June 13: Happy birthday to my big brother. 🙂
Altitude sickness symptoms persisted, but eased once we dropped about 1,000 feet later in the day. Len got up early, but I slept in until seven (we’d crossed another timeline and gained an hour so it was really eight), had granola, coffee (Len had it ready when I got back from showering), and grapefruit juice. We sat in the sun, put the umbrella up for shade, and then, because we had WiFi, spent some time online. While we were working, someone at the campground began to play Taps on a bugle, then Reveille, then The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, then Reveille again. I found it rather entertaining—both the music and Len’s irritation with the music.
We checked out and cruised down into Central City, hit the Safeway for that sewing kit I’ve been wanting, as well as a few more incidentals–all entirely boring everyday stuff that most of us take for granted until we’re roughing it and suddenly soap becomes the most miraculous of luxuries.
After re-icing the cooler, we took a tour of the ARGO Mine and Mill, a fascinating historical site from the industrial revolution. Our guide (Wyatt) was a young guy, knowledgeable and personable, and he didn’t shy away from any of our questions—and we had a ton. Most of the mine was still intact (although some of the larger cast-iron machinery had been taken and repurposed for the war effort during WWII.) We were the on
ly ones on the tour and he took us through everything, including into part of the mine, through every level of the five-story mill building, and at the bottom we panned for gold. I had four gold flakes and Len had five (but who’s counting?). I also had a tiny grain of bright red garnet (Tomato!). In the gift shop I bought an ammonite fossil, 390 million years old. I’m such a nut for fossils and the natural world as it existed in a geologic time–as far removed from us today as the surface of Jupiter. It’s like staring into space and trying to fathom what we’re seeing (including light from stars that may already have died). Mind blowing. (And no, I have not been sampling the legal weeds of Colorado, merely getting by on much less oxygen than usual.)
Don’t tell Len, but I had a man named Boyd Crowder on my mind all day. Given all the mining stuff we saw (drills, dynamite, shakers, slurry, smelting, sledgehammers), I suppose that’s Justified.
We had sandwiches on the road, Len went to a car wash after all the dusty switchback roads, and then we turned into Golden Gate Canyon State Park, only to find that they had just put down a heavy layer of black oil sludge on the road for “dust-reduction.” If you know Len, you can imagine how thrilled he was—in his newly washed white Jeep and white teardrop trailer.
Our campsite was lovely, 9,100 feet in elevation. Feeling pretty good, just a little tired, but that should pass. The wind was howling, though, so instead of the planned salad–we’d have been chasing it all over the picnic table—we had a Tex-Mex dish with ham and corn from the freezer, hot sauce and spices and chopped scallions from my garden back home.
Campsite reading: The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant. So good!! (Also, ceck out my old-faithful leather hiking boots–a pair that I’ve had and loved for years and worn for hundreds of miles of trails–they’re no longer any good for the sustained heavy weight of backpacking, but still great for daily wear, especially after Len oiled them and spiffed them up while I was in Florida.)
Random gearhead facts: If there’s ever a second Overland vehicle in our future it will have a gas tank larger than 13.6 gallons and definitely have more than four cylinders.
Lessons Learned: The Coleman stove we bought sucks. Let me count the ways: the push-button ignition is intermittent; the windscreens collapse in the slightest breeze; it has two burner levels (OFF, and FOREST FIRE); lots of heat is wasted and it takes forever even for water to boil; the burner controls don’t lock into the off position so it’s easy to turn on the propane and get a rush of gas before you’ve thought about turning the knob to light it. Yes, a higher quality camp stove is definitely in our future. We can keep this one for when the power goes out at home.
Next Up: Visiting friends in Lakewood on our way to Mueller State Park just west of Manitou Springs near Pike’s Peak.
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