Colorado

The flight was uneventful; I liked JetBlue. I couldn’t help noticing “Outdoor World” as I drove to my hotel. As I was a little lazy the next day, I was able to stop in just after it opened. They have everything the outdoor person or outdoor wannabe could need. From thousands of fishing rods to furniture to make your house look like a camp to stuffed wildlife to waterfalls and guns. The building was Huge, designed in a Rocky Mountain style complete with huge lodgepole timbers hollowed out to fit around the I-beams holding the building together. It wasn’t until I checked the internet that I realized there are quite a few of these stores around the country.

After Outdoor World, I headed to Grand Lake on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park via Boulder and Estes Park. I volunteered doing trail work there a few years ago, and planned to visit some people I knew. When I stopped in Estes Park to stock up on groceries, I was pretty sure I recognized the person shopping for Salad Mix. Sure enough, it was Amnesty, one of the people I was planning to visit. After shopping, I talked my way into the park without paying the fee, although the entrance guy wasn’t too happy (maybe he gets a commission). I headed over to the west side, stopping to check out some bridges I helped build in 2003. That night, I went to a party for a trail crew leader who was leaving.

The next day, I was planning to do a hike with another friend, Mark, but he was a little under the weather due to the party, so I did a hike close by on a trail on which I had never hiked. The falls I hiked up to were cool. I was walking down the trail, minding my own business when I was pretty sure I recognized the person walking up the trail; it was Amnesty and her boyfriend. Of the many trails there in the area… After hiking, I met up with Mark and played a little pool at “The Rope” (The Lariat Saloon). The Lariat can be an interesting mix of tourist and local, where the thrill of the night might be the bear in the dumpster by the back door or the tall woodsman looking local guy (we called him Chewbacca) yelling at “Front-Rangers” (tourists from the Front Range of Colorado). At any rate, this night was uneventful. They’ve just banned smoking in all bars in Colorado, and we were actually surprised to see that The Lariat had succumbed. Of course, everything in the place is so infused with smoke that one almost wishes for some fresh smoke to cover up the staleness. I found myself with the same old scratchy irritated throat when I left. The walls are full of pictures of all sorts, animal heads, a horses ass and random signs. It wasn’t until I was checking if The Lariat had a website that I found that it shares it’s name with an “alternative lifestyle bar” in Arizona, very different places, I’m sure.

“From its wooden boardwalks to the hitching post in front of the Lariat Saloon, Grand Lake overflows with rustic charm.” http://www.trails.com/all-hotels/city-hotel.asp?dest=CO+Grand+Lake

I might substitute overflows with oozes and charm with kitsch.

Mark and I did a one-way mountain bike ride from forest service land onto Sol Vista Ski area, just outside of Granby. You might remember Granby as the site of the armored bulldozer rampage a few years ago.

Next I headed out of the Granby/Winter Park area toward Colorado Springs on the way to Taos New Mexico which is near the highest point in New Mexico. It’s amazing how easy wandering around without plans has become lately. I needed two things… A wireless connection to Priceline a room for the night and to get my glasses fixed. I used my map program to find a lenscrafters 60 miles away along my proposed route, and on the way to that mall, borrowed a Days Inn wireless connection to make my reservation.

In Colorado Springs I watched some pretty good 4th of July fireworks (military town and all). They had two whilte lines painted down the center of the field where people set up to watch the fireworks. It would have been lost on me what they were for, but it turns out, they were to keep a walkway going down the middle of the field. Even more surprising was that no one was sitting in the designated walkway (military town and all). The next morning outside of Colorado Springs, I drove up to the top of Pikes Peak. I asked the “Ranger” at the entrance station if she had any idea if how clowdy it would be. She picked up one of those Magic 8 Balls. I got the point. The drive was fun even though the sun didn’t ever really peak out, but there were a lot of different views.

On the way down to Taos, I got dumped on. People always talk about sheets of rain, and everyone has seen them, but I had never seen any as distinct as this. Once in Taos, I drove up to Taos Ski Valley to find a camping spot with the intention of hiking Wheeler Peak the next day. It wasn’t until I got into the Carson National Forest that I remembered during high fire danger, they completely close the forest. There is no camping, no hiking, no nuthin. I met another guy, by chance from Massachusettes who was also planning to climb, and more bummed out than me. After I found a hotel in town, I found out the forest was opening the next night at 12:01 AM (as the forest service lady was very specific to point out). To pass the day, I rented a mountain bike and biked along the Rio Grande Gorge.

I camped at the Abominable Snowmansion hostel that night (unfortunately the Tepees were all filled up), and set off at 4:30 for the trailhead. I was encouraged to see the sun come up and hit the west side of the valley I was hiking through, but I didn’t see the sun again. The first two miles of the trail is easy. The next .75 miles rises about 2000ft, which is a real stairmaster, especially approaching 13000 ft. The top was very clouded in.

After the hike, I headed back to Denver. I had really wanted to camp in Great Sand Dunes National Park, but the weather out look was bad. I stopped at the fort store on the way. I knew I really had a hankering for something, but I didn’t know what. I knew it when I saw it. It was “Hot Asian Peanuts.” mmm….

That night I got a beer with my friend Joe and spent the next day wasting time in rainy denver. Yeah, that’s right rainy. Joe said it had rained the most over the last few days than he had seen since he started living there a few years ago. From what I heard the week was nice in New England; however, I brought the rain to Colorado and back again.

“I bet it’s painful for you to watch a woman with tools.” “My husband would make me give him the tools.” “Not really, I can’t see anything, so I don’t know what you are doing.” “Well, it’s very technical.”

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