A reunion of old college friends was planned for October in New Orleans. I usually drive Pigpen west, north, or south from Denver, but I’d never gone east/southeast. It would have been simpler to fly, but not nearly as much fun. So, I took a week and made a trip out of it.
Sometimes I forget, living in Denver, that the actual world-famous Rocky Mountains are just a few miles away. With no long distance trips planned for the summer, I decided to take advantage of a few days off work and, with no set destination, ended up traveling to several places in Colorado I’d never been: Crestone, Dallas Divide, Silverton, Ouray, Kebler Pass, then to Cottonwood Pass.
I was able to get a couple of days off last week and decided to head into the mountains for two nights before coming back in for a concert at Red Rocks. I spent the first night in a perfectly deserted, beautiful spot in the Buffalo Creek Wilderness.
The next morning, I headed south to check out the spiritual hamlet of Crestone, CO. Unfortunately, due to an inexplicable brain fart I ended up in Westcliffe, CO, directly on the wrong side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Westcliffe is all F150’s and cowboy hats, not the Subarus and prayer wheels I had expected to find in Crestone. I stopped to get my bearings and have a quick lunch.
Pigpen apparently didn’t like Westcliffe either; when I started the van back up, I found that I’d developed a nasty misfire. I decided to limp north, running hot and slow, to Urabus in Buena Vista. John, the owner, has a heart as big as a mountain. He diagnosed a bad coil wire and got me back on the road.
It was too late in the day to go south all the way to Crestone and I was still not feeling total confidence in Pigpen, so I went west to Cottonwood Pass instead. The misfire returned with a vengeance on the way up the hill. The area was deserted and I picked a nice spot by the creek to work on the van and stay for the night.
The campsite featured the idyllic rhythm of the flowing spring as well as a gnarly tuft of fur and an big footprint.
I diagnosed the misfire and got a fitful night’s sleep before crossing my fingers and heading east towards Denver the next morning.
I made it back to Denver, stumbling and misfiring for the last few miles of heavy traffic.
The whole issue with Pigpen was my own stubbornness–I just couldn’t believe that my brand-new OEM quality ignition wires were all defective. Unbelievable. I found a new set of wires in Denver, replaced them, also replaced a fouled MAF sensor, then was ready to return to Red Rocks for the first time in two years for the Leftover Salmon show. It was a beautiful night and a great show. Welcome back!
I suppose two years in a row makes it an annual tradition. Last year’s trip was hard to describe. I was tied in knots. This year was about liberation, celebration, and overcoming a couple of breakdowns, one of which could have ended the trip if not for the giant heart of a friend and another that had me quite stumped for a bit. It’s not an adventure until something breaks, right?
We brought along a third good friend this year and were quite the odd triplets with a Highlander, a Transit Sportsmobile, and a Vanagon Syncro. The desert was empty; we had the whole place to ourselves. It was cold and windy at night but beautiful in daytime. The photos don’t do this trip justice, and that’s how it should be.
A few weeks ago, I was able to get up to the hills and over to Moab one last time before the snow arrived. I spent the first day crossing Guanella Pass and Independence Pass, then headed up to a narrow, beautiful trail in Rifle Gap. The next day I met up with some fellow Syncronauts in Moab.
We’re fortunate and grateful to be part of a group of families who visit Wellington Lake outside Bailey, CO each Labor Day for a weekend of mountains and water. I didn’t get many pics, but we had a great time and the weather was fantastic.
Last year, I added the high top and a diesel furnace to the Syncro because I wanted it to be a true four-season camper. What I neglected to consider is that summer is a season as well, and traveling in 90+ degree heat with the windows down absolutely sucks. I needed to add air conditioning. The old rear AC system was completely destroyed, so I embarked upon an aftermarket in-dash install. Here are a few photos of the process.
As part of my official entry into oldmanhood, my daughters were nice enough to take in a hike in Golden Gate Canyon with me this week. I’m eternally grateful to have these kids and to be so close to these mountains.
I went on a short walkabout last weekend to a few places in Colorado I’d never been. I went down through Buena Vista and over Cottonwood Pass, camping on the west side of the pass in Gunnison National Forest Friday night. Saturday I went past Taylor Reservoir and hiked at Lottis Creek and followed it up with a county road/jeep trail outside of Crested Butte to a stunner of a campsite about 10,500 feet up. I had a couple of mechanical issues but overall it was a fantastic getaway.