View Full Version : Scouting Trip

al olson
19-Jun-2010, 13:43
I just completed a 9-day trip looping around from SW Colorado up to Montana, Idaho, and then back down through Nevada and Utah. I try to avoid the popular tourist spots. There is no point in trying to replicate all of the photos that have ever been made, especially since many of them were made in better light than I will ever encounter.

I made this trip with a 13-foot Scamp trailer so I did not need hookups for a couple of days at a time. This allows me to avoid excessive reliance on the more expensive campgrounds such as KOA unless I need to load more water and empty my tanks.

The first night I stayed in a KOA north of Ft. Collins because I couldn't find cheaper campgrounds on my route. Temps were in the mid-90s that evening.

The next two nights I camped in an RV Park ($20/night) at Kaycee, WY. The purpose of this trip was to do some photography at The Hole in the Wall, about 21 miles to the southwest. As many of you know this was an impenetrable valley with many small starter ranches of questionable repute. It was also an area where outlaw gangs such as the Wild Bunch briefly hid out.

It was my intent to photograph this valley with monochrome to give it a period feel, but the colors were so vivid (grass was green green, sky was deep blue, rock walls were deep red) that I elected to photograph with Portra VC instead. Morning temps were from frost to 40.

On my way to Lewistown, MT, I stopped at the visitor center in Hardin. On the grounds they have moved in farm houses, railroad depot, cabins, barns, office buildings, etc.

The highlight, however, is the photography exhibit in the visitor center. The exhibit features area photographers ca. 1880-1960. There are photographs and write-ups for a dozen or so individuals with a replicated darkroom of one of them. They also have many cameras from this period on display. Hardin is approximately 40 miles east of Billings.

On the west side of Lewistown there is a free (donations accepted) campground run by the Kiwanis Club. It has toilets but no showers nor hookups. My purpose for traveling to Lewistown was to look up some cousins whom I had not seen in 60 years. I was hoping to get some ranching photos with people working on horseback. It turned out that although they are ranching around 5000 acres, they no longer keep horses, using ATVs instead.

Then on to Missoula. I checked out a Forest Service campground (without hookups) on the way at MacDonald Pass that looked good but I did not camp there. The area has photo possibilities and I will return for a couple of days at a later time.

The next night was at Twin Falls for hookups at the KOA and to visit old friends. Tried to think of photo possibilities with the canyon but could not think of anything that would make it unique.

Then I drove down through Nevada with the intent of spending several days in southern Utah around Valley of the Gods, etc. However south of Ely I encountered 50mph winds gusting to 65 according to the radio. I stopped for the night at Cathedral Gorge, a nice state park ($17/night for out-of-staters with water and electricity) about one mile north of Panaca.

I would have stayed there for a couple of days, but the predictions were for high winds the next two days. At this point I canceled my plans and decided to drive on home. Cathedral Gorge is on my list to return.

I was informed by campers that SH 9 was closed during daytime hours for construction and recommended SH 14. This is a very scenic road to the west of the Bryce Canyon area and worthy of another look under calmer conditions. I checked out a Forest Service campground on this road called Cedar Canyon. This is another nice area for camping.

The trip on home was again very windy. Page radio was reporting 35mph winds with gusts to 50. The air was dirty and sand was blowing across the road forming drifts, many were more treacherous than speed bumps.

In a week or so I will be retracing my steps into sw Utah and se Nevada. I hope this this helps give some ideas to folks planning to traverse this part of the west.

brian mcweeney
19-Jun-2010, 14:18
Nice report! I'm also a fellow fiberglass camper (Casita). Any problems storing your photo equipment in your trailer or keeping the film cool enough?

19-Jun-2010, 15:26
Thank for the report Al. How do you like traveling and staying in the 13' Scamp?

al olson
19-Jun-2010, 16:07

Keeping the film cool is not a problem. I keep the boxes in the refrigerator. The loaded holders go into a 6-pack cooler and stay in the SUV.


If I were to buy one again I would buy the 16-footer which can come with a second single bunk that also makes into a dinette. It is a bit of a hassle to be shifting gear around to convert the bunk into a dinette or vice versa.

I should mention that the 13-footer is pretty small and suitable for a single or a cozy couple at best. From the center I can reach almost everything without moving. The models without the bathroom of course provide a little more space and are suitable if you only camp at campgrounds that have toilets and showers.

The "kitchen" consists of a sink and a 2-burner stove. There is a cutting board that fits over the sink to provide a little working space, but that is it. When I fix breakfast, i.e. french toast, pancakes, or eggs, I need the table space to work with. Otherwise, for a lunch or snack I simply make a sandwich with cole slaw or potato salad and eat over the sink.

The trick for staying places where there are no hookups is to carefully manage your electrical use (battery) and water supply. Mine has an 11 gal. water tank with a 22 gal. gray water tank and 6 gal. black water tank.

The two things that run down the battery are using the furnace and forgetting to switch off the 12-volt to the refrigerator when I am stopped for any length of time. I don't leave the lights on long either.

I like to camp out in many of the gulches in this area and I have managed to stay three nights by only taking two showers so that leaves enough water for cooking, drinking and cleaning dishes.

The camper is two years old and last year I got in over 40 nights of camping including a 16-day trip to NH and a 10-day trip to ND. This year I am planning to spend more time in southern UT and NV and make another trip to ND and northern MN as well as staying in some of the CO state parks that are near old mining ghost towns.


19-Jun-2010, 16:31
It's a little warm for Valley of Fire State Park in Southern Nevada but it's rich with photo ops. The only problem is if you day trip in the close the park at 6:00 but if you camp in the park you have more evening time at some locations. The town of Goldfield is an interesting mix of a Ghost town that still has a few businesses and residents.
See you Thursday.

I shot the old truck somewhere in Nevada. The film is Kodak High Speed IR Film. (That was a while ago)

19-Jun-2010, 17:46
In my youth I spent quite a bit of time in the Hole in the Wall country, fly fishing various forks of the Powder River with my dad. (I grew up in Casper, about an hour and a half south.) In those days we could pay local ranchers $5 for each of us for a day for some wonderful small stream trout fishing, and we could pick some Jonathan apples from their small orchards to boot! I doubt many of them would be that accomodating anymore. The last time I was there was about 5 years ago, when we fished on some property partially owned by a friend of my dad's. He and his partner have since sold. It is great country and you are right - the sandstone in the area is quite colorful. Probably not hit too hard by photographers!

PS Nice image, Sidmac!

19-Jun-2010, 18:08
What a really NEAT post.

Nathan Potter
19-Jun-2010, 18:24
Hey Brian, interesting. I have a Casita, vintage about 2003. I don't use it on every trip but usually when I go to areas that are too expensive to stay in the usual accommodations or when I need to be where there are no normal accommodations. This 19 ft. fiberglass two wheel job is a marvel and I've never really had any difficulty with it. I usually keep camera gear in the back of the 4 runner. The 4 runner I would not part with for my life - maybe.

Nate Potter, Austin TX.

19-Jun-2010, 19:34
Thank you Al for all your info. I am considering a future buy of a trailer for travels and photography. Your travels are an interesting read! Keep us posted, and for me (and others), please share your trailer tales as well. :)


brian mcweeney
19-Jun-2010, 19:52
It figures that photographers would have cool fiberglass travel trailers.I completely forgot about using my frig Al. Thanks for the great post. Hey Nate, perhaps our paths will cross sometime camping in Texas (when it cools off!). You can see some places I have photographed with my Casita on my travel blog:

Richard Rees
23-Jun-2010, 18:06
My last photo trip to Seminole Canyon state park and Big Bend NP. Ruffen it !! sleeping on the ground,takes some getting used too.

al olson
25-Jun-2010, 15:24
Hey Brian, interesting. I have a Casita, vintage about 2003. I don't use it on every trip but usually when I go to areas that are too expensive to stay in the usual accommodations or when I need to be where there are no normal accommodations.
. . .

Nathan and Brian,

I was very impressed with the DFW Gathering and the superb photos that were made of the Tarrant County Courthouse.

That got me to thinking. We have already identified a couple of fiberglass campers. I am sure that there are more people in this forum who have fiberglass, or pop-up campers, or who simply like to sleep on the ground. So why not have various members sponsor camper gatherings?

Every year I see questions on this thread as to where are the best places in Colorado for shooting the Aspen colors. Two good areas are US 550 north of Durango and the area on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass.

The 12-mile stretch of US 160 southwest of South Fork has two Forest Service Campgrounds and three commercial RV Parks. In addition, around the 12 mile point there is another campground, Big Meadows about 3 miles north off the highway. Beyond the campground there are stands of very large caliper Aspens. I would probably choose to camp here.

On the other side of US 160 there is a 19 mile drive up to Summitville, an old ghost town that was abandoned around 1893. Along the creek that flows near the road there are many places where people pull off to camp without fee. I should mention there are stands of Aspen along the way, but Summitville is at the treeline so don't expect any good tree pictures there.

In addition, about 30 miles north of South Fork is Creede. The Aspens seem to turn a few days earlier up there. I was there two years ago and the Aspens were gorgeous. An added bonus at Creede is the road that goes around the mine tour. There are many old mines, with timbers in decay, that can be used to add interest to your tree photos.

Another area that is rich with Aspens is Kenosha Pass which lies between Denver and Fairplay. I have gone over the pass during Aspen season on my way to the Big City and I have estimated over 200 cars parked along the highway at the summit. A lot of people travel there from the Front Range to see Aspens.

A virtue of the areas I am talking about (not Kenosha) is that they are not infested by large crowds of gawkers with their little miniature cameras.

So I am putting this out as a feeler. How many people would be seriously interested in an Aspen Gathering and Campout around the first or second week of October? I am happy to act as contact and field any questions you might have.

Perhaps some of the other campers in this form would be happy to initiate some gatherings elsewhere. It is good to have people who know the area. How about it?

30-Jun-2010, 09:16
I think that would be a nice trip and enjoyable way to meet folk

24-Jul-2010, 18:41

I'm just a bit south, and would be interested...

If this or anything else in the area happens to arise, I'd love the heads up and would be sure to attend...