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

Day 50 7.27
We woke & got up early leaving before breakfast (but not coffee).  A couple of years ago they changed the parking at the Scarp Ridge trail.  It had been on private property, & the owners took it back & blocked it all off.  Now theres a limited amount of parkingits dangerous & awful.  So, for me to be comfortable, I have to get there early, score a spot that isnt vertical & that cant be blocked in.  Danny knows this too, so he was on board.  Once we parked, we could eat & get our packs ready.  This has become a super popular hike, but like most trails, if you start early, you avoid the crowds.

The mountain goat was flying up this trailits one of our favorites for sure!

Looking down into Peeler Basin.

We made it to the top but only one of us was out of breath!  But then when  you take in the views…”it’s breathtaking!  Blue Lake below us in the Oh-Be-Joyful valley.

Love love love this hike!

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Looking over towards Green Lake

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On top of Scarp Ridge together! (And it wasnt windy or freezing cold!)

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After our hike, we stopped near the Irwin Campground & took advantage of one of their picnic tables to eat lunch.

Back at camp we cleaned up a bit, then made dinner & were on Elk watch for the rest of the evening.

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Day 51 7.28
The forecast was for rain & storms this morning, but when we woke up it was just gray.  So, we thought wed pack up, drive up the road a few miles & try to hike the 403 before any storms.

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The trail was re-routed about 3 years ago, & it’s even more wonderful than it had been.  It’s a pretty gentle climb & we both were smiling big as did this hike!

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Looking down towards town & over Long Lake.

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Sitting together again at the Memorial Bench…I hope we do this together for years & years & years.

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The wildflowers were everywhere up here!

At the top!

It was still early when we were finished & camp was on the way down the road.  Jill had given me a packet of freeze dried food that shed purchased but then realized it had dairy in it. It was a Thai variety so I cooked that for our lunch & it was yummy!  We both took a break in the afternoon, me reading.

Talie came out to say hi & to visit with me & Danny.  We planned for her to take our spot when I leave to take Danny back to Denver to fly home.  Danny enjoys visiting with Talie just as much as I do, & it was fun for the three of us to chat.

Danny & I were then headed to the Brick to meet our friend Rick for dinner & a beer.  We were there a couple of hours just catching up.  Brian, one of the owners of the Brick, stopped by to say hi to Danny & then gifted us two yummy bottles of beer.  We chatted ‘beer stuff’ for awhile, then he had to get back to running his restaurant.  

What a fantastic beer & interesting story.

We said good night to Rick after a wonderful evening & headed back to camp to enjoy one of the beers & then head to bed.

Sunset at camp.

Day 52 7.29
We had breakfast in camp then headed out to Gothic road to hike Hasley Pass.  We were unable to hike this last year because the snowplug was still blocking the road so we couldnt get to the trailhead.  So, we were super stoked to hike this trail now.

The trailhead to Hasley is shared with the West Maroon trailwhich is one of THE most popular trails in Crested Butte.  That trail takes you to West Maroon Pass then over to Aspen in 10 hard miles.but many, many people hike that route.  So the parking lot had tons of cars by the time we got there, but the trail didnt feel crowded.

This trail is also known for its wildflowers.millions of them line the trails, the valleys & the mountain sides.  Today was no different…explosions of colors & petals all around us!

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Up, up, up we hike to to the top of the Pass.

Finally at the top.& about 20 seconds later the wind picked up & the temps were freezing.  This kind of always happens to us up hereyou hike for hours then either dont stay too long at the top, or find a place over the side to hunker down covered in your long sleeves & rain jacket!  But, this hike is so worth it!

Freezing & windblown, but so happy to be here!

Weve known for several years that there was another way down from the pass, but we could never find it.  Today, as we masked up & stepped off the trail for two hikers coming down, the woman said they were getting off the trail before they passed us & pointed to a rock cairn.  One we’d never seen before.  

So, on our way down, we too stepped off the main trail & onto a rather faint trail, & followed it.

It got sketchy at one point, but this spot is where we stopped to eat lunch…pretty awesome!

We kept going & going & going on the trail down down down.  By then wed hit a really good trailbut it was going the wrong way & we both knew it.  Danny had seen a side trail Id missed, but we both were curious so continued on the mystery trail.  It was high high above Schofield Park & paralleling Gothic road.  Id looked up here a hundred times before, never saw a trail, but wondered what was up here.  We hiked about 1/2 mile then decided to turn around.  But my curiosity was doing somersaults inside my headI had to find out more about this trail.  

Looking over into North Pole basin.our hike for tomorrow.  What a great & rare view of that basin!

We backtracked to the faint trail Danny had seen & knew it was going in the right directiondown in a super steep way for about a mile or more.  We discussed hiking back up this on Friday, but it was steep!  We finally merged back onto the West Maroon trail not too far from the forested part & then to the parking lot.  I was so stoked to have discovered both the loop back & the mystery trail.

I stopped at the RMBL Visitors Center & Rick was outside.  I asked him if he knew anything about the trail & he didnt.  

I sent Talie a quick text knowing wed be driving right by where she was camped & asked her if she had a few minutes to talk trail.  I pulled out my map & showed her the trail.  She knew exactly what it was & where it went & had been on it before.  I knew she would know!  Talie used to guide around CB & was also part of Search & Rescue.  Yay!  We’ll see if & when I hike this trail.

We went for a burger, salad & happy hour margarita the Last Steep.  Wowit was perfect food!

We made it back out to camp in time to read bedtime stories, although using FT, with Claire & Emmathat was so wonderful!

Then we popped the top of the second bottle Brian had given us, this one barrel aged.  It was fantastic! Then it was almost time to head to bed.

This town is the pot of gold at the end of so many rainbows!

Day 53 7.30
We both wanted to eat together at Paradise Cafe for breakfast while Danny was here, & today would be our best chance.  So, we left camp at 6:45am & arrived to be seated when they opened.  We both ate too much, sharing our food so we could both taste everything…so yummy & such a friendly staff.

Then we made the drive back out on Gothic road, over the shelf part, past the West Maroon trailhead parking & parked in the tiny spot available for this hike.  This isn’t National Forest property, it’s owned by RMBL & the hike has only been opened to the public for a few years.  

There’s also a 1 mile nasty road to drive or you can hike it.  Danny had me drive the road once & I made him drive it back.  You have to drive through the river, (which this year is low & no big deal), but theres a huge deep mud hole right after the river, then the road is filled with big huge rocks you have to drive over & a little tippy area.  And there’s only two parking spots at the top.  Of course, I parked ready to walk the road & another SUV sped around us, busted through the water, then through the mud & flew up the hill.  It didn’t bother me at all & Danny knows better than to mention he could drive up that road…I don’t think he much liked it when he drove it the one time.

North Pole Basin, we learned is named after a mine that used to be here.  There’s no camping allowed or dogs & signs that say to stay on the trail.  It feels pristine & uncrowded…we love it!

I have so many photos of this hike & they’re all mixed up…but here they are!  It’s magnificent!

Stunning field of Rosy Paintbrush.

The trail takes you by two big waterfalls.

A little lake near the beginning of the trail.  And whatever geology that striped rock is, I havent seen it anywhere else around Crested Butte.

The trail that leads way way up to the top!

My favorite shot of the trip!  This ones getting blown up & hung on the wall at home!

A beautiful natural bouquet of Columbine!

This basin feels huge & fantastic.

At the top…windy & cold, but these passes always seem like they are!

Looking over to where were hiking yesterday & Marble Canyon.  No matter how long I looked through my binoculars, I could never find yesterdays trail.

Our lunch spotit was too windy & cold at the top, so we decided to hike down to lunch among the flowers!

Ive seen a lot of Indian Paintbrush, but love these little green spikes growing out of this bloom.

Happy happy girl!

We finished our hike at 7.8 miles & drove into town.  Danny left me at the laundromat while he went for an ice & water run.  Then we went to the Secret Stash for pizza.  We were tired but it had been another wonderful day hiking in these awesome mountains!

Day 54 7.31
We debated whether to hike the mystery-not-anymore trail, or to hike the 401.  Dannys done the 401 several times & thats what he voted for & I was all in for that hike too.  I knew the fireweed would be knee high & I do love this trail!  The trail starts up switchbacks & goes through three Aspen groves then ends up on the side of the mountain.  If you look at the photo below, you can see the trail going across the middle of the mountain.

I’ll just say, as I have about most all of the hikes here in CB, the views are big & wonderful & the wildflowers are outstanding!

Our lunch spot overlooking Marble Canyon (& once again I tried to spot the new trail through my binoculars…no go.)

This had been our longest hike at over 8 miles.  They had all had a ton of elevation gain & loss.  What a great week of hiking together!  

We wanted our last meal here to be the fish & chips (which wed never tried) at the Brick & we discovered a new beer thats going to cost me a fortune if its still on tap when I get back:  Ska Facea barrel aged barleywine.OMG good!.  We took a couple of bottles of beer we had to give to Brian & Dan before we left.

We then went out to camp, took down & packed what we could.  Talie was out there by the time we got back & had her hard sided pop up trailer set up.  We enjoyed a nice quiet evening just sitting around, the three of us visiting until dark.  Danny & I enjoyed our last special beer together in this place we love so much…until next year.

So, a post-Danny trip note:
I had originally been planning (since before Covid) that once Danny left Denver, I would drive west to the Sierra Nevada mountains to hike for a few weeks.  But the incident at Cataract Gulch trailhead with the bear sign, had me researching & rethinking my trip for the past couple of weeks.  I love car camping, but I was clueless what to do with all my food & smellables once at a trailhead or camping in this part of California where the bears will rip of your doors open to get to food or trash or toothpaste.  I put it out on a couple of forums & asked friends of mine who’ve been there before.  The answer was pretty clear….Never leave that stuff in my car.  I need bear canisters, or stay in campgrounds with bear boxes, or a place I can leave all that stuff.  I was sick that I might have to cancel this trip.  I also had high hopes maybe the boys & Leia could meet me for a camping weekend out there, so I’d get to see them too.  But, I couldn’t get around the bear issue.  Then Mammoth had another big bad Covid outbreak & didn’t want anyone coming there.  A couple of days before Danny left, someone posted a photo of a bear break into an SUV…it was destroyed.  What happens sometimes, is the bear gets stuck inside the car (seems they can open the doors from the outside, but not the inside), then tries to rip it’s way out.  While I could avoid going into Mammoth, I couldn’t avoid needing food & toothpaste.  As I’m packed now, it would be a nightmare to try to get everything out of my 4Runner, everytime I’m at a trailhead.  So, before Danny left, I came up with a new plan.  We both talked about me coming back to Kansas & both agreed it was not a fun idea with it being 100 degrees & nothing whatsoever to do.  So, I sadly cancelled my trip to the Sierra for this year.  I’m so bummed about it, but am determined to research more & figure out a bear-proof plan…maybe for next year?

Day 55 8.1
We started our morning with coffee & packingout went everything from the tent,  then the tent came down & we struggled for a bit to get everything we needed to into the Thule.  We said good bye to Talie (for me just for a week or soIll be back! Thats Plan D), then bye to our world traveling super cool neighbors from EnglandClaire & Leon,  then we hit the crazy road towards Boulder (I only had to hit my brakes once as a car came speeding towards me in my lane trying to pass a boatload of carspeople!!!)  

We decided wed spend our last day together visiting our favorite brewery, Avery.  We love their big beers!

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Wow!  It was great!  They had some amazing beers on tap…my fave was the Quinntiki & the Mountain Olsons…but one can only drink a bit before you drive to Denver…so I couldn’t have anymore.  We also ordered their Smoke Platter to split…amazing food!  We moaned & groaned as we ate & drank & enjoyed our last meal in Colorado together.  (As it turns out, I would eat these leftovers for the next two days & they were delicious!)

Then we drove to Denver checking into an Aloft hotel for the night.  I plugged everything I could into the outlets, did a photo dump from the phone to the computer, then went to take my second shower in 55 days.  It wasnt like I hadnt cleaned up in some version before today, but if were just counting showers, Ive set a new record for two in 55.  Thank you Covid.  You would think that being in a real bed for the first time this summer, would be a great nights sleep, but it wasnt.  I checked the time a bunch of times, listened to the air conditioner run & was fairly fitful all night.  

Day 56 8.2
The alarm went off at 5:30am & because theres no airport shuttle this year, we were out in the car & I was dropping off Danny a little before 6am for his flight back to Kansas City.  Neither of us wanted his time to end here in Colorado.

Then I drove to the nearest Starbucks then next door to a Super Walmart that opened at 7am.  I parked by a trash can & thoroughly cleaned out Camper.  Things get a little messy & chaotic when there are two of us in the front & all his stuff in the back.  So, I reorganized, threw stuff away, & finally wiped down the interior of all the dust from all the back roads I’ve driven.

I was at Walmart because my brand new Coleman Pop Up Screen tent had a pole that had split…the metal literally split in three places.  I’d ordered it online & only had it up for two weeks & there hadn’t been any big winds.  It was clearly defective & I didn’t want to haul it around with me when it wasn’t usable.  So, I had my fingers crossed, I could easily return it.  I happened to be the first (& only) person at Customer Service & a nice young girl helped me.  She said no problem, she didn’t need to see the photos I’d taken or for me to unpack the tent from it’s bag & show her the real thing.  But, oh, since it was a marketplace item, I would need to return it in the box.  Knowing I’d ripped the giant cardboard box into a thousand pieces, I asked what else could I do.  It had to have a box.  Did they sell boxes that were 4.5’ long & skinny?  No they did not.  I asked if I could leave the tent there for a few minutes & went to find the box department.  However, on my way out of Customer Service, I saw a grocery cart filled with small folded cardboard boxes as if an employee had restocked something.  I asked the young girl if I could use those boxes & she said yes & she’d give me tape.  I felt like I’d started an aerobics class as I took 5 small boxes & tried to tape them around my giant tent bag.  The young girl at the counter was gossiping with another young girl employee & paid me no attention, except kindly loaning me scissors when I asked to borrow a pair…it’s difficult & yucky to try to cut tape with your teeth when you’re wearing a mask!  But I persevered… & finally had the bag surrounded by cardboard but probably not enough tape to actually make it work.  But one of the girls slapped a mailing label on it, gave me a receipt that said ‘once Coleman received the tent, I’d get a refund”.  Uh oh…I  wondered if that ‘box’ would hold up.  But I have a tracking number & high hopes, but sadly no screen tent.  And the cherry on top is: the lovely shower I’d taken last night where I practically scrubbed my tan off, now no longer made any difference.  My wrestling the tent, the tape & the multiple boxes on the floor of Walmart made me all sweaty again.  Oh well, such is life!

Then I was off to meet my friend Sherry Ott at a brunch spot in Denver called Ivy’s.  The food was delicious & the weather was perfect for sitting outside.  Sherry travels around the world as a profession & I met her because I was a fan of her blog & travels for several years.  Then we met in CB three years ago, then we hiked together out there last year & I even stayed at her apartment one night, & she gave me an awesome cooler!  We’ve kept in contact & I was really looking forward to catching up.  Her job & life is different with Covid (as is everyone’s, but if you travel as a profession & can’t leave your city, it’s a problem).  We chatted & ate & laughed.  She’s handled all the Covid stuff way better than I have!  I have written an article or two for her website & she surprisingly told me that my article on Car Camping is one of her most read articles!  Wow…I had no idea.  We moved to the park across the street to visit a bit more, then she came over by Camper & asked to make a quick video of my set up.  I love talking about Camper, so we took a few minutes to make a quick video.  She posted the piece on her FB & IG page…kind of fun stuff!  We said good bye & I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon….maybe sooner than later!

Then I took off driving the dreaded I-70.  It was Sunday & around noon, so I hoped that meant I might not be stuck in traffic for hours or nearly killed by big trucks & huge RV’s.

My friend Mary Ellen from Flagstaff, told me about a pretty lake near Leadville they’d camped at last year.  I’d never been to Turquoise Lake, so that’s where I was driving this beautiful Sunday.  There’s not much dispersed camping around the lake (actually theres a sign that says there’s NO dispersed camping), but quite a few National Forests Campgrounds.  I’d tried to check on line & everything seemed full.  The first one I drove to was where Mary Ellen stayed called Molly Brown.  I went straight to the host & asked if anything was available.  There were two sites (neither by the lake) one for two nights & one for only one night.  I chose the one night one & backed Camper in.  It costs me $9.50 & is the third paid campsite since I’ve been on this trip.  It was nice to have a picnic table & I had trees so I set up my hammock.  Then I took a walk down to see a really pretty & large lake.

While the campground was nearly full, the beach was pretty empty.  So, I hung out awhile down by the clear & chilly water.  Then I walked back to camp, ate something, read in my hammock until it started to sprinkle.  This would be how the afternoon wentsun, rain, dark clouds, repeat, repeat.  Nothing bad at allbut for 6 hours, the giant RV directly across from ran his generator.  It was about 70 degrees outside.  I guess I dont understand why people do thatit was a group of five & they sat around the picnic table most of the afternoon, so they could hear it too.  It seemed to have two volumes:  loud & even louder.  He had every right to run the noisy thingquiet hours are usually from 10pm to 8ambut really?  why?  

I was trying not to let it drive me crazy, but it always does.  I’ll call it a pet peeve.  So, I walked back down to the lake to watch the sunset…it was beautiful!

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Danny had gotten home around noon, told me the animals were all good, the grass had grown & he didn’t want to go back to work. The guy finally turned the generator off around 8:30.OMG I loved the quiet.  I tucked in at dark reading a book about the Camino trail in France & Spaindreaming of more & more travels.

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