New Mexico/Colorado- F1D's, Peaks and a Velorution

The F1D! Eduardo has built several of these hyper-light rubber band powered planes and flown them in competition around the world.  Before he became a "Chilecan" and started buying gallon sized jars of mayonnaise at Costco, he rolled into the States with two 1950's era suitcases. One held his entire model building kit; the other a few Corbusier books and one change of underwear.  This F1D weighed in at 1.5 grams of balsa, mylar, and tungsten wire with a few extra non-structural pieces of balsa.  White Nikes required: F1D

The Colonel took a nap in the back of a bright red GTI as we noodled northeast up to Santa Fe to check out more of New Mexico on my petrol powered way to Denver.  Barb connected me with her friend Jami Tarris who lives on a beautiful piece of land outside of Santa Fe.  Jami and her husband Theo are world-class wildlife photographers who have shot and traveled all over the world.  Jami is of the nicest, most genuine people I've ever met and entertained me with one story after another about their trips and times off-grid and asked some pointed questions about my own journey.  I didn't get to meet Theo but I suspect if I had I never would have left...

After letting Nick's barbershop go to town on my head and facial mange, I said goodbye to Santa Fe and headed up to Taos and staked a claim in Arroyo Seco for a few days to enjoy multiple waffle cone cookie dough ice cream cones at the Taos Cow and the pervasive artist community vibe.

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I chatted up a "peak bagger" in the Wheeler Peak trailhead parking lot before an early morning start on the highest peak in New Mexico at 13,159 ft.

While socked in from the evening's previous rain, the "rhike" up to the summit in limited visibility had a cool eeriness.  

Dropping back down from the summit to just above 11,000 ft. the cloud cover showed glimpses of lifting and the inevitable debate in my head began:

"You should go back up. It may clear up."

"Back up?? That's back up 2,00 vertical feet and one little patch of blue doesn't mean jack."

"Come on, you don't have anything else to do today."

"Shut the hell up."

"Don't be so soft. See if you can catch that guy before he gets to the summit..."

"I told you..."

After an awesome day on Wheeler Peak, I packed up the following morning, bid goodbye to Arroyo Seco and headed to Ojo Cliente to slather up in the mud and lay in the sun like a lizard next to the Corte Madera crowd spa'ing in their beige Ojo robes.  Having been fortunate enough to experience Zumthor's Therme Vals, I was a bit skeptical of the Attack's spiritual awakening at Ojo but the spa had a cool New Mexico charm: humming generators mixed with Enya; exposed pipes rusting against a beautiful desert background; New Agers feeling the energy; Fidget'ers fidgeting without their cell phones, and a pseudo dirt bag who used the iron pool as an opportunity to launder his one pair of shorts... Sorry - no photos allowed.

With shorts drying on me as I drove, I crossed the state line and headed to Durango to check out the town and most importantly to drop off the Colonel at Velorution to have Joey work his magic.  Velorution is as legit as it gets when it comes to a bikepacker's dream store. Joey has bikepacked all over the place, is a crack mechanic and an all around great guy.  A monitor with streaming images of the Colorado Trail and Arizona Trail lets you know you're in the right spot.  He entertained all of my dumb BB questions with a smile and loaded me up with some extra essentials to carry down in South America. Looking forward to spreading the Velorution far and wide.

With the Colonel Rest Period (CRP) underway, I headed up the road to Silverton/Ouray to spend a few days hiking in the San Juans on portions of the Hardrock 100 course.  Silverton was a hard knocks mining town back in the day and still maintains its edge while letting a few new spots grace the street and cater to the summertime folks.

(CRP) Rhike 01 (Silverton): Ice Lake - round the bend to Island Lake - V2 summit.  

Set in an alpine bowl ringed with 13'ers, Ice Lake is a thing of beauty easily rivaling the color of Crater Lake in Northern California. The blues were amazing and made me wonder if taking water from it was a good idea or whether I was ingesting some mineral content that would rear its ugly blue head later.  

A short pop around the corner opened up to Island Lake with a squiggly Hardrock scramble in the distance calling my name.

Nothing makes you feel smaller and more insignificant than standing in the middle of the San Juans; they are an awesome geological spectacle.

A blue-bird day allowed for hours of gawking in all directions from the summit of V2 at just a touch over 13,000 ft.

Dotty and here crew snapped this summit pick.  As multiple groups of ATV'ers roam the dirt roads up here and tick off fire-road summits with cold beer in hand, Dotty stands as an inspiration to all of those who claim they're too old to hike them.  I'm guessing she's mid to late 60's and has summited most of the peaks in the San Juans and surrounding areas; a true inspiration full of great energy.

Linking Silverton and Ouray is the famed Red Mountain Pass road that was absolutely on fire with aspens in all of their fall glory.  Having grown up griping about all the old biddies jamming up traffic gawking at the New England maple colors, things had came full circle as I craned my neck from side to side and jammed up every turn-out.

CRP Rhike 02 (Ouray): Bear Creek Trail - Engineers Pass - bushwhack - Yellow Jacket back to Bear Creek.

Bear Creek Trail, south of Ouray, served up and awesome mixture of trail types starting with an exposed stretch of mining trail hugging the side of Bear Creek Canyon.

Thankfully not via ferrata exposure transitioned to a lovely stretch of aspens stepping back from the canyon

that eventually opened up into a huge alpine bowl leading up to the summit of Engineers Pass.  I bushwhacked around the corner of the ridge to the right opting to avoid sharing the road for a bit with the winded ATV'ers.

Good time to work on my triangulation skills in preparation for my next mid life break fastpacking the CDT...

A few well placed trail posts in the distance got me back on course and heading down towards Yellow Jacket mine and back into the canyon.

I know it's a generality, but our generation is quite squishy relative to the miners back in the day.  The steel they hauled up into the hills is astonishing not to mention they were mining year round at around 12,000 ft and not whinging about switchbacked sore feet over a post hike beer on the roof deck of the Ouray Brewery...

CRP Rhike 03 (Silverton): Highland Mary Lake - Verde Lake - Colorado Trail loop

After a bit of a switchback grinder reminiscent of some Tahoe trails, the Highland Mary Lake trail leveled out and served up stunning high alpine vistas of the San Juans in all directions.

Pure justice.

A momentary stretch along two bucket list trails in one... 

One thing is for sure, while the Colonel rests a bit, the ultra ember is getting stoked and making sure I am aware that we're not done yet...