Posted by: stacylynn12 | May 24, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

Well, the re-entry shock has subsided. Instead of being experientially reminded every day of just how fortunate we are, we have to deliberately and continually remind ourselves. I don’t want to be lulled into a state of absentminded unconsciousness where my many privileges may be contributing directly and indirectly, by way of my actions, to the oppression of other people and to the destruction of our land.

I wonder if our children’s 4 and 6 year old minds have absorbed any sense of their privilege through our international travels.

After a week and a half of phenomenal spring weather in Maine, we say goodbye to my family and leave in a downpour. The first night of our camping trip is spent in a hotel. So is the second night. The third night we buck up and camp in the snow… the lingering result of Mother Nature’s spring east coast frenzy. After a winter in the tropics, the children attack the heavy, wet, white stuff like hungry cubs just coming out of hibernation.

Camping in the snow near Scranton, PA

We continue west and stop for another week and a half at the Indiana/Illinois border, otherwise known as Grandpa Larry’s house. The children pick up where they left off in the fall with their quest for frogs and fish. Joshy singlehandedly lands the mother of all bass and no one is more surprised than he. He’s still talking about it.

A big bass at Grandpa Larry’s pond

Once again we say goodbye to our family and continue the westbound migration. We hit the Saint Louis Arch where we insert ourselves into the twilight zone-like capsules for the ride to the top of the Arch. I think the whole thing is a bit weird but the boys, especially Randy, love it.

We are in “capsule 5” on our way to the top of the Arch

We plug along camping across Missouri, Kansas and Eastern Colorado. And then, off in the distance we see them. The Rockies. Our tour of the Saint Louis Arch described this famous landmark as the “Gateway to the West” but for us, the true gateway is this massive mountain chain. Stretching over 3,000 miles from central New Mexico to northern British Columbia in Canada, the Rocky Mountains are emblematic of the West. It feels like we are home. Randy and I begin singing John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High with gusto and the kids make horrified faces in the backseat… the likes of which I did not think we would see until their teen years. I am reminded of the time when I was just out of college and my life-long friend Heather and I moved to Seattle. We spent a month driving across the country and camping. She was a John Denver fan. I was not. Entering Colorado she wanted to play some Johnny D on the tape deck. (Yes, this was before iPods and MP3’s). I cavalierly remarked that John Denver was a pussy. (Yes, I really said this). She did not appreciate the comment. I think the fight lasted a few days. I’m sorry Heather.

We spend a few nights in Manitou Springs, visit the Garden of the Gods (a large park which highlights the areas naturally beautiful red rock formations) and ride the iconic cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak… a big hit for the boys.

Posing for the requisite summit shot

From there we plan to head over 12,000 foot Independence Pass (which has just opened) to Aspen and the Maroon Bells Wilderness but once again Mother Nature meddles. It is snowing heavily on the two 9,000 foot passes we cross leaving Mantiou Springs and heading higher up into the mountains does not seem like a good plan. Beloved Bessie is good for a great many things. Snow however, is not one of them.

Aborting our Aspen plan we spend a few nights in the West Elk Wilderness and then a few more at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This remote National Park is frequented by rock climbers who flock here to scale the daunting black walls of the Canyon. In another life we might have been one of them but this time around we explore the horizontal aspects of the park. Instead of our hearts beating faster because we are 20 vertical feet above our last piece of “pro” (climbing gear) and shaking like leaves as we fumble with our “rack” (yet another word for climbing gear) hoping to secure ourselves to the wall before enduring a “whipper” (a long fall)… we instead are having small and frequent heart attacks as our kids frolick along the Chasm Trail – a path that meanders along the top of the canyon rim, sometimes protecting hikers from plunging to their deaths with fencing and other times relying on the individual’s common sense to keep the heck away from the precipice. You can imagine how relaxing a hike that was.

View from the top – the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Southwestern Colorado is really an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Seasonally of course, one can ice climb in Ouray, ski in Telluride, rock climb in the Gunnison, paddle whitewater near Durango, climb 14,000 foot peaks and hike, backpack or mountain bike for miles and miles through the San Juan Mountains. With so much to do the beauty of spontaneity really shines through on a road trip. Where to next? On a whim we choose Telluride. Now let me tell you about Telluride. This is a place I could get used to.

I’m not going to tell you about how great the skiing is because well, of course, we didn’t ski. We were lucky enough to visit in the off season; that is after the winter ski crowds and before the summer festival crowds. We felt like the only tourists in town. We watched the school kids at their t-ball and soccer practices and drank coffee with the locals at the cute outdoor Coffee Cowboy cafe. I didn’t have my own mug when I ordered coffee and I had the sense that a fellow customer was going to alert the environmental police. Never have I seen so many people with their own coffee mugs. This place takes its environmentalism seriously. It warmed my heart and shamed me a little for my wastefulness.

There seemed to be only one downside to visiting this time of year. The free, public gondola which connects Telluride with its sister town up and over the ridge – Mountain Village – was closed for maintenance. Bummer. That said, Telluride has got public transportation figured out. Most of the year the gondola shuttles tourists and locals alike between the two towns. How’d ya like your morning commute to be hopping in a gondola?! Sweet. Besides the gondola, the Galloping Goose – a free shuttle – makes regular rounds throughout both towns and there are miles of trails for walking, running or biking between the two. The town is small enough that everything is within easy walking or cycling distance. I couldn’t see why anyone would ever want or need a car in this town, except perhaps to leave it once in a while. There are trails that literally leave from town and head up into amazing wilderness areas. One day we rode our cruiser bikes (more on that in a minute) a leisurely 10 minutes to a trailhead where we parked them and stepped onto a trail for a 5 mile round trip hike to Bear Creek Falls. Delightful.

Now the bikes. In another phenomenal act of civic engagement, Telluride has a program run by…of all places… the Public Library, called the Telluride Townies. These are old beat up cruiser bikes painted an unfortunate Pepto Bismal pink, that are available for the general public to “check out” for use. The only requirement is a library card… yours for the low, low price of $10 per family. With Joshua now two wheeling like Evil Knievel and Randy and I with our Townies we were able to bike the trails of Telluride with wild abandon. We took advantage of the extensive bike paths around town and frequently rode from our campground (another amazing thing… The lovely town park on the edge of the village has a beautiful campground) into the “downtown” area for food or errands.

Crusin on my Telluride Townie

There were a few glaring omissions from Telluride. The town has no McDonald’s, Burger King, Applebee’s, Pizza Hut or Subway. No Walgreens or Walmart. No Staples, Home Depot, Fred Meyer or 7-11 either. In fact there was not a single chain store in the entire place. Hallelujah for local small businesses. There was fantastic local coffee and though we cooked in camp most nights we did venture out for a meal or two and the food was equally fantastic.

Prices are definitely a check in the minus column. I went to the grocery store to buy toothpaste and a tube of the generic, non organic stuff was $8 and change. What? I’m not usually one to take note of prices. While gas prices are soaring and everyone is complaining, I often can’t tell you the price per gallon. I figure if I need the stuff, I’m going to pay whatever price they are charging. This ain’t South America. I’m not going to bargain the station down a buck or two. But when toothpaste is over $8 a tube, I take note. What do the locals do? Clearly everyone in this town can’t afford 8 bucks for toothpaste. Let me know if you know someone who lives in Telluride. I need to ask them a few questions.

I could wax on about Telluride. I really, really liked it. I bet it’s got a slightly different feel when it’s swarming with tourists but I sense that the local people here really like their way of life. It seems a little slower; a little saner than most places. I like that. I think I’ll be back.

Here are a few more photos from our travels to Telluride…

Boarding the Pikes Peak Train

West Elk Wilderness – near Gunnison, Colorado

Heading up to Bear Creek Falls, Telluride, CO

Joshy cruises the trails of Telluride

Wetland pond, Telluride

Randy goofs off on the hike up Bear Creek

Joshua at Bear Creek Falls

Telluride town

Mountains, rivers and trails! Telluride

319 days together and still smiling!



  1. I love it!! I know some people who used to live in T-ride. I’ll ask them where they bought groceries! Or you can ask them when you arrive. When is that by the way? We are all excited to see you guys!!!

  2. HI Stacie, Another good story. I have enjoyed all of them.
    Good luck re-entering the real world.

  3. I’ve never been to Telluride. I think I love it though! The caption on the last photo is awesome. What an amazing year you have had. I can’t believe you’ll be home this month!

  4. Stacy, John Denver is an acquired taste! I knew you’d come around…. All is forgiven. 🙂 Loved your post – safe travels home and hugs to all. Heather

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: