Today we packed up, hitched up and rolled out. This was a near daily event on the Voyage until Heart of the Rockies where we’ve been docked since January one. Here we skied. Here we met our hosts, Hollly, Gayle, and the ever-so-happy Aiden. Here we met The LivingstonFamilyAdventure! Gabe, Marci, Mason, Adin, Asher, Mark, Niko. We met Jeff and Snoogins. And all have found their way into our hearts. We were a community surviving the cold with the common Mountain interest. Living in the venturi above Salida we all braved the scouring high winds. We cooked out apres- ski at 10 degrees as the sun went down. We opened our door to the wind ripping it out of our hands more times than not. Double dates, potlucks of Gumbo, Curry, Ribs and laughter will not be forgotten or taken for granted. Gathering those joys is truly life’s bounty. Warmth in the cold of Winter.
Another odd thing for David to do is leave a ski area just as the season gets rolling, all trails opened and the backcountry getting deeper. But this is not a ski trip. This is not JUST a ski trip. It is longer, deeper and open to a tomorrow with whatever it brings.
We have left family, new friends and new places before. Sometimes just a few days after meeting them. Its hard, but the road calls…the next adventure hides around the corner. This time it was much harder. Climbing Monarch Pass to cross the Continental Divide felt like leaving old friends again! Unprompted, I looked over at Jane once and knew she had the same lump in her throat.
But here we go. Yup, another milestone driven. Colorado DOT webcams to give a limited idea of road conditions. Four new inches of snow at Monarch was not “EPIC” enough to delay leaving. The roads below the pass were dry, and above 10,000 feet looked like just a little snow pack. Ice too would have kept us safely parked at “home”.
Poor Marfa (the Faithful 4Runner, as you’ll recall), strolled up the pass with her 3400 lb load, going only 25 mph on the steeper sections. Coloradans have no hesitation to pass, but I don’t put myself in a ditch for their convenience. Hazard lights flashing and a caution triangle emblazoned on the spare should be enough to send ’em around. Even the downhill!
Especially the downhill gave me caution. 30 mph caution signs at cliff-edged curves, a “runaway truck ramp” and snow packed surface combined; I went 25-30 downhill too. Never have I driven a rig that demands attention like this. Adrenaline is usually served only for sports, not just driving!
We pulled a big “hundred mile day” and found a National Forest access road to the Cimarron River. A peaceful night capped off our dusky walk seeing an eagle and nice herd of elk! Quiet, 0 degrees, cozy. Off we went again in the AM.
Off West past Gunnison, Wifi’d our safe departure to family and the Colorado community and on we went. South on 550. Had I known Red Mountain Pass I may have gone another way. It was dry, clear and sunny;I definitely would have detoured if it weren’t…but wow!
I had heard Monarch is one of the higher passes, but had no idea normal cars would be routed over anything like Red Mt (and it’s requisite partners Molas and Coalbank) year round. Poor Marfa, her transmission started to overheat as indicated by a little red warning light.
14 miles uphill at 20-28 mph, no guard rails, thousand foot cliffs, very few pullouts, warnings not to stop secondary to avalanche areas and more than a few ice chunks falling on us while we crawled! WOW! Did I say Monarch was stressful? We pulled into a small passing area and I pulled all of the cardboard that had been shielding the shivering radiator and transmission cooler from the Winter’s air for the past months. Poor gal, she needed all the air we could give her on THIS climb! We made it.
Arriving at Durango Mountain Resort (formerly Purgatory) we knew the right move. Pull in, stay, ski! (hee hee) A great dinner was had and improved immensely by visiting across tables with two new friends from Tucson, Angelo and Debbie. Plus there was a torchlight parade! Could it get any better with careful planning? (As you know, “Serendipity is often our guide!”)
(Fast Wifi allowed lots of pictures today courtesy of Durango Joe’s Coffee)