With discoveries and lesson, our year of adventures was eye-opening
Twelve months. Twenty-three adventures. What a year.
When the features department — editor Ann Wright, fellow writer Rachel Sauer and myself — decided to spend 2013 exploring western Colorado and Eastern Utah, bringing readers closer to some of the iconic places and experiences of this region, we knew we’d have fun. And we did.
What we didn’t know, however, is how eye-opening and powerful this series would be for us. There were so many places we’d never been or experiences we may otherwise never have had if not for this series.
I feel more invested in living here. Does that make sense? Exploring this region has made me love it and care about it more.
We were drawn to tears and rendered speechless more than once. We were jolted out of our comfort zones, proving you don’t have to be an avid lover of the outdoors to actually enjoy recreating outdoors.
(Trust me, if I can do all these adventures, you can too.)
As our Adventuring Out series comes to an end, I reflected on this past year, picking a few highlights and lowlights and recalling some lessons and discoveries.
■ Seeing six moose at Maroon Bells. Rachel and I were horribly dressed (jeans) and had the wrong bikes (heavy mountain bikes), so the six-mile, uphill ride to the Maroon Bells area was exhausting (we had to ride since the road was closed because of the government shutdown). But it was a beautiful fall day, and we fulfilled lifelong dreams of seeing moose in the wild.
■ The peak of wildflower season on Grand Mesa. We felt like we unearthed buried treasure. With minimal work on our part — seriously, right off Colorado Highway 65 — we saw fields and fields of wildflowers. We didn’t even have to get out of the car, although we did. It was July down here, but it felt like a pleasant spring day on Grand Mesa.
■ Watching Rachel morph into a 6-year-old boy as she dug for dinosaur bones on a Dinosaur Journey expedition. She was so excited for this adventure, and she even found a bone fragment. Incidentally enough, there were actual 6-year-old boys from Los Angeles on this outing. They found a sauropod limb bone. I mean, how many places can you go dig for dinosaur bones?
■ Everything about our outing to Glenwood Springs. The caves at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park were fantastically dark and intriguing. I had never seen a cave before. They were so cool! Then, the three of us went to sweat and breathe deeply in the vapor caves at Yampah Spa. It was such a fun day.
■ Hiking Mount Garfield was not a high point, at least not for me. Rachel told me it was difficult, but I was purposely misled as to how difficult because Rachel knew I wouldn’t go had I known the lower trail was so steep. I sat down and cried because I thought my lungs and Achilles tendons were going to explode. I’m not even joking. Rachel and Ann loved this hike. Whatever.
■ Running for our lives in a hail and lightning storm at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park wasn’t great. LESSON: don’t mess with Colorado weather. Check the sky and anticipate storms, particularly at elevation in the afternoon. Also, take dried fruit so you have something to feed the mountain lions and bears running after you as you run from lightning and hail. (No, we didn’t see any lions or bears because they were smart enough to not be outdoors during a hailstorm.)
■ Camping. Rachel took me 180 miles southeast-ish to Deer Lakes Campground on Slumgullion Pass because she was determined to make me love camping. It rained almost the entire time, forcing us to turn around and drive 180 miles back in the rain to Grand Junction. Camping is the worst.
Through all the highs and the lows, our hours of hiking, biking, soaking, snowshoeing, tubing, driving, dinosaur bone digging, camping (sort of), swimming, caving, wine drinking, snowboarding and moose and bird spotting, enabled Rachel and I — Ann’s schedule kept her from most of our daytime, weekday adventures — to feel even more blessed to live here.
Ann and Rachel both grew up in Colorado, and I’ve been in western Colorado for more than a decade, but there were numerous adventures none of us had ever had before. And there are even more to be had!
So get out there. You don’t need fancy expensive gear. You can rent snowshoes. You can rent a bike. But you may find a new hobby or favorite place.
We live in an unspeakably beautiful, interesting place with so many adventures. Go explore!