I awoke early, bent on taking advantage of the cool air while it lasted. With only thirty ounces of water left and five more miles to the trailhead I vanished from place of rest post haste. I made the summit of Liberty Cap by seven and headed across the pinion and juniper forest toward Rim Rock Road.
There were only a few small swigs left when I found Rim Rock, which circles Colorado National Monument. The road was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, proving once again that government spending produces nothing of value. What a job Rim Rock must have been, working high up on the canyon cliffs. Any misstep would have been fatal, but the real danger proved to be the combination of falling rock and dynamite. Eleven workers died during construction, nine in one single incident when chunks of stone fell onto the men following a detonation.
Thanks to their efforts we tourists can slowly drive (or amble in my case) above a classical series of art by the great master, erosion. The many formations spread about the Monument are varied and intriguing. I had strong views on what my favorite resembled but yours may differ depending on the angle of observation and whether you suffer from schizophrenia or some mental illness, which might cause you to see a simple blot as a reenactment of the John Lennon assasination.
The most famous is Independence Rock, which received the name thanks to John Otto's scaling of the monolith on July 4, 1911. Independence Rock was once part of a canyon wall that has disintregated over time. For reasons only a geologist would pretend to understand, this one section remains, standing alone in the middle of Monument Canyon. Groups still head to the top every year on our nation's birthday, planting an American flag up top and singing "Freedom Isn't Free".
There were other named rocks such as Pipe Organ, the Mummy, and Kissing Couple (at five hundred thousand years, the longest Big Red moment ever), but Balanced Rock and the Coke Ovens were my favorite Rorschach tests.
You might want to rush to see Balanced Rock, because this particular piece of sandstone was perched in a manner so tenuous a strong coughing fit could bring it down. When I walked in front it I saw a giant thumb with a lidded trash can teetering on the nail. I will also accept a seal holding a ball on its nose as a possible answer.
My response to Coke Ovens was immediate and undeniable. There is only one correct response: Jabba the Hut's family portrait. I know you'll say they probably look like coke ovens, but I was lucky enough not to be doing factory work at the age of eight so I plead ignorance on that machine's physique. There will always be disagreement of course, as interpretation is by definition a subjective art. President Taft was the man to proclaim the National Monument and I don't doubt he thought the rocks an homage to his own rotundity. He at least had an excuse in his error: "Star Wars" had not yet been released.
Eventually I made it through the twistings of Rim Rock, thanks to the assistance of a couple from Chicago, Joel and Robby, who gave me water, Gatorade, and an orange. They were on their own spectacular excursion, a month long automobile trek which seemed to include almost every National Park and Monument in the west.
I made my way into Fruita around two, bound to meet pops at Pablo's Pizza. He had not yet arrived so I sat down for a delicious meat festival known as Noah's Ark. The liver and onions of Tuesday left my carnivore status bowed but not broken. Thankfully, the Ark renewed my faith in the juicy sensations pigs and cows can bestow upon our taste buds.
The absence of my father kept my joy muted. I expected him to have arrived by now. The British cel number he had given me was not working of course. Worried, I contacted my brother who tried the hotel he had booked us for the evening. No answer. I waited at Pablo's for three hours before he finally rang me up, wondering why I was not at Pablo's. Naturally he had gone to the Grand Junction location instead of the Fruita one. At times my dad is a walking example of Murphy's Law. I think he was genetically designed to be a Cubs fan.
We did eventually reunite and spent a quiet night enjoying each other's presence and planning our itinerary for the next few days. He was exhausted by a long day of traveling, a four hour flight followed by a five hour drive. I was pooped from the usual walkabout. We called it an early night around nine.
17 miles/2958 total miles