I’m GOING HOME!

Sometimes it feels like life is really just out to kick you when you’re down. Last school year was that time for me; I went through a divorce, I was starting a new career, had to change schools, and didn’t do myself a lot of favors in terms of staying active and being positive. That is not how I mean to live my life.

Fortunately, when school got out last year, I launched myself into my county highpoint project driving a lot of miles around Colorado with Francis the FSJ. For me, a road trip is almost always a mood lifter and a time for thinking about life. (Lissie’s cover of “Pursuit of Happiness” was the soundtrack to many a long dark mile last summer and excellent reading for this post.) I landed in a great school for this year and made some real strides as a teacher. I tried to embrace my situation to make the most of this year.

My heart, however, remained nestled in Ridgway, my little town at the base of the San Juan Mountains. Out loud, I told my family and friends that I was resigned to a couple of years of being away but I knew that I had to try to move back sooner rather than later. It was getting harder and harder to keep my focus in the present than on how and when I could find myself back home. I only became more convinced as time went on that I was doing the right thing by working towards a forever home here.

Fortunately, I was recently hired for the 2016-2017 school year at a district much closer to Ridgway. In fact,it’s within not-insane commuting distance meaning that things are back on track for eventually building a home on my property. I want to see how things go at my new school year and continue to improve my financial situation before I build but the wheels are definitely turning.

Next week is my last week in De Beque. I’ve had fun exploring and being located on I-70 was convenient but I’m overjoyed to be going back home.

This summer is definitely one of transition. I’ve acquired a summer job (that I’ve been working hard at over the last month already!) at a restaurant in Ridgway working towards some of those aforementioned financial goals. I’ll be splitting my time between my property, a friend’s place in Montrose, and the road (of course!).

Because I’m tied to Ridgway quite a bit with a job (no complaints here!) most of my adventures will be tied to Colorado which is just fine since my main summer goal is more progress towards (finishing? maybe?) the Colorado County Highpoint list (I’m currently at 70.3% and itching to get out and do more)!

Summer! Roadtrip!: Part 1

I cannot think of a better start to summer than a roadtrip! Even better, Colorado decided to cooperate with me and get sunny and summer-like just as it was time to head out and meet Amanda in Green River. Amanda (of Amanda Summerlin Photography fame) had emailed me way back in April to see if I’d be interested in an adventure in early June. She’d photographed a wedding in Salt Lake and had a week to drive to Denver before flying out to another wedding. Of course, I couldn’t refuse the offer of a great adventure partner so plans were made.

I needed to leave Ridgway the day after school had gotten out so I didn’t get a particularly early start but after a busy morning of getting things ready to leave, Sprocket and I set out over Dallas Divide.

I had initially intended to go the fast way to Green River via Grand Junction. And then I decided to go through Moab. And then I decided to take a new route through Gateway. It was a beautiful afternoon and I was so so happy to be on the road with Sprocket.

I think he was pretty happy to be on the road as well:

I’d seen bits and pieces of the Dolores River Canyon around Slickrock, Paradox, and Bedrock and I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised that Colorado 141 alongside it on the way to Gateway was absolutely gorgeous. I was so glad that I’d decided to come that way!

I caught some glimpses of the hanging flume:

When we reached Gateway, I turned onto John Brown Road and headed up the canyon.

Sprocket and I took our time (mostly because the FSJ continues to have vapor lock issues) but the scenery wasn’t too shabby so there wasn’t anything to complain about.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of the drive to Green River, including one of my new favorite gravel roads!

Floating the Lower Gunnison

So I was a little nervous about making friends in Ridgway. It’s been a long time since I lived somewhere long enough to really make good friends. I made a few phone calls to acquaintances and I’ve found that some of them are well an their way to becoming good friends. Over beers at Colorado Boy, I found that I was happily welcomed into a slew of Labor Day weekend fun.

The four day weekend started Thursday when I left work and headed up to Paonia and met with the crew at Revolution Brewing (I was impressed with their brews). Afterwards we headed to Paonia’s Pickin’ in the Park.

The next day, most of us set out on the Gunnison River for a nice relaxing float. Sprocket spent the whole time being the puppy in charge and had a much less relaxing time…

High Country Jeeping, Ouray to Lake City Edition

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve actually had posts scheduled days in advance! As of Monday, however, 3Up Adventures moved down into Ridgway from our property north of town and our apartment has internet (and these amazing views, but that’s almost bragging). I’m really excited to get things rolling again and catch you all up!

A few weeks ago, we headed out on yet another high country exploration trip in the jeep. Our plan was to travel from the Mineral Creek trailhead (just outside of Ouray) to Lake City via Engineer Pass then return via Cinnamon Pass and Poughkeepsie Gulch.

A few weeks ago, we hiked up to Brown Mountain ridge and walked along it for a bit. Mt. Abrahms is the mountain on the left and stands out prominently from Ridgway and the Million Dollar Highway.

A combination of me driving over Cinnamon Pass and then being way too busy looking around coming down Poughkeepsie Gulch meant that our pictures end with the above: me just starting up Cinnamon Pass. We’ll be up and down and around so there will be pictures of those areas eventually!

Alpine Mine Hike

Wednesday Sprocket and I set off looking for some adventure. We started off hiking up the Weehawken Trail just outside of Ouray. The trail switchbacks pretty much straight up a hill and just doesn’t stop. Our goal was to get to the Alpine Mine remains.

It was such an absolutely beautiful day. We weren’t in much of a hurry and it was pretty great to be up in the mountains with this guy:

The mine itself was a bit of a letdown but we decided to not stop there and work our way up to the ridge above the mine. I’ll admit to thinking “Just one more highpoint” more than once as we worked our way along. I had to finally give up when I reached a slope that I wasn’t comfortable leading Sprocket down alone.

Here’s the view from the furthest point we made up the ridge line, not too shabby:

The Cabin, First Day of Summer 2012

We drove in for the first time this year on June 20, the first day of summer. Sounds quite perfect but it was really a bit late for our tastes.

June 20, 2012

We forgot the camera so I don’t have a nice family picture on the first day of summer like this one from last year:

The Family at the cabin, start of summer 2011

But there’s certainly a lot less snow this year!

The cabin, first day of summer 2012

After Work 30 Mile Loop

Yesterday when I got home from work Forrest and Sprocket met me at the car, helped me unload, and informed me we were going for a quad ride. The three of us loaded up and away we went. As we headed out of town to the east, Forrest asked where I wanted to go. I suggested all the old standards: Gold Hunter Gulch, Deadman Gulch, and Gentle Annie Gulch. None of these suggestions appeared to strike his fancy so I suggested Willow Creek Road.

Away we went up Willow Creek to the old railroad grade headed towards Lookout Pass. It was a gorgeous evening and was mostly warm, even as we approached the 4,000′ pass. Sprocket was charging up the hill at a comfortable 17 MPH (which much explain how he can hardly stand to run with me anymore).

On the Montana side, we drove up a road that skirted the base of the ski area and unfortunately were soon stopped by a tree down over the road. (When will we learn to always take the little chainsaw?) Rather enjoying ourselves, we continued east on the railroad grade. We thought about going to Copper Lake but, again, the were trees down. At that point, Forrest laughed and said we’d already done half of the “30-mile Loop,” a gravel road outing popular here that usually occupies an entire Saturday. Although I was unsure that we’d make it over the top (we’d struggled to make it over last year the last week in June) I suggested we give it a shot.

Down through the railroad tunnel we went and then up towards Mullan Pass. As we started to see snow on the road with another couple of miles left making the loop started to feel like not so great of a plan—neither of us had brought a coat or gloves and we didn’t have any snacks, it would be a long, cold ride back around to the house if we couldn’t drive over. Two corners from the top of the pass, the inside corners were covered with at least 2 feet of snow. The chances of our two wheel drive quad making it over the top looked pretty bleak.

Suddenly happy that F had put a winch on the quad (because it would make it much easier to extract if we got it stuck), I declared that we were so close and should give it a shot (I’m usually the “oh nevermind, we can’t make it” one of Team 3Up). F let the air pressure in the rear tires down a bit so we wouldn’t dig quite so bad and I hopped on to Sprocket’s rack on the back to maximize our traction. Away we went up the hill, my legs sticking out the back and F working the quad to keep our momentum up. As we made it up the first grade, I started to think this might work. As we rounded the corner, I was laughing; I must have looked ridiculous. And then there was the snow free shortcut to the top. We’d made it!

Except, the more sun exposed west side wasn’t melted out either. It didn’t matter what direction we went, there would be snow to contend with. Fighting downhill is much easier than fighting up and food was in that direction. Thunderstorms had also been predicted for evening and clouds were starting to gather so I scooted back onto the platform again for the ride downhill.

As much as I wish I had pictures of our uphill dash, I really wish I had pictures of us going down the hill. The road was still a bit sloped off towards the gulch to our right so the situation was still slightly precarious. F had to keep our speed up so we wouldn’t get mired in the slushy snow while steering to the left slightly and leaning his weight that way. I was sitting as far back and to the left on the platform and leaning my weight out as far as I could go—I have a lovely bruise on my back this morning to prove it.

As we returned to melted out dirt, we realized we were probably the first 2-wheel drive vehicle to make it through that way this year. Who needs a 4-wheel drive quad!? We have the little Honda that can! And if that’s just the adventure that Team 3Up can find after work, we’ve got to quit slacking on the weekends!


Summer To Do Lists

Our summer to do list is full of way too many practical things right now. On the list:

Finish the van: In the next couple of weeks we need to make some decisions about the final setup of the van and Forrest can get welding on the framework for the bed and cabinets.

Side the cabin and finish insulating the inside: After we get the siding done the place will be officially weather tight. Finishing up the insulation in the walls and ceiling are also on the docket for summer.

Plan wedding: Most of the planning for the wedding is done. There’s some loose ends to tie up but we’re really getting there. I’m sort of liking having it too look forward to as an end of summer hurrah though.

But after my hike yesterday (more on that tomorrow), I have an itch to climb mountains. We haven’t done near as much of this as I’d like in the last couple of years (which partially my fault and partially the fault of the cabin/house for needing to be worked on). My Peakbagger.com list has only TWO summits for all of last year on it and one of those is East Grouse Peak which hardly counts.

I don’t know if all of these things will happen but here’s my fun list for summer (I’ll have to get Forrest’s later).

Climb Idaho’s high point Borah Peak (12,662 ft): Not only would Borah be my lifetime high point it’s another state highpoint! The trailhead is a six hour drive but there’s plenty to do on the way back to make it worth it so this seems like a viable weekend trip.

Climb some local peaks: There’s a ton of mountains to climb right around here. They’re not all massive but using the top 10 high points in the Couer D’Alene Mountains (our mountains are a subrange of the Bitterroot Mountains) isn’t a bad place to start. Then there’s the Cabinets which really aren’t that far away (especially once Cooper Pass melts out!)

Leavenworth-Grand Coulee Dam Trip: I haven’t been to touristy Leavenworth for ages. And neither Forrest or I have seen Grand Coulee Dam. It might also be a good opportunity to visit with my cousins at their cabin in Hunters on the way home. (Maybe they’ll have their boat at the lake which would fill our once yearly need for some time on the water too!)

I can think of a lot more things I’d like to do but summer always feels so short. Way too short. (I can’t even drive to my cabin yet, how can I be thinking about how short summer is?) We’ll do our best to cram as much adventure in as we can though.