We stayed at the Tunnel campground in the middle of Roosevelt National Park. It's straight West of Ft. Collins, and the winding road up has the Poudre River running alongside it, and it's a gorgeous, wild river, at least this year in this season. For the last decade, it's half dried up by July, but this year's spring and early summer have been cool, damp, and filled with rain and pollen. So all the rivers, waterfalls, and irrigation channels have been full of water.
Which, of course, meant that there was ground water everywhere up by us, and, therefore, the mosquitoes were everywhere. Not as bad as Florida, simply 'cause it wasn't nearly as hot, but in the twilight hours, there were plenty of critters. Luckily, the Florida Everglade strength mosquito be-gone stuff worked wonders for Jet and I, when we remembered to add another layer on at the appropriate times and disregard the "Wash skin and all clothing that this stuff touches before ever wearing it again, we mean it" warnings on the label.
But it also meant that we had three sets of deer through our camp site, there was wild life happily enjoying the ease of the water, and beaver had built not only dams but a whole lodge within a five minute walk of our site.
We were four families, so we took two sites, which could each hold two vehicles and as many tents as would fit on the tent pad. Luckily so, as Jet had his tent, and the other family that shared our site had one tent for each of their two kids and one for the parents. John and I slept in our Eurovan on an air mattress. No... we are not in it for the "hard" camping. *laughter*
Jet did great. He slept, alone, in his tent every night and had no trouble with it, at all. All the parents were impressed by him doing that, and when we praised him on it, afterwards he said that it was because of a Sunday school kids' message. The pastor had talked about being afraid, in the dark, and what the kids did about it. Mikayla had answered, "Just go to sleep." And that stuck with Jet, so when he heard sounds at night, he just "went to sleep" and trusted that it would be okay. And it was... and he grinned a lot about that, afterward.
That was pretty cool.
I love doing camp cooking, using the more minimal set of tools, fire sources, and utensils makes it more fun for me to cook and try and do a lot of different things that folks don't usually consider "camp food". There was the added challenge, the first night, that we didn't even know when everyone was going to arrive.
For the first night it was burritos, and I had fun pan frying onions and peppers until they were good and browned. I made a lime and cilantro coleslaw. I used two bags of my frozen pintos and cooked and mashed them into "refried" beans, rather than the canned ones. We had salsa, Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, hard Mexican goat cheese, and the cooked, seasoned pork the other family brought, and John bought some gorgeous whole wheat and corn tortillas from our local tortillaria. So everyone could customize their burritos the way they wanted 'em, and they all did and most of the adults had two, if not three. The kids all ate quesadillas. And everyone was happy and full by the time s'mores came out with the fire John had built.
Well smoked and stuffed, we all went to sleep. The air mattress kept sucking all the heat out of me the first night, so I had a hard time just sleeping that way, but finally dropped off after John had already gotten up for the morning. So I slept in pretty late, but they saved some breakfast for me, eggs with pepperoni and a few hash browns and melon. Yum.
No caffeine though, this will be touched on later. Heh.
A group of folks went fishing after breakfast, and I tagged along with the camera. The stream pretty much ran right next to our campsite, and we walked along it for a bit and came across a beaver dam that slowed and deepened the stream considerably. Then, just above it, the beavers had built a lodge, where they actually slept, and the lodge and its dam crossed the stream and made it flood an entire field. So that when we got there, we saw water trickling back into the stream from all across a field of flowers and trees! That was really impressive. So all the boys, big and little, got set up to fish and I took a lot of pictures out there of them all. Then one of the other moms and I went back to the sites and read.
I actually read. I haven't read since probably February. Not really sat down and read. Writing takes me to the same "other place" that reading does, but writing seems to occupy every given moment and brain cell. I don't know why, but I'd made three or four attempts at Emma Bull's Territory, but couldn't get into it until I was in a position where I had absolutely no possibility of electronic output or input. And it was good. I enjoyed the whole feel, the details, the grit, and the details of the China imported into the Chinese miner/laundry towns in the old West and how funny it is to think of Chinese in English. The magical bits were a bit wrenching, though, where consent has nothing to do with what power is traded. But... perhaps that's apt in a reality where power isn't always something just given to other.
But, really, Territory comes across as the first part of a much, much bigger story.
We'll see when she delivers the next part.
Lunch was good in the midst of all that. Each family was in charge of their own lunches. John made lunch, and I had a almond butter and mango preserve sandwich. Jet had one, too, and we had Fritos and carrots. Simple.
Jet ate really well the whole trip, too. His palette of foods seems to be expanding and he's willing to not just try but actually eat a lot more things now.
After lunch we went on a bike ride, in the wrong direction, but still beautiful. There was a gorgeous little aspen grove in the midst of willow bunches. Jet stayed back in the campsite with the other kids and families. The other family brought their little three and five-year-old on third-wheel come alongs. Frighteningly, the five-year-old started falling asleep on her bike a ways into the ride!! So we all hurried back. But John and I stayed out a little longer, just taking pictures. Our campground was surrounded by water and peaks in all directions. It was just gorgeous.
Dinner was a another families. Mac and cheese and fire-roasted hot dogs. Simple and fast and fun. Then to the s'mores, as usual. *laughs* And then a quick walk to a bridge across one of the streams that was running swollen, fast, and hard. Nearly frighteningly as the kids were bending out the sides of the bridge to see what they could see. The mosquitoes were out in force that night, though, so I went back and actually redid our bedding. I put a blanket underneath us. I also pulled out my old Ranger's trenchcoat, which I'd bought as a surplus store, and it's heavy, lined in deep, thick silky satin, and I used it as one of my blankets. I'd brought it when John had mentioned rain, as it'll shed buckets of water and still stay dry inside, but it doubled just fine as a blanket.
At 8600 feet, the nights were cold.
And that night, warm above the one blanket and under my trenchcoat, I realized I wasn't breathing very well. It shouldn't have surprised me too much, as I have only two-thirds my supposed lung capacity and at 8600 feet there's nearly a third less oxygen than at sea level. So I kept waking up feeling like I was smothering. It was... hard. And I nearly asked John to take me home Sunday before another night of that constant waking terrified of just not breathing enough...
And I was having a really horrible headache. Which is fairly typical of mild altitude sickness and... well... a caffeine addiction that isn't being fed properly. So the next morning I made sure to have a good cup of coffee along with all my meds, right on time. I did the whole breakfast burrito thing with eggs, hash browns, and all the burrito leftovers of the other night. In the warmth of the cooking, I stretched my neck, shoulders, and upper body. And then, in the course of the day I drank two entire two liter bottles of seltzer water or other liquids and felt the altitude sickness lessen, as well as my lungs easing up.
So we took on the two-track bike trail up by an irrigation ditch.
I have a lovely little Cannondale mountain bike, pure aluminum body, stiff as a rail so it responds to everything I put into it by putting out every effort. It's light and lovely and solid so that whatever push I put into it comes out as motion up the road. I've never pushed it that hard as I don't take it off-road, but once in a forest situation where my guide did an endo, so I gave up and just walked a trail I had a hard time hiking, much less biking. It's far more capable than I am. Really.
And I was afraid of the rock and dirt track, really. There were parts of it that were scree, loose rock on slopes that that had obviously washed out before, and on the one side was a drop that just kept growing the further up we went and on the other was the irrigation channel, frothing and flowing and shouting through the rock and tunnels cut for it in the face of the mountain to our side. And the track itself was two ruts filled with dirt, rocks, and loose runs into the water or down the Fall. The fall side had aspen, pine, and rock all the way down.
But the experienced riders, while cautious, weren't afraid of the fact that we were taking three to nine-year-olds on it. And the nine-year-old and Jet were on their own bikes, completely independent of immediate adult control. At one point, Jet hopped a rock and lost the front end, and his bike started heading towards the water. He bailed out, instantly, towards the track. He did all the right things without even thinking about it. I was... awed.
Jet didn't get upset nearly at all for the whole trip. When he was frustrated he'd tell us, but no screaming or crying or temper tantrums at all. On just the bike trip there were a few break downs, and Jet would just kind of keep going, for all nine miles, on a little bike with only one gear.
Near the beginning of the ride I nearly lost it towards the Fall edge and was so terrified by it I just got angry. I hate being afraid more than anything. And the way I show the hate is by doing whatever the heck it was that frightened me. So I rode the four and a half miles up and the four and a half miles down and by the time I was going down, I was far more comfortable and confident and was skidding to a stop with aplomb to take pictures of the things that I'd missed on the way up. At one point the boys got so far ahead, I actually went quite fast, and found it true that momentum can make up for certain kinds of mistakes. And I think my bike enjoyed it far more than anything I've ever done with it, even as covered with dust and pollen as it was. Finally getting real dirt on my dirt bike was good. But the scenery up there was well worth the doing, even if I hadn't gotten that hate-on for the doing of it.
I guess that's the story of my life... being scared of something makes me do it and then gain the rewards of the doing, both in the confidence to tackle something else as well as the concrete rewards for having done it.
Such as gaining my breathing back. The steady, long exercise got my breathing back to a point where I could actually nap for the rest of the afternoon after having a solid lunch. So I felt much better that evening. We had boxed mac product with chicken and the traditional s'mores. I also doubled up on my evening inhaler, and that kept me awake a bit, but made it clear that breathing wasn't my problem, just terror of not breathing. *sigh*
I fought that like the damned bike track.
So I got some sleep. This morning was pancakes by one of the more experienced camp folks, and it was great. We brought enough milk for the pancakes and the boxed mac product, and it was useful. But then it started raining as we started packing up, which made it all the more imperative to pack up faster. *laughter* It was good.
The interesting thing was that all the camping gear was just coated in pollen. That plus the dust and dirt and no wonder my lungs were flow testing down in the 330 range when I'd been testing 400 and 420's down here. Gah.
So anyway. Coming back down to 5000 feet was a blessing. Though with the pollens loose here, I had to use my albuterol for the first time in a very, very long time. I get shots tomorrow. Maybe that'll help. We'll have to see. But after the albuterol, I was blowing 410 already. So it really made a huge difference.
And in Ft. Collins we stopped by a little Japanese restaurant that reminded us our once-favorite little Japanese place in Redmond, which no longer exists the way it used to there. It is basically Japanese 'fast food', just teriyaki, ramen, katsu curry, and the various donburi dishes, nothing fancy, but all fairly quick and fairly good. Jet, for the first time in his life, had the chicken teriyaki on rice with a bit of carrot and broccoli, and he ate most of the chicken and rice and a bite of each of the vegetables. I ate the katsu curry, and John had a fried udon dish. On the way up to the camp site, we'd stopped there, too, and John had had the katsu curry and I'd envied him so much I had to do it on the way down. The ramen I had was good, but not great. Jet had had the potstickers, but wasn't crazy about them. He was quite happy with the teriyaki.
But that was the place where I had the wonderful hand washing in their spotless bathroom, and now that I'm home, I'm grateful for so much more than pit toilets and rusty water and air that isn't thick enough to breathe.