Road-Trip 2014 Wrap-Up.

On May 5th of this year, just days before my 50 birthday, I embarked on what I called “Road-Trip 2014.”  In close to 100 days on the road, I traveled over 9600 miles from Kentucky to California and back.  I traveled across Kentucky and into Illinois, then across Missouri, across Oklahoma, across New Mexico, paused in Arizona for Overland Expo 2014 and a visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canon, up into Utah, then back down into Arizona, then over to San Diego, California for 6 weeks.  Then from California back into Arizona, up into Utah again, then over to Colorado, crossing the state from Cortez in the southwest all the way to Ft. Collins in the northeast, and finally homeward through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and ending of course in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky!  This was my 4th such trip since 2008 and every one was better than the one before.  Every time I travel the highways, by-ways and backroads of America, I love her more and more!  I have lived overseas for more than 14 years and visited close to 60 countries.  I sincerely love something about every place I have been.  But to me, there is something really special about America that always ignites my flame of adventure.  Maybe it’s the incredibly diverse landscape we have in America, maybe it’s the friendly people I meet in countless small towns all across the country, or maybe it’s the American Spirit of “anything is possible,” that is still alive in America that excites me the most!  Whatever it is, I’m addicted to traveling this wonderful country!  A special thanks to my Family and Friends who took me in for a few days or a few weeks during my travels.  The Road-Trip would’t have been the same without you being part of it!  Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yankee Boy Basin near Ouray, Colorado.

I’m back in the Bluegrass for a month or two, giving “Bessie” the Tacoma a much deserved break.  “Bertha” has been called back into action, she and I are sleeping together again, what a great lady she is!  In the meantime, I have a number of projects to finish on the Farm before Winter arrives and have started detailed planning for…

Motorcycle Road-Trip 2015…. to places far and wide!

(317)

Exploring Colorado, Part 2.

After a night in the Black Canyon, camping along the Gunnison River, I continued my exploration of Colorado, heading east on highway 50 toward Salida.  Highway 50 passes the Curecanti National Recreation Area and crosses over the beautiful Blue Mesa Reservoir a few times as it climbs toward Monarch Pass.  There are half a dozen view points and just as many RV parks along the banks of the lake.  I stopped long enough to have lunch at the reservoir and made it to Salida by late afternoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downtown Salida, Colorado 2014.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downtown Salida, Colorado, a few blocks from the Arkansas River.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Arkansas River, just east of Downtown Salida.

I visited Salida 2 years ago and really had a great time!  It’s a small town with a population of only about 6 thousand, but what makes it so appealing to me is the beautiful historic downtown area and the fact that the Arkansas River flows right through the middle of it.  I believe Salida has the largest concentration of historic 19th century buildings in the State.  You can easily spend the entire day wandering the downtown area shopping and having lunch at one of the many great restaurants.  I had one of the best curry soups I’ve ever had at the “Little Cambodia” restaurant on North F Street!  I camped east of town a few miles on the Arkansas River.  It was a small state campground with perhaps 20 camping spots and access to the river.  Early the next morning I drove back through Salida and headed north on highway 285.  The road follows the Arkansas River all the way to its headwaters near Leadville.  Along the way I took a short detour off  highway 285 in order to stop at the historic ghost town of St. Elmo to explore and and take some pictures.  The area is a favorite with ATV riders, dozens of trailers were parked along the county road leading into town.  St. Elmo is one of the best preserved ghost towns in Colorado, with about 40 of the original 1880s built structures still standing.  You really feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you visit St Elmo!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Elmo Ghost Town near Buena Vista, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Elmo, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Elmo, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Elmo, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of families with ATVs were exploring the town and enjoying ice-cream from the old Miner’s Supply store in town.  I’m sure children in the 1880s had to settle for hard candy instead of push-pops and ice cream sandwiches.  I drove back down the mountain to 285 and continued north to Buena Vista.

The town is very appropriately named!  Once again, there were beautiful, breathtaking views 360 degrees around Buena Vista!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downtown Buena Vista, Colorado.

I parked in the downtown area and had a coffee.  Just east of downtown is the old County Courthouse, which is now home to the Country Historical Society.  5 dollars got me admission to the museum and a private tour with an incredibly knowledgeable docent.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I needed to dry-out some of my wet camping gear from my nights in Ouray, so I headed to the county park just a mile east of downtown and along the Arkansas River.  It was mid-afternoon and the soccer field was empty so I broke out a wet hammock and fly and some other gear to let it sun-dry.  The park was quite busy on the river-side with rafters, kayakers and mountain-bikers.

Just before dinner-time, with my gear dry and re-packed, I continued north on 285 to another historic mining town, Leadville.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The town sits at about 10,100 feet elevation and is one of the highest incorporated cities in the United States.  In the late 1800s the town was famous for generous silver mines but today, with its location in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and at the headwaters of the Arkansas River, it’s more attractive to outdoor sports enthusiasts like skiers, hikers, runners and mountain-bikers!  I explored the historic downtown area and decided I would spend the night in my hammock at over 10,000 feet elevation!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downtown Leadville, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downtown Leadville, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The old Opera House in Leadville, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downtown, Leadville, Colorado.

(309)

Exploring Colorado.

From Cortez in the south-west corner of Colorado, I headed east on highway 160 for about an hour to the  town of Durango and the San Juan National Forest.  You can easily spend a few days exploring Durango and the surrounding area.  Take a step-back in time on the narrow gauge steam engine railroad and travel from Durango to the famous 19th century mining town of Silverton and back.  If you enjoy water sports, try kayaking or tubing for a few hours on the gently flowing animas river that runs right through downtown Durango.  In the Summer, the San Juan Mountains are full of hikers and mountain bikers exploring the many miles of rugged trails.  In the winter, skiers and snowboarders compete for the perfect-line in the deep, fresh white powder!  Durango is also home to Ft Lewis College, a small public liberal arts college.  I love college towns.  They always seem to have a great vibe and contribute an eclectic group of people and activities, especially the arts and sporting events, to any town!  I spent 3 nights at a great dispersed campsite about 8 miles outside of town in the mountains, just above the Animas Overlook point.  I hung my hammock between two aspen trees and enjoyed incredible views of the valley below in the evenings and explored the local hiking trails and the Animas River during the day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take a ride on the narrow gauge railroad from Durango to Silverton.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The famous Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hammock Camping in the Mountains above Durango!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was lucky to be in Durango on a day the Farmer’s Market was open.

After a few awesome days in Durango, I drove 25 miles north on highway 550, climbing to 12,800 feet elevation to the picturesque old mining town of Silverton!  As I wandered the dirt streets and visited the many shops, I felt like I was back in the 1880s, except for maybe the numerous modern automobiles.  An old stagecoach passed with a cowboy at the reins and a couple of tourists in the back.  The old Hotels and Saloons still maintain their 19 century brick facades and western charm.  I bought a coffee at the Brown Bear Cafe and continued my journey north toward Ouray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I stopped along the way from Durango to Silverton to enjoy the views!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The town of Silverton, Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take an old Stagecoach ride through Silverton!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Main Street Silverton still maintain’s its’ 19th Century Charm.

The drive from Silverton to Ouray is perhaps one of the most beautiful scenic drives anywhere!  There are 360 degrees of beautiful views, you really can’t find a bad view even if you try!  I stopped at a few view points for pictures.  The recent heavy-rains have given new life to the many colorful wildflowers that blanketed the mountain-sides!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the many scenic view points between Silverton and Ouray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Ouray Look Out Point.

I arrived at the Ouray Look Out Point for the mandatory “I was here” photograph and then descended a few hundred feet to the town below.  Ouray is often referred to as the Switzerland of America and rightly so!  The steep, jagged granite peaked mountains loom imposingly in all directions and seem to almost hold the town captive.  They offer few signs of escape except for the river that dissects the town from south to north!  Ouray is an amazingly beautiful place!  I could easily visit every year!  Each 4th of July weekend the town hosts a Jeep Rally and seems to always be full of 4×4 enthusiast during the non-winter months.  I explored many of the 4×4 trails in the mountains above town and climbed to 12,980 feet elevation to Yankee Boy Basin.  The alpine meadows were full of wildflowers and beautiful icy waterfalls!  I camped at the Thistledown Campground at 8,800 feet for two nights.  As luck would have it, it rained cats and dogs both nights I camped.  Fortunately, my hammock kept me off the ground and dry, while my down sleeping bag kept me warm!  I highly recommend a down sleeping bag to anyone wanting to venture into the mountains.  They are expensive but well worth the money.  They remind me of the saying, pay once cry once!  After my second night of rain I decided to hit the Ouray Hot Springs at the north-end of town.  For only $12.00 you can enjoy the supposed therapeutic-waters all day!  I visited early in the day, long before the hundreds of other tourist descend on the hot springs.   After a few hours of soaking in the 98 degree waters I now know why one of the first things the Romans built when they established a town was a Roman Bath!  You guys got it right!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mountains surrounding Ouray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mountains surrounding Ouray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the way to Yankee Boy Basin in the mountains to the south east of Ouray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wild Flowers are in bloom at Yankee Boy Basin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wildflowers are in bloom at Yankee Boy Basin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I really enjoyed the rocky trails in the mountains above Ouray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The views are amazing in the Mountains above Ouray.

After a few days of 4x4ing, hiking, and soaking in the hot springs, I continued on 550 north to Montrose and then headed west on highway 50 to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  The Black Canyon  is a must visit Park!  It is perhaps not as well known as the Grand Canyon, but it is equally beautiful and much less crowded!  I drove the canyon rim road and stopped at half a dozen view points, until I reached the last one, High Point.  Make sure you have your Day-Hike Backpack ready and take the 3.0 mile hike!  There are incredible views every 100 meters or so and all are different!  After my hike, I drove down to the river that formed the canyon over the last 2 million years.  The roar of the river against the granite canyon walls was almost deafening, but seemed to calm you at the same time!  Everytime I visit Mountains I seem to get more and more pulled-into their spell… I don’t know what it is but to me Mountains are like water, they grab hold of you and pull you in!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The view of the Black Canyon from the rim road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Canyon National Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Gunnison River runs through the Black Canyon.

 

 

 

 

(472)

Tips For a Successful Day-Hike.

During a recent visit to Mesa Verde National Park, I hiked the Spruce Canyon Trail.  It’s a relatively short hike, only 3.0 miles long, starting at about 7000 feet elevation and consisting of a 200 foot decent along a well marked trail into a canyon and then a steep, rugged 200 foot ascent out of the canyon, ending about half a mile from the start point. The trail itself wasn’t particularly remarkable, what was remarkable to me, was that in 2013, a 51 year old man from Texas, hiking the same trail, went missing and has never been found!  The missing hiker’s wife reported that he was an avid hiker but on that hot June day in 2013, he took nothing with him on his hike, no water, no food, no map…only the clothes on his back!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking down into Spruce Canyon at the end of the 3.0 mile hike.

I, like many travelers, enjoy hiking!  It’s a great way to decompress after hours behind the wheel, not to mention, some of the most beautiful places on earth are only accessible by foot.  In the US, most people hike the thousands of trails that State and National Parks have to offer and never encounter a problem.  But, becoming a lost hiker in the US is more common than you might think.  One article I read stated that the US National Park Service conducts about 3,300 search and rescue operations annually.  If you doubt me, do a simple “Google” search of a few key words like, “missing hiker” and see the thousand of articles that appear!  Fortunately, most hikers who go missing are found quickly, but unfortunately some are never found.  Many hikers assume that the State and National Parks are “controlled-environments,” kind of like amusement parks.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Much of the US back-country is extremely rugged and can be unforgiving to even experienced hikers and much more so to the uneducated and unprepared.  Even though all hiking comes with some risk, I don’t recommend that everyone stop hiking.  I simply recommend that hikers, even day-hikers, follow a few simple rules when hiking and take a few essential items with them!

By following a few safety rules and taking a few extra pounds of gear when hiking, you might just prevent disaster during your next outdoor adventure!

Rules for Hikers:

Have a Plan.  Do some research about the area you are planning to enter and the trail you plan to hike!  Know what elevations you will be covering during your hike.  Know what the water situation is in the area you plan to hike!  Know the weather forecast for the area you plan to hike!  All of this information is readily available on the internet and can be easily accessed before you step off on your hike.

Tell Someone Your Plan.  Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back!  It can be a friend, family member or even a Park Ranger, the important thing is you tell someone who will notify authorities should you fail to return as planned!  A quick phone call or text message may be sufficient to inform someone of your hike plan!

Be Fit Enough for Your Plan.  I know it may sound obvious but many hikers get in way over their heads!  Always ask yourself, “am I prepared for this hike?”  If you have not walked more than 2 miles in one outing, maybe you shouldn’t be hiking a 10 miler with extreme elevation changes!

Carry a Day Pack with Essential Items.  Never hike without a small backpack with essential survival items!  Never… Period!  I know, you are driving on a beautiful paved road in a National Park and you see a turnoff for “Easy Meadow Trail.”  You read the information board at the trailhead and it states the trail is 1.5 miles long and relatively flat terrain, you think… “that’s easy, let’s go!”  Wrong answer!  Have that Day-Pack ready in the trunk of your car and always take it with you!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Items for a pretty good Day-Hike Backpack, might help you if you get lost!

Suggested Items For Day-Hikers,

Water, Take sufficient water for your hike conditions!  You should super-hydrate hours before the start of your hike.  Don’t start your hike thirsty!  Most healthy people can survive about 3 weeks without food, but only about 3 days without water!

Food, Take at least a few energy bars on your hike.  When we are dehydrated and hungry, we tend to make poor decisions!  In a time of crisis, like getting lost on a hike, you want to be in the best mental state possible!

Fire making items.  Take waterproof matches or a good backwoods lighter on your hike.  Practice making a fire before you go hiking!  Your ability to make a fire could be critical to your survival, should you become lost.  It may prevent hypothermia, allow you to boil water making it safe to drink, cook food or even signal for your rescue.

Whistle, Take a whistle on your hike to signal distress in a time of need!  3 long blasts of a whistle is internationally recognized as “help me.”

Protective clothing, Take rain-gear and insulating-gear on your hike.  You want to stay dry and warm for the environment you are in!

Headlamp, Take a good headlamp or flashlight powerful enough to light-up the ground in front of you.

Pocket knife, Take a sharp and sturdy knife.  You don’t need a Rambo knife, unless you think it looks cool and you don’t mind carrying a 3 pound knife!

Sturdy Footwear, Take appropriate footwear for your hike environment.  You don’t need $250 boots for all environments, unless you want them!  When I was in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge Soldiers I met used sandals made from used automobile tires.  The sandals protected the bottoms of their feet from punctures and allowed them to air-dry in the wet, humid jungle conditions.  Remember, you need footwear appropriate for your environment!

Space Blanket, Take a space blanket or other material that will allow you to build a shelter to keep you dry!  One cheap and simple solution is a large piece of plastic drop-cloth, like the kind painters use.

Map and Compass, Take a map of the area you plan to hike and know basic map reading skills like how to orient your map and compass.

First Aide Items, Take the most important life saving items on your hike.  They are probably any medications you require on a daily basis and something to stop bleeding in case of an emergency, like pressure bandages or a tourniquet.

Cell Phone, Take a cell phone and carry emergency phone numbers for the area you are hiking.  Remember, in many places a cell phone will be outside of coverage, so don’t think you can always call 911 in an emergency!

Section of Para-cord, Take about 20 feet of para-cord or twine with you, it will probably be enough to help you fashion a simple shelter with available tree branches and sticks.

Sunscreen, Take a small bottle of sunscreen, sunburn will add to dehydration.

Insect Repellent, Take a good quality insect repellent, high in DEET, buzzing insects can literally drive you crazy.

Vaseline Lotion, Take a small tube of Vaseline, or hand lotion, it will help prevent and treat chapped lips, chapped butts and chapped crotches… trust me!

Babywipes, Babywipes work wonders when need to go number 2 in the wild!

Sunglasses, Sunglasses are an essential piece of hiking gear, you should always protect your peeps.

Small Metal Cup, Take a small metal cup with handle to procure water from a lake, river or stream and to use to boil water, making it safe to drink.  A common household sponge is also handy to have in the event you need to scrounge water off of rocks or shallow puddles.  A ziplock bag will also help you get water from shallow sources!

Hat, Take a good hiking hat with brim to shield your head, neck and face from the sun, keeping you cooler in hot climates.

I know there are countless other items that you can and may choose to take on a day-hike, like a GPS or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).  Those items are great, as long as you can afford them and know how to use them.

The items I listed above are just suggestions and you should always tailor your Day-Hike-Gear to fit your specific needs!

The Key is you take the gear with you on your next hike and realize that it may make the difference between life and death!  Your LIFE or Death!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Day-Hike Backpack and Hat… ready for the Colorado Trail!

 

 

 

(465)