When our good friend Trent announced that he was getting married, the bachelor party ideas never included Vegas or a night out on the town. The only option for him was going on an excursion in the wilderness.
With the wedding planned in Ouray, Colorado, we set our eyes toward the Rocky Mountains and headed West.
With one final destination, we came in groups by way of the Southern route - taking us through the Texas panhandle and New Mexico.
Riding through the rugged, high desert landscape lends itself to thoughts of the nomadic life of a road warrior. Dirt roads turn off every couple of miles, leading to distant spots on the horizon waiting to be explored.
When the whole cohort arrived in Ouray, the vibe quickly evolved from nomadic wanderings to the jovial celebration of our friends' union.
After a few days living in relative civilization, we headed West yet again, towards the Uncompahgre National Forest. We drove in for almost two hours and chanced upon a primitive campground at the convergence of the middle and West forks of the Uncompahgre River. We were nestled in a valley, swallowed whole by epic peaks and ranges on all sides. It was the perfect spot.
As a unique event, setting up camp is a discourse on individuality and teamwork, on creativity and mindfulness. Each person has a responsibility to themselves to choose the perfect spot for their setup, whether it be a tent, a hammock, or simply a pad on the ground. Where it gets interesting is how all of these private fiefdoms merge into a networked community. The pieces end up representing the whole, and there is a great sense of pride in stepping back and taking in the view of a fully developed campsite.
This site in particular was bordered on three sides by water, so eyeing water levels and high ground was important in choosing the site for your personal abode. Many of us chose hammocks.
After camp was set, the pace slowed as people settled into the more tempered pace of nature. Not ones to argue with the natural world, we were pleased to vibe with the pace of our surroundings.
After an ambiguous amount of time, we started to explore our surroundings while the light held. While most of us had fun simply hiking the river, taking pictures, and fishing a little, Daniel (our resident fisherman), took to his role mightily and never ceased pulling trout from the river. We came and went, but Daniel kept fishing. The lion's share were thrown back, but one fish per person was retained. Dinner was caught.
After some discussion about cleaning the fish away from camp so as not to tantalize any nearby carnivores, the fish were prepped and ready to eat.
As a side note, a frisbee makes a useful tool for any camping trip - regardless of whether or not you plan on throwing it. It can serve as a prep surface, a plate, a lid, a dog bowl, a hat; the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
I'm not sure how to describe it, but camp cooking just seems to come together naturally. You can bring basic spices and condiments, but food seems to taste better in the wilderness. Without butter, spices, or any other additions, the trout that we cooked over the fire on this night had a buttery, rich taste that I don't think I could ever re-create in a kitchen.
Night started to fall and the photographers of the group rushed to the mouth of the river to capture a sunset hued with gold, purple, and blue.
After dark, the activities did not falter. More wood was gathered, the fire was built up to questionable proportions, and an unintentional game of hide and seek was started. Stories and camaraderie unfolded; and with midnight visitors and rising water, the events of the pre-dawn hours were meaningful and memorable for all involved.
As it usually does, our one day and night in the woods passed too quickly. I think to capture more of the essence that the wilderness can endow, a multiple night stay is necessary. With this knowledge in mind, we unwillingly said goodbye to our paradise in Colorado. We all know we'll be back. It's not a matter of if, but when - and how often.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth 1,000 pictures.