Tuesday, June 26, 2012


June 26

Ben and I hit the road early on our quest to bag a fourteen thousand foot peak.  Storms often roll into these high elevations early in the afternoon so the goal is to summit before getting struck by lightning.  I don't judge, but I'm just not into that.
We had originally settled on Mt. Holy Cross as our victim, but the trail is closed until the pine beetles finished eating all the trees there.  We opted instead for 14,026 foot Mt. Sherman.  There are fifty four of these behemoths in Colorado and Ben plans to do them all because he suffers from an as yet undiagnosed mental illness.  Since he is my so called friend he invited me along to spend my zero day killing myself for absolutely no reason.
I actually did quite well with Sherman.  A lighter pack helped, but dealing with altitude seems to be like getting used to alcohol, you eventually develop a tolerance.  My steps were much firmer than on Argentine and we reached the top in only two hours. 
Because Ben hates me he suggested we uses our extra time to hike the adjacent Gemini Mountain, a lesser beast at 13,900 or so.  We moved along the ridge line to learn that size isn't everything.  Instead of a nice path there was a huge pile of rubble left over from the demolition of the Astrodome.  Chunks of rock covered the hill, and every step made a click-clack as if one were walking upon broken masonry.  The loose stones shifted constantly, causing me to smash my toes and turn my ankles.
I also soon realized that although I had developed a better tolerance I could still get drunk off the altitude.  I needed to get of this ride soon and I picked the fastest option.  I slid down about a thousand feet on my shocked buttocks, an even more incredulous Ben watching from his saner path to freedom a few hundred feet away.
Once to the bottom I made a bee line for the car a couple of miles further down.  I don't want to make a habit of leaving the trail and squashing plant life, but I was D-O-N-E.
On the way back to Leadville we visited the Eddyline Brewery, which we had proclaimed the winner at the Burning Can Beer Festival.  None of the cornucopia of hopped refreshments had topped their offerings from three weeks hence.  Upon further investigation I agree with my past self.
After restoring our livers to equilibrium Ben dropped me at the hostel.  Therein I met Boston and Cubby, my first run-in with other ADT hikers.  The tow are triple crown hikers, who have finished the AT, CDT, and PCT, but don't use AT&T.  If you don't want clueless idiocy I would recommend checking out their blog at trailjournals.com.  But in all honesty, you would be gone already if you didn't want more of this right?

0 miles

Lead Head

June 25

I would have left Turquoise Lake early on Monday morning except the damn thing went on forever and ever.  Instead two hours plus were required to leave the infernal labyrinth they claim is a ring road.  On the positive side most of this movement dropped me to the lake level, which I was far above at the start.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, which means nothing to me as one who has rejected all scientific knowledge since birth.   The implication, as I don't understand it, is that I would have to climb to Leadville, which has the highest elevation of any incorporated city in America.
Having been out in the wilderness for many days I was desperate to reach the town and refused to stop.  Inevitably I was wasted by the time I reached those lofty Leadville heights.  Leisure was right out since I had too many things to do.  Groceries, library, maps, a book, and a few other items that I can't remember right now were all necessary.  I couldn't even find time to visit the Leadville Mining Museum and hear about all their famous members like him, that guy, some dude, and Leadbelly.
I also had to plan for tomorrow, when I will hike a 14,000 foot peak because I hate myself and friend Ben is a facilitator.    I needed to contact this evil man and since Sprint is owned by the devil I had no service again.  I picked the contact mommy on Facebook option and she saved the day again by calling Ben and informing him I would be staying at Half Moon Campground.
Of course, I didn't end up being where I thought I would.  This happenstance was not the result of Satan's chicanery but rather my laziness.  I realized upon actually thinking momentarily that Half Moon was a little too far to make before dark.  I also was seduced by a pretty city which happened to have delicious pizza and beer as a drawing card.
At the High Mountain Pie I met Christine, an AT hiker from 2000 who had met her husband Luke on three days into the long trek.  She suggested I stay at the Leadville hostel only a few blocks away.  Then I could join her, Luke, sister Maggie, and a gaggle of their children for a few libations.  The children, aged one to eight, were kind enough to offer their services as sober drivers.
Maggie let me use her phone to notify Ben of my new whereabouts.  He had been doing some hiking of his own in the area and had decided to come over to Leadville tonight rather than driving back and forth from Castle Rock.  He arrived an hour later and we retreated to the hostel for the evening.

9 miles/2672 total miles

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jebus on the Mountain

 June 24
I tagged along with Mark and Stephane today, trading a late start for a chance at some hot oatmeal and trail fellowship.  Much of the day was spent in the Holy Cross Wilderness, which is named after a 14,000 foot peak which appears to have a crucifix etched into one of its upper ridges.  
At the sign informing us we were entering this bit of forest we paused for a moment and a large fly buzzed in front of my face.  As I prepared to swat the annoyance away I was stopped in mid-swing by the realization I was about to belt a tiny emerald hummingbird.  The bird's wings beat so fast I wished I had time stop photography eyes to properly appreciate its grace.  Our meeting was all too short since I was unable to avoid blurting out "holy crap look at this guys," which of course scared off my visitor, a not uncommon reaction to my booming voice. 
There were a lot of incidents involving real insects today and all centered around hapless Stephane.  His young flesh must have resembled a filet mignon to the local mosquitoes, which are great in number following the warm winter.  They constantly harassed the poor lad until he had to don way more clothing than the heat of the day suggested was necessary. 
Stephane's urgency to escape the hungry clouds spurred us on through bumpy and twisting trail until we finally reached the trailhead where we were to depart the CT.  Mark and his son waited beside the road hoping to hitch a ride to Leadville, then back to Copper Mountain and their car.  I shook hands with them and went my own way, up Turqouise Lake to a small primitive campsite where I waited out the terrors of the night.   
12 miles/2663 miles

Hale the Conquering Hero

 June 23
The cold morning kept me in my sleeping bag until the rising sun's appearance pulled me out into its warmth.  I continued yesterday's movement toward the lower floors of the Rockies, on the way running into a group of six mountain bikers crawling over a toppled tree.  They were doing the whole Colorado Trail.  Once through the obstacle they jounced upwards and I wished them luck with their future hemorrhoid operations. 
About two hours in I reached the old site of Camp Hale.  The 10th Mountain Division trained here from World War II until the late sixties when the base moved a few miles to the northwest.  My cousin Brian, whose pack I am using this year, was based there during the early 1990s. 
Ninety minutes later I reached the division's World War II memorial.  The 10th Mountain had led the charge against the Nazis in the Italian mountains, crossing the Po River before any other Allied forces and conquering tough terrain in the Appenine and Alp ranges.  Almost a thousand of their number gave the ultimate sacrifice during the campaign. Between the old Hale and the memorialized Hale the trail was sponsored by a woman's hiking group known as the Yaks.  The name seems a poor choice as it conjured in my mind thoughts of large, extremely hairy ladies making cowlike sounds.   
Only a quarter mile from the monument I ran into Mark and his son Stephane, who were hiking the same CT section I was.  They pointed out to me a trail magic box beside the path.  A kind soul had left snacks, sodas, bug spray, a first aid kit, and various other items to assist long distance hikers.  I'd read of this phenomenon occuring on the Appalachian Trail, but this was my first personal run-in with such thougthfulness and generosity. 
The next stretch took me up Tennessee Pass, which was mercifully much lower than the passes of yesterday. I was soon over, but running out of water.  I stopped at Tennessee Creek to refill.  There were Mark and Stephane again setting up their tent.  The spot looked to be a great improvement over last night's, which I had tiredly set up on too steep a hill.  With the convenient water source, a nice location, and a rare opportunity to speak with other humans I was unable to resist stopping early and joining them.
Later we gathered around the ashes of an old fire, where I learned Mark had fled his home in New Jersey after a trip out west taken with some college buddies.  According to Mark, he had given up the corporate working world in order to pursue a simpler life.  Son Stephane, aged fifteen, shared this love for nature and travel.  Besides their hikes in the Rockies they had visited Costa Rica and Alaska recently. 
I discovered even more about my new friends when a French couple arrived and the two bantered easily with the newcomers in their native  tongue.  Turns out Stephane's mother is Belgian and the whole family is fluent. 
We stayed up until well after dark telling stories and sharing our life philosphies.  I was sad to say goodnight, but the previous evening's rest had been fitful at best and there were still many more wilderness miles left. 
14 miles/2651 total miles

Into the Woods

June 22
I met Jason in the morning for my weekly shower ritual.  He informed me the next resort on his list was Hilton Head, South Carolina.  I liked the guy but he is an Oregon Duck fan and they did not have the decency to lose to Wisconsin in this year's Rose Bowl.  I think we'll wait list him. 
Next I returned to the Bistro and devoured a wonderful thing known as the Rothstein, which consists of nearly every possible breakfast item smashed together into near pancake form. 
Satiated, I wandered the ski slopes above in search of the elusive Colorado Trail.  This lengthy hiking road begins in Denver and ends in Durango. I will be following along from Copper Mountain to Leadville.  If I ever find the damn trailhead. 
Forty minutes later we finally met and I was on my way to more mountain hopping.  Only an hour in I picked up some companions, Sonhe and her husband Scott.  Sonhe had been attending a conference in Copper Mountain during the week and Scott came up for a day hike.  They decided to aim for Janet's cabin, about eight miles out, before turning around.
I was very glad to have company and the miles passed with ease as we chattered away.   Eventually they ran out of time without reaching the cabin.  Scott donated me part of his water supply and we said goodbye.  Go figure, about two minutes later Janet's homestead came into view.  I yelled at the top of my lungs, but they were long gone. 
The difficulty level increased on the next stretch, two twelve thousand foot passes called Searle and Kokomo.  The altitude and steepness slowed me, these difficult miles took up the remainder of my energy.  They were not without reward in terms of a view and there was another bonus: I was downwind so animals were unaware of me sneaking up on them.  As a result I met marmots, a fox, a marten, and another small mammal I was unable to identify.  The other was dark brown and resembled a small dog. 
On the descent my toes started to really hurt.  New shoes combined with sliding on uneven ground are to blame for this new act in the pain circus.  I searched out the first reasonable campsite and called a halt to the march. 
13 miles/2637 total miles

"Rise and Fall and Rise"

June 21  
I felt like I was back in Iowa today, using nothing but bike trails.   The mountains of corn have been replaced by more impressive (although less edible) peaks.  The first couple of paths took me down Swan Mountain and then into Frisco. 
The history of Frisco resembles a roller coaster and more than a few have begged off the ride.  Like its neighbors silver and gold originally brought settlers.   The new town needed a name and chose Frisco City to butter up a railroad (St Louis-San Francisco Railroad, whose nickname was the Frisco).  Their hopes to lure the railway were dashed when the company rebuffed their desperate advances and went elsewhere. 
The "City" was dropped later because telegrams were expensive in those days.   The second half of the town's name was not the last thing to disappear.   The silver market crashed in the 1890s, the demand for ore vanished after World War I, the power was cut in 1918, the dog died in 1921, and by the 1930s there were only eighteen residents remaining. 
Somehow the last Friscans hung on until 1960 when their savior appeared.  The construction of Dillon Reservoir resurrected Frisco, bringing jobs and new blood.  The ski industry came later and solidified the growth trend.  The miners of the 19th century would not recognize today's ritzy Main Street.
After completing the errands which brought me here in the first place I left on another bike path.  The six miles up a slight incline to Copper Mountain brought me the sight of innumerable bicyclists screaming downhill, a man riding a big skateboard on his back (turns out this suicidal act is known as long-boarding), and two beavers busily working on their next architectural masterpiece. 
Once in town I had no real plan so I called Colin to delay the dreaded decision making.  By the end of our talk I was hungry so I searched out some grub.  At the Alpinista Bistro I quickly befriended the owners Pete and Karen and their employee Jason.  Pete was excited about the walk and offered dinner and breakfast on the house.  Jason, who has worked in Orlando, Aspen, Copper Mountain, and seemingly every resort town in the United States, offered me a shower in the morning and took me to a nice camping spot just outside of town.  I love it when a plan comes together. 
12 miles/2624 total miles

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Four Elements

June 20

I left my eyrie early in the morn.  The temperature had dropped significantly and I donned my long pants for the first time since Nebraska.  At the end of the trail I encountered Peru Creek, a blue-gray stream running through the valley.  I had to taste this water pure, untainted by my pills.  I took my chances that the elk had not thrown a poop party upstream and won on this occasion.  Score: Me 1 Giardia 0.
I followed the creek down towards Montezuma, near which my forgetfulness caused a detour.  I'd left my phone charger (again!) and my I-pod (a new development!) at the Wilsons.  I'd told them to send the items to Copper Mountain before realizing that town's mail was actually sent to Frisco.  I can pick up the ADT again just south of there.
In the interim I visited Keystone, which had the nerve to be in the way.  Skiing is the life blood of this community and the short winter and light snowfall has been a vampire, sucking away the strength of the local economy.  The disaster came as even more of a surprise after the banner year of 2011.  That season brought record revenues.
The locals I spoke to are currently more worried about other elements of nature: wind and fire.  The High Park blaze has continued to grow, and two other large conflagrations are burning, one near Colorado Springs and another in the southwest part of the state.  Breckenridge looked to join the list today, but quick action by park rangers and fire fighters extinguished the threat.  Strong winds are expected in the coming days, which will only fans the flames.  Many thousands of acres will be added to the total of forest already torched.
I went only a couple of miles beyond Keystone today, wrapping up early at Lowry Campgrounds.  Yesterday's toil took a mighty toll and I needed further rest.  I found a piece of soft earth and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing.  During the evening I was treated to more kindness by my neighbors.  The campground host brought me chicken fajitas and Julie from the adjacent site gave me a space blanket to keep me warm in case the night chill overcame my sleeping bag's abilities.

12 miles/2612 total miles  

Rockie Mountain Highest

June 19

I spent the early morning hours exploring Georgetown.  Originally settled by hordes in search of gold, those seeking riches here had to settle for second prize, a huge cache of silver.
A narrow gauge railroad was constructed on the heights between Georgetown and her sister city of Silver Plume to shuttle the ore down from the mountains.  The mines have dried up, but the train still runs, now a major tourist attraction. In fact, Georgetown is quite proud of her past.  Many examples of 19th century architecture such as the Hotel Du Paris and the fire station have been preserved to look much as they did during the boom.
Alas my plans to ride the lode train were derailed when I reached the ticket office and found the doors locked.  Non-plussed I decided to move uphill without motorized assistance.
On the agenda was the most difficult climb of the trip.  My destination was Argentine Pass, the highest point of the ADT at 13,200 feet.  I stood only 8,500 feet above sea level at that particular moment.
I started heavenwards on Guanella Pass, enjoying a couple miles of paved road before running into FR-248.  Here I entered ATV and 4x4 territory for six miles, gaining more elevation with each minute spent on the rugged road.  Eventually the oxygen thinned and I had to rest every half an hour to regain my breath.
By three I reached a confusing crossroads.  One path led to the pass itself, the others to the land of the lost.  The driver of a Ford Bronco making the arduous journey stopped to help me.  We used his GPS to determine the right way and to discover the current elevation - 11,600 feet.  As tired as I was there were still 1600 vertical feet to the summit.
At this point my gait was clumsy, I stumbled forward more than walked.  I'd never hiked at anywhere near such heights.  Each footfall was slow and calculated.  I inhaled deeply to get as much air as possible.  I guzzled water to stay hydrated.  I feared a violent headache from the altitude.
My condition was even worse by 12,500 feet.  Have you ever seen videos of hikers on Mount Everest?  They seem to pause between every step, each inch of progress a trial.  I felt like this as I neared the top.  I wanted to run, to finish this agonizing struggle in a few strides and scream in triumph, but the body was unwilling, I merely trudged.

Eventually I arrived, but there was little time to celebrate the near five thousand foot ascent.  The day was growing late and I had to get down.  The descent, on a barely visible goat track covered with the remains of a rock slide or five hundred, was not much easier.  The surface provided little purchase.  I lost balance on numerous occasions and fell once, luckily on a rare patch of dirt.  The penalty for a misstep to the right was a two thousand foot plunge to the valley below.  I wished for once my pack was even heavier - because it contained a parachute.  After an hour and a half negotiating the minefield I reached a grassy area, set up, and spent twelve hours unable to move.

14 miles/2600 total miles

Tapping Veins and Mountains of Powder

June 18

After a fitful sleep I descended from Squaw Pass on Old Bear Creek.  In the past a mountain toll road, in the present this undriveable and nearly unwalkable mess could easily be mistaken for a road in Costa Rica.
Eventually I stumbled down to Soda Creek, which took me into Idaho Springs.  That the search for shiny mineral wealth had birthed this town was immediately apparent.  The main street is called Miner Street.  The high school is nicknamed the Golddiggers.  I was unable to confirm whether Kanye West is performed by the marching band.
The rush to Idaho Springs was begun by one George Jackson, who arrived in the area in January of 1859.  George was initially reluctant to approach when he misinterpreted steam rising from the local springs as smoke from Indian bonfires.  Someone who would show up in these mountains in January must have a lot of perseverance.  Obviously Jackson had the chutzpah (or I would be writing about another man) and was rewarded when he struck gold.  The news spread like wildfire (a metaphor currently banned in Colorado) and the Gold Rush of 1859 commenced.
The bonanza lasted until 1863 when the limited technology of the day tapped out the last reachable vein and gold addicts moved on to more fertile ground.  Mining continued in Idaho Springs, with less valuable minerals such as zinc, copper, molybdenum, and molyringwold being sought.
Skiing and other outdoor sports such as biking, rafting, and zip-lining are the main draws these days.  Those I spoke to lamented how the warm winter had cut the ski season drastically short, hurting the town's economy.  Will climate change continue to deal such devastating blows?  Will Al Gore finally stop Manbearpig?  Only travelers in the fourth dimension know for sure and they won't tell for fear of damaging the space/time continuum.
For now the town was caught up in drama of another sort.  An employee at the water treatment plant had fallen asleep at the wheel, allowing the town's water supply to be contaminated.  The water had been unusable for four days and businesses were suffering.  Beau Jo's Pizza, which I visited, claimed losses in the thousands of dollars already.  I sampled their wares and can only pray they survive this disaster.  The toppings were superb and I have never had a better crust.  The thick, sweet dough tasted like a crescent roll and I followed the waitress' suggestion to dip it in honey.  The result was absolutely sublime.
By early afternoon I was ready to head towards Georgetown.  My maps had me confused so I headed over to the ranger's station for clarification.  The woman inside had little additional information on my intended route, but recommended I just follow the frontage road between the two towns.
I followed her advice even though this meant paralleling I-70.  Most interstates are boring, but few have an accompanying clear running stream and peaks rising thousands of feet above on all sides.  Georgetown Lake, sitting at the base of one mountain, makes a fitting finale.  I would say I've had plenty of duller walks than this - say from Indiana to Denver, for example.

19 miles/2586 total miles

Monday, June 18, 2012

High Lonesome

June 17

The long stay with Rob, Kimmy, Emily, and Anne has come to an end.  I returned to the state of alone upon leaving the Wilsons Sunday morning.  No host on the entire trip has tolerated my presence so long or ferried me so far to the trail.
Again I would climb.  The first section, from Keystone to Bergen Park was a gradual increase in elevation, slowly reaching the height of Mt. Falcon from yesterday.  Following lunch in Bergen Park the work became more intense.  Squaw Pass led me up 2,000 vertical feet up windy road with little shoulder.  Cars and bikes flew down and struggled up on either side, giving me little room for error.  The lower level of oxygen told on my lungs, which passed on their discomfort to the rest of my body. 
I was able to continue on nonetheless and made my only social contact of the day near the top of the pass.  Irene and Sandy were in the process of grooming their horses after a ride when I introduced myself and began begging for water.  They gladly obliged, giving all they had.  The cold liquid was beyond delicious after so much exertion in the dry climate of Colorado. 

Half an hour later I left Squaw Pass and with the sun ducking behind the mountains I looked for a place to camp.  An appealing meadow drew me in and I set up the tent and settled down.  To relax I read a book, "Zodiac," which tells of a series of unsolved murders that took place mainly in the San Francisco area.  What better to ease one's mind while alone in the wilderness than reading about stabbings and knifings committed by a man who was never apprehended? 
As dusk fell and I prepared to tuck the book away three figures appeared at the other side of the clearing.  No psychopaths these, but rather a fox leading two small elk.  The fox was unconcerned with my presence, traipsing in no hurry past the Half Dome.  The elk, a little less interested in an introduction, turned around and left the meadow.    And I went back to being alone. 

15 miles/2567 total miles

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Live at Red Rocks

June 16

I was joined by a rare celebrity guest today, fraternity brother and long time friend Rob Wilson, who along with his wife Kimmy has hosted me in Denver all week, giving much needed succor and actual bedrest to the lonely hiker.  Rob and I were to hike from Morrison to Kittredge, but first we paid the promised visit to Red Rocks. 

The possibility of magical music in the mountains was first envisioned by John Brisben Walker. An entrepreneur in early 20th century Morrison, Walker had a funicular railroad built to an interesting geological feature above the town known as the Garden of the Titans, a set of massive red stones. The acoustics around these formations were amazing, even the supposedly tonedeaf Utes were known to rock out here in the old days.  Walker held a number of concerts at the site from 1906 to 1910, but Red Rocks as we now know it did not come into being until everybody got depressed. 
BTW FDR had an answer, which he came up with ASAP.  He invented a series of acronyms who would build projects around the country, ending this depression by putting letters and people to work, thus stimulating the economy.  One of these acronyms, the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps, constructed the amphitheatre, seamlessly integrating the work of man into the magnificence of nature. 
Today Red Rocks is one of the most popular venues in the world.  All the greats have played here: U2, Rush, John Denver.  Even the unparalleled genius of Great White has graced the stage.  I could not find an unsatisfactory angle to view the eye candy the amphitheatre and environs presents.  Ever the pessimist, Rob did point out the air conditioning unit behind the visitor's center was visually unappealing. 
The hike to follow was no less enjoyable.  We rose quickly above Morrison on the Castle Trail, climbing two thousand feet up Mount Falcon, to 7,700, the highest I have yet been.  This record is not likely to last long before being eclipsed given what I have ahead in the coming days. 
At the summit we found Walker's old residence, which now lies in ruins.  Once a grand mansion on top of a mountain, the home was destroyed by a lightning storm merely a decade into its existence.  I can only imagine the laments of the workers who toiled bringing stone up the difficult climb to the top. 
We had toiled as well, but Rob is a former cross country runner at Furman who has stayed in shape by mountain biking and I was slackpacking, relieved of my usual heavy burden. With the addition of some cooler weather the result was we were none the worse for wear by the time we started down towards Kittredge.  The final six miles were a breeze as I reveled in the vistas and bantered with my friend.  I must enjoy these small pleasures while I can with a set of difficult days in the rugged Rockies lying not too far in the future. 

10 miles/2552 total miles

A Visit From Dick and Doody Calls

June 14 and 15

Thursday was spent with Dick Bratton, the state coordinator for the American Discovery Trail in Colorado.  We enjoyed a nice meal as he told me about the wonderland I have in store for me as I head into the Rockies.  The terrain for so many miles composed of tilled farmland and grazed pastures changes to an endless row of massive mastifs and stunning vistas. 
I also learned about the legends who scouted this immense trail, golden gods like the Seaborgs, the Footes, and the Cottrells.  I am honored to follow in their footsteps on the rare occasions when I avoid being lost or purposefully wander off the ADT when the urge to be a fickle fluttering butterfly takes hold. 

Friday I returned to work.  After a lengthy and descriptive pooping play-by-play from Emily, who may perhaps be the next Howard Cosell, I was taken by Kimmy to the Bear Creek Trail to commence the western leg of the ADT.  The path acted as sort of a tunnel through the city scape of western Denver's suburbia.  I could see only the creek, the trees, and the surrounding parkland.  There was little hint of what was ahead in the distance. 
At Fox Hollow Golf Course I emerged into the open and realized the mountains were no longer a far off dream.  They were a reality only lying a few short miles to my west.  I pursued them through the first rainstorm worth mentioning since eastern Nebraska.  The dry, flat, and arid plains are now a thing of the past. Beauty and amazement are now a thing of the present - and I plan to gape like a slack-jawed yokel upon the astonishing landscape every chance I get. 
I entered Morrison with towering peaks (midgets compared to what is to come) on either side.  Gold drew the original settlers, including the founder, Scotsman turned Canadian turned American George Morrison.  The most notable site in the town is Red Rocks Amphitheatre, one of the more unique music venues in the world.  Perhaps I will gaze upon their visage on the morrow, but for now my ride is here and Emily has more tales of the bowels to tell.  Doody calls. 

11 miles/2542 total miles

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Misplace Your River

June 13

Kimmy, Emily, and Anne returned me to North Denver in the morning, with Anne being polite enough to wait until I had left the car before she threw up all over the back seat.  The ADT itinerary had me following the course of the South Platte River on the trail of the same name.  You would assume that since all I had to do was stay near the river I could not possibly get lost.  You would be wrong. 
At some undetermined point I veered onto either Dry Creek, Clear Creek, or Shit Creek and lo and behold I emerged onto Pecos Street with no more path in sight.  My longtime friend the Platte had also disappeared.  From my exhaustive research, consisting of looking where the trail went on Google Maps for almost two minutes, I concluded I needed to head south. 
I did so for a while before my freak out sensor went off around 50th street and I decided to phone a friend.  I cried for the first five minutes of my call to Kimmy, but she soothed my nerves, assuring me I was unlucky to be carjacked.  She also told me I could stay on Pecos Street until 32nd and then cross I-25 to regain a foothold on the river trail.
I obeyed her instructions faithfully and rejoined the South Platte, passing such landmarks as Confluence Park, Coors Field and the Corporation of the Week Football Stadium, while never seeing the aquarium I had so brilliantly suggested as a rendezvous point the day before.  Good thing I came nowhere near reaching it.  Or did I? 
Farther on the various parks told some of Denver's history.  The Fort Laramie Treaty had declared the area property of the South Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians.  The tribes were forced to evacuate some of their land in exchange for a bunch of money they never got since savages have no real need for hard currency. 
Once whites discovered gold in Englewood, near where I finished  today, their view of the inviolability of treaties changed as it had in the past and they decided perhaps an update was in order.  They made the injuns another set of false promises and started raking in the shiny rocks.  One of the first settlements, Montana City, was located in what is today Grant Frontier Park, which the ADT passes near the end of the South Platte Trail. 
 I managed not to lose the river again during the course of the day and our long marriage came to a natural end in the Englewood/Sheridan area as I passed onto the Bear Creek Trail quite on purpose.  This signals the end of the north section of the ADT - as a highlander once wisely said, "there can be only one," and now there is only one trail, which I shall attempt to follow to the ocean.  I'll be sad to be without the Platte after our many weeks together, but relationships sometimes come to an end whether we like it or not and we have to be adults about it.  I might just have one more good cry if that's alright with you though. 15 miles/2531 total . 

Late For a Date with Aquaman

June 12
The Denver Skyline from afar.

We returned to Brighton in mid-morning, Kimmy driving and her daughters Anne and Emily providing the entertainment. The three year old Emily showed off her gregarious nature by talking for the entire hour long ride.  Sometimes she even made sense.  Her younger sister occasionally tried to get a word in edgewise but either she has a chunk of food lodged in her throat or her language is not identifiable as any of the thousands spoken by humans. 
Once delivered to Veterans Park I swiftly made for Riverdale Road, where I would spend the majority of the day's walk.  Rob, who works in law enforcement, had mentioned that he had little knowledge of the area through which I would be passing, Denver suburbs known as Henderson and Thornton.  I was sad to hear I wouldn't have the chance to capture on camera old ladies being mugged and meth lab explosions, but I perservered through this safe area nonetheless.  Alas, not every scrap of trail on the ADT is as exciting as an episode of "CSI Fargo".
I'd originally suggested a rendezvous point in the area of the Denver Aquarium but the distance of twenty one miles in only six hours proved a bridge way too far.  We had scheduled a four o clock pickup to try to beat Denver traffic and my calculations had not actually factored in the realities of the space-time continuum. 
I didn't even reach the South Platte Trail until two in the afternoon.  I could see the skyline of downtown, but I wouldn't be touching it today (or tomorrow because I am too short).  The best I was able to achieve was the corner of York Avenue and Highway 224, from which the Wilson women retrieved me at the appropriate time. 

15 miles/2516 total miles

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Super Furry Animals

June 11

Ben drove me out to Platteville early and I pounded the asphalt with wreckless abandon sometime later.  First we returned to the Doubletree for breakfast.  An omelet the size of a baby and much tastier put me in the mood for a traipse.  Then the wreckless abandoning commenced with all haste. 
Progress came to a halt south of Platteville so I could examine Fort Vasquez.  With few trees available the resilient trappers built the structure out of adobe brick.  The installation was established in 1835 to protect fur traders from Spain, France, England, and the United States.  The Germans were not invited since they drink all the beer and you can't get anymore for a minimum of several weeks.
These were true pioneers, coming out west long before the wagon trains, the gold rushes, and the cheap hookers.  The popular trade spawned a series of posts in the region, including Fort Jackson, Fort Lupton, and Fort Vrain. 
Departing the fortifications I was confronted again by the beauty of the mountains just to my west.  The snow-capped peaks look daunting, I may tunnel under instead. 
The lovely scenery was soon blocked out by the haze of a massive wildfire burning in the High Park region of Colorado.  We'd seen the smoke belching out like an exploding volcano on Saturday in Lyons, but little did we know how serious the conflagration would be.   At last report over 30,000 acres have been consumed and the blaze is still nowhere near contained. 
The day was easy at first, with my muscles rested and refreshed from the weekend break.  Rob was scheduled to pick me up at four, however, so I refused to take anything more than short stops.  Thus I was well worn down by the time I reached Veterans Park in Brighton.  According to the score board at Coors Field, Rockies first baseman resides in Brighton, was 1 for 5, and enjoys long strolls on the beach with puppies. 
Rob arrived soon after I plunked down in the park and we proceeded back to his Castle Rock home.  Once there we were treated to a lovely meal of salad, barbecue chicken, and rice courtesy of the fine efforts of Kimmy, who credits the Skinny Bitch cookbook for her success. 
After the meal we visited the family room, where we sipped Phukets and watched British comedian Stephen Fry mock the American states one by one.  There is no lower form of life than a comedian.  I won't even answer his filth with a reply about the low quality of his native country's cuisine or the welfare status of the royal family.

20 miles/ 2501 total miles

Monday, June 11, 2012

Things to do in Denver When You're Dead Tired

June 8-10

Three straight days off the trail.  What should be done with so much freedom.  Sleeping for seventy two hours was my first thought, but my friends Ben, Rob, and Kimmy had other ideas. 

1. Run a 5K.  At first when Ben suggested this idea I thought he was joking.  There was some sort of event afterward which he mentioned might interest me, so in the end I acceded.  Once I agreed to race I went all out, believing I could win.  By about a mile in, this illusion was shattered as a woman wearing a Tinker Bell outfit and pushing a stroller passed me, shortly followed by a five year old boy.  Then the altitude smacked me down further and I spent the next mile and a half doing what I do best - walking.  The appearance of beer tents ahead reinvigorated me and I sprinted the last couple of hundred yards.  I can say with pride I finished the race - and kicked the ass of a guy in a wheelchair with a broken leg.

2.  Attend Burning Can.  My motivation for participating in this foolish run may have already become apparent, but if not let's clarify.  The Lyons Outdoor Games in addition to the 5K also featured a beer festival, with thirty different brewers from Colorado and beyond showing off their wares.  We put our souvenir tasting cup to the test, sampling as many as we could during the four hours available.  My favorites were the Eddyline Lager, as refreshing as drinking a summer breeze but somewhat more filling, and the Crazy Mountain Wit, whose bouquet was as aromatic as any beer I have inhaled.  The taste buds agreed when their turn came. 

3. Create Your Own Film Festival.  My friends Rob and Kimmy have two young daughters so we did our chilling over at their crib over two nights.   We started with "Snatch," a pleasant British film I had seen before, which is not a pornography believe it or not.  After that Kimmy wisely escaped to bed while we watched "Hobo With a Shotgun"which I feel was unfairly ignored by the Razzies.  This film was written and directed by a group of twelve year olds who had somehow gotten access to camera equipment and fifty liters of fake blood.  Even Rutger Hauer (the title character), who was once in a good movie thirty years ago, could not save this gorefest from becoming a snoozefest.  Even I as a fellow hobo was unable to identify with his character. 
The next night we checked out Rob and Kimmy's suggestion, "Steve the Pirate and some Jack Black look-alike Face Evil."  There was a bit of the blood and guts here as well, but the movie was much more tastefully done and the Jack Black alike was a touching and sympathetic character who gets to bang a chick waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of his league.  Always a Hallmark moment for those of us still living in hope. 

4. See a Rockies Game.  Ben and I spent Sunday afternoon at Coors Field watching as the park earned its reputation as a place pitchers go to die.  This scorefest featured sixteen runs in the first four innings before the batters grew bored and started doing some heavy drinking and HGH abuse in the clubhouse (*pure speculation on my part).  The Rockies ended up falling 10-8 completing the sweep.  A fan making his way out on the adjoining aisle was heard to mutter, "at least we're better than the Cubs."  Those are some pretty low expectations my friend.

00000 miles/whatever that plus the number from Thursday equals

Friday, June 8, 2012

Castle Rock Me Like a Hurricane

June 7
The Castle Rock

The big day finally arrived.  I have dragged my pack many miles since entering Colorado only last Monday.  After one more walk my friend Ben Cantu, a fellow Charlestonian who has found a home in Castle Rock, was set to pick me up and take me to the Denver area for a weekend of fun and relaxation.  I had originally balked thinking Cujo lived here.  I'm really sick of being chased by rabid dogs.  Once informed Cujo actually dines in Castle Rock, Maine I was all about the visit.
I've only taken one real rest day since landing in Eppley Airport on April 26.  I could almost hear my back, shoulders, feet, and knees applaud in relief at the news.
Of course there were still seventeen miles in between me and freedom, so I marched with renewed vigor towards the finish line.  Again the scenery was not exactly awesome to behold.  More natural gas facilities lined roads like Industrial Park and Evans Ditch, not exactly terrain likely to end up within the pages of National Geographic.  Admittedly, there were a couple deer and a few prairie dogs, but the dominate theme was a fetid stench, a sour smell of sewage, but not quite.  I could not identify the culprit for this foul aroma - all I could do was mouth breath and lengthen my already hurried stride. 
I made Platteville and the arranged rendezvous point by three, sat down and awaited Ben's arrival.  When he came through the door we hugged like long lost brothers.  Ben was as excited as I, using my visit as a chance to take a break from his doctoral studies and his music teaching business.
We went downtown and shared a few beers at the Denver brewery before meeting his beautiful girlfriend Anna for a fabulous dinner of sushi.  I'd say more, but frankly there won't be too much more writing over the next few days.  My attention is focused on seeing my friends and soaking in as much of this fabulous city in the mountains as I can.

17 miles/2481 total miles

Wrong Way Mac

Gas Fields Near Kersey
June 6

Kenny had an early date with a bulldozer and it was clear to me he wasn't terribly excited about taking me back to Kersey at the butt crack of dawn.  Realizing the hotel room in Evans was only a mile off of the trail I was to blaze through the town I came up with an idea - go backwards.
The distance was only twelve miles back to where the farmer had picked me up the night before - at worst I could travel the path east to west and then west to east.  Kenny would meet me in Kersey at the same watering hole, so I could at least avoid doing the Evans to Kersey road twice.
Moving east was difficult to get used to at first.  My body has been trained to never move in that direction for very long.  I've put eight states in the rear view mirror and I'd like to keep them there.  Why had I worked to acquire a view of the Rockies only to turn my back on them?  Yet there was no other choice but to overcome these inhibitions - the gap had to be filled in somehow.
The surroundings made the day no easier.  The words aesthetically pleasing do not come to mind when staring upon rows of soybeans dotted with a new invader - natural gas extraction wells.  Fracking, a process by which the once hard to reach gas is extracted, is widespread in Colorado.  Oil companies have rejoiced at the financial gains to be made, ranchers enjoy extra income from leasing their land, while environmentalists are concerned that fracking can contaminate water supplies.  There also is strong evidence earthquakes are occurring much more frequently in the drilled areas.
A couple more incidents with dogs added some unneeded stress.  These country canines don't appear to understand where their property ends and my road begins.  Maybe a few whacks upside the head with my tent poles will teach them the distinction.
I survived all of my trials and another beating from the sun and circled back to Kersey by five.  A tasty chicken calzone and a couple pitchers of water healed the day's physical and psychological scars.  Once revived I headed across to the Kersey Inn and met Kenny once more.  We sat on the deck and watched the black clouds on the southern horizon.  Another near miss.
The once and future rodeo rider brought me back to the southern suburbs of Greeley where we again shared a room on his dime at the Super 8.   My day of confusion had come to and end, but the Mac Truck can't return to the west bound lane yet.  The road to Denver now leads south. 

12 miles (or 17 if you count the five miles I did twice)/2464 total miles

The Hardest Road

My first view of the Rockies
June 5 

I knew going in this stretch was a monster.  After Jackson there was no obvious place to stop for another thirty five miles.  Just the work of returning to Highway 144 from my northerly perch at the lake took a couple of hours.  My body still felt banged up and I was unsure what kind of distance I could manage.
Ten miles into the hike I reached US 34.  A more desolate section I have yet to see, although I did not suspect at first what was in store.  There was an occasional farmhouse if I needed water and short frontage roads appeared from time to time so I could escape the tiny shoulder of the highway.  A couple of ghost towns warned me of impending doom, including Dearfield, an attempt to create an African-American agrarian community in the 1910s.  The dust bowl blew away these dreams and the town was empty by 1946. 
Five mile in all amenities disappeared.  An endless property known as Eagles Nest Ranch consumed the horizon in all directions.  No more houses, no more side roads.   Thick grass and the possibility of rattlesnakes kept me on the thin shoulder.    I've seen way too many of their corpses to doubt their presence here.  The wind roared, tossing me like a puppet towards oncoming traffic.  To the drivers I must have appeared to be a stumbling drunk, unable to control my limbs.  For twelve miles this property continued and my aches and pains were completely forgotten in the fight for survival.
Adrenaline carried me on its wings until I finally passed the Eagles Nest hours later. I was running out of water by now and decided to take a long cut off the ADT in search of hydration.  The first house resulted in my near consumption by an enraged Dalmatian, but the second domicile quenched my thirst.  I headed back towards my scheduled path as the day wound down.  As I rounded a corner there appeared in front of me one of the most amazing sights I have ever beheld.  My first glimpse of the Rockies, bathed in the glow of an orange and purple sunset.  I sighed with pleasure, knowing all the day's work had not been in vain.
There was, however, still one of Maslow's needs to account for this night.  I still lacked shelter and Kersey was at least five more miles away.  With just a flicker of light left I made for a farmhouse and spoke to the owner.  He would not let me camp there because of his completely insane dogs, but he was willing to take me into Kersey.  I loathed doing having to double back the next day and do the miles twice, but I was too tired to do anything but accede to his suggestion.  I piled in and we headed into town.
The man dropped me at a bar and I inquired within where the park was.  One of the customers, Kenny, took pity on my plight and offered me a beer.  A short conversation later he also suggested I come sleep on his hotel room floor in Evans.  I said yes, glad to have a chance to sleep in safety and some degree of comfort.
On the ride over I learned more about my host.  Kenny was once a successful professional rodeo rider who had fallen on hard times.  In a period of nine days he was divorced, involved in two car accidents (he was not at fault but the second car was not insured), had his house hit by a tornado, and barely escaped death in a fire.  The confluence of events drove him into depression and he coped by using hard drugs, including methamphetamines, for a period of several years.  He finally freed himself from this deadly spiral and kicked narcotics cold turkey.  Kenny is working insane hours in construction to get his finances back in order while planning his return to the rodeo circuit.  He is too old now at 43 to do the bull-riding events, but he can still compete successfully in cattle roping. 
Crossing thirty difficult miles in windy conditions is not anyone's idea of a great day....and yet... seeing the mountains and meeting a fascinating individual in Kenny somehow made it worthwhile.

30 miles/1452 total miles

Die in Honor, Live in Shame

Rattler in the Grass
June 4

I abandoned my position at Fort Morgan's Riverside Park in the early morning hours and made for the museum/library to do some work and check out the exhibits.  I ended up being limited to a shocking fifteen minutes at the computers and was forced to beg for enough time to finish even one journal.  How am I supposed to run a successful meth distribution business with these kinds of time constraints?
The museum across the hall brought a more fruitful haul, a treasure trove of local info.  Apparently I have been following the Overland Trail, which was used by those seeking the glitter of gold following a strike in the hills surrounding Denver in the year 1858.  The route mostly follows the South Platte, whose mixture of agricultural runoff with a little water is a little less palatable to travelers from the modern day.
Fort Morgan was one in a string of forts which protected those rushing to riches.  The outpost was named in honor of Colonel Christopher Morgan, who survived the Civil War only to slightly killed by an exploding gas stove a year later.  Fort Sedgwick, another part of the chain, was named after a Union general who died at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.  Artists aren't the only breed who have a better chance of posthumous success.
In fact, having success in life seems to have been considered a failing during this era.  The only Pony Express station to survive unharmed a series of Indian attacks in 1864 was renamed Fort Wicked.
Modern day Fort Morgan is known for their sugar beets.  The vegetable was first used to replace sugar cane during an embargo of the West Indies by the French and English during the Napoleonic Wars.  Once widely produced in Northeastern Colorado, the crop has been beet down in recent years.  Fort Morgan has the only remaining factory.
Now for today's Did U Know? Big band leader Glenn Miller was born in Fort Morgan.  Those who saw him play live in his heyday, please do not remove your feeding tubes in your excitement.
Believe it or not I managed to absorb all this titillating knowledge by ten and was on the road again, passing Columbine Elementary School on my way.  The famous attacks did not happen here, but the name still brings me chills.  I will be seeing the word a lot - there are many schools and parks named after the columbine flower, once a symbol of mountain beauty.  
I followed 144 for the rest of the day, stopping in Weldona to fill my water and have a late lunch or early dinner, whatever you want to call a hamburger at four o'clock.   This tiny town has seen a few events of its own.  When the Colorado capital was under discussion Weldona made the final three selections, only to lose out to Denver.  In the early to mid 20th century the populace was large enough to support three separate grocery stores.
 The placement of US-34 several miles off doomed Weldona to its present size of a couple hundred.  There are no grocery stores.  On the bright side, things could have been worse.  President Carter nixed a plan to create a dam which would have seen the land Weldona occupies buried under the reservoir.
On another positive note, the town has retained their school, which has a famously successful six man football team.  They even won the national championship a few years back.  In a strange quirk of scheduling they actually lost the state final a week later.  Their most famous alum is Joel Dreesen, a new member of the Denver Broncos, who has played the last few years in Houston.  Now paired with Peyton Manning, Joel is in line for a possible breakout season.
A short hour after leaving Weldona I came upon another possible first.  The tail end of a rattler stuck out of the grass right on the edge of the road.  The body seemed intact and the rattle, usually cut off of dead snakes as a souvenir, was still attached, leading me to believe he was still alive.  Unfortunately, I could not see the head to make sure.  After pausing to consider a number of really stupid things I could do to ascertain his life status I made a rare intelligent decision and left homeboy alone out of mad respect for his venomous skills. 
The rest of the day saw me limping towards the finish line at Jackson Lake State Park.  I had fiddled with my straps enough to overcome the irritation of the day before, but my right foot now wanted its turn in the spotlight.  Heel pain and a vicious blister on my pinky toe meant the last few miles were not completed without a price.  I didn't reach the camping grounds on the far northwest of the lake until sunset.  I passed into dreamland hoping there was no permanent damage. 

20 miles/1422 total miles

Serenity Later

The Rainbow Arch Bridge in Fort Morgan
June 3

In the A.M. I was treated to breakfast, a haircut, and another shower courtesy of the Norvells.  More of this cleanliness and I'll never be the dirt-encrusted hiker everyone lusts over.  Joel even handed me a pair of crocs which were too big for him.  Funny how people who are this giving and caring are never the ones with Ferraris and Hummers in the driveway.  Joel works at a halfway house as a corrections officer and Angie is a teacher.  They know what we do to assist others in need is more important than the false green God many Americans worship.
I was as sad to leave as I have been at any time on this trip, but the Norvells have their own lives and there are still many more miles ahead.  On the road again in Snyder I worked on eliminating a few.
Another hot, relatively still day greeted me.  At least the rattlesnakes were driven off the road by the exceptional heat.  Joel and others had noted the extremely large specimens which had been seen in the area recently.  I didn't care to be introduced.
I trudged north of the river, but not close enough to enjoy the shade trees along its banks.  My right side was in agony, a rash has formed where the friction of the straps and my pants have rubbed a nice raw spot.
On the bright side, the distance to cover was shorter than usual.  Hopes of publicity for the Wounded Warrior Project kept me from going beyond Fort Morgan.  Even better, a park with camping lay on the near side of town.  By four I had crossed the Rainbow Arch pedestrian bridge, which in its younger days (1923-88) carried auto traffic over the South Platte.  I made for a shelter in the park, escaping the sun's oppression, at least for now.

How suddenly our feelings change....cottonwood fluff is now falling in such volume it appears to be snowing....the day's struggles have been swallowed up by a quiet serenity.

14 miles/2402 total miles

Playing Hookah

The Norvells Relaxing Together at Home
June 2

I may have missed my breakfast date if not for the friendly neighborhood trains, which came by at fifteen minute intervals or less from six A.M. onward.
I packed up in a wobbly state, legs like Jello and head like rolling thunder.  Joel picked me up at seven and I was soon experiencing relief in the form of steak and eggs.  An accompanying apple served as my first fresh fruit in Colorado.  Betting windows are still open if you'd like to place wagers on the day of my heart attack.  I was also able to shower for the first time since Julesburg.
As we we went over the day's route Joel surprised me by offering to pick me up from Snyder tonight and putting me up at their home here in Merino.  He and Angie also promised to do my laundry as I walked.  I was only being introduced to the incredible hospitality of the Norvells.
In the meantime, I had some stumbling to do.  Taking only a fanny pack I shuffled quickly in the morning hours, reaching open grasslands and a wildlife extravaganza.  Red-tailed hawks ruled the sky and rabbits bounced in and out of their burrows on the way to and from Wonderland.  I saw my first prairie dogs, a booming colony chattering in their birdlike language, warning each other of the flying dangers above and approaching rattlers below.
By noon oppressive heat took the bounce from my step.  Lack of sleep and overindulgence finally took their toll and my pace slowed. The animals were a good deal smarter and hid in the shade of the Elliott Wildlife Area.
I would have melted into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West if not for the intercession of some clouds, which deflected the sun's power away from my skin.  These were only the forward guard.  An ugly black cloud formed and I opted to call my lifeline.  Joel, Angie, and their son Alex swooped in half an hour later as I reached the outskirts of Snyder.  They had brought plenty of water to repair my withered and dehydrated form.
On the way back we visited an elk farm and Joel told me about the main employer in Merino, Wisdom Industries.  The company makes carnival rides and their most famous creation is the Gravitron, which involves spinning in a circle until all stomach contents have been deposited on the walls of the contraption.
Once we had returned to their domicile the Norvells resolved to relax me further.  The hookah was retrieved from its resting place and loaded with blueberry tobacco.  I've taken a short trip to Turkey, but had not used the opportunity to try the pipe.  The smoke was smooth and incomparably better tasting when compared to cigarettes.  I greatly appreciated the experience, but I've lost too many relatives to smoking related illnesses to become more than a casual user.
The day took another Turk for the better with a supper of Shish Kebabs.  The skewers of marinated steak, chicken,  onions, and various peppers satisfied the cravings of my tongue and belly.  Even the epiglottis, usually a harsh judge, admitted to being impressed.
After dinner daughter Elizabeth joined us and Joel put on a picture show from his tour in Iraq and a shorter deployment in Panama.  I followed with the photos from my aimless wanderings on and off the ADT.  We discussed leaving the house in pursuit of entertainment, but in the end the couch's gravity held.  On this night I wouldn't have had it any other way.

19 miles/2388 total miles

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jackass at Jambalaya

Snuffy Smith
June 1

Morning visits to the radio station and newspapers brought no luck.  KPMX was booked solid and the newspapers were concentrating on the weekend's festivities, the 125th anniversary of the founding of Logan County.  Counties are so cute when they are that age. 
On the positive side, a marine running across country from west to east in support of the Wounded Warrior Project was here a few weeks ago and got a lot of publicity for the charity.  Our paths don't overlap again since he's not on the ADT, so together we can get the charity maximum exposure.
Friday's trail followed the South Platte River.  I came only a few miles from the site of the Battle of Summit Springs, which brought to an end the Indian wars in Colorado.  The weather was cool and I managed a brisk pace, finding the town of Merino shortly after four. 
Merino was a blank slate for me.  I only decided to aim for there the day before.  What was in store for me?  More small town hospitality in the form of Jambalaya's, a cafe with an open air bar. 
Finding a comfort zone took only minutes.  I was soon absorbed in conversation with fellow Cubs fan Sherry and her friend Dale.  They discussed the differences between raising thoroughbreds and quarter-horses while I asked questions most second graders know the answer to around here.
I also met Gary, who told me about the Japanese internment camps located in Ovid during World War II.  His father had been held there, a casualty of one of the most shameful decisions in our country's history.
Jambalaya's owner Donna invited me to camp behind the bar, although I was unsure why she called me Jackass instead of Alastair.  I was told not to worry, she had been on the same drinking binge since 1972 and called her friends worse things.
In a rare moment of lucidity Donna told me about Mark Turner (ADT 2010-11), who ended up staying in Merino for close to a month.  I was enjoying the company so much I wondered if I too could become entangled in Jambalaya's web.
The evening's entertainment was equally delightful.  A country western duo charmed the crowd with their renditions of "Folsom Prison Blues," "The Tennessee Waltz," "The Green Grass of Home", and many others.  I sat with Snuffy Smith, a veteran of the Korean War.  Snuffy actually had a real name, but he looked so much like the character from the comics I gathered he'd given up using it.  Donna was nice enough to give the octogenarian a lap dance.
The next act was Chad from Orlando, Florida.  He had come to Merino to meet his mother, who had given him up for adoption twenty two years ago.  The reunion appears to have gone well and while he was around Donna had invited him to play Jambalaya's.  His playlist consisted of John Mayer (he was a huge fan), Matisyahu, and what Chad dubbed "older songs" by stone age bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band, and Oasis.
As the midnight hour loomed I worried staying there might be a mistake.  I'd already broken my usual three beer limit by a few and getting sleep in the loud bar was unlikely in the near future.  Everything on this trip seems to happen for a reason, however, and as I was pointlessly setting up my tent Joel Norvell came and introduced himself, his buddy Josh, and his wife Angie.  Joel is a veteran of Iraq II, where he helped to construct schools and playgrounds there. He was intrigued by my mission and I was touched by his stories from overseas and his obvious deep love for his two children and Angie.  Their time apart had been very hard.  After a couple of hours of talk I was invited to join the family for breakfast in the morning. 
I'll be seeing them in just a few short hours.  In the words of Major Ken Dwyer, "sleep is for the weak."

16 miles/2369 total miles

Mushy Ventricles

Delgado' Dugout in Sterling

Lu served me up a hot breakfast and I was soon out the door.  I wanted to make Sterling before the post office closed so I could pick up the maps I'd missed in Big Springs.  Nineteen miles lay between.  I drove a fast pace, determined not to cut it close.
From the moment I struck pavement I had a powerful feeling something good was going to happen today.  This odd bit of intuition was quickly proved accurate.  My phone vibrated, indicating a text message.  It was Junior!  He had been grounded and not allowed to contact me for his birthday, but now was back in the good graces of his mother.
Even now as a jaded teenager (he'd just turned thirteen) he was concerned for my well-being and wanted to hang out with me again.  I made a deal with him.  If he stays out of trouble for the next six months (his mom is the judge) then I will return to Doniphan sometime in 2013.  I pray I am forced to honor my part of the bargain.  I can't explain how greatly I want Junior to succeed.
The miles melted after our joyous contact and I reached Sterling by three and retrieved the maps.  Way behind on e-mail and the blog, I spent the next few hours in the library.  Once done I began the search for grub.  Though starving, I passed up a multitude of options before reaching the city limits and circling back to Front Street.  There I found Delgado's Dugout, a Mexican and Italian restaurant housed in an old church.  Naturally I had chips and salsa to start and chicken parmigiana for the meal and drank a Guinness in remembrance of Irish religiosity.
More of interest than the strange cultural melange of culinary manufactures was the clientele.  I've rarely met with a more welcoming reception.  I gave out cards and donation forms like hot cakes and three different customers tried to pay for my dinner.  I was even offered an interview at the local radio station tomorrow.  Several individuals directed me to Deacon Michieli next door for a place to sleep.  He too readily helped, offering a soft spot on his comfy couch.  Of course, there seems to be soft spots everywhere in the hearts of Coloradans. 

19 miles/2353 total miles