I left Dillon and headed just a bit southeast, approximately 160 miles away, but still a five-hour drive. I’d recalled when I got to Colorado that I’d had a friend who lived sorta near Colorado Springs, in Canon City, actually. And, lucky me, said friend alsohappened to have a nice, big, fairly level space where I could park, and he also didn’t mind me parking there! We made plans for me to arrive the Tuesday before Labor Day Weekend. It was a gorgeous drive there, but by the time I hit Highway 50, I was ready to be there. Instead, I made my slow way on this winding, slightly hilly, two-lane highway. My average speed was probably around 50 mph, mostly due to curves. I probably pissed off a few people, as I refuse to go faster than I am comfortable with and generally make the curves at the recommended speeds. There are few places to pull over. It’s rare in such a beautiful place for me to say: are we ever going to get outta here? But I did say that, multiple times!
I still managed to arrive before it got cooking too much. The temperatures in Canon City are vastly different than the ones we had in Dillon. It got up to 103 one day, and 100 on another, though this torture came after the holiday weekend. My friend happened to have the whole three days of the weekend off of work, so he suggested that we head to a place he really loves to camp. I was uncertain at first if I wanted to do this, but, after a couple of days in the heat, I totally changed my mind. Sure, let’s do it. So, on Friday morning, I left early while he worked, and made my way backalong Highway 50. It was much better the second time around and at the beginning rather than the end of the drive! Instead of the campground he had in mind (which required 8 miles down a dirt road), we decided to try a different one nearby, which required only a mile on a gravel road. These were both USFS campgrounds and had no services, though they had vault toilets. I left early enough that I hoped to snag us a good spot before what we feared would be the after-work march in to the no reservations campground in hopes of scoring a campsite for the weekend.
Turned out, we had nothing to fear. I saw only three other campers there when I arrived, and I found us an absolutely huge pull-thru site with two tent site options for my friend. It was a little work to get it level, but I managed to find the sweet spot. And, even with my friend’s car parked, there was enough room for another rig ten feet longer than my own! Huge. And it looked out into the woods. No neighbors were close. And it was a quiet weekend as the campground never did come close to filling up. It was my first go at dry camping, so I held my breath a bit as I plugged in and set up my solar panels, but the monitors both read that all was working as it should! My two batteries and 120 watts of solar panel were definitely plenty for what I needed it for this weekend. I didn’t test using the plug-n-play inverter to charge my computer—which I didn’t use—or phone, since there was no signal and I only turned it on to take pics while hiking.
And speaking of hiking…another great thing about this campground is that it’s close to the Continental Divide Trail, which is also the Colorado Trail in this area. We hiked one segment on Saturday and another on Sunday. The scenery in both sections was gorgeous. On the first day, we spent more time in the woods, while on the second day, it was more wide open, with grand views all around. It was the perfect combination. Both days we went about 8.5 miles. On day two, we saw quite a few thru-hikers and a couple of Colorado Trail thru-bikers. It made me want more than just a couple of day hikes! I’m not sure I’d want to go by bike, though. I’d rather the speed of a hike (though the couple on the bike said there were more than a few times that they were forced off their bikes, trudging uphill, with hikers passing them!). I am not sure I could do the entire CDT, or the PCT (which I’d love to do from Northern Cali to the Canadian border), or the ACT. But, perhaps, I could do the 485-mile Colorado Trail if I could get someone to come stay in the rig with the cats for a few weeks.
It was a lovely, peaceful, weekend. No technology, other than the phones for pictures, and that felt great. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels to step away from the screens. Spent the weekend in good company, with face-to-face conversations. Stunning scenery. And a nice walk along a little trail in the mountains. Oh, and there was an hour-long drive to Gunnison on Saturday for some good pizza and a beer. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the holiday weekend. Feeling refreshed, I suddenly didn’t mind that trip back down Highway 50 one more time…
After just over two weeks, I said so long to Summit County. For now anyways. This area will most certainly be one I return to again and again. When I return, it will be to the same campground as well. I love it there. Even when the wind comes roaring through in the afternoons, whistling around the contours and sending the rig a rockin’. It is still peaceful. All the trees were cut down because of the ravenous and too plentiful bark beetle. There are little saplings all around, but it will be quite some time before those provide any shade. In reading the reviews, you see some complain about the lack of trees or lake view. But I actually prefer it this way. I don’t like that the trees are in a losing battle with the beetle, but I like this campsite with the wide view. It sits on a rounded mound on the side of a mountain and is surrounded by the texture of peaks in every direction. It feels remote, yet it’s just a short ride or drive down to the bustling town of Dillon on one side or Frisco in the other direction. Breckenridge isn’t much further. Even without a car, I felt like Lowry was the perfect place to be.
After my bike was repaired, I set off on a ride around the lake. What a difference! Even the steep climbs were manageable. And the route was filled with some breathtaking views. I rode a steadily but stopped several times to absorb it all. I got off track a few times because the area is littered with paved bike paths and it was easy to miss a turn here and there. Luckily, they have maps posted everywhere as well, so I never went too far astray before figuring it out. I made it back home just as the afternoon winds really got going and the clouds rolled in. 22 miles. I put my bike back in its place on my still damaged, but functional, rack to await another ride on another day.
I had hoped to ride that trail again, but that was not to be. I pulled my bike off to ride a couple of days later only to discover that the front tire was flat. The tire for the wheel that had just been replaced. So, I got to try out the bus system because I needed a few things from town because my floor pump broke. Before I left, however, I talked to the camp host. I wanted to know about moving into my new spot early, just in case I opted for a long hike the following day. In the course of the conversation, it came up that there was another spot that would be open that day because someone made a reservation and never showed and never cancelled. Taking that spot meant that I would be able to stay through the weekend, instead of leaving on Saturday because the place was booked. What great luck! And, oh, yes. I’ll take that spot, please! The people currently occupying it left before I left for town, so I was able to move locations quickly and still have the rest of my day.
Summit county has a great, free, bus system that connects the towns and even some of the trailheads. It was a two-mile walk from the campground to the nearest bus stop. No problem. Got to stretch my legs and get some exercise. Rode the bus in and got off by the REI and City Market. REI was holding my old wheel for me. They got it repaired enough to be rideable for a bit as a spare, should I need it. I had thought about telling them never mind, they could go ahead and recycle it, because I wasn’t sure about getting it back to the rig. Taking the bus made it easier, so I decided to go ahead and pick it up. When I got to the bike shop desk, one of the techs came out to greet me. She asked if anyone had called me…noooo, no they hadn’t…why? Turns out that after they replaced my wheel, they found one just like my original one in their breakroom. It had been on a co-worker’s bike and that person had swapped it out for a different one. It was basically brand new. Had I purchased one like it as a replacement, it would have cost a fair amount more than the one I put on there. The good folks at REI…they gave it to me for the low, low price of zero dollars, in place of my original. So I’ve now got a really nice, brand new wheel as a spare! I had them recycle the old one. And to think I almost told them I had changed my mind on the idea of a spare.
I finished up my errands and, with my new wheel in hand, caught the bus back towards the campground. Turned out that I had the same bus driver as on the way up. My wheel without a bike was a conversations starter. I ended up having a lovely conversation the entire ride back with the bus driver, talking bike tours and RV travel and living adventure when you can. It made for an enjoyable trip back, and only added to the good feelings in a day that started off with a flat tire. It got me thinking about how we often get stuck in the mire of an event that we think of as bad or negative, but that when we let go, and take a step back, we might find that that event was actually the thing that spurred on something good or beautiful or amazing. Something we’d never have had the opportunity to experience if it weren’t for something gone wrong. I admit, I was frustrated when I saw my flat tire. I was exasperated. How could it be that I just got this wheel replaced and the tire has now gone flat? And why didn’t I get that bike pump when I was at REI in the first place? I quickly let it go, not really purposefully, but just in the course of planning for going to town on the bus, which I’d wanted to try out anyway. And right away, my day started turning around with the discovery that I’d be able to stick around for a bit longer. The good experiences kept coming for the rest of the day (including some pretty wicked storms missing our little corner of the mountains), and ended with a long conversation with the camphost outside my RV that evening about fulltime RV living and his and his wife’s winter experiences living in the RV in Breckenridge (think shoveling waste-high snow and ice from the rooftop of an RV as a regular experience and you’ll get the picture). I mused later that evening about the fact that my introvert self had multiple long conversations throughout that day, and not once had I felt my energy depleted from the effort of the encounters. The day was a gift. I went to bed that night grateful for every bit of it. Even the flat tire.
I did end up changing that flat. It was my first time ever having to change a flat on a bike. I’ve been exceptionally lucky in my life never to have experienced a blown bike tire. Not sure how that happened! And I did find out why it was flat. Somehow, in the course of putting a valve adapter on, a piece of the tire got caught between the adapter and the valve. I somehow got lucky yet again. The tire didn’t blow out while I was riding it. I assume it happened when they replaced my wheel. I rode back to the campground and then all the way around the lake without incident. It only gave way, with the stress of the pulled rubber finally breaking away and creating a rather good-sized hole in the tire, when my bike was safely back in the rack and not in use.
Aside from the whole bike saga, and a few opportunities to ride in Dillon, I managed to get some hiking in while I was in the area as well. Twice I hiked a trail that I was able to access from the campground by walking over the ridge and into Keystone. The first time I hiked 2.5 miles in, and then turned around an came back. With the 1.5 miles between the campground and the trailhead, it would have made for an 8-mile hike. Except. I made it longer. When I got to the base of the path that would take me back to camp, I decided I was thirsty for a hoppy beverage, and I had nothing in the rig. A quick peruse on Yelp and I discovered I could walk a mile from that spot to a liquor store. So I did. Priorities, you know? What is it about a good, long hike that makes one crave a nice cold brew? I try to blame it on friends in Germany who introduced me to that habit while I was living there…The second time I hiked that trail, I went further on the trail and ended up hiking 10 miles total again, just without the detour at the end. It was a great hike, and one mountain bikers seem to love even more than hikers, but everyone I came across on a bike was exceptionally nice and not a one was put out by coming across a hiker. Even so, I would often go for quite some time without seeing a soul on the trail. Where I became lost in the sound of the wind through trees or across grasses and wildflowers. Or looking up to snow-dotted peaks and billowing white clouds. No man-made sounds to interrupt the symphony of nature. In places like this, I often fantasize about walking forever or just living off the land (I pretend I would know how) because it all feels so right and so perfect, I don’t want it to ever end.
One other hike of note was not quite as long. Only about six miles. I was having a low-threshold day. One where I wasn’t feeling quite certain of myself and what I was doing. The great thing about living out here is that when a day feels that way, it is easy enough to change your perspective by heading outside, and that is just what I did. I went for a hike. I decided to head towards a place I’d seen on my ride around the lake, where there were great views of the lake and a place where there was a ¾ mile scenic loop that I’d not been on. When I got to the trail, I opted to go in the opposite direction from the one I was seeing everyone else go. Because of this, I quickly found myself at what was, for everyone else, the grand finale of the loop: a spectacular scenic overlook. I was gazing across the view over the lake, a smile now planted on my face. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young man taking a photo of his girlfriend and their dog. I offered to take one of the both of them, for which they were grateful. As I was handing back the phone, the young man asked if I would take one more photo. He was reaching into his backpack, so I thought he was going for a big camera. I told him I would be happy to, as he pulled out, not a camera, but a small(ish) fancy blue box. I flipped the phones camera to video and captured the young man’s proposal on bended knee and his now fiancée’s acceptance. It was very moving. I was glad for my sunglasses. And even gladder that I happened to be there at the right time.
Dillon was the place where I felt I was truly able to let go since I’ve been out on the road solo, to be fully here, present with myself and open to whatever came my way. I adjusted to the wind. I moved when I needed to. I allowed myself the flexibility to adapt and change my point of view. I was reminded of how often it is necessary to do so. Even in a place as lovely as Dillon, life happens. When we can take a step back, change our perspective, we often find that in the down times or the low spots or the negative space, lies opportunity, if we can pull our heads out of the muck and walk down the path that opens before us. So, while I have said so long for now to Summit County, I will carry a piece of it with me in the memories, yes, but also in the experiences that reminded me what I am out here to learn and what I mean by shiftingspace: find your path and take it.