From Crested Butte we drove to Telluride. Arriving in the afternoon on a bluebird day, Dillon clipped a ticket and headed up to check out the mountain. He was blown away by the size and wide range of opportunities of side country natural terrain features. Afterwards we popped into Telluride Brewing Company just outside of town which has proven to be one of our favorites thus far. The 'bomber' cans that were sealed upon request full of your beer of choice were a bus favorite. From there we headed to a family friend's house in Ridgeway, a cute little town with awesome mountain views. We were put up in a cozy 'love shack' on their property. Personal space is hard to come by while living the bus life, so having our own space was much appreciated. As yummy as some of our bus-cooked meals are, we gorged ourselves on home cooked grub. We took a day trip to Ouray, an ice climbing mecca, and tried out the brewery.From there we treated ourselves to an evening at the Orvis hot springs. We tend to avoid the established, pay-for hot springs, but this place was the exception to the rule. The three different pools were all created with the intention of blending in with the natural surroundings. The water temperatures were perfect and the full moon was bright enough to showcase our white Alaskan full moons at the nude springs.
While we had been fortunate enough to be skiing in the mountains virtually every stop of the way we realized (by our level of grouchiness and irritability not matching that of our lifestyle at the time) that resort skiing with a lot of other people not filling our quota of time alone in the wilderness. We quickly decided to spend some time with our favorite person, mother nature.From there we ventured on a ski-in hut trip in the San Juan mountain range. We were impressed by the intricate hut system in place, with 4 huts on a trail system through some of the most stunning vistas we have seen outside of Alaska. Starting a skin-in trip at 9,000ft. with 7 miles of uphill skiing was a trip these sea level lungs were not exactly prepared for. With
Dillon as the primary pack horse, we made it to the hut just before sunset. Skiing through valleys full of Aspen in the sunshine felt like the quintessential Colorado experience. The following day we embarked on a few mile approach to the top of the nearest mountain to catch a view of the surrounding mountain that had been looming above us. We were floored by the views when we got to the top. A complete 360 of 11-14,000 ft. peaks enveloped us. Icing on the cake was finding some powder on the way down while tree skiing. We stayed another night in our wood stove warmed hut under a blanket of stars that only seems to exist at those elevations.
After our ski out we embarked on the most beautiful section of our drive to date through Red Mountain Pass, en route to Durango. We had heard nothing but rave reviews about the town of Durango and were eager to spend time with Alaskan acquaintances Mark, Sarah, and their daughter Charlee. They had spent about 9 months on the road through the lower 48 touring around in their Vanagon. They were some of the first people we contacted when we decided to do our trip for tips etc., so it felt great to come full circle and get to spend some time with them in hopes of soaking up their van life wisdom. Mark was in the process of putting a Subaru engine in their Vanagon. Consequently Dillon was able to speak his seemingly foreign language acquired over the past 9 months to another human that not only understood him, but was equally as stoked to talk about the intricacies of the subaru swap. While they geeked out hard for a few days, Sarah and I communicated in the English language about their experiences of van life, both the pros and cons.
From Durango we were desert bound. With no expectations we drove to Canyonlands National Park. We were blown away at the beauty of the desert. Being mountain people we weren't sure what the desert would offer us and man oh man were we blown away. The park was stunning, but even more incredible was the campsite we found. After driving through the park's campsite that was full we headed outside of the park to a BLM road, which most lower 48 vagabonds swear by. No reservations, no official sites, just an open (typically dirt) road where it is legal to stay for up to 14 days for free. Coming from Alaska where the free camping possibilities are endless, we were shocked at how regulated and costly it can be to camp in the continental US, not to mention the lack of privacy or sense of being in the middle of nowhere. We set up camp just in time for sunset when the surrounding rock formations appeared to be on fire. The glow the sun glazed on the natural features that enveloped us was a sight we will not forget.
That was a Thursday night. Friday we drove to the town of Moab which was relatively disappointing. But what do we know, never judge a book by its cover and the surrounding area's recreational opportunities and scenery made up for that feel. Perhaps it was just the part of town we explored but it felt like much more of a tourist trap than we anticipated. It is rare to be in an area that reminds us of the strips of tourist consumerism as much as outside of Denali National Park, but I would say this was a close second. We visited an eerie bus graveyard/parts lot in Moab that has become more of a museum than a working shop. Let's just say we were dreaming of starting our restoration with even some of the oldest hunks of rotted steel, I mean buses, on the lot, as they had much less rust than what we started with. We hopped back in to ours and drove into Arches National Park. On a Friday afternoon. During spring break for much of the surrounding area. Yikes! It was a complete zoo. Kids screaming in the arches, parents screaming at their kids and other people's kids to get out of their child's photo, etc. Somehow the sights of the park seemed to drown out the madness enough for us to soak in the beauty. It was worth persevering through the Disneyland like feel of the crowds for the incredible arches, but it left us feeling incredibly fortunate. For many people this trip to Arches National Park is their yearly dose of 'nature' . It was a good reminder of how grateful we are for having been raised in a place and by parents who prioritize the importance of spending time in the great outdoors, a primary value for both of us and one that lead to the decision to embark on this trip.