By the time I left Idaho, I was feeling the pressure of the calendar, and felt like I needed to make up some time. I’d already skipped Vancouver and Alaska, and decided I needed to skip my planned stop in Utah, as well. I drove more than twice as long as I usually set as my maximum one-day drive.

My next planned stop was in Pawnee National Grasslands, in Northeast Colorado, not far from the Wyoming border, and also not far from Nebraska, which would be the final one of the lower 48 U.S. states for me to visit. It seemed like a good plan.

Black-billed Magpie

The day before I left Idaho, Gretchen, who I’d met at Sex Geek Summer Camp this year, and with whom I stayed in Seattle, reminded me that she was going to be not too far from there for the weekend for a reunion. She apparently hadn’t yet tired of my company, and invited me to spend the weekend with her in Estes Park, Colorado, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. There was never any chance I’d say no to that.

Violet-green Swallow

It was late when I finally arrived, but Gretchen had food and booze waiting for me, and a hot shower for which I was immensely grateful. While she did reunion stuff for the weekend, I mostly relaxed and recuperated from the killer drive to get there. I took a few pictures of birds, the mountain across the way, and a couple of the creek down the hill from the back deck of our room.

I’d been re-reading The Lord of the Rings and the heavily forested area reminded me of how I’d picture Rivendell to be, so every time I saw someone walking along the little path beside the creek, I’d exclaim, “THEY’RE TAKING THE HOBBITS TO ISENGARD!” (Only loud enough for Gretchen and me to hear, of course.)

I was exhausted and possibly delirious, so it was much funnier to me than it seemed to be to her. She put up with me, though.

She extended her stay a couple of days, and we got to enjoy the place a bit longer, having only to move to the room across the hall from where we were. On one afternoon, seemingly out of nowhere, we got hammered with a hailstorm the likes I’ve not seen in many, many years.

At the end of it, we got an amazing double rainbow, and could see the end of both bows right in the parking lot, the fainter of the two ending seemingly right on Gypsy. I was really hoping the Universe was telling me it was done fucking with me for awhile.

End of the Rainbows

It was not.