6 degrees on the road plus new friends.

 

Hotchkiss farmsPer Wikipedia: “Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.”

Six degrees works on the road.  Even more surprisingly, we found 2 degrees of separation in Gunnison, Dolores and Mancos, Colorado and in Mavreeso campground in the San Juan National Forest.

We asked the barista at The Bean Coffeehouse in Gunnison if we could hang out for awhile, taking advantage of their internet, since we were by that time totally bereft of decent signal.  Which led to the question where we were from, which led in turn to her exclaiming that her sister lived in Gila, NM, right up the road from us here in Silver City.  Well, she lived there in the past for several years, but had now moved on to some small community in Utah.

Chatting with our neighbors in an RV park in Chama, we learned that their son and his boy scout troop had biked from points west, through Silver City, across the Black Range at Emory Pass and on through TorC to Alamogordo NM. Quite a ride for a bunch of kids; parents rolled along comfortably on 4 wheels.

The camp hosts in Mavreeso came through Silver City a few years ago to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  They tried to find the old downtown, but missed the signage — a common problem, as our Main Street organization tells us — and left unimpressed with the commercial strip that is Rt 180.  They were, however, impressed with how “big a town” is Silver.  That is, big compared to their small Texas home town of around 800.  Goes to show, it’s all in your perspective; I came from the sprawling DC metro area so by contrast, Silver City is small.  There were others in other campgrounds who have been to Silver City or know someone who has lived here.  This is all fascinating: you have to come to Silver City on purpose; you don’t just stumble upon our corner of the world, tucked up next to the Gila National Forest.

And then, in Dolores and in Mancos, CO, we dropped the name of a friend of ours here, and made instant new friends of our friend from the years he lived in Mancos.  One of my biggest regrets of the trip was not accepting the invitation of the old guy, a Korean War Vet, to come to his house for a cup of coffee.  After a month of taking the slow roads through Colorado, I still had not slowed down enough to see friendship when it stood on the sidewalk.

Sometimes, there are no degrees between you and the folks you encounter.  We were sitting in our rv in Thirty Mile Campground, Rio Grande National Forest when I saw two familiar figures walking past our campsite.  A couple of fellow camper/travelers were making a similar trek through the San Juan Mountains and happened to pull into the same campground.  We got together a pot luck supper and shared stories of the roads past and roads to come.

irrigating_ While in Heron Lake State Park, NM, I learned from the folks in the next campsite that there was an Osprey nest on a platform nearby, where the parents had one chick.  We chatted about ospreys, state parks and national forests and generally the state of the world of public lands.  Later I took some pictures of the osprey mom (the chick was too small to see over the rim of the nest) and the neighbor gave me her card and asked that I send her a copy of my photo.  When I did, I received in return an invitation to visit them if we were in that area.  As it turned out, we were passing very nearby on our way to Grand Junction CO, so accepted her invitation.  This couple opened their home to us, fed us, and gave us a tour; we talked for hours about water and wild fires, travel, hiking and biking.  They live on 35 acres where they grow alfalfa.  We learned a lot about irrigation by pipes, water brought down from the reservoirs on top of the mesa; we walked out that afternoon to see how the pipe vents are opened and closed to “move” the water from one area of the field to another.  I would not have guessed that much of that area of Colorado is high desert, and what was lush and green was only so thanks to irrigation (the picture at the head of this story is an example of this rich farmland).  Reminded me of the Rio Grande valley down our way. We headed out for Grand Junction the next day, leaving behind a heart-felt invitation to come down to see us, and let us show off our National Forest and local highlights.

There’s a memoir, Blue Highways, by William Least HeatMoon, that we both read in the last year or so.  Our hope as we planned our meanderings through Colorado campgrounds, small towns and public lands was that we would experience something of our own blue highways.  In six degrees and less, we succeeded.

 

More than grand landscapes: Colorado in the details

Castle Rock Rainbow.Crawford State Park

Connection to the wildness of the land, I think, comes through the intimacy of the details:  a flower, a riffle in the river, the reflection on the lake.  The closer in I have to lean to decipher a footprint, the more real the critter that left that track becomes.  Watching my feet as I hike serves two purposes — keeps me from tripping over a root, for sure; but also brings to my attention the richness of the purple in that wildflower, the lichen of many colors coating the granite underfoot, and the remains of  one who came before. The last sunglow on a tree trunk and sunshine through virgas, rainbows and stacks of rainbows make tangible the details of light. Stillness of breath and movement allow the true owners of this landscape to reappear from their sequester to pursue their own initiatives. If I pass through this wildness gabbling like so many geese, I distract myself from my surroundings and the reason I’m here in the first place. To be at rest here is to be unseen, to not intrude where I am the interloper. Then I become part of the grand landscape.

 

 

 

May the Forest be with you, to borrow a phrase…

West Dolores River, Mavreeso CG San Juan NF

…from the coffee mugs we bought at a US Forest Service office.

Fraternal twins hug the West Dolores River about a mile apart.  Small and intimate, they invite lengthy meditation, listening to the many voices of the river, breathing in the fragrance of water and green, and watching the firs and spruces do nothing obvious at all.  Mavreeso Campground and West Dolores Campground keep a low profile among the trees in the San Juan National Forest, not far from the town of Dolores, CO.

Trails lace up the mountain slope through fir, aspen, and open benches covered with wildflowers.  The trailhead for Lower Stoner Mesa serves up an encounter with Christy sitting high on Diva and a brief conversation about trail ups and downs and getting a horse some exercise.  Forest trail lesson: who yields to whom?  Motor bikes yield to hikers and to bicyclists and we all yield to horses.  And even horses yield to the bear who has been regularly lunching in the serviceberry patches that crowd the trail.

 

Late afternoon brings out a flock of Cedar Waxwings hawking swarms of insects over the river. They start at tea-time, hawk on through the dinner hour and right up to dusk.

This treasure in the Forest seduces us to spend days connected to the real world and disconnected from the digital sphere.  Mavreeso will beckon us back each time we pour coffee into a mug…May the Forest be with you

#publiclandsworthprotecting  #sanjuannationalforest

In Silhouette–Colorado National Monument, NPS

Colorado National Monument-Big Horn Sheep Ewe

She was standing high on the cliffs, silhouetted against the morning light. Just as I was gaping up at her, we rounded a curve on the very curvy Rim Drive to find two more sheep on the road, neither of which seemed in a hurry to let us pass.  We took advantage of a pull-out so I could get out my camera and my really-long lens.  I doubted that the ewe up on the cliff or the two on the side of the road would still be around by the time I got lenses changed and out the door; it’s my experience that by the time I finish camera-fumbling, the intended subject has gone.  Not this time, fortunately.  The ewe had moved around slightly to keep an eye on the two below. and gave me plenty of time to fire off a number of shots.  I tried to get a couple of shots of the two sheep as they moved off into the brush, but just as I framed them up, two women on bikes rode around the curve, into my frame, and with the innocence of not-photographers, asked if I was getting anything good.  All I managed after the women rode on was to get two sheep rear-ends.

Colorado National Monument-Independence MonumentColorado National Monument-Wedding Canyon_

Colorado National Monument is an amazing treasure right on the edge of the Colorado Plateau.  The Monument, created in 1911 and now part of the National Park Service, is 1500 to 2000 feet above Grand Junction, CO.  It’s not large as Monuments go: 20,500 acres which include a visitor center, a campground, the Rim Drive and lots and lots of sheer-cliffed canyons and formations.  And amazingly unknown:  in 2016 there were barely 400,000 visitors, many of whom just make the drive through, stopping at overlooks and enjoying the view.  Since 1919 when NPS started keeping visitation records, Colorado NM has seen only 23 million people pass through.  Compare that with Grand Canyon National Park, which sees about 6 million people per year, and 205 million since 1919.

We had a lovely campsite right near the rim on a loop that had fewer than 1/2 dozen other campers among lots of empty campsites.  That was the last-minute loop.  The reserve-ahead loop was slightly more populated, but not by much.  Sadly for us, it was unusually warm, with daytime temps over 90.  Since the hiking trails are exposed, it made exploring beyond the campground and visitors center a bit…uncomfortable.  We came down off the plateau a day early and headed for our next stop, a little higher in elevation and, thus, a little cooler.  I’ve put Colorado NM on my list of places to come back to.

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