Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Western Slope

It was a cold, crisp morning in Washington Park in Denver yesterday morning. Crunching along atop the beaten-down pathways through the snow in the park, I ran just under six miles in just under an hour with RBF friend Cew Two and his dog Molly and friend Tom. It was a vacation pleasure. Although overcast, the western sky was deep blue and endless, unlike its eastern counterpart.

Two circuits around the park completed the task. Charlie is an interesting guy, a mountain biker, avid runner and lover of jeeping in the back country. We ran by a lifesize scuplture of Wynken, Blynken and Nod circumnavigating the celestial sphere in their dreamy shoe. It made me think of another time and three little boys from so long ago in my life.

I had many miles to go before I slept, so I bid adieu to my friends and headed west into the mountains. Charlie had already presciently pointed out to me that the towering snow-capped Rockies, ordinarily so easily seen behind the foothills, were invisible in the haze. Not a good sign, this Denver native observed. How true!

Passing by Golden, I drove through my old stomping grounds on I-70 as a State Trooper in Jefferson County from twenty-five years earlier, the Hogback, Evergreen, Chief Hosa, Buffalo Herd Overlook, Buffalo Bill's Grave. Each name conjured up a distant yet distinct memory of a stop, a motorist assist, a call for backup, or a spectacular wreck. At Georgetown the portent of what lay ahead manifested itself in swirling snow, white roadways and long lines of semis lining the shoulders whose drivers were putting chains on them to comply with the chain law in effect at Eisenhower Tunnel and on Vail Pass.

It took two hours of white-knuckle driving to get from there through Glenwood Canyon. The snow drifts piled alongside the guardrails from plowing this winter were the highest I had ever seen them, some almost completely engulfing precautionary signs placed alongside the roadways saying such things as "7% Downhill Grade Next 8 Miles."

I passed one accident scene where two cars had spun off into opposite borrow pits, with a State Trooper already on scene, and another site where a spooked driver was sitting behind the wheel off his vehicle pointing the wrong way on the Interstate, fresh shiny tracks in the icy mix of slush and hardpack that was the roadway showing how his car had gained too much speed, cut loose and swapped ends, and slid to a stop backwards. What a ride!

The heights of the Rockies successfully navigated, I visited my 90-year old Aunt in Parachute for a delightful two hours. She lives up there alone, hooked up to oxygen and reading her mail via an optical enlargement machine due to her macular degenerative condition, which makes her unable to see. She is a spry, remarkable person who is a true representative of the pioneer spirit that once infused most Coloradans. I left with regret because I enjoy seeing her and love listening to her interesting tales that span almost a century. They encompass observing her father, a plains-town dentist, swapping services for chickens during the Depression to listening to her neighbors complain about the current drilling going on for natural gas in the high country during these energy-starved times.

As the sky turned steel-gray in the late afternoon, I pushed on westward through Grand Junction. It was dark and snow flurries were falling by the time I arrived in Montrose on the western slope. I checked into a into a motel with the hope of seeing the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on the morrow if weather conditions permitted.

At 3 am, with my body feeling like it was 5 am because I was still on east-coast time, I arose and clocked off a mile with my car on deserted Main Street. I then ran up one side of this sleeping farm community's business district and back down the other, peering into storefronts and noting the old style western architecture on each block. The 5830-foot altitude made my breathing labored and my legs leaden, but the two-mile run in the 21 degree temperature was peaceful and gave me hope for my further travels. The snow had stopped.


Just12Finish said...

Hehe - I'm just watching the sunrise here in CST, reading your post about running THIS morning in MST!

CewTwo said...

I loved the run, too. Washington Park this morning probably has several hundred runners experiencing a run.

We had a lightning snow storm in Denver last night. It became an interesting evening as a bolt of lightning hit a house 3 away from mine. The concussion felt like it was going to throw me off the couch. 4 of the circuit breakers for my house blew. Outside was the strong smell of ozone turning to the smell of burning wood.

The street was soon alive with lights and emergency vehicles. It seems the lightning hit the tree in front of their house then simultaneously hit the ground and the roof at about the same time. The ground went right to the gas meter causing a small explosion.

So, my day was very interesting yesterday. I got to meet you. That was cool all by itself. Then it ended just as dramatically.

Some days are like that!

Thanks, Peter!

Sunshine said...

Great running/travel description. Snowy driving was an adventure, and good when safely over, too.
Don's niece lives in Gunnison. Beautiful country.
February! temps moderated in MN.

jeanne said...

beautiful post! you write like bill bryson. terrific description.

nice to meet fellow rbf-ers, and lucky you to have such a neat aunt. i hope i'm that interesting and self-sufficient at 90. though, i'm not that interesting and self-sufficient NOW, so...

DawnB said...

I was a little confuse wasn't sure if you were in DC or Denver. You would have enjoyed your day in DC wonderful day for running. Way to get it done. Good that you met up with with some RBF's.

Make peace with those boys of yours.

Good driving by the way.

Anonymous said...

Glad you're having a good trip!

I bet your Aunt really enjoyed your visit :)

Bex said...

What a great trip. And how cool that you got to see your aunt, who still seems quite sharp. There's lots of snow in Tahoe, too - E. was up there shoveling snow off our roof earlier today. Hey, I ran another long race yesterday.

Susan said...


I really think that you could make a living as a travel writer!

Charlie is GREAT, isn't he?

Your aunt sounds very impressive. And obviously the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!