From A Women's View
by
Nancy Pretzer

When Karl approached me about going to Salida, Colorado for the Mile High Jeep Club’s Annual 4x4 event I thought, “Are you nuts?  Does it look like I want to spend two days driving and then sit around twiddling our thumbs while Dad does his thing with the guys?  Get real!”  Then it dawned on me….we could experience some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, the clean, crisp air, beautiful Aspen trees along flowing rivers and streams…..all from the drivers seat of the Ford Excursion that he would have to rent!  J  It didn’t take long for me to come to a conclusion….just name the dates and we’re outta here!

Of course, Karl was probably starting to wonder what he had gotten himself into once I took over the “real” plans for the two-week long vacation.  Instead of a drab everyday hotel room, I found a steal of a deal on a renovated rustic cabin that was once the city hall and jail for the historic mining town of Garfield in the 1880’s.    

Now, I’m not sure what motivates you men to travel up and down what should be a dead-end road, but you honestly don’t think that the girls and I were going to spend an entire week in a cramped Scout, climbing up every mountain trail Karl came across so we could “see what’s on the other side”….do you?  Since we were in the neighborhood we might as well stop in and tour Carlsbad Caverns on the way….maybe a little shopping in Santa Fe, or some white water rafting on the Arkansas and possibly take a swim in the hot springs of Buena Vista.  And since we were going to Colorado it was an absolute must that I basked in the sound of John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High….  Boy did he know what he was singing about!  Call me strange, but you just can’t be in Colorado without listening to John Denver!  I had the trip all planned out…..  Poor, poor Karl!

Well, the cabin turned out to be as it was described….rustic.  The floors went this way and that way, and you could tell every room was an add-on to the original structure, but it had a TV and that’s all that mattered to the kids.  Now this 4x4 hobby is really not my thing and Karl was considerate enough to sign us up the easy runs, so I was looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday’s first run wound through the mountain beside a running stream that led us up to the Mary Murphy Mines and Palmetto Lakes, a scenic ride with the end results well worth it.  Surprisingly, most of the buildings were still standing at Mary Murphy giving us glimpses of life at the turn of the century.  The girls were full of questions such as what did the people do for food?  Did they stay here all year?  Where did they spend their money? Where is the bathroom?

 

By Wednesday I figured, this is great!  What could be better than this?  I’ve always been big on the natural beauty of the mountains, streams, etc. of Colorado, so when the guys had a plan for a scenic drive up to Mt. Antero I was ready to roll!  We rocked and rolled, did the bump and grind for the next few hours enjoying the scenery.  Baille, our youngest, believe it or not, fell asleep during the rough and tumble drive while Danielle, our tomboy, was having the time of her life riding up ahead with our friend Terry Estes in his Jeep.  We stopped at a big turnaround where the forest ended and enjoyed a beautiful day with temperatures in the 70’s.  The sun was shining and nothing could be better.  Now, Mt. Antero is supposed to be 14,000ft. so naturally I thought we were on our way down when I overheard someone say something about 9,000 ft.  That’s when I looked up and noticed some tiny faint lines on the mountainside with something moving along them.  What are those??  Jeeps!….on ROADS!!!!  Roads, narrow switchbacks which our little group started up!  Their idea of how to get to a scenic view and my idea of getting to a scenic view are TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT IDEAS!  Oh, how I hate 4-wheeling.  When I look out the side of the Scout I want to see some ground, not 3,000 ft. of nothing!!!

Thank God we made it to the top and the view was breathtaking and worth every skip of the ole’ heart I experienced on the way up.  We were actually looking down on the surrounding mountaintops!  All Karl could say was “She sure runs good at 14,000 ft.”.  Once up, I REALLY didn’t want to go down, but with an approaching storm, we had no choice.  So, the slow descent began and on to the next adventure we went.

On Thursday, I decided that I had had enough 4-wheeling, so the girls and I jumped in the Excursion and traveled to the quaint little ghost town of St. Elmo.  St. Elmo is a friendly little town as was all of the area.  The chipmunks will actually come down and sit in your hands to eat the sunflower seeds you offer.  The girls were determined to catch one and take it home with us.

Most of the original buildings in St. Elmo are privately owned and are in the process of being restored to their original condition.  The Jail House was of particular interest to me.  The cells of today’s prisons are hotel rooms compared to the cells the prisoners were kept in during that time.  A standard size loveseat would fit in the jail cell and nothing else.  No windows, no light….it was rather creepy.   

Friday came and Karl thought it was a good day to spend some time with us and go white water rafting.  The water was SO cold that I heard Karl mumble something about shriveling body parts!  Now I can’t imagine what he could have possibly been referring to….can you ladies?  J  At any rate, it was breathtaking to say the least every time ice-cold water rushes over the front of the raft and slaps you in the face. 

The challenging part of that ride was what they called the “Zoom Flume” at which point a photographer sits on top of a ledge taking photos as the river’s victims furiously tried to keep the raft from flipping and/or crashing.  I know for you experts of white water rafting, the “Zoom Flume” is a kiddy ride, but when you’re helping a 6-year-old hang on while she’s holding her nose….well, it got interesting at times.  This part of our trip was definitely one of my favorite highlights of our stay. 

Friday night was raffle night.  Karl was jumping up and down like a little boy as he won a set of mud tires from BFG.  Why he needed those tires, who knows.  I would have traded them for the 3 day, 2-night trip to Cancun he was offered.  I’ll never understand men.  Afterwards we retired to friends’ campsite to relax and talk about anything and everything while the kids watched videos in the Excursion or played Hide and Seek.  We then made our excuses and bid everyone goodnight.   

A full moon hung over the cabin when we got back along with the sounds of Colorado.  Being a country girl who knows how to appreciate a front porch, I spent a good part of the night on the porch of our cabin, drinking hot tea, staring up at the moon and listening to the nearby river.  If I could make time stand still…..it would have been right then!  Only

the reports of a black bear in the area and Karl turning out the lights called me back inside.  Sunday was quickly approaching and I was soaking in the area as much as I could and trying to avoid the inevitable…leaving. 

Saturday morning greeted us with tired bones and cartoons, so we decided to spend the day cleaning house, washing clothes and relaxing in preparation for the trip home.  The girls were not thrilled about this decision, but they found things to do and the day went by quickly.  Night came on our last evening and we drove down to the campsites to find our fellow rockcrawlers and wish them a safe trip home.  We finally located them under the big top as the drawing was underway for the manufacture’s raffle.  We really didn’t plan on staying very long due to Karl wanting to leave the next morning at 6AM….Ugh! 

We were glad that we stayed because the next name they pulled out of the hat was Karl’s for an 8,000lb Warn Winch!  So, you might say Karl had a lucky streak that week that virtually paid for a portion of the trip.

Unfortunately, the good times had to come to an end.  We were ready to axe down a few trees and build our own cabin, never to return to the heat and humidity we that awaited us.  If only it were that easy.

Let’s face it, it’s going to take me a LONG time to come down from that Rocky Mountain High I’m on and …..well, I’ve gained a whole new outlook on this 4x4 hobby.  At least we decided to begin our long-range plans for a cabin in the mountains with a big stone fireplace and John Denver on the CD Player. 

-Nancy Pretzer

P.S.  My bags are packed and ready for the next event in Silverton.  O-o-o-h-h yeah!