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San Juan Spirit

On July 21, 2011, in Adventure, Lifestyle, Running, by Meghan
6

On Thursday, June 30th, Bryon, Junebug the Border Collie, and I crested Molas Pass, the almost 11,000-foot pass along the highway leading into Silverton, Colorado. It was mid-evening, and the sun glowed orange on the tiny, mining-come-tourist town. We set up shop in a one-room cabin on the east end of Silverton, what was to be our home-away-from-home for two weeks. We came here for two reasons: to cover the Hardrock 100 for iRunFar.com and to vacation ourselves in the San Juan Mountains.

Bryon climbs up Arrastra Gulch (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

I’m a sucker for good mountains. As a kid, seeing the Teton Range in Wyoming on a family road trip inspired me to become the mountain-loving girl I’ll forever be.

This mostly explains why I am still here in the San Juan Mountains, even though our trip was set to end a week ago. This range, the way it forks itself into the sky with no order except that of verticality, its rusty red peaks and yellow cliffs, its glacier-carved gulches that climb to almost heaven, its ghosts of miners and explorers who have come before me, sings a siren song.

Meghan running above Maggie Gulch (Bryon Powell photo credit).

Not all is perfect here in the southwest corner of Colorado. The same stuff that draws me here attracts others, too. This is also the land of the dirt biker and the ATV’er. Wherever you go, there they—or the sheen of their gasoline in a thunderstorm puddle, or their noise, or their tracks—are. I try hard to turn my head away from them, to recognize that they appreciate mountains, too. But, it’s my opinion that, if you plan to enjoy a place, you’ve got to refrain from doing bad stuff to it. And that’s where the off road-ers and I fail to similarly see.

The snowy San Juan Mountains go on forever (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

Even so, the San Juan range has grabbed one of my heartstrings and wrapped it around its jagged peaks. So taught is that heartstring that Bryon, Junebug, and I extended our Silverton stay from two weeks to four.

During our time here, I recorded the comings and goings of these mountains in one-word or single-sentence intervals. The following serves as a silly compilation of my records. Silverton is so fantastical that I think you should all come play here someday, sometime. Until then, here’s the spirit of the San Juans.

An evening walk with the ol' Junebug (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

Hanksville.
Howardsville.
Kendall.
What a thrill.

Eureka.
Is that a star?
Run real far.
Rum bar.

Black flies.
Squinty eyes.
Tying flies.
Tie dye.

Cabin eight
is super great.
What the hell’s
an interstate?

Douglas firs.
Grand Turk.
Nothing here’s
in order.

Engineer.
Much to fear.
I think I’m in
my last gear.

Calloused toes,
peeling nose,
anything goes
except panty hose.

ATV.
You know me.
I gotta flee
machinery.

Gasoline.
I’ll come clean.
I want to bomb
your RV.

Tailings piles
Stretch for miles.
Not so far as
their poison bile.

Gold strike.
Lightning strike.
Hematite.
Pyrite.

Quadriceps.
Bullet-proof steps.
To these mountains
I’m in debt.

Black bear.
Grizzly bear?
When did I last
brush my hair?

Cement Creek.
Storm Peak.
Trails here aren’t
for the meek.

Yappy dogs.
Mud slogs.
By altitude,
I get flogged.

Cataract Lake.
Set your stake.
Sit and watch
the sleet flake.

Hummingbird.
Bluebird.
Pick up your dog’s
nasty turds.

Handies, you’re a thrill.
Kind of like the Anvil.
Mountains here
require will.

Porcupine.
Draw the line.
Keep you hills,
make you mine.

Contrails.
Ride the rails.
Don’t get thrown in
Silverton’s jail.

Gladstone.
Chockstone.
We don’t need
no telephone.

Bassett hound
makes his rounds,
wiggling through
the campground.

Snowfield.
What a deal.
Burrito meals.
Run by feel.

Molas Pass.
Animas.
80-year old glass.
Fell on my ass.

Coffee.
Endless scree.
At night we wear
our puffies.

Hematite Lake glows a glacial blue (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

Bryon and I hangin' on Handies Peak, elevation 14,048 feet (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

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6 Responses to “San Juan Spirit”

  1. olga says:

    Rum bat, mmm, Mojito, my newly discovered favorite drink, I’ll be back to Silverton if only for this! Kidding aside, it is the best place to contemplate…somewhere above the clouds, lots in a sea of snowy mountain peaks.

  2. Gretchen says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! The heartstring tugging is intense, is it not? They need a good tug though, more often than not.

    So happy that you had the opportunity to extend your stay. Life is good when those things can happen!

  3. Meghan says:

    I’m so glad two of my favorite ultra-ladies love the San Juans as much as I do. May the spirit of this place live on in people like us. Love to you both. 😉

  4. JeffO says:

    I almost quit blogging! So far behind. I’m in Crested Butte.
    CB is all about bicycles. I was dismayed to see dozens of groups of noisy dirt bikes going down the main drag.
    Most off-roaders are great people. Unfortunately, it is also true that every time you see a pileof garbage, it takes a vehicle to bring that much trash.
    Gotta luv those San Juans. Really puts your soul on drugs.

    • Meghan says:

      Don’t quit blogging JeffO, don’t! I love your blog posts. I haven’t been to Crested Butte, but sure would like to visit there someday. Thanks for the note!

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