Saturday, May 28, 2016



Marci and I are both Colorado natives-  so a State Park on the eastern plains does not motivate us to hasten packing the camper to get there as quick as we can. But we were able to cobble five days off and this was the only joint with availability for a long trip on short notice.

The park has an abundance of camp sites.  Loops with 50 amp service, and others leaning towards the more rustic. We are located in the “Inlet loop” (with 50 amps) and are about 20 yards from the lake.  All of the sites are drive through with curving gravel driveways.  They each have a picnic table (with wind shelter) and fire pit.  The sites are far apart with broad grassy fields surrounding laid back RV’ers. 


During the weekend there were plenty of folks fishing along the water’s edge.  I only saw a few
caught – but there are teeming schools swimming among the submerged trees – I know this because they jump at a rate of 2-3 a minute in the evening.  And when I say jump – I’m talking Bruce Jenner (pre-Caitlin) style.  Well over a foot of fish coming out of the water and returning with a loud slap and splash.


There are also huge white birds (White Pelican) drifting by the shore in perfect concert – each move like a Fourth of July Regatta. 

Now, I think that you can tell a lot about a place by paying attention to the little things.  I notice that the informational boards outside the “camping center” are cracked from overexposure to the sun. The parking lots (designed to handle 700% more vehicles than actually visit) have weeds poking through the cracks. Marci and I are both wondering why more people don’t visit?

I walk the trail leading south from the lake and impressed by the vision some overachieving state planner had when laying out the extensive network.  Miles of level gravel walkway – winding around the inlets crated by an unnatural body of water. It strikes me that there are no signs of use.  The dirt is soft under my feet – each crackle a reminder that no one has walked this stretch for at least a year.  I see an occasional track from a government RTV – but even these look as if they were left months ago – perhaps during the obligatory annual fall inspection.

I relish museums!  They are like quaint collections of keepsakes that someone thought other people would find fascinating long enough to induce them to buy a custom t-shirt, or a highly polished cedar knick-knack.  North Sterling State Park boasts a Visitors Center and a Marina (only open on weekends and holidays during off season). The Visitor’s Center – attended by a pleasant woman who’d likely worked here seven years – but never once glanced in the two display cases, was a cute one-room
affair.  With large mounted Walleye and Carp, plastic framed amateure bird photos, and an instructive poster about snakes (apparently – round-pupiled snakes are not dangerous, slowly
retreat from those with a “cat-eye”), I was enthralled.   There were several (ok, two) fossils of undetermined age or species, three degrading rattles from a cat-eyed snake, and a piece of carved driftwood (it was definitely carved – but I’m not sure into what).  But the most impressive, was a homemade shadow box of used fishing lures.  The plexi-glass cover bore the marks of an unconventional (or perhaps unskilled) artist whom had probably been collecting rusty lures for a decade before an acquaintance suggested a display case 59 minutes into ‘Happy Hour’.  


It was also telling, on our third full day, when we first encountered the entrance station – “staffed”.

Welcome to North Sterling Lake State Park”, the cheerful, seasoned, round-cheeked attendant said, reciting the park’s entire formal name – as if she were a recent graduate of the new state park employee orientation.

Hi there.  We were wondering if we could get a copy of the park rules?”

Her brow furrowed, as if she was running through the possibilities of which mandate we were hoping to violate (or more likely already had).

Wryly, “Boating, or camping?”

Rules matter at this park.

Umm, camping.”

Fine”, she said, a little disappointment evident in her voice.

That was when I noticed the second employee (must be peak hours – though there was not another vehicle in sight for miles).  She lifted her head from the table in front of her. As if it was worth a gander at someone who actually asked for a copy of the rules.  Her seventeen-year-old hazel eyes perused our truck and each of us before she plopped her head back on her arms.  I noticed that her mascara was a little smeared – and traces of makeup remained from an earlier soiree.  Perhaps prom went late last night?

And while on the subject of rules, the camp host (a group- camp hosts I mean - I strongly recommend to an aspiring sociologist for field work or even a doctoral thesis) made his presence known early. I can only imagine the conversation in their trailer before he whipped his state issued golf cart around the bend to direct that we move the front left tire off the grass adjacent to our site.

That’s it. I’m gonna go issue a warning!”

Are you sure, dear?  It isn’t really that big a thing.”

Maude, there has to be order.  The State of Colorado has entrusted me to enforce the rules (glancing at his framed 8x10 certificate, signifying 2016 Camp Host Class completion).  I will not let them down.”

And after years of similar conversations, Maude answers, “Whatever you think is best, dear.”

RATING: *** (Three stars)

·       Beautiful views
·       Abundant spacious sites
·       Pay showers
·       Swim beach
·       Great trails
·       Sunset and stargazing areas
·       Plenty of facilities

·       Camp site not filthy, but some small trash and the fire-pit a bit dirty
·       Bathrooms not nasty – but not clean either
·       Prairie dog holes (be cautious)
·       Snakes (watched one being removed from a neighbors camp site – just remember, they were here first!)

·       Officious Camp Host (c'mon, just be nice)
·       NEVER open your awning in a campground located a scant few miles from wind-farms!



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