Milo Yield: Laugh Tracks in the Dust 10-15-12
With apologies beforehand to my Colorado readers — who will undoubtedly find this Colorado travelogue boring and every-day stuff — I’m gonna write about the Yield’s recent Colorado Mountain High Vacation in hopes that at least some of my other readers find it interesting.
First, the vacationers: They included ol’ Nevah and myself, our daughter and son-in-law Mite and Poe Laris and their more-than-just-a-dog Sami, and our Missouri friends Canby and May Bea Handy.
Second, the destination: a rented three-bedroom home just outside beautiful Pitkin, Colo., 16 miles off highway 50 and southeast a bit of Gunnison and Crested Butte. Pitkin is an end-of-the-road community, but the beginning of the road for numerous interesting, scenic, historic and rugged trails.
Third, mode of transportation: three 4-wheelers, each seating two. Thankfully, my 4-wheeler had power steering or else this old codger might not have survived the trip. Poe had all three ATVs loaded to perfection on a 12-foot trailer without an inch to spare. And, I got the pleasure of riding over the highways with the Canbys in their brand spanking new Ford F-150 pickup. Boy, that was a comfortable and quiet ride.
Fourth, the trip out to Colorado: We left Riley, Kan., about 10 a.m. on a Friday and traveled all day to Colorado Springs. At our motel, we met a friendly young urban Swiss couple driving coast-to-coast across the USA in a rented car with their cute, curly-headed son. They had just traveled across Kansas and eastern Colorado and were most impressed with, first, the quiet and peacefulness; second, the beauty and scope of the wide open prairie, and third, the abundance of grain elevators dotting the landscape. Smart folks, those Swiss.
Saturday, we completed the trip over Monarch Pass, with a stop in Salida for gas and provisions. While there, I noted with pleasure a T-Shirt for sale emblazoned with this slogan: “Go ahead, feed the bears. Go ahead, pet the elk. Go ahead and climb high on the rocks. Go ahead and drive across the double yellow lines gawking at the aspens and our other natural wonders. Thanks for your support of the Salida EMTs.”
Saturday night after arriving safely and unloading and unpacking, we six-some enjoyed a bountiful supper (thanks, gals!) and a really enjoyable football game between our favorite university, Bea Wilder U., and arch nemesis Later University. Of course, BWU eked out a victory. It had to happen sooner for Later.
Fifth, our day trips: Sunday, we left around 9 a.m., for a round-trip to the Alpine Tunnel. We traveled along a trail that followed the former rail bed for the first railroad through the Rocky Mountains. It was build in the 1880s to serve the local gold and silver mining industry and for tourism and the upper four miles is reputed to be the toughest railroad engineering feat in U.S. history. The trail up made my stomach queasy in places, but the view from the top wuz both wonderful and interesting from a historic perspective — with some restored facilities and some collapsed remnants of the train’s glory days. The mouths of Alpine Tunnel are rocked in for safety concerns.
I won’t go into the history except to say 450 persons worked on the tunnel at more than 11,000 feet altitude for 18 months to build the tunnel from both ends — and the two tunnels met in the middle of the mountain to near perfection. One interesting note on our way off the mountain, we met a group from Denver driving their Model T and A Fords going up. They were exchanging a faulty carburetor on a hair-raising portion of the trail. That first day, we traveled 38 miles.
■ Monday: We were joined for the day by Poe Laris’s parents from Golden, Mo.
We left again around 9 a.m., and traveled through rugged terrain over to Gold Creek where we saw an abandoned gold mine and piles of ancient mine tailings. We traveled up Gold Creek to an aspen-ringed campground at the end of the road. The aspens were in full fall foliage the entire trip. On our return trip it started raining and we stopped for lunch in the dripping shelter of a massive evergreen. I still got wet and cold. Total mileage for the day: 30 miles.
■ Tuesday: Snow on the mountain tops. Poe and Canby made solo rides that covered more than 60 miles over Hancock Pass, down to the old mining town of St. Elmo, then to Mirror Lake, and on to Tin Cup, then back over Cumberland Pass and down to Pitkin. They met Poe’s dad and me who were trout fishing (unsuccessfully) in Mirror Lake. We’d put Canby’s new pickup to the test by driving to Mirror Lake. It wuz a two-hour crawling trip each way over Cumberland Pass to make the 40-mile round trip.
■ Wednesday: Ol’ Nevah and my third day of 4-wheeling. We left Pitkin, went over Waunita Pass and down to the Waunita Hot Springs Dude Ranch. The amiable owners allowed us to see the 170 degrees Fahrenheit hot springs and do a walking tour of the facilities. After a quick side trip to Hot Springs Reservoir past Tomichi Mound, we backtracked to the tiny community of White Pine and then plunged onto a rugged trail that went up and up through an inch of fallen snow to the top of Tomichi Pass, just a few feet under 12,000 feet elevation. The view of the peaks and nearby Hancock Pass were spectacular. Then a vertigo-inducing down-the-mountain ride back to Pitkin. Total bouncing mileage on my old rear end: 50 miles.
■ Thursday: Loaded up and headed home. Lunched in a wonderful Veteran’s Park across the street from the Super Max Prison in Canon City. We saw a mammoth cottonwood tree in the park — its circumference was four of my spread-eagled arm spans. Then we drove through off and on rain the rest of the day through Colorado Springs, Limon and on to Colby, Kan.
■ Friday: Safely home by 4 p.m. Was tempted to kiss the ground at good ol’ Damphewmore Acres.
■ Summary: It was a great trip with family and friends. We saw the best of Colorado’s scenery and much wildlife, except for elk and bear. But home wuz still home sweet home.
I’ve rambled too long. So, gonna close with these words of wisdom about Colorado from one Trey Parker. He said, “You don’t need missionaries in Colorado; you got Colorado.” Amen!
Have a good ’un. ❖
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