For our introduction to our two day challenge, Blake Boles read us the poem The Perfect High by Shel Silverstein, in which a character goes to meet a wise guru. We were told that the following day we would go to meet him. We were emailed a packing list and told to have a belly full of breakfast by 9am, and so we went off to bed with a decent amount of confusion and a sense of upcoming adventure.
The next morning we found ourselves in the car with no idea where we were headed, until everything started to look familiar. We were back in Paonia, but were still left with the question of who the guru was as we revisited our old stomping grounds. We drove to a part of town that was unfamiliar to us, and were greeted by an old friend, Cameron. He brought us to the cemetery, where he imparted his advice on how he enjoys to travel. The rest of our challenge, having met our guru, was to take his advice.
We were given three locations in the neighboring town of Carbondale to explore for starters, and were instructed to find our way to them without using google maps or any electronics. After finding these locations, Cameron advised us to talk to locals and look for similarly interesting locations that we couldn’t easily find with Google.
The first of these locations was Penny Hot Springs. Without Google maps, finding the springs took a lot of stopping and asking for directions. After finally finding the hot springs we had a very pleasant and invigorating swim. We talked to some locals who pointed us towards some interesting locations in the vicinity of Aspen. We decided that these should be our next destination.
Ashcroft, a ghost town 11 miles outside of Aspen, offered us a look into a decrepit part of Colorado history. We saw all manor of abandoned buildings and found a location for future Unschool Adventure programs (see photo below!). We then went to what would turn out to be one of the most disappointing places of our adolescent lives: Aspen.
We explored businesses, and everything was too expensive. We asked for advice on places to visit and were only advised on tourist traps. A woman working at a coffee shop walked by us with a tin stuffed with a tragic number of donuts, clearly intended for garbage, addressed us with an apologetic “I’m sorry, I can’t give you any.” We returned to Blake with undeveloped ideas that were not up to his standards of adventure.
Defeated, hungry, and hoping to find a place to sleep before too long, we went back to the streets of Aspen. We very quickly encountered a beautiful, wonderful, young gentleman full of beautiful, wonderful advice. He told us about a beautiful pass that we could drive over that wouldn’t require us to retrace our steps, and would get us out of that god-forsaken town. While this conversation was going on, we became aware of a pizzeria across the street, a.k.a. dinner.
With our stomachs full of cheese and sugary tomato paste, we began our drive over Independence Pass. Where the pass intersected with the continental divide we did some star-gazing, perhaps some of the best yet during the semester. After driving down the pass, we arrived at our palace, our home-away-from-home, our godsend, a Super-8 Motel in Buena Vista, Colorado.
We slept like sedated elephants, only to be awoken by the promise (the lie) of a continental breakfast. A little hungry and full of expired yogurt, we took to the town to find our final destination. We had heard tell of hot springs several miles away in Salida, but were informed by several people that they were neither free nor all that great, so we kept on searching. Finally, at a bakery, we came across the nicest man in the entire world, and probably Jupiter as well. He fed us monkey bread and coffee and told us of a moderate hike to the top of the nearest hill. We took his advice and his food, and embarked on one last journey before heading back to the hostel. The hike proved to be a source of great conversation and reminiscence on our past 24 hours.
Three hours, four games of twenty questions, and 8 pounds of Chinese food later, we arrived back at the hostel with a multitude of stories, adventure in our hearts, and a craving to do nothing but sleep. Happy road-tripping, friends!