After a few days in our heavenly campsite above Salida, Colorado, it was time for our exploratory section of the trip. We always try to visit someplace that we've never been before so we decided to head further south along the Continental Divide to a mesa that no one had ever heard of.
To start our transfer, I rode some trails through magical subalpine forest to meet the rest of the pack down near smoother roads. That ride allowed me to avoid riding in the van over rough roads, something that always exacerbates my spine pain.
I zoomed down a thin trail that nearly merged with a creek in multiple places.
The wildflowers were riotous in their moist and ideal environment. I spotted a favorite of mine, a Fairy Trumpet, that I always associate with my departed dog Acadia. I first noticed one of these flowers on the day that she died. So, I took a moment to drink in its beauty and remember my best friend.
Bears love this trail. It was impossible not to notice three huge scat piles within a half mile and deep claw gouges in trees.
Shortly after seeing the fresh signs of bears, a storm began to hammer the world, with rain, hail, and thunder. I stopped to don my rain gear. As hail pounded my helmet and found its way into the helmet vents to pound my head, I became completely engrossed in putting on warm clothes at a fast pace. As I stood up after dressing and started to mount my bike, an avalanche of big rocks were tossed down from the cliff on the opposite side of the creek as a big animal fled into the forest. Then, a large branch cracked as the animal stepped on it. I'm almost certain that I heard a bear who fled after quietly watching me as I changed clothes. I always wonder how often I'm watched by wildlife without knowing it. I know that bears are inherently timid so I tend not to be afraid of them watching me. But, I always carry a large can of pepper spray on my hip belt, as you can see in the photo taken by my wildlife camera below.
In my rain gear, I zoomed to van, and we started toward our next campsite. It was in an obscure spot that was completely deserted. Unfortunately, it also was at the end of a long, tortuous, and bumpy road, and my neck protested LOUDLY. As I pathetically curled up in the van feeling truly awful, another storm moved in, instantly transforming the expansive and lush meadow that we occupied.
We all hunkered down in the van to wait out the storm, including K who cuddled in a soft sleeping bag. This respite was perfect for me as it helped me to start to recover from the van ride.
As thunder rattled the van, the sun shined through the rain, and we were treated to a double rainbow across the meadow. The end of the rainbow appeared to be only 50 yards away so we promised to search for the pot of gold after the storm ended. Although we never found literal gold, we found an incredibly peaceful and gorgeous meadow with mountains in the background. That's as good as gold for me!
And, our wonderful R made me laugh despite my neck pain. When we emerged from the van after the storm, he refused to sit or lie on the wet ground. Only the best for our boy!
The clouds lifted to show us a mountain glowing in the setting sun.
And the western sky continued glowing even after dusk.
I was excited to explore this new place the next day so I hoped that the clouds had fled for good!