The last time I was in the San Juan Mountains I said it was probably one my favorite places I’ve been. This time was no different. My friend Mikail’s grandparents own a cabin just outside of Pagosa Springs in Colorado and he invited me and our other friend, Zach, up to spend the weekend. I didn’t really need any convincing and a few weeks later, 3 of us piled into his Toyota Corolla and would head 5 hours south.
The drive there was one of the better road trips I’ve been on. We climbed out of the front range, stopping in Fairplay and passing small, rural towns that would all have a tent somewhere selling fresh peaches. We climbed over steep mountain passes and cruised through wide-open valleys. The drive sent us past cattle ranches and horse stables, all while blasting music that ranged from the Jonas Brothers to Old Town Road. As we headed further south, the mountains would grow taller, we would drive past 14ers all before finding the Pagosa Springs city limits 284 miles later.
Once we got to the cabin, the biggest thing that struck me was how absolutely silent it was. There wasn’t the hum of cars on a nearby road, no voices from the neighbors, no construction going on down the street. The bird calls were quieter, the only thing we could hear was the rustle of the wind, and then the whir of the generator once we figured out how to get that going. We weren’t that off the grid after all. That first night was just burgers on the grill and s’mores around the campfire while we watched the sun set behind the trees, and the lightning crack in the clouds over the town.
Day one started with me waking up before the other two and making my way to the deck to brew a cup of coffee. I brought my Aeropress with me as well as a bag from Dragonfly Roasters who are based here in Boulder. It was practically a perfect way to start my day. I would sit on the table, looking down into the valley for the next hour and a half, even though it felt much shorter than that. Once Mikail and Zach were awake, we made breakfast burritos and figured out a plan for the rest of the day, only to realize that we didn’t really need one.
We decided that we wanted to head down to the hot springs but as I don’t swim very often, I needed a pair of swim trunks. We made our way to the Walmart in town and found out that for some reason, they only sold men’s extra larges and bigger. Not super helpful for me. What I did discover though is that I fit quite nicely into a boy’s XXL and, for five dollars, that’s one helluva deal. We would spend the next 3-ish hours at the springs, moving between pools that ranged from 90 to 111 degrees, and then into the river which was nowhere near those nice temperatures. Sipping on a lemonade and watching people go by in their inner tubes was a solid way to spend an afternoon. Zach bought a Stetson and we capped off day one by popping into a small Chinese restaurant and found out that there is a limit to how much Moo Shu one person can eat.
Day two was hike day. We woke up right at 6 am, ate a PB&J and were out the door heading to Fourmile Falls. The road in lead us through a ranch it seemed as we bumped over cattle guard after cattle guard and slid around on the loose dirt. This hike proved to me again why this part of Colorado is one of my favorites. The hike started with a pretty steep descent into a valley where there was a long meadow filled with soft, tall green grass, and a family camped out by a stream. We continued across the trail, crossing over a flowing river and jumping over muddy sections. The entire area was a lush green with the sounds of the birds in the trees and the gentle gurgle of water just out of view. With about a mile to go you break into a clearing where you can see the waterfall cascade off of a towering and sheer cliff. The lake that feeds the waterfall is just over this cliff but was also significantly farther and strongly not recommended according to the trail signs.
The three of us pushed through the steep half-mile to the base of the falls where we were greeted with the spray of thousands of gallons of water, and the view of the lush valley we just hiked through. Mikail had been on this hike when he was younger and pointed to a trail across the water that was thin and seemed to disappear into the bush. We followed him up and the trail took us to a scramble until you reach a ledge just behind the waterfall. From here you can look through the curtain of water and into the valley while having the waterfall rain upon you. A rain jacket or a stiff hat is recommended.
Now, no trip would be complete without something going slightly wrong. When we got back from the hike, we made another round of breakfast burritos and were in the middle of washing our dishes when we lost all water pressure throughout the cabin. The generator stopped working. When we popped open the lid it said the battery had died (may have been my fault) and like any good car battery, we had to jump-start it. However, due to some of the construction, we couldn’t get the car close enough to the generator for the cables to reach. So while we tried to figure that out, Mikail showed us the tractor equipped with a big ol’ shovel. After putting in the work in the heat, we managed to move enough dirt and use the tractor’s battery to get the generator going again. For a little bit at any rate. We still felt pretty good about ourselves.
When we hit the road the following morning after a stop at McDonald’s for breakfast. I was feeling pretty good. Getting out of Boulder for the weekend to somewhere quiet was everything that I had needed. It was a way to reset, to clear my head, and enjoy taking life just a little bit slower. I think that sometimes, I get into my head, focus too much on what’s going to happen next rather than what happens now. I need to remember that for how much we do for “the long term”, we never will live in “the long term”. We live now, we live for the next day, the next week. And if getting out of the routine is what I needed to remind me of that, I highly recommend it. •