Second Stop: Colo(rad)o Pt. 1

There is a reason why the word “rad” is in Colorado. It’s such a plentiful, amazing, beautiful state! I was lucky enough to be able to explore many different areas of Colorado during the second part of my end-of-the-summer solo trip. Colorado has been my second home away from Oregon my entire life; half of my family live there. So I have been able to experience the wonderful state for years, but this time was so much more fulfilling! I was able to explore practically the entire southern area of the state, west to east, and then some.

When I left Moab, UT, I pointed my wheels toward Marvel, Colorado. The tiniest, little town, with population, roughly, 50. There is one elementary school, a post office, and a church. So one could say Marvel is possibly the most interesting town in the U.S.! The best part about this sweet little town is Sheridan Packer lives there and this is why Marvel was my next destination. Sheridan has been one of my best friends since high school, and it had been too long since I’d seen her, so it was an anticipated drive!

The drive from Moab to Marvel went from desert and canyons, to rolling plains, to mountains and pine trees with a side of open plains. The little towns I drove through gave off the vibes of serendipity, and were spotted with the arts and crafts of the Navajo and Southern Ute Native American peoples. It’s absolutely amazing to take the time to drive through different areas of America. The cultures, societies, and landscapes flow in a change that’s so subtle and different from the last. Yet, at the same time the change is so quick and sometimes even dramatic. It’s so compelling to experience. The drive was about three hours long and I arrived in Marvel around two in the afternoon. Sheridan called me prior to my arrival to give me directions and to tell me to meet her at the post office because her house is tricky to find, and can you believe it?! I couldn’t find the post office. Being practically the only thing in the entire town and I drove right by it. I had to laugh at my blonde self for that one because it was too ridiculous. But alas! I found Sheridan and she found me and we were once again reunited. I parked my car in front of her adorable farm house and was greeted by all  her precious fur babies. Her dogs were a definite highlight in my whole trip.

That afternoon Sheridan and I drove into Durango, Co and walked around downtown. Durango is absolutely enchanting and gorgeous. It’s tucked down in a valley with mountain ranges and plateaus on either side. Highly recommend everyone take a visit to the cute little, old railroad town. The next morning we left around 8 and were on our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. My visit overlapped with a family gathering Sheridan had to attend there, so I just tagged along! When we arrived in Albuquerque, we went to Sheridan’s grandparents. Awaiting there for us were homemade pie cookies and an endless amount of food Sheridan’s grandma had prepared. Talk about living the dream! After lunch, we set off to explore Albuquerque. Dressed up in dresses and sandals, we decided to go on a hike. Naturally. We took just a short drive to a trail head where we parked and set off on our fancy dressed, hiking escapade. The scenery was stunning, with different species of cacti, wild flowers, deciduous trees, and pines dispersed thickly throughout the area. We hiked along the well groomed trailed for only about 3/4th of a mile before we decided to turn around. Both Sheridan and I have it set to go back to that trail one day and hike to the peak of the Sandia mountain. We returned to Sheridan’s grandparents and left to the family gathering party where we shared lots of laughs and indulged in more delicious food. After the party Sheridan, her sister, Alyssa, and I had plans to drive to the peak of the Sandia Mountains (there is a paved road that leads up to the peak) so at around 11pm we set off to find the road. It took a good hour to figure out where the correct road was, but after a couple phone calls, and some U-turns, we found the correct path. The view from the top was stunning! The lights of Albuquerque stretched far and wide and shone so extravagantly. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a big-city kind of person, but experiencing sights like looking out over all of Albuquerque, New Mexico from the top of a mountain in the middle of the night really makes one appreciate all a big city has to offer.

The next morning we parted ways with Sheridan’s grandparents and we headed over to the New Mexico state fair. We explored the ginormous gathering of people, animals, food, old cars, and carnival rides for a few hours until we had seen everything there was to see, so we slipped away and pointed our wheels back toward Marvel.

We awoke that morning to me asking, “Do you want to go get tattoos?”. Yes. So that’s what we did. We left the tattoo parlor and headed straight to a trail head. Probably not a very sanitary idea considering our new tattoos were on our feet and lower legs, but that didn’t seem to matter. We hiked to the peak of Engineer Mountain, which over looked Durango. I very clearly remember the wind being so intense it almost blew me over a couple times, but besides that, it was stunning! Durango is so adorable.

The crazy adventure Sheridan and I went on the next afternoon was adrenaline filled, to say the least. Being the brilliant beings we are, we came up with the clever idea to drive up Kennebec Pass. Sheridan’s Jeep did wonders on the moderately sketchy dirt road leading up to the peak of the mountain. However, we thought the road we were on was bad…. little did we know it would not even compare to the road we so intelligently decided to drive up to get to the very top of the summit. When we reached the top, there was a parking area with informative signs that discussed the wildflowers, trees, and wildlife of the area, but there was a road that veered to the right to drive to the very peak if any one wished. We wished. And we very much regretted. The road was a one way, thin, dirt lane, with a straight drop off off one side and a wall of jagged rock on the other. All was well until we got about 10 feet from the itty bitty turn around that lived at the very top; the road stair stepped. It’s nearly impossible to paint the picture of complete, absolute fear that filled the Jeep within the 0.2 seconds when we both laid our eyes on the literal rock stairs that zigzagged up the face of the mountain. With the Jeep becoming so quiet one could hear Sheridan’s hand bones breaking from gripping the steering wheel so tightly, we slowly inched our way up the dreaded, horrific stairs. It wouldn’t have been so horrifying if there wasn’t a straight drop off, off the side of a mountain a foot away from the side of us. I have to admit, the view from the top made seeing our lives flash before our eyes worth it. It was ravishing. Driving back down the stairs? Not so ravishing. But with at least three wheels on the ground, we intricately teetered back down the road.

That night we went into Durango and tapped into our teenage selves again. Laughing, riding bikes, and long-boarding down the sidewalk at 10 at night with a group of friends really puts what “living” is into perspective. That is exactly what living is.

The next morning I would be leaving Sheridan and Marvel and Durango and going to Kit Carson, Colorado. Another little “population, 50” town where my grandparents live. My time spent with Sheridan really bettered the both of us, and lifted us into a state of pure happiness, if not only for a couple days. The memories and pictures we now share will last us a lifetime, and so will our friendship. I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life to share such phenomenal experiences with. I began this trip with the intent of it being purely solo, but I discovered no matter where I go or what I do, even if I am by myself, I won’t ever be alone.

Find people who you can be your real self around; people who accept you and appreciate you for who you are. Find people who you can be wild with and who won’t question or snark at you when you want to go dance in the rain; but who will gladly dance with you.

Happy Hiking. Happy Days.

Nettie Pitman

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Sandia Peak overlooking Albuquerque, NM

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Engineer Mnt.

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Kennebec Pass La Plata Canyon, CO

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