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Journal

Faces of Meth

Added: 30-7-2007

and this is it. last chance saloon in Fruita, CO. we've eaten big, with Dave sorting his own 12oz steak on a hot stone and me eating my way through a pile of tremendous sushi (have just been presented with a massive piece of cheesecake. nice) hand crafted by some dude who appears to have studied at the elbow of various esteemed Japanese masters. I have been waiting for this moment since we came to this bar doing the water drops two months ago.

in the background we have Bohemian Rhapsody playing, we are loving it, and the classic rock keeps coming. earlier we harmonised badly to Tiny Dance by the Queen of of England himself, Mr Elton John, and we've also dug some Creedance and some Zep. classic rocks warms the blood they say, and we are feeling toasty.

we walked today without packs from Grand Junction to Fruita, a fairly uneventful 11 mile walk save for the largest roadkill sighting yet - a huge dog by the side of the road that we were unable to photograph due to lack of cameras (we were light today. a shame, because our roadkill gallery, unequalled as it is (and still coming to a gallery near you very soon), was missing a large dog - we've only got a small one so far). it's hot out here, we were thirsty, and we know it's gonna be quite a challenging week.

anyway, just wanted to check in before we leave for the canyons and whatnot. I also wanted to say: don't do meth. drugs are bad, m'k? I'm only mentioning this because the other Thursday night Dave and I were walking down Grand Junction high street when we chanced upon a stall by the side of the road. entitled 'Faces of Meth', it was a display of what can happen to you if you take a shedload of Crystal Meth. basically, you end up looking like a freak out of Michael Jackson's Thriller video, and I really think this is a Bad Thing. check for yourself here. Kids, don't do meth, it won't rock.

after that public service warning (nb. some of the pictures of meth users are a tad, er, funny, one of the best things about seeing the stall was watching US passers by react the photos ("Sh*t, look at that dude! hilarious!"! - a more British reaction to a public service I could not have imagined. Bravo our cousins!)) it's time to say goodbye. more next Saturday from Moab. out...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Next course: desert

Added: 29-7-2007

if it's Saturday, then we must be taking a day off - again. nothing wrong with this though, we're at a crucial point in the walk as from here on in it's desert for quite a long way. to briefly recap over the past couple of months, Dave and I left Kansas City on about the 19th May and have steadily made our way west since then. we dealt with the flat of Kansas over a period of five weeks, having a much better time than we anticipated along the way (great people, amazing hospitality, prettier countryside than we imagined, cowboy rodeos, periods of amazing isolation etc.) and made it to Colorado. eastern Colorado was more of the same - flat, with a side of hospitality - and then around about the 27th June we made it to the mountains. Colorado Springs was our first taste of the mountain life and we took to it immediately. we walked a bit, ducked back to Denver for 4th July celebrations, and then headed directly for the Continental Divide. two 12,500ft passes later we crossed this symbolic and high barrier, met a group of amazing people in Crested Butte (a definite place to return to) and got terribly lost in some backwoods. that brings us nearly up to date - in the last week we have crossed the last bit of eastern Colorado and sighted the Utah border, along with all the desert that comes with it.

now we are in Grand Junction after having walked 9 miles in from Whitewater yesterday, and I'm now sitting in a cafe on Main Street while opposite me Dave eats a salad and Larry, our host, demolishes a packet of chips. we're up to our necks in admin again, sending off emails and arranging all sorts of things for the next week such as the buying of a huge amount of trail bars and trail food, the cutting of hair (Dave looks like a mountain man) and the washing of clothes. we've also bought new clothes too, as some of our old clothes have now been washed so many times holes are appearing and sizes are shrinking. Dave's Craft t-shirt has now become a Craft crop top.

so what gives...from here we walk to Fruita and parallell to the I-70 until we find the Kokopelli bike trail that will lead us west into Moab. on the way we hope to find our water stashes, buried in May with the help of Jon Rudolph (available for water buryings anywhere, anytime), and survive in an environment that promises to be pretty hot. outside right now it's in the low 90s and this feels high enough for me. we're in a different world now.

consequences of all this are that we're gonna be out of Internet range for the best part of six days after tomorrow. therefore, time for a few words relating to wider walk issues...

1. San Franletsgo: there are murmurings on the Guestbook, and rightly so. we've purposefully avoided mentioning much about this so far due to my continuing need to have monthly blood tests etc. to determine if I get to walk another month. I'm wary of jinxing anything but realise that planning is planning is planning and people need to get thinking....the idea is this: Dave and I will reach San Francisco sometime (hopefully) in the last week of October. we're aiming for this, although there is a possibility it could be the first week of November. still, hopefully by my birthday (27th Oct) we will be in the fair city. the plan is to get to San Fran and then finish the route - we need to walk a couple of days further west to Point Reyes (s'posed to be very beautiful) and jump in the sea. once we've done that it's back to town to party hearty, long and loud (nb. with some quiet bits, for those who like it not so loud). for a few days. we hereby invite everybody who is so inclined to: join us! we know that people from Europe are interested and that some of you guys we have met along the way are also considering coming along. it would be absolutely fantastic if we could see some familiar faces...final dates, places, accomodation and whatnot to be arranged though - will post more in the future.

2. we've now had nearly 2 million hits on this website, and are receiving over 3000 individual visitors a month - we never thought this would happen and we're right chuffed. just wanted to send huge shouts to all of you who continue checking in, and especially to give props to US visitors (1st place), British (2nd), Danish (3rd) and German (4th) who make up the bulk of readers. however, we can also reveal that we seem to be getting consistent visits from Spain, China, Nigeria and (especially) the Ivory Coast on top of this...pretty amazing really, who are you guys? sign the Guestbook if you can...

3. we've decided we have to go to Las Vegas. more news soon.

4. we have a brand new sponsor! woo-ha. many many thanks to Jeremy at Taiga who have kindly supplied us with down jackets for the colder parts of the journey once we have reached the other side of Nevada. Dave spent most of the walk last year fantasising long and loud about down jackets, and I for one am extremely glad for him that his downy dreams have finally come true. he now has a lovely blue down jacket. seriously, they are pretty fantastic and I recommend y'all check out the Taiga website for more German-engineered, Canadian-made products.

5. we're still raising money for the Association of International Cancer Research - if anyone wants to support this excellent charity's work supporting cutting edge research into the causes of cancer, please click here and follow the links to the secure server online. we're clocking along with the fundraising but are always looking for new donations...

6. the Simpsons movie is really rather good, as is the new Ulrich Schnauss album, and the Cinematic Orchestra album. more news soon on The National album, the Alberta Cross one and the Cherry Ghost record. if anyone has any music suggestions for things we have missed since April, please email them in...

7. literature update: Neal Stephenson's Baroque cycle has been finished (triumphantly - man, it's good) and now it is time to do something stupid: carry the new Harry Potter book, all glorious 759 hardback pages of it, across Utah. having invested time in the first 6 of them and enjoyed (if not remembered) all of them, I figure this will be a literary sacrifice well worth making. I think...(nb. librarians reading will be interested to know that I am ripping the pages out of the books I am reading and using them to light our fires. this is a strange state of affairs, and kinda goes against my nature, still, 759 pages, you guys understand, right?)

that's about it. we'll try to post again before we hit the Kokopelli. out.

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Proper update

Added: 27-7-2007

let's see...the last proper entry was on Monday and since then we have been walking the backroads of Colorado sans packs. our amazing run of luck that started with meeting Dave L and Eduard in a bar in Crested Butte continued and manifested itself in the form of loads of people willing to help us with our bags. in fact, yesterday was the first day in a week that we actually had to carry the things anywhere...

Tuesday we slackpacked again, but this time with more emphasis on the slack. we moved from Mike's place at Redlands Mesa up some 2000 feet to the top of the Grand Mesa and on the way lazed about in Cedaredge Library, a couple of restaurants, an RV park with good ice cream and then, for good measure, we tried to take a short cut through private land that the GPS indicated was good. it wasn't, and we lost an hour making our way back to the main road with our tails between our legs. it was the long way round for us, snaking up highway 65 to the top of the mesa and not even making it all the way up by 6.30pm.

luckily for us this didn't matter though, as Mike and Linda picked us up and we went camping with their friends up the top of the Mesa by a nice little lake. food, fire, collapse - the way we like it. the next morning we resumed slackpacking where we left off, without bags again, and by the end of the day, and through the unexpected help of Mike's friends Willy and Patty, we managed to make it to within four miles of the road down the west end of the Grand Mesa, the aptly named Land's End Road.

a short word at this point about our morale and situation. we're doing good. feet are in reasonable condition save for me having an ankle bruise and Dave having a little shin niggle, while the rest of us continues to benefit/burn from the new regime of shorter shorts and sleeveless tops. we're still managing to talk to each other, a good thing considering we approach things such as departure times from the opposite ends of the scale (me: watching the second hand of the clock for tardiness on Dave's part, most likely far too keenly. Dave: unaware that clocks have a second hand). we've recognised that our staggered walking approach led us into seperation the other day in the backwoods and have thus modified that to make sure we know were the other is at (almost) all times, but we're still too fond of our own walking worlds to spend the day hanging off each other's shoulders. Dave is in possession of the last remaining MP3 player in the group, I'm running Lord knows what thoughts through my brain about music, movies and politics. we're getting there in our own ways, and when we meet up again in the evenings there are always things to talk about.

anyway, yesterday we set off on what was without a doubt the longest day WTS has ever managed, a distance somewhere in the region of what Wordsworth (carrying only a sandwich and a 19th century thermos, no doubt, clad in tweed) would knock out on one of his jaunts round the Lakes. four miles without a bag from 7.30am, picking up the bags from Patty and Willy at the Land's End Observatory (amazing views over Utah towards the La Sal mountains, truly a change into desert landscape. we were able to witness the birth of storm clouds at 9am and watch them grow and grow on the near horizon as the day went on, finally dropping their load on some poor unfortunates in the afternoon) an hour or so later and then enduring 12 miles of downhill switchback to the road into Whitewater some 4000 feet below. quite a walk and, because Patty kept offering us peaches in the morning I did the whole thing with the bassline from the Strangler's 'Peaches' in my head. this was appropriate for while I was not clad in the same outfit, I did sympathise with Ray Winstone's character at the beginning of Sexy Beast when he eloquently discourses on the temperature of the day while that tune plays in the background. yesterday was indeed very hot.

we made it to Whitewater, but it was a hella long day. I haven't yet added up everything on the GPS (the batteries died) but I suspect that by the time we met our Grand Junction host Larry Ball and his fiance Bobbie June we had knocked in the door of 30 miles. sensational, massive etc. I could hardly walk.

today we are being driven back to Whitewater to walk the final 10 miles into Grand Junction. then it's the Simpsons movie (we are here to experience the best of American culture after all) and a day off tomorrow where we attempt to buy all suplies for the first desert stage and see if I can get another MP3 player to lose. Sunday we'll head to Fruita and eat sushi in the brew pub. good times.

journal entries and updates will start to get a bit thinner on the ground after this weekend due to the fact that we will be in the middle of nowhere without wi-fi. consequently, we shall try to get a bit more information on here this weekend about e.g. impending San Francisco action and other stuff. check back in, sign the Guestbook, keep emails coming...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Minimale

Added: 27-7-2007

it's all too much...a 30 mile day for goodness sakes...made it to Whitewater this evening at 6pm to be met by our gracious host Larry Ball of Grand Junction, CO. left Grand Mesa this morning at 7.30am, saying goodbye to the fantastic company of Willy and Patty, yet more of the new extended Crested Butte/Paonia/Redlands Mesa family we have very much enjoyed being a part of....man, today we walked...and now we're knackered. no more until tomorrow, just wanted to let y'all know we're alive...

more soon come.

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Tight like Stubblefield

Added: 24-7-2007

finally, a shorter entry...sitting here at new friends Mike and Linda's amazing cabin between Hotchkiss and Cedaredge, currently most relaxed after a faily hot chile stew. Dave's downstairs - he says hello - and we're kicking back after a day of slackpacking that saw us do 20 miles from Paonia to here. outside it's raining, predictable really considering that for the last two hours of our walk the clouds were building up fairly menacingly behind us. they need the rain here at the moment, we are told, and therefore ranch owners nearby are likely sitting happy right now.

we got back from Telluride yesterday afternoon and spent the evening carousing in a good old fashioned way - with guitars, wine and singing around a bar-b-que. I prepared burgers in what I style the Danish way (although that might be open to question) and Dave made a Big Salad. Mike got the singing going and Dave was soon there, relishing the chance to play his guitar again. I didn't sing - no need to spoil things.

basically, we are at the start of the end of Colorado. thanks to the hospitality of Mike and Linda we have another day of walking packless tomorrow and we're gonna head up to the Grand Mesa and experience our last bit of high altitude walking for a while. from there we descend to meet our friend Larry in Grand Junction, resupply and then head for sushi in Fruita. after that...well, it gets mean. the scenery is already changing around here to more desert-like conditions, and we're getting our first taste of the heat that the next few weeks will be bringing us daily - today we were doing our walking in 94F. nice.

anyway, there you go, no essay today. keepin' it short and sweet. more as soon as we have it...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Another weekend off

Added: 22-7-2007

seems my journal entries have been getting way too long - apologies. I'm writing this from a beautiful house in the fine town of Telluride, CO, and it's Sunday morning. no walking yesterday or today - it's all relaxation for us these days (if you can't relax in western Colorado before the heat of the desert, when are you going to fit it in?!).

on my part, Friday was spent doing nada as well, although Dave walked the miles he missed due to the seperation incident on Wednesday. both Daves and I (we basically have recruited Dave L to be our official guide and cheerleader over the weekend) camped outside Paonia at the top of a very high hill in the middle of a gigantic lightning storm (clever) on Friday night and cooked amazing food and drank wine while pretending to be weather experts. somehow the storm actually missed us, and we were privileged to get a 360 degree view of the rain and lightning on the other peaks surrounding our camp.

yesterday was all about getting to Telluride to see Bob Dylan. both Daves are big Dylan fans, me a little less so. nevertheless, the chance to see Bob was not to be missed and so off we went. Dave L's friend Linda joined us and we trekked south from Paonia to hit the concert. not before, however, I had left another pair of sunglasses in a restaurant and Dave had dropped his MP3 player in a cup of red wine. we are now without music in any form (worse off, no doubt, than people walking across to California 100 years ago).

Telluride. quite a town (the tag line on this website is 'It's all right here'. genius). it's a place that got rich off the back of silver and gold mining in the 19th century (Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here btw) and as such the fine downtown area has plenty of nice looking brick buildings to check out (we've been told that silver and gold towns have the brick buildings, coal towns, such as Crested Butte, get the wooden ones). the whole place is at the end of a valley which ends in a giant wall of mountains, with a nicely placed waterfall in the middle, so that when you walk down the main street to the east you get quite a view.

anyway, the real estate is pricey and Dave and I can't afford to move here any time soon (although Oprah and Tom Cruise recently have bought houses here). in light of this we have been bumming accomodation again, this time being lucky enough to pitch our tents on the immaculate lawn of Dorothy and Ted Steele, fine people who responded superbly to an impromptu party of Bob Dylan gig-goers at their house yesterday afternoon. so many people - about 11,000 - were in town for the concert (and every other person was carrying a lawn chair - Glastonbury attendees these were not) that the place had a great festival atmosphere from the moment we arrived.

even rain didn't dampen the spirits, and people loved the Dylan (not sure what retired general Norman Schwarzkopf thought of it though (you may remember him from such wars as Gulf War I) - he walked past me with his wife on the way into the concert. weird). the crowd reflected what I've seen of western Colorado so far - healthy people, a mixture of slightly hippy-ish, snowboarding/skiing/outdoor catalogue, well-preserved, looking like they've been in the open air for most of their life. if I were to be very general I would say that for the most part it seems that western Colorado is a liberal haven of politically well-informed people, many of whom seem to have a soft spot for our favourite 'real' President/environmental supremo Al Gore. they also love Bob Dylan.

not so much me. oh, how it pains me to write this. Bob really had the crowd rocking but I just didn't really get it (apart from one of the slow ones). I felt like a bad guest at a party, turning up to listen to Yoda sing. saying that, the atmosphere was fantastic and people really got into their dance moves in a very endearing way. even the rain got cheers (our cheers go massively towards Larry and Chris who were extremely kind enough to stump up for our tickets - huge thanks!).

after the gig we inevitably hit town and found a bar to finally see what the world had been waiting for all day - our David's debut in a US soccerball game. the special one (all week the US has been about Beckham, totally insane press coverage) came on for all of 12 minutes, hit a long pass and then got clattered by Steve Sidwell. people cheered, the world changed for the better and now the US will win the next World Cup off the back of David's efforts. it makes you proud to be British.

next up for us is an inspection of the town's $10.5 million library, a building deemed to be fiscally irresponsible by half of the town's citizens (nb. Telluride population: c.2200) at the time of a vote on its building (library fans, the building got the go ahead by 1 vote in 500) but now reckoned by all to be the best thing since sliced bread, and after that we're heading back to Peonia to giddy up for some more walking at long last. too many good, fun distractions here in western Colorado and we're having way too good a time. we must be more dour and tomorrow it's back to work, 20 miles from Peonia in the direction of the Grand Mesa, and from there it's downhill to the desert and the scorching heat. I'll drink to that...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Tales of Brave Ulysses

Added: 20-7-2007

well well well...Walking the States gives good drama like Mr Toolan follows good directions. quite a couple of days over here, all up and down rugged paths and dangerous-to-drink water and burning sun and whatnot. sitting here in the comfort of Paonia Library I can reflect a little on what has gone on...

we left Crested Butte on Tuesday afternoon and all was well. we'd done our chores, arranged to meet Dave (our Crested Butte host, henceforth known as Dave L) on Thursday in Paonia, and set off safe in the knowledge that soon we would be wet due to heavy storm clouds everywhere. 17 miles on Tuesday took us to Beckwith Pass past some men mending a fence ("Best be careful in there (meaning the area we were about to enter), it's probably the most isolated area in Colorado.") to a campsite where Dave worked his magic with fire and we ate more packet pasta on our new stove (our alcohol-burning stove has been abandoned due to extreme fire-in-face risk, we have moved onto an MSR Superfly, named no doubt for Curtis Mayfield's backwoods trips of the 70s).

all was well. next morning, all was well. sun was out. legs were fresh. Dave got lost in a rockfield and I called him up to where I had gone ahead. this didn't bode well and at 11am I saw him for the last time, crossing Cliff Creek. I think Dave's account is pretty thorough regarding what happened next, but it's always good to get the other side, so here goes.

first, to even some things up, I got lost for a bit. being in possession of the GPS I had the advantage over the Toolan, but nevertheless paths that the little machine suggested were there were not. I did a good hour's worth of needless looping before I found a ridiculous trail down a creek (the one we wanted). at this point I thought Dave might have got ahead of me so I arrived at the rendezvous point hoping to see him. no chance. no Dave. this, as I discovered yesterday, was because he was looking for a different rendezvous point. good work on both our parts.

I waited an hour and a half, purified some water for him and went back up the ridiculous creek to shout myself hoarse. I left a note with the water saying where I was going and headed out. a difficult decision to make - I knew our friend Nira would be waiting up at Minesota pass on her own. lone hiker ahead, possible lost hiker behind.

the rest of the afternoon passed in a haze of ripped paths, huge swathes of undergrowth, dwindling water supply, trail bars, guilt at leaving Dave somewhere with a broken leg while bears and mountain lions took it in turns to gnaw on him, and worry that I would never make the pass before dark to meet Nira who was expecting us. I went up, I went down. to finish the day I had to go up about 1600 feet in four miles, the first two of which were right b*stard steep. quite a trip.

I made Minnesota Pass at 8pm and found Nira. hopes that Dave would be with her were dashed but there was whisky available and soon a warm fire. I was extremely distracted however - I really was worrying that Dave had fallen in a creek or eaten the yellow snow or done something definitely inadvissable in an extremely wild place. then I was thinking: I left him there. he's dead, he's dead! not a good mood for an evening on top of a mountain and therefore to Nira I must apologise. I swear I am normally funnier.

in the morning we hiked back down the pass two miles in the hope that Dave would be coming up. left another couple of litres of water and a first aid kit, and a note that I hoped would cheer him up ("WTF are you?!"). then we walked down the mountain towards Paonia and what a pain in the ass that was. serious steepness, more tracks wracked by hoof prints (nothing is flat up there, vines are all over the place on the ground (on Wednesday I fell flat on my face once, fell in creeks a couple of times) and burning sun. good training for Utah though (where daytime temperatures are currently a homely 100 degrees in most of the places we will pass through). we passed a dude on his ATV and got him to radio out a missing person alert and continued down the hill.

once we had phone reception we called Dave L and lo! Dave T was with him. cue huge relief from me, and quite a lot of swearing. I hadn't killed Dave! I was not to be the subject of a documentary detailing the selfishness of walkers who leave directionally-challenged colleagues behind in an effort to get to whisky! Dave was alive, and would continue to amaze me with his snoring!

basically, Dave T had contacted Dave L and they drove up to meet us on the trail. Dave L approached me with a cold bottle of Stella and all was right with the world. I even hugged Dave after a bout of swearing. once we were all sure we were alive everyone except me bundled in the back of Dave L's motor and headed for town. I had to walk - no one was ever gonna give me a lift back up to the trail at a later date.

at this point it started raining extremely hard and the day really got going. the trail turned to mud, running rivers of mud, and my shoes took on a sticky brown exoskeleton that made walking tricky. further down the trail Dave L's car was weaving all over the road like the Ghostbusters mobile on ice, and pretty soon I was in trouble too. while it seemed like a sensible idea at the time to attempt to speedskate down the mudslide, this became quite a stupid idea quite quickly, and before long it became a terrible idea as I managed to fall in such a way that my feet went out from beneath me and up in the air over my head, leaving me to fall extremely hard on what looked like soft mud. it wasn't soft, and it wasn't mud - it was rock, and now my left hand side was bruised and cut and my clothes (soaked through) were covered in mud.

I reached the bottom, everyone laughed and then drove off leaving me to walk the last hour into town looking like a refugee. very classy.

anyway, this journal entry has gone on for days, apologies. we are both ok, this part of the movie will feature songs such as "Re-united", "Through the Storm" and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" and there will be a montage of hugs, clinking of Stella bottles and (edited) swearing. you cannot wait.

today Dave has to walk 27 miles into Paonia from where he ended up on Wednesday while I get to swan around town hanging out with the bikers and the hippies. I cannot tell you how good this feels after the last few days. oh, and tomorrow we are going to see Bob Dylan and My Morning Jacket at a town to the south of here. am loving western Colorado...

Shouts: Dave and Eduard for their co-ordinated rescue mission following Dave's email; Nira for being there to help us through all the ridiculousness; Dude on an ATV for putting out the (thankfully not needed) missing persons alert; motel fella who bumped somebody from the reservations list so I could spend last night in luxury watching Ali-Frazier II; nice people at the laundry this morning who let me know a bit about Paonia AND finally, the amazing people at the Crested Butte Medical Center who let me have my medical tests for free - another $240 for the AICR coming straight up. love you guys - especially as I have just discovered the latest tests have come back just fine and I live to walk another month. right on right on (as the Pasadenas might say if they were hiking with us...)

PS: I should point out, if it is not obvious already to those following on an ADT-tip, that we eschewed the ADT route up to Redstone for our side trip/stupid adventure across to Paonia. there is a moral in there somewhere, but you can go figure it for yourselves...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Amazing Grace and Beaver Fever

Added: 19-7-2007

I once was lost but now am found.

I am currently sitting in a café in the small mountain town of Paonia. Stu is not. It's a long story.

Early yesterday morning Stu and I set out from our overnight camp near Beckwith Pass to walk through the wilderness area towards Minnesota Pass. I was lagging behind. We were walking through thick stands of aspen. I have become slightly obsessed with aspen and was wandering off the trail to take pictures. At about 11am  Stu stopped for a break at a turn and I arrived about 20 minutes behind him. Stu took off pretty much straight away after giving me a map of the area. We agreed to meet up in about 4 miles time at another junction in the trail. That was the last time I saw Stu.

I lost the trail when it crossed a stream, came into a large, open pasture and disappeared. I spent about half an hour relocating the trail. This meant that I was nearly an hour behind Stuart. When I arrived at the junction where we were to meet there was no sign of Stuart, he had moved on already. I am sure that, in normal circumstances, Stu would have waited. However today, things were complicated by the fact that we were meeting a friend, Nira, further on down the trail who would accompany us the rest of the way to Paonia. Stu, I assume, had gone ahead in order to meet Nira. This left me with a couple of major problems.

1.    I had a map but no compass. This was a very remote area, the trails in many areas were very overgrown. If a lost a trail, it would be very difficult ot orientate my way back.
2.    I had run out of water. There were plenty of streams in the area  but Stu had our water purifier. Most of the streams in this area are infected with Giardia, a water-borne parasite (also called beaver-fever as it particulalry thrives in areas with beaver ponds, exactly like the area we were in.) Once infected the ill effects are felt for up to a month. This is not something you want to be carrying when you are walking through the115 degree temperatures of Utah.

At this point I was not too concerned. I decided not to take a break and to continue on the trails as quickly as I could with the hope of catching Stu up at a later point.

Unfortunately the trail I was now trying to follow, through steep wooded areas, was intermittent at best. At some point I lost this trail. With no way to tell which direction I was heading, I decided that the only way I could reorientate myself was to head down to the bottom of the valley and follow the creek up to hopefully intersect with the trail again. It was now several hours since I had last seen Stu and several hours since my last drink. It was hot work bushwhacking my way down through the thick vegetation of the forest, sweat ran down my temples. My throat was dry, it hurt to swallow and there was a foul taste in my mouth. I didn't want to end up with beaver fever, though, so I resisted the temptation to drink from the unfiltered water I had in my water bottle.After perhaps an hour of slow progress I came upon a clear trail. This was a huge relief but I still did not know which way to follow it. I made my calculations and decided to follow the trail back uphill.

After a couple of miles of walking I came to an intersection with a wooden post marking the trail. I was not where I hoped to be. I had been turned around completely and was a few miles North of where I had originally got on the trail. Stu was likely now 3 or 4 hours ahead of me. It was possible that I could reach him before dark but my main concern now was to find water. I was fantasizing a cold drink, imagining the relief of it. I decided that the best thing for me to do was to head for the trailhead where there was a road and a slim possibility of traffic. On my map there was also a ranch marked a few miles up the road where I hoped I would be able to get water. I would worry about how I could reconnect with Stu once I had slaked my thirst.

I headed towards Coal Creek Road, open to mechanized vehicles, which I hoped would bring me the drink I needed. Once I could finally see the road from the trail I also saw that there was a house at the end of the road. I made my way towards it, knocked on the door  and explained my situation. I took off my boots which were filthy and sodden and my backpack which I had last removed when I last saw Stu seven hours earlier. It was now 6.30.

I drank long and greedily once I had filled up my water bottle and felt some of my mental capacity returning. My rescuers, the Townley family, were extremely kind and fed me while I tried to decide what to do next. I was about 15 miles from where we had intended to camp, there was no way I could reach Stu and no way I could make it over to Paonia in a day's walk. When Jeff Townley offered to give me a ride to Paonia, I had little choice but to accept and to wait there for Stu's arrival. I tried to get hold of our friends in Crested Butte but only had bits of information, not enough to get a cell number. I also contacted the local sheriff to let them know that I was safe incase Stu reported me missing. The last thing I wanted was a full-scale search and rescue effort happening on my behalf while I was sat behind a pint in a Paonia pub.

I didn't want to pay for a motel in Paonia so I also asked the sheriff for permission to camp in the city park. It turned out I would not be alone. It cheered me up no end to learn that there was a big motorcycle rally camped in the park which was acting as the base for the Top of the Rockies Rally. I would be sharing the park with about 1000 bikers - straight from one adventure into another. After I was dropped off I made straight for the beer tent and started making friends. With my pack, hiking poles, muddied appearance and lack of leather, I stood out from the crowd and the bikers soon adopted me, buying me drinks and offering me all sorts of advice on my situation (the over-riding theme of which was 'Get a bike, man') After a few beers and a lot of conversation ,I set up my tent inexpertly and went to bed wandering where Stu had ended up, where I would next see him and what to do about the miles I had missed on the way to Paonia.

This afternoon, I will be taking a walk out in the direction that I expect Stu to head into town  but this journal entry may well be the means by which Stu finds me. So Stu, I am camped conveniently close to the beer tent in Paonia City Park. I hope your hike went better than mine and I hope to see you for a drink and a thorough debriefing this evening.

DaveHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

In Praise of Crested Butte

Added: 19-7-2007

Stuart has gone down to the medical centre in town to get his tests done and I am pretty much up to date with the photographs so I have the chance to write a little bit for the journal.

I will start yesterday morning. I set the alarm for six. The snooze function, ever tempting, is most so when the air temperature outside your sleeping bag is about 40 degrees colder than that inside. I managed to keep my eyes open, though, and, was dragging myself out of my bag when  Stuart, up ahead of me, told me to look out of the tent. About 30 yards away from us was a stag eyeing us suspiciously. He did not run but his eyes never moved from ours. He had good reason to confused at our presence. We were camped at nearly 12,500 ft, just a few feet below Taylor Pass. He went off to the other side of the ridge before inching back to our side and then suddenly taking off, haring down the mountain, forelegs and hindlegs moving as pairs in their strange bounding gait.

About 8 hours earlier I had been equally bemused at our presence there as the wind tore at my tent. As light faded dense black clouds wre moving in towards us. We were used to the afternoon storms characteristic of the mountain weather system but we had not counted on a storm hitting us at night. If one did come in we would be in some trouble. The wind was really getting up, gusting under the fly sheet and I could feel the floor of the tent lift up around me. The noise was immense. I had to get out of my sleeping bag to replace a stake ripped out of the rocky ground. Prospects for sleep did not look good.

Earlier that evening we had melted snow to cook up our pot of noodles. At this altitude, and with the wind increasing, our stove was giving off a huge and ineffective flame. It took an age and a lot of fuel to heat the meal. Leaning in to stir the pot I was lucky to come out with a full complement of eyebrows. My hands were black with soot. Finally we ate - 2 packets (58 cents-worth) of ramen noodles each. It tasted fantastic. We climbed over to the Western side of the ridge to watch the sunset but it was now freezing and black clouds were gathering. We descended back to our tents and I climbed into my sleeping bag removing only my waterproof jacket. It was going to be a cold night. Finally, after a couple of hours, the wind died and, warm with my sleeping bag drawn tight around me, I got some much needed sleep.

The next morning's walk was beautiful as we dropped 3000 feet down below the timberline. On this Western side of the mountain stands of aspen replaced the pine forests of the previous days walking. In the high pastures wildflowers were everywhere. It is such a short growing season at this height that everything seems to be in bloom at once. In the early morning, particularly, the smell is incredible. Several times we had to take our boots off to cross streams. The water was freezing. We splashed our faces and got high from the cold, whooping in the early morning, nobody around. It was quick going downhill. We had 17 miles done by 2 pm and arrived at Crested Butte with a three-day hunger, ready to eat.

Crested Butte is an amazing place. When our recently-made friend Eduard first came here the town had only one paved road. It is a little more developed now but still retains a real charm. Most of the buildings are made of wood and finished ornately. There are no chain stores or fast food joints and the pace of life is slow. It easily one of our favourite places so far. I can't work out what the economy of the town is. Everyone seems to ride round on bikes, seemingly knowing everyone they pass and stopping frequently to discuss plans for adventures in the mountains. There are probably more bikes than cars. The town is full of them, leant up against every building and all of them left unlocked. Riding round town with our host Dave takes an age as he stops to talk to almost everyone in town.

The town is situated at about 10,000 feet. It seems that everyone here spends a huge amount of time in the mountains and they are more knowledgeable about their surroundings than almost anywhere alse we had come through. Almost everyone had an opinion on the route we should take West.

We have now (sometime later) just come back from mountain biking. What better way to rest aching muscles on a day off from walking? It was my first time and it takes a lot of concentration. I have discovered that I am an extremely bad mountain biker.The rocks on the trail come at you a lot quicker than on foot and the saddle is perilously close to things I hold dear. I have an strong inbuilt fear of pain which prevents me from going as fast as the others. I put it down to a greater intelligence, others may call it cowardice.

It was great fun, though, despite the fact that I may be unable to sit down for the next few days. Crested Butte is the mountain bike capital of Colorado, if not the country so it was good to get an idea of what it is all about. 
DaveHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Lets get ready to ramble...

Added: 16-7-2007

(FROM SUNDAY) whoa there....this one comes at you way underprepared...Dave and I have spent the last three days backwoodsing it from Buena Vista to Crested Butte and over this time I had plenty of ideas of what I would now write for your delectation. problem is, I am sitting in the back garden of a house in Crested Butte clad only in the last garments I have left due to a giant wash (yes, they are the short shorts, I cannot lie) and all things important and interesting have gone from my mind. I can tell you that we arrived here about two o'clock and headed straight for food (three days of fantasy meal does that to you) and that after eating (wouldn't you know it, a burger for Dave and a buffalo burger for me) we managed to catch the final of the Copa America between Brazil and Argentina with good new friends Eduard and Dave. one beer has led to another and now we are cleaning all things in a house that Dave is currently renovating for a friend.

well, last time I wrote I was at a mystery ranch enjoying the hospitality of James and his wife Aileen. quite a time - the place was a palace, Dave and I were spoilt (our room was as comfortable as anything I have ever experienced, and I shall do all of my bathrobe shopping for the rest of my life at The Robe Works - excellent robes) with food, wine, Internet, good chat about the state of America, and just incredible chillness. the whole experience was unexpected and all the better for it.

Friday morning we left the ranch and headed uphill. seriously uphill as it happens, we moved from about 9000 feet up to 12600 in a few hours. this is quite a feat for the 40lb pack carrier, and there was much huffing and puffing as we worked our way from bottom of the hill  up to the top. altitude has been interesting - everything feels like a real work out - but the views that we got and the general sense of ohmygodweareexecrcising has been worth every minute.

at about 2pm (I think) on Friday we crossed the Continental Divide over Lake Ann Pass. From the bottom we could see no way over and it was only once we got about 500 feet below the ridge we could see the zig zagging pass over the top. now I have been high many times in my life, but possibly never this high - we crossed at 12600 feet and did all the usual stupid tourist things such as shouting, whooping, taking pictures whilst inanely grinning etc. it was all good, save for the incoming storm.

after that we descended, gaining new stresses on shins and ankles, and we eventually ended up camping by a river at about 8pm. a top day, very long miles (I ballsed up the mileage and we ended up doing about five miles more than I told Dave we would have to do) and the Lipton packet pasta at the end of the day tasted like Gordon Ramsey had prepared it himself (minus swearing).

next morning I had more neckache. bastard neckache, it's killing me. still, moving on...

saturday was another beauty, sun up early and so were we, trekking north and then west towards the Taylor pass. the highlight of the morning was hanging out with Ranger John and with Elaine at their Ranger Station, a cabin over a hundred years old that they stay in every summer in order to look after the campsites in the area. John was kind enough to let us use his solar shower and henceforth we were clean for the next two hours until we were covered in dirt once more thanks to the constant stream of ATVs and dirtbikes going past. if there's one thing that's been a bit rubbish about the last couple of days it's that the beautiful forests out here are inhabited by people whizzing about on these machines, enjoying the trails yes but also making a hella noise and really quite a jarring impression against the amazing scenery (you look up at some ten thousand pine trees, draw in a deep breath of fresh mountain air and then step back off the path as some dude goes past on his pfizzing ATV).

after lunch I lost my MP3 player, confirming my suspicion that someone out there simply does not want me to have music on this walk (see earlier journal entries on the death of my iPod). we started going up again to the pass and it was pure exercise, up three thousand feet in the last few hours of the afternoon. we got slightly lost, found ourselves again and by 7pm we were on the top of the pass, setting up our tents at 12300 feet and checking out the amazing view and falling temperatures. saturday night was noodles night, cooked on our treasonous alcohol burning stove that is now insisting on a three feet high flame with every meal. Dave's hands were black from handling the pot and I put off the washing up until Crested Butte.

which is where I am now. it's now Monday morning and what a town this is. started this journal entry yesterday after the descent from Taylor Pass and we've already made friends and had quite a time. first up we've got to send huge thanks to Erika, for letting us stay in her work-in-progress outhouse (I've just been told we've been upgraded to her house 'proper' for this evening) but really our major thanks go to Dave and Eduard who adopted us after the Copa America final yesterday (Kim, Argentina were robbed). after afternoon drinks and showers and laundry we found ourselves in the slightly surreal position of riding around town on bikes and then sitting at the back of the community centre watching a slide show about Xavi and Karen (two of many locals we met last night who were into mountain biking, travelling etc.) and their trip to Corsica to hike a south-north route across the island. beautiful photos, lovely people and a superb buffet we availed ourselves of like people who have been stuck in the woods for three days.

after that it was inevitably the pub, Kochevar's, a place where Butch Cassidy allegedly used to drink. Dave and I took up the baton to the sounds of classic US rock and entered into a bout of pool versus Eduard and Dave. England prevalied, 4-3, and all was good in the world of bar sport.

sorry for the length of this one, but things just keep happening and Internet access to tell of them has been sparse. today we're on an admin tip, or at least we will be after breakfast (I'm writing this in a garden at 8.45am with Colorado blue skies all around, Dave snoring in the front room and the sun gently warming my feet. all good). I've got blood tests to get - that time again - and then we're gonna take a bike ride, hook up with some friends of friends (inc. 'The Princess of Darkness', she should be interesting) and then hit the park in the evening for a Marriachi band. Crested Butte basically seems like a little mountain hippy-ish paradise, heaven for mountain bikers and hikers (and skiers and winter sports people) from all over. we're gonna check it out. and then I'm going to see if I can find another MP3 player...

Shouts: Ken and family from our rafting trip in Buena Vista - many thanks for your donation to the Association of International Cancer Research (click here if anyone else wants to donate via a secure server) and the pic of us rafting. we're gonna try and get it scanned and on the website soon. David Malouin for the package at BV - much appreciated mate, the shoes are essential. Nira and Felicia for looking out for us even if we haven't met yet. Eduard, Dave, Erika - nuff said. Xavi for the photos, the barman last night for buying me a beer, James and Aileen at the ranch, John and Elaine at the Ranger Station, and little Mila, plus the beautiful waitress yesterday who looked a little like Jennifer Garner. Result.

PS: Spenser, the title of this one is my best attempt at a pun to match your San Franletsgo. I think yours is better....(more news on San Fran in the next entry)

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Unexpected Access...

Added: 12-7-2007

something amazing has happened: we have found Internet access in the middle of nowhere. well, at an amazing deserted ranch in the middle of nowhere to be precise - I'm writing this on a wi-fi keyboard and a 40 odd inch flatscreen TV while listening to The Band on iTunes and drinking a Mexican beer. hiking is fun, did you know that?

we're here as a brief guest of James, a fine fella and essentially the caretaker of this amazing ranch resort which is obviously normally used by people much richer than ourselves. we're on our way up to the Lake Ann pass and this is really the only habitation in the valley. it's right near a creek so people come here to fish, and there is a volleyball and basketball area on the premises too. we're inside, obviously, and in addition to the Internet equipment and fully stocked bar there is a pool table with a table tennis table on top of it (the perfect combination) and tons of comfy chairs by the nice fireplace. we are indeed lucky to be here, especially as all we were doing was trying to find somewhere to get out of the rain...

to get here we had to head north of Buena Vista, a short distance of which we did last night. we had planned to do more but yesterday afternoon saw us doing battle with the wild rapids of Browns Canyon on a raft (er, the waters were only a Level 3, which apparently means something fairly do-able, but to us it was derring-do of a most admirable nature. it was also the first time we had ever been rafting (not the last I'd wager)) and we didn't get back into to town and dry until about 5pm. just enough time for a good steak at Quincy's (thanks Betsy!) and then we were off, walking in the rain until about 8pm. the weather has turned a bit rubbish actually - the sun has disappeared and it sadly looks like we're gonna have clouds and rain during our crossing of the Continental Divide. ah well...

anyway, shouldn't take too long over this one...can't quite shake the feeling that we're in The Shining and that this bar/ranch we're sitting in is haunted and that James doesn't really exist. very odd. best go check he's still here...

PS: had a marvellous 50 minute walking session this morning with the last Ninja Tune podcast showcasing the new Cinematic Orchestra album. just wanted to say that every man, woman and child on the planet should now go out and buy this latest slice of amazingness, truly fantastic...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Guffey to Buena Vista

Added: 10-7-2007

sooo, apologies for not getting this one in earlier - simple reason is that we were knackered. cream crackered. 50 or so miles in two days over hills and down dales does that to you apparently, leading us to forget journal writing and instead concentrate on the much easier to comprehend football transfer pages of the Interweb.

before I relate the tale of our corageous yomp to Buena Vista I should mention a couple of things about our resting place for Saturday night, Guffey. Guffey is a very small town of about 20 people that has the massive fortune to have a saloon, a fine dining restaurant, a marvellous deli that does breakfast 'eggwiches' (very filling), some liberal Colorado folks, some outdoor art courtesy of the frankly bonkers and brilliant Bill Soux, and a cat named Monster for a mayor (I kid you not, it was voted in, a bit like that fella in a monkey costume that was Mayor of Hartlepool for a bit). if you are ever in the Rockies, head to Guffey.

we left this wonderful place on Sunday morning about 11 after conversing with many of the nice people who frequented Rita's deli and checking their opinions on The Next President (Obama, go to Guffey, they want you!). Sunday was quite a day, heading west then north, then west, then south, all to get round a bloody big hill that sat in the middle of our route. it's fair to say that the walk has only really just started now we are in the middle of the mountains, and that everything before now, all 2500 miles of it, has been walking not hiking. now we are going up and down, breathing heavily, wishing we had taken the car etc. it is, however, all worth it because the scenery is simply spectacular and it seems to be getting better with every day. Sunday was notable for amazing stretches of bare hills that really looked like parts of the Yorkshire Dales (sans stone walls of course) and for a couple of times we broke cover out of the forest into areas that would force even the grumpiest of us to break into Sound of Music numbers. real quality, and we think we made about 24 miles to our campsite - a flat spot in the middle of all these hills and most likely miles away from anyone. add into the mix a superb sunset and you have heaven with a packet pasta meal.

yesterday we were up at 6.15am and contending with water issues. for the first time on the entire trip we are in areas where we will need to be filtering water due to the gaps between 7-11s (and people's houses). yesterday we were nearly caught out until some friendly motorists (Dick and Barb) stopped for us and gave us lovely litres of water. such a gift enabled us to proceed towards Buena Vista, stopping every now and then to be awed by the giant 14,000 ft mountains off to our left that make up the Continental Divide. the scenery got better and better, pale blue hills in the distance will do that for you, and basically I think it was one of the best days of the walk yet.

not least because we covered so many miles and felt quite fresh doing it (at the time). we had done about 19 miles by 2pm which is rare for us and, while we were a little knackered and slightly under pressure due to a sustained hour-long attack by some flying things that were not quite mosquitos, not quite flies (deer flies? these things were brown-winged cousins of the grey winged b*stards that lurk by the side of Kansas roads - they bites were not as bad but I have never been under attack for so long a period from insects, walking along with arms gyrating and curses emanating, desperately trying not to let them land on me. the ony good thing was that when you did manage to splat one it kinda tumbled off your arm like a Tie-fighter hit by an X-wing in space. Dave and I managed to kill about 100 between us we reckon, and still they came), we still managed to hit the very picturesque Midland Bike Trail with legs just about working.

not for long though. after an hour and half of up and down mountain bike trails we needed refreshment, and we left the trail to head to Johnson Village on the south of Beuna Vista. straight into a motel, and then the shower and then the nearest restaurant for Mexican and Blue Moon. well-deserved I thought - truly we made ground in the last two days.

so now we are here, here being Buena Vista, and we're stocking up on supplies and getting ready for the Big Push over the Continental Divide via the Lake Ann pass. my Thermarest matress got a puncture which has led to three nights of terrible sleep (I was mad for the motel last night, had a great night's sleep but woke up with a badly cricked neck. sleep for me is not going well at this point) and I've just replaced that with a new one (terribly extravagant but half an hour of fussing the deflating matress around the motel bath this morning revealed no puncture). we've also just picked up new shoes and warmer clothes from the post office, and my camera (my camera, er, fared rather badly in an incident featuring Dave and a Lay-Z-Boy recliner in Strong City, KS) is in there too - many thanks Mr. Malouin. tonight we will hit the bars of Buena Vista and tomorrow we're gonna go rafting in the morning before heading on out into the middle of nowhere. next journal entry is likely to be a couple of days time - unless they have wi-fi up in the mountains. until then I think there should be some new photos to look at courtesy of the Toolan (they get better and better, IMO). enjoy....

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

short update

Added: 8-7-2007 0

just a very quick journal entry because I'm using a very kind lady's computer out the back of a bar in Guffey. the keyboard is one of those split things too, so all is weird...anyway, we've made it 28 miles or so from Cripple Creek to the small and slightly crazy town of Guffey (regular population 20, but offering two bars and a deli)...yesterday we left Denver and our great hosts about lunchtime and by 3pm we were walking on the trail. all of this was due to the wonderful help of Kari, a student from Pennsylvania who was working near Colorado Springs over the summer. it's a long story but Kari has basically helped us get an afternoon slackpacking, a lift to a campsite full of beer, wine and firewood last night, and then back on the trail this morning. for this, we are exceptionally grateful...

can't write much more, will have to check in from Buena Vista in two days (Tracey: ETA Monday night). suffice to say all is well, we did 20 miles today like it was a walk in the park, and we're ready to go on the ups and downs. more soon from 40 odd miles west...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Independence Day

Added: 6-7-2007 0

well, we survived July 4th without being lynched as representatives of an outdated foreign power and now we're ready to move on from Denver and get back on the road. at this exact moment, however, we are still very much enjoying the hospitality of our hosts on the outskirts of Denver (Laura and Ryan, Paige, Raylee (and Wendy)) where we have been made to feel extremely welcome on this latest break from all things walking.

we're actually staying in Aurora, which is a place so new it's not even on my GPS map. thousands of new houses appear to have sprung up on the eastern outskirts of Denver as more and more people move to the Rocky Mountains area. Denver's population has grown by a third in the last ten years, up to 2.5 million, as people seek to escape the humidity of the east and head towards the coolness of the mountains (and the comfort of the big city - a trend I understand is occurring all across the US). the area where we are currently staying reminds me a little of the housing estate in ET, where Elliot and, er, the fella with the long neck, used to ride around on BMXs. for English readers, these estates are like Barrett or Wimpey developments, only bigger, and with more driveway space. for Dave and I it's a departure from the places we've been on the rest of our journey - we haven't ever really tapped into the suburbs so it's been an interesting experience to imagine what life is like for Denver suburbanites...

anyway, we've been mostly chilling, but our social secretary Wendy has organised a couple of events for us - last night we hit the new Invesco Field (American) football stadium (home of the Denver Broncos) for a 4th July Lacrosse game and a firework celebration. it was a pretty great night, less for the sport (Lacrosse is not something I'm that familiar with, and the Chicago Machine, the Denver Outlaws' opponents, kinda sucked in the making-a-game-of-it department, leaving Dave and I to marvel at the loud music being played during the game (I hypothesise: if you want to transfix a large group of Americans (perhaps even a batallion of the US army) simply play a section of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' and everyone will stamp their feet and clap their hands in time with the music, on cue) and the halftime entertainment of dogs catching frisbees) and more for the feeling of being in a great stadium with some good new friends. it seemed that people had turned up to simply go out and be social, the crowd was mixed (far more so than a football match in the UK) and young and keen to have a good evening.

after the game had finished it was fireworks time, being July 4th and all, and we got some loud bangs and whatnot in the sky. unlike a British fireworks display, where everyone politely oohs and aahs at the pretty patterns caused by taxpayers' money exploding (yes you, Herne Bay council! (I love it really)), this display was actually in time to a medley of songs about America. my favourite moment was the segue from 'Born in the USA' to big Neil Diamond's 'Coming to America' as red, white and blue fireworks exploded above us. quality.

the fact that the Independence Day holiday was on a Wednesday was a novelty to us (English state holidays tend to be on a Monday) and meant the whole day passed in a nice, if weird atmosphere. we tried to go out afterwards to a bar called Lulu's but it was pretty deserted - not something we were worried about as we ate expertly prepared steak (guests can turn up and cook their own), enjoyed the free, if totally random, jukebox, and played pool until past bedtime.

today was all about getting downtown and exploring, but not before a tour of the stadium organised by our hosts. both Wendy and Laura work at the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame within the stadium, and Dave and I were lucky enough to get a full two hour tour of, well, everything, stadium related (except the cheerleaders' dressing rooms, sadly off limits). we even did something very unique for us - we drove to town. well, Dave drove to town I should say - all I managed was to consult the GPS/Google Map instructions and advise him to represent to the fullest when we were in danger of being cut up by other traffic. not that we should have worried though: today we were in a Big Car, a type of vehicle we've spent ages slagging off but one we were happy to take advantage of when offered (how many English people will happily lend you their car? insurance must be different over here, it seems a pretty normal thing to do as we've been offered vehicles a number of times).

downtown Denver was good, in that there was stuff in it (unlike, say, Cincinnatti) and this afternoon Dave and I wandered around Larimer Street and 16th street where the shops are. we found time to hit up the library (very nice) and drink a never-ending smoothie. as my previous impressions of Denver have mostly been based on Kerouac's works and Dynasty I can say things were a little different than I expected in that there weren't that many beat poets or rich Joan Collins-types wandering around. it's funny how TV sometimes lets you down.

so yeah, that's about it. two days of nice company, good views of mountains in the distance and, well, going out. tonight I've wimped it, still trying to work on a Project piece on the Midwest while Dave and a select crew head up to Boulder to see some music. it's kinda nice to have time to get some thoughts clear though, let's see how it goes actually getting them into a readable form...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Gambling in them thar hills....

Added: 3-7-2007 2

where are we now...one day before some big celebration of independence thing that the Americans insist on having every year. this time last year I was in DC watching a fit-again Dave try out his achilles tendons by running around in the pouring rain in Union Jack shorts whilst waving a Stars and Stripes flag - this year I am getting ready to return east to Denver to enjoy the whole holiday thing there.

right now though, I am in a nice coffee joint in Cripple Creek, CO. arrived here about two hours ago to be precise, after a section of walking that began yesterday morning. we finally bade farewell to our host and ADT Colorado Co-ordinator Dick Bratton after yet another fine breakfast at The Pantry and headed west on trails to a place called Woodland Park. here we resupplied at a classy Safeway (Olive Gigante! Sweet minature peppers from some fancy place in Cyprus!) and Dave's camera bag finally gave up the ghost after nearly 3000 miles. it is now held together with string.

basically after that we started getting more of an idea of what Colorado has in store for us. mountains in the distance and in the not-so-distance, individual build houses, most of which look like they cost a lot to construct (even if some of the designs are a little, er, unambitious), and drivers who see hikers/bikers so often they feel no need to wave. no matter though, Dave and I trucked on to a small place called Divide and the gnomic owner of its gas station ("Will it rain?" "Maybe.") and all was good. soon after all was wet as the rain did finally come down, but not before we had ran into one of our hosts from a week previously, Ross - the only man we've ever seen park a large truck on a small shoulder just to get out to talk to us. fair play to you Ross.

after that it was hail time, large bits of hail slapping us directly on the head and forcing us to stand like lemons under a tree for 20 minutes until it had passed. by now we were almost at Mueller State Park, our destination for the night, and all that was left for us was to ask the most important questions of the day, such as "Would you go out with a girl called Josephine Stalin? Charlotte Manson? Alexandra Ferguson? Petra Andre?"

such is the fun we have. we took the last space in the campsite and hitched our way up to our pitch right at the top (3 miles off the road, and the state ranger refused to take us in his car, citing 'whatiftherewasanemergencyandoneofyouopenedthecardoorandrolledout' issues. very annoying.

a great campsite though, about 10,000 feet up and with top views. Dave hunted and gathered for firewood and I cooked the 'gourmet' packet meal we had been saving for the last 500 miles. it was OK. all in all though it was a top spot, even with its own bear box to stop the critters eating my kit-kats. what was not good, however, was my night's sleep. I don't know if it was the altitude or what, but I ended up with two super-length dreams one involving running away from a murderous gang weilding knives and the other dealing with that most existential of topics, rejection by women. I woke up wishing I hadn't gone to bed.

today things have trucked along in a similar vein to yesterday, save for the scenery which has been getting even better and the traffic sparser. we've hit back roads and climbed from 9000 to 10,000 feet, sweated an awful lot (the weight! it is leaving me!) and generally felt like we were really doing exercise. we got into Cripple Creek to find it an oasis of gambling (after a period as a practical ghostown, Colorado residents voted to legalise gambling in Cripple Creek in the 1990s - an answer for all those other ghost towns we have come through in Kansas and West Virginia perhaps?) as slot machine palaces occupy every other building on main street and people stumble out of their doors looking dazed. it's like a mini Herne Bay seafront without the sea and with added mountain air.

but we're not long for this town. not today anyway - in about an hour or so we will be whisked off back to Denver to enjoy crowded bars, fireworks and lord knows what else courtesy of Wendy who we met in Strong City, Kansas, at the rodeo. should be a wild couple of days we imagine, more news when we get it...

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Sunday slackpacking

Added: 2-7-2007 0

more slackpacking today. not so sharp this morning after a rather late night last night at the local Pine Gables Bar. a good time was had by all, and perhaps too much beer by me but hey, the bar was only ten minutes away and we survived being attacked by mountain lions and bears on the way there so that was definitely something worth celebrating.

anyway, this morning was hot and quite harsh on the head. we left Colorado Springs library at about 10.30ish and embarked on an unfulfilled quest for Gatorade. today's walk was west across town, through the neighbourhoods of Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. all very pleasant to walk through, past people breakfasting on patios, craft shoppers and gardeners and even the odd bearded fellow offering to sell us hash. as I say, all very pleasant.

less pleasant, however, was the hour spent on the 24 heading up to Cascade - a poor shoulder, plenty of oncoming traffic full of drivers with horrified looks on their faces and a great heat bearing down on us from the sun above. thank God we weren't wearing our packs today...

after a brief stop at a speciality popcorn store completely devoid of customers we moved on using backroads and eventually finished the 15 miles back to Green Mountain Falls by about 4ish. cue a couple of beers and a game of pool in the bar as a reward and then it was back here to Dick's for a bar-b-que and feeding the squirrels and Stella Jays. as I have said many times before, all very pleasant...

now we're leaving the comfort of Dick's place behind and moving on. tomorrow we head towards Cripple Creek and we're hoping that once we're there we might be able to get a lift back to Denver for the 4th July celebrations. Dave has a real hankering to be in a parade so we'll let you know how that goes down...

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E-mail: stu@walkingthestates.com and dave@walkingthestates.com | Phone: (00 1) 301 538 0308