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Day 2: Numbers River Access Point To Buena Vista, Colorado

11 miles - Long Hike In North Chaffee County; Arrival At East Main Street In Buena Vista - April 2, 2010

Chaffee County Walk - The Second Day Begins

Photo: Looking back (north) near the beginning of my Day 2 hike. What a beautiful view of mountains and the Arkansas River! If you have rafted the Numbers on the Arkansas River, then you have rafted through this section.

Transportation From a Former Music Star

Once again, my neighbor Bobby Swanson drove me north of Buena Vista to where I stopped the day before.

Bobby and I talked about many things: His children, his previous work experience in Denver, and the mountains north of town. But our conversation, as it usually did, reverted to his experience as a professional singer and musician. My driver is no ordinary guy, this is the one and only Bobby Swanson!

Bobby wrote his own music and performed as lead singer during the Doo-wop music era in the late 1950's and early 1960's. His songs played steadily on many West Coast radio stations and he even had a #1 hit titled "Baby Doll." Listen to his most popular tunes on YouTube:

  • Ballad Of An Angel (2:45) (His first big hit that reached the top ten charts in 1958; A slow love song. Bobby was a teenager!)
  • Baby Doll (2:11) (#1 smash hit on the West Coast, including Hawaii and other western cities like Denver in November/December 1959!)
  • Rockin' Little Eskimo (2:15) (This would make great background music at a classic car show with 1950's cars and huge ass 1960's cars!
  • Twistin' at the Top (1:59) (Definitely an upbeat tune. Play that guitar, oh yeah!)
  • China Doll (2:08) (Turn the volume up, Up and *UP!* Play it loud!)

    Bobby SwansonBobby was interested in my 2008 bike trip across America, particularly what it was like going alone, the route I took, the total distance in mileage, etc. I told him I was working on a memoir about my trip. Currently my book is in second draft form and I'm paying a freelance editor to make my writing better. My tone of voice emphasized the agony of this painful and long process. Book writing, at least for a newcomer, can be a discouraging endeavor.

    "Maybe you know what it's like," I said, "Isn't writing a song like that?"

    "Oh it can take years to finish a song," Bobby stated, "Sometimes you have a good melody but a block about where to go with it."

    He could empathize with me. Bobby's such a good guy. He's my friend and neighbor. And a blessing in my life.

    We came closer to the Numbers River Access Point where Bobby would drop me off, and I asked if I could take a picture of him. He modestly said no, and I didn't insist on capturing a picture of him. At least not today.

    Our enjoyable conversation was cut short when we arrived. I patted Bobby on the shoulder and thanked him, and suddenly I was alone. On the railroad tracks.

  • Click on any image in this photo gallery to view it at a larger size.

    Day 2 - Eleven Mile Hike To Buena Vista, CO

    I woke up at 7:15 a.m., went outside my Buena Vista home and noticed there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground. It was also 18 degrees! That's an average Colorado winter morning and no big deal really, but it probably wasn't an ideal temperature considering my plans.

    Two hours later, as I stand on these tracks early in my walk, the temperature has risen to the 30's. Snow only covers the planks that run parallel with the rails across a dirt road.

    Railroad Tracks I remember to pray a little quicker than yesterday. I pray a little longer. I don't have a lot of words, but I go with the rhythm of my pace. God knows my heart.

    I continue to snap photos of the thin layer of snow on the wooden ties.

    I turn back and notice a beautiful landscape of mountains, tracks and the Arkansas River. I am so impresssed with this photo that I capture a photo with my cell phone and post it on my Twitter page in real time. :)
    Chaffee County Road 371

    Railroad Tracks

    I am walking at a swift pace. This time, it is not because of cold weather, but because my legs have energy. I am "pumped up" about a longer eleven mile hike today, and the freshness of my legs and feet are aligned with my positive attitude. It's funny how the physical often affects the emotional and mental.

    I cross Chaffee County Road 371 (left photo) and the railroad tracks swing relatively close to the "long straight away" local motorists are well-acquainted with on Highway 24. Houses dot the landscape far and near. To the right, a leashed dog in a backyard barks like crazy at my presence. A woman assesses the scene from her living room door and we briefly make eye contact. I smile and wave. It is hard to disguish her reaction.

    I remember my hairdresser informed me she grew up in this area, and I wonder if I come close to her childhood home. It is in the itinerary to see her when I reach Highway 50 in Salida, but that seems like a long way off ... oh about 51 miles and four days off. :)

    It is cold, but not as cold as yesterday. This time I'm prepared with more clothing - all of my best winter layers are on. The wind picks up. Even with the sun, the wind chill delivers a cruel punch. My hands become cold and I am annoyed that I might experience more "windburn" on my face, for it hasn't entirely recovered from yesterday. My good mood breaks through though, and I remind myself of one positive difference about today's wind: The gusts are coming from the north; the wind is slamming against my back! :)

    Railroad Bridge Railroad Bridge After five miles, I arrive at a railroad bridge over the Arkansas River.
    Arkansas River, Colorado A beautiful view of the Arkansas River facing east.
    The bridge was built by the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company in 1919. Interesting!
    One final shot as I look back at the bridge. Close by is the river access point known as "Railroad Bridge." It is commonly the place to exit for those who whitewater rafted the Numbers on a half day trip.
    Dropped Glove The wind blows hard periodically, and as the hike continues, it blows more than not. Oh how thankful I am that these gusts whipping off the mountains are at my back. The sun mostly hides over the partially cloudy sky, and my hands are cold.

    About a half mile past the bridge, I suddenly realize I only have one glove on me. In my fumbling of items that include a camera, water bottle, cell phone and tripod on my shoulder, I somehow dropped my left glove. I panic! Where did it go?! I look back and notice it's only 20 yards back. Of course, I snap a photo to document the dropped glove experience. :)

    Mt. Columbia and Mt. Harvard

    Mt. Columbia and Mt. Harvard

    A nice view of the summits of Mt. Columbia (pointed peak in left center) and Mt. Harvard (right). These two Colorado 14ers don't receive as much respect and admiration from locals in the valley, as they are somewhat blocked by mountain ridges. Their standard climbing routes are more remote and difficult, making their respective trails less traveled. Three years after this walk, I'd climb Mt. Harvard and I've also ascended Mt. Princeton (thrice), Mt. Yale (twice), Mt. Antero and many nearby Colorado 13ers.

    Mt. Princeton

    I hike to a point that has a name, Americus. It is on my map, just like "Princeton" on the first day.

    I attempt to include the steel Americus structure on the left with the mountains on the right, but the lighting from a photographer's standpoint is horrible.

    Ah the challenges of a Colorado photographer! There is nothing as maddening as the combination of snowy white-capped moutains and bright white clouds surrounding them to pretty much blur the details of the mountain. Nonetheless, I do my best to photograph Mt. Princeton from the tracks, knowing one of today's photos will be displayed on That four-year-old website is a hobby/obsessesion in which I post a photo of Mt. Princeton on a nearly daily basis.

    Long Hike The walk becomes long. This is a much longer walk than yesterday. For the first five miles, my legs and attitude are good. But somewhere past Railroad Bridge, morale begins to decline.

    My legs become tired. My feet feel worn. What I thought were slight blisters on my left toes yesterday, are transforming into beastly centers of irritation. My mind longs for the end. Yet I know longing for the end will probably make the hike seem longer. I try to act like I am not bothered, but it doesn't work.

    I walk through a landscape plush with pinions and yucca. Occasionally I have a view of a large home. At one point, I turn back and notice an excellent view of the tracks behind me. Those tracks look so long and seem to go on endlessly! The view inspires me to tweet on Twitter these words:

    "I think it's easy to pity yourself when you are walking a long distance on railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere." #steveswalk

    Elephant Rock I continue walking south. On the left is Elephant Rock, an area popular for rock climbing.
    Chaffee County Hike I walk past milemarker 243. This confirms I have walked nine miles and have three more to go. On the left is a tunnel for railroad tracks of a different railroad company that shut down in the early 20th Century. Currrently Chaffee County Road 371 runs through it.
    Arkansas River, CO
    Photo Above: Notice how low the water level is on the Arkansas River. Obviously it is too low for kayakers and whitewater rafters today, but wait until the snow melts in earnest in the mountains! The commerical rafting season begins in May and is in full swing by Memorial Day weekend.
    Even though I'm 75% finished with my walk, 2-3 miles is still a long distance. My attitude teeters toward negativity. Will Buena Vista ever come?! And where is this stupid second bridge I will be crossing?!

    The two blisters on my left toes feel worse. It is amazing how a slight rub of one's footwear and toes (covered with a sock) can create such irritation. When I am exhausted like this, it makes me mentally tired. I start thinking gloomy, crotchety thoughts.

    I spend way too much time in my own displaced thought world, but eventually I catch myself. I am experienced enough to know that if I continue hiking, no matter how slow a pace, eventually I will reach the end.

    Arkansas River

    Arkansas River

    I reach the second bridge and it does not have much interest to me. I hardly paused to snap photos of the Arkansas River from each side.
    Mt. Princeton Then I see my first major sign of hope that my hike is coming to an end. A trailer park on the right is situated close to the tracks. I rummage through my geographical memory of Buena Vista and recall that a few trailer park areas and RV villages are north on Highway 24. This must be them! I'm coming closer to town. :)
    Midland Hill, CO More and more signs tell me I'm close. Chaffee County Road 371 comes close to the tracks. Also, Midland Hill (adjacent photo) becomes recognizable. This small mountain area is situated directly east of the town center of Buena Vista.

    I have hiked this mountain on many occasions. My pages:

  • First Time
  • With Hubers Family
  • Via Northeast Ridge

  • Various industrial properties are near the tracks. I see the True Value Hardware Store, and snap a decent shot of Mt. Columbia ... minus those pesky, poofy white clouds I wrote about earlier.

    Buena Vista, Colorado

    I continue walking. The tracks run adjacent to Highway 24, and I see many more businesses I'm acquainted with from the back, including the Best Western Inn and the Trailhead Outdoor Store. Then I see the Conoco station! Oh the joy in me! I knew this would be a horrible photo from a scenery standpoint, but I didn't care. I was so stinking happy to be all but finished.
    Mt. Princeton
    I crossed Arkansas Street, located within Buena Vista town limits. Among the many roads I've crossed on these tracks, I believe this is the first with the large railroad contraption with red lights.

    I stand idly for a minute and wait for a car to cross to photograph the novelty of a vehicle going over the tracks. :)

    Past Arkansas Street, I have one final block to reach East Main Street in Buena Vista.

    The ending is so sweet. After 10+ miles of walking through windy wilderness in the middle-of-nowhere, I finish in a very familiar setting.

    I walk past the back entrance to Peak Fitness. This is my gym that I regularly workout at! Peak Fitness
    It has been a difficult day capturing scenery, and so my camera use is plentiful in this last 0.2 miles.

    TOP: The east side of the tracks that include Buffalo Joe's whitewater rafting company.

    SECOND: To the west are attractive homes with architecture from the Victorian era.

    Only about 100 feet to Main Street!

    On the left is a public parking lot; my car is parked there!

    The sidewalk of East Main Street in Buena Vista. I stand for a few moments to look around and think about what photos I want to take now that I'm here. Never have I been so enthusiastic about taking photos of this particular spot in Buena Vista. :) Main Street Buena Vista, CO
    I cross Main Street and snap a photo facing east.

    Across the street, the light reflects perfectly on the Lariat Bar & Grill and Buena Vista's historic Town Hall building.

    Buena Vista, CO

    Buena Vista, CO Town Hall

    I am so tired from this hike. And so very happy to be finished!

    The wind blows hard and reminds me that mother nature is not messing around today. It is early April, which I call a "teaser month." It really isn't that warm yet.

    My hands become cold from standing around, and so I hurry to set my tripod and camera. Thumbs up friends!



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