We hit the road. It’s a beautiful sunny day (which you couldn’t observe from the basement apartment we were in). It was also actually quite hot outside, which warranted windows down and a cool breeze in our hair. We decided to take the beautiful Highway 6 through Golden to Vail. When leaving Vail days before, I was looking at green foliage, but on the route back the trees were peppered heavily with gorgeous yellows and oranges. Drives through the Rocky Mountains are truly magical and relaxing in a very real way that made me think, “everything is going to turn out so well” with a big jolly smile on my face.
Garfinkel’s reminded me of Raleigh’s "Mitch’s Tavern", with a more renovated feel, bigger seating area and more of a ski bum drinking culture encouraged. Speaking of shots, Chrissy, Mitch, Brian and I spun the “shot wheel” as group and proceeded to take a drink deciphered by Wheel-of-Fortune-style chance. In the case of that night, the drink was “moose piss,” and it was surprisingly great. Tequila, whiskey and something else mixed together to offer a shockingly smooth shot for our enjoyment. The rest of the night was predictable yet really fun. We took the free bus back to the house to meet with Chloe who had been napping. We did a bit of smoking and had another beer(s) to act as a night cap, and we all got some rest before a full day of the outdoors to follow.
We woke up on that Sunday morning to a crisp fall day in Vail. Again, the colors in the trees were really starting to pop, and we were all ready to go on our hike. It was primarily a climbing day again. The group of us, Chrissy, Brian, Liz, Mitch, Chloe, and I, were stoked! I met Liz for the first time the night before. Great person for sure. Glad we got to meet during my second visit to Vail.
We made our way (past Leadville again) to a trail head near Windsor Lake. Daisy, the dog, was with us as well, leading the way like the champ that she is. We came across an awesome bouldering spot for warming up on, promptly unloaded the pads and changed into our climbing shoes. It was really fun to climb again after only a short week away from it. Chloe was stoked, because she revisited her passion again! She was a really avid climber in college but had a serious injury that stopped her involvement for a while. The pins and screws discouraged climbing for her, but that day was her first back on the rock wall, trying to solve problems and find routes. Everyone had a blast, especially her.
After a while of pursuing a few problems at the boulder, we moved on and transferred the stoke further up the mountain to Windsor Lake. This was the fly fishing spot for Brian and Mitch. While they were fishing, I just relaxed with Daisy, Liz, Chloe, and Chrissy, enjoying the sunlight and beautiful landscapes! After about an hour of relaxation and conversation in the beautiful mountains, we began our descent (which was actually quite challenging) and made our way to the vehicles. We drove back to make some awesome dinner and have a few brews before bedtime.
Brian (and crew) made delicious pizzas to go with chips and dip. Some of us dabbled in a game of darts, Daisy continued to be ridiculously cute, and the good tunes kept on playing. I’m extraordinarily grateful to have spent time with this group of people on this trip, especially given how much time and how many good times we had the opportunity of having. Bedtime, and we all retire for the night. The next morning, everyone else would be off to work, but Chloe and I had plans to proceed (I-70 West) to our own mini national park tour.
The morning came (again with its magnificent mountainous glory), and we got to it. Following a morning of work work, we went to the closest boutique weed store as well as the liquor store to pick some goodies/good-bye present/thank-you gift for the housemates. Afterward, we were on to packing up the car and getting outta dodge.
Mad love to the Vail buds..
We’re off! I love that feeling. When you’re on your way to somewhere you’ve never before been, and all you have is all you have. Good tunes and good energy make for a pleasant departure. About an hour and a half or two hours later, we decide to stop in an odd little town called Glenwood Springs, CO. What to do? Mexican restaurant for margaritas and tacos? Yes, please. Great tacos, shitty drinks. Whatever though. There was a nice waterfront (river) that we enjoyed, but then it was onward further west.
The night’s darkness was beginning to creep into real time, so we decided to stop for camping early. Our original plan was to make it all the way to Arches National Park area, but we were still in CO when we stopped. Better to set up camp during daylight hours and get more sleep to get an earlier start to the next full day. Besides, we had beer to drink… We enjoyed some good conversation and tasty Oskar Blues beverages before getting rest for another day of adventure.
Driving on the highway again, we saw a sign for Colorado National Monument. Not knowing what it was, we figured it would be a cool photo or overlook, taking 30 minutes of our time (tops). But we were pleasantly wrong. This ended up being THE Colorado National Monument Park, an amazing display of nature, and one of our first experiences seeing huge red rock out west. It was ultimately a 3.5-hour tour, and I’m personally very glad we wandered to this place.
Afterward, we went into Grand Junction, CO for a tasty lunch/refuel. Big ups to Grand Junction for being a cool little hipster town. Will go back if possible, next time driving through UT and CO. shortly after our lunch stop, the landscape began to change from Colorado’s lush mountains to Utah’s vast orange desert. Stoked to see this for the first time! The driving was good in this environment, and the air was warm and dry, BEAUTIFUL. As we came closer to Arches, we noticed that Canyonlands is only an additional 30 miles or so. We’d both heard fantastic things about Canyonlands, so we decided to divert our route for some added spontaneity and beautiful earth forms.
We got to the gate at Canyonlands, and entry was $20. However, the gate attendant convinced me to buy the annual National Parks pass for $80. "We’ll take the $10 from Colorado National Monument Park and credit it to your bill,” he said. So I went for it, and I now I have an annual pass - incentive to visit more rad parks within the next year! Canyon lands was truly amazing. At that point, I had never seen the Grand Canyon, so this was the largest canyon I’d ever seen, and the “Islands in the Sky” (huge mountainous spires) were incredible! Chloe almost came to tears from the sheer magnificence of the red rock earth before us. I couldn’t blame her. It was intense.
The formations in front of and below us emphasized how small we are as humans, which is intimidating and comforting at the same time. This is hard to explain but so worth experiencing, which is why I recommend that everyone see these things during their lifetime!
We saw many parts of the park, hiked among tourists, and took photos (hopelessly trying to capture the moments for what they actually were). Our freedom of time that day was about as free as it gets. However, the sun was beginning to set, so we left in search of suitable camping. Tent set up, beers cracked, and deep conversation engaged. After a good buzz, we took some weed candies and went wandering into the open unmarked desert with no plans but to explore. Our exploration quickly turned into dancing wildly, praising plants and worshiping the beaming moon. Stoned yet energized, we fully let our positive energy out into Utah’s southern desert. And I’ll never forget that. This two-person dance party lasted for quite some time before we retired once again to rest up for another day of national park roaming.
So we must move on to make a flight… We left and headed north on State Route 6. And that leaves the story here. Until next week…