Thursday, July 30, 2015

Difficult decision -- suspending this trip for the rest of the year.

Hello again, from another Colorado 'fort'; this one is called Ft. Morgan, an agricultural community in northeastern Colorado and on the western side of the Great Plains.

Handy that there is an Amtrak stop in this town.  It looks as if I will be boarding a train for home this week, for medical reasons!  In response to a few inquiries I will say that, yes, I am OK.  The issue that developed is related to (but not quite as simple as) insufficient hydration.  The treatment requires 'flushing' with IV fluids and follow-up blood chemistry checks.  In my case the blood work did not show satisfactory improvement in a single day, indicating a need for more recovery time than it is practical to take here in the heart of 'agri-business', Colorado. My decision to suspend walking at this point was based upon a combination of this medical event (together with a couple of related findings), and a look at the daily weather forecasts (temperatures, specifically) over the coming week(s), since heat was one of the factors contributing to this inconvenient medical diagnosis.  Although I know that heading for home is the right decision at this point, it still has an unsatisfying, 'wimping out' sort of feeling.

Ft. Morgan is not quite the place I would have chosen as a stopping point while waiting for my home-bound train.  The Great Western Sugar Company, a 100-year old sugar beet processing plant, with its multi-silo storage tank is the most prominent feature of the town.  The hum of this huge factory and accompanying whine of the interstate can be heard throughout the night. On the plus side, there are a few decent coffee shops, a museum of interest, a good bicycle shop and a riverside park.  I've rented a bicycle and this morning took a ride along the S. Platte River, before it got too hot to be comfortable. 

If circumstances permit I will return to this point next year in the spring, to resume walking.  In the meantime, any recent donations will be returned, with great thanks to all for the unstinting support!  Plan updates will be forthcoming.  And hey - here is an opportunity for others to think about joining the walk (or a part of it) next year!

Rainbow Arch Bridge (circa 1922) over the S. Platte River.  GW Sugar plant in the distance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mixed emotions -- and a lot of catching up to do!

Many people to thank since I have last given voice to gratitude! So let offering thanks be my first priority this time. Most sincere thanks! Camping in the rain for two nights prior to crossing Vail Pass was not terribly comfortable, but would have been much more difficult had it not been for the attention and help of the host at Gore Creek campground.  More road angels have been instrumental in Silverplume and Idaho Springs, on this side of Loveland Pass, and most recently in Denver and here in Ft. Collins, where I am visiting a long-time friend.  A shower, a cold drink, a place to sleep out of the elements and somewhere to charge my phone (faster than it can be done with a solar charger in cloudy weather!) -- each of these amenities can make a great difference in the course of a day, and have done so with a frequency that blows my mind.

Scenery has also been mind-blowing for days on end. The Rocky Mountains.  I will not need another reminder of the origin of that emphatically literal (if rather unimaginative) appellation. Huge, soaring cliffs, teetering slabs and walls of upthrust book-like rows of sedimentary stone, and great fields of fallen rock that stretch for square miles, in shapes and sizes (from pea to dinosaur-size) as variable as one could imagine.  Maintenance crews have their work cut out for them year-round, just keeping the rocks off the roadways. The town of Silverplume sits under an enormous cliff called Bull Head Cliff, that looks as if it could fill the entire narrow river valley if it were to fall. But many of the buildings there are over 100 years old, so I guess the residents are justified in their confidence in its stability!

Wildflowers have also been prolific and startlingly colorful, thanks to all of the extra rain this season. Sometimes it becomes necessary to stop every few minutes and take a photo; too bad they never do justice to the actual subject matter!

The walk from Golden to Denver was a different experience.  I had not yet had to negotiate the outskirts of such a large metropolitan area.  No road shoulders, cracked and broken sidewalks and a string of seedy looking businesses along the route I had chosen as being the most direct.  Also a surprisingly nice library, where I took a break along the way.  At one point I was approached by a belligerent  and (probably) drunk young man who wanted to know what I thought I was doing.  I took refuge in a liquor store, and the argument was avoided.  Getting into the city proper I spent about a mile walking along a bike path on a massive elevated structure that crossed the North Platte River, many railroad lines, and intersecting freeways.  

After spending a pleasant evening and night with my Denver host, on a tree-lined street in one of the old neighborhoods, I took a bus to Ft. Collins to meet a friend I had not seen in some years.  Ft. Collins seems more interesting and 'visitor-friendly' then it did when I was here years ago, probably due to my more interested attention.  I'm enjoying the new bike paths, public art/sculpture and downtown University Ave. neighborhood.  Lots of old street trees and interesting architecture. (Right now there is an event going on involving colorfully painted upright pianos set up here and there around the downtown area, for anyone to play.)  One very sad note(!) was that the friendliest of the three cats where I am staying went missing and turned out to have been hit by a car and killed, this on the day after I arrived. Yesterday we went to identify his poor body at the local shelter.  Having a small ceremony for him helped, but I am still feeling rather heavy-hearted, and pained for the friend I am visiting...

It will be difficult to leave, but this is the plan for later in the week.  It makes the most sense not to return to Denver, but rather to head east from here (more or less) and rejoin Route 6 about half way to the Nebraska state line. Leaving the mountains behind for a while, I am prepared for a very different sort of scenery -- headed into the Great Plains!

Near Vail Pass

At the top of Vail Pass

A museum in Silverplume

PS -- Occasionally I get a message that I've received a comment on this site.  Those never include any contact information, so I haven't figured out how to respond when I would like to.  So I just want to say thanks for any comments or feedback.  And be sure to include an email address in the comment if you want to, and I'll be able to respond!  Sorry for my blogging illiteracy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Caution to the wind? Sneaking up on the high mountain passes.

Sunset - camping in a local resident's yard.

Have I been overly cautious where there is a threat of unstable weather up on the high passes? It does feel frustratingly so as I sit here in the town of Minturn  (having detoured to find a reasonably priced room and wait a day - now two days - for better weather prospects.) The thing of it is - t-showers are in the forecast for the entire week! And they don't always materialize on schedule or at all, though I have been rained upon on various occasions... The combination of altitude and thunderstorm is a daunting idea, though, from this 8000' perspective.

It has been interesting to explore the area a little; lots of history in this former mining and rail town, which has also been described as a poor relation to neighboring Vail up on Rt 70. One piece of visible recent history can be seen up on the defunct railroad tracks across the Eagle River from the highway. This is where two huge  (school bus size) rocks broke away from a formation called Lion's Head Rock on the top of the nearest peak. One sits on the tracks and the other is just a few feet from a drop into the river where, had it landed there, it could have created a dam that diverted the river through town.  The story is fresh in local memory as it happened just about a year and a half ago.

Let me now attempt to address a frequently asked question, with as much honesty as I can muster up in this moment. That is - what am I thinking about/feeling as I am walking along? First of all, I no longer believe that a person on foot (at least this person) has any greater chance of being 'present' than a person traveling at speed. That becomes clear in the frequency with which I must recall myself from attentions concerning my immediate future, to appreciate the surrounding beauty, or whatever the moment may bring. I am doing a lot of chanting as I walk, sometimes hearing internal music. Perhaps I am in a more sober state of mind than I was earlier on; not playing music as I was before  (on a harmonica I was given), or listening to recordings. Emotions are certainly close to the surface these days, I notice. Whether it is about beauty and love, or grief for myself, or the planet and all its critters (including us humans), they seem to pool up at about the heart chakra so that I feel as if a little acupuncture would be beneficial! Through it all, there is gratitude for many kindnesses (most recent thanks to road angels in Eagle and Edwards) and new appreciation for the struggles of people along the way. Always a new opportunity pay respect, right?

Fallen rocks!

Lion's Head Rock