Over the last few days, I have been so delighted by being alone. And over the last few days I have found things I would love to share with someone who will laugh with me. Isn’t this the tension I have sought to explore? From Silverthorne, I climbed over boreas pass along the route of an old narrow-gauge railroad. Trains can’t climb really steep stuff, so routes that follow old railroad grades are generally a pleasure to climb, not to mention historically  interesting.

The view from the road up to Boreas Pass.

Boreas pass, the apex of the climb, used to be a town, albeit a small one, situated at about 11,500 feet. Can you imagine? It used to have a big stone house for turning the trains around, a post office, and miles of shed housing the tracks to protect them from snow drifts. Now the old post office building is all the remains. I traced the route of this train down the other aide of the pass to Como, another historic town with roots in the railroads. Como doesn’t have much else beside those roots, though. The one store in town had almost nothing in it except one deeply irritated woman who bristled and my request to use the bathroom and to fill up my water bottles. “Just hurry, will you? I’m trying to close. I don’t like other people to use my bathroom. All the water is shut off because you’re too late in the year,” and so on. Como is something of an important water source, since there is no more water for another thirty-plus miles. In my rush to get out if the woman’s store, I didn’t quite fill up as much as I should have and spent the rest of the evening riding with an eye for a water source. From Como, I went into South Park, which is a large, mountain ringed basin with little in it: cows, the occasional wind mill-driven water pump (the ones I checked were dry) and road after eerie road laid in a near grid patter with nothing on them. Each intersection was marked with your standard-looking street sign, with names like Arapaho Trail and Navaho Drive. What strange ideas someone had once, about what to do with this empty basin. I passed empty road after empty road, none of them paved, many starting to be reclaimed by the native grasses and dead-ending only shortly after branching from the main road. That night, as the sun dropped behind the western mountains edging the basin, I stopped where I was, waterless, and crept through a hole in the fence surrounding an abandoned playground. Is there anything quite as eerie as an abandoned play ground at dusk?

Abandoned play things in the creepy playground.

I checked the cinderblock bathroom structure to see if the water was on, but this place had clearly been long abandoned. No water, the toilets filled with rotting excrement, rodent nests and droppings all over the floor, and garbage, broken bits of furniture, decay. The tennis courts were being reclaimed by weeds, the nets on the basketball hoops were disintegrated, and the only reason I knew there was a baseball diamond was the batting fence – the rest had returned to arid desert. I slunk about in the dark, trying not to be spotted trespassing by the occasional car that passed, and left early enough to leave under the cover of darkness and moonshadows.

I’m now in Salida, which is a nice littel town. I met a man at the laundromat as I stood around in my rain gear, my clothes tumbling away in the machines, and he was an authentic miner working a claim he filed up on some huge mountain near by. That’s like something out of the late eighteen hundreds; most miners work for big companies now, not on their own just shipping away at some random bits of rock. He has had some success, though. Apparently he found, a couple years back, the largest aquamarine gemstone ever found in North America. As I was talking to him, a woman asked me where I was staying, and then offered a place at her home. Yay! I am so lucky! I was given the old carriage house, which had a small kitchen, a bathroom and shower, internet, a bed, and even a clean towel. Jen and her family just moved to Salida to start a sustainability retreat center on a beautiful, vistorian-esque piece of property, which I delighted in occupying, if only briefly.

I’m headed ever south, over a series of passes in the next couple days and down to Del Norte. The weather looks lovely, save for some possible thunderstorms in the afternoons, but I can dig it. I’m getting into the rapid swings from being waterless and hiding in the shadows, to sleeping in the swanky, converted carraige house of an old Victorian estate. What can I say – I like surprises.

Advertisements