3. New Mexico: Unfinished travel with a surprise ending…Sept/October, 2022

Day 9 10.4
I’d hoped to go tour the Taos Pueblo on this trip, but it was closed today & tomorrow.  I’d read about this quirky tiny town just north of Taos called Arroyo Seco, so I drove up there early this morning & bought a cup of coffee & walked the town.  It’s really cute!  Everything was closed up except for the coffee/ice cream store called “Taos Cow” & the Organic Grocery.  But I’d love to come back here next time I’m in the area & check out these fun looking little shops.  

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I was getting ready to begin a scenic loop that would take me far north through the mountains…but first I stopped in Wild Rivers Scenic Recreation Area near Questa.  Last night, I’d search for a trail that might climb down into the Gorge I’d seen on my drive in yesterday, & discovered this area & the trail I wanted.

A little wildlife along the road.

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I found the trailhead, packed up & started the climb down the many switchbacks to the bottom.

Getting closer to the bottom of the Gorge.

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The river was gorgeous & flowing well with all the recent rains.

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And, then it was time for climb up from the bottom of the Gorge to the top.  I was grateful for the rocky trail…no mud.  Although you can see where there is damage to the trail & washouts from the recent rains.

Even through the stormy clouds, you can see the fall colored golden aspens on the mountain.

The view from the backside of my campsite.

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I took advantage of both this metal wall on the side of my picnic enclosure & a bit of sunshine to take a quick cold shower….it felt great!

The forecast was for tons of rain tonight & the next couple of days…but for this moment, it’s still dry….but don’t think it’s going to stay that way for long.

Day 10 10.5
It poured rain all night long with tons of wind too.  I’m glad it was night…it was miserable outside. 

Early this morning, I received a text from my friend Joanie.  She was planning a trip to Crested Butte, to photograph the fall colors in the town; she was asking about where to camp.  I gave her my advice, then told her because of the weather down here, I was considering bailing on my NM trip.  Roads & trails were muddy; the scenic drive I was about to do, was covered in white clouds, hiding the views.

She suggested I drive up to CB.  I texted back that probably not—hunters, fear winter weather, blah blah blah.  In the next minute I was checking the weather in CB, then Maps to see how far it was.  Within 15 minutes, I climbed out of my 4Runner bed, brushed my teeth & was headed north.  Yay!  I was heading to my happy place!

I was only 4 hours away.  When I got to Alamosa, I texted my friend Talie to let her know I was coming up to CB at least for a couple of days.  She asked is she could camp with me & I said a happy “YES!”  By noon, I was driving up to my favorite place to camp. Then I set up a tent to hold my spot out on Washington Gulch road.

Gothic mountain was all dressed in fall colors…it was just breathtaking!

And, so was Snodgrass mountain…covered in gold with Mt. Crested Butte standing strong in the background.

My first stop was the store for ice.  I was happy to see a couple of friends of mine in the parking lot & we chatted for a few minutes.

It was still early in the afternoon, so I drove up to Ohio Pass road…one of the most popular leaf peeping areas in Gunnison County.

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The Castles were gorgeous….in front of them were the gold, greens & oranges of the Aspens; & behind, the formations were snow capped mountains, getting ready for winter.

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From the moment I left New Mexico headed to this place, I had a big smile on my face.  Believe it or not, this is my first October I’ve been here…it’s fantastic!

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I spent the afternoon, driving around taking in all the color of the season.

Taking a walk downtown, I ran into my friend Kate & we visited for a bit; glad she’s doing well.

Later that day, Talie & I met up to go Burro visiting; a part of the Living Journeys organization.  

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Posing with Kokomo, the Burro.

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Then we went to dinner at the Eldo for some Nepalese food before heading out to camp.  We grabbed some firewood on the way back to camp & built a fire to chat by & also, take in its warmth as the chilly night descended.  I am so happy to be back in this special place!

Day 11 10.6
This was my view early this morning….the frost not quite to the top of the side window that looks onto the mountain.  It was down into the mid-20’s last night…& I was grateful I’d brought winter clothes with me.  Better pack those sandals away!

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It was a dry sunny morning…chilly out at camp, but once the sun comes out, it’s just perfect (even in the 30’s).  Talie & I enjoyed coffee in camp & catching up.

Kebler Pass road is probably the most popular drive outside of CB because of it’s enormous aspen groves…the largest in the United States. I love hiking the trails off this road & driving it anytime, but paved in gold leaves…it’s spectacular!

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Hiking along the trail.

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From the viewpoint along the Horsepark Ranch trail.

Looking up to Mt. Ruby & Mt. Owen.

The golden trail.

Looking up is amazing!  Blue & Gold…a perfect combination1

The Beaver ponds reflect the gold in the trees.

More snow kissed peaks.

The Dykes rock formations with their amazing burst of orange beneath.

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When my hiking & driving & leaf-peeping were done for the day, I met my friend Rick at Kochevar’s in town for a beer & some catch up conversaton.  Then I met up with Talie & helped her deal with some stuff in her storage unit…she’s downsizing even more.  She’d invited me to her place for dinner & it was yummy!  

Then we both headed back out to camp, built a fire, pulled up our chairs, bundled up & enjoyed the evening.

The Alpenglow comes much earlier this time of year.  It’s one of the things that makes camping like I do more difficult…I lose about 4 hours of daylight this time of year, as well as the night temps are much much colder.

But, looking at this mountain with it’s sunshine-spotlight, never gets old.  I was determined to stay a bit warmer tonight than last night, so I layered up even more & snuggled farther down into my “princess & the pea” bed.

Day 12 10.7
It was cold last night…about 22 degrees.  Pretty frost on the ground just waiting for the warm sun to rise & melt it away.

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This morning I went to breakfast at Paradise…such yummy food & nice staff.  Rachel, said “Hey welcome back” & it was great to catch up with her.  I wanted to spend part of today, driving 4 valley roads…Cement Creek, Brush Creek, Slate River & Gothic.  It was great!

Red, gold, gray…so many colors along Brush Creek road.

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A duck pond reflects the gold from the mountain above.

Then I drove down one of my most favorite valley roads, Gothic.  This is the place I camped for the first few years I came to Crested Butte.

The 401 trail that crosses the mountain below, is one I’ve hiked so many, many times.  It was strange to see it dressed in mostly brown.  I’m used to climbing up there & hiking it when it’s filled with many shades of green & tons of bright wildflowers.

Big, bold, red Avery mountain with her forests of green & golden Aspens today.

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The East river along Gothic Road.

I am usually a pretty fast traveler…every day getting up early hiking, then driving to a new campsite…I’m on the go most of the time.  When I’m in CB, I do usually camp in same spot for as long as I can, but everyday is filled to the max.  

Today, I decided to slow down.  I had driven around & hiked since I showed up a couple of days ago, driving to all the best leaf peeping places.  But I thought the most beautiful spot, was right here in camp, next to Gothic mountain.  So, I spent the rest of the day hereenjoying the warm sun, the birds, a few deer, some annoying cowsbut mostly just being back in this place.

Im made some Sunday Hot Chocolate (hot chocolate with Kaluha) & passed the afternoon quietly, lazily & doing nothing.

Love my little 4Runner Camper & the way I travel!  What a gorgeous place to wake up to in the morning & fall asleep at every night.

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Every evening, I’d watch the sky change the colors on Gothic…the perfect entertainment!

The clouds were just amazing, turning the sky into a paint palette.

What a fun night this would turn out to be!  My friend Tracy came out & the three of us chatted & stoked the fire.  Tracy & I love the same big beers, so we shared some of those (maybe a wee bit too much!).  Then Joanie showed up after fighting the Denver traffic & 4 hour drive from her place.  

I am continually blown away by these three women.  I feel so fortunate to be their friend.  I made a toast: to these three independent, solo traveling, car camping, awesome, strong & interesting women.  I met them all in this special town & so grateful I did!  They have definitely made my life richer & I hope they feel the same about me.  We do feel like a unique breed…women who’d rather spend time living outside & don’t miss the finer, posh, popular things in life…or even flush toilets.  We’re good in nature!  It was such a blast & I couldn’t quit smiling & pinching myself I was here, in this beautiful place, listening to coyotes howl, smelling the fire & being warmed by it’s coals…but more than anything, it was these friendships.  PS:  I love introducing my like-minded friends to each other.  Last summer I introduced Tracy & Talie, now Joanie was part of this special clan.  It was just perfect!

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