21-25 June: Kelly’s Dirty Thirty (+ 3 National Parks)

21-25 June: Kelly’s Dirty Thirty (+ 3 National Parks)

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Kelly’s birthday (What is her full name? That’s for me to know!) was coming up, and apparently it was going to be very dirty, as she was turning 30. I decided to drive down to Blue Mesa near Gunnison, while Kristi decided to fly in to Grand Junction, where I would pick her up and, later on, drop her off. The drive was about 7-8 hours for me, and it was great, by which I meant that it was rainy and snowy on the way down, which was a portent of things to come. 

The airport in Grand Junction is cute, but the city itself is laid out somewhat oddly, with roundabouts that are very close together, and roads that go from 4 lanes to 2 and back with great rapidity over short distances…plus there were a ton of transients. After I picked up Ms. K., we made our way to get food…but Chic-fil-A was far too busy, so instead we moved on to pick up food for the weekend from WalMart.  

When Lucas picked me up from the airport it was the first time we’d seen each other in roughly 6 months.  And the first thing he said was something to the effect of, “Aww, I always love it when I see you and you haven’t gotten ugly.”  Don’t worry, my response was, “- or fat!”


The trip to Blue Mesa took about 2 hours, and we stopped and got some “Middle Sister” wine for Kelly, as that was our ticket to going on the boat that weekend. Once we made it past Montrose, the scenery became much prettier than the arid grasslands we’d been stuck in from Grand Junction on down. The Blue Mesa Reservoir itself wasn’t very gawjus, at least in my estimation, but it had some dang awesome, old lava formations, which were locally referred to as the “Pinnacles.” I wanted to hike to them, but our plans didn’t allow for it in the end.

We made our way up the Curecanti/Red Creek Campground group area, where Kristi surmised was our camping location. The Blue Mesa area has very little cell service, so we couldn’t fact-check this supposition.  Upon erecting our tent, I found a sign saying that the site was reserved for “Wade” starting the previous day…while Wade wasn’t there, I was suspicious that Wade wasn’t in our party. Eventually a couple showed up and informed us that Kelly’s FB post said to camp at the “free, dispersed camp sites” along the creek. Oops. We packed and moved away. The long story given short is that our campsite smelled like pee, but there were only two decent ones within 10 miles, so that was that. The campsite was beside a creek, which was nice, but the area isn’t really “forested” per se, and the road is also less than 10 feet distant. 

Most folks arrived the next day, which featured a high in the 40s with almost non-stop, torrential rain, coupled with thunder. There wasn’t much that we could do, but I did loan my waterproof clothes to Kristi that she might be warm.  The rain did keep the pee smell down, thankfully. Kristi and I went down and checked out the dam area, but the weather was too rough to really explore, so we ended up back at camp. Kelly was an incredibly gracious host, and some of her friends were really fun. I mostly just listened to the conversations, as I knew the fewest people.

Camping Experience:
Prior to camping in Colorado, my only camping experiences took place in Missouri.  Therefore, my definition of camping was, “sleeping on damp sheets.”  Turns out when you camp in a state with less humidity that doesn’t have to be the case.  It even rained quite a bit and the sheets were dry enough by bedtime.  Also, not showering for 3 days is less of an issue when there’s significantly less humidity – I could get used to being a slob in Colorado.  

I packed poorly for this trip.  I falsely assumed that if my best friend planned a camping trip that involved a boat ride in Colorado in June that it’d be warm.  I didn’t check the weather beforehand.  Stupid.  So I mostly packed shorts, tanks, and swim suits.  Then I packed those “just in case” items like a light jack, a pair of athletic pants, and a long-sleeve shirt.  Turns out I barely even touched most of my summer clothes and kept re-wearing all the warmer clothes.  To top it off, I had to borrow a winter coat from Kelly and Lucas so graciously gave me his rain jacket for the rainy days leaving him with his coat that wasn’t water proof.  Such a gent. (for real)


That night I got bitten by a tick, and the next day was a little warmer without constant rain, so we took a pontoon boat out in the wind. Kelly’s hubby had a jet ski, which he offered to everyone for use, but it was too cold for my liking, so I mostly just played lateral thinking puzzles with Kristi and talked with a few folks. Also, I intermittently held a tiny, old, gregarious dog called “Mazee,” who was a real blast.

While it was a mostly sunny day for a boatride, it was still by far the coldest ride I’ve ever taken in my life.  Thankfully I had Kelly’s winter coat and had borrowed layers of pants.  I mentioned it was sunny, right?  Well, the sun was still shining despite the cool temperatures but I neglected to put sunscreen on the only skin that was showing – my nose.  So I paid for that later.  Again, stupid.  I know these things.  But in my defense I hadn’t been able to wash my face in like 3 days so I really didn’t want to add grease to the recipe.  (but in hindsight, still stupid.) 

I have to say, my favorite part of pontoon ride was doing lateral thinking puzzles with Lucas.  If you know me at all, I am too lazy to think.  And if you know Lucas at all, he’s extremely intellectual (how is our relationship working?!  Let’s not pull at that thread…) Anyways, he introduced laterally thinking puzzles to me on this trip.  It took a while for me to warm up to them, but after a while you get the hang of the process and it’s really quite fun!  I enjoyed discovering this hobby on this trip that he and I can bond over. 


That night, Kelly paid for us to shower, and we helped her pack most of the camps up.  Kelly and her husband stayed the night with us, but they were the only ones, as most folks had to be back to work on Monday. We said our goodbyes the next morning, and Kristi and I headed out to Arches National Park via Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP and Placerville. 

The BCotGNP was amazing, though Kristi really hates heights, and even yelled at a girl named “Leigh” for “really pissing her off.” Later on, I ended up really pissing her off as well. Thankfully, she really liked the area in Ridgway, CO, a “Kristi’s Kitchen” in Norwood, and the drive over the La Sal Mountains! We also managed to get a great deal on a Super 8 room in Moab ($80/night)! To top it off, my favorite place to eat (Quesidilla Mobilla) is located in Moab, and we got there 2 minutes after it closed at 6…but they had a little food left, so they stayed open, made me an Enchanted Beef, and Kristi a Fiery Fungus. SO GOOD!!! Very blessed.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park:
Before heading out of town, we hit up Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  The most memorable sight of all was looking down into a canyon that was almost twice as deep as the Empire State Building is tall!  Let that sink in for a minute! (seriously, reread that sentence again if you need to.)  In this deep canyon was a feature called “The Painted Wall” which was an incredible addition to the already amazingness of this canyon.  

The Drive between Colorado and Utah:
This drive was stunning and quite possible my favorite part of this trip (I may say this a few times).  I just loved watching the terrain transition from huge, gray mountains with snow on the mountaintops to the more red terrain everyone imagines when thinking of Utah.  There was one point that we were driving up over these mountains.  When we got to “the top” it was the most beautiful flat greenlands.  I’ve seen plenty of flat greenlands in my day but there was just something about this — you just felt like you were on top of the world. But the kicker is there was still another view of a huge mountain with a snowy mountaintop that we got to enjoy for much of this prairie drive.  It just indescribable to feel like you’re on top of the world and then see another lone mountain towering over you.  

While on this drive, we drove through a handful of adorable, quaint little towns.  I just oohed-and-awwed over these.  Quaint is my favorite.  In one of the towns there was a little restaurant called Kristi’s Kitchen!! They even spelled it correctly which almost never happens!  I asked Lucas to turn around so I could get my picture taken next to it and he so kindly honored my request.

As we were getting closer to our desination of Moab, Utah Lucas was trying to coordinate our plans around this food truck called Quesadilla Mobila.  I’m not sure why but I’ve always been weary of food trucks (which makes no sense, I know) so I sort of shrugged off his rambling.  Once we got into Moab, he had me look up the food truck to see when it closed.  It closed at 6:00pm. At 5:58pm we were 2 minutes away.  You do the math.  Lucas became very focused and thankfully we got there just in time – they only had a few servings of meat left and we each were able to get what we wanted.  I got the Fiery Fungus (a spicy quesadilla with mushrooms) and it was to die for!!! I instantly understood why Lucas was so focused on making it in time!  I wasn’ that hungry so I was able to enjoy the other half for breakfast.  Still tasty beyond belief.  

After our dinner, we dropped off our luggage at the hotel then made our way to Canyonland National Park.  Lucas’s Jeep indicated we had plenty of gas as we began our drive, however, as we got closer to Canyonlands he began to get a little concerned about how much of the park we’d be able to explore because there was no civilization much less a gas station.  Oh, also no service so we really had to be careful!  While driving, I kept praying for the gas amount to stretch while Lucas and I decided to pick Upheaval Dome as our only destination within the park to visit. I’m so glad we chose this! Pictures don’t do justice and the views looking down as well as looking into the distance were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I definitely want to go back – next time with a Prius! (Side note: on our way out of Canyonlands there was a period of time where Lucas’s gas gauge didn’t seem to drop for a while.  He mildly grumbled about this.  I considered it an answered prayer!)


After checking in at the Super 8, we then headed out to Canyonlands National Park. My fuel gauge “acted up,” but somehow we didn’t run out of gas, and got great, sunset views by ourselves at Upheaval Dome, which is Grade-A spectacular. Just fantastically gorgeous. There is shocked quartz in the formation, so I support the theory that it’s secondary to a meteorite, rather than the remains of a salt dome. After the dome, we stopped by Shafer Overview, which once day I’d like to explore, then a dinosaur on the way out, and back to the Super 8. 

The night was fine, and we were on the road by 0800. Our first stop was Delicate Arch, as it has by far the longest section of walking, and it gets really hot in Moab in June—the forecast was for 99F. Thankfully for us, there was a high, cirrus overcast, a gentle breeze, and it only got up to the 80s during the walk. After Delicate Arch, we made our way to some of the other places that one goes to see (Pine Tree Arch, Sand Arch [sp?], etc.), and then headed out to Grand Junction via Castle Valley, which is a much prettier drive than going straight north to the interstate out of Moab. 

Arches National Park:
The final morning of our trip, Lucas and I woke early to make it to Arches National Park.  Our plan was to hike a few miles round trip to Delicate Arch and we wanted to make sure we beat the heat of the day.  We successfully made it and took some pretty neat photos.  What I loved about this park is the red terrain, yet when you looked in the distance you could see huge gray mountains with the snowy mountaintops.  I enjoyed this unexpected contrast within nature. 


Before dropping Kristi off at the airport, I ate some very yummy Jimmy Johns, talked to a man who liked the NP stickers on my roller bag, and then got some gas. Kristi’s departure was very sad, but I had a 5-6 hour drive home after that, which made it even sadder. Thankfully, I’d downloaded plenty of Futility Closet podcast episodes, so I had a little companionship. The drive was mostly uneventful, though I started to notice some issues with my Jeep, which I believe (as I am typing this) are due to old spark plugs. 

The Drive back to Grand Junction: 
Lucas is so thoughtful.  For the drive back to Grand Junction he decided to budget in time to take the scenic route and I am so glad he did!  For much of the drive we were at the base of a canyon.  When you look up on either side there are HUGE, red boulders and cliffs that make up the walls of the canyon.  The road also followed a river.  What amazed me was to think that the entire canyon at one point in time was filled with water.  That thought made me feel extra small real quick!

While we saw 3 National Parks in 2 days, I didn’t have the best attitude a majority of the trip.  After some self-reflection there were quite a few contributing factors, but all I gotta say is Lucas was an amazing man through it all.  I am grateful that he put up with my screams and squeals every time we were on a mountain road with no guard rail (there are WAY too many of these types of roads people!).  At the Grand Junction airport we said our good-byes.  I got a little teary-eyed because I deeply regreted my frequent moments of poor attitude and how Lucas got the brunt of it. But this trip also caused me to continue on with the self-reflection the days following the trip and I had some personal growth come of it.  I am grateful God can redeem anything because despite my bouts of negativity, when I look back this time it will always be the trip where I saw 3 National Parks in 2 days! 


With love, always,


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