Leaving Madison was the most bitter sweet exit of the trip at that point. The times I had there were so fun and so varied. Skating, being DJ sidekick on the college radio station, drinking beer with cool people, playing intense drinking games and killing slip n’ slides with great people, and most of all hanging out with a college friend from Raleigh. Good times chilling and raging and everything in between, including experiencing (sober) the rich culture that the place had to offer.
Despite the bitterness of leaving, I was craving the sweetness of being in the Rockies (for only the second time in my life). I departed around 1 pm for Vail, CO, with one planned stop in Omaha to avoid a sixteen-hour drive alone. It was a pleasant drive. Despite all the negative things I’d heard about driving through the mid-west plains, I found comfort and solace in the hundreds of miles of mellow, flat road. Also, it was nice to have peace, quiet, and Wi-Fi at a hotel room in Nebraska to get some good work done.
Arriving in Colorado was a good feeling; however, it was a bit disappointing to see more plain for many more miles before Denver. I’d only ever flown into Denver, never driven in. So I was surprised to know that (north)east of Denver in CO was only more mid-west to be seen. Once passing Denver, the full day of driving under my belt melted away, and I felt like it was new day of driving. I was so stoked to be in the canyons of the mountains, weaving, coasting and climbing through the majestic American peaks.
I love the vibe of being around people that live for the mountain. Although not everyone was a “ski bum”, they were all climbers, snowboarders, fishermen, cyclists, you name it. They loved the wild, and that’s why they all relocated to Colorful Colorado from North Carolina, Michigan, and Illinois.
My first full day in Vail was mellow. Went to a coffee shop to get more work in, but then visited an awesome skatepark in Edwards, CO and went back to the crash spot for a nice dinner with the “family” (shout-out to Brian’s tacos!). The next day, we were set to leave for an EPIC camping/climbing trip to Independence Pass. Got some work done in the morning. After lunch, Chrissy and I went to Minturn, a quaint little mountain town within a few exits of Vail. Took a little walk that ended at a little bar. Then we took a little drive to “my first weed store”. Although, I don’t smoke too much currently, having all of the tasty and potent options that CO has to offer was pretty sick. Picked up some chocolates for the weekend and then started supplies shopping for the rest of the essentials. Fast forward:
We’re on the road to Independence Pass (a well-known area for climbing) for a weekend of beautiful landscapes, hiking, and climbing. I had no clue I was going to have so much fun that weekend. All day, each day was happiness in nature. We’re on the way to meet with about 8 people at the campsite (1.5 hr drive), and we pass through Leadville, CO, which, for such a small town, has one of the coolest skateparks (their flow bowl tho…) I’ve been to. So much fun, but the elevation made it harder to get a full session in. Onward we go. We get to the campsite buzzed (tehe) and in the the dark. So granted my blindness at night, it wasn’t that much fun setting up camp. But that night was really cool. Everyone was very cool, accepting, and generous, ready for unburdened good time in the mountains. We were stoked for a good weekend and had many (many) beers in preparation for this (because that makes sense). There were two birthdays among the crew that weekend. Scott, a great friend of everyone at the house I was staying at, was the birthday boy that Friday. And Saturday was Jason’s birthday. Jason was a new friend to all of us but one, and he had a great positivity. Had a great tome partying with everyone and then woke up to a slight hangover, a smoky fire circle and a delicious breakfast (thanks everyone!).
Very near where our cars are parked, there was an awesome cliff jumping spot over a deep spot of water, so some of us took the plunge. That was a LOT of fun. But the water was VERY cold. I’m pretty sure that was the coldest water I’ve been submerged in. But it was a sunny 80 degrees outside, so it felt great to drip off.
Onward to a second climbing spot. This one had harder climbs but also a couple mellow ones, including a fun crack climbing problem. The enders were two really difficult problems with lots of overhang and not so great grip opportunities. I had fun trying some, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching the killers kill it. After some really awesome climbing, we departed for a (late) lunch spot and refueled. From that parking lot, there was a nice fly fishing spot (Chrissy’s boyfriend is super into fly fishing), and a short walk to a really unique and amazing spot. The ice caves had been worked open and shaped over thousands of years, and you could climb inside, witnessing a truly awesome form of nature. The lighting came in so well, through narrow cracks in the ceiling (the ground above us), and the floor of the caves were curvaceous and smooth, as if someone had laid natural-looking concrete everywhere. There was a tough crack climb problem inside the cave, so it was even cooler watching the best guys (and girls) go for that.
After leaving and checking out a cool nearby waterfall, we retreat to a new campsite for the night. We set up our tents, some took naps, and Mitch (Chrissy’s roommate) set up his slack line. We started a fire, cracked a few beers for Jason’s birthday and started planning and making dinner. One of the three additional to the crew that night was Brandon, a cool dude from Missouri that used to be a truck driver and member of a Tenacious D cover band. He had his guitar and jammed the night away. Seriously blew us away. Jack Black’s voice and charisma in a skinny guy’s body is the only way I can describe it. We had some weed chocolates and smoked and drank. Some of us (including yours truly) decided to get trippy on a couple levels if you know what I mean, and it was an awesome time. We all got so into the campfire circle, we did some pretty awesome a cappella. I stayed up a bit watching cool shit that wasn’t there, and closed down the night with birthday boy Jason. Shouts out to Jason and Scott for being truly great people.
We pack up camp. From there, we go to a separate place for one more bouldering spot. This was a highly-anticipated wall. There was a reason for it being at the end of the weekend. It’s name was “Sex Machine”, which made James Brown’s music a normal theme to the weekend. Brian (Chrissy’s bf) had tried the wall before but never conquered. He wanted it and prepared for it. After a little while there and some jams from a small speaker, the victory was not reached. Although he didn’t get it, he was a beast about it. Getting really into it, making progress, and generally killing it until his body was too tired to go further. Admiration to the guy’s determination. It kind of inspired me to take climbing back up as a regular hobby. If you keep up with this blog, I’m sure you’ll see climbing again.
On the way back, the drive is fucking beautiful. This was Colorado in the photos, and the photos are never as good. Brian, Chrissy, and I were in one car. Played some music on the way back to the house, and that night, we had a great birthday dinner for Scott waiting for us (at his place). Tasty appetizers everywhere, and crab legs for days!! Beer as well, of course. Everyone had a great time (including me), but I was super tired from the beast of a weekend that we had. I was ready for a good night’s sleep before I woke up to drive to Boulder.