I finally pulled out his camera and all its accessories, sorting and assessing. I examined them, one by one. I wonder what this filter is for? I'll have to ask Dad -
Guess I'll figure it out.
Long after dark we drove into the Sangre De Cristo mountains to find our carefully selected 14er. We navigated miles of four wheel drive trails and back roads as midnight came and went until
A road closed due to landslide saw an abrupt end to our carefully constructed plans. Full stop.
The next morning we drove back out of the woods to a small town we'd gone through the night before - Gardner - and a cafe/grocery called Wildflower, the only place in town.
Shortly after we sat we noticed a guy digging through some bins labeled Free Stuff because another guy started yelling and whaling on him. FILTH AND FOUL AND FOUL AND FILTH smack. Rinse and repeat.
We exchanged looks with the only other guy in the cafe, who sat calmly reading the paper. With raised eyebrows and a small deprecating smirk and shrug he said to us "Welcome to Gardner."
We soon determined the only plan that couldn't go wrong was the one we didn't make, so after consulting the map we started driving down around the peninsula of the Sangre De Cristos, and up the other side.
Passing through a dusty little town of unknown name we passed this sign
"Want to go to a yard sale?" I said, half joking.
"Yeah yeah, let's go," he said, whipping a uey. "Ok we'll do a drive by first and you check to see if there's anything worth getting out for."
"Oh we're getting out," I declared, in for a pound by then. "Totally getting out," he agreed. "I see tons of stuff." Which I thought was hilarious until I realized he wasn't kidding.
("Tons of stuff.")
(Still in the package! Score!)
(Napkin holder comes with napkins! What a steal.)
("What's this?" Asked the young boy. "It's a rotary phone." His dad answered. "But what's it for?" We all laugh in that way that makes friends of strangers and another man says "Does anyone else here feel suddenly old?")
It was hot and dry and mercilessly sunny and we chugged along in the old jeep, the soft top and my hair flapping in the wind, until we reached the Great Sand Dunes, which were sandy and duney as you might imagine and which were so hot they burned my Chaco feet until I had to turn back.
We drove around the backside on a rough four wheel drive road, past the Point of No Return ("There's never a point of no return in a jeep"), until we found the side where tourists don't venture. I took a cool picture and then mosquitos basically had me for dinner and I made a run for it and we high tailed it out of there, in search of yet another misadventure.
Crestone is off the beaten path and works its easy way up the base of the mountains. Small and charming and quirky with a hippie vibe. I bought local peaches from a boy in a booth alongside the road.
"We're debating the legitimacy of cotton candy ice cream," Matt said to the man behind the counter at the ice cream shop. "Well come on over here and have a look and I'll explain it to you," said the man with the beautiful eyes, gently smiling and with professional pride. He wasn't an ice cream guy, he was a connoisseur, an ice cream artist, creating taste with natural local organic ingredients, and blending flavors with care and exquisite precision. I had blueberry and lemon and Matt had blueberry and mint chocolate chip because he's a peasant, apparently, and there's no accounting for taste. It was life changing ice cream. Amen and amen.
"I have to pee so bad," I said rhetorically twenty minutes from Buena Vista as the long day started to wane. "Are you ok?" He asked seriously. "Can you hold it? I can pull off somewhere. Just let me know." Of course I can hold it, I've been an adult in full control of my bladder for quite some time now, but his guileless concern is always completely organic and unaffected. Sometimes that weekend his southern ways drove me crazy - I wanted to GO and he wanted to mosey - but how can you be aggravated with someone who is so sincere?
Finally that night outside Buena Vista we almost declared ourselves adventured out and returned to Golden without having gotten to climb a 14er, after all that.
I wanted to love you, Colorado, with your mountains and dramatic skies, but Lordy your crowds. I decided the mountains are like one giant mountainous city. People. Everywhere. I love mountains but your mountains full of crowds are unforgivable, Colorado.
"I'm over it," we agreed, me disenchanted and disappointed, but after midnight when we'd turned back we found a spot to camp for the night and decided to have a go at it yet.
At dark o'clock in the chill morning, after four hours of sleep and a leaky camel bak which soaked clothes and left us short on water and after a minor melt down by yours truly, we started up the mountain with dozens of other people.
Three miles and 4,500 feet altitude later we reached rhe summit, and started down the back side, through alpine meadows of flowers and snow. The people were few and far between by then, the mountain was lovely and good and offered some solitude and peace as I walked ahead and alone for a time, Dad's camera clutched in my hand. The mountain understood, kept silent company and didn't say anything when I cried.
(I took dozens and dozens of photos, but due to technical difficulty and lack of tech support #thanksdad I cannot use my computer to edit and upload photos so this process is painfully slow, time consuming and frustrating, so this is what you get. You probably don't care but it's hard for me, to not edit and make it perfect.)
Finally finally after a long weekend we reached Leadville, and I forgave Colorado for everything for the sake of Leadville. I fell in love and felt at home, stress and fatigue fading away in the embrace of that small town and its mountains and mines and friendly people and good food. I could write an entire post on that evening in Leadville but I won't. Not now. Maybe not ever. We'll see.
Well that was snippets of my first weekend in Colorado. Not at all as planned but all together as it was meant to be, I suppose, and at the end of the day I wouldn't change a thing. We had many and many interesting and wonderful encounters.
"The majority of important things cannot be said outright, they cannot be made explicit. They can only be implied."
P.S. The hours of time it took to make this blog happen are dedicated to my mom with love for being my biggest fan!