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Colorado
May 22nd - June 9, 1999

What's New

I've made a couple of new additions to the rig.  I started to realize that I am going to be having a guest on board for three months and that I needed to consider moving some stuff around to make things easier on us both in the coming months.  Keeping the bike wheels inside the vehicle was quite inconvenient, so on the way through Denver, I stopped at REI and purchased some front wheel mounts for the Thule rack.  In addition, I've sent home some things that I didn't think I would be needing anymore including my skis/boots and a whole slew of cooking spices I had yet to touch.

I'm trying to make my journal entries more enjoyable, so look for improvements.   You'll start seeing a change towards the end of this update.  I'll try to bring out the little things that make the trip interesting, including emotional downfalls and triumphs while skipping the boring stuff.  Hopefully this will make the page more enjoyable to read.  I'd appreciate any constructive criticism!  I'm currently able to respond to all e-mail so feel free to write at anytime.

Update

May 22nd - I arrived at Colorado Springs by mid-day.  After a fruitless search for an open visitors center, I headed for the hills stopping at a Safeway grocery store to pick up some extra food.  Right as I walked into the store, Aaron Thies (of the Rig Foundation) called me on my cell phone.  Aaron is doing approximately the exact same thing I am doing.  However, his purpose is much more selfLESS than mine... he is attempting to promote open space conservation with his trip.  We had made plans to meet the following day and do some mountain biking together.  I made the suggestion that we could meet immediately, but told him I had some grocery shopping I had to do.  I also mentioned where I thought the grocery store was located, and he said he would call me back in a few minutes.   After shopping, I started packing my car getting ready to head for the hills when lo and behold, a Nissan Pathfinder with a bike rack on top and a California license plate drove up right next to me.   Aaron had surprised me by coming right to the grocery store!  We headed for the hills, drove up a forest road near Woodlawn Park (just West of Colorado Springs), set up camp, and shared travel stories into the evening.

May 23rd - The next morning we decided to find a mountain bike ride near the town of Woodlawn Park.  There actually was a path labeled in Aaron's Colorado Atlas.  After about a few minutes of trying to find it, we found out that this particular trail was paved, so we hit the local bike shop, got some local trail info from them, and hit a nearby trail. 

Even before the ride, I thought I was slowing him down.  My gear wasn't nearly as organized as his and getting my biking stuff together took a while.  Additionally, during the ride, I found that Aaron was already acclimatized to the altitude and all throughout the ride, I felt like I was an anchor... slowing him down.  This was upsetting for me because I had worked the past few weeks on getting myself back into biking shape by taking a few bike rides.  Not enough I guess!

Biking is one of those interesting sports where you seem to build up a "base" that never goes away.  This "base" is developed by riding hard for a few months.  For example, after riding hard for a few months, a particular climb that used to be difficult to you, becomes quite easy.   Then a few months later, even without much exercise, that same climb will still be an easy climb, even though you might be breathing a bit harder.  It isn't like tennis, racquetball or basketball where daily practice is required to maintain a level of proficiency.

This particular ride, however, I could hardly breathe at all.  And the ride itself was quite difficult.  One of the downhills was about as steep as I have ever seen on a mountain biking path and there were definitely some uphill walks.   Even Aaron had some trouble in a few spots.  The typical Colorado spring afternoon thundershower reared its ugly head during our ride as well, turning our ride into a muddy mess.

Aaron seemed like a really nice guy and it was a pleasure spending time with him.  However, after the ride, he mentioned that he wanted to head a different direction.  I mentioned that I wanted to hit Garden of the Gods tomorrow and he said he was up for that so we decided to camp together again that evening.

May 24th - After an extended breakfast and sleep in, we headed off to ever elusive Garden of the Gods.  I say ever elusive because we had a problem finding the darn place, but after about an hour of completing a large circle around the park, we found it.

Garden of the Gods was geologically amazing.  And to think this was a city park, only a few miles from the city center.  No admission was charged, thanks to the desires of the original land owner and his children.  What a fantastic site.   For most people it was a drive through park, but we did it on bikes through some pretty fierce winds and an approaching thunderstorm.  The city has done a fantastic job in making sure the park retains its natural character too.  The sidewalks were colored as the rocks and the road was fairly narrow and inconspicuous.

The mountain biking was short and wasn't much of a challenge, but with the fantastic scenery, it was a fantastic ride.  After the mountain biking, we hit the paved bike lanes to get closer.  We got off of our bikes to get right up against the fantastic geology and snap a few photos.  After the rides, Aaron and I headed different ways.  I headed into the visitor's center to learn more about the geology and Aaron headed off to Denver.  We had a great time together.

Afterwards, I headed off to the grocery store and decided to camp that evening in the mountains outside Woodlawn Park off of Rampart Range Road, same spot we had on the evening of May 22nd.

May 25th - I woke up in the morning to the sound of rain on my roof.   I dozed off again, and awoke to find that the rain had cleared.  Or so I thought.  When I listened carefully, I head little fluffy noises on my roof...   SNOW!  I started to freak, realizing that I was a good ways from any major road where I could flag down some help if I got stuck.  I hurriedly got my truck back into driving mode and hit the road with no problems.  Next stop, Denver and the REI store downtown to pick up a few supplies.  I picked up some rain pants and Thule roof rack wheel holders.  Next I hit a truck stop, filled up my tank (happiness is a full tank!), and got a FREE truck stop shower (because I had filled up there).  Finally I made the drive to Silverthorne, stopped at the US Forest Service office in town and found out about the free dispersed camping off of Rock Creek Road where I would make my home for the next few days.

May 26th - May 26th and skiing is still happening in Colorado!   Arapaho Basin "The Legend" (A-Basin or "The Basin" as the locals call it) still had a 60 inch base at the mid mountain.  Last year, their season ended near July 4th.  I hit the slope just after 12pm on a half day ticket.  Unfortunately, spring skiing conditions got the better of me and my legs.  I found it interesting that at the time, that I could ride a number of mountain miles on my bike, hike many miles, run a 10k, but my legs STILL weren't in skiing shape.  Ouch!  It might have something to do with the variable spring conditions.  I had to keep my legs bent significantly to handle the variable conditions.  (variable conditions = fast and slow snow mixed together... basically, you have no idea how fast your skis will run on the snow.)  I managed to wear myself out pretty quickly.  Nonetheless, I had a great time at the Basin, and managed to make it down a double diamond (experts only) slope before I completely wore out.  Actually, the sun decided to hide behind some clouds after that run and the snow actually got better.  So, I finished the day with a few blues and it was back to my campsite about 20 miles down the road.

May 27th - Rain, yuck.  A very lazy day hanging out in Silverthorne.  As I was puttering around my vehicle that morning between the rains, I noticed that my roof rack had slid back about a foot on my roof!  It wasn't in danger of sliding off... it just slid backwards a bit.  I spent time between the rains, re-securing the roof rack.  Later, I hit Starbucks with my book in hand and that was about it for the day... Like I said, a lazy day.

May 28th - For the laziness I had the other day, I made up for it on this day! 

I started the day off right with a hike in the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness area.  I tried to do a 5 mile semi-loop trail to the ridge that lead to Ptarmigan Peak.  For some reason, during this hike, the most often quoted quote from Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance popped into my head.  "It is the valleys that sustain life, not the peak."  Although I wasn't hiking through valleys, the views from the trail up to the top were fantastic.  I actually hit snow a ways up and left the trail to avoid the snow.  I found the trail again on the ridge and hit some beautiful overlooks on the ridge.  I decided again to avoid the trail due to the snow, but managed to get lost for a little while.  One of my teachers, Tom Brown says lost is a state of mind that can be avoided... That certainly was true in this case.   Before me, lay a valley with a main road.  I had to convince myself that I was in no danger and that at worst, I would stray onto someone's property and get shot... wait a minute, I'm not in Georgia!  Hopefully, they'd be more friend here in Colorado.   :-)  In any case, my instincts told me that I'd hit the trail if I just kept going down hill, and I did.

Next, it was off to bike around Dillon Reservoir.  I stopped at the tourist office.  They guessed that the ride would be around 13 miles.   "Cool," I thought... "I can handle 13 miles".  Little did I know... The actual mileage was about double that... near 26.  In any case, the ride was great.  As much as Atlanta is very biker hostile, Colorado is very biker friendly.  They've got these fantastic paved trails for road riding.  Some can be connected to create rides over 100 miles long.  Most of the route I took was along the trail.  Swan Mountain Road (straight up for about 2 miles!) was the only exception.  Views of the reservoir and mountains beyond abounded.  Afterwards, I still had plenty of time to snag a power decaf Frappacino at Starbucks and get to Boulder before sunset.  What a great day!

May 29th-June 1st - I spend the long weekend plus one day in Boulder staying with my friend Terrie Clark.  Terrie and I were really only acquaintances prior to my visit, but we became very good friends during the visit as we are both on similar spiritual paths.  I met her through a common friend at work (Michael McCracken) who had known her since high school days... They were both in a high school play together (You're a Good Man Charlie Brown).  Michael was fond of calling her his "dog".  (He was Charlie Brown and Terrie was Snoopie.)  We had some good laughs out of that.

During my time in Boulder, we hit the Boulder Creek Festival, during which I got a caricature (see picture).  Terri and I also spontaneously decided to do the Bolder Boulder Memorial Day 10K race.  The run was probably the most FUN run I've ever been in.  It mainly wound through neighborhoods.  Bands were playing all along the route and all the neighbors were cheering.  Definitely a blast.  Both Terri and I didn't do nearly as well as we thought we would.  I gave that darn race my all and came up with a lousy 59 minute, 40 second official time. I also came away from that race with an injured foot (which didn't act up until the day after).  In spite of my injured foot, I still hiked Green Mountain the following day for some fantastic views of Boulder and the rear side of the Boulder Flatirons (popular climbing spots).  I finally got to see Star Wars (VERY cool movie) before heading west again towards Rocky Mountain National Park.

Boulder seems like an incredibly neat place to live. The only downers are the cost of living and winter. (Unless you like winter mountaineering and skiing, both less than an hours drive!)  The town has the intellectual feel of a college town like Athens GA, but it is grown up and most residents are tree huggers like yours truly.   The city owns most of the land surrounding it and thereby controls it's growth... and there is tons of open space for public use around the city, as opposed to Atlanta where the rare open space that is available is usually terribly overcrowded.  If I could talk all of my friends into moving there, I'd be there in a heartbeat.  A wonderful town...

June 2nd - 5th -> Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) - In the words of Captain Herb Emory, traffic reporter on AM 750 WSB, "Oh my achin' toe!"   I have no idea why he says this when the traffic is bad on the streets of Atlanta, but it seems fitting for the way my injured foot felt the next few days.  So I actually took it easy and toured around Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) by vehicle mostly... just like the majority of visitors in one of the nation's busiest parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park is extremely beautiful... definitely the best of the Rockies I've seen.  I spent time hitting all the available roadside spots the park had to offer.  I zigged and zagged across the park during my visit, passing some areas twice.  The first place I hit on the East side of the park was Horseshoe Bend.   This is one of the most beautiful spots I think I saw in the park.  In early summer, you can always see tame elk and bighorn sheep grazing in the meadows.  I never saw sheep, but the elk were abundant.  Heading up Skyline Road, I got a great view of Horseshoe Bend from Rainbow Curve...  They beg you not to feed the animals, but the little chipmunk in my photo shows a tame, well-fed chipmunk feasting on some Frosted Flakes someone sprinkled about... so much for LNT (Leave No Trace)!  Boy was he in for a sugar rush!  A little further south and west lies Bear Lake... absolutely beautiful, and it is one of the only alpine lakes accessible by paved road.  I hiked around this area a good bit towards the end of my stay in Rocky Mountain National Park.

One of the highest stretches of paved road runs right through Rocky Mountain National Park.  Known as Skyline Drive, it runs above 12000 feet in some spots; you are bound to have some incredible views.  It is a shame that many of my pictures from this drive didn't come out (bright snow and dark rocks don't mix!).  Notice the picture of my car covered in ice and notice the huge snowdrift behind the vehicle.   My vehicle rides just under 9 feet high with the bikes; the snow, in many spots, towered over my vehicle.  Amazing what can be done with a snowplow.  They plow Skyline Drive for over a month in starting in April so they can open it before Memorial Day weekend.

Near the top of Skyline Drive lies the Alpine Visitor's Center with a snack bar, gift shop, and the whole shebang.  I just HAD to stop in and have a coffee (and some chili w/crackers) on top of the world.  They handed me a bag of crackers with my chili and I had to laugh.  The bag was puffed up like a balloon due to the change of altitude.  As I sat down to sip the coffee, I thought I heard a kid playing the harmonica.  Turns out, it was someone playing Bob Dylan... figures...  A great songwriter, he is, but the guy can't sing or play the harmonica in key. I had to laugh again.

The West end of Rocky Mountain National Park has fewer visitors than the East side, but is just as spectacular.  This is where I got a glimpse of The Colorado River's humble beginnings at Never Summer Ranch.  Just to think... a few weeks from now, I'd be hiking down into the Grand Canyon carved by the same mighty river.  Too bad this river doesn't even reach the sea anymore.

I had a very nice visit in RMNP.  However, I think this place would be better for the generic hiker in late July or August timeframe after more of the snow had melted.  Many of the trails were difficult and require mountaineering skills or at least snowshoes...  In addition, some of the mountain biking trails outside of the park certainly were not bike-able with drifts running a few feet deep in the middle of the trails.  During August, the flowers are blooming in the tundra, and most trails are accessible.  I'll definitely have to plan a visit for later in the summer at some point.

During my exit from the Rocky Mountain National Park area, I came blazing into the Winter Park Resort Community at 60 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone.  I didn't even notice the change in speed limits as I was glancing over at my computerized map, but the friendly Winter Park Police officer noticed.  I got nailed, but amazingly enough, I didn't get arrested OR get a ticket.  I told him it was an honest mistake (which was the truth) and I guess he believed me after finding a clean driving record.  I took his final words to heart as I headed out of town.  "Be more careful next time!"

June 6th - 8th -> Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument - I arrived at North rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument with some time to spare.  "Be careful!"  A great phrase to use around the Black Canyon.  I can't say it any better than geologist Wallace Hansen:

Several Western canyons exceed the Black Canyon in overall size... Some are longer, some are deeper, some are narrower, and a few have walls as steep.  But no other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

This is the first site I've seen since Big Bend that has literally taken my breath away.  2000 feet below lies the Gunnison River and approximately 1000 feet across (but 2 hour drive!) lies the opposite rim.  This canyon has also done a pretty good job a rekindling my fear of heights.  Standing at the edge of the canyon is enough to make anyone a bit queasy.  The magnitude and sheerness are beyond words.  Heck, look at the pictures!  :-)  Some claim it is the most beautiful canyon in the USA and I can certainly see why.

After a couple of words with the ranger on the North Rim, I headed out for the two hour drive to the South rim for an overnight backpack down into the canyon.  They don't call the hikes into the canyon "hikes";  they call them "draws" and I can see why now.  I hiked down via SOB Draw for an overnight on the Gunnison.  If you think SOB stands for a common obscenity, you are correct.   I uttered the phrase (in the voice of Cartman from South Park) a number of times on my way down and back up.  That sucker was the most difficult hike I've ever done in my entire hiking career.  1800 feet in elevation change in 1.75 miles.  Some of it bordered on rock climbing/scrambling and included dodging 5 foot high poison ivy.   In some spots, if you fall the wrong way, you'll find yourself among some of the deer skeletons that can be found along the way.  I'd have to assume that some of those poor deer fell to their death.  As I write these last few paragraphs from my campsite in the Gunnison National Forest, I am still massaging my legs which are aching from the strenuous hike.  Check out the custom picture from the Chasm View overlook above SOB Draw to see what the route looked like.

This hike was just what the doctor ordered at the time.  I was ready for some serious hiking after letting my foot heal.  Not being active for a couple of days was getting me depressed.  Not to mention, I had received a disturbing e-mail from a friend of mine which gave some blows to that darn ego that I'm trying to let go of (thanks to Deepak's tape... see below).  This hike certainly got my mind off of trivial things and put in the only time that matters... the present.  Ahhh... a dose of insignificance... indeed, just what the doctor ordered.   

Some great news for the canyon:  The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, with legislation pending (and expected to pass), is destined to be upgraded to a National Park... and it is no wonder why!  Like Big Bend, this monument (soon to be park) is a little bit out of the way for the travelling National Park tourist, but it simply shouldn't be missed.

See ya in New Mexico and Arizona!

Oddities From the Road

  • A truck stop named Gay Johnsons East of Grand Junction, CO on I-70... hmmm...   Maybe not a good place to stop!
  • No Name Rest Area (see pic)... Gee... I guess someone wasn't being very creative.

Reading and Listening

  • Friday Afternoon in the Universe by Medeski Martin & Wood - Jim dropped a ton of CD's on me when I left Nashville to make room for more CD's.  Being a musician, he gave me some stuff that stretches the boundaries of music.  MMW's tonal stuff is really cool and has a fantastic groove!  They make surprisingly interesting music with only the stringed bass, keyboard, and drums.  I'd recommend checking this particular album out if you like Jazz.
  • The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success:  A Practical Guide To the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra - Based on Deepak's book: Creating Affluence.  Cathy dropped this book-on-tape on me before leaving.  I thought it was good, but terribly confusing.  Basically way too much to swallow in a single listening for someone just starting on a spiritual path.  Perhaps after multiple listenings, it would be more helpful.  It definitely provokes thought, but I think there are better books to read for those interesting in researching spirituality.   It need not be this confusing.
  • Far Journeys by Robert A. Monroe - A very scientific book about the research performed by Robert Monroe in the field of Out of Body Travel.  I'm not quite finished with it yet... it didn't grab my interest like his first book, Journeys Out of the Body.  This book is more research oriented instead of adventure oriented and takes an analytical approach to out of body travel.
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Campsite Cleanup!

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Does your mother always have to pick up after you?

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Garden of the Gods

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Aaron's Rig Rider Photo

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Garden of the Gods

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The Rigs

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Arapaho Basin

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End of day at Arapaho Basin

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Dillon Reservoir Panorama

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Ptarmigan Peak

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The herd is on the move!

Listen to them go!

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A Caricature

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Before the Bolder Boulder 10k

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After the Bolder Boulder 10k

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Campsite near RMNP, Big Elk Meadows, Roosevelt NF

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Picnic on the stream

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The Skyline Drive

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The Rig on Skyline Drive

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Alpine Visitor's Center

(note that the other wing of the building is still buried)

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Crackers at Alpine Visitor's Center

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Chipmunk and Horseshoe Bend from Rainbow Curve

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Horseshoe Bend

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Colorado River's Humble Beginnings - We shall meet again!

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The Divide

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Bear Lake

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Hiking at Bear Lake

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Valley in RMNP

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Campsite at Meadow Creek Reservoir near RMNP, Arapaho National Forest

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No Name Rest Area, Glenwood Canyon, I-70

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument

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Black Canyon from Below

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Black Canyon from Below

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My hike into the Black Canyon

(seem from Chasm View, and marked on the picture)

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SOB Draw

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Campsite along the Gunnison River

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I'm outta here!  See ya in New Mexico/Arizona!

Coming Next...

New Mexico, Southern Arizona.

My E-Mail address is: andrew(at)koransky.com

Copyright (C) 1996-2008 Andrew Koransky

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