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June 17th - 20th, 2004

Since moving to Colorado, I have always wanted to make it down for the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Being a nice 6 to 7 hour drive from Estes Park, it's not something I can just run down to for an evening. So some old friends, Harper & her boyfriend Michael, Rayner & Tanya, and I decided to make a week of it. Rayner flew up and spent a couple of days in Estes and we went to pick up Harper & Tanya on Thursday, the 17th, from DIA. A speeding ticket and seven hours later we met Michael at Harpers house in Telluride, in the midst of a beautiful evening, with four full days of great music and beautiful scenery ahead.

We all got ready and took the Gondola from Mountain Village into downtown Telluride for the short walk to the Festival Grounds. Being the first night, which happened to be a Thursday, the typical crowd had not arrived yet. There were still thousands and thousands of people, but it wasn't "crazy" just yet. So we took this mild evening to break ourselves into the rhythm of the festival. The highlight of the evening, at least for me, was the Songwriters in the round with Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Joe Ely. Emmylou Harris also set in for a few tunes. What great music!

After the long drive, and the late night, we were all pretty ready for some good sleep. We awoke to another beautiful day in the San Juans. We took advantage of being away from work and had a leisurely, beer with breakfast, kind of morning. Michael, a guide for Riggs Flyshop in Ridgeway, took us on a flyfishing adventure before heading back to Telluride. We finally made it out to the festival, spread out or blankets and towels and set up our "camp" for the day.

It was another great day in Telluride. The night before we had discovered the deliciousness of the Gyros they were serving, so, throughout the course of the day, we had a few of those, along with a slice of pizza or two, a few New Belgium Beers, and some other varieties of sweet buttery goodness. We couldn't have asked for better weather, or better music. My highlights of this day were Ani Difranco, & Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Another perfect day of music, food, friends, and a bit of hula hooping!

So on to Saturday!! We wake up and go straight to the festival. This is an "early" day for us and we get there about 1:00.....just in time for The Mammals. WOW! Funny name, serious sandwich! These guys (and gal) are faaaantastic! This was one of those bands that right when they finish playing, you walk over to the merchandise tent and buy all of their CD's. Some other treats for the day were Mark O'Connor & the Hot Swing Trio, and the Sam Bush Band. After all of the good music, Hula Hooping, and Hacky Sackin', we retired for the night. Rayner and I were preparing for an early morning jaunt up Mt. Sneffles, so the 1:30 bedtime was just about perfect.

I woke up early the next morning, woke Rayner up and headed out the door toward Ouray and Yankee Boy Basin. With slight hangovers and stomachs bubbling, we made our way up one of the most scenic and beautiful areas in the entire state. The 4 wheel drive road was a little more 4 wheel drive then I have heard. We climbed our way up and up the basin, through rivers, under waterfalls, over rough terrain and finally came to what looked like a parking lot. There were a few Jeeps, a Tahoe, and a Hummer, all parked in this spot. But Rayner thought he saw a way beyond this "traffic jam." Sure enough, after crossing fifty yards of snow two feet deep, over small, fallen lodgepole pine trees, we were on dry ground climbing up and up again. About another mile or so, they had the road closed and the Xterra had completed its first ever Yankee Boy journey!

We checked our gear, strapped on our packs and headed up the snowy fields toward Lavender couloir. The scenery was dramatic, as beautiful as I have ever seen, and the weather, again, was perfect. Heading up the snow/scree filled couloir, the breeze started picking up, and at 13,000 feet, it wasn't a warm, sub tropical breeze. It was a chilly, make you keep climbing, Colorado wind. But it felt good to our sweaty foreheads, so we didn't complain much. Once at the top of Lavender, there is another 600' couloir that leads to the summit. This was completely snowfilled, but was in perfect condition for climbing.

After a few slips and stumbles, and a few hard deep breaths, we had made it to the top of the couloir to a V shaped notch. Click HERE to see it. There was a little more exposure here than Rayner felt comfortable with, so he made the wise decision to not test his limits, and waited here while I scrambled up the remaining 75 feet or so the the 14,156 foot summit of Mt. Sneffles. This was an absolute blast. One of the most fun mountains I have ever climbed. A true joy. The views from the top are unmatched, and the journey to get there is just as much fun.

So we were off, back to Telluride for some more music and a cold beer. We had a little trouble back at the snowfield, but nothing that the Xterra couldn't handle. After a cold shower, we were back on the Gondola to the festival. We met Harper, Michael, & Tanya just in time to see Mindy Smith. I have wanted to hear her for a while and it was good to hear that incredible voice live and in person. Next up, and last act for the festival, was Yonder Mountain String Band. So it was time for a quick food/beer run. On the way I noticed Mindy Smith signing autographs, so I grabbed her CD and made my way over to her. So that was pretty cool. I was the first "Smudge" she has ever signed!

After an incredible Yonder Mountain show, we went to play pool at the New Sheridan. And we rescued a drunk girl from being crushed by her car....but that's another story. Let me just recommend that you not try to push your car up a hill all by yourself.

After sleeping in on Monday morning, we went to eat at Blue Jays, and then went out to Last Dollar Ranch to do some more fishing, and get a tour of this special place from Michael. We went back home, watched Tin Cup, ordered a couple of pizzas, played pool, hot tubbed a bit and hit the sack. The next morning I started back to Estes, Michael had a guiding trip and Harper, Rayner and Tanya all flew back to Austin from Montrose.

It was a wonderful trip and one that we hope to do for many years to come!


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