5. Colorado here I come! (& bringing my face masks)…June & July 2020

Day 29 7.6
I  left early in the morning for Lake City driving past Lake San Cristobal…which is so pretty.  It was early enough that there weren’t a gazillion ATV’s &  jeeps out ready to climb the gnarly back country 4x4 roads in the area.  I was headed to the Cataract Gulch trailhead.  I’ve successfully hiked this trail one other time…one other attempt but turned around during a lightening storm, so I was hell bent on completing it this time.

The drive back to the trailhead is gorgeous, although I was sad to see beetle kill trees along the way.


Once I finally got to the trailhead I was greeted with this sign:  

This isnt your typical Bear in the Area signthis one means business & its rare to see them in Colorado.  There was a bear box at the trailhead, but Id have to unload a boatload of stuff from my car, including the cooler, which meant the bear box had to be empty & then I would take up all the room.  You cant even leave lip balm or toothpaste in the car with an aggressive bear in the area.  I called Danny & asked him if I was crazy to kill this hike?  I knew the right thing to do was to not hike the trail when I couldnt take everything out of my car.  He agreed.  On this two week trip, Ive been busted out of 2 of 3 of the hikes I specifically came on this route to do.  But, I didnt want to be responsible for a bears destruction or have Camper torn apart. 

Sadly, but rightly, I left the trailhead. (And later in my trip, this whole situation will play a big part in my post-Colorado plans.)

I drove up to Gunnison, stopped for ice then found a spot to camp at Hartman Rocks.  Its such a cool area with huge boulders & it sits up high on a hill.  Ive camped here a couple of times with Jill & other times by myselfits a great place to watch thunderstorms too.  

I ate lunch (nice to have a picnic table…rare with free camping) & worked on my website, then took a break & went for a walk all around the trails & up & over the giant rocks (I love rocks!)  I made dinner later in the evening, visited with Sara on the phone & had a little bit of jalapeño cucumber lemonade left so I added my last tiny bottle of lemon vodka to it…it was a happy happy hour!  It was a nice cool evening & so I just sat & read (& discovered one of my Kindles was not workingso I messed around with it for over an hour trying to fix itno luck.  Jill had given me this one, when she got a new one, but I still have my old onethank goodness!  Id be lost if I had nothing to read).

Then it was time for the sunset…& I found myself running up on the rocks & taking photo after photo.  I FT Danny to show him too….it was a spectacular show of color!

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I was ready to settle in the for the night….tired & happy with my campspot…

however….

Day 30 7.7
I had noticed while in my campsite for a few hours yesterday, there were tons of chipmunks running around playing. Once it was night, they weren’t ready to restall night long I could hear scrambling under my car & up around my wheelsit was Disneyland for chipmunks.  I didnt sleep much.

I did finally doze off & they happily woke me up in time to see a gorgeous sunrise!

I packed up my stuff & headed homeback to Crested Butte!  It was about 8am when I drove down Washington Gulch road looking for a particular camp spotnot available.  Then I drove down Slate River road looking for campingit was full.

I took a break & went to Paradise Cafe for a yummy breakfast.  Then I started the process again.  Instead of just me camping this time (I can practically go anywhere), I needed to find camping for my brother & his wife which would be spending a few days with me & they were going to tent camp.  Also, Jill & her husband were coming out the following week & needed a spot thats level & in the sun for her teardrop.  I call Slate the zoo because theres always people crowding in there.  But, on my second run of the morning, I found the perfect place.  It was on the end just above the river.  And Slate has bathrooms, which Jill wouldnt need but my brother & his wife would.  It was a little dusty, but I felt lucky to get this spot.  So, I set up my backpacking tent & then the screen tent to hold my place.

Then I went back to town, worked on fixing the broken Kindle a little more, downloaded more ebooks to my working Kindle & decided Id just pack away the broken one until I got home.

Back at camp it was super windy & dusty!  I read some, took a river-bath, read some more & made dinner.  As I looked around my tents, the wind had shredded the roof of my screen tent & ripped a place on my rainfly on my backpacking tent. Bummer!

People came to set up, but it wasnt too crowded.  I set up my chair & watched the ridge through my binoculars for wildlife & just listened the music of the river.

Day 31 7.8
I made breakfast in camp, then went to town for ice.  I was headed up to Kebler Pass to hike a short hike to a beautiful mountain lake called Copley.  The flowers were pretty & the lake is pristine.  


Mt. Ruby & Mt. Owen behind the lake.

Theres a meadow that sits behind the lake…usually soppy from melted snow, but today it was dry.   I’ve been wondering if there was a way to hike from this lake up to Scarp Ridge or to Lake Irwin.  I hiked back through the meadow & found a trail.  One our ‘rules’ about me hiking solo, is I don’t go very far off trail or change trails without me notifying him…it just feels safer for me & more peace of mind for him if I stick with this.  But, I was planning to bring up this trail once Danny get’s out here later this month….I want to see where it goes.  Once back at the car I pulled out my topo map & the trail was called a “pack road’ & looked like it went all the way to Lake Irwin.  We’d find out if it did or not, if Danny was up for it when he comes out.

Once back in town, I strolled by the Brick to see what beer they had on tap.  I was sad to see one of my least favorite Imperial Stouts on tapwell, that would save me some money anyway.  Its made by Stone, which brews fantastic beer, but this one is full of chocolate, cinnamon, & vanilla.ick.  I bought a six pack of Bs hard cidera popular local cidery from Paonia & I’d try it back at camp.  Then I stopped at Third Bowl, which normally has the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten.  They’ve moved this year & are inside one of the eateries.  I waited in a long line (all 6’ apart) & finally got my small scoop.  It was good, but not like what I’ve had of theirs in the past.  I’ll blame it on Covid—but doubt I’ll splurge for another cone anytime soon.

I’d noticed when I got back to camp, an SUV was pulled off the gravel area & had driven down over the flowers, through the rocks & on the grass into a no camping spot (there was a sign right in front of where they parked…guess they figured they could park there even if they weren’t camping).  I swear it was like 20’ from the parking area. A Forest Service truck drove in about that time, wrote them a note & stuck it on their windshield, then moved the rocks (that are intentionally put there to block cars from driving down there) back to where theyd been.  They took a photo of the car & sign, then drove out.

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I watched the group of 4 stroll up from the river, read the note, shrug their shoulders, then back up the car (running over more flowers) & drive outuntil they hit the rockwhich didnt seem to phase them or hurt the car.  They backed up (in more grass & flowers) & found a way out. They didnt have a handicap license plate nor did anyone seem like they couldnt have just walked the extra few feet from the gravel parking areaI just sat & rolled my eyes at the ignorance & lack of common sense of some people.

I tried the cider (yuck) & finished a book & called it a night!

Day 32 7.9
My brother & his wife were due in sometime today, so I left camp & ran errands in town.  Id left him a voicemail to let me know when they arrived, but I guess he didnt get it.  I called him when I was done with my stuff to see what time they thought theyd arrive, & it turned out they already had & decided to go out for lunch.

I walked back to the 4Runner & made lunch out of my cooler & called Jill to chat.  Once they were done with lunch, they wanted to go out to camp & set up their tent & that’s what we did.

After a couple of hours, we drove out to hike Judd Falls & then up to Emerald Lake.  


I wanted to check out Gothic Road & see if the  washouts were still bad at the top of the road….they were even worse than before I left.  We watched a bunch of young girls in a huge Suburban (probably belonged to ‘Daddy’) tear & bump & jolt through the washes…they were laughing all the way! (That’s an $800 tow if you break something out there!)



After our hikes, we went back out to camp & each made our own dinner.  It was a beautiful night!

Day 33 7.10
Not sure Mike & Pat were enjoying my type of dispersed camping so much by morning.  They’d left their trash under the rainfly on the tent & at 4:30am when I got up to pee, I saw it all over the campsite.  I grabbed my headlamp & a trash bag, & picked up plastic bottles, bits of leftover food & other trash some varmint & strewn all over.  I’ve been called a “dictator” by my brother-in-law & I think Mike thought I was being over-zealous when I tried to inform him (I think he thought it was a lecture) about trash & how to keep a camp clean & critter proof if you’re very careful.  They were cold in their tent & ran into their car at the crack of dawn & started the engine & the heater.  While they stayed at camp & ate breakfast, I went to town to buy both of us ice & to throw away all the trash.

After I got back, we all drove down the road to the Oh-Be-Joyful trailhead to go for a hike.  It was a super lovely day, although the mountain sun was super hot, but they enjoyed the hike, the waterfalls & the flowers…I always love this hike (this was the third time I’ve done this hike this summer).



Mike was ready for a break before heading back all the way to the trailhead & wanted to take a nap & soak his feet, so I left them to enjoy the day & headed back down the trail & on towards camp.  I washed up in the river & poured myself a really good beer…yummy & then just relaxed by the peaceful river.

Once they got back, we each made our own dinner.  Then we were approached by a guy that was a paraglider & wondered if one of us would be willing to drive him up to Paradise Divide in his truck & bring it back to park here.  I thought Mike might do it, since he mentioned he could have driven up Judd Falls road rather than walked it, but I knew I wouldn’t do it in anyones truck.  The last two miles of that road is one lane with a 1000’ drop off on one side.  The guy was super nice, Mike passed on driving his truck & he figured out another way to get up there.

Then we watched as they all glided down.  I shot video & later sent it to them.  It made for an entertaining evening & Mike really enjoyed visiting with the glider guys & another neighbor watching it all up close.



Day 34 7.11
Mike & Pat were going to take a drive up Kebler Pass today & skip hiking.  They ended up getting a bolt in their tire & spending a good chunk of the day getting it fixed.

But Id plan to do a hike thats about a mile down the road from our campsite & I didnt have service so didnt know about their dilemma until later in the day.

Poverty Gulch road is at times ok to drive & in places super crazy…& each year it changes.  This is another, among many roads out here, that guys I know that want to hike with me, continually tell me they could have driven.  You also have to cross the river in your vehicle, which this year was no problem…the water wasn’t very deep.  But there’s a huge hole once you come out of the river again.

But, I was alone today so I walked the two mile road…happily.  And, yes, it was crazy in some places & I was glad I was on my feet!  There’s a pass you can hike to or over from this road called Daisy Pass…it’s one of my least favorite passes to hike since you practically have to crawl up the last section & it’s only a few feet wide at the top.  I do intend to, in the future, go over this pass one more time in my life & hike down the other side into Oh-Be-Joyful valley.  That requires a car shuttle…so as soon as Danny get’s his “camper truck”, I’m in for that hike.

But for today, I wanted to explore another part of this basin that’s an old mining road.  There are several beautiful waterfalls along this road!

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After the road ends & crosses the water, it gets super rocky…hard on the bottom of your feet!

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As you hike farther up the basin, you can see Daisy Pass…up by that lone tree.




You can see the old mine road in the center of the photo…I hiked it for awhile, but realized it just dead ended, so I turned around & started the long hike back to my car.  

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Once back at my car, I took off my hikers, put on my sandals & walked back to the river to clean up & cool off.  

Mike & Pat had gotten their tire fixed & we all went out for yummy dinner at the Brick.  Then I made an ice, water & beer run before going back to camp.  The paraglider was back tonight & Mike spent a couple of hours visiting with them & several camp neighbors.  I had my last glass of Port, then Pat & I called it a night & went to bed.

Day 35 7.12
Mike & Pat were headed out today making the drive to Montrose & staying in a hotel for the night.  I hope they had a good time here in Crested Butte. After Montrose, they are headed for a few days in Ouray to stay at a KOA.

I went back to town & visited with Danny this morning.  Then drove out Kebler pass to do a short hike up to Lily Lake.  Ive done this hike at least 5 times before, always stopping & turning around once I get to the lake.  But, the lake came before I was done on the trail, so I kept going.  



I thought maybe the trail might loop through the woods to the other end of the lake,  But instead, as I hiked further down the trail, I could see big open space through the trees.  OMG!  The view was incredible & I knew exactly what I was looking at.  Id seen this view while driving down the pass road before.  Theres a great view of the Castles, a unique rock formation in the West Elk Wilderness.

Looking down towards the huge waterfall.

I couldnt believe Id never hiked up here in all the times Ive done Lily lake!  I was smiling so big all the way back to the trailhead!


I went to Bonez for happy hour & tried the Elote dip…OMG…it was fantastic!  Town was mellow & so was I after dinner (Bonez has the best & most potent margaritas!)

Camp was mostly empty when I got back, but as the evening wore on, more & more mostly vans (everyone wants the ‘van-life’) filled up the campsite.  I got out my Kindle & read right before an evening rain & thunderstorm hit.


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