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For the Rockies

Updated: Jul 29

We’ve gone to Ouray, Colorado and we’re never coming back! So said the gods of thunder and lighting and fevers and headaches.

Out of Zion we made a brief visit with family in Grand Junction, just long enough to visit the Colorado National Monument and, unknowingly, get exposed to Covid.

We pressed on up into the Rockies where I was immediately smitten with the tiny town of Ouray, known as the Alps of America. It’s where you go to off-road and rock climb and hike up to gulches carved into the belly of a gorgeous little town surrounded by mountains the color of rainbows.

But we didn’t do any of that.

We set up camp in Angel Creek just above town, soaked in the hot springs resort, and had one glorious day in Silverton at the Old Hundred Gold Mine before Cooper uttered the words, “I don’t feel well.”

I think we’ll just ignore that, right? Go for another soak in the springs, have a nice camp fire, plan our hike for the next day, and go to sleep under a blanket of stars…only to wake up to a fever and glassy eyes.

When covid comes for you it doesn’t give a damn where you are or what you have planned. And neither did another round of a migraine that showed up for Sophia the morning after that. And neither did the people who reserved our campsite out from under us because we were supposed to pack up the next morning and be on our way.

This is what you get when one starts a sojourn with an essay proclaiming your wish to return home a changed woman. Cue a much more complicated version of the week that followed. Cue the pivot. Cue the what the hell do I do now? I only had two hands, and two hands were not enough for two sick kids and a third that constantly climbs the walls with energy.

But I pack a mean first aid and natural remedy kit. And I’ve known for years how to pour medicine with one hand while winning a round of Uno with the other. And I also know how to keep an eye out for opportunity, so as the campsite next to us packed up, I reserved it along with our original campsite just in case the people who reserved our site had a measure of mercy on us and would let us stay.

From there I left The Bigs in the tent to read and gently suffer while the healthy kid and I went bouldering up the river. But then we had to get back to administer more medicine, and replace the migraine throw-up bag, and maybe not risk running into a bear, or worse, have one of us get hurt on the slippery rocks.

So back to camp, and then back to town with a wrestles seven year old, to rework a Covid-friendly week in Denver in a coffee shop with spotty internet. But before we finished the cocoa, the skies got dark and then opened up in a downpour.

We got back to camp to find the The Bigs in the tent with everything pulled inside with them. They were lying among the chairs, groceries and cookware trying to keep everything clear, as best they could, from the leaking side of the tent.

But they were feeling better, and if nothing else we had made strides toward conditioning them for that first time they are sick and stranded at college. Or that unexpected turn of events while backpacking through Europe, and you’re suddenly not where you thought you would be. These were the days that would give them some grit.

Yep, because the moment I saw the improving whites of their eyes, I told them we had to move camp and move it quick. The sky was darkening and we could hear the thunder coming closer and the sun had dipped behind the hill, and the people who had reserved our site would surely come back any minute because it was only growing more ominous with the approaching storm.

And I’ll tell you, we were a sight to behold. Four ailing, feverish and exhausted people have never moved faster to get a tent and all of the supplies across the road and buttoned up before absolute deluge.

Deluge, I tell you. And thunder so loud we thought Zeus himself was standing over our tent, and lighting that struck just beyond the campground so close that the flash lit us up with absolute awe and terror. If you have ever been outside when a thunder and lighting storm is hanging that low, it makes you understand completely how fragile and inconsequential is the human life when Mother Nature stretches her power.

And this particular mother right here, huddled in the tent, was exhausted from stretching her power. The physical demands of driving, camping, reworking plans and holding up the health and wellbeing of the four of us going on two weeks, had left me with split nerves. Which is exactly when you would cue the leaking tent that started to drip from every flap and seam. Right? Perfect timing.

Forget the rain flap, it was only working in places, and the tarp was not under the tent providing a layer of protection, it was draped over one end of the roof, while all of our towels and blankets were soaking up puddles inside, all around our little huddle.

Our huddle that suddenly came together to make the best of a scary and very wet situation. We distracted ourselves with card games and jokes. And in a miracle moment, the oldest gave up her earbuds to the youngest to distract him away from his tears with a downloaded video.

And yep, lentil packets and soggy PB&J is all we have for dinner. And yep, all the firewood is now wet. And yep, we all get to sleep in a wet sleeping bag.

In the morning we woke up to a gloriously clear sky. And while The Bigs had two sets of clear eyes with no fever, no headaches, no problem, Mason registered a temperature, because Covid could care less about letting you catch a break.

Wet and exhausted and on another round of fever and contagion we were on the road again to Denver. A hotel, laundry, and a moment for this mama to catch her breath.

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