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The Day We Can't Unsee | Colorado #3

Well, that's an ominous title to the day. Guess we'd better get started.

As we'd become accustomed to, the night was chilly - somewhere in the high-20°Fs or so - cold enough that the fridge cooled down again overnight without ever turning on. Being our second night, we were all much more prepared for the situation, and an extra layer of clothing here and there seemed to do the trick, everyone sleeping relatively well until the sun warmed our tents in the morning.

Dan @drr and I were up first, and as we ate breakfast, remarked at how quickly the sun seemed to warm up the air around us. Our breakfasts couldn't have been more different - Dan clearly putting a bit more thought and effort into his delicious looking breakfast burrito, while I slurped up my cold cereal. This was definitely a good trip for the fancier breakfasts, as we rarely left camp before 10:00am, giving anyone who was up at an earlier hour, ample time to whip something together.

We pulled out of camp a little before 11:00am, everyone having enjoyed the warming sun for an hour or so before packing up and continuing south on Buzzard - Muddy Divide Road, the completely-avoidable detour that we'd taken after running into a landslide the previous evening.

The terrain was - as it'd been the day before - beautiful. We'd appeared to time the trip perfectly to catch the bright yellows of fall, though a bit of CB chatter centered around whether we were a week or two early - since there were still some green aspen leaves - or, a couple weeks late - given that many aspen had no leaves at all. None of us were complaining though - there was plenty to enjoy no matter the answer.

Rumbling along - now a longer caravan of six trucks - since Monte @Blackdawg's parents (Steve @woodnick and Megan) had joined us - what did become immediately clear was that there were some communications issues. See, generally on the trail, we use CB radios to communicate. Sure, they don't have the range of our mobile Ham setups, but they are accessible to everyone without a license, and they allow for more convenient - or rather, less structured - communication.

Today, there were three issues: First, Steve didn't have a CB radio, and as such, he was working to tune one of his Ham radios to the CB frequencies in order to communicate with the group. A radio jockey, this was rather easily done for him, but it took a little bit of time given the fact that he was driving the FRV (Frankenstein Recovery Vehicle) as well. Second, for some reason Monte's radio was on the fritz - neither Mike @Digiratus nor I could hear him from the back of the pack. And lastly, my transmission and reception seemed exceptionally weak - a rarity given that my radios tend to be some of the more consistently well-tuned in the group.

Still, we bumbled along, messages getting passed down the chain of trucks, everyone able to communicate well enough to not miss any turns as old cabins and splendid hillsides scrolled by.

We'd stop every now and then - as we do - for a photo op, and just to chat outside the trucks for a while, soaking in some of the better views for as long as we could before continuing on to the next "wow" moment. It was on one of these stops that we were all subjected to what can only be described as, "That which would be better left unseen."

You see, earlier that morning, Mark @IDTrucks had decided that today was the day he'd wow us with his cut-off jean shorts. And not in a good way, though he assured us that the previous attempt at their creation had been, "Too short." Seeing his display, Emily had immediately come to the conclusion that matching shorts day was in order, and she too donned her own pair of cut-offs (which, I think we can all agree, she wore better).

At any rate, Mark discovered some issue with his side marker light, and set about fixing it during one of the stops. I've captured the G-rated version of the scene here; unfortunately, it wasn't all so tame. But hey, that's the joy of having Mark along - never a dull moment.

Side marker zip-tied back "into position," we continued south on Delta County Rd 1 towards what had become our target destination - the town of Crested Butte.

Still several hours away, we eventually crossed over the highway where we picked up the road over Kebler Pass, the Ragged Mountains to our north, and Marcellina Mountain to our east providing the first Colorado-style peaks we'd see of the trip.

Kebler Pass is a very-well graded dirt road - the drive (and traffic) reminiscent of our journey over Boreas Pass into Breckenridge on the previous year's Colorado adventure. As such, we kept our stops to a minimum, hoping to escape the traffic as much as we could. Still, I couldn't resist a few photos, the fall colors continuing to stun at every turn.

Having gotten a late start, it was 2:30pm when we detoured slightly off-track - heading north - to Lake Irwin. Like Kebler Pass Road, the lake was packed - campers and fishermen getting in a last hurrah before the end-of-season closure - and to find a private spot, we ended up a little way off the water. Chairs set up in a circle, sandwiches were prepared and consumed - the sun warm, even here at 10,000 feet above sea level.

Our bellies satisfied once again, we were in no huge rush to pack up and go. This was a day where the miles we needed to cover were relatively few, and so we hung out around the trucks for a good hour or more before re-packing what we'd pulled out for lunch time and getting back on the road. From Lake Irwin, we were headed due east towards Crested Butte - the first of several towns we'd stop in - to refuel the trucks, refill the propane that we were burning each night for our camp fires, and do a little shopping at the grocery store to reprovision items that had been consumed already on the trip.

The views - as they'd been all day - were nothing to complain about.

We arrived in Crested Butte and immediately filled all the spots at both gas stations in town - or nearly did! As we each filled up, we remarked at how nice the town seemed. Populated, sure, but it was clear why it was a destination in both the summer and winter - the nearby mountains offering plenty to do in both seasons!

While supplies were replenished, I took a few minutes to check in on the situation at home as well as check my email - the LTE service strong for the first time since I'd passed through Grand Junction a couple days earlier. Everything was - as to be expected - humming along just fine, and after about 20 minutes or so, the CBs came alive with folks announcing that they were ready to get back on the road. Or trail.

From Crested Butte, we'd planned a figure-eight shaped loop into the mountains north of town. Here, we'd tackle Schofield Pass and the Devil's Punchbowl on the way to the old town of Marble, where - perhaps predictably - much of the town is constructed of Marble pulled from the local Yule Marble Quarry. The quality of the marble here is praised as one of the purest marbles ever quarried and rivals classical Italian and Greek marble in quality. Notably, the quarry sourced material for the Tomb of the Unknowns, as well as for parts of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and civic buildings in San Francisco.

But hey, I'm getting way ahead of myself at this point. We were simply on the road out of town, headed north from Crested Butte.

It wasn't all that long before we hit dirt - though, as with Kebler Pass earlier in the day, this dirt was well-graded and obviously high-trafficked. Luckily for us however - it being mid-week and whatnot - there was no one else on the road, and except for photos, we made good time.

And really what that means is that everyone else made very good time, with me bringing up the rear a few minutes later. That "tailgunner" position has become one of my favorite, for two reasons: first, it allows me to hang back and out of the dust that can get out of control on some of these roads. Obviously going first would be another solution to the dust problem, and I don't mind that either, but hanging back also allows me to stop whenever something catches my eye and snap a photo or three before continuing on. I suppose I could do that at the front as well, but I'd hate to be a drag on the rest of the crew.

At almost exactly 5:00pm we arrived at what we'd ultimately call camp for the night. It was still early to be sure, but the location seemed prime and we weren't sure what the trail would bring in terms of camping - though the elevations were sure to be higher - as we climbed our way into the mountains. Opting for the relative warmth of lower elevations, we decided to end the day early - Monte joking with Mike that he couldn't complain for the remainder of the trip if we ever got to camp late.

Mike agreed. Allegedly.

Our elevation meant that the temps were reasonably warm, and we mostly just hung out - our chairs circled - until the sun got a bit lower in the sky. Mark and Emily went for short hike up the canyon, their joyful laughter spilling back down the canyon as Monte and I urged Mike to hurry up with the guacamole before they returned. Unfortunately for us, Mike was much more egalitarian than that, though I think the speed with which Monte and I polished off the entire bowl of green goodness once Mark and Emily returned caught them a bit off guard. Though, while we lucked out on this evening, it wouldn't happen a second time.

Eventually of course, as the sun left the sky, the air cooled and we all bundled up for the evening. The propane fire ring was ignited, and dinners were made. Gourmet of the night award this evening went to Steve - his Traeger grill smoking away - the 120v outlet in the bed of the FRV providing the power to keep it smelling tasty. Dan got in on the goodness with his steak, and it was obviously apparent that there were several jealous campers around the fire as he enjoyed his feast.

Our conversation of the night before - what exactly denoted an established camp site - continued, our current location used as a borderline example, as we oscillated between that and other topics late into the night.

Eventually though, many laughs later, we called it a night. It'd been a short day on the trail, but one we'd all enjoyed. And, just as the day had been magictacularly beautiful, so the night was turning into the same - the mountains and stars around us glowing under the light of the moon.

Little did we know that tomorrow we'd run into our first real excitement of the adventure - one of the trucks even turning around due to trail conditions...


The Whole Story

One Comment

  1. Jim
    Jim November 11, 2020

    I can hardly wait for the next episode! UJ

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