between neighbors, some have more space, maybe 40 or 50 feet. But typically the terrain is hilly that limits the campgrounds to groups of campsites that are reasonably flat enough to park and put up a tent. I like about 25-30 feet unless the neighbors are particulary noisy because I like the social aspect of camping.
75 feet between sites is my absolute minimum, 300 feet separation to the nearest neighbor is what I prefer and usually can get by choosing sites on the outer corners of the campsite loops and by camping exclusively during the middle of the week.

California is a very crowded state. Colorado is more crowded than Montana or Wyoming but still relatively spacious and the mountains aren't too bad at all during the middle of the week. I think that most of the Coloradans who use Forest Service Campgrounds during the week are seeking what I am...a "wilderness" experience and are trying, as I am, to get as far away from other people as is feasible. Socializing with other campers is NOT on their mind; it is certainly not on mine. I typically only will chat briefly (mostly just a quick "Hi") once...at most twice...with my immediately neighboring campers during the entirety of a 3 day campground stay. They keep to themselves and I certainly do the same. If a campsite has "noisy" campers, they are quickly reported to the campground host who quiets them right down.

Hopefully the only sound that will be heard in the campground is from the wind in the pines or the water in a nearby creek. Generally that's all that I do hear.
Quote:
I don't like the RV parks with 10 to 12 foot spacing and no trees.
Wholeheartedly agree. I have stayed exactly twice at commercial RV parks and hopefully will never have to undergo that horrifying experience again. It's not that the parks were dangerous...I simply was appalled at the tight campsite spacing...probably around 10 to 12 feet.

Quote:
Eating outside is what we prefer and most of the time the weather is nice enough for that 3 meals a day. If it gets a little chilly then we eat at the fire ring. But too cold for a fire? Hmmm. Never camped in Colorado but eventually we will try it. Thanks for the warning.
You might be able to do that at elevations below 6000 feet. But the really nice Forest Service campgrounds here are around 9000 to 10,000 feet and at those altitudes, the climate is essentially sub-arctic...about the same as sea-level in northern Alaska. Hence the temperature at breakfast time is about 35 degrees so be sure to bring your parka if you really want to eat outside (and expect your pancake syrup to be REALLY thick).

The temperature at dinner time is often around 45 to 50 as the temperature plunges when the sun starts to go down. If there's an afternoon thunderstorm (happens about 3 out of 4 days), there will be a cold rain or even a light snow falling (yeah, light snow is not at all uncommon at 10,000 feet during a summer storm). It was chilly enough at dinner time this summer that I frequently used the oven in my TM to bake my dinner...the heat coming off the stove felt darn good. The oven-baked Lasagna was just wonderful...even if it's not traditional camping food.

Granted, mid-day is not bad...around 70 or so...but very few folks stay in the campground all day as there's just too much to do activity wise...hiking, fishing, cycling, etc. Lunch for me is usually a Power-Bar while hiking.

During campfire time, the temperature at 10,000 feet is going to be in the low 50s to upper 40s with a good stiff breeze....colder if a thunderstorm had moved through. You will need heavy clothing, gloves and a hat to stay outside even if you're standing around a fire. Large campfires are discouraged by the authorities because of the fire danger and a small campfire is NOT going to keep you very warm when the windchill is in the 30s and 40s.

When you do decide to camp in Colorado's high country, be sure to bring plenty of warm clothing even in mid summer. I often include a mid-weight parka in my summer wardrobe.
__________________
Ray

I use my TM as a base camp for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and climbing Colorado's 14ers


The Trailer: 2002 TM Model 2720SL ( Mods: Solar Panels (170 Watts), Dual T-105 Batteries, Electric Tongue Jack, Side AC, Programmable Thermostat, Doran TP Monitor System)

The Tow Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Tundra V8 SR5 4X4 w/Tow Package (Towing & Performance Mods: JBA Headers, Gibson Muffler, 4.30 gears, Michelin LTX M/S Tires, Prodigy Brake Controller, Transmission Temperature Gauge)


Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 10-05-2004, 05:22 PM
smookie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Thanks for posting those beautiful pictures!! I've never seen anything like it before. I'm not sure about wanting to pack a ski jacket during my summer camping trips though.... I really enjoyed reading all about your trip!
smookie
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 10-05-2004, 07:56 PM
B_and_D's Avatar
B_and_D B_and_D is offline
Site Sponsor
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Santa Cruz County, CA
Posts: 2,310
Default

Great pictures, always appreciate when you post your pictures.

Sounds then like the camping season is pretty much over in the Rockies?
__________________
'97 2720 & '01 Chevy Silverado 1500 4x4
2011 & 2017 Prii, 10'x18' & 10'x9' Tents
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 10-08-2004, 07:20 AM
RockyMtnRay RockyMtnRay is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 823
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by B_and_D
Great pictures, always appreciate when you post your pictures.
Glad you liked them...stay tuned as I have many more coming over the next few weeks. Before I post a photo I always do a bit of "tweaking" in Photoshop...tasks like adjust the "levels" so that darkest pixel is represented as a pure black, the lightest pixel as a white; get the contrast tuned; fix any skewed horizons because the camera wasn't dead level when the photo was recorded; crop as needed; apply a teensy bit of sharpening to compensate for loss of sharpness in the processing; resize to 800X600 so the image will fit on nearly everyone's monitor; and then save as a JPEG with enough compression that the image loads quickly but not so much compression that JPEG artifacts like posterization appear. None of this changes the reality of the scene but it does greatly help make a "blah" image into a "wow" image. Takes a fair bit of time though...anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes per image so preparing the pictures for just one post can take as much as a couple of hours of work.

Quote:
Sounds then like the camping season is pretty much over in the Rockies?
In the higher elevations of the Colorado Rockies (above 8500 feet), most definitely. Most of the higher elevation Forest Service campgrounds closed for
the season around mid-September. The Pawnee campground featured in this thread has an extremely short season for RV camping....basically July 1st through Sept 5th...with "walk-in" camping allowed a week before and a week after those dates. If the winter is fairly snowy, you could easily be contending with residual snowdrifts in this campground as late as mid July.

It's been snowing pretty regularly for the past month in the higher elevations...snow levels in nearly every storm have been down to around 8000 to 9000 feet. And it's not just the campgrounds where snow would be a concern...nearly every storm has already been causing snowpack/icy conditions on the passes so towing across the mountains gets pretty iffy after mid September.

For planning purposes, July 1st through late August is the only "safe" period for higher elevation camping. And even that period is subject to extra cold storms...on Aug 28th I woke up to deal with three inches of snow in my campsite ...and I was camping at a relatively low 9000 feet. As that was my campground departure day, it was not fun dealing with lots of sloppy cold slush while packing up...I needed thick gloves, a wool hat, and a parka to stay warm. But being the experienced Colorado camper, I came properly prepared for those conditions and had plenty of warm clothing with me.
__________________
Ray

I use my TM as a base camp for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and climbing Colorado's 14ers


The Trailer: 2002 TM Model 2720SL ( Mods: Solar Panels (170 Watts), Dual T-105 Batteries, Electric Tongue Jack, Side AC, Programmable Thermostat, Doran TP Monitor System)

The Tow Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Tundra V8 SR5 4X4 w/Tow Package (Towing & Performance Mods: JBA Headers, Gibson Muffler, 4.30 gears, Michelin LTX M/S Tires, Prodigy Brake Controller, Transmission Temperature Gauge)


Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:57 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Copyright 2011 Trailmanor Owners Page.