Disbursed Camping Getaway – Steamboat Springs, CO
Living in a resort area, it probably sounds funny to have a “get-away.” But we’ve discovered that (at least for ourselves) with working and living on grounds, there’s little separation from work. Not that you’re working all the time, but you’re immersed in a community, with no real space of your own. For independent people, that time away can be a precious gift.
We decided to take a van-camping trip to Steamboat Springs. It’s an area that hubby hadn’t seen, and was only 2 hours away. Plus fall colors were still in full bloom.
The drive over was gorgeous. We drove through a curious little town called Kremmling. It’s a small town, with a huge natural rock tower that watches over it. Actually, it looks more like a castle than a tower.
On either side of the town, the road is through wide open spaces with occasional antelope herds in the distance.
The funniest part of our drive though was when we got caught behind a cattle drive. The ranch was using the state highway to move the cattle and was blocking traffic on both sides. City-living would easily make a person frustrated with getting stuck behind the cattle drive. But we just sat there and laughed. After all, how many times in life does one have a chance to get stuck behind a cattle drive up in the mountains?
Once we made it to Steamboat, we stopped in at the National Forest Office. We’d been in the US Forest Service’s office in Granby and had a good experience with the staff there. Steamboat was a bit of a different experience. Seems the staff in that office is a product of the area there (it’s an affluent image-focused area). After a little prodding and having received several scornful looks, the attendant produced a few maps of the designated “disbursed camping” areas.
With disbursed camping, you drive along designated remote roads until you find a cleared camping area that suits you. The ones we’ve found so far have pull-offs, fire pits, and no plumbing of any kind. Pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace.
We first went over to Strawberry Hot Springs. What a peaceful and beautiful place. Soaking all day in the natural mineral springs was so incredibly relaxing… calmly euphoric. Well worth the drive.
After soaking, we set off in search of a disbursed camping site. The first road we tried from the forest service map took a little work to find. It had been well-hidden by some neighbors that bordered the entrance to the road. We did finally find it, but just a short way up the road became washed-out, narrow and steep. We didn’t even try it. It just wasn’t something our Ford E-150 van would be able to navigate. So we got the map back out and went in search of another location.
As luck would have it, we ended up instead with an absolutely incredible camping spot. It was very remote, so we were completely by ourselves. The camp site was so high up in the mountains that we got to enjoy a view that still takes my breath away thinking about it. How wonderful that such an amazing place could be free and available as such a blessing for public use!
Just picture enjoying coffee at a morning campfire with this view (below). I think that morning alone added years onto our lives!
Lessons learned from this van camping outing:
- Make sure that you’ve picked a spot to park that is level! We ended up on a bit of a grade. It didn’t seem like much of a slant at first. But sleeping on it was a different matter. We ended up sliding across the bed over the night, so that we were smashed together up against the side of the van. Then again, maybe that was hubby’s plan! 🙂
- Make sure the place you park is one that you can get easily out of, should it rain. Actually, in this case, the ground was frozen when we got there. It was thawed when we left. It took a bit of planning and careful navigation to exit the site without getting stuck in the mud. Thankfully, we’d backed in the night before. That made it so much easier to exit the site the next day.
- Don’t wait until dark to find your camping spot. You may have to investigate several camping sites, before finding one that you like. Disbursed camping is rustic camping. There are no street lights. There are steep drop offs and obstacles. In fact, there’s barely even a road. Trust me. You don’t want to be trying to pick a camping site that you’ve never seen before in the dark.
- Have a backup plan. Unless you set up camp right away, there’s no guarantee your camping spot will still be available when you come back to it later. Have a 2nd and 3rd choice in mind, just in case.
- Take a shovel and garbage bags. With disbursed camping, you’re expected to leave the site exactly as you found it. Leave no trace. That means you bury your potty “leavings” at least 6″ in the ground, and you pack your trash back out with you.
This disbursed camping was rustic camping at it’s best. We thoroughly enjoyed it and will do more of it!