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The tour continues…

For the second time in two years I was in the beautiful little city just east of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder, Colorado. A good friend Pam moved to Boulder from Connecticut more than a few years ago and is responsible for getting me on an upgraded 1989 Trek and introducing me to winter on Mt. Washington. I’ve been hooked since. The nice friend she is she sent me on a crazy bike ride outside of Boulder, details to come.

Eldorado Canyon outside of BoulderThere are incredible place to hike outside of Boulder and I chose Eldorado Canyon State Park spending a day trip in and around the canyon logging about 12 miles on the trails. It felt great to be back in the wilderness after the long drives and stops from Asheville. During the stay I went further into the back country to Arapaho National Forest then mildly “attacked” two 14,000 footers, Grays(14,278 ft) and Torreys(14,275 ft) Peaks, probably two of the easiest 14,000 footers to hike. I could feel the thinner air at about 13,000 feet needing a few short rests and noticed recovery was quick. The trip to Arapahoe N.F. was a long day trek through semiGrays and Torreys Peaks mountainous areas to a few crystal clear ponds. Making a late start this particular day made for dicey conditions when summiting one peak. Peaks should be summited by 1:00 or you face the changing weather coming in early afternoon. Summiting on a bare mountain peak during thunder and lightning strikes is a harrowing experience.

Indian Mountains in Roosevelt National ParkI rode the Trek once on this journey and it was an epic ride Pam mapped out. Knowing it would be in the hills made me step up for the challenge. Long story short, the 60 mile ride was MOUNTAINOUS (short video end of post)! This is an average ride for the super fit who live in Boulder, a training Mecca for world class athletes because of the elevation, good climate and terrain. A few highlights of the ride were stopping in the small mountain town of Jamestown, population 250 and going in to the Jamestown Mercantile for a great IOU malt. I continued through the town gaining elevation until reaching Brainard Lake of Roosevelt National Forest. Destination success! I cruised a few short roads of the park before heading back to Boulder burning the brakes offRiver in Roosevelt National Forest of the bike from the steep down hills that could have you going over 60 mph. The following day I returned to the Mercantile (in my truck this time) to square up my IOU, have a beer and listen to a great “Newgrass” band. The welcoming comfort of the rustic local gathering place made for an enjoyable restful evening.

Collegiate PeaksWith friends arriving to fill Pam’s home and wanting to return to New Mexico to hike/climb Wheeler Peak (13,167 ft.), the highest point in the state, I made the return 300 mile drive. Seven hours later, passing Collegiate Peaks, I was back in New Mexico finding a great location to set up camp just outside the small quaint town of Arroy Secco next to Carson National Forest. After the long drive I was looking forward to spending the night in my tent and sleeping bag.

Double RainbowThe first morning I woke to a double rainbow. There’s no video with me hallucinating or trying to understand the meaning of it. (Some of you will know what I’m speaking about.) Having the small town nearby for good coffee, natural foods and the famous Taos Cow ice cream parlor was a bonus.

Returning to camp one evening after surveying the area was a large van with six men of Mexican decent at the adjoining campsite. I thought this was going to be a long sleepless night because of the number of men and music. I made assumptions I shouldn’t. While pulling a few items from the truck one of the men respectfully told me they were staying to cook dinner and return to a local motel for the night and asked me to join them. I felt empty and didn’t know what to say with a feeling of shame that came over me for making judgments. I couldn’t say no to the offer from this generous man and company would be good. I grabbed something to drink to not go empty handed. Approaching the group I sensed I was not welcomed by all and now I was being judged and was going to eat their food! Did I do the right thing accepting the offer!? A few of the men spoke English and we had a spirited conversation about where home is and what it’s like being on the road for extended time. The mood lightened, but a few men weren’t completely welcoming which I accepted and understood.

Mixed Meat Mexican DinnerOverhanging the fire was a cast iron kettle filled with pork, beef, cut up hot dogs, jalapeños, all combined with a red chili sauce. I followed their lead grabbing a tortilla and filling it with the spicy meat mixture. I have to say it was pretty tasteful and satisfying. We ate and traded stories for a while before they broke camp. When leaving the man, who I took as the group leader, offered the rest of the food otherwise it was going to waste since they had no way to store it. The kindness was humbling and not having to cook dinner the next night was fine by me.

Onto Wheeler Peak…

Not being a skier I didn’t know the Taos ski area is a great place and is highly recommended from reviews I’ve read. The resort was closed, but the parking area was open for hikers who want to roam the trails or summit Wheeler Peak.

Wheeler PeakA few miles on the trail I approached a few people from the New Mexico Mountaineers making the climb to the summit. They were a fit spunky group of retirees with an average age of late sixties who travel and hike mid west and western mountains. After a lively conversation and a few pictures I continued on to the summit passing big horn sheep and little furry creatures. The summit had a great view and I carried along a ridge to the boarder of the 17,361 acre Taos Pueblo Native American property. This sacred land with a view of the sacred Blue Lake was not to be trespassed or photographed(the lake). On the decent I was able to view more big horn sheep and returned to a truck covered with snow from the changing mountain weather. The rest of the Mexican mixed meat dinner tasted great. Probably anything would have at that point.

Taos Pueblo Indian ReservationThe following day I visited the 1,000 year old Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation. Very few acres are available for non-natives to see and explore which was disappointing but understandable since they should have more land than they were given. (after it was taken away, but I digress). I toured the reservation where some Indians live and have shops as part of their homes. A few highlights were a Native man drumming and singing, Fry Breadmiscellaneous jewelry and craft shops and fry bread for lunch. Rest was a good part of this day and visits to shops and long talks with owners made for interesting conversation on how some visitors have expectations of a movie style Indian life.

Returning to camp early evening I prepared dinner and spent time journaling before a good nights sleep. Travel the next day would be passing through Boulder, back to Roosevelt National Forest then onto Rocky Mountain National Park. The trek back to New Mexico was well worth it.

– Greg

“No individual or group can block another individual’s path or change it against what fits his nature and his purpose.”   

– Rolling Thunder, Cherokee

Ronald Bradley Mack

Ronald Bradley Mack

This post is dedicated to my friend Ronald “Ron” Bradley Mack who passed recently. A favorite place of Ron’s was Boulder, CO where he studied at the Rocky Mountain Healing Arts Institute. Ron was a healer using The Bradley Technique energy work he developed and evolved over the 30 years of his practice. He performed his healing work in his home, the historic Melville House Bed & Breakfast in New Bedford, MA, where he was the proprietor.

Ron was a friend and mentor who put me on the path of the journey I walk today. Peace to you Ron!

Ron's favorite evening place

Ron enjoying his front garden

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Driving across the United States was a desire since high school. The thought of being on the open road, driving through different states, seeing new places and meeting new people seemed exciting. I’ve spent more time than one should behind the wheel for previous employers and driving throughout New England to destinations for hiking, fishing and camping trips so making the effort didn’t faze me as long as I had good music or company.

The U.S. Tour with Detailed StopsOn July 22, 2009 I embarked on my longest and most distant road trip, a 10,000 mile tour lasting almost two months traveling from CT to North Carolina, Texas, and Montana then returning east. Spending two months traveling throughout Utah, Oregon and parts of Washington State a year earlier kept the trip from going as far as the west coast.

World's Largest GPSThe loosely thought out plan was to visit friends in Asheville, NC, Houston, TX and Boulder, CO, see areas I was interested moving to and visit national parks and forests. Instead of one hundred of AAA maps I used an application on my 17” laptop making the world’s biggest GPS (Which sat on the passenger’s seat.). I wanted to make this journey as free form as possible having the only schedule be the segment to Asheville. My career has been full of strict planning and promptness with executive teams and customers making this a relief to do what I wanted and when. The trip was like Forrest Gump on his run back and forth across the country. When I wanted to see something, I saw it. When I needed to eat, I ate. When I needed to sleep, I slept and when I needed to…., you know, I went!

Full LoadTo start off the road trip Mitzy the Montero was packed with a bike, camping and hiking gear, clothes and a small amount of food and water. With 176,000 miles, no air conditioning and a recent tune up I knew she would be fine although the thought of no air conditioning wasn’t pleasant.

The tour started in Connecticut with a short stop in Massachusetts to pick up a climbing and hiking friend. Chris made the trek to Asheville then flew back. From Asheville onward I’d be going soul”o”. My soul needed a break from my home area and was touched, tested, and poked more than a few times on this journey. (See the Emerson quote in the Peaceful Introduction.)

Making almost 90 noteworthy stops there are too many experiences to tell in this post and will follow with more. For now, I bring you the beginning of the trip, will introduce you to a few friends and tell you of places visited.

Hop in and enjoy the 10,000 mile ride….

Copperhead (Coiled) & Brown Water Snake

There’s a sense of freedom and increased adrenaline I experience being on the road knowing new places for adventure are in the near future. The early part of the trip was familiar territory from driving south more than a few times. We rested for the night in Winchester, NC before navigating the winding Skyline Drive of Shenandoah National Park the following day. Stops were made for a few short hikes to scenic overviews, entertainment for the afternoon being a few snakes, deer and watching people with cameras chase bears with cubs. Not wanting to use my wilderness medicine training Chris and I shook our heads and guided our way through the park. As much as we wanted to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows Skyline Drive, too many additional hours would have been added to meet our friend Tricia waiting for us in Asheville.

Tricia on Shining Rock Pisgah National ForestTricia, who moved to Asheville more than a few years ago to open a yoga studio, greeted us with good cold beer and welcomed us into her home where we chatted for the rest of the evening. The next day she gave us a tour of one of the coolest, eclectic small cities I’ve been to on the east coast. Asheville offers a welcoming atmosphere, great food, wine and microbrew beer with community activities taking place throughout the city on weekends. There are many similarities to Portland, Oregon. In a short ride you could be in Great Smokey Mountain National Park or Pisgah, Nantahala or Cherokee Mt. Mitchell Eastern U.S. HighpointNational Forests. In an hour’s drive Mt. Mitchell (6684 ft.), the highest point east of the Mississippi River, is an easy to moderate hike. The only likeness to New England’s highest point, Mt. Washington (6288 ft.), is an access road to the summit. Mt. Mitchell can’t boast of the world’s worst weather or the difficult terrain of Mt. Washington, although it provides excellent views of Pisgah National Forest. A trail I embarked on before leaving the area had signs of bear and the quietness of only a few late season campers.

After visiting Tricia, hiking and seeing the quaint, spunky city of Asheville Chris flew back to Massachusetts and I began a long, scorching drive southwest to Houston needing to stop in Lafayette, LA before falling asleep behind the wheel. The heat while driving was hardly bearable rising over 100 degrees causing the power supply for my laptop to melt.

LeoA business colleague and friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years was the reason for the Houston stop. Leo is a proud decorated Silver Star Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran fighting effects from Agent Orange exposure. He’s one of the most interesting and funny men you’ll ever meet. Leo “Gets” from Lethal Weapon is almost as entertaining.  If you have an interest in Vietnam War history, Leo fought in one of the most brutal engagements documented in The Lost Battalion of TET: Breakout of the 2/12 Cavalry at Hue. Time was well spent catching up, keeping company and visiting a few of his favorite restaurants. For “protection” he gave me a set of mounted steer horns you would see on a Cadillac at a big Texas ranch.

HOT and no A/C!Leaving Houston was the most sweltering drive yet. Outside temperature was 106 to 108 at times and hotter in the truck.  Mathew Broderick’s line in Biloxi Blues kept coming to mind “This is Africa hot!” when he disembarked the train in Mississippi. The hot wind blowing in the truck didn’t help and being stopped by a road worker made for a big white sauna on four wheels. Kudos to the workers doing road repairs in the sun and heat.

My plan was to camp after leaving Houston except a stop was needed before leaving Texas given the heat was physically draining and setting up a tent didn’t seem to be the best idea. Coming to the rescue was my brother Jamie, a traveler for work who has a million travel miles. I placed an SOS call and he made a reservation in Amarillo, TX offering his miles for the stay. Jamie, a savior for the evening, and I would meet later during the trip in Chicago.

The Hot Flatlands of TexasPsychologically it felt good heading north early the next morning after a refreshing stay and saying goodbye to the desert heat of Texas. In short time I was in New Mexico where mountains and appealing landscapes were coming into view. Boulder, CO was the next stop and while driving through New Mexico the thought of staying a few nights came to mind but I had Boulder in the sights. As fate would have it I would return to New Mexico a week and a half later because of a full house at my kind friend Pam’s place. Thoughts of climbing the highest peak in New Mexico and visiting the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation also intrigued me, so back on the road I went driving 300 miles south where I recently driven….

Stay tuned for the next stops…..Taos and Colorado for hiking, camping and more.

– Greg

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”R.W. Emerson

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