It’s late September 2021 and we’re on another three-day camp trip, though this time with heavy hearts. We’re mourning the passing of a very dear friend. He loved the outdoors, loved hiking and adventuring and being curious. Our friend loved life, and we miss him deeply.
Yearning for the mountains, we’ve found our way down to state wildlife lands in Southern Colorado, with views overlooking Mt. Blanco and an outhouse. Frankly, we’re grateful for both.
September in Colorado looks like 95 degrees and hazy skies. The sun rises due east and sets due west. At night the big dipper skims the horizon and the milky way is a vast and bright band over the zenith.
It’s tempting to walk the paths by moonlight alone, but we resist. Just hours ago, Colin encountered a 5-foot rattlesnake, plump on kangaroo rats, and living the good life in a nearby riparian zone. This is our second rattlesnake this summer, and those two our first ever on these backcountry trips in Rocinante. Coincidence – or are these just good times to be a rattlesnake?
Certainly better than being a fish.
Following banner fishing years in 2019-2020, this year has been a wakeup call. All the reservoirs we’ve visited have sported toxic algal bloom, brought on by heat and fertilizer runoff. The posted signs attempt to warn and reassure: “Don’t touch the water, keep dogs and kids out – but fishing is still OK – just wash the fish well when you gut it.” It’s not quite the same as “bon appetite” and I’m certainly not tempted. I’m uneasy on a larger scale, too, and press Colin into examining the issue. It’s a hard one, a many-headed Medusa of farming practices, too-cheap food prices, and disassociation from our food sources, all of which lead back to a joint responsibility for the land. Oh, and people pooping in the woods. Yeah, that.
We take a break from thinking so hard, and write about the last two days of our roadtrip to California this past spring. We’ve learned that it takes a roadtrip to remember a roadtrip. Best laid plans to finish writing about the whole of a trip in the same year (let alone same month) fall by the wayside once we’re home, but somehow out here there’s time to think and to write for pleasure. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.
May 2021: We entered the Four Corners area coming from Arizona, dipping briefly in to New Mexico, then north into Colorado, and enter Ute Mountain Ute lands. Regular boondockers we may be, but we do not presume permission on Tribal lands, such as those here belonging to the Diné, Ute, and Pueblo peoples, and we respectfully drive on. Rust orange skies are giving way to deep blue before we break for the night east of Cortez. I just don’t know how he does it, but Colin has found another gorgeous spot, the outline of the mountains visible as a deficit in an otherwise starry night sky.
The next day we backtrack to Mesa Verde. It’s a National Park – worthy of the designation and rightfully protected, but it brings up a sense of unease about ownership – broken treaties terms and history needing to be re-examined, a collective responsability. We’re contemplative as we cross long stretches to arrive. Mesa Verde is certainly not for those who want a quick photo and a postcard. You really have to WANT to see it – and while the geography itself exerts this reality, it also feels right. Even after at last entering the park, there is a long way to go. Rocinante unhitched and left in the parking lot (required), we wind through miles and timespans of open canyon terrain, sacred to those whose homelands these have long been. At the Wetherill Mesa Trails remote ranger station, out come the bikes, the water, the backpacks, Katie’s bike bed, snacks, and we explore.
Time is running out. Wishing we’d arrived a day earlier (or even a few hours earlier), we reload the bikes, return to Rocinante, and head toward Durango. We’re suckers for Himalayan, and yak is on the menu. Katie tucked under the outside table, we enjoy a little dinner out, then head for the hills to spend the night.
May’s trip end comes too fast. On our final day, we have just an hour in cute-as-a-button Pagosa Springs. A riverfront walk, giant chessboard, hot springs and coffee shops, we merely sample and continue. Next time, we’ll leave an extra day.
Our last stop is at Mountain Goat Lodge. My dad – who is super at finding these hidden gems – discovered this retreat location pre-Covid and since that time we’d be wanting to go. Passing by on the way home, we pull in and meet the owners, who are busy with spring weeding and cleanup. They invite us to meet the goats, and pick up “Mary’s babies” who are getting supplimental milk each day. Who could say no to such an offer? Returning to the couple, we learn that the husband will soon be getting surgery. An idea comes to me – could I offer my time, help for a weekend with the goats and the farmwork while they are short-handed?
The answer: yes. An adventure awaits around every corner.