After leaving the public library in Salida, CO, Zach and I found a beautiful campsite on a mesa overlooking the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It was a dirt road leading up to free campsites above so we were more then willing to explore it a bit. We even ventured out on our bikes, but quickly saw the benefits to having a mountain bike vs a road bike on dirt and rocky terrain. Zach had a harrowing experiece going downhill on his skinny tired bike, I chose to walk.
The beauty of the sunset was epic. A storm was rolling in and blocked out the sun for a bit. Just as it was about to creep behind the mountains, the clouds broke up and the sun burst through! We got to watch the whole thing unfold as we cooked our dinner and settled in for the night. This is why we are doing this!
|It was amazing!!!|
In the morning, we set out for Gunnison, CO to find some climbing we had read about. It ended up being a little different then we were expecting. The 5.8 (fairly easy climb) that I lead was pretty difficult for me. It was fun to get to the top, but I wasn't too keen on leading another one. We had passed by this formation called "The Finger" and saw one route going up to the top. It was very much a novelty route and looked difficult. A man had just finished doing it as we hiked up and he looked pretty epic standing on top. We decided to try it out. The moves to get up it were difficult and required multiple attempts by both of us. Zach made it to the top on lead and was comfortable standing high atop the feature (he was perfectly safe and clipped in for those worrying) and received a round of applause from an onlooking car. I made it to the top as well but was only brave enough to go up on one knee. The onlookers had gotten bored watching my attempts so I just had to cheer for myself, which I did:)
|The Finger Formation|
|Me on top!|
|Zach being brave on top!|
Leaving Hartman, we decided to head up to the The Black Canyon and camp there for the night. The windy road to get to the North Rim was very scenic and full of bunnies, deer, and chipmunks playing chicken with me across the road. I managed to miss them all and we safely arrived at the campground. The wooded area containing all of the campsites seemed pretty standard for a Colorado campground until we walked 200 yards and reached the edge of the canyon! The walls dropped down 2000 feet creating beautiful rock faces on both sides. Zach and I stood in awe at the overlook as we craned our necks to see the river below. It looked so small, but by the sounds of the roaring rapids, it was nothing to be laughed at.
|The Black Canyon|
We got up early the next day to get a good start on the heat for the day. Heading downward to do a climb felt odd, but we were excited to try this new area out. It has been a dream of Zach's to climb in the Black Canyon since he started climbing 5 years ago! We finally made it to the climb after a few repels down fixed lines (ropes maintained and left on the downclimb). I had to learn a few new techniques to do these repels, but my ever present partner was right there to help me through it all. The climbing looked amazing and we were so happy to finally be going up!
We did the climb in 4 pitches (4 rope lengths and stops) and had a blast on all of them! The climbing had a few difficult spots, but both Zach and I made it through without falling on the rope! It was great:) The top of this particular wall isn't as high as the canyon wall, so unfortunately, we had to continue up on a steep hiking trail. It wasn't as bad as I had anticipated, but it was getting hot and I was ready for shade.
|Zach repelling down into the canyon.|
|Partway through when it was still cool.|
|Part of what we climbed|
|Zach climbing the last few feet.|
|Posing at the summit|
|At the top!|
|This is what we climbed!!|
When we reached camp, we both rested and made lunch. We had only taken snacks along on the climb so we were pretty hungry. Tuna fish mixed with thousand island dressing is amazing on crackers! Feeling more refreshed, we decided to try out our solar shower and clean up bit. It worked amazingly well! I just showered in my swim suit and felt so much better. My only fail was when changing back out of my suit, I didn't notice a giant RV had arrived and parked on my changing side...Oh well, they left soon afterward anyway:)
Previously, we had only noticed one other van in the campground. It stood out to us because it was the luxury version of our setup in a much bigger van. We may have drooled a little, but we hadn't seen anybody so we couldn't get a closer look. As we were getting ready to leave, we ran into the couple, Rich and Marsha, filling up water jugs. Turns out, they are on a similar adventure and have been since June! It was great swapping stories and getting tips on life in a van from people more experienced then ourselves. We also found out why we hadn't seen them the previous evening. They had gotten on a longer and harder climb then the one we did and ended up stuck out overnight! It worked out well for them because we had set off our car alarm at some point during the night, so I'm glad we didn't wake them up:) We parted ways after a fun conversation and continued on in our respective vanventures.
A burger and fries sounded amazing and we found a great diner in Delta, CO called C and J's. It was delicious and just what we needed to fuel our next adventure of finding camping. We have not yet mastered how and where we feel comfortable parking. We tried to fall asleep in a pullout off a dirt road, but both of us were laying in silence feeling very anxious and paranoid. Zach spoke up first and we clamored back to the front seats and continued on.
Telluride had a website that offered free camping up a dirt road. We followed their directions and headed out of town on Alta Lakes Rd. It was about 11pm and apparently when the wildlife are most active! Our first siting was the best. As we turned a dark corner, our headlights brought into view something fairly large jogging ahead of us. It wasn't tall enough to be a deer and I almost called it a dog, but then it stopped and turned around. Those bright, cat-like eyes and beautiful face showed us its identity as a mountain lion! I was so excited and so happy to be in a car. The lovely cat stayed posed for a moment, checking us out and then stealthily slunk back in to the trees.
After that moment, I decided I was happy we were not staying in a tent. Zach made the comment that you know they are out there, but somehow they didn't seem real until we saw it. It was pretty cool! Our other wildlife sightings were the usual bunnies and chipmunks, but two porcupines also made an appearance on our little tour. They had plenty of quills to fend off the mountain lion so I wasn't too worried about them.
We finally settled on a campsite in the trees after failing to find the one on the website. It had a fire ring and a parking spot so we felt comfortable. I being a weenie and scared of the dark simply jumped from the front seat to the back seat and curled up for bed:) Zach braved the outdoors for a good teeth brushing.
Today we woke up and drove down to the town of Telluride. Zach and I will be coming through here on our bikes next week so we scoped out where we can stay for that and have been enjoying a day of exploring the town. We found a free parking lot and used it as an opportunity to re-organize a few things in the van. The space we have is limited, but with some thoughtful placement, we were able to make it a little more homey. There is a thing called the Free Box in Telluride and we found a bag of stuff to bring and drop off. Our spatula was immediately snatched up by a lady looking for home goods. She was sweet and we were happy it got a good home.
Other than that, we've had a pretty uneventful day. Telluride is beautiful and full of hiking trails. We tried out a few, but the sun is pretty intense at this altitude. We retreated to the library to enjoy the air conditioning and some computer time. Dogs are everywhere in Telluride, including the library. So my entertainment in this library was a dog fight at the top of the stairs. Colorado libraries are proving to be a little less calm then ones in Kansas:)
|Our lunch place in Telluride:)|
Tonight we head for Durango to meet our friend Taylor from Colorado Springs. We will hang out there for a few days before heading back to Ridgeway to start our bike trip! Its going to be a beautiful one, but its a little nerve wrecking seeing the hills we will be riding from the car. It will be amazing to have conquered them by bike though so we are still pretty excited:)