Well, I’ve been away. Robin, Elsa, Marc, and I have been camping at West Dolores Campground for the past several days. And while we had access to electricity, the internet is but a dream in the valley of the West Dolores River. Here’s how it went down.
On Sunday we rose early and took off down the road, stopping at Telluride for a couple hours to show Marc the town. Just a mile outside of Telluride we encountered a herd of about 100 elk, looking just as elk-y as anyone could want. The males had begun to show the 2021 version of their antlers. Telluride was a busy village indeed, with Covid masks being required almost nowhere and seen rarely. The famous free gondola was up and running once again, and of course we took the ride up and back. Who wouldn’t?
We then continued on to the campground and set things up. This place is about 2 1/2 hours from Montrose. That first afternoon, once camp chores were completed, we hiked to a small geyser up in the surrounding hills. It’s a modest thing that does not spurt into the sky a la Old Faithful, but only goes from a placid surface to a rough boil. Small, but interesting. And one can never get enough of the odor of hydrogen sulfide, can one?
We settled into sleep fairly early, Robin and I in the Sylvansport camper, while our guests were forced to sleep on the ground in our small backpacking tent. They had good sleeping mats and sleeping bags, however, so when the temp dipped to 51 degrees they were snug in there. Why give them the tent while we luxuriated in the camper? Let’s see … youth, suppleness, level of overall fitness … take your pick.
Next day we took a nine-mile round trip hike up to Navajo Lake, which was at an altitude of 11,300 feet. The walk to the lake was through a portion of the Lizard Head Wilderness, and gained 2000 feet of elevation in 4.5 miles, which is a very sturdy amount of gain. My personal quads had begun to burn by the time we reached the water’s edge and were perfectly aflame after the trip back down. Scenery was amazing as the path wound in and out of the forest and through one meadow after another. Wild flowers all over the place. I think we saw at least twenty species that were new to us, and for which we do not yet have names.
Tuesday turned out to be a rainy day, so we bundled up and drove to Mesa Verde National Park, which Marc had never seen. We were not alone there, with so many other visitors scooting around and using up more than their share of the available oxygen. (Tourists, sheesh! Honestly, why don’t these people stay home?) It was raining hard when we reached the town of Cortez on our way back to camp, so we took supper there. Call me a wimp, but I have never liked too much rainwater in my food. Maybe I’ll get over that one day, but I doubt it. Especially the bread … such a soggy proposition.
Wednesday it was returning to Montrose, and a few hours spent in the town of Ouray.
Even though there was some rain, and we had to often sit in wet camp chairs with their seats covered with plastic garbage bags, the campfire conversations in the evenings and mornings were excellent. Four friends, old and new, learning about one another while surrounded by some of Mother Nature’s best. There was never a sense of having to tread carefully in talking to Marc. Somehow it was as if we’d known him for years. He is smart, unpretentious, and witty. And it was a joy seeing Elsa once again … nearly two years since the last time. She is awfully well-traveled and has so many good stories to tell.
One more story. We had returned to camp on the day of our long hike, eaten supper, and were sitting around the fire ring where we had yet to build our campfire. The following conversation ensued:
Marc: Jon, can I ask you a question … for informational purposes?
Jon: Yes, of course
Marc: If I were to have to throw up, where would be a good place to do it?
Jon: Why, into the fire ring would be good, I suppose
At that point Marc stood up, stepped forward, and relieved himself into exactly that space of what looked like his entire dinner, after which he felt better. Our collective diagnosis was mild altitude sickness.