6. Explore Utah Spring Road Trip…April/May, 2021

day 26 5.15
It feels like a long but pretty drive along 149 going north towards Crested Butte.  Its only 150 miles, but its a twisty, slow, route.  Last night upon arriving in camp, I had to change from my shorts, tank & sandals, to pants, a thermal long sleeved shirts & my boots.this morning I added a puffy jacket & stocking cap.

Theres still lots of snow on the sides of the highways & lots more on the mountain peaks you see.  In between is still mostly brown, muddy & wet.  More winter here than spring.

I just drove & drove taking it all in.  I was feeling my home-away-from-home in the distance & it was a super peaceful feeling.  I knew I was going in the off seasonlots of places closed, some friends maybe not there taking advantage of the non-tourist season & no place really to hike.  But I wanted to be there anyway.  

It had been early when I left camp & I knew the first place I wanted to stop was Paradise Cafe.  Great food, a super awesome sweet staff, & the name of the place is perfect for this special town.  It was warm enough to sit outside & I got a big smile across my face as the owner, Angie, greeted me with a “Hello Vicki!  You’re early this year!”.  Next was Rachel…although she wasn’t my waitperson, she came up & greeted me & said she’d be back to talk camping (it’s a big deal this year & no one knows what the hell is going to happen).  I enjoyed the food & just sitting there taking every single bit of it in.I breathed in beauty.  I breathed in friendship. I breathed in it’s mountains.  I breathed in a place…my place.  There are some people that will think I’m being crazy or dramatic or woo-woo.  That’s ok.  There are others that get it.  They may not feel it here, but somewhere that is more than special; it’s part of them.  And I feel way more grateful than silly to have that magic from here.

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I went on the only hike I thought would be do-able in this mud season, part of Lower Loop down to the river.  It was muddy in places, water running in others, snow along the trail too.  But people were out enjoying the warm-for-here weather & the sunshine.  I love this spot.  When I first started coming here so many years ago, I camped out on Gothic Road for the first few years.  Then I move to Slate River road & my campsite for the next several years looked up into these exact mountains

I decided Id drive the three valley roads & up as far on Kebler Pass as I could drive.  I didnt make it very far on Kebler.I didnt see snow blocking the road, but signs were.  So, I turned around & headed back to Slate River road.

The roads are all in really bad shape…that’s not unusual, but I guess it’s bad shape with some mud thrown in.  I did make it all the way to the campgrounds to check out how the NFS has changed camping in this area.  It was empty in Musicians Camp.  Then I went down to my old campsite.  It’s been marked & designated as one huge site & someone was camping there.

Then I drove out Washington Gulch road.  I drove through 3 snow piles until they got bigger & longer than I was comfortable with so I turned around before I even made it to the new designated camping sites & the site I’ve been camping at for the past few years.

Last was a drive out Gothic Road.  Even with all the brown this is still such a breathtaking drive.  It’s the place that always pops into my daydreams & night dreams.  I didn’t try going all the way down this road….I know where the mud deepens every year & none of the camping restrictions have changed along this valley road this year.  Instead, I just pulled over & looked at the mountains, the river, the sky & the trees.  Such a special place so near to my heart. 

And right as I was driving back up Gothic Road, my spirit animal came out to say hi.  How perfect is that?


Then I drove back into town.  

I was here one year, very long time ago, in April.  CB had gotten record snowfall that year & I was just so compelled to see it deep in snow.  I caught a flight to Denver, then into Gunnison, then a shuttle to the hostel.  I was on foot & that was ok because there weren’t that many places you could drive to…only roads passable were right in town.  The first floors of all the homes were buried in snow…it was a crazy sight.  A whole lot of the businesses were closed.  I had the hostel all to myself for the first two days.  Then a tall, beautiful, 15 years younger than me blonde skier joined me.  Her name was Jodee & we’ve been friends ever since.  Trip magic…but lets face it…this whole town is magic.  That’s why so many people here refer to it as Paradise.

Today, I just strolled the town, always the first time back noting what businesses have left & if new ones have arrived.  It looks so different today.  Last August when I left the main street of Elk was one way; so many restaurants had tables & chairs in the parking areas because of Covid.  Today, it looked normal but without very many people.  It was super quiet.

I went in Townie Bookslove this little place & the couple that owns it are so nice.  They have a set of twin girls about Claires age & Arvin & I always have such good conversations.  I bought a couple of book oriented t-shirts for the girls, then just walked Elk.  

Then I was headed to the Brick.  The best outdoor bar anywhere; the best selection of beer anywhere; & the super cool awesome fantastic owners of the place & I have become good friends.  The skies were looking dark & rain had been in the forecast all day with drizzles & sprinkles on & off.  I moved into the bar & saved a couple of seats.  My friends Rick & Greta were coming to visit & I was so happy to see them.  The new key phrase these days is we can hugwere vaccinated!  And Im so grateful for that.  The next couple of hours was filled with wonderful conversation catching up on all things Crested Butte, families, camping, etc with good beer & food there too.  Dan & Brian, the owners were off today, so before I left, I wrote them a note to say hi & told them how much I liked the 15% beer (Giant Orange Barrel Aged Barleywine) I drank!  And, to get some big stouts on tap soonId be back in June!

I wanted to get the drive over Monarch Pass done before the wildlife started jumping in front of camper, so once all the good bye see ya soon hugs were given, they got on their bikes to ride home & I got in Camper.  Seeing CB in my rear-view mirror usually brings a bit of eye leakage, but I know this time Ill be back soon.

I made one more stop on my way through Gunnison.  So random, but when I was in California, looking up locations of where the Its It bars are distributed, to both my shock & happiness, it said Colorado.  At King Scoopers stores.  So, I stopped at the grocery store I always shop in when headed up to CB & they had one lonely box left & I bought it! 

The first year I discovered these yummy bars, I could find them in a 7-Eleven or a convience store in those little coolers where individual bars are sold.  But once in Truckee, I only found them by the box of 3 in a grocery store.  I bought the box.  The Pacific Crest Trail goes through Truckee (I had hiked on a portion of it that trip).  Outside the grocery store where I bought the box, were 2 PCT hikers refilling their packs.  I offered each of them an individually wrapped bar & they were super excited & thankful.

But, today, with Covid, I felt weird about offering the goodies from this stranger.  So, I unwrapped two, stacked them in a Stanley Stainless Steel container I have & sunk them in ice in my cooler.  Then I unwrapped the one that was left & enjoyed every single bite of it! And I sent my boys a photo.

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I did make it over the pass before dark, but not to a campsite.  But, I eventually found one after dark, tucked in, looked up at the sky, locked up & went to sleep.

day 27 5.16
I figured my hiking was over for this trip.  I was actually in Colorado a week earlier than I thought when I originally left home.  Utah had been getting too hot; Colorado was supposed to get rain &/or snow for the next week.  But I wasn’t done with my road trip yet.

The drive through South Park is always beautiful, usually so filled with cars, trucks & RV’s, but not this morning.

I had wildlife!

I made it into Denver around 9am & ran a couple of errands at a Target then caught up with my sister-in-law on the phone.

At ten, I met my friend Talie at a coffee house then we went out for a late breakfast.  It was so great to see her!  We keep in touch throughout the year, but theres nothing like that hug!  We were able to camp together last year & took nightly walks & a couple of hikes together & it was so special.  So, it was a sure treat to sit across from her & catch up.

Then I met up with my friend Sherry.  She is a professional traveler I followed long before I met her, but we have become friends & she was gracious & offered me a place to stay.  We went to a Kona brewery event, then over to Little Machine…a brewery we both love.  

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Then it was dinner at Hops & Pie…my favorite place to eat & drink in Denver.  The best Cuban sandwich anywhere!

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Back at her place, we visited about her travels…past & future & she answered about 100 questions about the Grand Canyon float trip she took last fall.

day 28 5.17
Sherry was working at home today & after coffee & chat in the morning, I took off to meet my friend Steve.  Hes actually one of Lukes best friends, but hes my friend too.  And everytime I come through Colorado or Florida (he’s sometimes in either place), I love to spend some time with him.  He’s recently moved from Pueblo to Denver & he showed me his awesome place.  Then we walked to a wonderful cafe called Onefold…so good!  Four hours later, we hugged goodbye.  He’s so great!

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I had made a brief stop at me & Dannys favorite liquor store in Denver, but they didn’t have the Russian River beer I was looking for.  That didn’t mean I didn’t buy beer.  Danny loves a certain Colorado Kolsch so his wishes were granted as well as a couple of others he could taste.  So, after I met with Steve, I had a couple of hours to kill before going back to Sherry’s for dinner.

Around the corner, I found a sweet little neighborhood restaurant that had Russian River’s Blind Pig.  I may not get to take any home with me, but I could at least drink one while here.  And, so I did.

I went back to Sherry’s where she made yummy pork carnitas for dinner & margaritas.  More travel conversations…oh wow…she has been to some spectacular places & I loved hearing about them!

day 29 5.18
Well, not everyday is a perfect one.  I woke up this morning with a full blown migraine.  I used to get them all the time, but only about two or three times a year now.  Ive only had two other times Ive had them on a trip.  Crap!  I just knew I was going to be sick.  Sherry was so nice, encouraging me to stay as long as I needed to.  So, I did for another couple of hours.  I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch today, my last day in Colorado & I really didnt want to miss that.  I thanked Sherry so much for her generous hospitality, food, conversation, everything.  She was still being so caring & offering me more time at her place if I needed it.  I hope we can meet up this summer again, maybe in CB or camping somewhere.  Sherry has just bought a vehicle she’s going to car camp in for short trips…I’d love to camp with her sometime!  It had been a wonderful stay at her place!

I had an hours drive to Longmont to meet my friend Joanie, but still had about 2 1/2 hours before our lunch.  I took more meds as I was driving, managed to not puke along the side of the highway & made it to an empty parking lot.  Then I crashed in the back of Camper for about 45 minutes…waking up with no pain, not feeling like I was going to throw up, but still not great.  But, I could meet Joanie.

And I did.  She was so sweet to choose a brewery she’d thought I’d like in Longmont, but understood when I passed on the beer & on most of the food I ordered too.  But it was so great to see her!  I saw her earlier this year when she was road tripping from Ohio. I invited her stay over & we had such a good time.  Today, we picked up right where we left off.  And just like with Sherry, I do hope we get to hike & camp again together this year, as we did last year.  After those hugs were over, I felt like my trip was too.  I wasn’t sure how far I’d drive today, but once you’re in Eastern Colorado & then Kansas, it’s just a matter of keeping the steering wheel in the same place for hours & hours & hours.

I usually leave Denver or the Springs & just drive until I get home, but I knew that wouldn’t be the ending of this trip.  I made it Limon then took a 90 minute break.  I was able to talk to Claire & Emma for the first time in a long time & it was wonderful.  I read to them for the first time on this trip.  That filled me up!

I passed into Kansas, noting the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign on the opposite side of the highway & the two cars pulled off the road their passengers taking photographs in front of the sign.  I happened to be on the phone with Danny at the time & casually mentioned, that I’ve never once, in the hundred or more times I’ve passed the sign “Welcome to Kansas”, never seen one car pulled over or person taking a photo…theres not even a dirt patch in front of the sign.  It’s okay to hate me for my lack of love for my state….someone, anyone, just kick me out!

I found a rest area as it was getting dark, took more Tylenol, an allergy pill & drank lots of water.  It was raining again, but it was nice listening to the pitter pat on the roof.  Then I laid down & welcomed sleep with no headache or nausea.

day 30 5.19
Drove.  Drove.  Drove.  Drove.  Made it home around 10am.  Felt better so I immediately started unpacking clothes & washing them.  Unpacking dishes, cups, thermoses & washing them.  Emptying water from water bottles & water bladders.  Getting everything out that needed cleaned & leaving everything in Camper that didnt.  

It had been a wonderful trip.  Utah is always beautiful, sandy, colorful, & wild.  They may have bad beer but they have great hikes.  And I hiked almost every single day I was there.  I hope the next time Im there for an extended period of time, Danny is with me.  But if not, Ill be back in another 2 or 3 years…it’s a fabulous place!

No pictures of the drive home, because I think its boring.  So, instead, I give you random "Happy Vicki’"s on her road trip.

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1,668 photos

4,628 miles

30 days traveling

2 nights in AirBNB with Pete, Luke & Leia

4 nights at paid campgrounds…total of $37 bucks

23 nights in my 4Runner


Love this sign!

Those Utah no-seeums love me!  
There’s not been one time I’ve visited Utah without getting lots of love-bites from those invisible critters.  This trip was no different.  They love my head & this time explored the sides of my face & one ventured down my neckline. It’s just part of the experience I guess.

Masks were interesting this year.  
In a world where people are still dying from Covid, although thankfully not near as many, the mask issue was diverse.  
In Utah, almost no employees of gas stations, convience stores, grocery stores, post offices, restaurants, etc. were masked.  But most of the visiting patrons were.
In Nevada, California & Colorado, almost everyone was still wearing masks….local & tourists.
The most strict no matter what state, were National Parks, National Monuments, State Parks, etc.
My own state is not wearing masks (not a big surprisemost of the state didnt wear one when it was mandated), except for Lawrence & Kansas City Kansas.

So glad I 
took the amount of beer I did.  I never bought one beer while in the state of Utah (you’re required to buy food too if you order a beer at a restaurant.  And if you don’t order food, they just order something for you, add it to your bill & say, “it’s the law”).

This year I was braver about sandy, dirt & bad roads.  I was braver about hiking & slot canyons.
I was just braver.  

future plans
be sure to check back soon..I wont be home for long!

Peace & happy travels!

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