Oh, hi! Right! I have a blog. I bet as you've been checking back here in the last two months, only to continually see "colorado, the land of everything - part 1," that the Rocky Mountain state had been it for me (or really only the first part) and I just chose to leave things at that. Or you haven't been checking all that often because, well, I'm pretty sure you folks have better things to do than constantly update yourselves on my travel missives.
The truth is that the West took a hold of me and didn't really let go. I was already behind on my writing by about a month or so, but as I really started exploring out there, writing took a back seat. There was so much to do and see and experience that it was hard to muster up the motivation to sit down with my laptop in the evening and bang it all out. Though, more than anything, I kept meeting people and the usual time I'd spend around a campfire with my laptop, I spent with new friends instead. There's not an ounce of me that could allow a scenario in which I meet new people, get to chatting and sharing adventure stories, am invited to hang out, and I politely decline so that I can sit alone 50 feet away with a laptop.
So, here we are. It's December, goddamnit! How in the hell did that happen? I am settled for a bit (more on that at a later date) and I plan to be a little more present here so I can recount the West for you (and also for me) for perpetuity. I had a few posts I'd been working on, though, so they'll finally start seeing the light of day. Here, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, is "colorado, the land of everything - part 2."
I had one of those shitty travel days when I left Rocky Mountain NP. They happen and you get through them, but not without a little exasperation. I’d noticed the morning before that some of my food had been eaten into. I thought maybe that when I was reorganizing my car and the food bags were out that a chipmunk had possibly taken advantage. Later in the day, though, I found nibbled into food in a different part of the car and then I was sure something was living in there. That night, when I went to put everything away before bed, I opened the door and, sure enough, heard a critter rustling around. The next morning, I stopped a ranger and she said it was probably a mouse that had found its way in through the engine, was buffeting on my goods at night, and then heading home before dawn. Like some sort of shitty teenager. So, I unloaded everything, wiped my whole car down with disinfectant wipes (thouse guys are not clean to say the least) and repacked it all. It took three hours before I was done, just in time for the storm to roll in.
Up until this point, I was planning to camp at a free site down by Colorado Springs so I could check out the Garden of the Gods and Pike’s Peak on my way south to met friends in Pagosa Springs. But, when I called the Forest Service to check on availability and whatnot, they warned me it was a spot a lot of homeless folks stayed in since it was so close to the city and that on the weekends, it was party central. They’d had a lot of problems and there's a good chance she likely had a lower threshold for bullshit than me, but I decided not to chance it. I was again without a place to go and had to figure that out at the last minute. Situations like these are probably the most stressful thing I have to deal with. Like I mentioned before, they always work out in the end, but the stretch of time between not knowing where you’re headed and finally figuring it out can be a little overwhelming. I found another free campsite at a town park in Hot Sulphur Springs and decided to forego Colorado Springs and stay in the mountains.
When my dad was in his twenties, he worked a few summers and also one winter in Grand Lake, which is at the west entrance to RMNP. He and his buddies used to head to Hot Sulphur Springs to soak after a long week of running trails (he worked for a ranch that took tourists out on horseback rides). After that epic hike, he suggested I check this place out and the free camping solidified the choice. Along the drive there, though, the storm that was passing through got pretty bad and the idea of camping in the rain kind of bummed me out. My folks are pretty amazing and they offered to put me up in a local motel for the night. Obviously, I didn’t turn this down. This was the first motel I stayed in alone on my trip and after having such a shit day, being able to sleep on a bed, take a hot shower (albeit in a shower the size of a telephone booth, which was a challenge for a tall girl like me), watch the Goonies on TV, and just kind of veg out, well, it was absolutely incredible.
The next morning, I woke up early, ate breakfast at The Glory Hole (highly recommended despite ignorance to their chosen name’s meaning), and went to the hot springs. This was my first of many in Colorado and, goddamn goddamn. It was chilly outside so it was the perfect weather. I dipped between hot and hotter pools, my favorite being the one that was ice blue and about 105 degrees. It was there that I met an older couple from New York City, Sophia and her husband whose name I’ve forgotten. We had a great conversation about how they met (which is WILD and romantic and involved meeting over a phone call her friend arranged - he was in NYC and she was in Romania - and ended in her staying permanently in New York after she came to visit for the first time) and their travels around the country. It got weird when he asked me about politics (I guess he never learned that you don’t touch money, religion, and politics in polite conversation). He might be one of the very few people living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan planning to vote for Donald Trump. At that point, I kind of let him talk at me since I was relaxed as hell and wasn’t interested in getting into a heated political debate in 105 degree water.
After soaking all the dirt off of me I’d acquired in the last few weeks (my feet were SO clean!), I made my way west through the mountains to Rainbow Lakes Campground outside of Nederland. I’d tipped Michael and Erica off to this place when they were looking for a new spot to camp - it was first come, first served and it was the holiday weekend so anything requiring reservations was full up. I was excited to be meeting up with my buds to camp again. They’d taken in a two friends who were from outside of Price, Utah and traveling through Colorado, only to show up to a full campground. We all hung out together and was real great to see my buds again - it’d only been maybe a week, but it felt like a strange sense of home to show up to a campground with them in it.
Rainbow Lakes was a great little spot - the scenery was beautiful, the campground host was colorful, and the company was, as always, just the best. We hiked up to the lakes on our only full day there, saw some of the trees that were starting to succumb to Fall’s rapid entry, and went into town to check out what Nederland was all about.
This is a hippie mountain town if there ever was one. We had a late lunch, saw lot of white dudes with dreads and bad fashion choices, and checked out a local brewery. It was there that I met Geno Kennedy. We were about halfway finished with our beers and he came in with his dog, Barker. Barker is a Malamute mix who strolled in and perched his front legs up on a bar stool like he was a regular expecting his normal beer order. A few minutes later, the bartender mentioned that Geno's book had been defaced, took it out of the periodicals holder that was next to me, and that’s how we got to talking. He wrote a little book called "Welcome to the Mountains, Now Behave!" about his observations of mountain life to help “flatlanders” (his term - or maybe a well-known term - for folks who live below a certain altitude) better understand. One of my favorite parts was his advice for women women who come to the mountains to find a man. He wrote, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.” Obviously, I bought a copy from him. He signed it, we talked a bit about his life and how he ended up in the mountains of Colorado (he's originally from Poughkeepsie, NY), and then mentioned that Barker might like to give me a hug. After a little coaxing, that big pup wrapped his front leg around my calf and I pretty much fell in love.
We headed back to camp, had a few s’mores, and hit the rack. I was up early the next morning to pack it all in again and head down to Pagosa Springs. This goodbye with Michael and Erica was sadder than in the past. I guess I’d known in previous goodbyes that we’d hook up again along the way, but our parting at Rainbow Lakes Campground seemed more final. I was going on my disjointed path in Colorado and they were going on theirs. I wasn’t sure when we’d meet up again, so this felt different than the goodbyes that came before. That’s kind of the nature of these friendships, though. Everyone has their own path and it’s real amazing when they collide for a bit, but, eventually, you have to move on. I was really happy I got to share another campsite with them, though, and we were able to put a few more communal experiences under our belts.