A very cold morning in Ophir Colorado today. I made it just up to treeline last night before to set up camp passing through the sleepy old mining town and cutting off on a 4wd road up into the forest. Even though it was dark I could still see the outlines of the jagged peaks rising above the meadows of the valley. A storm was moving in.
I searched around in the dark doubling back on the dual track road and eventually settled on a place to camp among the aspen trees. Giving up I simply pointed the moto into the forest and drove it to a place that felt reasonably flat. The wind was howling and I could hear thunder in the distance and I hurried to get my tent setup.
Just as I was completing staking down the fly it began to rain. With each flash of lightning I counted in my head “one onethousand two onethousand” measuring the speed of the impending weather furry. I threw all of my delicates in the tent and fumbled with my riding gear removing my boots as the wind picked up.
I laid there in the dark watching through the screen of the sidewall the forest illuminate with the lightning flashes, it was right over me now and I feared for myself – caught somewhere between 10 & 11,000 feet in a colorado storm at the end of September. Winter comes early at this elevation and I knew it was gonna snow; already the rain had turned to hail and I sat worrying about just how much would accumulate. I was also suspicious of my choice in camping area as I was pushed right up against the base of a large pine – unfortunately it was some of the only moderately flat ground in the forest – and I had visions of me and my tent barbequed to a crisp – ribbons of electricity riveting down the tent poles and into the moist ground beneath me.
I laid back and tried not to think to much – that’s the thing with mountain storms – you just have to wait them out. I opened my book and laid on my side shuddering with each monstrous clap of thunder as it shook and echoed across the valley. I should of taken Paul up on his offer to stay another night in Telluride but I just couldn’t handle another night staying up to 2am and listening to his roomates watch cartoons and take bong rips hacking in the night. This was good I needed solitude – I needed to process the next leg of the trip I was about to undertake.
The temperature was dropping and rivers of water began to flow beneath the tent. I pushed all of my belongings up to the higher corner of the space and pulled my sleeping back beneath be atop the thermarest pad. Amazingly enough I was getting a decent amount of sleep – lulled off by the falling rain of the the tent fly. I stood up to piss and returned to the tent shivering in the cold I put on all of my riding gear and stuffed myself back into my sleeping sack. Sometime before dawn when the whiter elements of the forest began make themselves visible in the impending morning I rustled to my side and peered out – all around me was frost and snow. I had done it – I had camped high enough to be in the snow line – I would just have to wait this one out.
When morning came the precipitation did not subside it simply morphed from slush to sleet and back to rain. “this is good” I said to myself “this will motivate me to head to the desert” for otherwise I would have never left Colorado in this fantastic season – in this majestic place, Telluride, with amazing people like Paul with mountain bikes and mountains to climb, and photos to take with the glorious foliage as an ever- present backdrop of liquid color.
Around noon I could take it no more the rain had not let up, however the morning snow had receded to higher elevation and I layered up horizontally in the tent – Putting on my rain gear and preparing to hit the road. I figured I would have to ride through the storm at least 2 hours before I cleared out of the mountains and into the plains near Mesa Verde national park – It had to be dry there – it was the desert, it had to be warm, yes it would be hot,” I thought to myself, “it will feel good to feel hot.”