Through Wilds of Thought

Posted June 29, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
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America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
    By pilgrim foot and knee!

          – from the poem America The Beautiful
          by Katharine Lee Bates
          Inspired from her visit to Pikes Peak, Colorado in 1893

The air is cleaner and the water is clearer. The open road has never looked better – a silver lining of The Great Anthropause.

As we entered Colorado the halcyon skies buoyed our expectations for quiet wilderness camping and maybe even some outback kayaking.

Now, twenty days in, we are fully acclimated to the elevations. However, learning to heed erratic weather will take us much longer. On the Western Slope, the thrill of being caught in a rogue thunderstorm, far from shelter, is always on the table.

Spending quality time in Colorado is new to us. Autumn of 2016 we ducked into Fort Collins for emergency Beast repairs, then in 2019 we zoomed through on The Cannonball Crawl.

But this hot covid-summer chased us out of the fruited plains and up into cool and breezy mile-high country. Here, we’re basking in the hospitality of good friends and purple mountain majesties and taking what refuge we can from the weariness and stress of this pandemic.

Mancos

Ever since we pulled into Mancos – as the delighted overnight guests of Mancos Brewing Company – we haven’t needed the air-conditioner.

After months of staying mostly to ourselves, we were jonesing for company. Outside at our patio table – a proper covid’s distance from local patrons – our spirits lifted and anxieties melted away. It’s lovely how submitting to life’s “new rules” binds community.

The sun slowly set, the beer flowed, and from our six-foot wide invisible trenches the patio-people began to talk – sharing glory-tales and patriot dreams. The tone was hopeful, reassuring. Friendly conversation and great Colorado brew are one of those sweet gifts from the gods of travel.

Early the next morning, we were the first customers to break in the day at Absolute Bakery & Cafe (AKA, ABC).

We grabbed the table beside the river and ordered to-go. While waiting we sloshed back grogs of black death and took a solemn vow to, someday, return to charming and friendly Mancos and embed for a season of “more of this.”

Telluride

After much deliberation we took the Lizard Head route up into Telluride.

The views were spectacular and the two-lane mountain highway was plenty wide with a good shoulder and frequent pull-outs.

On the way, we stopped to visit some crazy-wonderful friends who live in an Airstream down by the river.

Driving a rig through Telluride is not recommended. We did our research, twice, and it did not pay off. We still missed the turn.

Somehow, we made it through town, turned around, and found parking beside the highway. From there, we enjoyed a brisk two-mile garden walk through the bloomin’ sweet little village where we had a posole and burrito lunch on the patio at La Cocina de Luz.

Ouray

Later that afternoon, we arrived to our campsite on the Uncompahgre River in Ouray and unhitched. In the early evening we drove up a steep, narrow, unpaved switchbacking mountain road to Denise’s house. An old saying I just made up is, “Coronadans never die, they just move to Seventh Heaven.”

Our beautiful friend, Denise, infected us with a serious case of cabin envy when she and her champion Newfoundland Hound, Sir Blake, toured us around their private mountain paradise. We had wine, grilled some chicken and veggies, and reminisced about Coronado, the old neighbors, and the Concerts in The Park foodie group Denise blogged about in Newf In My Soup.

After-dinner entertainment began promptly with the stealth entrance of a sassy summer blizzard that dusted us with the mountain spirit.

We spent two days in Ouray, enjoying the breweries, the shopping and reading real estate billets …

Blue Mesa Reservoir – Gunnison National Forest

Leaving Ouray, we drove Highway 550 North to Highway 50 East into the Gunnison National Forest.

Jim navigates these trips. I describe places I’d like to see – usually wilderness with water – and he charts the journey. It’s his way of delighting me with the gift of discovery.

The drive into Gunnison National Forest to Blue Mesa Reservoir was both thrilling and terrifying. Seven miles of inching along unpaved washboard road past working ranches and cow pastures took almost an hour.

But it was worth it. We spent four serene days at Ponderosa Campground.

And due to COVID-19, they waived the camping fee.

Jim needed this place to heal. He fell in an unmarked drainage trench at the KOA in Ouray and made a bloody mess of his knee. Grounded with a book, he and Pico stayed home with the view and the hummingbirds for company …

… while I took to the water.

Blue Mesa Reservoir is not only a scenic paradise, but it is the largest body of water in Colorado – and it’s accessible from the campground.

Our souls waxed fair with earth and air.

Whenever possible, I like to sing when I paddle. In this place of solitude, I could sing loud as I cared to and I also prayed for the best America to emerge from these present troubles.

God shed His grace on thee
    Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!

Time well spent …

But a storm was moving in.

America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee,
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
    And music-hearted sea!

An epic downpour was predicted. Reluctant to leave our solitary mountain retreat, but wise to the perils of weathering a storm here, we packed up and pulled out.

Poncha Springs

Our destination two days away, Cheyenne Mountain State Park in the suburbs of Colorado Springs, where Jim miraculously scored a four-night reservation. But where would we spend this wet and windy night?

Brothers and Sisters, can I hear a Hallelujah for those amber waves of grain?

Breweries, with their large outdoor gardens and open-air decks are ideal LIB overnight digs. Feeling hopeful, we pulled into Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs and asked the owner if we could spend the night.

Permission granted, Jim ordered their flagship IPA, First Cast No Coast IPA, while I whipped up a batch of hot spinach/artichoke dip. Then, we rendezvoused on the cozy patio and watched the storm blow in.

On my personal list of life’s simple pleasures, sleeping under an aluminum roof in a mountain thunderstorm is rated, “pure bliss.”

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Next morning, we pulled out and drove about sixty miles to Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

Oh, the disappointment. Here we were in – according to Campendium – the best State Park in Colorado, but we had only four days. And, this truly was the best camp site we’ve ever had. But the rig was a disaster. Hiking and sightseeing would take a back seat to cleaning and prepping for the next leg of our Colorado adventure.

So, Jim did the correct thing and ordered take-out sushi.

Before we pulled out of beautiful Cheyenne Mountain, we met with our old friend K.K. and her husband, Tim at Carlos Miguel’s Mexican Bar and Grill where we caught up on fifty years of backstory while enjoying a delightful outdoor reunion. It’s a miracle of aging how the spark of youth is revived in the presence of old friends. We felt like kids again.

Garden of the Gods

On K.K’s recommendation, we pulled out early in the morning and stopped at Garden of the Gods – a place we’d never heard of.

When confronted with the impressive infrastructure, enormous visitors center, and vast but empty parking lot, we learned how out of the loop we are. We parked the rig and toured just a small area of these world famous red rocks in near solitude – a rare experience.

No. These are not America’s best days. Our alabaster cities have a way to go before they will be undimmed by human tears. But on the bright side, we’re discovering – at least for the present – the “thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness” is kinda-sorta wide open.

So, we’re just gonna stay outside, cover our conks and cake holes, keep our distance, and have a blast while it lasts.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


24 thoughts on “Through Wilds of Thought

  1. I thought I had your emails or phone number to contact you all so since I don’t I will leave a comment here 🙂 When Bruce and I left San Diego in 1993 we departed for work for Bruce in Telluride, Co…he worked up there on so many amazing projects. We ended up moving to Montrose and Bruce commuted and we made Ouray our weekly Sunday getaway to go to the Hot Springs with the kids. Our family loved living in Colorado-especial the Western Slope and the San Juan’s. We are glad that you guys went there and were greeted by friends there! Hugs from Bruce and Becky who now live in Kansas City! If you ever come through let us know. Becky

    1. Becky and Bruce! Oh my … it’s been waaaay too long! Wonderful to hear from you two. Hugs back from Carmen and Jim. We were talking about you two the other day – and the Lovealls, David and Nita who we had lunch with last summer … I think?

      Never been there, but we must go to Kansas City. We met a couple in South Texas who are ex-San Diegans and now live in KC. I hear so much about it – must be a fabulous place.

      We’re on the Eastern Slope now, but will going back over – kind of doing a circle.

      Watch out. Some morning you just might just look out your window and see us parked outside.

      We love and miss you guys.

      xoxo,

      Carmen & Jim

  2. So glad you were able to score a site at Cheyenne Mtn State Park. In fact you may have one of our sites that we had to cxl due to a military reunion cxzling. Your pictures and stories of CO are so inspiring that we may try again next year!

    1. Julie! Sorry you had to cancel, but thank you for site 59. It was amazing – back-in. Huge area for the Clam which we didn’t use. Green privacy screen on both sides. There were steps leading up to a party area with picnic tables, a fire pit and a stand-up grill with a cover! Perfect place for a party under the stars. Pico loved his walks through the berry bushes.

      Best to you for that Colorado trip next year.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  3. That’s a great write-up accompanied by fantastic photos! It’s great inspiration for those of us who are staying put for one reason or another. We were hoping to explore the area around Mancos and your blog write-up only helps our desire to visit it in the future. You’re right – the road is a great place to live.

    1. Hey Jeff! I haven’t been on Facebook lately, so I’ve missed out on your travel developments. Hope all is well with you two.

      Yes, Mancos would be a great place to explore – plenty there to fill up a summer. And the locals are very helpful to give advice.

      Like you, I think, we feel fortunate to be mobile during this pandemic. I bore easily. It would drive me nuts to be in sticks and bricks right now.

      Always great to hear from you, Jeff.

      Be well and prosper,

      LIB

    1. Hey Denise! Thank you so much for your hospitality. With so much closed we feel we need another visit. Maybe will call soon. Hugs to you and Blake.

      xoxo,

      Carmen & Jim

  4. Thanks for the update. We love that part of CO. You reminded me of a late afternoon visit to the Ouray Brewery a few years back. We were sitting on the upper deck looking out enjoying the view when just like that a thunderstorm blew in. I couldn’t believe how fast it happened. The whole top floor had to clear out.
    You really know how to make the most of a bad situation. We are still homebound but finally got the new axles installed. Hope to be chasing you soon.

    1. Hey Bill! We love hearing from you. Seems like you’ve been with us since the beginning.

      We were on that same deck – I think one of the town photos is from that perspective. I nearly lost the awning yesterday. Jim stepped out and drove off to see about a new hitch ball. Pico and I were in the trailer. I had my headset on listening to a video and Pico barked – trying to tell me that something was going on outside. Then a sudden gale-force storm with icy rain came through. The trailer lurched as the awning caught the wind. Thunder, lightning … Fifteen minutes earlier it was a perfectly sunny day! I saved the awning but … it was a real close one. Pico is a good watch dog.

      Safe and Happy Travels with those brand new axles. Did you get the lift?

      LIB

      1. Wow, glad you saved the awning, that would have hurt. I was reading one of your post the other day and finally realized that we bought our Airstream the very same month that you did. So yes, I have been following you since before you hit the road.
        I did not get the lift, however the new axles did raise things 2 inches by themselves.
        Now if we could just figure out when, how and where to use them. Between helping with our granddaughters and our increasingly fragile black lab (Jackson), travel just hasn’t seemed right.
        All the Best,
        Bill

        1. Bill,

          When you get back on the road you will find those two inches really makes a difference.

          Our awning is original and it’s still holding up pretty well – looks great from a distance, but is looking a bit ratty up close. So, we will probably be upgrading the awnings within the next 1-2 years.

          Best to you and your sweet lab. We understand. Most of our lives we taken care of elderly dogs. Our last three dogs were 19, 16, and 18 years old. Pico is heading toward 13 and is finally becoming a lap dog, becoming more affectionate and giving all of the signs that his youth is behind him – however, he can still walk five miles without showing signs of aging.

          Stay well, dear friend. The road will be ready when you’re ready.

          LIB

  5. Oh my god, that Newfie!!!!! He looks like a bear! A giant, snuggly, floofy bear! Love it!!

    I am so jealous of you in this post. All those breweries, and talking to people – real people – right there in front of you! Gah! I cannot wait to do that again. We almost visited a brewery last weekend, but then didn’t. Maybe on our next stop- which is Missoula, home to many fabulous breweries, or so we’re told. Given that we can sit outside, they really are the safest places to return to humanity, and we are really feeling the need for some humanity these days.

    You also hit some of our favorite Colorado stops – I absolutely agree with you, Cheyenne Mountain is the park by which all others should be measured, Garden of the Gods is just stunning, and Telluride is so much fun. You’re certainly making the most of your time in Colorado!

    I hope Jim’s knee is feeling better and you guys are enjoying your summer!

    1. Laura, Blake is truly a champion. And his brains match his looks. When the dog shows start up again, the sky’s the limit for that newf.

      Yes, we love this area but will have to return someday because so much is closed. It’s a shame that we’re missing the hot springs – but those are too big a risk in my opinion – especially with the kids out of school.

      And we need to spend two weeks at Cheyanne Mountain State Park – with a clean rig. The park put us in mind of Maumee Bay State Park in Ohio. The geography is completely different but it’s like the same architect designed it.

      When you decide to go to a brewery – here is our policy: Avoid happy hours. Off-hours only – which often means day-drinking, but there ya go. No indoor seating. Only open air patios which facilitate physical distancing. Avoid the bar area as much as possible. Wear masks while ordering. Only two pints. Don’t use the bathroom. Bring growlers just in case it’s the good stuff. Carry hand-sanitizer. We always bring Pico because he keeps people away. If you take Thor, don’t let anyone pet him.

      Social distancing really messes with me emotionally. As an introvert I’m fine with time alone, but once in a social situation I over-correct my shyness.

      For instance, yesterday we went to a farmer’s market – didn’t go well at all. It’s incredibly embarrassing to admit and I still can’t believe I did it … but I dropped my mask and kissed a parrot. It was really stupid. I can’t believe I was that easy. I was just overjoyed and the place was so festive. Now I’m having to take my temperature three times a day.

      Jim’s knee is much better, thank you. It’s almost completely healed now.

      Safe and Happy Travels

      xoxo,

      Carmen

  6. As usual, lyrically written, just a pleasure to read. Further, my map has some more “want to go” spots

    1. Thank you, Claudia. So strange how the more we travel, the more our “want to go” spots increase. Thank you for being with us. May you and your travels be blessed.

      LIB

  7. We fell in love with SW Colorado! Telluride is absolutely adorable, but yeah driving a rig thru there not so much. 🙂 And I am with Laura, Sir Blake is amazing!! Your pictures are stunning, thank you for them. Guess I’ll have to put Cheyenne State Park on our list to visit.

    1. Hey Brenda! Our impression of Cheyanne is to go with the back-in sites. The pull-throughs in our loop had less privacy – but we didn’t have time to look at all of the loops. It’s a very large campground but it only has about 60 sites. Our site 59, was ideal for our size rig.

      Yes, Colorado, of all places could convince me to do some winter camping.

      Always great to hear from you, Barbara. Stay safe out there!

      LIB

  8. Thank you for another inspiring article with beautiful photos. We will be in Colorado Springs in a couple of weeks, staying at Moutaindale RVR as we have on our previous two trips. I’m happy to hear about Cheyenne Mountain and we will check it out while we are there. Garden of the Gods is one of my favorite places, but I’m wondering how you managed to find it so empty – when were you there? Happy trails to you.

    1. Hey Dana! Great to hear from you. Our best guess is the pandemic is affecting crowd volume at Garden of The Gods. We saw deer on the concrete path and locals using it for a jogging route. We were there on a Thursday morning when they opened. We’re trying to avoid crowds so if if we had known it was such a popular place, we’d have probably passed it up. The visitors center requires masks to enter. Also, there were signs along the path encouraging visitors to keep faces covered. We covered up most of the time even though it was getting warm.

      Mountaindale RV Resort looks lovely. Thank you for the recommendation. https://www.mountaindalecampground.com. We will definitely check it out in the future. Since the pandemic began we’ve been avoiding resorts because all of the amenities are closed and the prices do not reflect the deficit – so until things change we are focused on free camping, BLM and State Parks.

      Have a wonderful time in Colorado Springs!

      Safe and Happy Travels,

      LIB

  9. Dropped your mask and KISSED a parrot at a farmers market!! Sister! You have changed a lot since you met that Beaubeaux guy.
    Love you. Stay safe, and better stay away from any male stripper venues until you get that social overcompensation problem in check. Deb

    1. Deb, she was a sweet natured Moluccan Cockatoo. Nuff said about that. Now are you suggesting Jim and I change our 45th Anniversary plans next week?! 😂🤣

  10. We’re in Colorado, too! It’s funny – I was inspired to caption my photos as we headed toward the mountains by the words of America the Beautiful. Love seeing your photos and going with you on your travels.

  11. Welcome Amy! Thank you for being with us. We’re almost neighbors this summer! Yes, there is something about Colorado that makes me want to give voice to those patriotic songs from my childhood. So happy to hear that you are enjoying this beautiful summer. And thank you also for enjoying the photos – though I feel that it’s all just too expansive to truly capture. What a great idea to caption your photos with patriotic lyrics.

    Safe and Happy Travels!

    LIB

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