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

Day 78 8.24
This morning as I was making my coffee in camp, a woman whod Id seen walking to the toilets the night before, walked by & said hello from the road.  She asked where I was from & a couple of other questions & I could tell she wanted to visit.  She was from Wisconsin, but down here looking for a job & staying in the campground until she could find employment.  We visited about the area & I mentioned I’d driven through Temple Canyon Park yesterday.  She said, “I know they have free camping there, but it has such bad vibes whenever I’ve gone there, I don’t want to camp or hike there.”  Yikes!  Someone else who got stopped by their gut & creepy feelings! Its such a pretty place I wonder whats up with it?

I left the campground & drove to the Skyline Drive which was not crowded & beautiful on this early morning..

Still smoky skies as far SW as Canon city.

I drove to downtown Pueblo to meet Steve for coffee at the Solar Coffee house.  Steve is one of Lukes best friends & he’s graciously become a good friend of mine too.  Whenever he’s at home in Colorado or at his home in Florida & I randomly call to meet up, he always says “Yes!” & our visits are great!  We both joke that we had Covid (actually he says I gave him & Matt Covid) last February when the three of us got sick with sore throats, coughs & fevers while were out staying with the Luke, Pete & Leia.  But, we’re both healthy & happy on this beautiful but warm morning sharing an outside table & sipping some good coffee (I had a lavender mocha…a first for me & it was yummy.  It’s rare I get anything other than coffee, but I couldn’t resist!)  We chatted for a couple of hours & I got my second hug of the summer as we said good bye!  What a wonderful way to start my day!

I topped off my tank & backtracked out of Pueblo heading west until I found the turn off for Phantom Canyon Road.  I thought I’d been up this road before, but I think I’d only been up a few miles of it.  The beginning definitely looked familiar, but not most of it.  It was a lovely drive with beautiful scenery.  Any car can drive this road, but not pulling a trailer or an RV.  It’s narrow, curvy, small bridges & there are tunnels.  There’s also dispersed camping, but it was way too early in the day for me to stop. 

The road ends in the town of Victor which has some cool murals painted on the sides of some of the buildings.

I know mining is part of history in Colorado, but it’s also part of this town’s present & future.  Theres an operating mine here doing surface mining.  Raping the land & doing horrible damage.  It’s all so ugly & gross.  You pass this blight as you drive from Victor into Cripple Creek.  It’s awful.  One Colorado town I won’t be re-visiting.

Cripple Creek’s main street is lined with casinos.  As you drive out of town, there are mine tours & lots of old mine crap lining the road.  Then there’s more surface mining….not worth my time to snap another ugly photo.  It’s horrid.

I was headed up the road to hike the Crags trail across from Mueller State Park.  But just as I passed the turn off it started to pour buckets of rain.  I went on by, making a new plan in my head.  I’d meant to go into Woodland Park, about a 20 minute drive north, tomorrow & visit a local brewery.  Bierworks is a place Danny would love for it’s German beer, but they had a big Imperial Stout listed on their website & Colorado sausages (also not a big fan) for food.  That sounded like Plan B.

I found a parking spot & the rain dwindled down to some dripping & went to order my beer & a brat.  The bartender laughed me off saying the website was way outdated & no, they did not have the stout.  I took a deep breath.  It’s a pet peeve of mine that places are so blasé about their own companies website being wrong.  Freestate, a popular brewery & place to eat in Lawrence, never has their website right.  So, you check out the specials & whats on tap, decided it sounds great, then get there & they always shrug their shoulders & say, “oh that’s not up to date”.  I actually rarely go there anymore & wasn’t too happy about todays non-existent stout.  I ordered a sausage (had to cover it in mustard so I wouldn’t ’see’ it…I sometimes have trouble eating sausage.  A leftover from my vegetarian days), & ordered a crappy IPA.  Guess I won’t be visiting this place again either.

Then I backtracked to the trailhead.  Theres a NF campground right by the Crags trailhead, which I guess I would hike tomorrow.

I found a sweet site under some big trees where it managed to stay dry (it’s raining hard again), paid up my $9, sat in the lounge & read a book.  The campground sits at 10,300’ so before long, I was back in my fleece camp pants & puffy jacket.  The host came by to chat, remind me to be ‘Bear Aware”, that a mama moose & her baby had been spotted in camp & on the trail & about trash.

I read most of the evening, but was able to move back outside once the rain stopped.  There was a nice little creek next to the site that made a nice soothing sound.  I made my first cup of hot chocolate this year, warming me up in the damp chilly mountain air.

Day 79 8.25
I made coffee this morning then put on my hiking clothes & shoes & got my pack ready.  The sky was clear of rain, but still a little smoky.  Ive not had any trouble breathing while hiking in all this smoky air, but I do have some weird stuff in my nose…yuck & TMI.  There was a trailhead at the end of the campground I could use, since I’d paid for camping, so I parked up there.  The trail was empty the whole way until I got right to the top & saw one other couple starting back down.

Danny & I have hiked this trail once years ago.  It was a cool morning & I love all these big rocks to look at!  But, no mama or baby moose….sadly.

Crazy twisted tree at the top.

Theres views of a reservoir from the top & of the city of Woodland Park, but mostly hazy smoky skies surrounded me.

After my hike, I drove back to Woodland Park to buy my last bag of ice for this summer….wow…I don’t want to even add up how much I’ve spent on ice.  Then I went to Judges Char grill for a burger.

I’d read there was dispersed camping out on Rampart road…a dirt road that is mostly wash board…not my favorite to drive.  But, as you get closer to big cities like Colorado Springs, you’re only options for camping are RV parks, which aren’t an option for me.  So, up the washboard road I went.  I found a campspot, & while you can’t see it in this photo (I couldn’t see it either), Pikes Peak is behind me.  I had a nice view, tried to hang my hammock but the trees were too far apart & read.  I wondered about the neighbors down the road in a huge RV flying an American flag, a Trump flag & a Confederate flag & the guy who flew up this crappy road in a sports car, set up a tent & smoked pot all night, but all was good in the end.  No generator hummed & all was quiet except for the wind.  I watched the huge pine trees above me sway in the big winds.  There looked like a storm was blowing in, but it never did anything more than sprinkle a bit, but the wind was ferocious.

Day 80 8.26
I left super early the next morning bumping down the crappy road.  In Woodland Park, I bought coffee at Starbucks & changed into hiking clothes in their bathroom.  

The Incline is an old railroad line that goes a mile straight up the mountain on the side of Pikes Peak.  Luke introduced me to it when he used to live in Colorado Springs.  He’d train on it when he was playing soccer in college, so he’s done it many times.  Sara has also hiked to the top of the Incline.  I’ve done it twice before & know it’s super hard, but I hadn’t done for about 12 or 15 years.  But, I was in the best shape I’d been in for a long time & today would be my last hike in Colorado…my 62nd day of hiking!!

They’ve rebuilt the incline since I’ve done it last.  Still railroad ties.  Still freakin steep.  These are not just stairs…some are one railroad tie high, but in some places it’s three with built up rock beneath it…more like climbing over a wall then up a stair.  They’ve added extra securing & replaced all the crappy broken treacherous ties with new ones & added stability on both sides.

They’ve also added a reservation system, which is free & easy to do online, but kind of a pain to know exactly when to go.  The parking is also crazy. You can park for free which adds over a mile to your already tough climb, take a shuttle from somewhere, or pay $10 to park in the lot right below the check in place, which also requires a reservation.  With all my reservations in place, I showed up way early to try to get on the Incline before it became brutally hot.  It was supposed to be 95 today & I was not acclimated to the heat.  I’d been in my puffy coat & fleece pants almost every night & morning all summer.  The days would get warm & even hot for CB, but the minute a cloud passed or you got in the shade, the temps would drop about 10 degrees.  

I was able to check in early both for parking & my climb time.  It was 8:45am, but already in the mid 80’s.

Here I go...

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I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t think I’d start to struggle as early as I did.  I wasn’t the only one stopping.  There were people turning around not too far from the start.  But, after about 25 minutes, I found myself feeling depleted.

I’d stop & drink water, once even eating 1/2 a bar.  There’s a bailout point 2/3rds of the way up & I pulled off the trail once I got there.  I was feeling sicker & sicker as I climbed.  At first I just thought, wow this is so hard it’s making me feel sick.  But soon I knew that wasn’t the case.  I really really really wanted to make it to the top.  My legs were tired, but not too bad.  But I thought I was going to vomit or loose it out the other end.  I headed back up the steps, with 1,000 more to go to get to the top.  After 150 more, I was sitting on the side looking for a place to puke or worse.  My legs were shaking badly.  A guy in his 40’s, super fit & having no problem going up this, asked me if I was ok.  He said I looked bad.  Yikes!  He asked if I needed help.  I said thanks but no I’d be ok.  That’s when I decided to hike back down the 150 steps to the bailout.  I didn’t want to be that person on the trail that couldn’t get herself back down to the bottom.  It was only getting hotter & I knew this was more than just a hard climb.  I’d been thanking my body all summer for sticking with me & doing everything I asked of it…it was my turn to say no to my ego & give in.  Climbing down those 150 steps on shaky legs wasn’t fun either.  Once at the bailout point, I sat drank water & hoped I’d make it all the way back down without losing anything, if you get my drift.

And I did.  I think it was a 2.5 mile hike down on the Barr trail.  I was slow, but made it to the bottom & thank goodness, there was a real bathroom at the bottom of the trailhead, which I visited a couple of times before heading to my car.  By this time, I knew it was the heat.  I drink a ton of water & had on the trail, so I knew it wasn’t dehydration, but the heat.  And I’d confirm that the following days, when my legs weren’t even that sore from the climb.

I was so disappointed, but so grateful I made it back down on my own & ok.  But, I didn’t want this to be my last hike of the trip & such a wonderful summer.  I drank more water & ate a little bit, but my stomach wasn’t feeling too great.

I’ve been to Garden of the Gods quite a bit & figured there were a gazillion people there today.  But I’d never hiked in the Red Rocks Open Space before.  I found a little trail there called the ‘Contemplative Trail’ & decided to slowly take this trail for my last.

My legs were doing better so I found the trail went for it.  These big red rocks are amazing, but it was so friggin hot out.

There are bencssh along the trail & I contemplated the whole way, making sure not to contemplate my failed attempt on the Incline, but contemplated how good I was to check myself & make it to the bottom & contemplated what a fantastic summer of hiking & camping I had & how I was so so so grateful for that.  I contemplated my friends I had in CB, a couple of new friends I’d made & contemplated how Danny & I could get to Florida safely to see the girls & Sara & Kevin after 7 long long months of no face to face or hugs to our growing sweet grand daughters.  I contemplated the whole trail.  Then I contemplated that it was too hot to be out here any longer & worked my way back to the 4Runner.  

I had fun plans for the rest of the day.

I was first introduced to Shugas restaurant by Adi, one of Lukes first friends when he moved to Colorado & one of his best friends ever.  Adi would always bring me here when I came through the Springs.  Tragically, Adi has been gone now for 5 years.  The anniversary of his death was last Sunday & he left behind a wonderful wife, Rose & two of the sweetest cutest boys you’ve ever met.  Luke is their Godfather.  They’ve been to the house before & they are such a delightful family.  Rose is a super special woman & Adi’s death has taught her to embrace everything good now & she is living a great life & teaching those boys to do the same.  But Adi is always in my heart & I think of him often, but when I come to Colorado Springs, he’s in the forefront of my mind.

I ordered what I always dothe Spicy Brazilian Shrimp Coconut Peanut Soup & the Jalapeño Bacon Mac & Cheese…OMG yummy.  I was throwing this all onto my stomach that’d been through hell this morning, but it took it all….thank goodness.  It was mid afternoon, & the outdoor seating wasn’t crowded so I took my time.  I drank almost three carafes of water…it was hot & the spicy food need doused with water, but all was good.  As I ate, I thought about all my Adi memories.  So grateful to have known this wonderful man & good friend to my son & to me.

My next stop didn’t open until 4pm, so I drove the couple of blocks to downtown & walked around.  The streets were practically empty.  The skies were moody looking.  I stopped into a t-shirt shop & found the perfect shirt.  I went in two other stores, but didn’t need anything.

It was time to explore the underground bar & restaurant called The Rabbit Hole.  It’s an Alice & Wonderland themed place & I thought it sounded fun.  The food looked good, but I was beyond stuffed, but I was going to pop for their most popular but pricey drink.  A toast to my wonderful summer (with the exception of missing trips to see Emma & Claire).

The door sits out on the sidewalk like a bus stop only it’s filled with twinkly lights & much cooler.

I was seated at a high top by the bar & checked out the menu but I knew what I wanted. I ordered a glass of water & the White Rabbit…vanilla vodka, coconut rum, & a dash or cream topped with a flaming marshmallow!  A flaming marshmallow…how cool is that?

My bartender said she thought it was awesome I was alone enjoying the atmosphere & she asked me about myself.  Her name was Victoria & she loves to camp & hike…so we talked about travel in Colorado which is always a good conversation for me.

I loved this place!  Going right when they opened I had the place to myself for the first 20 minutes or so & the whole idea of this themed speakeasy was right up my alley.  That drink was super delicious too!

What a nice way to end my trip & end a day filled with both good & not-so good stuff.  

Now it was time to hit the road.  The drive I always dread…ugh!  I always miss Danny & the cats & my friends back in Kansas, but I’ve have been so ready to permanently move from that dull state for so many years now I’ve lost track.  But, it was time to go home.

I drove until dark then right past the Kansas border, pulled into a rest stop, put my sock screens on the windows & rolled them down & pulled out my awesome little bitty fan….it was warm outside & even hotter inside the 4Runner.  But I fell asleep anyway in spite of all the trucks running their generators all night.  I got up in the night to trek into the bathroom, & looked up to the sky.  But sadly, there was too much lighting in the parking lot to make the sky dark. I’d wait until I got home, where it’s darker than here, but not as dark & magical as the skies I’ve been looking at all summer.

Day 81 8.27
I made coffee at one of the picnic tables at the rest area then headed east.

Hays KS is not my favorite town.  They are one of the few places along I-70 in Kansas to charge differently for their gas if you pay by credit or debit card.  In some states, like California, this is done all over & even at coffee shops & some retail shops.  But not in Kansas.  I try to avoid this dumpy little town.

However, there is a brewery here that our friend Larry says is very good.  Id always bypassed it, but today, I was in no hurry to get back, so I decided to have lunch & a beer here.  The beer was surprisingly goodit was hopped with Lavender tips instead of hops…the menu said this process dated back to 2000BC.  But the food was awful.  I asked the waitress about two different entrees & she suggested the fried chicken.  I even asked her what pieces were served.  But out came garlic mashed potatoes so filled with garlic I couldn’t eat them & they weren’t hot.  The chicken breast didn’t look like a chicken breast…it was some flattened thing that looked pre breaded.  I’d ordered the side salad instead of creamed corn & the dressing was awful too.  yuck!  And I got to pay $14 for that crap.  Note to self:  Keep driving right by Hays KS!

So, I left & hit the road only stopping for gas until I got home.  This is the view (not my pic…you can google “the most boring drive” & find this photo of a Kansas highway) I had all day.

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I made it home in the late afternoon while Danny was still at work.  Bob kitty made up with me right away.  But my Sammy kitty looked at me like oh, I thought you were dead, then “I’m so pissed at you for leaving for so long, I won’t let you pet me”.  Once Danny was home, he got a kick of calling Sammy to him & she would come & let him pet her & purr & be all sweet.  I knew forgiveness would take awhile, although I wondered if she was put off by my “natural smell” I’d acquired by living outside all summer or the fact showers were few & far between.  After greeting the cats, that’s what I did next.  I took a long shower & scrubbed all over with a brush…more than once.  It felt nice to be super clean…or at least one layer was gone!

Forgiveness (& passive aggressive behavior) came in the middle of the night when Sammy climbed into bed with me & stood on my chest waiting to be petted. I was happy to do it!

nEw rEcOrds

I always see so many cops when I drive through Kansas…from the western part to near the Colorado Border.  I can drive all the way to the California coast from Kansas & not see the total number I see in western Kansas.  My last record was 12.  This trip it was 17.  Crazy.

Covid killed the opportunity to shower in public places this year.  It wasn’t anything I really considered when I left town, but it wouldn’t have stopped me anyway.  The day the Rec Center in Durango opened up, I happened to be there & was able to buy a shower, but no other Rec centers anywhere else I traveled to in Colorado were ever selling showers…nor were hostels or other places that I usually buy showers.  The second shower opportunity I had came the night before Danny left to fly back to Kansas City…because we stayed in a hotel.  I could have imposed on some of my friends in CB, but probably in a normal year I wouldn’t do that much less in a Covid year.  I had to get very, very creative in the ways I cleaned up.  I hope this is the worst my showering record ever gets…in 80 days I had 2 showers.  It was a good year to be socially distant from others for their sake I guess!

The best new record I set was how long I was in Crested Butte.  I dont have the actual numbers, but I know this is the longest Ive been there both in number of days & this late into August.  Thats just spectacular!!!


2945 photos

6,000 miles

81 days traveling

1 night in a hotel

79 nights in my 4Runner

62 days hiking 

67 trails

tRaiLs hiKeD

  1. East River trail
  2. Emerald Lake & Judd falls trails
  3. Woods walk & Lower Loop  trails
  4. Cliff Creek  trail
  5. Baxter Gulch  trail
  6. Deer creek (Gothic side)  trail
  7. 401 trail
  8. Deadman Gulch  trail
  9. Oh Be Joyful  trail
  10. 403  trail from Gothic
  11. Scarp Ridge  trail
  12. Rustlers Gulch  trail
  13. 403  trail from trailhead
  14. Caves trail/Walrod Gulch & Lower Loop  trails
  15. Blue lakes  trail near Telluride
  16. Perimeter trail
  17. Molas Pass trail
  18. Burnt timber trail
  19. Lower Piedra River trail
  20. Penitence Canyon  trail
  21. Copley Lake trail
  22. Emerald Lake & Judd Falls trail
  23. Oh Be Joyful trail
  24. Poverty Gulch trail
  25. Lily Lake trail
  26. Snodgrass trail
  27. Canal trail 
  28. Talie’s trail to the 403  trail
  29. Meander trail
  30. Upper Upper Loop to Bridges trail
  31. Swampy Pass trail
  32. Gunsight Pass road to Upper Lower Loop up Buds trail to Lower Loop trails
  33. Oh Be Joyful trail
  34. Three Lake Loop trail
  35. Copley Lake to Irwin townsite & loop to car
  36. Scarp Ridge trail
  37. 403  trail
  38. Hadley Pass trail
  39. North Pole basin trail
  40. 401 trail
  41. Timberline Lake trail
  42. Mountain Boy Ridge trail
  43. CT/CDT/Interlaken trail
  44. Ptarmigan trail
  45. Whetstone Vista to Upper Upper trail
  46. Splains Gulch trail
  47. Mill Castle trail
  48. Copper Lake trail
  49. Rustlers Gulch trail
  50. Scarp Ridge trail
  51. Oh Be Joyful to Blue Lake trail
  52. Deer creek road/Woods walk trails
  53. Gunsight Pass Road 
  54. Beaver Ponds trail
  55. West Maroon Pass trail
  56. East River trail
  57. Cliff Creek to Beckwith Pass trail
  58. Caves to 409 to Point Lookout trails
  59. Teddys trail 
  60. Baxter Gulch trail
  61. Crags trail 
  62. The Incline & Red Rocks Open Space Contemplative trail


Sign in front of the Secret Stash.

think we all need this t-shirt this year.

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Saw this while walking from the Perimeter trail in Ouray....curious.

The story about my campsite by Cottonwood Lake….definitely a first for me.  There was a tent set up on the other side of some trees in the camp site next to me.  After I’d made camp, a couple of women came back to the their tent, made dinner & just sat around outside laughing & talking.  I could tell they were a couple.  Then it started to rain lightly.  They went in their tent & I read in the lounge, just listening to the gentle rain falling.  Then I started hear noises.  At first I didn’t know what it was, but then it got a little louder.  Then there was no doubt what it was.  They were, I guess you could say, pleasurable noises…that went on for 20 minutes.  Wow…Then about 20 minutes later, it started all over again.  I was grateful for the small noise the rain was making but boy did they have things figured out.  There’s love of all kinds….but where was that noisy wind when I needed it?

This is along the Oh-Be-Joyful trail in CB….4 miles out in the valley.  A gate for nothing…weird.

The menu at Shugas…note the rotating beer selection.  I love this place!

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As I hiked all summer long on so many trails, sometimes I would look down at the trail & see these tiny foot print impressions.  If you hike a lot, you do look down from time & time & wonder about the tread marks of other hikers or animal prints you see on the trail.  But I had seen these little foot impressions quite a bit & always wonder who made them? (There are those that will agree I’m not the smartest person in the world…not. even. close.)  On my last hike at the Baxter Gulch trail head, I threw off my hikers & one landed sole up.  I started laughing at myself…it was me!  All along! (or someone else wearing Altras, but I didn’t see that many people on trails wearing my shoe type). What an idiot. I guess I never thought to look at the bottom of my own shoes.  Oh well, I don’t have too much ego…I’m good at keeping myself in check all the time!  And, mystery solved.

And, this is all the beer I brought back!  At least there’s something to look forward to this winter.

Paradise…Crested Butte & some things around town.

I took this photo & thought of Tom Petty’s song…”You Belong Among the Wildflowers"

Found in one of my campsites.  Look for the unexpected!

During the strangest year of most of our lives, I had such a great summer.  So many things were different, but the mountains, rivers, skies & trails were all the same; & that was so comforting.

Once again, I am so grateful for the time & opportunity to hike, camp, travel & enjoy so many experiences this summer.  I’m grateful for my friends in Colorado that survived such difficult times in this wonderful town that was hit so hard with Covid.  I certainly hope next year is back to normal & Covid becomes a virus of the past.

Truly the hardest part this year was not getting to see  the girls.  It’s been almost 7 months since we’ve seen them in person as I type this.  It’s been heartbreaking.  But, the great news is, we’re planning a trip down to see them sometime in September!  We’re both off the charts excited!

May we all have a safe year, stay healthy & live in a world where we can hug & see each others smiles again!

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