Finally back from a whirlwind four-day vacation. I saw sights that are as beautiful as heaven must be. The original plan was a straight shot to Wolf Creek ski resort near Pagosa Springs, Colorado, but because we were waiting on a storm we took the long and windy road.
Who is this collective we? Allow me to introduce to my travel companion for the rid, Alex (aka AJ) Nerad. He was my tour guide through the rough roads of the Southwest, and what an outstanding travel companion he was.
Like any trip that begins where I am a part, we got off to a late start, but I have to admit that it wasn’t completely my fault, this time. We left Prescott, AZ at about 3:00 on Friday. Because it was getting late, and we had the time, we stopped off at Canyon de Chelley. Alex set up camp, while I made a lame attempt to start a fire. He came over to show me just how real men make fire. After he got that started, I made us some tasty mountain pies. This would be the last meal I made on the trip. From there, Nerad, an apparent camping chef extraordinaire, cooked the rest of the meals. He made sure that I ate. More on that to follow.
As we gobbled up the hot and cheesy morsels we saw eyes peering out from the shadows. I was introduced to the “res dog.” From the cover of night, these dogs skulked around the campsite looking for the kindness of humans and searching for the scraps they leave behind. I asked Alex, “Should I be afraid?” He assured me that I should be ok, but just stay close to the fire, to him.
Soon, I could hardly stand as the swoon of tiredness took over my body. We lay down in the tent. My sleeping bag is so amazingly warm. I had no problems drifting off into a comfortable slumber.
In what almost seemed like minutes, morning rolled around and it was time to get up. Camping mornings mean camping breakfasts. There is nothing more wonderful than a hot cup of tea and some delicious concoction comprised of items from the cooler. A little of this and some of that and voila, breakfast is served. Eating breakfast and enjoying the morning quiet of the campsite slowly begin to come alive I noticed a rock, that wasn’t quite a rock. The “res dog” made another appearance. He was shy and sad and hungry. A brown chocolate lab mix with a sweet but scared disposition circled our camp. Being careful to keep his distance. Soon a friend joined him. This guy…
This St. Bernard mix was so cool. He was pretty young and so friendly. If I had room in the car, he would have made a great little brother for Bodhi. I scratched Cujo on his head and promised if our paths ever crossed again, he would be mine for as long as he would have me.
We took some site seeing stops through Canyon de Chelley. We saw the ruins of the cliff dwelling Anasazi or ancestral Puebloans. It is located on the Navaho Reservation and is now inhabited by Navahos. However this area is basically that is where the Anasazi lived before they migrated down to the modern Pueblos in the Hopi reservation in Arizona and North Western New Mexico and Albuquerque.
Tour Guide Nerad decided that a side route to the Goosenecks would be a worthwhile trip. I, completely trusting the competency of the man, went along for the plan. Along the ride, we passed a Dineh working on a bull that had struck by a car late the night before. I was so fascinated by the site, that I asked if we could go back so I could get some pictures. We pulled next to the man, taking a break from his hefty task and I asked if I could get some pictures. He obliged me. His name was Windwalker from the Whitecloud clan. We spoke briefly to the tall man with strong shoulders, his large hands smudged with blood and griping his machete.
He explained that although he couldn’t take the meat for himself, the beef would not go to waste. He was cutting it up for his dogs. Losing a head of cattle like that is a hit in his pocket upwards of $2000. He lost three cows that way in the past month. It is unfortunate, but the land is free range and it was common for us to see cows and horses close to the road during our drive.
A quick stop to the Sand Island Boat Launch just outside Bluff, Utah allowed me to see this…
In all those pieces of jewelry I saw for sale at art shows in downtown Prescott, I never saw a Kokopeli that was quite so, um, energetic. ;)
We hit The Goosenecks at about 3:30 on Saturday. The Goosenecks is a state park in Utah just outside Mexican Hat. It is a part of the San Juan River that snakes around. It is a pretty amazing site. Alex said, “I think this is on par with the Grand Canyon.” It was interesting to see how the river cut through the mountains and made such a wonder of nature.
Always exploring, we hopped over the wall and scrambled down the steep slope trying to be sure footed on the loose dirt and red rock. On another adventure we discussed how nice it would be to hike out and camp on one of the bends or even hike down to the banks of the San Juan.
After a brief discussion of plans, we decided that we were Colorado bound for sure. I wanted to wake up and get a good day of boarding in and not have to worry about driving any more until Monday. Alex wanted much the same. Nighttime came upon us and we were getting closer. Up ahead on the right I noticed a familiar site, lights on a ski run. I became excited. It wasn’t our destination, about forty minutes from it really, but it was snow, and it was open. It was Hesperus. It was only open at nights and on weekends and Alex explained that it was always up for sale. He suggested that we stop, and without hesitation, I let out a squeal of a yes, yes, yes.
For the next two hours or so, I was one fall after another. It started in the parking lot, continued to a gnarly header when I caught my front edge, and ended when Nerad suggest we leave before I do serious damage to myself. So, yes the conditions were icy, yes I fly down the mountain and then stop by falling not so expertly, and yes I am sort of a novice snowboarder, but the most significant reason for my inability to stay vertical was the boots.
You see when I first bought my snowboarding gear years ago I bought what I thought would look good not what was right for me. It was there that Alex decided before I hit the mountain at Wolf Creek, I get some new boots. I knew he was right. I knew I needed a real boot for a long time. Now, It was just the right time.
New boots new woman. It was like a butterfly had awakened from her uncomfortable cocoon. Soon I was swooping back and forth across the mountainside like I was born to ride. It was awesome. I felt like an expert, though no expert I was. Alex was such a huge help. It is nice to have a patient friend around willing to show you the ropes and correct your mistakes. He told me I was fun to teach and a fast learner.
That night we were both pretty beat and sore. So, it was a trip to the hot springs in Pagosa. I forgot my bathing suit and I had no sandals with me, but it didn't matter. Barefoot and in my bra and panties I dipped my body into the steamy water. It was amazing. I soaked my cares away in the healing sulfuric waters. Later we ate ribs and I devoured everything on my plate. After falling asleep holding my empty dish, Nerad nudged me to head toward bed. It wasn’t long before I was fast asleep in that oh-so-close-to-the-ceiling loft built for one.
The next day, we were up again at the crack of dawn to ride the mountain one more time before we headed home. I was sad to leave. It started to snow in Colorado as our ride was coming to an end and it followed us for most of the ride home. We both agreed it was a good time to leave since we probably would have been in some really bad weather for the drive. I didn’t mind. I so would have taken one more day off to take just one more ride down the peak. We thanked our gracious hosts Jonathan and Claire for their hospitality and headed home.