I spent seven weeks in Lake City, mostly working on my website as I described earlier. Most days were pretty much the same and, because I know you're absolutely dying to know this, I'll tell you my routine:
Above: Lake City was my home for seven weeks, from mid-June until the end of July, as I set up my website. I also visited lots of favorite places and saw some old friends from the days when I worked as a ranger here.
Each morning I’d get up around 6 a.m. when it was 45-50 degrees, get out of my truck, and sit in the sun to warm up as I ate breakfast, which was usually a muffin and banana. I’d work on my website all morning until 11:30, then I’d leave the campground and drive to the Highlander RV Park a few miles away, where I’d take a shower. The folks who run the Highlander are terrific and they made me feel like family. The Lake City library didn’t open until 1 p.m., so I usually hung out at the Highlander working on my website, then I’d head into town and go to the library. And there I’d sit for the next four hours, until 5 p.m., when it closed.
After the library closed, I’d usually head over to one of the small Lake City markets and get a bag of ice and maybe some food – but not too much because prices in Lake City are pretty steep. Instead I’d wait until Saturday, when I’d drive the 50 miles to Gunnison, which had a Safeway and a large City Market (as well as the world’s smallest Wal-Mart. Literally, it’s the smallest one).
Around 5:30 p.m., I’d head back to Williams Creek campground, wave to Joan, the campground host, and pull into my site. Then I’d make dinner, maybe work a little bit more on my website, and finally around 8 p.m., I might start a campfire – or not, depending on the weather. Then I’d pull out my laptop and watch an MP4 TV show from my hard drive, usually something like Mad Men, Outlander, Manhattan, or The Newsroom. Around 10 p.m., I'd brush my teeth and get in the back of my truck, pull the sleeping bag over me, and go to sleep. A couple nights a bear came into my campsite and made some commotion, which woke me up, but other than that, it was pretty mellow.
And that was my routine for the nearly two months I stayed in Lake City. Intersperse that with occasional forays such as to American Basin or Leadville that I described in my last entry, and with a weekly trip down to Gunnison for groceries, and that’s how I spent my June and July. It's true, I wasn’t getting any traveling done, but I was living in the most beautiful place in America, a place where I had a lot of good memories. And of course, I was visiting places I'd been thinking about for years and was learning web design, so for me it worked.
A Special Place Called the Powderhorn
One of the places I visited in July was the Powderhorn Wilderness Area, where I had worked on a BLM trail crew in 1983 and then again as the Wilderness Ranger in 1985. It's a place of gentle landscapes nestled high in the Rockies. And for me, it's a place chock-full of good memories.
One Sunday in mid-July, I drove 10 miles up the dusty Indian Creek road, halfway between Lake City and Gunnison, and hiked back into the Powderhorn. The last time I’d been here was in 1995 and that was just for a few hours. It was great to be back and I didn’t see anyone else all day, which made it even better. I hiked in over Calf Creek Plateau, ate lunch above the Powderhorn lakes, then hiked down to the lakes and relived a lot of good memories. Around 4 p.m., I headed back to the trailhead, passing the same cairns (rock piles) marking the trail that I’d built over 30 years ago.
Here are a few panoramas I took during my trip:
The Powderhorn is a very special place to me. In fact, it's probably the one place in the San Juan Mountains that I feel the closest connection with, considering all the months that I lived there. It was really nice to be back.
A Trip Back to the Powderhorn
My Legacy Lives On
By late July, I’d created the framework for my website and was starting to write content for my News updates. After working in the wonderful Lake City library every weekday during the the past month and the Gunnison library on Saturdays, I'd taught myself how to:
- Post photos at three different sizes (thumbnail, medium size and full size (1400 x 933 pixels) and add captions.
- Create and post web maps.
- Create and post 360-degree panorama photos.
- Create a “slide show” for the top of my Home page, showing photo highlights of my trip, and
- Post videos.
But it wasn’t all work and no play. No siree. When I wasn’t in the library, I spent a lot of time hanging around the Lake City area. One morning I went on an interesting hour-long historical walking tour of Lake City, led by a pleasant young woman who told me she was a Lake City native and was now going to grad school in Oklahoma. During the tour, she mentioned that Lake City is home to the second-highest cottonwood tree in the United States, which piqued my interest – you know, being the Extreme Geographer and all. OK, so it’s not really "geography" but still I was intrigued, so I’ve posted a couple pics here of one of Lake City’s claim to fame. By the way, the tallest cottonwood tree in America – and I know you’re dying to know this – is in Utah.
During the tour she also mentioned that she worked in the Lake City Visitor’s Center when she wasn’t giving historical talks so, towards the end of the tour, I mentioned that I’d written the “Ghost Towns of Lake City” brochure back in the 1980s – or at least, I’d written several individual 8.5 x 11” pages, each with a description of a different ghost town, that someone had apparently combined into a single fold-out brochure. “Oh my gosh,” she said, “I can’t believe you wrote those!” She said, “We’d been Xeroxing your full-page sheets for years, so I figured we should put them all into a single brochure.” I’ve always been a big history buff and it was great to see that the historical work I’d started doing so many years ago is being carried on by the next generation.
One morning about a week later, I drove up to the Lake San Cristobal Overlook, which is perched on a hillside by Highway 149 a few miles outside of town and provides a spectacular view of the second-largest natural lake in Colorado. I walked up the short trail to the overlook and started taking pictures, then a few minutes later, a fellow walked up the trail and joined me. “What an amazing view!” he said with a Texas drawl. “This is probably the best view in the Rocky Mountains I’ve ever seen.” I agreed, then I mentioned that I built the overlook about 30 years ago because I wanted folks to enjoy it. It was pretty primitive back then: I created a sign that said “Scenic Overlook” by painting stenciled letters, then put up the sign and widened the deer-path of a trail that led to the overlook.
I told him that my BLM successor, Sally, and her crew had installed nice interpretive signs during the following years. But still, this fellow Niltz was floored. “I can’t believe I’m standing here with the guy who built this overlook 30 years ago.” Today dozens of folks visit the Lake San Cristobal overlook every day and enjoy the same view that first took my breath away back in 1986, and for that I’m glad.
After leaving my BLM ranger job in 1988, I wondered if my efforts during the previous six years had been worth it or had meant anything to anyone. But standing here at the Lake San Cristobal overlook and thinking about what Niltz said and the comments of the tour guide earlier, I realized it had.
Late July in Lake City