May 31 – September 3: Up above Idaho Springs, CO
This is summer in the mountains…
This is also summer in the mountains…
As is this…
If I had to describe summer up at 9,300 feet in one just word, it would be short. If I had two words, I would be short and chilly. When we arrived on the last day of May it felt more like early April. And as we prepare to move on in a few days, the mornings and evenings are feeling much more like the end of October than the beginning of September. I think it hit 80° a total of three times this summer, and even that only lasted for a few hours during the hottest part of the afternoon.
If I had three words to describe our Colorado mountain summer, I would add rainy. For most of the summer, it has either rained in the afternoon or threatened to rain on more days than not. Yet somehow at the same time, it remained so dry that just a week ago it seemed like half the state was on fire and smoke-filled air became the norm.
Despite the wacky mountain weather, we are so incredibly grateful for the generous offer to park here in our friends’ driveway this summer. Simply put, it was the perfect place to hit pause on our travels during these odd times. We still feel that our decision not to travel this summer was the right one, but we also feel that if we had spent all summer in an RV park we might have gone crazy. Scratch that – we would have gone crazy!
During these times of limited social interaction, having a few friends who we can safely spend time with has been invaluable. We made the decision to become a “family unit” on the day we arrived. All of us work from home, have only been only going out when necessary, and have had very little contact with anyone else. Since we planned to be here for a few months, it only made sense that we allow ourselves to interact normally. Not that anything about this summer had been normal, but at least when we’re up here on the mountain it’s easy to momentarily forget the craziness that has taken over the world.
While we’ve mostly been staying home and avoiding other people, we have made a few exceptions this summer. Namely, in the eating out department. Downtown Idaho Springs decided to close Miner Street to cars so restaurants could set up tables and tents outside. The result is a scenic and safe fresh air environment for outdoor dining. I know a lot of other towns and cities have done the same and it will be interesting to observe if any of these changes stick for the long term. I grew up near Burlington, VT where several city blocks are permanently open only to pedestrians and I’ve long wondered why other places don’t do the same.
We’re not eating out often by any means, but we have gone into town a handful of times to enjoy the local restaurants. I’ve been impressed by the safety measures at all the places we’ve eaten. Aside from the increase in outside space, there is strict mask-wearing, disposable or digital menus, and easy options for take out meals. We’ve managed to avoid crowds by going out mid-week and arriving early in the evening.
Aside from hanging out with our Colorado family, we’ve had only two other social interactions this summer. The first was just over a week ago when we visited our friends Shannon & Dave in Breckenridge. They were the last people we hung out with before the pandemic hit, and it was so nice to catch up and pretend that things were (almost) normal for a bit. We hiked around in the mountains behind their condo, sat outside and drank beers, laughed for hours, and just generally enjoyed a mini-vacation from what has at times felt like one big groundhog day of a summer.
Our final social interaction was short but sweet. Friends Kristin & Katy stopped by on their way home to Tennessee. They were out on a short trip to have some upgrades done to their camper van and took advantage of the open spot at the top of the driveway for a night. Since they had been traveling and staying at a campground full of people, they kept their distance and we avoided hugs, but it was a great visit all the same.
We hung out on the outside patio, amused ourselves by watching Toby the chihuahua hunt for chipmunks, and introduced Kristin & Katy to the joys of making pizza in our portable oven.
Speaking of homemade pizza, our Ooni pizza oven has been getting quite a workout this summer. A weekly pizza night was quickly established with theme nights that sometimes included salads, desserts, and special drinks to match the theme of the week. You can pretty much put anything on a pizza and we tried it all from classic margarita to buffalo cauliflower, to Thai style with peanut sauce.
Aside from stuffing ourselves with pizza on a weekly basis, we’ve been enjoying plenty of other outside, at-home activities. There has been time in the hammock…
And a few round of disk golf course on our custom, at-home course. It sounds fancy, but as Tim says, it’s really just “throwing frisbees at trees”. We don’t even have baskets or anything, just some colored flagging on the trees that we’re using as goals. It’s a challenging course with steep grades both up and down, and LOTS of trees.
The wildlife around here has been abundant and keeps us entertained. We’ve seen a few foxes, a bunch of Elk while out hiking, and of course, lots and lots of deer. There are even some that come into the yard on a regular basis.
We also had quite an active bunch of hummingbirds, chipmunks, squirrels, and other birds in the yard for our viewing pleasure.
And then there is the bear. I don’t have any actual photos of the bear because he does all his visiting at night, but I do have photos of the damage the bear left behind.
We’ve known about the bear since the beginning of the summer when he first attempted (and failed) to break into Robin & Jeremy’s basement where they store the trash and recycling. Since then, we’ve all been good about not leaving trash or food out and always bringing the bird feeders in at night. But we’re far from the only people who live around here, and at some point, he must have gotten a taste for human goodies because one night at the end of July I was awoken by a loud thumping noise. It sounded like it was coming from the front of the Airstream where the truck is parked. I opened the curtain and shined a flashlight out the window. Sure enough, there was a big furry bear right next to the back of the truck. I turned around to yell to Tim and when I looked back he was gone.
Luckily, he never actually got the tailgate open, and the damage was minor enough that Tim was able to fix it on his own. The next time we were not so lucky. A few weeks later when we were visiting Shannon & Dave in Breckenridge I got a phone call from Robin. The bear had tried to break into the Airstream the night before.
We were very fortunate that Jeremy heard some noise, woke up, and turned the light on which scared the bear off before he either did more damage or got inside. Can you imagine what could have happened if a big back bear got inside the Airstream? I shudder to even think about it. He did manage to get a paw inside and ripped up the screen pretty good.
As soon as we got home, Tim went into MacGyver mode and tried all sorts of ways to bend the door back in shape. He did get it to a point where it closes and even looks pretty good from a distance. But there’s a big gap on the closing side, the latch is bent, the inside skin needs to be replaced, and the outside aluminum is crazy scratched up.
Despite all of this, I think we’re going to live with it for a while. Eventually, we will get a new door – or rather a new to us door, as it needs to come from an Airstream that was made around 1998. It’s too late to have anything shipped to us before we leave here, and we’re still waiting on our insurance to decide what they will cover. In the meantime, Tim has some additional repair ideas to make it more airtight until we can find a replacement. On that note, anyone have an Airstream door they want to sell?
After all of these words and photos, I haven’t shared anything about our main activity this summer – hiking. We have been hiking up a storm these last three months. Short hikes around the neighborhood, long hikes up mountains and down valleys. We’ve hiked to alpine lakes, through a snowfield, past abandoned cabins, and as high up as 13,700 feet! All this hiking demands a post of its own. Stay tuned for another post all about hiking coming soon.