I haven’t done it in a long time, I really long time. Only once since I moved to Bozeman Montana may 2015. I didn’t wander. Upon moving to a new town where I didn’t really know many people I forced my self to socialize to make friends and try to conform to those I met. I forgot what had made me who I was and what had brought my closest friends into my life.
I have this delicious past of taking off on solo adventures, without a plan, just a road and a smile. It was this habit that made me want to move to Montana in the first place. The amazing people I met in passing there made the town a special place, somewhere to try more permanently. But once there, I never went on a walk about.
The Burrito and Powder Soul Trip
In an urge to find my self again, I went on the “burrito and powder soul trip.” It started as a gathering at SIA, which isn’t the most soulful event. On my way to on snow demo I blew by the exit at copper mountain in a last minute gesture, something wasn’t sitting right with me, maybe it was burrito number 3 of the trip, and I needed to find more. I ended up on ice encrusted scenic by-ways and struggled to chug my rattled Subaru up to almost 12,000 feet on Fremont Pass. It was off the main drag, it was a good start. It also was dumping, I started to regret my decision to skip the ski area. But Subie and I kept rumbling along. I didn’t have phone service and I didn’t have a map. Disaster was waiting to strike.
After two hours or so of driving in all this pow, I was biting at the bit. I turned up a road thinking “hey there could be some mellow hippy pow to tour up there.” I stumbled into so much more. Nestled in the hills of Colorado is Cooperhill ski area. They serve up dirty telemarkers in the espresso to keep you warm on their three slow going chairs. no one was skiing. Fresh tracks were left right under the chair and the locals there were some of the nicest people I have ever met.
This day at Cooperhill opened my heart again, to being by myself, to friendly strangers, and how glorious a Powday at a sleeper hill is.
I took off that afternoon for Crested Butte, a storm was rattling the hill. That day, at 5pm, I was the last car allowed over Monarch pass, I couldn’t see the tracks of others in front of me and the was almost two feet deep. I was a little bit nervous driving over that pass while it was getting dark. Only a month earlier I totaled my truck on some sneaky black ice at night. The drive truly exhausted me, I was suppose t make it to a friends in crested butte that night, but by the time I got to Gunnison I gave into the idea of a motel with a hot tub and microwave to make lasagna.
I found burrito to eat in the morning and drove up to Crested Butte. It was sunny. It dumped the night before. I got there and found Mackenzie, a past roommate who went searching for taller mountains. We shralped powder, I got altitude sick, and then we jacuzzied. It was a good day.
At 6am the next morning I woke with an urge to move, this might’ve been because there was a storm about to hit the Tetons and D.O.G’s bacon burritos had been missing from my life for some time. This was my first time in Colorado then I drove through Utah, my first time there too. I got to a dinosaur themed town just before Utah and kept moving. I’m not really sure where I was but it was beautiful. I was wrapping my way through incredible isolated mountain roads, I wanted to ski them. That’s when I thought, well hey if I actually brought people with on these trips we could e stopped for road pow. But I have long given up on convincing people to come with, so many people want a promise from it or that’ll be the best trip ever. That’s a lot pressure for me to take on. I like to just go and see what happens.
I have this delicious past of taking off on solo adventures, without a plan, just a road and a smile.
When I was 13 or so my mom and I took off on a summer trip to mount Adams for a week. We navigated with an old hiking book we got at a garage sale. Needless to say we never got up close in personal. It never struck her mind to google “south climb.” We just went. We slept in the car with our dog and found incredible back roads and lakes with no name. We were totally lost the whole time. But this trip as a kid taught me that you don’t need a destination and you can go anywhere if you have a car to sleep in.
Sometime after dinosaur town I ended up passing through Utah, back into Colorado, and into Wyoming. I was keeping on 190 until it stopped.
I’m born and raised in Washington on the west side and in our winters there we just don’t have prominent highways get shut down for all of winter, except for a select few mountain passes.
It never crossed my mind to check that the road google maps had my on was closed. I got to the shut off for 190 there was two feet of snow, and once again no phone service. However, there was a little side road that on google maps looked like it go and then connect to where the highway opened up again. So I drove up a terribly narrow snowy road to get to the peak to have a big rancher man tell me I was in the Wronngngnnng place.
I turned around and backtracked for 3 hours until I had phone service enough to find a new route.
Be Alone and Wander
I wanted to drive through the night to Jackson but that wasn’t going to happen. At midnight my friends called me from the bar and convinced to to park and sleep for the night. Promising they’d meet me with open arms, coffee, and burritos the next morning when I got into town. At 2am I pulled over to a scenic overlook somewhere in Wyoming, it was a vast flat area and very windy. At 5:30am it was -18 degrees and I was two hours from coffee, just no. Eventually I wound up in Jackson, managed to pull one hungover friend out of bed and devoured two d.o.g burritos while booting up glory.
It’s these moments in life that make me feel alive. They harness my creative energy, turn me into a happier person, and sometimes I get a good story from it. It’s good to be alone and wander.
Today I did the same thing. It was “me” day. Phone off. I got on my bike for the first time in 6 weeks and ripped faster than I had all summer. It made me alive to sit down in the timberline lodge drink a beer and reflect on the past summer now that it’s dying down. I wandered my way up to the top of magic mile for sunset, it sparked an urge to write. I haven’t done that in awhile. So here I am on my hood at sunset, alone, writing and there’s nothing that could make me happier.
Written By: Meaghann Gaffney