Monday, July 24, 2006

Day 6 (Haiku/Gesundheit, Volume XXXII)

on using my first-ever privy
(or, "that wasn't bad at all!")

between port-a-pots
and dirty hotel bathrooms
i'll take a privy

[privy used during day three hike]

on being watched while taking this photograph
(or "missouri doesn't love company taking unsolicited photographs")

i shot this amused
double meaning means nothing
to confused locals

i'm glad we aren't going back the same way we came, but...
(or "maybe those pre-columbus views were right")

this way is longer
especially when sleepy
seems our world is flat

the point of no return

two hundred miles
left when the sun sets behind
a sigh holds meaning

[Post backdated according to actual date of travel.]

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Day 5 (Haiku/Gesundheit, Volume XXXI)

The non-haiku summary: after an amazing eight hours of sleep, we headed in to downtown Golden for breakfast with my cousin and his wife. We drove around the city and its mountainous environs before parting ways and heading to another suburb to meet a friend for coffee. Unfortunately, we only got to hang out for an hour or so before we continued on in to Denver. After a couple hours there, we turned the car east and began the 1,100 mile trip home.

i wouldn't mind living here

kayaks mountain bikes
and places to use them both
i envy you all

on eating lunch at a unique little restaurant in denver

what a charming place!
the locals call it "chili's"
think they'll make it big?

kansas, the good

this state is pretty
like iowa but i don't
think it ever ends

kansas, the bad

trust jesus spray paint
hidden adult stores and gas
stations poorly kept

kansas, the ugly
(or "i'm never going to hays again")

i despise hotels
with a terrible passion
please no more days inn

it's so bad i'm giving it a second haiku

bugs and dirty sheets
what do you think that stain is?
black light reveals all

[Post backdated according to actual date of travel; Photographs of kayak, bee/flower and Golden aerial view were taken by Washington.]

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Day 4 (Faux Toes)

Our day began earlier than we would have liked, thanks entirely to our neighbors. They left food out on their picnic table (despite warnings that bears were lurking about)... and while we were lucky enough that no black bears made a live appearance, the food did attract the attention of camp robbers... a sort of bird with a high-pitched squeal that will fight to the death for bread crumbs.

I tried my darndest to sleep despite the birds screaming over the tent, but probably only managed another five minutes of actual rest in the 90 minutes I lay there trying. By the time I crawled out of the tent and headed to the (flushable!) restroom, I had a whopping three hours of sleep under my belt.

After Washington likewise gave up on rest, we began the task of tearing down our campsite while our neighbors did the same while nursing hangovers (proof in and of itself that they were there only to party... they were at Rocky Mountain National Park for less than 10 hours). We were so eager to leave RMNP by this point that we bailed on making breakfast. We headed out — by this point already later than expected — but were stopped by a herd of elk along the way.

Once I was done taking pictures, we stopped at Estes Park, a nearby resort town that was quite charming (aren't they all?). If you're ever in the area, grab some flapjacks at Molly B's — Washington and I have been mourning the fact that we'll likely never have them again.

Also be sure to take a detour past the Stanley House, Stephen King's inspiration for The Shining (I believe part of the Stanley Kubrick film was shot there as well). You'll understand why when you see it.

And from there, it was off to Golden where we were to visit with my cousin and his wife. We passed through Boulder along the way after passing countless mountain bikers with massive leg muscles and tremendous determination (photos to come on Day 5). We parked in Golden about three or four hours later than we had planned.

I hadn't seen my cousin in five years, and I'd not yet had the opportunity to meet his wife. I was a bit anxious about the fact that we'd be staying with them for a night, primarily because I don't like to inconvenience people. But when I told them I'd be in the area and I recommended we meet for dinner, they were pretty insistent about us staying there and using their place as a base for trips to Denver.

And, ultimately, I was glad of it. Not only was it nice to catch up with them, but they really helped to make Colorado feel a little like home... not to mention, I think Washington was enjoying himself enough that he was hesitant to leave by day 5. Mountains, mountain biking, hiking, taking the dog for a walk on a path made specifically for that purpose... charming medium-sized cities with a small-town charm... a 20-hour road trip back to the big city just didn't appeal to either of us.

But back to Day Four: after showering and chatting, we took a quick trip to a nearby town Washington lived in for a few years as a kid (before and after completing most of his rearing in — you guessed it — Washington state)...

...And then headed back to Golden for a home-cooked meal and good conversation.

[Post backdated according to actual date of travel. Photos of Stanley House, Chuckwagon Diner and pink building were taken by Washington.]

Friday, July 21, 2006

Day 3 1/2 (Camping Etiquette Revisited)

I went to the mountains because I wished to live [somewhat] deliberately for a couple days, to front only the essential facts of life [with the aid of a propane stove], and see if I could not learn what [the great outdoors] had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not slept within a reasonable proximity of bears, elk and other sundry creatures. I did not wish to live what was not life (living is so dear!); nor did I wish to camp near ingrates, unless it was quite necessary.

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, not battle for sleep while my drunken neighbors tore limbs from trees to build their fire; played drinking games; and spoke at hideous decibels until a park ranger resigned them to three hours of quiet.

My desperation grew while you chatted against the clock: first 10 p.m. and then 11. And then midnight, one, two... your 500 watt Coleman illuminated for us the contents of my tent; so much so, in fact, that I fancied you were that proverbial train whistle, interrupting Henry's morning swim.

And just as that sound cracked through the quiet — as if to further validate that infamous (and semi-hypocritical) hoeing of beans — you grew to symbolize the very reason I had gone to the woods in the first place.

But there was no escaping the uncivilized life now typical of modern society. For our final 10 hours at Rocky Mountain National Park, you were no Emersons. Rather, you were a mass of two men and three women huddled just 10 feet from our tent, sharing personal facts (and stripping articles of clothing) to the tune of "Truth or Dare" while children tried to sleep nearby.

Your lack of consideration infected us with a sort of desperation that was anything but quiet.

And though I have since returned to (un) civilized life, the lesson learned from my great experiment rings nevertheless true:

It is nearly impossible, these days, to simplify.

[Post backdated according to actual date of travel]

Day 3 (Taking a Hike)

Our day began with a barbaric yawn over this particular rooftop (that's the view from our campsite!)

And continued a mile or so away at the nearest Ranger Station, where a variety of hikes were explained to us. The moment those three little words — "much more difficult" — escaped the Ranger's lips, I knew which hike was right for me. Unfortunately, neither Washington nor the Ranger agreed (something about "altitude sickness" and "being above treeline when storm activity is likely").

So we went on an 8-mile jaunt with an 800-foot elevation gain (we were already 8,500 feet above sea level). Nothing too strenuous, but definitely a shock to a system more accustomed to hiking gentle Midwestern plains.

Though the bottoms were damaged by rocks at the day's end, I was happy to be wearing these nifty little contraptions, which kept my feet nice and comfy for most of the hike.

I brought the walking stick mostly in case of mountain lions, though we didn't really see any of our natural predators... aside from this little baby rattlesnake. Note the stub, which will eventually become a rattle.

[There was bear dung at our campsite, by the way... but I'll spare you that photo.]

We also saw several "Ptarmigan," (what's the plural?), which apparently think you can't see them if they stand really, really still...

I tried to make the hike a tad more challenging by climbing on the occasional rock formation...

I did this until Washington informed me there were Forest Rangers walking behind us, and that climbing on undesignated formations was "prohibited"... I found out later that both pieces of information were outrageous lies designed to hurry along our hike. I'll get him back later for that one.

The hike was over some four hours after it began. By this point the bottoms of my feet were starting to ache, but I was otherwise fine. I even had some water left in my Camelbak!

But when I sat down in the passenger seat, exhaustion hit. We were both ready for a nap, but wanted to make the most of the remaining daylight.

So we drove further up until we were about 12,000 feet above sea level. This was fun for me as a passenger, as the trip was rather scenic. But the roads were also quite narrow... not to mention, they twist, turn, and offer VERY few guardrails.

Washington, as pilot, did not enjoy this drive. If I could figure out how to post video, you'd get to hear just what, exactly, he thought about it (suffice it to say, the video would get an "R" rating, for language alone).

But the view was great at overlooks, and we got to see several of these little critters... all of which seem to have benefitted from tourists unable to read the ubiquitous "PLEASE DON'T FEED" signs.

[Post backdated according to actual date of travel.]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 2 1/2 (Faux Toes)

From Cheyenne to Fort Collins to Rocky Mountain National Park

Cheyenne, Wyoming


Cheyenne to Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park
An electrical storm interrupted our initial attempt to set up camp...

But you might say it was worth it...

Sunset wasn't so bad, either...