Reaching Climax

Johnson Tunnel, Camp Dick, and other things along the road

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From Salida we traveled north on 285, gaining a spectacular view of the Collegiate Peaks to our west (Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, Mt. Harvard).  Once on highway 24 we stopped for breakfast at Jan’s Family Restaurant in Buena Vista, a lovely dining place with amazing food (the omelet must have been made with a dozen eggs, and the Huevos Rancheros was a giant plate size spectacle slathered with refried beans and green chili sauce).

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Once in Leadville, highway 91 took us to Frisco and I70 via Climax, Colorado, also known as Freemont Pass, at 11,318 feet. On the way down we passed through the Johnson Tunnel and then found our way to Frisco and I70 was its usual catastrophe of high speed vehicles and bad drivers, but once we got off at Highway 6 the route turned frantically scenic.

The route into Estes Park involves highway 119 to Nederland, then highway 72 for 23 miles and finally highway 7 into the city. There seems to be four ways to travel this path. First and least popular, hitchhiking. We saw a father and two young children trying to catch a ride going south. Folks, you know, in movies this activity never turns out well, either for the hiker or the. . .picker-upper.

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Bicycling seems to be quite popular, though I can’t imagine it is very relaxing. There are more hills and twists and turns than candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential ticket, and the cyclists we saw seemed to be in genuine (not imagined) pain, spinning their tires in the lowest possible gear and moving up a 7% grade at about 5 feet per minute.

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Motorcycles (or choppers, baby) were also prevalent. Here’s a tip: don’t flip off the roving packs of cyclists you see on the road—they’ll follow you for miles.

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Cars were by far the vehicle of choice, and from your car you can see plenty of scenery on the way and occasional turn outs, but don’t expect to see a gas station or any semblance of civilization once you’re past Nederland. There is Camp Dick, just south of Estes Park; recreation.gov will give you more information about this seminal camping institution.

Wanna see my beaver?

Camping at Ohaver Lake

Warning: this post contains raw, uncensored, wet, naked beaver shots.

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Ohaver lake sits at 9,000 feet above sea level, about 3.5 miles off highway 285 just eight miles south of Salida, Colorado.  The word “Idyllic” barely begins to describe this camping spot. You can reserve a site on this newly remodeled campground by going to www.recreation.gov for about $20 a night. Nicely shaded, each site has a fine tent pad, a fire ring, and a picnic table. All sites are close to vault toilets and water.

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Most of the campers arrived in RVs, but we did it the old fashioned way, in a tent. Be prepared for extremes in weather. When the sun is out it feels hot, but at night (we were there June 10-13) it gets downright cold, and we didn’t feel a damn bit guilty about sitting in the car when we woke up and it was 38 degrees outside. Be prepared for afternoon rains. During one of these rainstorms the wind was gusting so fiercely it nearly collapsed our tent.

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There are fish in Ohaver lake. In the mere hour or so that we tried to catch some the fishes were not eating what we offered, but the fly fishermen floating around with flippers in little inflatable boats seemed to be having better luck.

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There is a path that circles the entire lake and makes and excellent evening walk. During one of these we saw this beaver, whom we named Melvin, frolicking in the water.

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Pictures do not do this place justice. It might be one of the most beautiful places on earth. A perfect place to get engaged.

Politics Free Suzy G

Our Recalcitrant Window Driver

Suzy Garmin is our navigator. We stick her to the window, plug her in, enter the destination, and she tells us—in her non-melodic, slightly nasal fembot voice—how to get there. “In one and a half miles, take the exit, on the right, to Highway 69 south,” or “when the road ends, turn left.” She can lead us to the nearest Starbucks, or grocery, and is totally apolitical when it comes to directions. Hers are always the most efficient routes, on the fastest roads, in the quickest time, and for this we love her.

Except when we’re not in a hurry.

Heading north from Salida, Colorado, our destination was Estes Park. Suzy’s plan was to take us N. on 285 and directly into the Denver area via 470 and then through Boulder. Ugh. Just because George W. Bush destroyed the nation’s economy doesn’t mean I have to drive around Denver. I’d sooner vote for Mitt Romney than drive on crazy, crowded highways (and by the way, you other drivers out there: you’re all assholes). I had already planned my route, and it is a good one. Take 285 N to 24 W, then hook up with Colorado 91 and pick up Interstate 70 at Frisco. Once I got on 24 W, Suzy recalculated and, in a surprisingly reluctant voice, gave in to my route choice, at least until we hit 70. Suzy was sure that we wanted to drive right into Denver and pick up on the route she’d originally planned, but when I took the highway 6 exit (exit 244, on the left), she recalculated again and seemed genuinely pissed. She even tried to loop me back to 70 via highway 40, but Colorado 119 to 72 to 7 is much more scenic, far less traveled, and genuinely peaceful.

We arrived safely in Estes Park and all is well.  Suzy must have forgiven us, because she seemed pleased to tell us:  “you have arrived at your destination.”  One thing to note about this route: there are no gas stations or places to stop and leave pee (unless it is in a bush or a stream).