After a few days of dispersed camping at the ghost town of Alta, we packed up our campsite and pointed Clifford down the mountain, towards Telluride. The descent on the forestry road was a certainly lot easier on Clifford than the climb had been a few days earlier. Once we had descended the four miles or so to the paved road, the town of Telluride was only about ten minutes drive away.
Our plan for the day was to use the free Telluride gondolas to get us to the start of our hike and take a combination of gondolas to get us back to our starting point after our hike. This free public transportation system seemed almost too good to be true, connecting the town of Telluride with Mountain Village on the other side of the mountain. The passengers seemed to be about on even mix of hikers and mountain bikers with their bikes. In the winter, the gondola bike racks are replaced by ski and snowboard racks.
Bruno was a little bewildered by his first gondola ride, but settled down to watch the scenery change as we ascended the mountain. Once at the top, he enjoyed a drink from the complimentary water bowl (Telluride seemed super dog friendly!) and we were ready for our little hike.
After our hike, Bruno enjoyed a little dip in the stream at the base of the mountain. He may have enjoyed the dip more than the hike!
From Telluride, we headed south, towards the Four Corners area, where the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet at a common point. As the day was hot and we were getting a little tired of sitting in the heat (at least Bruno was), we did a little on the fly research and chose the McPhee Recreation Area (on the McPhee Reservoir) in Dolores, CO as our stopover for the night. The campground was quiet and although not exactly dispersed camping, we couldn’t see a single other camper from our campground.
As we had done our planning on the fly, we didn’t realize that the trek from the campground to the reservoir was about 2km long through a nice enough trail through the almost desert like terrain. This hike introduced Bruno to cacti and other desert vegetation. We had to keep him on the short leash to ensure that we wouldn’t need to visit the local vet any time soon. After the rocky descent to the lake, to our disappointment, we discovered that everything was built and geared towards boaters – no beach, no real good place for even Bruno to fetch his frisbee from the water. We scrambled a couple of hundred metres along the rocky shore to get us to a spot where Bruno could at least get a little swimming done and then headed back up to the campsite, disappointed and still hot. No pictures of this event exist, for it may be the best way to forget the “swimming” attempt.
Back at our campsite, we relaxed for a bit and as the sun set, the temperatures finally started dropping to a more comfortable range. We kept Bruno on his long lead all night as there was continuous traffic of wildlife, mostly deer and rabbits, through the vicinity. Once darkness set in, I tested our new Nemo Helio camp shower, washing away the dust and sweat of the first really hot day of our journey. If I had paws, I’d give the Nemo Helio two paws up!
The next morning, we did our best impression of a quick start as we knew that the temperatures would go from hot to hotter as we drove south, into the desert. Our plan was to drive to Four Corners and from there a short drive in Arizona to visit Monument Valley before heading north to Utah, in search of some elevation and cool(er?) nights. During the heat of the day, Bruno made good use of his Ruffwear Swamp Cooler jacket. The evaporative cooling really works in the dry heat!
As we crossed state lines and arrived in Arizona, a voice in my head kept saying – “you’re close to Sedona, go ride the rails in Sedona!”, and we made yet another impromptu change in our plans. We chose to make the hot hot hot drive across the desert and ascend into Flagstaff for the night, where the arid desert of northern Arizona is replaced by beautiful Ponderosa Pine forests and mountain air. We choose to camp in the National Forest outside of Mormon Lake, at yet another nearly deserted NFS campsite. The lake, ironically, is currently completely devoid of water. Thankfully, Bruno accepted dry land frisbee action once again.
Only two of the approximately 30 sites were occupied, including us. The $18 fee gave us toilets and fresh water fill up for Clifford, where as dispersed camping within the forest would have been free. We felt the $18 was a small price for the few conveniences, especially since again, we could not see the other campers from our campsite and Bruno had free reign with his four frisbees and two balls for the entire stay. A definite two paws up from Bruno!
In the morning, we aimed Clifford toward Sedona and started searching for camping or other accommodations. The cost of house rentals in the area did not really fit our current travel budget, yet we were keen to find som accommodations that would offer all three of us air conditioning. In the village of Oak Creek (kind of like Sedona suburbia), we stopped in at everyone’s favourite bike shop, the Bike and Bean, to pick up a couple of small necessities and to enjoy a nice ice coffee.
We mentioned our desire for non-Clifford accommodations due to the heat and they mentioned that they co-own Red Agave, an old resort that is almost adjacent to the bike shop as well as the trailhead. We decided to check it out.
Success! The studio rooms provided sufficient space for us, there was WiFi, A/C, a pool and a pet friendly atmosphere. As August is the hottest month of the year in Sedona, the rates are at their lowest, and on a whim we booked ourselves in for three nights! This would give Robin and I a chance to get a few rides in and maybe even get Bruno accustomed to desert walks.