Since the dispersed camping areas where I'd planned to camp are closed due to our recent fires, I decided to visit one of my old haunts outside Rocky Mountain National Park in Roosevelt National Forest. Most of the good dispersed camping area was still closed for the season when I arrived on the 2nd of June. I had called the Forest Service before I went and they informed me that the gate to the Johnny Park area, where all the really good dispersed camping is, was not going to be open until June 15th. Of course, two days after I setup camp, they opened the gate early. I decided not to tear down camp and move. I'm way too lazy for that and figured I'd come right back after a short trip to the valley to take care of some business.
This particular site is at the base of Parachute Hill Road, which has a great site just up the hill, but the road was extremely muddy and the condition was horrible, so I just settled for the big site at the base of the road. I've actually camped at this same spot many times over the years. Since there is a working ranch at the end of the road, they have to keep this road open year 'round, so it's pretty much always available. I camped here once in the dead of winter and experienced a major storm that bent all four of my awning poles, with wind gusts hitting 90 mph. During this trip, I also had one evening and night of high winds, but my new method of staking out the awning and tent worked like a champ and I had no issues with the wind.
The problem with this particular area, which is before you get to the closed gate and is easily accessible, is that it can become very crowded. Over the weekends, I'll bet there were at least a dozen campsites scattered around a relatively small area. One afternoon, I discovered a group setting up their tents right behind my van. They were nice enough folks and had a bunch of dogs that Willow enjoyed playing with, but they were a little close for my taste. Over the last 25 years that I've been camping here, I've never encountered crowds like this. Everybody wants to go camping, I guess. There were many white self-customized Ram Promaster vans that came by for just a day or two, or just overnight on their way to some unknown destination. There was also a large overland vehicle that stayed a few days that was fun to see.
Despite all the people, I still had a great two weeks in the forest and met quite a few really nice people. One super nice couple had a dog that was the same breed as Willow and the two dogs became fast friends and played for hours. Willow enjoyed visiting the various campsites and meeting all the people. Turns out she's a bit of a thief though, as she stole a spoon from one campsite and a lime from another. She played with that lime for a week, carrying it around like some kind of trophy. I'm not sure Willow could have enjoyed herself more, with all the people to meet and dogs to play with. Not to mention just exploring the forest and finding marshy areas to cool off in. She barked at a wild turkey that wondered into camp, sending it running off into the woods.
I also had the chance to play with some new camera gear, such as my Rokinon 14mm lens, a 1.4X teleconverter for my Sigma 150-600 lens (makes the lens 840mm at full zoom!), and a Moza Slypod (a newish type of compact slider). I setup my trail-cam hoping to find some cool wildlife visiting my site at night, but only got myself going out to pee. One of these days, I'll catch something cool on that trail cam. If nothing else, I can see if any humans are checking me out at night with nefarious intentions. I flew the drone several times, gaining some much needed experience.