The day after I got back from the west coast, I packed up and drove to Crested Butte and Gothic, Colorado for 11 days to visit some friends and conduct some business with 2 Plank Productions. But that was just the beginning of one of the craziest weeks of my life...
The goggle tan was still in full effect as I began my drive
Welcome to the town of Gothic, Colorado. It lies about 15 minutes above Crested Butte at around 9,500 ft. The town was birthed in 1879 due to 2 brothers discovering silver in the mountains in the area and during it's prime was home to 2,000 miners, prostitutes, and other inhabitants. By 1893, the year of the Silver Crash, the town became deserted.
In 1928, what was left of the town along with its surrounding land was purchased by R.M.B.L. (pronounced RUMBLE) which stands for Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. RMBL is one of the most renowned privately funded Biological labs in the world and is home to my best friend Zac, his girlfriend Joan, and newfound friend Denise who all happen to be taking some classes, and doing some research and internships there for the summer.
The whole town in made of a dozen or so log cabins surrounding a single gravel road. The town has no bathrooms (only outhouses), paved roads, or anything else you would think a town to have, and it relies on solar power for pretty much everything. Gothic is home to 3 year round residents, but in the summer 160 people flock from all over the world to conduct research and teach class.
Friends Joan, Zac, Denise, and I went on a 2-day camping/hiking adventure right off the bat.
Here we are in my off-roading beast on some lonely mountain pass fording one of the many mountain streams we came across.
I brushed my teeth as usual before retiring to our tent, but when I took a nice big gulp of Zac's water I quickly realized that I had inadvertently just drank his stove fuel (which he stores in an unmarked gatorade bottle for some reason). I tried to spit most of it out, and was unsure how much I had actually consumed. Apparently the company adds poison to the denatured alcohol to avoid liquor tax and such, and I was a little worried as I went to bed since it causes blindness.
Then at about 2-am, I heard something continuously brushing up against our water jug outside the tent. I crawled out of the tent in time to chase away a cute, but huge, porcupine that made a quick retreat for the nearest tree.
In the morning we began our hike into Paradise Valley to climb Cinnamon Mountain. I guess Joan thought it would be nice to make me into a trail marker at the top.
The next day we piled into George's Jeep to do some field research. George is one of the 3 year round residents, and teaches a class every summer on field ecology.
It was wild flower season as we hiked into the wilderness to conduct species richness research.
George lends a watchful eye as Denise begins plotting out some land.
Here I am pitching in at one of the sites, staking out 16 square meters.
When we got back, I ran into a crazy looking lama that its owners used as a hiking pack mule. The other ones were less scary to pet.
A day or two later Zac, Denise, and I went out to help Joan with some of her research. Here we are baiting and setting 49 mousetraps in the middle of nowhere in accordance with her beetle research.
Producer of Two Plank Productions Corey Tibjlas's house was a frequent hang out of mine (p.s., thanks for all the showers and Go-Fast Corey). My main business was to act as middleman for a footage trade between Two Plank, ATA Productions, and Shades Of Gray Productions.
For more info on these great companies, check out
Corey threw a party at his place one night. Some crack-head dance craze fever video game was the main source of competition for those too scared to dance with real people. Corey and our friend Sara show me how it’s done.
Sara's friend offered to corn row my hair, might as well...
Joan took full advantage of my defenseless situation by shoving tons of marshmallows into my mouth.
Then she felt bad, and began bringing me drinks
The next morning Zac and I went on an adventure to top all adventures. We backpacked for a couple days from Gothic to Aspen, and on the way stopped at some hot springs and climbed 2 of Colorado's 54 14,000 ft mountains.
Zac and I begin the trek up triangle pass as a storm rolled in.
Anything you see with the pink line shows our route that we took.
Looking' crisp at the top of the pass
We took a quick soak in the Conundrum Hot Springs before attempting to find a place to sleep. The route behind me shows the first part of the climb we took the next day.
We bumped into Ranger Rick (real name Tyson) who we discussed the finer points of outdoor life with. Coolest guy ever.
As we were looking for a place to set up Zac's homemade tarp tent, the sky opened up and it began to dump hail and rain all night. I cowered under my child's umbrella as Zac quickly set up some shelter.
Since there is no bottom or sides to the tarp, plenty of hail began bouncing in on us.
Although a camping no-no (due to hungry animals), we had no choice but to cook some food under our tarp as it got dark.
We didn't bother to hang up our food in a tree. We figured that animals wouldn’t bother us since it was raining so hard all night.
We figured wrong.
I awoke to a larger than cat sized animal pouncing on my legs and growling loudly. It began to wrestle with me as I tried to kick it away. We couldn’t see what it was since it was so dark, and the rest of the night was spent literally wrestling various animals from out of our tarp tent. At one point an hour or two later Zac woke up to something chewing away at his pillow directly under his head. The damn thing managed to eat through several bags and got some of our nut mix! We then turned on both of our lights to flash mode in hopes of scaring some animals away, but there were many more similar incidents throughout the night. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep so well in preparation to hike a pair of 14ers in the morning. Oh yeah, and a fox stole my sandal, had to spend $35 on new ones, son of a bitch!!
The forest was wet with hail, rain, and dew in the morning where we camped at 11,500 ft.
So, hiking Castle and Conundrum is normally not a very hard task, if you come from the Aspen side of the range. In fact Castle is one of the easier 14ers to climb, given you are start enough to take the normal route. We were warned by countless climbers that it couldn’t be done from the route we wanted to take, and ran into scores more that had tried in the past couple days and failed early in the going.
Zac looked a bit worried as I told him never mind that nonsense, we can do it!
Zac looking at some mountain goats on an impossibly narrow ridge at 13,000 ft. Don't mistake these for the much more common, smaller, lower elevation dwelling big horned sheep commonly seem in Colorado.
After we thought we were pretty much at the top, the path we still needed to take laid out before us like a sore thumb.
Zac climbing one of the many completely vertical sections we came across. We had no rope or climbing gear what so ever and at no point during this mission were we on a path or pre-planned route of any kind. As the day rolled by and the deadly afternoon lightning storms approached, we many times wondered how bad of an idea this whole thing really was.
Zac and I finally stand on top of the first 14er of the day, Castle.
Here I am on the second 14er of the day, Conundrum. In the background a very small portion of our route is shown.
Then it was time to Glissade down several thousand feet. Fast, cold, wet, scary, and fun.
After we successfully made it down, we began the long process of hitchhiking back from Aspen to Gothic through Twin Lakes, Salida, Gunnison, and Crested Butte.
Here is our first ride, doing a little 4-wheeling.
We actually drove down a big stream.
On the next ride out of Aspen over Independence pass, we hitched with a young lady in a Honda CRV. As we came around one of the many sketchy bends on the mountainous pass, a 4runner swerved out in front of us. Both cars were going about 50mph and a head-on crash was imminent as I peered to my right from the front seat to see the cliff we were about to fall down after the 2 cars hit. At the last second both cars swerved and I heard a loud smash and glass shattering as shards flew into our open window and landed on our laps. The 4 runner came so close that both mirrors shattered, but we were alive. Our driver slammed on the brakes only to see the other car dip off in the opposite direction in an attempt to hit and run. Our driver was shaken and unsure what to do, so Zac quickly said, "After them!" We pulled a U-turn and began chasing them back down the mountain. After about several tense minutes, we caught them and made them pull over. After some sharp advise from me that he could have killed us, they exchanged information and we were on our way.
Here we are in another ride, playing with a dog. Even after telling this driver about out near death experience 20 minutes before, she somehow managed to almost kill us several times trying to pass on the middle divider between a semi truck and oncoming traffic on Monarch Pass.
In Crested Butte, we crammed into the back of a Rav 4 and picked up Joan and her sister for the trek back to Gothic.
Then it was off to Edwards to get an MRI for my upcoming repeat of a shoulder surgery from last year. Wish me luck, maybe the surgery will work this time.
After meeting up with Jon Cyrulik, Steve Innis, Colby Adams and other friends for some Old Chicago in Silverthorne, I headed back to Boulder, but stay tuned for more never-ending nonsense...