Camping in Vail, CO

This past weekend was saturated with color, exhaustion, excitement, frustration, pride, love, and friendship… and the million other sentiments and characterizations of what goes with being human. But truly, it was a kaleidoscope of everything.

I’ve kept in touch with a friend I knew years ago from working at Red Fish Blue Fish, a restaurant back in Pensacola Beach, so when she messaged me that she was going to be only 2 hours away for a weekend I immediately decided to make the trip out to see her. She was in Vail for a lesson by a traveling yoga teacher. David, Lacey and I piled into the car with meager supplies (I knew we would probably camp in Vail but David wasn’t 100% into it so I only halfway packed — absolutely illogical) and began the drive. We turned on Spotify and let the music carry us higher into the mountains.

Around thirty minutes in I saw a sign for a coffee shop — which is unusual to see in one of those “service” signs along a highway — and we decided to pull over. I had some kind of cold/flu bug that had stolen my voice and was causing a nasty hacking cough, so after a bit of Googling I decided I absolutely needed honey and floral tea.

We drove up to a small strip-mall in the middle of nowhere on a mountain near Golden, Colorado and found the coffee shop. We brought Lacey to an outdoor table. David held the excitedly-sniffing Lacey while I walked in to order. IMG_1711

I got a chamomile and loaded it with honey. David got a bhakti chai (which was smooth, silky, and deliciously spicy). We also ordered a bit of food to tide us over, since I’d only brought 6 boiled eggs, a handful of cheese-crackers, and three bananas with peanut butter.

When a barista poked her head of of the door to hand us our food, Lacey became overly excited. Here is a photo of her shooting her puppy-dog eyes at David:


Aaaaand here’s a photo of her looking at me as if to say “One of you, pleeeaaaaseeeeee”… she acts like she’s starving. The spoiled mongrel.


We got back into the car and this time, we made it to Vail. It was overcrowded because GoPro was sponsoring outdoor games in the city center. Vail in general is a tourist town, only truly built for people passing through to shop, live short-term, or experience festivals. It took us a while to find free parking, but we did, and walked into the city.

We explored for a few minutes until we walked into an open area filled with tents. Dogs were everywhere, and as we passed one group of teenage guys one looked at Lacey and stated, “That dog should be jumping.” Indeed, it was a dog-jumping competition where humans pointed at a hanging toy suspended on a pole and sent their canine companions forward to attempt to leap and grab hold of it. It was awesome.

We headed back when my friend, Kate, called to say she was ready to head to our campsite. We met her at our car, and followed her down the highway and onto a winding dirt road leading us higher and higher. We saw the white-capped mountains and the lower ones; we were at an altitude of at least 9,000 feet. It was beautiful, and increasingly cold… and David and I had only packed shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Luckily we had left our tent and sleeping bags in the car from the last weekend of camping, but we didn’t have any kind of sleeping pad which the avid camper knows means the earth steals away all body heat. Alas, we did not get much sleep that night.

For more reason that the cold, though, were we kept up: a group of high school-aged kids were having a rager directly next to us. Directly as in in the wee hours of the morning, when they were completely wasted, they hit our tent and my friend’s tent with their glow-in-the-dark frisbee repeatedly. I will never forget their voices, shouting “Just toss it a bit more to the left, broooooo…” and “Give it more juice, brooooo…”

And yet, nothing can truly ruin camping. At least nothing that shallow. My friend had brought her boyfriend and we all gathered around the campfire, which was blessedly further away from the party than our tents. The temperature was freezing once the sun was gone, but the fire was so warm, and David and I brought our sleeping bags to the fire as blankets. I completely wrapped myself in mine and had even cinched it up at the top so only my head could fit through — I couldn’t easily walk, but damn, was I warm. We let Lacey wander around the open clearing, only checking on her every so often to be sure she hadn’t gone rogue and abandoned us.

We roasted marshmallows, and gazed at the stars. Kate had an app on her phone which showed which stars belong to which constellation, and we were able to identify Mars and the North Star, among others. I laid back against a fallen tree and spent a long while simply staring at the sky and listening to my friends’ conversation. The wind was perfectly calm and the air perfectly clear.

I must back up!! I forgot to describe the sunset. It rained right after we set up camp so we hid in our respective tents — Kate and Jackson in theirs, and David, Lacey and I in ours. I read for a while, and David played the ukulele. Lacey snoozed. Some time later, David noticed that the entire West side of the tent was lit up as if dropped in a warm, orange-red pool of dye. We quickly yet gingerly unzipped the tent because of the cold to the most incredible view. IMG_1732

These photos cannot begin to truly demonstrate what we truly witnessed.


Yet I want you to understand.


When we woke up the next day, we took down our tent and packed up quickly, because we had decided to go into town for breakfast and each of us was sleep-deprived, warmth-deprived, food-deprived, and coffee-deprived. We found a French cafe and ate sitting in a patch of grass behind the establishment. We talked politics, and Lacey chased squirrels.

Life’s simple.


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