Friday, June 7, 2013 (Denver to Colorado Springs)
From : Lincoln Exit
Time: About 1:30 pm
Wait: about 50 minutes total
I cash in my chips, suck in my pride, and set out along Lincoln Exit, after taking the light rail as far south as it will go. Overall, I’ve never had much luck at this exit– but it’s as far as I can go without cycling and then end of the line for the Denver train system. This time, I’m also experimenting with not using my Denver/ Colorado Springs sign, after having forgot in the vehicle of my ride to Denver three days ago. For the distance I’m going, I’ve concluded that it’s better to not use a sign rather than use one, as it’s one less excuse for people not to pick you up. More often than not, people are so narrow-minded and absorbed in their gadgetries they hardly notice you, let alone bother with an excuse, but it’s not uncommon to see people wave their hands in the air and motion that they are “only going so far.”
In the past, hitching at Lincoln Exit, I’ve had long waits and occasionally been harassed by the police, but I figure since it’s mid-afternoon this time and not morning, perhaps I’ll have some better luck.
Luck starts out sour, and then gets sweeter after waiting for about 20 minutes or so. A man in a silver truck pulls over to the side of the road, after about 60 or so cars have already passed me by. When a shiny new-looking BMW suburban comes around the corner (which is often the case in the uppity Highlands Ranch area) I almost always can guess that they’re not going to pick me up.
“Hi, my name is Joe,” the guy says. “Only going to Castle Rock, is that ok?”
Sure thing, I tell him.
Joe says that he is 58 years old, but used to hitchhike all the time back in the 70s. Hitchhiked, train hopped, all of that. This is a familiar story that I get quite often. I ask him what his longest wait ever was. “Oh, I did wait for more than four hours once in northern California,” he tells me. “But for the most part, back in the 70s you hardly had to wait at all. People would just pick you right up, it was a way of getting around. Now, it’s sad, I think really, everyone is glued to their cell phone and they’re too afraid to pick anyone up.”
I couldn’t agree with him more.
He tells me that he does home remodeling and refurbishing in Denver and the surrounding areas, and it’s been really successful for him. There is a lot of development in Denver.
I tell him that I don’t really like hitching off of Lincoln since the police hassled me a few times, but what can you do when you don’t have any options. “My daughter is a police officer in Colorado Springs,” he tells me. “I worry all the time… she’s only like 115 pounds you know, and I used to do a lot of boxing, and I know that there are a lot of crazies that could take her out…. it worries me, but it’s what she wants to do, ya know.”
It’s a short conversation, and a short trip at that, and Joe sets me off at one of the Castle Rock exits. It’s one of those merge ramps that curves a bit, so I have to make sure that people notice me by standing out a bit as they come around the bend, and then obviously, moving out of the way as they fast approach. Here I wait another 30 minutes or so until a black SUV pulls off to the roadside, husband and wife and their son in the backseat, listening to his Ipod with street style headphones. The father introduces himself as Cal, a Native American man with his hair in a pony-tail.
They tell me they’re heading to Pueblo to pick up some friends, and then heading farther south to New Mexico, somewhere near Taos for a weekend of camping. The back seats are loaded down with various camping gear, tent, coolers, sleeping bags, beer. The wife introduces herself as Sharol, and she says her son’s name is Rick. Rick stay quiet in the backseat with me, his headphones on and occasionally he laughs with us.
“We used to travel to Albuquerque almost every weekend, but with the increase in gas prices it just isn’t worth it was much,” she says. “But we still like to get up there every once in awhile. It’s worth it with a lot of people going.” Sharol and Rick and the family enjoy hiking and getting outdoors whenever they possibly can. She tells me a story about a bear that once approached their campsite after they “curiously and irresponsibly” (as she puts it) left apples and food out for the bear. Sure enough, it showed up and they got some good pictures of it. She also tells me of her friend who was hiking in Roxborough State Park and took a picture of her daughter along the trail– it wasn’t until she later looked at the picture that she noticed the cougar quiet and completely unnoticed, crouching under some brush.
” A girlfriend and I went hitchhiking all through Mexico back in the eighties,” she tells me. “Of course… Mexico was a lot different back then, safer. It was an interesting experience because I didn’t speak much Spanish and this one guy that gave us a ride kept calling us loco chicas.” (Crazy girls) Sharol laughs, those were some good times, she says.
Sharol chats a lot about their camping trip and tells me that their is a legend and a poem that goes along with a man named Forrest Fenn, who hid a slab of gold somewhere in the mountains of northern New Mexico, and he has become some kind of real-life Indiana Jones. The poem goes like this:
Where the Treasure Lies
By Forrest Fenn
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk,
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.
After reading the poem, it sounds to me like it is hidden somewhere in a body of water that is deep enough certain times of the year where you can’t see it, but shallow enough other times of the year that you could find it. Still, nobody has ever found the links to this legend to lead them to the gold. Where did he hide it? Does anybody know where he hid it? If anybody does, nobody has let that on, and it has become legendary to people hiking in northern New Mexico.
“We hope to find it some time,” Sharol jokes. Soon enough, we’ve reached Uintah Exit in Colorado Springs, and I hop off at the off-ramp. Thanks and have a fun trip, I tell them, best of luck finding your gold!
Of course, they drive off.