Archive for the ‘Posts about Nadia’s trip’ Category
Posted on July 13, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 39: July 12, 2010
Packwood to Sumner, Washington
Moss-covered trees, ferns, wildflowers and waterfalls lined Skate Creek Road for the first 20 miles of the morning for a mostly uphill start to the day. Mount Rainier made a cameo appearance toward the end of that stretch, upstaging the throngs of daisies that cheered me along. Rolling highways then until a surprise cutoff from Alder to Eatonville made for a really fun roller coaster ride for 10 miles that flew by despite many logging trucks. Ortonville Road cutoff from Eatonville to the bike path to South Prairie, wrong turn on the bike path, then doubled back, continuing on through suburbab rhubarb and strawberry fields to Puyallup and on to neighboring Sumner, the end of my trip.
Hooray! Sumner. This bedroom community of Puyallap has been in my sights for almost seven weeks now. This is where Josie got off the train she boarded in Clayton, New Mexico. This is where her sister lived. Where she worked as a typesetter. Where she married Elmer John White. Where she started the next chapter of her life. This two-block town, this is my destination.
I got in toward 8 after navigating suburbia for the first time in a long while. I took a bath. Unpacked. And at 10 went to find dinner at the only place open, and found my self being rewarded with a knuckle bump from the unlikely character of Johnny Rocket. The journey never ends.
Gliding along Skate Creek
Skate Creek Road skirts the south side of Rainier National Park from Packwood to Ashford. It is a flatter, forested version of Hwy. 123, which runs into the park’s south boundary and contains some steep climbs, or so I heard. So close to the end, I didn’t feel that getting a few miles closer to Rainier was worth the delay and hills to see for myself. Now, I was focused on my suburban destination.
All the locals I talked to about Skate Creek said the same things: It’s beautiful, but not safe for riding. No shoulder. Tight turns. This, it seems, is a concerted effort to keep it to themselves. The windy pavement affords very short sightlines, so I did put of riding it until the weekend traffic was done or asleep, but Monday morning I had the road mostly to myself until the very end. Its pavement is compromised by underground springs and it slumps and buckles in large drooping swaths here and there that are all but invisible at high speeds. I saw an RV hit one and the ensuing fight for control was momentarily scary.
Along the way, vast crowds of daisies cheered me along, vigorously nodding and waving in the breeze, shouting their floral, Allez! Allez! The Nisqually River roared.
And a deer came out to see what the fuss was all about. It was lovely, if (yes, I have to say this after so much heat,) a little chilly. Finally, I was in the true Pacific Northwest.
Thanks everyone for reading along. It’s been a remarkable experience
Posted on July 11, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 38: July 11, 2010
Nachez to Packwood, Washington
A flat road this morning, freshly chip sealed, making a small shoulder simply inaccessible. Never mind it was quite early and there was little traffic. At least it was windy. I was a stinky grouch. After the first 30 miles I took a swim and a break and everything improved dramatically – the climb to White Pass is not steep, just a steady churn. The traffic wasn’t as bad as everyone said, especially once I got the milk trucks to give me a little more space, and the scenery went from interesting to, of course, Rainier.
Yakima is a huge valley that collects solar heat and turns it into fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, it threatens to do the same to the people who live there. After several days of hitting the 105-range, Yakimites headed for the hills. Rimrock Lake is a huge reservoir filled with milky green glacier melt water and topped with water skiers straight out of the ‘50s advertising literature. It is generously appointed with boat ramps and picnic areas. The lake cries out: Jump in me!
Poor evening planning on my part has left me without a shower since … uhm, Walla Walla, which is the entire heat wave. (This dose of too much information brought to you by Wet Ones Extra Gentle hand and face wipes.) The additional disappearance of my toothpaste yesterday morning added to my personal hygiene woes. So it was that I was stinky and grouchy and pedaled poorly all morning, despite rolling out of my spot behind the Christian Life Building at 5:00 to steer well clear of any early service. Out of tortillas (poor, poor planning, I tell you) I joined the ag workers at the corner store for a lousy breakfast of things wrapped in cellophane.
In that state, I heard clearly the cry of the lake and waded right in.
Everything changed. I was clean, my mind was clear, I had ridden 30 miles by 10 and stuck with my plan to leave the road to the day trippers and departing RVers for the noon hour. I read. I lolled in the sun. I found my toothpaste. I smelled … grilling onions?
Down the beach from me a Mexican woman had laid out a picnic that engulfed an entire table. Most of her family was napping. Luci, her youngest daughter was in the water, splashing and talking to nobody in particular. I was reading. And the smell of a family gathering wafted into my nose and connected to my brain and the cause of my unrest became clear: I missed my friends and family.
For the first time this whole trip I was kind of lonely. I missed the barbecues and river beach time of Missoula in summer. I miss doing things for other people, with other people. This trip has been 99.9 percent free of whining. No severe pain. No deep regrets about route finding. No fussing about the diet. And no homesickness. All of those things clog the gears of the daily grind that it takes to have a good bike trip, yet they show up now, on the penultimate day pedaling. Acknowledged, they could be released.
I bundled my stuff and rolled up the shady shoreline. I stopped to ask if I could take a picture of the senora’s picnic. She thought that was weird but acquiesced if I would eat something. So I had a fajita with fresh salsa and learned a bit about the apple warehouse life. Who knew they pack apples year round?
It was good to sit and use my abysmal Spanish. She appreciated the effort, (which is why Spanish is more fun than French.) I left very full, but aware of that nagging emptiness.
White Pass is nine miles above Rimrock Lake, past a couple of other little lakes that would be fun to hang out at too. The road is lined with huge walls of rock boxed into chicken wire cages. It is evidence of past rock slides and bulwarks against future ones. I heard later that White Pass is the only pass through the Cascades that is guaranteed to remain open all winter. Never closes. It’s a military thing.
After the pass, the descent is quick and long. I kept my hands on the brakes and my eyes in the rear view mirror, ready to hop into the narrow shoulder if traffic showed up. It was pretty quiet, but it wasn’t really a sightseeing posture. A sign said scenic overlook ahead, and I thought, I’ll cross over to it if there’s no traffic. There wasn’t and I skidded into the gravel lot, and well, there it was, Mount Rainier, bigger than life, just sitting there decorated with snow and a few puffy clouds. What a stunning sight. I could have cruised right on by. I sat and looked and talked to people for a half hour.
I got the milk trucks to stop running me off the road when I saw one coming up on me on the climb. He had oncoming traffic, two cars passing him at once and me to deal with. I saw a break in the rock boxes and stood up and sprinted for it, pulling in in time for him to pass most easily by. He waved thanks and after that the milk trucks that have bothered me for two days started giving me lots of time and space. I think he radioed that I was OK.
This is my last night camping out on this trip. I’m in a genuine rainforest and it’s pitch dark black, a rarity on this trip. I’m staked out in a sloppy way on a slope by a side road under a towering cedar. A creek is rushing by somewhere. The soil is so loamy my stakes barely hold. Entirely new noises fill the air. A bug that sounded as big as a bat was trying to get in the tent. I think it was an owl that just roared at some bird squawking in its space. This is a long way from the abandoned ranch house in New Mexico, the rock art canyon in Utah, the hotspring in Idaho. I’ll miss nights in my protective nylon space.
Posted on July 3, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 27: June 30, 2010
Kirkham Campground to Letha, Idaho
Continued descent through ponderosa scenic byway along progressive forks of the Payette River system until they reached the mainstem at Banks. Wound my way along back roads to the Black Canyon Reservoir. Went for a swim. Continued to meander through farmland until I cross the swollen, but pastoral – as opposed to raging – Snake River (first I’ve seen of it,) and called a stop to the day behind a fire station outside Letha.
It’s been a rainy spring and summer and Idaho is ready to go outside and play in the sun.
Katie and Robert took a break from Payette, fished the Snake then took lunch to a reservoir dock, which is where I found them and followed their lead into the water. Thanks Katie and Robert. Congratulations on your December expectations!
Posted on June 30, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 26: June 29, 2010
Stanley Basin to Kirkham Campground and hot springs, near Lowman, Idaho
34 mph max
Stanley, Idaho, is the type of lovely mountain town where you drink coffee on a sun-soaked deck, making friends and enjoying the scenery until you take a little walk. Along the way, you make some new friend and someone offers you a beer and you’re on a different deck, enjoying a different view with other new friends and before you know it you realize you’d meant to leave and now you can’t remember how.
I’m not saying that happened, necessarily, I’m just saying Stanley’s that nice a town. And that hard to get out of.
If you look at Stanley on a map with an eye to leaving the state pretty much due west, you will see a loop of highways bounded, roughly, by McCall to the north, and Boise to the south. In the middle is a mountainous empty space with no way across except up the loop, or down. If you get out a more detailed map, say, the Forest Service map for that area, you will realize that the map is roughly the size of a queen bed fitted sheet, and about that easy to handle. Nevertheless, once you wrestle its folds into a useable shape, you will see lots and lots of forest roads that appear to cross that empty space. But upon closer inspection, all of them lead someplace roughly as inconvenient as Stanley is for crossing out of the state to the west.
Such was the source of the first hint of frustration with route finding I have experienced this whole trip. After talking to a variety of locals about my options, including a patient forest ranger willing to entertain every route I suggested, and an impatient museum docent who knew whatever I chose I would encounter close calls and unpleasantness, I made up my mind. I’d stick to the highway. I’d go around the loop to the south, not the north, which meant missing the very scenic (by all accounts) McCall, but also skipping the worst part of the relatively treacherous (by most accounts) Idaho Hwy 55.
So it was that I left the lovely mountain town of Stanley a little heavy hearted and a little heavy in the legs. I ground out 20 miles to the turnoff to Bear Valley. That was the jumping off point for my favorite forest service alternative so pushing past it felt a little like defeat.
The wildflowers helped lay that feeling to rest as daisies, penstimen, cinquefoils and colossal multi-blossomed shooting stars flowered in great bunches in wet meadows. The air, as I slogged along, got humid and more fragrant fanned by occasional bursts of vigorous wind that set up an impressive racket as the tops of beetle-killed pine clashed violently against each other. I pedaled up Banner Summit, and past the giant road closed gates that must seal Stanley off from the Boise area after big snows.
Then I was done pedaling. The next 22 miles of screaming downhill were relieved only when I stopped to marvel at the raging foam green river that had sprung to life far below, then just beside the road. It was my first glimpse of the Payette River system, and I was stunned. The hill went on and on and on. I flew past campsite after campsite. Idaho has this figured out. They post signs saying camp only in designated areas, and then they are generous with those designations. But I needed to make time because there was no way across the middle; because I had a whole half a circle ahead of me; because I wanted to make Joseph, Ore., by the Fourth of July. I pressed on because 22 miles of screaming downhill felt like a fantastic spree, an unexpectedly large withdrawal from the gravity bank, and I was spending it all in one shot.
All-Missoula deck party
Alex is from Tanzania, but he’s been adopted, for the moment, by the Aerie staff in Missoula. Darcy is doing one last teaching gig before heading off for some rock climbing in Alaska. And Damien is going to have to pull both their weight once he gets back home. But for the moment, the three of them were on the deck at the Stanley Bakery and Café, getting ready to teach CPR and other lifesaving skills to seasonal Forest Service workers.
“I’m going to get one more cup of coffee, so I’m really jittery,” joked Damien.
Patrick was on the deck because, although he is a freshly minted UM forestry grad and newly hired USFS seasonal hand, he has his Wilderness First Responder certification, also from Aerie, and so got the day off and could hang out at the Bakery. I was on the deck because waiting at the bakery is the very best part of washing all of your clothes in any mountain town.
Stanley is the closest I will come to Missoula on this trip, as the crow flies or otherwise, I think. So it was appropriate to find a hometown crew killing time there. Patrick recognized me by my Open Road socks, a critical omission from operation UnStink. I enjoyed their company so much I forgot to take a photo, but if you need a Kilimanjaro guide, Alex is your man. You can reach him through Aerie.
From ice cave to ahhhh
According to 16 USC 551:36CFR 261.58(j) I am a law breaker for at least a moment each night I spend in a national forest. But out of deep respect for the law, I dug up my one pair of underwear and kept on my jog bra and went marching off through the Kirkham Campground parking lot. Frankly, with my ungodly biker shorts tan lines the world would be better off just letting me break federal law 16 USC 551:blah blah blah. That is the law that says nudity is illegal in the United States Forests at any time, and that law is to blame for my orange-meets-red fashion situation as I floated in a toasty, then very very toasty, hot springs pool, watching a standing wave build then crash, build, then crash, in the middle of a wave train in the south fork of the Payette, just inches from my nose.
The Payette River system is the heart of Idaho’s famous hot spring scene and I although ice would have been better for any aches, my mind was greatful for the heat. I watched the waves until I seemed poached and the thunder started rolling overhead with a seriousness of purpose. I climbed into the tent as the rain and lightning started in earnest. My skin heated the tent even as the rain cooled it down and I closed my eyes, remembering the cold wind of the ice cave on a dry heat day.
Posted on June 24, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 21: June 24, 2010
Newton, Utah to Holbrook, Idaho
I crossed The Long Divide to Plymouth and made my way to Portage, lucking out by getting ahead of the chip/seal crew on the frontage road, but behind the guy who sweeps the road. It was a sweet rolling ride that put me at 45 miles as I rolled through Pleasantview and followed the signs westward toward Holbrook. A cool cloud cover had burned off and I was getting hot. A foot-long breakfast sub with plenty of salt had triggered a powerful thirst and I drank 85 ounces of water by noon. Sensing the Pleasantview intersection was my last chance to refill, I knocked on the door of an elderly widow and asked if I could refill at her hose. She said No, that water was lousy, and brought out a jug she fills in Logan at her son’s. After discussing thirst in general, she said it takes a 50-50 orange juice mix to slake her thirst, and she brought out a bottle. How could I refuse, so I went for 50-50 in two bottles and hit the road. All that was fortunate as the Holbrook road is a five-mile or so climb to a pass that wasn’t steep so much as persistent. I topped out and pedaled a dozen miles in the sun to Holbrook, where the mayor and constable were cleaning a shady park pavilion in anticipation of a reunion this weekend. I had intended to keep moving toward I-84, but the park was undeniably the most pastoral camping spot I have seen all trip.
Constable Arnie said I could camp, and Mayor Gayleen said there were rattlesnakes where I was headed. Who was I to argue? I pitched camp, cooked dinner and watched for over an hour the remarkable courtship of two great horned owls.
Posted on June 20, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 16: June 19, 2010
Jesser to Roosevelt, Utah
Despite being fairly flat, this proved a tough slog through dryland ranching, oil and gas services country and Ute tribal lands.
John Andersen never figured federal stimulus dollars and tribal housing into his work plan, but if housing is your game these days, prefab is the name. “Absolutely nothing in residential construction is moving, anywhere. If you want work, it’s all about affordable housing,” he said.
Anderson, his daughter Ashleigh and son-in-law Tarry along with friends Merlin and Curtis, are doing finishing work on the installation of a couple of dozen prefab houses the Ute tribal council has purchased – sheet rocking, texturing, fixtures and touch-up paint. They all call Idaho home. For this work in Utah they’ve hauled a couple of trailers over and set up behind the Kody Athletic Club, a gravel parking pad with minimal amenities but the right price.
It is not the lifestyle to which Ashleigh is accustomed. She laughs at the chaos of her life with four men. Her dad gets the tiny bedroom, her husband the couch with the bars that bite into his back. She takes the floor. The bathroom leaves something to be desired for someone who puts some thought into her appearance. But they’ve got work and the right attitude to take care of each other and a stranger across the gravel.
When I pulled into the parking area behind Kody’s, I was pooped. I had come into Roosevelt after a traffic-riddled day on Hwy 40 and was so tired that I stopped at an intersection at a side street, forgot to unclip, and just fell over. Gravity was telling me it was time to stop. I was exhausted, chaffed, badly in need of a shower. A surly cashier at a convenience store pointed me to Kody’s with such insouciance that I wasn’t sure she really understood what I wanted.
I pulled in, couldn’t find anyone official to check with, so set up my tent on a stretch of gravel. Glancing at the neighborhood, it was easy to see that the entire collection of a dozen or so trailers here would cost about as much as just one of the opulent rigs with multiple pop outs, or the deluxe fifth wheels with their satellite dishes I’d seen at Montrose or Dinosaur Monument. Here, there were no hookups, no showers, no bathrooms, just a safe place to park for cheap. People were here to work, not to see the sites. These were mobile homes, not recreation vehicles.
I got my tent nailed into the gravel and went to see the neighborhood. I encountered Curtis, sitting in a plastic chair, holding a bundle of a clean clothes and a towel. His arms and head were coated in white dust. While we talked, Ashleigh and Tarry walked up, fresh showered and smiling.
“Better get over there, she’s just here for 15 minutes,” Ashleigh said. And after the briefest of introductions to me, Ashleigh said to me, “Go! Get your stuff! Tell her you’re will us!”
The shower at Kody’s Athletic Club was crisp, clean and restorative. Kitty the owner was a great exception to the rule of surely, suspicious people in this valley. She’s run the gym for a half dozen years and offers all high school students in the area free membership. “I try to make it easy for them to get in the habit early,” she said. She opens the locker rooms for the sheetrock crew after work because not showering after that work is unthinkable.
The shower brought me back to social, and I spent the most enjoyable night of my trip hearing about Ashleigh and Tarry and their four kids and seven baby burrowing owls, and John’s life as a teacher and coach before he escaped all that to build his dream house on the lake in Idaho. John supervised a hibachi conflagration of chicken and everyone fed the mosquitoes. Way later than my usual bedtime I hunkered down under a bright-as-the-sun spotlight and listened to my other neighbors laugh and talk quietly as upbeat and mellow Mexican pop tunes wafted through the tent.
As quick as a bad day turns good, strangers turn to friends. Thanks gang. I’ll see you down the road.
Posted on June 19, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 15: June 18, 2010
Canyon Pinturado to west gate, Dinosaur National Monument
Oh, this is the part everyone said was boring, boring, but riveting — eyes constantly toggling between looking back to see the next jackass oil field worker bearing down on me, and glancing ahead to see my best exit ramp if I need to bail on the white stripe that serves as my bike lane. Not a bad diversion as I rolled through Rangeley to Dinosaur, then on to Jeser, Utah rolling though high prairie. The high point: remarkable cactus blooms splashing improbable pinks and yellows beneath the sage.
Attention, gentlemen of the oil and gas fields. There are two pedals at your feet. One is the gas. You seem familiar with that. The other is known as the brake. If you sense that you are overtaking a biker at the same time as oncoming traffic, experiment with the brake and let the other car go rather than squeezing yourself between the biker and the car. A flick of the gas pedal and you’ll be right back on pace.
While I have your attention, let’s talk about the lines on the road. The yellow one, if you were to stop and take a look, is just a line. It is not an impenetrable force field, or a virtual wall. You may, if there is no oncoming traffic, cross this line in order to give bikes or pedestrians on the shoulder save passageway. In Colorado, this is actually law, when safe cross the solid line to put three feet between you and a bike. On the other side of your lane is a white line. It too is just paint. It confers no special protections on people traveling to the right of it – it’s not a force field either. Like so many abstractions, these lines are only as powerful as the minds that grasp their meaning. They are special suggestions. Actual common-sense requires that you engage your brain in order to proceed safely for a lifetime on the highway.
Congratulations to the pickup truck drivers of the extensive oil and gas play from the Douglas field through the Rangely field, you are by far the worst drivers I’ve encountered on my trip. The men you will become, the one’s in the RVs, they are a distant second. The men and women with the really tough job, the big rig drivers, they’re pros. They know that avoiding trouble equals saving time in a way that crossing the line just doesn’t. They’re the cream of the crop in today’s poll. To those of you who are exceptions to today’s lousy driver pool: thanks, and teach your brothers well.
The bright spot today: With all the rain, the cactus have burst into bloom and spots of bright pink and light yellow peek out from the sage on the most unlikely hillsides.
Posted on June 18, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 13: June 16
Montrose to Fruita
Intent on flying through this next section of the trip, I took advantage of an early tail wind and wide shoulder and flew along Hwy 50 as it bisects the Umcompahgre Valley, following that river’s rush to join the Gunnison and then the Colorado. The tailwind became a quartering breeze that stiffened, forcing me to fight for control on the downhills, but still helpful on the ups. That changed as high wind advisories went out and I struggled to make the final 10 miles or so to Fruita. Stayed at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Campground, an over-sanitized place full of rafting families having a good time and huge, deluxe RVs. Cost $16. The wind came up and stayed up most of the night; a fitful sleep.
Towering red cliffs to the south, forested mesas and alkaline flats to the north, Fruita is working hard to earn a name as THE place to mountain bike if you’re done with the Moab scene. The local maps show plenty to do, plus wide open BLM and USFS lands if you prefer to freelance your day rides.
The hardest part of getting to Fruita was navigating Grand Junction. At 48,000 it has a smaller population than Casper but it felt much, much larger. Thanks to Michelle, the post mistress at the Whitewater post office, I dodged the network of I-80 and state highways and got onto the Colorado River bike path.
I worked hard to get to the tiny town of Whitewater, only to discover it’s not much more than a post office. But I needed a rest and had some stuff to mail, so that’s where I went. Wind was howling. Michelle, a super enthusiastic veteran of the postal service, gave me an iced tea, let me use the bathroom and told me how to navigate Grand Junction.
Grand Junction is sandwiched between remarkable red rock canyons, similar to Moab or the Grand Canyon, on one side of the valley, and white alkaline rises on the other side, similar to Rock Springs. The city seems to be reclaiming its industrial waterfront and the bike path and riparian restoration efforts are at the heart of that. I recrossed the river on Hwy 6, on a hunch, and followed a highway toward Fruita. This turns out to be a popular and very scenic road bikers’ route
By now, the wind was knocking me sideways.I had to stop and lie in the lee of a roadside electrical box, just waiting the gusts out and hoping rain would hurry and quench the winds. It did, briefly, and I road like crazy, trying to beat a return of the wind.
I rode through increasingly amazing scenery – the red cliffs pushing higher, to 1500 feet, even as they got closer to the highway. The houses got increasingly mansion like, with gated communities and vineyards, very fancy. Increasingly astonished at the scenery, I was stunned to arrive at the gateway to the Colorado Monument National Park. I could have camped there, but did not have legs for a four-mile climb. It looked gorgeous. Fruita was just below the gate a couple of miles and I beat a hasty retreat to a campground there. The wind rose again and I just called the day quits. There’s no use fighting a gale. The next day the paper reported trees through houses and several tumbled travel trailers. Very Casperish conditions.
Posted on June 15, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 11 and 12: June 14 and 15
55 miles and 35 miles, respectively.
Red Bridge Campground to Montrose, then layover day at Montrose with side trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The 15-mile Blue Mesa Road was chilly and muddy offering stunning views of remote mesas, made more impressive by misty clouds pressing directly down on the high, flat prairiescape. Highway 50 proved to be an exhilarating rollercoaster of a ride up and down long swaths of highway, then plunged into narrow, twisting canyons. A Keepler elf truck driving in the shoulder was the closest – and weirdest – call of the day. The remarkable expanse that is the Upanhangre Valley that contains Montrose was a tremendously welcome sight. I regretted charging right past Black Canyon National Park, so instead of climbing Grand Mesa out of Delta, I stayed in Montrose a second night and spent the day resupplying and backtracking 15 miles to the National Park. I did not need new brake pads.
Going on a bike ride is like putting out a newspaper. Every day you know what you need to do. The details change, but the command remains the same: Get up and ride. Get up and put out a newspaper. Taking a day off threw me off my routine. On my day off, I unhooked the trailer and backtracked about 16 miles, and climbed about 3,000 feet, to poke around the rim of the Black Canyon.
The canyon is a remarkable find, tucked back in the folds of the flat-topped mesa. It is over 2,500 feet deep in places, and less than a quarter mile wide, a much more intimate canyon than the Grand, for instance. Although the Gunnison looks tiny at the bottom of the canyon, its song, accompanied by that of the canyon wren, is remarkably soothing and helped me ignore the fact that I overdid both the sun and the ride on my day off. I topped that by eating way too much Indian food.
I like Montrose. It reminds me a lot of Casper.
Posted on June 14, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 10: June 13, 2010
Slumgullian Pass to Red Bridge Campground on the Lake Branch of the Gunnison River
34 miles, 22 degrees farenheit
A quick and cold scramble to get out of the snow this morning followed by a steep descent into Lake City, Colorado for breakfast and blogging. The 24 miles after that were mostly pleasant along the Gunnison River, but marred by indecision and rain squalls.
One advantage to traveling alone is no one in your party is likely to bonk you on the head and devour your flesh. I was reminded of this considerable upside when I stopped at the Alferd Packard massacre site memorial at the bottom of Slumgullian Pass.
Packard, of course, is Colorado’s famous cannibal for whom the mess hall at the University of Colorado is named – a fact that proves higher education can have a sense of humor. The memorial site marks the place he killed the five guys he was guiding – an act he denied until his dying day.
Walking around the site I got some feeling back in my toes and shed a case of altitude sickness that had been with me on the fast and frozen descent from my snowy camp site. Lake City is a gorgeous little town. It boasts a number of cafes and a diner, a couple of dude ranches, several ATV and snowmobile rental joints and a whole lot of Texans. It is at the headwaters of the Gunnison River, and really is quite remote. Leaving town, my route followed the river, which gets deeper and more gorgeous as it goes, culminating, I suspect, in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
My own route becomes unclear here. I had intended to cut across the forest on an alpine jeep route, but was warned off due to roughness and weather. I tried another forest route, FS868, but things just weren’t right. I was too tired. The trailer was recalcitrant. Everything was wet. I returned to the highway, but happened across another route, County Road 25, which rises to cross Blue Mesa. I hope it is an alternative to the highway route that veers further east than I need to go. I camp a couple of miles along this dirt road at a BLM campsite ($5, no host. I can handle that.)
The rain has continued off and on, just enough to prevent me from really drying things out or making dinner well.
I had after-dinner tea with a fellow camper named Jim Prentis from Colorado Springs. He has a little trailer, a Casita, that he enjoys and was eager for some company. He’s a former natural gas company guy and enjoys the logistics of travel. That worked well for me as I needed to talk through my route finding with someone familiar with the terrain. Tomorrow I’ll see where County Road 25 leads.