CO – San Juan NF – It’s a Slippery Slope

I hadn’t felt so much uncertainty and anxiety since finding myself in a similar situation a couple years previous when I was invited to join a group hike to Mt Whitney. I’d mulled this ski-to-cabin opportunity while spending time hiking with friends in Utah. As many know by now, I’m an opportunist and not shy about trying new things.

Part of my trepidation was from less-than-fun, cross-country skiing experiences several decades previous. After that I stuck with downhill skiing and snowshoeing . . . well except for that time I attempted snowboarding. New technology has tempted me to try backcountry skiing; maybe the same would be true for cross country. My friends were supportive and knew my lack of skills. They assured me my youth would help me keep pace, afterall they’re all in their 70’s. Ha, I knew better as I’d snowshoed with them and they are all in fantastic shape with years more experience than me. Meet Janet, Will, Travis and Greta, the furry four-legged friend. 

The spring thaw was in progress which meant carrying our ski equipment a couple miles. We’d be staying at Travis’ cabin but I needed to bring all my backpacking gear except tent and cookware, plus assigned meals. My friends meanwhile were lucky to have their overnight stuff stored at the cabin. 

We’d be playing in the foothills north of Mancos. 

Part 1 – Walking. Now this I can do!

Views of the La Plata Mountains. 

Part 2 – Skiing. My notes: “It felt like learning to roller skate in a rink. I was very tight and awkward, jerky. Fell about 5 times. Hard to get up. Had to remove pack each time. Reminded me of learning to snowboard.”

Part 3 – Cabin Life. It was about a 7-mile ski to the cabin. I survived! The next morning I got up early to capture sunrise colors and overnight snowfall. 

Cute outhouse award. 

Pretty tree and sky award. 

Cotton candy sunsets.

Part 4 – Practice, Practice, Practice. I had a couple days to work on my skills. Journal notes from first practice day: “Fresh powder made for more forgiving skiing. I did better and only fell once. Lots of herky, jerky movements. Takes lots of focus which makes me prefer snowshoeing.” Journal notes from second practice day: “Let’s see if today skiing wins over snowshoeing. No fresh snow. Slow snow and big clear cuts made for more enjoyable skiing for newbie, but snowshoeing and downhill skiing still win.” 

Part 5 – Have my skills improved? We left the cabin under icy conditions. I was grateful for the practice I’d had the previous couple days including a bit with ice, as well as all my years of downhill skiing. My journal notes: “Fell a couple times. Icy in morning and in shade. Definitely getting better but still not enjoyable. Still feel klutzy. Requires immense concentration. On the downhill today I was grateful for my beginning ski days where I learned the snowplow technique.” 

Any regrets? Absolutely NOT! I was proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone. Learning new skills is good for the mind and body. I know now if I lived in an area like Durango or Boulder I’d embrace cross-country skiing and become proficient like my friends. I had to chuckle at my final journal note, “The old folks went out tonight while I’m in bed.” Thank you again Janet, Will, Travis and Greta for the invite, your patience, guidance and encouragement, and for sharing your special place in the woods. It was a memory maker trip with great food, conversation, and accomplishments. I want to be OLD like YOU when I grow up!

Mother Nature decided I needed to spend a couple more days in Durango before continuing my travels. 

There are miles and miles of trails around Durango. Janet and I walked each day. One of the things I love about Janet is her passion to rid trails and her community of litter. She was recently featured in the Durango Herald (link); the story was picked up by other state and national sources. Her can-do attitude is infectious. It’s easy to carry a plastic bag on your hikes  to cart out a little something. 

I was practicing patience.

Adventure Dates:

  • March 27-30, 2017

Links:

Oh Colorado, It’s a Wrap . . . at least for 2017

Experiencing the change of color in Colorado was on the top of my list for September/October this year. 

The smoke from wildfires in Wyoming chased me into Colorado where I found . . . more smoke. I quickly visited Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Colorado National Monument before retreating to Utah. I tried Colorado again in mid September and found winter instead of fall on my traverse around Lizard Head Peak. Not deterred, I turned my “hike more drive less” trip into a “drive more hike less” leaf peeping trip. First stop was Lizard Head Pass on Highway 145, where I found a little color and a lot of people. 

Then I discovered Trout Lake

I might have even found my new summer home. 

And best of all I found the first vestiges of color. 

I drove around Trout Lake and down the road where I found Hope Lake Trailhead. If it hadn’t been 4pm, I would have hiked this trail. Instead I camped nearby where I could enjoy the sunset showcasing the colorful mountains. 

I even got to see Lizard Head Peak from a new angle. One thing I enjoy is observing landmarks from a distance that I’ve seen up close (link to my hike report).

With a limited good weather window, I chose to drive to my next trailhead rather than hiking to Hope Lake. My travel path took me to Ridgway on Highway 62, a very cute town with a great coffee shop, and onto Ouray on Highway 550, a town much too touristy for my taste. I camped with a view of the fall foliage where I’d begin my hike to Ice Lakes the next day (link to blog post). For more info regarding my car camping experiences, here’s the link to Me and My CRV posts.

I spent a day exploring Silverton before finding my way to the Highlands Mary Lakes Trailhead (link to blog post). 

After a return trip on the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton to Ouray (not for those nervous about heights and exposure), I continued on County Road 8 to Owl Creek Pass where I got to enjoy many views of Chimney Rock. 

I was a little early for peak leaf peeping at Cimarron Ridge

Color was popping at Silver Jack Reservoir

I quickly learned September weather in Colorado is variable. 

Living out of your car and backpack makes life challenging and not-so-much fun during extended storms. 

One day rainy, the next snowy, and then the sun reappears albeit under windy cold skies. I spent this day hiking and exploring roads near Crested Butte.

Not a very good photo, but I was pretty excited to come upon this group of moose thinking about testing out those water toys.

Given an overnight temperature of 24 degrees, I was happy to be staying with friends in Crested Butte. Bonus was this colorful sunset. 

I frequently am asked if I get lonely on my travels. Well when I do, I always seem to find new friends.

On Highway 285 I found Kenosha Pass and the Colorado Trail. It was a perfect day for a jaunt by foot (link to blog post).  With more bad weather coming in, I spent a couple days in Dillon with another new friend. Meet Phurba!

Before reuniting with Nancy aka WhyNot?! 

We spent the next few days together at the ALDHA-West gathering in Keystone (link to blog post). October roared in with a bit of winter fury signaling my exit to warmer climates. 

This is my third or fourth visit to Colorado and the most indepth to date. I’ve barely scratched the surface and can’t wait for extended time. My dance card is overflowing. See you in 2018 Colorado, mark your calendar. It’s a date!

Readers: do you have suggestions for my next visit?

Dates of Travel: 9/4/17-10/2/17

Links:

CO – Rocky Mountain NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Colorado NM

I had my fall itinerary planned for Colorado. The universe had other plans. I ran from the Tetons as wildfire smoke overwhelmed this asthmatic. I cruised south hoping for an escape from the haze and heavy particulates.

First stop was Rocky Mountain National Park. I drove the Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796′ in hopes of finding clear air. But alas it was not meant to be.

I’d stopped in the Medicine Bow Mountains the previous night and enjoyed a few hours of reprieve.

Heading south out of the park, I saw some touring cyclists whom I’d met in Pinedale a few days previous. At that time they were heading south, but it appeared they’d flipped and were now heading north. I wouldn’t want to ride or hike in these conditions.

Not a good day for flying in a balloon either.

As I continued to try to outrun the smoke, I found some clear air at McClure Pass south of Carbondale.

Watching the aspen show off their autumnal colors was on my list for this fall. At least I found aspen. Too bad Colorado wasn’t playing nice.

Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, I found  . . . yes smoky skies that gave me a colorful sunset.

The moon glowed orange as it rose, although I wasn’t able to capture the color in this photo.

As the sun rose the next morning, it was apparent my day was going to be smoky. After seven straight weeks of hiking and spending my days and nights outdoors, I was feeling like a caged lion.

Since I was already within a few miles of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, why not gather some literature and get a quick introduction? I’d seen comments and photos from others saying how surprised they were and that this park became one of their favorite stops. 

I stopped at the North Rim Ranger Station. The ranger suggested I walk the Chasm View Nature Trail

I was glad it was a flat very short trail. The provided interpretive guide was well written and informative. From rim to rim the canyon measures 1,100 feet; from rim to river it’s 1,723 feet; and, the rock is a mere 1.7 billion years old. I liked this place and will return in the future. The campground on the north rim is nice and there is so much geology to explore. I didn’t even go to the south side.

I drove the road stopping at all the signed viewpoints. 

Do you see the kneeling camel

I’d been keeping my eye on the smoke maps and webcams. I swerved west stopping at Colorado National Monument

It was smoky and hot, but I drove the road for a bit stopping at the viewpoints. This is Independence Monument.

The most interesting to me was the want-to-be coke ovens, after spending time in Idaho earlier this year looking at the real thing. 

My minion friends may have been saying Howdy, but I was saying Goodbye for now to Colorado. You may be a colorful state but during this very short visit you were monochromatic in your grays. This wasn’t the least bit how I planned to spend the month but timing is everything and it just wasn’t my time. I’ll be back to explore all the planned places I researched just like I did in the Winds.

Dates: September 4-7, 2017

Links to my other Colorado Jaunts