I haven’t written in two weeks. I’ve been high 🙂
We have been in the mountains for a month, and I think I am in heaven! After leaving New Mexico we headed into Pagosa Springs, Colorado for Father’s Day weekend. While I had to pull out my raincoat and winter hat for a couple of days, I was happy to get out of dusty New Mexico and experience the beauty of mountain rain. In between rainclouds we spent an afternoon soaking in the local Hot Springs and also met new friends! Our host at the Wolf Creek Run Motor Coach Resort had organized a Sunday brunch to celebrate Dads on Father’s Day and we spent most of that morning sitting by a firepit on a deck surrounded by tress talking to our neighbors, Chris and Kathy from Texas. One thing I inherited from my dad is an insatiable curiosity and desire to connect with people, so I absolutely loved learning about what it means to be a firefighter and Fire Chief in Texas from Chris, as well as the ins and outs of court reporting from Kathy. Chris had grown up RVing with his dad, and Jeremy and I were even more delighted when we learned that they were on their way to Ouray, Colorado next too.
The drive from Pagosa to Ouray was eventful as we drove what is called The Million Dollar Highway. Yes dear reader, think winding mountain roads where the guardrails are few and far between. Seen from the passenger seat of Andi perched high above the road, I was too enamored by the scenery to be scared, and when we stopped just above the town to take in the view, I was reminded how incredible yet again that I get to explore the hidden gems that are so abundant in this country.
We celebrated our 8 year wedding anniversary the next evening at an old saloon in town eating cowboy steaks and listening to a piano player. The next day Chris and Kathy arrived and coincidentally were parked next to us again at the KOA. We ended up sharing bits and pieces of our days together and on the last evening sat ‘round the campfire’ where we ended up discussing raising kids who are now adults, and what it means to be an empty nester. I am continued to be amazed that wherever we are, whenever we meet someone in this phase of life, the conversations are similar despite the differences we have based on geography.
As Chris and Kathy headed off to meet their son in Wyoming, we moved from the KOA to Ridgeway State Park just outside Ouray. Parking a 40 foot RV in a State Park can be quite an adventure, and getting Andi into a very small and unlevel spot at Ridgeway was intense. This time, though, I simply observed Jeremy in awe as he maneuvered, backing Andi into the spot flawlessly (albeit narrowly missing a tree and knocking a few branches). And though we fit into the space, he still couldn’t get Andi level with the equipment we had. So, thirty minutes later we jumped into the jeep (we have named the jeep, Howie, fyi), and headed to the local Ace Hardware store to get wood blocks to put under the front tires which would help us level Andi. While Jeremy chatted to the sales clerk I peeked into the market next store to find food but when I returned to the Hardware store, Jeremy was MIA. If you know Jeremy, you know this is not exactly uncommon as he is a guy who tends to wander off. So, I sat on a bench outside and patiently waited, my phone locked in the Jeep a few feet away. Ten minutes later, I took another lap through the store, walked back to the grocery store, and then finally meandered behind the Hardware store to find a garage-like building with an open door, filled with wood. And there my husband was, hunkered down with a huge electric saw in hand. Apparently, they sold Jeremy the wood and then handed him a saw to cut it himself into pieces. Let’s just say this is not something that would happen at a Hardware store in LA. And, I didn’t even know Jeremy knew how to use an electric saw!
Now, let me tell you about this beautiful campsite my husband nabbed for us.
Ridgeway State Park is situated approximately 30 minutes from Ouray at the entrance to the beautiful San Juan Mountains. And while the Uncompahfre River runs through it, the main attraction is the Ridgeway Reservoir. As a result, we had incredible mountain views and the site was situated near one of the parks’ 14 miles of hiking trails. My daughter, Rayna, had given us a double hammock for my birthday so we spent afternoons laying in the hammock reading, looking out into the mountains. We built our share of campfires, too. Watched our silly reality TV shows outside, and even took an incredible hike one afternoon after work where we saw deer and enjoyed the clear blue water and the boats trailing up and down the reservoir. We even saw a cheeky crow with a giant egg in its beak as it figured out what to do with her loot.
On the weekend we explored the ski town of Telluride, and went on an incredible 7 mile mountain hike around the perimeter of Ouray featuring 1600 feet of elevation, varied kinds of terrain, four waterfalls, and five bridges! Saturday, we picked Rayna up in Montrose 30 miles away and headed through the Ophir Pass, a moderately difficult 10 miles off-road track that leads from Ouray into Telluride! Luckily, I sat in the back as we bumped and bounced over the rocky terrain. On the west side of the pass, there was a very narrow and rocky shelf where it was nearly impossible for more than one car to pass. Jeremy impressed us with this technical driving as we navigated to the top of the 12,000 foot peak above tree line.
On Sunday, we packed up Andi and left Ouray suprising Rayna with a few days at Gateway Canyons Resort near Grand Junction, Colorado two hours away. The hotel was a nice reprieve from Andi (we parked her in the giant parking lot on site) and we spent the Fourth of July weekend hiking, lounging poolside entrenched in our books, and biking throughout the huge property.
After Rayna went back to New York, we headed to Steamboat Springs, an amazing ski town with a combination of mountains and valleys, three different lakes and a river that runs right through town. Instantly, Jeremy and I both fell in love with this quaint but vibrant community. On the first night we spontaneously decided to go to an acoustic show at a little music venue called The Press featuring, you guessed it, legendary country music songwriters! The three musicians were salt of the earth grey-haired former hippies in their 70’s. And, the list of familiar pop songs they had written for top artists was impressive. From Tim McGraw and George Straight to Lee Ann Womack’s hit, “I Hope You Dance” we relished in the stories that accompanied the writing of each and every song as they did their own renditions. However, the biggest hit of the night is the friend we made, Bill. “Wild Bill,’ as he is called by his former students, instantly befriended us as we waited for the show to start. Sporting a grey braided ponytail, baseball cap and a wide smile, at almost 80 years old, Bill looked to be in his late 60s or 70s. He had retired to Steamboat from New Jersey 27 years ago with his wife, and of course, as I began to discover his story, I couldn’t stop wanting to know more about this surfer, former high school teacher, and Vietnam vet. Before the show started Bill invited Jeremy and I to breakfast at his home the next day to which we easily said, “Yes!”
As we approached Bill’s house early on Sunday morning, we were enthralled by the natural beauty of the 37 acres on which his home sits. Situated on a gravel road off a small country road about 20 minutes from Steamboat Springs, the oversized front door was open when we arrived. The voices of young children carried through the house as the aroma of pancakes and bacon filled our nostrils. Bill’s wife, Dorry, (I’m not sure if I’m spelling her name right!) was at the stove making oatmeal pancakes. A petite woman with shoulder length grey hair and a big heart, Dorry greeted us and introduced us to the young couple who had also been invited to share Sunday morning with the Hamiltons. We met their kids, the new puppy in the house, and Instantly began chatting and it was as if we had known them all for years. Bill and Jeremy chatted surfing while Dorry told me the story of how she and Bill first met. Then, we all gathered outside on their beautiful deck surrounded by trees and a koi pond to dig in. The day ended with photos and a promise to stay connected. Bill said he moved to Steamboat because it was a thriving, open-hearted community and as we left Steamboat Springs we scanned real estate listings and imagined what it might look like to make that place our future home one day.
Time in Colorado blew my hair back. I loved the mountains, the small town vibes of each place we visited, the sparkling lakes everywhere, and the way a river or a chairlift can make a town come alive. I loved watching the birds and the chipmunks, hearing the sounds of rushing water, and the whir of cyclists pushing their way down a trail or street. I loved the spaciousness and the fact that seeing a deer or horse or cow is an every-day occurrence. And, as we left the beauty of one place towards the beauty of another, we feel full, and a little more peaceful.
Onward Ho as we head further west into the vast lands of Wyoming and Montana.