Hours after I arrived in Colorado, the camp was on. Madison picked me up at the airport, and after a brief hello in Denver, the next day Jilli and I were planning the trip in Fort Collins. Madison, Jilli, and I woke up in Boulder butt-ass early the next morning and a series of gas stations and pick-ups later–plus one road side stop at four o’clock to gaze at the stars–two big cars of madults met sunrise in the woods, rocking the shocks on roads I would never have dreamt of driving over.
Andrey drove his Nisan Pathfinder, Dmitri Madison’s Toyota F100. The cars ate up the terrain. We likened the Nissan to a black beetle, the truck to a t-Rex. We rose with the sun, hugging the mountain side above the treeline. We parked for sun-rise breakfast at twelve thousand feet.
We summited Mt. Antero at 10AM. Elegant fall splashed gold on the aspens through the green firs of yonder mountains. I mean, seriously. Crisp clear day, we had perfect layers and napped in the sun like cookies baking to perfection.
The hike down featured a bit of ankle twisting territory, but it wasn’t hard. Back at the car, we celebrated our success with another camp snack. We loaded back in and bumped down the opposite side of the hump. Back below the treeline, the terrain grew even rougher, steep, uneven rocky switchbacks. Andrey and Dmitri handled it like pros, I never would have guessed they were first-timers on such challenging terrain.
We found an idyllic campsite, complete with firepit. They backed the cars in and we ate again as we unpacked and set up the tents. Andrey, Dmitri, and Elliot took naps. Madison, Jilli, and I attempted a walk. The lightning and exposure made me nervous, plus it started snowing. Yonder lay the ominous hillock pierced by struck trees. I mean, seriously. We turned back.
The weather held in time for dinner and post-dinner snacking/fireside storytelling. We crawled into our tents early, alarms set for three and slept. I felt delightfully lulled by the lashing rain. However, when my alarm went off and I was supposed to awaken, it was far less charming. We had agreed to sleep on if it was raining, thank goodness.
Smoky fire in the later-morning and a few breakfasts later, we decided to hit the road. An impressive cloud crept in between the two nearest peaks, the fire plumed largely inefficient. Maybe we finally got full. We churned back uphill, the truck often rearing on three wheels, angling the narrow switchbacks. We reconvened at 12K, where we had breakfast the previous morning. About twenty-four hours earlier, the freshly sunny lookout had afforded views of Mt. Antero and the 14ers we had wanted to summit that day. Now, when Antero lofted out of the clouds, it was covered in snow. The other two peaks rarely surfaced.
We started the drive down, mud slick, a bleak wintery mix. The valley lay visible, but veiled. We angled down the steep slopes, no illusion of a safety net. If the car slips here, we go over. Patches of the road looked like a mud slide would rip them out by the same time tomorrow morning.
Andrey and Dmitri made it look easy. I sat in Andrey’s Nisan, and he never let the car out of his control. We descended below the treeline, crossed two much-widened streams, and finally reached flat land. High-fives all around!
Courtesy of the men’s generosity, we all went to a spa and hot springs. The sun finally appeared, and we soaked in some of the last real heat of the year. We agreed to meet out in Boulder, but by the time we all got there, we were too pooped to function. That was some hard-core madultery.