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Silverton days

From Crested Butte, we planned a route to another mountainside campground, this one near Silverton. Along the way, we stopped in Gunnison for supplies, and to buy the materials needed to add a desk to Andrea's motorhome. (More on that later.)

The drive up to Silverton was another case of well-paved roads with narrow shoulders and frightening drop-offs. But at least this time it wasn't raining, and there were a few places where we could pull over, so we could appreciate the rugged mountains and towering cumulus clouds. Actually, I think the clouds here impress me even more than the mountains.

Colorado 550

Silverton is a former mining town, nestled in a valley. Nowadays the money is in tourism, so there are lots of restaurants and gift shops, but not much else.


Our new campsite had great scenery, with an added advantage (at least from my point of view): no cattle. My friends had thought the wandering cows at Crested Butte were kind of fun. I said, "Yeah, but they weren't bumping against your rig and making it rock and sway!" I'd had my fill of that.

Once we got settled in, we set to work on Andrea's desk. We had planned this out beforehand, using an iPad app called "My Measures & Dimensions" that let me take a photo with my iPad, then quickly add dimension lines to it so we'd have a handy reference.

Andrea's desk measurements

Based on those photos, I used Photoshop to make a quick-and-dirty mockup of how the finished desk would look. Andrea had originally planned to replace her dinette table with a desk, but Jan and I had suggested instead getting rid of the huge cat tree and building a desktop onto an existing cabinet. The mockup helped Andrea to visualize what we had in mind.

Andrea's desk mockup

The cat tree was dropped off at an animal shelter in Gunnison, and we picked up a two by four foot piece of 3/4" birch-veneer plywood at the Home Depot there. It's so convenient that you can now buy a quarter panel, instead of having to buy a whole 4' x 8' sheet and then have it cut. (Note to RVing do-it-yourselfers: Home Depot and Lowe's will cut lumber for you at the time of purchase. Usually the first two cuts are free, and after that it's 25¢ per cut. For simple projects, this can save you the trouble of carrying or borrowing the tools to do the cutting yourself.) We also bought the necessary hardware, and a triple 12V outlet to mount under the desk so she'd be able to plug in her various chargers.

And we picked up a mesh-backed office chair at Target for $34.50 on sale. It's very similar to the chair I bought in 2006, and still use today. (I did have to add an extra seat cushion, after the original one's padding got flattened out.) The total cost of all the materials, including the chair, was well under a hundred bucks.

Once we were set up at our campground, we got to work. One end of the desktop had to be cut at an angle to match the angled side of the built-in cabinet—a job I didn't trust Home Depot to do—and one corner needed to be rounded (both for looks and comfort). Jan and I used our cordless Ryobi power tools to make the necessary cuts and smooth everything down.

I used tiny brads to fasten a length of bullnose oak molding to the front of the desk, so that it wouldn't have an uncomfortably sharp corner, and applied iron-on oak veneer to the end to cover up the plywood edge. Then Andrea stained it to match her rig's cherry interior, and over the next couple of days, applied five coats of Watco Danish Oil finish. This is a resin-loaded oil that gives you the natural satin glow of a hand-rubbed linseed oil finish, but without the hard work. I've been using it since my father, an expert woodworker and antique restorer, recommended it to me back in the 70s.

The result looked pretty close to my mockup, and Andrea was delighted with it. So was her cat Yuri, who's just as happy sitting on the desk and looking out the window as he had been sitting in the cat tree.

Andrea's desk completed

For me, projects like Andrea's desk are half the fun of RVing... but the other half is outings that provide good photographic opportunities. Jan & James have been providing plenty of those, and soon after arriving at our campsite, they took us up a very rough road to the Porphyry Basin.

Jan's Jeep

There at 12,450' is a lovely waterfall, set amid rocks and fields of wildflowers.

Porphyry Falls and flowers

Here's a closer view:

Porphyry Falls

I'm still having trouble getting used to the amount of moisture up in these mountains. Of course we are in the late-summer rainy season... but looking at the lush greenery at the top of the falls, I could almost believe I was in a rain forest.

Porphyry Falls origin

When we'd had our fill of the falls, James took Andrea and me up to the top of the mountain in his Jeep. Jan didn't think her Jeep would make it, and after traveling the extremely rugged road to the top, I agreed.

Danger sign

Despite the warning sign, we went as far as the road would allow. We didn't need the "CLOSED AREA" sign to tell us when to stop... it was pretty obvious that we weren't going any further on four wheels!

Closed area sign

James proposed hiking another quarter mile to the very top, but just then it started raining, and we decided not to try it. So this is as far as we got (taken from the other side of the "CLOSED AREA" boulder):

James and Andrea
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