Colorado was a long-awaited state for me, not only because it meant that I was closer to finishing this trip, but because I would get to see a long-time family friend, Alex. Outside of my immediate family, my extended family isn’t very big in numbers. And I even feel like my immediate family was too big, too busy, and too stretched out in ages, grades, sports, activities, over the country (sometimes world) to even have many family friends. We each had our own friends, but it was nearly impossible to have friends that 1. Knew each of my family member’s names 2. See them consistently enough. All of my oldest sister’s friends tell me the last time they saw me was when I was in a stroller. All of my friends didn’t even know I had many or any siblings other than Garth, because they were that much older than me. And any of my parents’ friends just weren’t really that close, except for select few. And Alex was one of those few.
Sure I hadn’t seen her in years, and our time together is always few and far between each other, but her mom and my mom had been friends since the 7th grade, so there was no doubt about reaching out to her, despite how crazy different we were.
The moment we arrived in Colorado, mountains appeared in the distance. It reminded Mely and I of when we desperately searched for a hotel near the Four Corners, and the closest one we could find was 40 miles out in Colorado. In the dark of that 40 miles, Mely looked to her right and noted how exceptionally dark it was in her window…until she realized it was the silhouette of mountains in pitch black. When we left Colorado that morning, we actually got to see the beautiful mountains. And that’s something that Colorado has better than any continental state in America. It’s gorgeous and proud.
Though the drive took a while, we still got to Alex’s apartment before she did. So her boyfriend let us in. We had never met. It was awkward. Not to mention, anybody could tell the large differences between our general interests. Here Mely and I were, clad in black, “alternative(?)” clothing, typically listening to indie, rock, and a dash of hardcore edge music. Here. In this apartment decked with hookahs, rapper posters, graffiti-printed cups, and other knick knacks that would never exist in Mely’s or my taste. So we kinda just hung back quietly to ourselves in the corner of their dining area, while he did his thing, too.
Alex came back, and she was very excited to catch up. We exchanged stories of our lives, and it turned out the last time Alex came to New Jersey, Mely was there too. They had briefly met, though Alex and I didn’t remember at all, but Mely only faintly did. It’s just really strange to me how it all connected to each other, somehow. Even though it’s clear why, it still is just funny to me for some reason. We asked Alex what Mely and I should do the next morning and she told us of Rocky Mountain National Park. Great! And here I sat, thinking that this girl and I had nothing in common, when really we both enjoyed hiking/camping. Neither of us did it a lot, but it’s what we grew up on. And although I was very involved with my music-loving, laptop-hugging, 21st century life, and she her very own seemingly rebellious life, we both could easily be extremely laid back hippies in a way. (Not just because we like camping/hiking, but we know what it’s like to rough it out, and can very easily manage without much of a care). You’d never be able to peg us for that, but it’s really neat that this was our bond.
So the next morning, Mely and I made our way. Like any National Park, it was gorgeous with sights and wildlife. We did very short, beginner trails around a little lake called Sprague Lake. I sat on a bench and took a good minute for myself just staring at the lake, the mountains, and the sky. The air was fresh. It felt good. It was brisk, but not too cold. Sounds corny, but nature always sounds like transcendental-hippie crap in writing until you do it yourself. Or at least in my experience.
We traveled up the mountains to find plenty of snow. We followed what we thought was a trail–and still was–but only just since the path and the nature didn’t differ much due to all the snow. The “trail” was more compacted and worn, but still feet high in snow. Mely and I danced around the ice as we walked with much needed walking sticks (branches that other nearby naturists had happily shared with us) .01 miles probably, to the lake. Which was also covered in snow. Had it not been for the inch of sign left (AKA uncovered by snow), and for the wide open space with no trees, we would have had no idea that a frozen lake sat beneath us. Happy snowmen greeted hikers from the lake, so naturally we took photos with our new nature buddy.
We traveled further up the mountain where I found a very tall rock to sightsee some other mountains. I had Mely take my picture because it seemed impressive. But probably what impressed me most, apart from how high up I fearlessly was, was that alone: I was fearless. The fresh air loved my face, and the short climb up felt like real, solid work. Cathartic in a way. Rock climbing is a lot more brain activity than you would think, It’s a real mind game. And it felt good to practice best/easiest ways up and down with my head and my body. So it was me and nature, and the happy near-end of the trip, and the memories of rock climbing at Mohonk in New York with Alex, and the powerful, although lonely, fearless me.
I think a lot of people picture road tripping as an exploration of land, but also discovery of self. So much time with your own thoughts and with close ones can be very expansive, but in my case, I had a lot of other trips like that. This day with Rocky Mountain National Park made me realize that for a break–road tripping your own country isn’t always the best. You can (doesn’t mean you will) find yourself feeling just as stuck in your own head, no matter how many other distractions and new sights surround you. Road tripping is more than just gorgeous sights and exploration and culture. It’s work. And me climbing that rock–even though it took 2 minutes–was work. Me driving 10,000+ miles was just as much exhausting as it was work, but the exhaust took away from the pride. It’s like when you make something on your own; there’s a lot of pride in that. And I somehow found a lot of pride in some dumb rock (no Lion King reference/pun intended).
Before we knew it, we were losing daylight. It was still the beginning of April, and though no other land beneath the high altitudes of the mountains didn’t have snow, we still were basically in Winter modes. Which is half of what made Nevada so much damn fun. But that is for another blog.
We headed back early since Alex didn’t live terribly close to RMNP. And we enjoyed some Buffalo Wild Wings in her town. We only slept one more night before we prepped for an early trip out. But what’s Colorado without Denver? I guess I mostly have a sense of that answer, since I hardly visited Denver…except for some claimed best authentic Native American fry bread place called Tocabe. The dessert fry bread, drizzled with honey and powdered sugar was a good breakfast for me before we headed out for Salt Lake City, Utah.