The year 2020 has become a massive dumpster fire, between the plague closing Earth, riots and insanity afflicting the Unites States, and an election further dividing the country. Hubs and I had to postpone yet another international trip (SE Asia for the 3rd time), so I started perusing hiking excursions in the western part of the US. Our first choice was Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, which, after discovering they shutter during the month of November and are then only accessible to snow-type vehicular devices, was stricken from the list. So we opted for farther south. That plan disintegrated when the wildfires in California closed up Sequoia and Yosemite. Shit. Rocky Mountain National Park anyone? Wildfires strike again, and that park also closed. Dude… can we catch a damned break here?!?!
We finally decided on the southwestern part of Colorado and the many national forests peppered around the state. After a smidgen of Google research… no wildfires there! Further Google Maps scrutinizing revealed Arches National Park just across the border in Utah. Why stop there!? My Aunt lives in Tucson, Arizona, which I haven’t visited since a family reunion TWENTY years ago, so why don’t we finish up two weeks of hiking in the desert. And we’re off!
Upon flying into Montrose, Colorado via United Airlines (win for anyone hesitant to fly during a pandemic, by the way), we went to collect our rental car for the first 12 days. Slight hiccup: rental agencies in small towns close before 23:00 (our arrival time), as normal people like to go home in the evenings. Hiccup resolved: everyone knows everyone else in small towns. The woman manning the counter of the neighboring rental agency was related to the one we needed. A phone call later, and we were advised someone would be in shortly. Crisis averted!
Next stop: Safeway to acquire food stuffs to cook in the apartment we were renting. After we acquired the wanted provisions, we headed to the checkout counters. We were met by a friendly cashier that we chatted with about our time in Colorado. And offered us Dunkin Donuts! Distracted for a second, sorry… When she asked us where we were holing up for the next eight days, we told her “near Purgatory Resort.” This elicited insanely wide eyes, and a suggestion that we stay at the Holiday Inn overnight because we certainly did NOT want to drive there in the dark. FAR too treacherous! The two midnight cops looked at her with amusement… we basically live in the dark. We got this shit! She insisted several more times that driving now was a poor life choice. Obviously, we ignored the advice.
Whelp, I can understand the suggestion after we made the two hour trek on zero hours of sleep. Please, allow me to explain…
The Million Dollar Highway, otherwise known at Route 550, meanders through the Rockies, generally with INCHES separating a driver from immediate death. Shoulders along the road are typically nonexistent, and in some cases, the road is peeking out over the cliff in a frightening manner, as the ground below the road has already fallen away into oblivion. Given it was the middle of the night, I may have driven down the center of the narrow, two-lane road for a solid chunk of the trek. Some further Google searching revealed that the highway actually took approximately $1 million to build per mile. The roadway clings to the mountains with breathtaking views.
Alas, we arrived safely at our condo in Cascade Village somewhere in the area of 02:00. Our delightful little dwelling was a one bedroom one bath condo on the first floor. It was nicely furnished with a nicely stocked kitchen, and free covered parking. That parking came in clutch when the frozen precipitation started falling. Who wants to clean off a vehicular device on vacation, or… ever? AirBnB win!
By the time we arrived, Hubs and I had been awake for well over 24 hours. We scarfed down some pizza, and collapsed in our king sized bed. We intended to get up early to head out for a good hike… however, early was not in the cards with our exhaustion level. We eventually dragged our lazy asses out of bed, concocted ourselves some breakfast, and opted for a local hike instead.
Cascade Creek runs behind the condo complex, and it was also within walking distance. After a short trek down the Million Dollar Highway, we turned onto a gravel road, not a hiking trail. Confused, we headed down to the water, where we continued to meander along the shore until the “trail” disappeared. Are we going the right way? Nope… nope, we aren’t at all. Oh well, we invented a good portion of this trail before climbing up a hill in order to follow the road for a short bit as it meandered passed quaint log cabins. Once the road ended, we squeezed between a couple of wooden posts in a fence to continue on the actual trail. It wandered through tall trees, towards the creek and then back away from it, and up a mountain side.
We ran into a total of five people on this hike (COVID win), two of which were women with their Australian Shepard, a hyper, but cute, little pup that loved running in circles between people. We ran into them several more times on the hike, and they told us the hiking trail went on forever. However, once the dark skies moved in, we turned around and headed back to the condo. Mother Nature can be rather unforgiving when she wants to be. Better to be safe than sorry, and get stranded in the forest with half a bottle of water and a couple of protein bars.
Please, peruse some photos of this hike… it would have been prettier with the yellow leaves of the white barked trees, but regardless, it was a pleasant hike for day one.
We repeated this hike several days later when the snow moved in. Gotta say, the trail was far prettier blanketed in a few inches of snow. It would have made the trail hard to follow, except that a couple and their two pups had already tromped through, defining the path quite nicely!
Given that the snow was pristine, I may have hydrated with some during this snowy hike. There was also some snow throwing. Also, please enjoy some comparison shots from the first go and the second. Quite a bit different with a few inches of fluffy, white stuff on the ground!
So, my goal was to get the winter wonderland version in this post too. Alas, technology failed, and my computer is refusing to recognize the photographs on my memory card, and is instead, claiming they are “corrupt.” Fuck you, computer… You showed me a preview of them, and are now deciding to be a complete, and utter, pain in the ass. Once my laptop stops being a two year having a temper tantrum, I’ll be sure to add those photos in.
Whitney = 1, Computer = 1…. I beat the computer finally, and regained access to my photos!