Denver, Colorado, July 27, 2013
I never quite know what to expect when I stay at a new place. Will it smell, are the beds hard, or I guess in the case of Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs Colorado, I wondered if I could go nude in the baths. My wife made the reservation after I gave her a city and she thought staying here would be fitting but she didn’t know if I needed a suit either. Indian Hot Springs looks like what Camp Verde Hot Springs probably looked like if it didn’t burn down and close 70 years ago, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the same architects were used.
The resort is a throwback to another era and since I didn’t have a bathing suit with, I was a little worried. I proudly read the sign. Due to popular demand, the caves are now clothing-optional. Due to construction delays on I-70, I arrived late and as such decided that I would imbibe. The first thing to understand here is this is not some libertine utopia. It is a campground and a pool complex, which is not clothing optional and the caves are segregated. No mixed comingling in the pools so only peckers here, I guess, and they enforce quiet. I got chatty with a guy in the cool pool (maybe one hundred and two), and a naked Hindu guy yelled at me and looked as though he was going to snap me, since I was closer, with his towel. The Russian guys had been chatting all the time but this guy probably didn’t know Russian so he grumped at us. I guess I made a friend but since he was the only guy who spoke English as his native language, that is not surprising. I could hear echoes from women talking in their cave. Acoustics are off in caves.
If you want a claustrophobic skinny dip in some hot tubs, this is the place. It was probably an abandoned mineshaft, or something but I guess it worked. I didn’t check out the rest of the complex as it was closing time and after pounding the trails in search of the red-faced warbler, my legs were tired and again, I’d have to get up early.
I drove through the all-night McDonalds at a quarter past four and then began the assault on Mount Evans. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay the ten dollars to gain access. The road was narrow and had sheer drops of hundreds of feet as I climbed to somewhere over twelve thousand feet. Surprisingly I passed joggers and walkers in the pitch darkness. This was not like any other park, I’d been to, this one was used and used early. I parked at Summit lake and expected I’d have the place to myself for a while. I guessed wrong. Within minutes cars began to arrive so at first light, there were at least six cars there and when I decided to venture out in the cold wind and find a position to see a bird, it was uncomfortably busy.
It would turn out that by some after seven, the parking lot was full, the road had cars lined up like it was some sort of auction. Wow, was this place busy. I found a place by a rock, sort of out of view and got ready. Luckily the birds came early, American pipits were everywhere, and then two brown-capped rosy-finches arrived on a rock then under it. I looked over, took a half-assed picture, which was good, because I wasn’t sure if I had seen it at first and then after a large group of young hikers in oddly sixties colored hiking outfits started up the trail. I decided I needed to find a better spot and I got dressed and left. At least I had got my bird.
The road up to Mt. Evans is nuts. It ends at some of 14,000 feet and is the highest paved road in America. The road is narrow, in poor shape, and has absolutely no guard rails, shoulders, or turnouts—save for some warning cones where the edge of the road has eroded down the cliff. Between the altitude and my height aversion, I could barely get out of the car and stand up. There was no place to turn around so I had to climb to the top. The pipits stopped at 13,500 and at the top, one saw mountain goats, ravens, and tourists. I went back down the hill and saw maybe one further rosy-finch along with over fifty pipits, marmots, pikas, and goats on the road.
I tried to hike at a different level but crud, I was getting sick of the altitude, sick of the tourists everywhere and decided to descend to Echo Lake lodge for breakfast and watch ruby-throated hummers out the window. It seemed odd that every parking spot on a sixteen mile road was filled by eight in the morning. This would be one spot I would never ever drive again. If my wife dumped my ashes up here when I die, I will promise to haunt her. I don’t get a Rocky Mountain ‘high’ when I’m up here at high altitude, I get a headache. It is more like a Rocky Mountain Hangover, but after three cups of coffee, the headache cleared. Bird number five hundred ninety was in the bucket, I could now head home.
Apologies to the family of John Denver,
American Pipit, these were all over
A sassy chipmuck