Once again, I have accepted the fact that spending time with friends who I rarely see is more important than updating this blog. Although I am sure that I could have carved out plenty of time for creating and processing content for my site, I decided to jump into my sedentary and comfortable Colorado lifestyle while it lasted. As a result, I can almost guarantee that my narrative will suffer. I also know for a fact that my camera was far less active as I focused my efforts on job hunting and adventuring with friends in the environs of Denver and Boulder. I will, however, do my best to account for my actions over the past month.
My saga left off way back at the base of McClure Pass where I idled for a while in Penny Hot Springs. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to warm up after my chilly night in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. My next stop was Aspen, where I reconnected with Laura, an Apogee-friend and truly one of the warmest and most inviting people on this planet. Despite some housing peculiarities, she proved a tremendous hostess who made pre-season Aspen come alive. A far cry from Telluride, Aspen’s ostentatious displays of wealth and finery were a bit hard for me to swallow. Mountains and Gucci don’t necessarily blend well in my book. I will admit that I do gravitate towards the feel of a good mountain town and Aspen did not disappoint in this regard. I don’t think that I could ever live there, but visiting was a total treat. I was reminded by constant bouts of déjà vu that I had wandered Aspen and its mountains as a child, which brought back happy memories of exploration and adventure. Happily, I also carved out a chunk of time to see Denali, a family friend who I hadn’t seen in over a decade. In the end, Aspen proved a wondrous playground for the well to do where I happily reconnected with old friends.
From Aspen, I turned north once more, heading into a horizon dancing with massive snowflakes and frigid winds. With Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) looming heavy in my mind as my final park in Colorado, I continued to watch the temperature dropped steadily into the single digits. With most of my winter gear sitting just out of reach in Madison, I knew I would not be able to enjoy RMNP to its fullest extent this far into the season. Ever since Great Sand Dunes, I have been kicking myself for leaving some of my warmest gear behind; definitely an error in judgment on my part. So far, it hasn’t been too debilitating, but a few trails called for the snowshoes, baskets, and winter sleeping bag that I had stored back home. Luckily, I will have them by the time I hit Glacier National Park in January… Brrrrrr.
Knowing my limitations, part of me viewed my time in RMNP as a placeholder for when I would return. With that mindset, I spent the day wandering the parks trails, postholing where I had to, but keeping things relatively simple. My biggest regret was that I missed out on a drive over Trail Ridge Road, one of the most accessible (and unforgettable) highlights of the park. My inability to access the deeper reaches of the park was frustrating, but I turned my focus on the snow-covered beauty of the aspen, pine, and chaparral that surrounded me. Hemmed in by massive mountains, the beauty of the Rocky Mountains is highlighted perfectly in the park, which celebrates its centennial this year.
Leaving the western reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park behind, I rushed towards Boulder, where I settled down for awhile. I will not delve deeply into the details of my time in Boulder and Denver. Initially, I imagined Boulder as a home base from which I could see friends, play in the Flatirons, and potentially land some short-term employment. Despite my efforts, the latter proved improbable. After applying to Whole Foods, REI, and a couple other local gear shops, my numerous applications were quickly rebuffed during the interview stage when I honestly told them I would likely only be around for 3-4 weeks. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so honest… After realizing that extending my stay in Boulder to find employment might not be productive, I decided to head towards Madison after Thanksgiving, hoping I might find some work there. That still left plenty of time to play in Colorado though!
Even though I didn’t find work, I had no trouble filling my days in Boulder. With access to a full kitchen, I spent plenty of hours roasting root vegetables, sautéing garlic and onions, and cooking up all manner of treats that I was unable to do from my mobile kitchen. During the day, I would do my best to explore Boulder. Some days that meant scooting around CU-Boulder on my skateboard. Others were spent clambering around in the Flatirons, which may also have been a nighttime activity. Uncharacteristically, I spent a few days glued to a television playing video games, something I hadn’t done in years (which was exactly why it was so awesome!). Coffee shops, funky restaurants, and the wonders of Pearl Street also consumed plenty of my time (and a fair amount of my money). During my time in Boulder, Hank (my friend from Bates) and Hannah (a family friend from Bayfield) were my dutiful and super outgoing hosts, yet I filled my time with adventures with Ally, Nick, Jeanne, Fergus, Julie, Kirby, and countless other friends who have all gravitated towards this awesome place.
Boulder’s proximity to Denver meant that Hank and I traveled down for birthday celebrations, the premier of Warren Miller’s new ski film: “Chasing Shadows”, and for Thanksgiving’s festivities. The Woolley family has generously opened their door to me for previous holidays, so continuing the pattern this year felt like stepping down a familiar path. I will forever be indebted to them for their tremendous generosity, something that I can only hope to repay one day! The least I could do was fill their table with as much Thanksgiving deliciousness as possible. Prepping for Thanksgiving meant more cooking, which made me a totally happy camper. Brussels sprouts, butternut squash stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and truffles filled with a homemade pumpkin butter-based filling were my contribution to the already overflowing table of autumnal deliciousness. Serendipitously, Elsa’s birthday coincided with our celebration of thanks, which made it all the more special.
After a day of ceremoniously stuffing our faces and subsequent dishwashing, we headed into the mountains for a few days at their cabin. Nestled on a hill with a sensational view of the Gore Range, their cabin will always hold a very special place in my heart and I feel completely blessed that I had the opportunity to visit it again this year. Happily, a few more Batesies joined in on the fun. Leaving behind cell service, but bringing all the leftovers, Hank, Connor, Fergus, Will, and I joined the rest of Hank’s family for a weekend of backcountry skiing, wood fires, Settler’s of Catan, sledding, photography, snowshoeing, and hot tubbing. I don’t know about you, but it was the perfect way to celebrate the people, places, and opportunities that I am forever thankful for.
I’m not sure I agree with the phrase, “all good things must come to an end”, but I did eventually have to say goodbye to the generosity and hospitality that Colorado had afforded me for the past month. Not surprisingly, I have spent more time in Colorado on this trip than in any other state thus far. The people and places of this wonderful state made it difficult to move on, but I knew I had to leave at some point! And yet, I feel I have only scratched the surface. I guess that means I will have to come back soon!
For now, I’m headed into the flatlands leading away from the Front Range on a course for South Dakota. After that, home.