View from the Continental Divide on the Cottonwood Pass
I left Cheyenne on a Saturday and drove south into Colorado. I was starting week five of my journey, and I had been pretty much by myself up to this point. When Jen, a good friend of mine from my Boston days 15+ years ago, heard that I was on this road trip, she invited me to stay with her family in Evergreen, CO. After a month of conversing with strangers, I was very much looking forward to connecting with someone I knew.
It was a tad strange to be back in an urban area. Driving through Denver, I thought, "I remember this." The traffic, the noise, the pace of movement, it was all familiar. I stopped for lunch at an outdoor suburban brewery. College football played on the TV monitors as I downed a Hefeweizen and BBQ pork sandwich. How quickly the wild retreats when one re-enters the civilized world of shopping centers, parking lots, and microbreweries. I had both a feeling of comfort and loss. I missed the city-dwelling life before the pandemic—the ability to satisfy any taste of the palette, and the bustle of the city with its ample distractions. It felt good to be back; yet, as tempting as it was, there was also a part of me that wasn't ready to return. The wilderness wasn't done with me yet.
I enjoyed my time with Jen, her husband, and two kids and welcomed their generous hospitality. We drank lots of wine and laughed as we reminisced about the old days and how our lives (and the world) had changed since then. I couldn't help but think that I was peeking in on what my life could have been. Somewhere in the hypothetical multiverse, there is a version of my life where I am married, raising kids in a suburban neighborhood, in a beautiful place like this. This vision is not a bad one at all. There was an allure to it that made me wonder if I had made the right choices in my life. To be 41 years old, still single, still chasing something that I have yet to find. Why? What was it all for?
Hiking in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness
I stayed in Evergreen for a few days, then left on a Tuesday morning. From this point forward, I disconnect entirely from work, taking vacation days for the remainder of my trip. When I was planning this trip, a friend of mine from Colorado urged me to spend time in the state's southwest region. "You won't regret it," he promised. He was right.
I took the scenic 285 S toward Buena Vista, CO. Along the way, I listened to Thich Nhat Hanh's book Old Path White Clouds about the life of the Buddha or "the one who is awake." As my eyes followed the road ahead, I determined that my life had been void of two-lane highways for too long. If I never saw another freeway, I think I could be content.
In Buena Vista, I picked up the Cottonwood Pass (route 306) for a stunning drive that topped out at over 12,000 ft as it crossed the continental divide. I stopped several times for pictures, a stretch of the legs, and to simply pause and take in the vastness of the stoic landscape and the moodiness of the cloud-whipped sky.
I arrived in Crested Butte, an old mining village turned charming resort town, in the late afternoon and had lunch at a pub on Elk Avenue. I did a little shopping and then continued on to Montrose, where my creek-side "tiny home" Airbnb awaited me.
Welcome to the "tiny house"
The next day I met up with another good friend of mine. I first met Becca eight years ago, when she led the trip I was on to Indonesia. We connected again a couple of years ago in Tanzania when she led my Mount Kilimanjaro trek.
I met Becca in Ridgeway, and we headed to the Blue Lakes trail in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness for a day of hiking and fly-fishing. Multiple times on the trail, the path would bend and open to a vista that stopped me in my track as I uttered, "My God." The beauty of these lofty mountains was enough to leave me nearly speechless.
Unlike my fly-fishing attempt in Wyoming, we each caught several fish and, as gently as possible, released them back to the lake. On the trail, we talked for hours about travel, faith, and social justice. We finished the day bouncing down the dirt road in her four-wheel-drive SUV singing 90s hits, then downing beer and pizza back in town. It was one of the best days of my entire trip.
A WRITER AND TRAVELER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES