Saturday, August 20
Fynn and I snuck out early to take some bird photos on the local lake, but were back in time to get breakfast before getting on the road at 9:30 … a real feat for us. We are not Morning People, ever, though Fynn and I are traditionally up a fair bit before the other two. It's a chance for a bit of quiet time that I'm sorely lacking most days.
Once underway, we got our first glimpse of the mountains 20 miles east of Denver. Once around the city, Matilda got her first real workout, and we were a bit dismayed by the amount of black and white smoke she belched. We paused for a rest and a Google, deciding that we needed to keep her RPMs up on the hills, and that her turbo filter badly needed a scrubbing.
Winding through the mountains, we got off at a small town hoping for a spot to eat our lunch, but nearly got stuck in the process. The valleys are so narrow that turnarounds aren't possible at many exits, and this one would have been a real issue as we're 7+ tons total and the bridge we were facing had a 4 ton limit, but we managed to turn around in a nearly empty Dollar Store lot. The alternative would have been backing down the main street and around a tiny traffic circle … not a pleasant thought at all!
We hiked up over the Continental Divide's 9800' pass via the Eisenhower Tunnel, and got a taste of the first of many 6% grade signs, with the occasional 8% thrown in for good measure. We stopped in Silverthorne CO for gas, and Michael asked at the local National Parks office for any nearby boondocking spots. The attendant tore himself away from a private conversation long enough to tell him about a small free campground 8 miles up the road on the Blue River. Yay!
It ended up to be a gorgeous place with one spot left that we could squeeze into. Michael washed the turbo filter in a bucket, I read a book in the sun, and the boys chased each other with Nerf guns. They came back wheezing a bit, feeling the effects of running at 6500' :). Nice to have a few hours of quiet before dark … it was an incredibly peaceful spot, and the down time wasn't just welcome, it was utterly necessary.
We were very tempted to stay a 2nd night, but didn't in the end. Both Michael and I were feeling sick with colds, his sciatica was still nasty, and we were both struggling with the pace of things. Leaving ourselves only 13 days, starting with an emotional deficit from the previous two months and rather precarious health ... we'd added in the desire to stop and see the sights, but not be bound to a schedule. That meant campsites were always found at the last minute, often on an empty stomach, and always on a tight budget.
My navigational nerves were strained to their very last thread, sawing against the wings of Michael's freedom bird, which was weakly fluttering along beside us while we tried to reconcile the realities of the trip with the dreams of many years. Not a pretty sight, and one that came to a head the next day.
lots more pics here