Just say NO to interstates - Spring Road Trip Part 1

My last road trip consisted of 7000 truck miles through 8 states from Montana east to Minnesota, south the Las Vegas, 3 weeks in Utah, back to Montana, and back to Minnesota then flew back to Maui. 5% of those 7000 miles were on interstates the rest on highways or gravel back roads. Not far out of Minneapolis I took an unplanned turn and started traveling north back towards I94..these detours are usually temporary as I’m logging the highway signs into the map in my head from previous scouting, however I tend to get lost often! Sometimes I feel like I get lost on purpose just to remind myself not to be in a hurry, get into the panic/flow mode and safely navigate out of the situation… great for future unplanned turns, I don’t consider the wrong turns anymore as there is always a reason and lesson for the turn. Escaping the city through SW Minnesota was a good choice, the water was flowing down the hills and coalescing into the creeks, the grass was already a lush green as the sun shined and warmed the earth. I drove by the gorge at Granite Falls and my mind started to drift in adventure day dreaming mode. The landscape suddenly became a playground as I drove by, checking out the hills, spotting potential hiking and mtb trails, watching the creeks bust its banks and visualizing me paddling down the middle getting sloshed from side to side while taking in some water and dodging the big boulders, big smile on my face the whole time, even as I turn and pull onto the interstate, life is good! 

I crashed the first night with some friends in Rapid City, SD and was up early enough the next day to catch the sunrise as I drove through the Black Hills. I stopped at a trailhead on the Mickelson (rail to trails) and rode a few miles on the Blackborrow to stretch out a bit and catch a good morning buzz from the cool fresh air. Back on the road I crossed into Wyoming and took a stretch of highway I’ve only been on once before, Gurney State Park was nearby, which I’d never heard of so I made a short detour to check it out. Upon entering the park, there was a fee box, $6 to go through, I never have an issue paying these fees and supporting the parks, until I remembered I only had large bills. Hmmm, change I’ve got a whole bag of quarters so I pulled out 24 of them put in the envelope and hurried over to the money slot pole, inserted the envelope slowly trying to spread the quarters out so it would drop in the slot, I fumbled a bit and 4 quarters stacked and were instantly jammed it the slot, I didn’t want to tear the envelope so I moved it back and forth a bit, nothing happening (instead of getting frustrated my instinct is to smile and walk away)... So I took a walk down a short path checking out a camping area then back to the money slot, this time with a little shaking the envelope stuck into the slot with a slight tear, success! Driving down the curvy highway the trees and hills parted to an opening filled with water, a large reservoir had been flooded to fill the valley. The lake was large and beautiful, badlands type hills rising from the edges of the water making the lake look not only deeper but magical at the same time. 

I found a trailhead and parked for an hour while I scrambled up a streambed, running when I could just to stretch my legs and cover more ground. When I realized any sort of summit was a long ways out still I turned around and jogged back through the sandy washes until I was back at the trailhead. A bit further into the park I found a picnic area with access to the water. Sat on a large rock near the water and meditated for a few minutes, calming my mind, giving it the break it needs to keep functioning consistently at a high level. Once calm I started my hatha yoga routine, focusing on key stretches but letting the mind slip back into meditation by concentrating on my breaths. My mind commonly drifts back to Maui, with the ocean surrounding a nearby island and tropical plants as far as the imagination can see. 

That night I stayed in Steamboat Springs, CO with a friend, after a walk and bike ride to explore downtown we had a delicious dinner and decided to make the pilgrimage to the local hot springs! A drive up the mountains followed by a short hike and there were suddenly 7 large pools filled with hot spring water. It was dark, making the pools nearly invisible except for the steam rolling off them as the water surface was cooled by the mountain air. The trail was sandy, muddy, and wet, we passed a few small pools before arriving at a large pool with a built in bench. There were more people here but the vibes were good. The water was hot upon entering, as the air was chilly outside but my body quickly adapted in the chest deep water as a stumbled across the rocky bottom until coming to rest on an empty bench. The mineralized water was revitalizing, my body was detoxing and my mind started to drift off, I was instantly grabbed by our vast universe, the countless stars above, and the occasional meteor burning up as it entered the earth's atmosphere. 

My next stop was Highline State Park just north of Grand Junction, CO. There was a nice single track mtb trail around a reservoir at the park that I rode on for a good 2 hours, some nice views of the lake from the south end and after a nice winding climb to the top of a nearby knoll. The trail wound around the overflow drainage, the water was rushing down the cement canal drowning out all my other thoughts as a flow stage took over and I pedaled on, making a loop and doing it again just for the meditative sounds before climbing back up to the dam and across back to the campground and my tent. 

I was cleaning my bike that night when the camp hosts came and said hello, they were really friendly, gave me a map of all the local single track trails in the area. That is why I had stopped in the first place, but this made it easier to choose something for the morning. I didn’t even bother with a fire that night, after a good dinner of roasted fresh veggies loaded with hemp, chia seeds, and collagen powder. I was up early and eager to get riding the single track, I drove back south and found a trailhead, without wasting any time I was ascending the large gravel hill for a warm up instead of parking at the trailhead right by the start of the singletrack. I chose to do one of the beginner routes since it was my first time in the area and I still had a long drive ahead of me. As I climbed the first big hill after the trail gate, I passed 2 bikers walking there bikes. However once at the top I stopped to get a good drink of water and some quick nutrition, the couple I passed re-passed me so I took some additional time to give them a lead, but I love to play the chase game and soon caught up to them, thanking them once again for allowing me to pass. It didn't take long to hit the colorado river, so I stopped for a few pictures and the vast views. Shortly after I was soon in a flow state, cruising around the corners without using the breaks, climbing up slick rock and barreling down the next hill only to repeat once again. A few miles in I caught up to another group, a Mom and some kids. I passed the Mom first, then notice the kids took a wrong turn off the path and down a ravine, so I chose to follow them, either they knew something I didn't or they were off to get lost. I caught up to them about 300 yards down the sandy ravine curling around trees, suddenly there were stepped drop offs, I passed one of the kids who wasn't taking the drops only to catch the second kid taking the last drop before the sheer 100 ft cliff into the colorado river! Whoa, I slammed on my brakes stopping on a dime, and lucking the 2nd kid had to dismount her bike to get down the last drop. Both of our mouths were wide open, we just glanced at each other, turned our bikes around and got out of there. About the time we drug our bikes up the few steps the Mom had arrived. It was a good view, they enjoyed for a bit, as I got out of there to finish riding the loop and eventually get back on the road to meet up with my Dad in Kanab, UT.

Kanab was a rest and relax day, the following morning I had to drive to Las Vegas and pick up my hiking partner for AZ/UT over the following 12 days. Reluctant to take the interstate into Las Vegas, I went down a windy highway past the Valley of Fire State Park, large mountains (for the desert) and the Lake Mead Recreation area. I found a trail head to stop at and take a quick high intensity interval training (HIIT) up the mountain then down into a dry creek bottom for a few miles, turning around somewhere all the way down the mountain side, then ran right back up and back to the truck, it was hot and it was fun! With all the recent rains, wildflowers were flashing vibrant colors from all the fresh buds and flowers. This brought plenty of joy as I finished the drive into the city, picked up my hiking partner and partied all night with some fellow geologists.

The world is just a large playground, so get out and play!


  1. Thanks Bill!! Many more to come, I'm in catch-up on blogging mode.


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