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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Does your mother always have to pick up after you?
Garden of the Gods
Aaron's Rig Rider Photo
Garden of the Gods
End of day at Arapaho Basin
Dillon Reservoir Panorama
The herd is on the move!
Listen to them go!
Before the Bolder Boulder 10k
After the Bolder Boulder 10k
Campsite near RMNP, Big Elk Meadows, Roosevelt NF
Picnic on the stream
The Skyline Drive
The Rig on Skyline Drive
Alpine Visitor's Center
(note that the other wing of the building is still buried)
Crackers at Alpine Visitor's Center
Chipmunk and Horseshoe Bend from Rainbow Curve
Colorado River's Humble Beginnings - We shall meet again!
Hiking at Bear Lake
Valley in RMNP
Campsite at Meadow Creek Reservoir near RMNP, Arapaho National Forest
No Name Rest Area, Glenwood Canyon, I-70
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument
Black Canyon from Below
Black Canyon from Below
My hike into the Black Canyon
(seem from Chasm View, and marked on the picture)
Campsite along the Gunnison River
I'm outta here! See ya in New Mexico/Arizona!