The Wilderness Hunter

exploring colorado in all seasons


As usual, I am finally able to catch up on my posts and photos from the summer. We had a family trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon planned for mid-July, and I was excited for it. Preparing myself both mentally and photographically, I had purchased new memory cards for my 7D, another pair of batteries, a wireless remote trigger, a couple of books on some good places to shoot, but the most exciting of all; new lenses. Well, I should qualify that, I was *renting* new lenses. There are web based companies that rent all kinds of photographic equipment, so I thought I would give it a try, since I wanted the crispness in the photos that only an L-series Canon lens can offer. At first I had a list a mile long of gear I wanted to rent for the trip, but had to trim it to meet a budget, and decided on a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II wide angle and a Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L telephoto. Four thousand dollars worth of camera glass was mine to use for a week! Pardon the geek out moment, I still get excited thinking about it. However, one minor detail would set things back a day, its always the little things. We had planned to leave on Saturday morning and meet the rest of the family, and continue on our journey. I had set up my lens rental to they would be delivered on the Friday before we left, so checking the UPS tracking number for my package, I saw everything was on schedule. When I checked the tracking info Friday afternoon, the package was being returned to the sender! Called to find out what the hell was happening, and I had transposed two numbers in my house address, causing UPS to believe the address didn’t exist. They were awesome to work with, and they would have another package sent to me overnight so I could get on my way as planned. My replacement package was set to arrive at 10:30 Saturday morning, well past the time we were planning to be on the road, except that said package didn’t arrive until 12:45. The family caravan had left already and we were going to meet them in Green River, Utah, a kind of mid point between home and North Rim, Arizona.

We were on our way, after my lovely wife Jen had finally decided to accompany me, with my truck acting as a pack mule. We carried most of the camping gear necessary for the entire group, so it was quite a load. And it was mid-July so it was hot. And there was traffic. Driving a loaded vehicle slowly uphill in the 90 plus degree heat is a recipe for a cooling system breakdown, and that is exactly what happened, though we didn’t really notice anything unusual until the traffic cleared up, but the engine temperature did not go down even when it started to pour rain. We had to finally stop near Silver Plume on I-70 and let things cool off before I could check the radiator and see what was going on, and it continued to rain. Jen had the idea to catch some of the rain water in a pan in case we needed to fill the radiator, and it was a good thing too, because all the coolant had boiled out in the slow crawl in the heat earlier. Once on the road again, we had to stop periodically to put more water in the radiator, and we did this all the way to Glenwood Springs. Now I will tell you that modern engines operate at a temperature just at or below the boiling point of water. That being said, every time we go going again, and the engine got up to operating temperature, the water in the radiator would turn to steam and force itself out of the tiny stress cracks that had formed in the radiator, slowly opening those tiny cracks to bigger cracks. After we limped into Glenwood Springs and diagnosed the problem, I had to come up with a solution. Unfortunately no auto parts store in Glenwood had a radiator for my truck, so it would have to do with a patch, and a patch would not be good enough for a trip across the desert in July. After a couple phone calls to the family waiting for us in Green River, we decided we couldn’t join them at the Grand Canyon, even though we had most of the camping gear they would need. Extremely disappointed, but not the least bit deterred, Jen and I decided to at least enjoy our time together in beautiful Glenwood Springs.

We had both spent plenty of time in Glenwood Springs over the years, swimming in the hot springs pool, meditating in the vapor caves, et cetera, but never had the occasion to walk around much. There are plenty of attractions in the town to distract a couple of stranded travelers. The Colorado Hotel built in the 1890’s, the Hot Springs Pool built around the same time filled with the natural hot mineral springs the town gets its name from, the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves, under ground caves that fill with therapeutic steam from the same hot springs, Doc Holliday’s grave up on the hill side south east of town. All I can say is that I was glad we didn’t breakdown some place boring. We took full advantage of all these distractions while I formulated a fix for the radiator. It actually became an adventure in itself, and we were having a great time! We began to realize that sometimes we take things for granted just because they are close or familiar. Growing up in Colorado and swimming at the hot springs pool innumerable times, I had never seen Doc Holliday’s grave, didn’t know there was a small frontier museum in an old house in downtown Glenwood, and that walking around downtown was kind of fun in itself! We had with us a small stuffed penguin we found on a hike a few years ago. We call him Hugsy, and started placing him in spots we visited and taking some pictures, and it became quite the game. We perused the gift shops and laugh at the T-shirts and other things that touted “5,761 feet elevation” as something special; at home we are at 5,420′. Then realized that we were in a town that subsisted now on tourism, rather than the railroad junction that created it. Never the less, it is the duty of the locals to trivialize what is extraordinary to visitors, and we did so with amusement. We were making lemonade out of lemons, and decided to stay another night and patch up the radiator in the morning.

When morning came, we went to the auto store and bought some patch putty and some tools, and I pulled the truck under a tree in the hotel parking lot and began to remove the radiator so I could find the troublesome leak and plug it. I was missing a large crescent wrench (since I can fix most anything with WD40 and a crescent wrench), when I caught the maintenance guy and asked if he might have one I could borrow. A nice guy name Cody said he would check, and brought us back a crescent wrench and some paper towels, and took an interest in what I was doing. He was a great help and left us a small gift in our room that meant a lot to us, and his help was immensely appreciated. With the leak fixed, and proper coolant in the radiator, we decided to meander our way home, continuing the adventure by stopping at places along the way that we would have just driven by, and did so on many occasions. Took a detour south from Glenwood to stop at a little known spot called Hayes Creek Falls, which I had discovered by accident years before. Stopped at the top of Vail Pass to appreciate a cookie and some cool fresh air, stopped again at an overlook to admire Dillon reservoir and Peak One soaring above Frisco, pulled off to overlook the Georgetown Loop Railroad, and finally took a detour to see Buffalo Bill’s grave situated above Golden on Lookout Mountain. I’m a sucker for that kind of historical stuff, but yet another place I had not visited before. We finally arrived home tired and happy that we had fun even with the broken vehicle, and decided to continue our funtime the next day.

When we woke, I suggested we head north from home and visit Boulder Falls where North Boulder Creek spills through a short steep side canyon spilling into Boulder Creek, and then on to Estes Park for a relaxing day of togetherness in another mountain town. Boulder Falls was “closed” but that didn’t stop us, or many other people from ducking under the chain and walking up to see the falls anyway. With the recent rain the falls were roaring, though water falls in Colorado are relatively short, they are still impressive during runoff in the spring and just after a good summer thunderstorm had rolled by. On the way up to Estes Park from Boulder, we took the scenic route through Allenspark. Writing this now though, most of the area has been devastated by the 100 year flood that swept through in September, and the roads we drove are closed as much of them have been washed into the canyons and creeks they follow. Overall it was the best detour that I have ever had to take, even though we didn’t get to the Grand Canyon. Besides, the canyon has been there millions of years, it will still be there next year!

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