I made it all the way to 31 years of age before setting foot in the infamous town of Aspen, Colorado. My presence there was happenstance.
Best memory: a deaf woman took my order at a coffee shop, confirmed her lip reading with a counter-top scribble, and then produced the first proper flat white I’d had since leaving Australia. (Microfoam and espresso is apparently beyond America’s repertoire.)
Monsoon Roads and Trails
Before the coffee shop came a park workout down by the river with Boyfriend. In the days before that:
- saying goodbye to our New Mexico apartment after a trip to Home Depot
- long talks about the future of our relationship between a hike up to the mica mine and marathon sessions of Orange is the New Black
- heavy, dark clouds and bucketing rain escorting us on our road trip through New Mexico and Colorado
- another bad haircut for Boyfriend in Anywhere, USA
- camping at and hiking to Brown’s Falls
- crossing the continental divide, then hiding from the rain in the cab while IPA-ing and Gin Rummy-ing
Peak Bagging 101
After the coffee shop, we made a successful bid for the summit of Mt. Sopris. Aside from stunning vistas, we were also rewarded with up-close encounters with a marmot and a fox! Two nights in a tent on the shores of Thomas Lakes at the foot of Mt. Sopris, and we were ready for great Mexican and a rec-center visit (shower! swim! yoga!) in Glenwood Springs. We couldn’t resist joining the crowds on Colorado’s most popular day hike to Hanging Lake as we passed by on our way to my family reunion/great uncle’s memorial service.
Steamboat Springs had fantastic microbrew. When we weren’t hanging out at the World Mark Resort apartments eating chicken enchilada casserole, spaghetti, breakfast casserole, and taco pie, we saw the sights and celebrated my uncle’s life. The wilderness memorial service had us passing by the family farm where my maternal grandmother and late great-uncle grew up. Boyfriend, after a soft introduction to the American gun culture, appreciated the small armory the current ranch family has accumulated over the years. A trip up the Gondola and down the Alpine Slide fit in amongst brewery visits and botanical garden wandering.
Finally the party broke up and I kidnapped my nephews – ages 8 and 10 – for their first ever backpacking trip! The enormous not-for-backpacking sleeping bags we borrowed for the boys set the tone for the adventure. Too heavy to be carried by the children, Boyfriend and I ended up with gargantuan packs. Hilarious!
Exceptional summer thunderstorms rained us out of our desired trail in Colorado and flooded the entire eastern half of the state. We splashed our way up the interstate toward Wyoming, stopping to dry the sleeping bags, entertain the boys at my favorite childhood restaurant in Denver, and dry the rest of our gear in a Laramie, Wyoming hotel room. Bonus: pool time for the kiddos!
The Medicine Bow Wilderness greeted us with blue skies. The boys humped their packs, aching and complaining the mile and a half to Lost Lake. They loved the campfire and getting to independently explore the lakeside. They bonded over being the only two kids in the wilderness and being forced to eat foods they hated. The nine-plus miles and several thousand feet up Medicine Bow Peak and back – all in one day – imbued all of us with a huge sense of accomplishment. And really sore feet. Definitely a successful first backpacking adventure and excellent cousin-bonding time! The boys are young enough that they were definitely ready to go home to their families (and technologies!). Can’t wait for the next one!
We spent hours and hours crossing Wyoming’s wide empty spaces in order to return the boys to their towns and make our way to the municipality of my youth. My parents have since moved away, but a good friend and his family – who were the home away from home of my senior year – are still around! Said friend and family are the warmest, most delightful people. Catching up with them was an honor!
Friend affectionately refers to the small, period home in which he resides as “the Shanty.” He generously allowed us to have the place to ourselves so we could visit my old stomping grounds, catch up on life admin, spend time with my local cousins and aunt, and prepare for our upcoming canoeing trip. He even gave us the grand tour of the town’s latest and greatest *and* took us up for a bird’s eye view of my youth. His aerial maneuvers were especially attention-grabbing as the previous night saw us attending ladies’ night karaoke at the Fireside.
After I made energy bars for our pending adventure (and stocked Friend’s freezer with half the batch, which he gave the adventure athlete’s seal of approval), we stopped in an my grandparents’ countryside dwelling. Dinner and a game of bridge and we were off across South Dakota with stops in Sturgis to dabble in the rally atmosphere and the infamous Badlands National Park to gawk at nature’s art.
Just before crossing into Minnesota, we met up with our canoeing cohorts and road-trained our way toward Rockwood Lodge – a fantastic outfitter for any Boundary Waters exploration. Next up: time to satisfy my decade-long curiosity about this multi-day canoeing business! ♣