The first question people always ask after hearing about our little adventure into the wilderness is, “so, where do you live?” Well, we live everywhere! That’s the short answer anyway. The longer answer is… a bit more complicated. We’ve done our homework, but we were still incredibly surprised to discover how difficult it is to find long term availability for tiny house (yes, I’m calling it a tiny house) residents.
In other words, it’s hard to find anywhere to park the dang thing.
Some RV parks and campgrounds offer spaces that travelers can pay for on a month to month basis, basically like paying lot rent, but these spaces are in high demand and hard to come by.
Most parks require prospective residents to add their names to a waiting list, which acts as a lottery that randomly selects the next applicant when a space becomes available. We currently have our names in such a lottery for a space to hibernate this winter, but we are very aware that we might be bouncing around longer than we thought.
Not having a grounded place to stay right now might sound a bit scary, but this hiccup has turned into a sort of blessing in disguise. We get to live in some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado for weeks at a time, sometimes at zero cost to us. And we will never not have options. As long as we are willing to move around, then we will always be able to find a space that includes water and electricity provided at a daily rate. So, if we want to stay in an RV park and just pay for whatever is available each day, we can if needed.
However, we have found ourselves in what another full-timer (someone who lives and travels in their RV year-round) refers to as “the two week cycle,” and we love it.
The Two Week Cycle
Being in the two week cycle means that we set up camp (literally) at one of our favorite spots for about two weeks before moving on to the next. This is because camping in these areas is limited to 14 days within a 45 day range, as they are not privately owned sites like those in RV parks, but are overseen by the state parks and wildlife department or the US forest service.
So, our cycle consists of Chatfield State Park, Pike National Forest, and Cherry Creek State Park, with Arapaho National Forest as a back-up location. We love these places because we get to experience the mountain life we have been seeking, while also staying within a range that still allows a manageable daily commute to work in Denver.
Our favorite place to stay is Chatfield State Park. Our little happy camper is capable of being off-grid, which is how we operate when staying in national forests, so we thoroughly enjoy all of the “amenities” that come with staying in the state parks.
To us, having amenities means that electricity and water hookups are located at each site, and that there is a bathhouse and laundry facility on the grounds. It’s also an amenity to have access to dumping stations where we can empty and refill our holding tanks — a not so glamorous process which I’ll detail more later.
Chatfield State Park is located southwest of Denver, and the scenery of the area is a comforting reminder of the Midwest. Wide open, grassy fields lead right up to the edge of the mountains, and the whole valley is dotted with barns and horse stables. From our favorite space in Chatfield, the western view out our front door oversees a large lake with the foothills of the Rockies just beyond it, and looking to the north at night provides a stunning view of the downtown skyline.
The entire state park consists of nearly 4,000 acres of land with all kinds of trails winding through, including paths from the campground down to the beach, stables, and overlooks. A great Saturday is spent hiking down to the marina for a bag of ice and some liquid spirits, and then taking the cooler, a couple of chairs, and the doggies down to the beach for the day.
Luckily for us, the unseasonably warm weather has allowed us to enjoy our beach days into October and November, even with it snowing in the high country.
The downside to staying in the state parks is that we really have to be on top of scheduling our stay.
During the peak months, including October, these campsites are in incredibly high demand, and can sometimes require a waiting list of sorts as well. Some reservations are available online, but most sites are walk-up only and can go pretty fast.
Once we book a site, we aren’t always guaranteed that we can keep it for two weeks straight (someone may have a reservation for that site within the two weeks), so we usually have to re-up, or reclaim our spot every few days. This is a fairly easy process at Chatfield, especially compared to Cherry Creek State Park, where campsite availability is usually determined day to day.
Cherry Creek is also the busiest state park in the area, and we have spent a handful of very early mornings convening with other travelers outside the campsite office door, some of us hoping to re-up our sites and others praying to the camping gods that a new one will be available.
Arriving at a campsite only to discover that absolutely nothing is available can really put a kink in our two week cycle, so planning ahead is key.
We still love our Cherry Creek State Park, despite the annoyance of having to re-up pretty regularly. We don’t get to pick sites close to the park’s beach like we can at Chatfield, but the sand is velvety and the water always feels nice, even in November. Plus, it’s only a twenty minute commute to work for me when we stay at Cherry Creek, which is pretty amazing for driving in Denver.
As you can see, we get pretty spoiled at the state parks. That is, if taking a shower for longer than five minutes and slow internet rather than no internet counts as being spoiled…
Maybe spoiled isn’t the right word — rejuvenated is better. We have everything we need, plus more. I thought I would miss certain things that we have given up, like the fancy fitness center and sweet infinity pool at the apartment complex we used to live in, but my feelings are completely opposite. I’m in better shape now from hiking and gathering firewood than I ever was with that damn fitness center, and I would hands-down pick the lakes and rivers and streams that we frequent now, over the pool that we had in the city. But that’s just me.
I’m not going to lie, though, our other stomping grounds in the two week cycle are a lot more rugged and a lot more challenging. Staying in Pike National Forest deserves an entire page of it’s of it’s own. So, keep reading, Part Two — Pike National Forest is coming next.