Throw a Dart at a Map and Go…

I wanted to get lost.  I wanted no set plans.  I wanted freedom to change direction on the whim or stop at any unique roadside attraction.  I wanted to relax, have fun, explore, and do it all with the great company of A.  So naturally, we threw darts at a map as one of my 30 Things to do Before 31.

Darts on a Map

A few things to consider when planning, or not planning, a road trip based on the luck of a dart:

  1. This is not for control freaks
  2. Choose your partner(s) very wisely
  3. Pack for all types of weather and adventures, indoor or outdoor
  4. Bring along some water and snacks as you never know how long of a stretch you’ll go before seeing a gas station

Only having five days, we needed someplace within a days drive, so we printed out and created our own map that consisted of CO, WY, UT, AZ, and NM.  We agreed to throw three darts in the event that two land in Denver or the surrounding areas.  Then…we threw.  First dart landed in the Bridger-Teton National Forest just outside of Grand Tetons National Park!  Awesome first throw.  Second dart landed in Grand Junction, CO…ehh not much there.  And the third dart landed smack dab in the middle of Canyonlands National Park.  Overall, a lucky success.

Nibling transfixed by fire

Nibling transfixed by fire

Now we had to decide between heading north to the mountains, or passing through the Western Slopes and into Utah.  We decided to knock out two darts with one trip and jumped in the car to Utah.  There was one catch to this trip, we were already planning on camping along the Poudre River in Northern Colorado so it made sense from there to drive a large loop to Canyonlands, back through Grand Junction, and home.

 

#wokeuplikethis at Dinosaur National Monument

#wokeuplikethis at Dinosaur National Monument

Day/Night 1:  Camped with my brother, sister-in-law, and adorable nibling along the Poudre River.  Gorgeous landscape with Elephant Mountain in front of us, great company, good conversation, and delicious food.  What better way to start a road trip?

Day/Night 2: Headed West into Utah and stopped in Jensen to check out Dinosaur National Monument.  Our nerdy selves came out as we learned about the various dinosaurs that roamed our country including the Allosaurus (T-Rex), Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus), and my favorite, the Stegosaurus.

Swimming in Colorado RiverDay/Night 3: Made it into Moab where we hiked through a labyrinth of rock formations, touched dinosaur tracks, and lazed in the Colorado River – a natural swimming hole! That night we couched surfed with a friend in Moab after unwinding at Moab Brewery.

Day/Night 4 & 5: Fell in love on Gemini Bridges and explored the steep dirt roads and red trails of Canyonlands National Park…more to come

On our way home, we did swing through Grand Junction, CO for dinner.  Everything else was closed, so we headed back home to Denver.

I will leave you with a picture of my newest favorite place…

Gemini Bridges

Gemini Bridges

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Caught in a Rainstorm…

From the inside looking out

From the inside looking out

While walking with Ellie through my neighborhood, we were caught in a rainstorm. The skies were overcast and forecasted some fog and maybe a light drizzle. We were not prepared for what we got caught in, with me in some loose pants, a tank top and Ellie just freshly groomed.  This moment happened out of nowhere, and yet seemed so intentional.  Being caught unexpectedly in a rainstorm was on my list this year of 30 Things to do Before 31. How perfectly serendipitous.

So, I did what any rational human would do when caught in a complete downpour.  I just let life happen.  I stopped and focused on all of the feels.

I wanted to experience and be mindful of all that was happening. To listen to the sound of the rain pour down around me, hitting the garbage cans I stood near, the water crash against the leaves on the trees overhead, and the puddles that were quickly forming beneath.  To feel the water slide down my face and soak through my clothes. To feel the weight of my clothing get heavier with each additional second. To feel my hair slowly get plastered to my face and drip on my shoulders. To feel my socks get soaked through my shoes.  To watch Ellie attempt to shake off the water from her coat, only to be disgruntled with more water pelting her.  To capture the moment in its entirety.

That is what I experienced in that rainstorm.  Then something interesting happened, I realized that once you are already soaked that the feeling is, nice. I was able to walk, or run, or stomp through any puddle I desired. I could take my time and smile to the others who were running for shelter or frantically scrambling for any sort of cover.  I could appreciate this secret moment I was sharing with my dog.  Since it was raining, there was no way for me to capture it on camera or worry about any outside influence.  I was disconnected.  I was only present on this street in my neighborhood in the rain.

I was not in a hurry to get home.  I was not in a hurry for anything in that moment. I felt young and free.  This was mindfulness.  I was blissfully happy. 

Leaf peeping in Crested Butte…

IMG_3712

Crested Butte, CO

I have now lived in Colorado for almost three years and I still had not managed to get up to the mountains when the colors are changing and all of the Aspen are vivid golden. This year I planned accordingly, did some research, and timed the weekend perfectly.  I grabbed the dog and my dude for an adventure out towards the Western Slope.  We were headed to Crested Butte, Colorado for a lovely weekend of leaf peeping at the end of September.

Colorado Cider Company's Glider Cider

Colorado Cider Company’s Glider Cider

Crested Butte was a days drive from Denver, but well worth it.  We camped out on Irwin Lake, drove along Kebler Pass at roughly 10,000 feet in elevation, did some hiking in beautiful landscapes, quietly observed a few vast open meadows, stood in awe beneath the bright yellow Aspen trees, drank some local Colorado Cider Company’s hard cider by a campfire, and snuggled under the stars lit by the Harvest Moon.  

Harvest Moon over the lake

Of course, all of these activities were splendid in their own right, but the main purpose to camp out in the mountains was to go leaf peeping and experience the seasonal color change at its peak time, as part of my 30 Things to do Before 31 list.

Standing beneath Aspen and overlooking larger Aspen groves, I could not help but be enraptured by the rustling of the small oval leaves.  The sound may not have been exceedingly loud, but it was a uniquely soft sound like paper fluttering in the wind.  Stepping back and looking out at an entire grove, it is baffling to think that all of the trees are linked to just one (ancestor) tree that has spread its seedling to create an entire grove.  Aspen are alike my favorite tree, Willow, in this way as well as in the way that they grow small catkins, or flowers, and shed their leaves with the season changes.

Beneath theses golden giants

Beneath theses golden giants

What I was not prepared for, was how alike Aspen were to giant Sequoia that I grew up under.  Looking up, one is easily reminded of how small they are with these trees standing 49-98 feet tall.  Needles to say, I was overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia and peace being amongst these breathtaking wonders.   

Our last day in Crested Butte, we headed into town and meandered around the Farmer’s Market.  We picked up some locally brewed pumpkin ale and giant oyster mushrooms for some roasting at home.  I would say the timing could not have been more perfect for the season change and look forward to returning next fall.