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.

 

This ain’t New Mexico’s Rio Grande!

 

Soft water on the Rio GrandeTraveling Silver followed the Silver Thread Scenic Highway from South Fork CO, through the old mining town of Creede, ending at Gunnison.  Our goal was to explore the Rio Grande National Forest along the way.  About halfway up the Silver Thread, we made our way in to Thirty Mile Campground and set camp right on the rocky bank of the Rio Grande River.  This is a river that does not resemble the Rio Grande we know in southern New Mexico, where the river creeps between its banks, sneaks underground,  and slips along acequias to water patches of chiles and groves of pecan trees.  This Rio Grande jumps rocks, digs flash holes and flows wild; it talks in loud voices of rumbles and burbles.  We found ourselves about 18 miles from the headwaters of the Rio Grande, starting appropriately on the northern flank of Rio Grande Pyramid Mt at 13,000+ feet.  The river remains untamed by the series of reservoirs that capture some of its water, but none of its spirit.

The forest here is decimated by beetle kill and a few old fire scars.  You can tell the difference.  Fire scars turned aspens into sticks right along with the firs.  Beetle kill stripped the fir of their leaves, leaving the aspen relatively green.  Entire mountainsides of brown sticks.  Seems to be a common pestilence phenom across the Colorado forests.  And yet, while on one side of the valley in which we camped the trees looked like porcupine quills, the other side along with the riverside was verdant with exclamation marks of firs.  Upon closer note, other punctuafir marks: there was the comma at the top of a fir where the trunk must have grown around an errant cloud; there were the pair of parentheses trunks that enclosed a fair piece of blue sky.  Along the river course, firs leaned in to better hear the language of the rapids.

Our campground was shared with an overabundance of chipmunks, ground and tree squirrels.  Fat. Direct. Jump-on-your-table bold. Deer so acclimated to people, they walked through campsites trailing their spotted fawns or waving their growing spikes.  Thirty Mile was cared for by a marvelous couple, camp hosts extraordinaire.  The only drawback for us flatlanders who live at a measly 6,000 feet elevation was that we became over-elevated.  Thirty Mile is at 9,300, rather like going from sea level to Denver and trying to hike a few miles. We weren’t there long enough to get acclimated and, sadly, left with the same niggling headache and mild nausea we arrived with.

Up and over the pass, we stopped at an overlook that took in the valley leading up along the Rio Grande to and beyond the campgrounds and reservoirs, all the way up to the headwaters.

Headwaters Rio Grande River, Rio Grande Natl Forest
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