9. Utah, Nevada, California & Colorado…May/June/July.2018

Day 64 7.23 
Jill was up for a bigger hike today, so I chose West Maroon Pass trailhead to the meadow.  Shed never been on this one before, but Ive been on it lots & knew the trail was mostly soft dirt & no water crossings.  We left camp super early to avoid any thunderstorms that might pop up during the afternoon.  We drove out Gothic road & Jill wasn’t too sure if she was going to be able to ride in the car along the oh-so-skinny-hundreds-foot-drop-off road, but she did.  We had to pass a couple of bikers near the narrow part, but fortunately no cars came our way so I wasn’t forced to back up (yikes!)

We hit the trail & hiked all the way into the meadow & had views of West Maroon Pass.


This is one of the most popular hikes in CB.  Many people hike over the West Maroon Pass all the way to Aspen…it’s 10 miles.  I hiked up to the pass a couple of years ago & Danny & I have twice hiked from the Aspen side to the pass…once backpacking all the way over to Gothic road, hitching down the road, then back over East pass to Aspen. But today, Jill & I were just doing about 3 miles in or until she felt she needed to turn around.  The day was beautiful & sunny with clear skies!



On the way back down, Jill’s knee started to hurt.  It hadn’t hurt before, but she hadn’t been going ‘down’ the last two days.  She made it back to the car with no problems but some pain.  She thought maybe shed tweaked it during the fall when she sprained her ankle.


IMG 4643.jpg

We headed back to down Gothic road & made a quick stop for each of us make a purchase at RMBL.  Greta was working & ran out to talk to me right as we were leaving.  She’d just bought a 3rd Gen 4Runner & wanted to see my set up.  Welcome to the Club! (Rick owns one too.)  She got a good deal on it & I checked it out in the parking lot as we drove off. Go Greta!

We popped back into camp for awhile then went to town to go to Bonez for Happy hour!  Tonight was the free concert in town & I was planning on going.  Jill’s brother was unable to make it to town, so she went with me.  The music was good, but the people watching is so much fun.  

IMG 3796.jpg

There were a lot of dancers & then I looked out to see Talie with a giant smile on her face & her bare feet dancing the night away!  I felt so happy to see this wonderful woman feeling good & physically able to enjoy all the things she loves so much! (She’s in pink with the great big smile!)

IMG 3800.jpg

We left the concert a little bit before the end, so Jill could start the process of hooking up the trailer…she’d be leaving early in the morning.  I watched her do her thing & before long she was ready for bed.  We hugged goodbye in case she left before I got up.  I really love this tradition & all the trips we’ve taken together…which has been 3 already this year!  She loves her camper & I think it’s perfect for her.  Her birthday is next week & she’s got lots of fun things going on to celebrate it all week long.  So, she’s excited to be going home.

Day 65 7.24 
I heard her car door slam, so I jumped out of bed.  She was up earlier than shed planned & was ready to go from camper to car & take off.  A quick hug good bye & wishes for safe travels & her little teardrop was gently bouncing out of the campsite & down the road.

I was in a mellow mood this morningsad to see her leave & anxious for Danny to be here.  I made my coffee in the sun, & sat & finished a book Id been reading.  I took some time to clean up my faceyou knowpluck the eyebrows that had been growing for a couple of weeks all over my forehead, check out my blotches & over-sunned nosethose girl-things that I can so almost forget about while I travel.  I got to Face Time with Claire & read to herthen I talked to Jill to see how her drive was going.

I finally left camp & went to buy ice & water trying to figure out what hike to do today.  It was almost 11amkind of late in the day to start anything too long.  I decided to drive 12 miles down Kebler Pass to the Clear Creek trailhead & hike to Beckwith Pass.  I think its been about 12 years ago, that Danny & I did our first backpack trip in this area & we began it at this trailhead.  After that backpack trip, we drove into a little town called Crested Butte that Id heard about.  Just walking down the street that fateful trip, I said to Danny, This is itI feel like I'm home!"  To which he replied, No its not.  You live in Kansas & we cant afford to live here!

But, every summer since then & one spring & one fall, Ive been coming here.  And every trip it feels even more like home to me.  I thought about that as I hiked up & up & up to the pass.  

Danny & I hiked out here 4 years ago beyond the pass to the Bench but I had forgotten how truly magnificent the view is.  

IMG 3845.jpg

IMG 3846.jpg

I hiked about 1/2 mile beyond the pass so I could see the rock formation called the Castles.  I sat on a huge rock next to the trail, once again, feeling so grateful to be here, to see all this beauty, to physically be able to hike these dirt trails, to have had my good friend here with me for the past few days, to have made so many fun & cool friends here in this town I love so much & to be soooo very much looking forward to seeing Danny this weekend.

I turned around to hike back down the trail with all these wonderful thoughts running around in my head.  About 1/2 mile before the end of the trail, I came upon an older gentleman hiking down.  I stayed a distance behind him for awhile, then had an opportunity to pass as he stepped off the trail.  I said hello & we exchanged a few words.  But I could tell he wanted to talk.  I slowed my pace as he asked me if I’d seen a particular flower.  I asked him if he’d been here before & then he told me a story.  He said he was a retired professor from Arkansas & he & his wife used to come out here to hike & see the flowers as well as another special place in Colorado.  She had been a potter all her life, but had died in February of 2017.  This trip was for him to spread her ashes & reminisce about their times together.  Yesterday, he’d gone to a lake that was special to them & left her ashes spread among the flowers & buried one of her tiny pots under a rock that they both enjoyed looking at.  As we walked, he told me about the flowers she particularly liked.  We made it to the end of the trail & I wished him more moments of good memories than sadness, but I have a feeling it was an emotional trip filled with both feelings.  For me, it was a gift that he shared his story with me.  I’m so grateful for time…that I took the time to slow down —I don’t always do that— that I have the time to even be here in this place & at that moment.  

I stopped by the Brick for a beer, then FT with Claire from the inside of my 4Runner, reading her 4 books!  I drove back to camp & made a salad for dinner.  My camp neighbor Dave came over & I invited him to sit & visit.  He’d brought a book & said he saw me reading a lot & wondered if I wanted to do a book exchange.  I wished I had one to give him, but I’m either reading my Kindle or a library book.  I told him about the little free library at the 4Way in town, or he could get a library card (he works here full time in the summer & lives in the forest).  But we chatted & just talked about travel until it began to rain & the wind began it’s nightly fury.  

The storm didn’t last long & we both emerged from our separate rigs to look up at the rainbow above the Butte!

Talie stopped by to visit for a few minutes.  She’s on her way to lead 10 German tourists on a trip to Yellowstone & had planned on leaving her trailer here in the spot next to me.  But then she got invited to go on a 5 day Llama packing trip in the Wind River Range, so she decided to take it with her.  So, I won’t get to hike with her or see her after she leaves on Thursday, but it’s been super wonderful that I’ve gotten to visit with her as much as I have...she’s a busy lady & I’m so glad to have her as a friend!  She also agreed to let me take a photo of her with my little doll Talie so I can show Emma what the real Talie looks like!

IMG 3888.jpg

Day 66 7.25 
The weather forecast was good for all day until about 5pm….but the skies looked like they didn’t agree.  I knew today would be the last day to do a big hike before Danny came.  I chose a big one, but then realized I’d have to go in town & buy gas.  So, while I was buying gas & looking at the milky overcast sky, I went to Paradise for breakfast.  While I was there I changed my plan.  I decided I’d hike Rustlers Gulch…If I’d put too many hikes on Danny’s list for next week or we didn’t have great weather everyday, this is the one I’d take off his list.  So, I drove out Gothic road & got on the trail.  This would have been the fourth time I’ve crossed this river & it gets deeper every time.  I stood at it’s edge & looked in…it was even deeper than before…maybe waist deep.  And there was this sign:

IMG 3891.jpg

So, I found a narrow steep trail that went off to the side & made it’s way back down to the river.  A much shallower crossing.  I wear my Chacos on this trail because of all the water crossings & muddy wet places, so it was no big deal to walk across the river here.  The first mile of this trail sucks…it’s on an old dirt road that’s super steep & it just a pain to hike.

Once I was off the road & on the trail I was happy.  There were still wildflowers up here.  There are three more water crossings but they were lower than Id ever seen them & most of the trail was super dry.  The dark clouds were gathering above me, but I was hoping they would move away & after awhile they headed south & I continued on the trail.

I know Jill really wanted to hike this trail.  Last year when Greg was out here, we’d started on the trail only to hear from other hikers that there had been a mudslide the day before.  By the time we got to the biggest water crossing, it was raging & looked like chocolate milk.  None of us really wanted to cross it, so we turned back.  But, once she hurt her ankle, I thought all the water crossing might not be a good idea on a weak ankle, so we’ve put this trail on our list to do together for next year.

Below is a pic of last years slide & all the debris it left behind.

IMG 3901.jpg

I made it to where the trail turns up into the valley & climbs higher towards a waterfall.  But coming fast from the north was another black cloud & boom! along with it.  

IMG 3905.jpg

I’m a big chicken when I think it’s going to storm & I have miles to hike to get back to safety…so I turned around without making it the last mile up to the end of the Gulch.  I’ve probably done this trail 8 or 9 times, so I convinced myself to go down.  About 1/2 way down, the skies cleared, the sun popped out & I could see blue again & no black clouds.  Bummer…I’d guessed wrong.

IMG 3907.jpg

But, I wasn’t about to hike all that way back up to where I’d turned around at 2:00 in the afternoon during monsoon season…no matter what the sky looked like.  On my way back down the road, I stopped at RMBL to say hi to Rick who has been teasing me that I’m too busy to stop by (he was off when Jill & I did the tour).  He introduced me to another Rick that I’ve been hearing about…a guy who is well known in the area for knowing all the wildflowers.  Before I left, the flower-Rick asked me if he could see the inside of my 4Runner & how I had it fitted out.  I love these conversations!

I drove back to town & bought ice, then went to do laundry.  I’d put on my last clean piece of summer clothing this morning.  While the clothes were getting clean, I ran to the library & post office, then after picking up my clean but still wet clothes, I went out to camp.

The skies were looking iffy about now, so I made myself a quick & slim salad…(I’m running out of some kinds of food) & sat in the back of the 4Runner with the hatch open & ate.  I opened up my computer, downloaded all my photos from my camera & phone in preparation to update this site that I’m 12 days behind on!!! (Rick’s right…I’m too busy hiking everyday, but I wouldn’t have it any other way when I’m so fortunate to be here!)

As today’s storm blew in, I managed to lower the hatch & sit in the back & type away.  The sun popped out for a bit, just about long enough for me to string a clothes line & get everything laid on it.  In about 30 minutes, another storm blew in & blew some of my clean clothes onto the ground.   A shake was all they needed (I still consider them clean) & now they’re all piled in my front seat….It seems can’t hang laundry & update my website at the same time evidently.

Talie will be back in camp soon & she wants me to help her hook up her trailer; she’ll be off to Yellowstone early in the morning.  When I stopped by the library today, I pulled a book off the $1 cart of one of my favorite crazy Florida authors to give to Dave, so in a few minutes I’ll stroll over to his site & leave it.

I’m planning on finishing the night with a glass of port & my book; a good night phone call to Danny & hopefully some sweet sleep!

Day 67 7.26 
AmazingTalie got home after dark last night & hooked her trailer up by herself ...for the first time ever..…AND DID IT IN THE DARK!  She has so many super powers!  She came up, both of us donning headlamps, & we exchanged quick hugs & said good bye.  WowIm so glad she chose to camp out here the past few days!

This morning I was going to do a short hike, but a super challenging one.  Ive done the summit hike up Mt. Crested Butte about 5 other times & its always hard but has such amazing views.  I can see the mountain from my campsite, which is so beautiful & it’s the mountain the town is named after. 

IMG 3950.jpg

You start by taking the chair lift to within 1.5 miles of the summit.  Then it’s just up, up, & up with a final scramble to the top over rocks.  The scramble requires hands, no poles, & it was filled with people today.  A lot coming down at the same time I was going up…not much room for sure!

IMG 3923.jpg

IMG 3925.jpg

The views from the top!

IMG 3926.jpg

IMG 3932.jpg

Then you get to go downwhich is even more sketchy than going up.

I was hiking a little fast today & by the time I got off the lift & back into town I had just enough time for a burger & beer at the Brick. Then I hustled out to camp & hung my still moist laundry out to dry.  I was expecting a visitor this afternoon.

Katie Harris & I found each other on one of the Facebook groups we both belong to…Women Hiking & Backpacking.  She’d put out a call for solo women travelers to be interviewed for a documentary she’s making.  She happened to be in Colorado & through a few correspondences we’d set today to meet up in camp.  We had a fun & lovely visit in camp for about 1.5 hours, then she pulled out her video camera & microphone & started the ‘formal’ interview.  It was easy to be relaxed with the mountains, fresh air, aspen trees & all of nature surrounding us.  It was great to meet her & we plan to keep in touch as she continues to travel in her van.  Katie has a blog, By Van and By Foot, which is on my reading list & I can’t wait to follow all of her adventures.  And, she gave me a 6 pack of Colorado beer as a thank you! 

IMG 3948.jpg

It was evening when Katie left to head back to Gunnison for some van parts, so I sat down to read then Neighbor Dave came over & we chatted for a few minutes.  I gathered up all my now dry laundry & began to fold it into ‘outfits’ (an easy task since most everything I travel in is some version of black & gray…so I make rolls of a bottom, a top & a cami & then put them in packing cubes.  Easy & fast to pull out without daily decisions on what to wear.)

It was soon dark & I got super lazy about dinner…I had a few crackers & a glass of Port & read until bedtime.

Day 68 7.27
This morning when I woke up to sunny skies I had new neighbors that had moved in late last night into the spot next to me.  A family from Boulder with a 16 year old son & a great big dog.  Id mentioned to Neighbor Dave on his way to work, that Id be gone tonight in Denver & he said hed keep an eye on my camp.  I took my time drinking coffee & enjoying the morning & reading until about 10:30.  Id planned to do a short hike before leaving for the long drive to Denver (its not really that longabout 4.5 hours; but it always seems like it!)

By the time Id closed up camp & gotten ready to leave, the skies were dark & stormy looking.  It was pretty early in the day for storms.Ihoping this is just a random thing & that Danny & I have great weather once he gets here.  I’d made a tentative plan to meet a friend for lunch at 1, but when I texted her to double check, she had to cancel.  It worked out better for me to be on the road sooner than later, so hopefully we can catch up sometime before I leave CB.  I stopped at Momo’s & got a cup of lunch to go, then headed to Gunnison to shower….I may look sunburned with gray choppy hair & a few bruises & scrapes, but I can at least be clean for Danny!  When I headed back out to the 4Runner after my shower, it was pouring down rain.  As soon as I got inside, it began to hail…for about 20 minutes.  Yikes!

I finally took off with hard rain but no hail, then more hail, then no rain, then hard rain & more hail.  You get the picture…not the most fun stuff to drive in.  By the time I was climbing up Monarch Pass, the rain was more gentle & no hail.  Once over the pass, I stopped at the Brown Dog Cafe in Buena Vista for my favorite tea drink..a Cambric & had my Friday FaceTime call with Jill.  Then it was back on the road for rest of the drive to Denver.  As I was about 30 miles outside of Denver, it poured again & there was lots & lots of loud hail…it looked like it had snowed!  The weather in many parts of Colorado has been so weird & awful lately; Manitou Springs & Woodland Park, both outside of Colorado Springs had floods the other day, & once place had 18” of hail.

IMG 3952.jpg

The traffic always starts to get heavy about this time & I was hitting it a rush hour.  I drove to Hops & Pie for a Cuban sandwich & beer, then ran to Target (did not find what I was looking for) & to REI (did not find what I was looking for there either!).  I hate it when you do all this running around & end up with nothing…but I do still have 1/2 my Cuban sandwich left!

IMG 3955.jpg

It’s dark here as I sit in Target’s parking lot & finish up the website for today.  I’m not too far from the airport, where I’ll spend the night in the cell lot.  Danny’s flight gets in about 7:30 in the morning then we’ll be heading back to Crested Butte…we both love it there & I can’t wait to have him there with me!

home  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  10   rAnDoM

 vikhill@gmail.com   Wweroiweuprou                                                                                                                                                 © Vicki Hill 2024