Like many Colorado adventures, ours started in the THC- laden Mile High City. Sinuhe Xavier, my traveling companion and photographer for the trip, had taken a few days to drive his Eurovan from the east side of Los Angeles, picking me up DIA on the summer solstice. I had been in New York for a week prior, walking around the city from meeting to meeting, melting on the concrete while listening to cheers from World Cup festivities.
We drove straight from the airport to meet Mark Hansen, a friend and one of the founders of Topo Designs, for a tour of his new store and a couple of hi-fives. After a long, sandwich-filled lunch together, we got out of the city and made a quick stop in Silver Plume to see Dram Apothecary. The shop wasn’t open, so we kept heading west, our eyes set on the Loveland Pass.
We made it to a very chilly Continental Divide (11,990 ft.) in the afternoon, then slowly started to descend into Keystone, where we stopped to go to the bathroom at a shitty Mexican restaurant just outside of town. I watched two dreaded 20-somethings throw wet toilet paper at each other through the stalls, then ran back to the van so we could keep on moving.
We decided we’d camp for the night somewhere off of Shrine Pass, located at the northern end of the Sawatch Range, along the border of Eagle and Summit counties west of Frisco and northwest of Vail Pass. We started on the pass early, driving through a few mounds of snow, looking for a large open spot to watch the sun descend upon the longest day of the year. We found something within the first half-hour of driving, pulling the van in slowly and setting up a small camp before walking around to see our accommodations. We were in an old hunting camp, surrounded by pine and steep hills, with a damp bog that covered most of the western part of the large field. After moving to southern California a few months ago, it was fantastic to see signs of real water.
I lived in Colorado for four years while I was attending school in Boulder and Sinuhe had spent 10 years living in Vail, so we were both prepared for the “FOUR SEASONS IN A DAY” weather that could come at any moment. But on our first night, the night of the solstice, that first evening of adjustment from the stink of city life, we had nothing but sunshine and chilly winds.
The night was filled with maps, whiskey, fire and soup, a combination that would become a ritual throughout the entire week. We sat around a large flame for a few hours, catching up, talking about whatever it is you talk about when there’s whiskey and a fire, then quietly retired to our respective sleeping quarters at a respectable hiker’s midnight. I was on a tarp near the fire, Sinuhe in the top of his pop-top van. I savored the minute or two that I can stand being on my back in a sleeping bag, watched the stars, then slowly fell asleep to the loud sound of nothing. Whispering to myself in the most melodramatic voice I could muster, I shook my head and quietly repeated, “Col-o-rado. COL. O. RADO.”