Crossing Karmic Paths: On the Road to Paonia

Driving 550 north to Paonia

Taking it slow up 550  to Paonia

A few weeks ago, I took a weekend road trip from New Mexico up to Paonia, Colorado for a one day writing workshop with Craig Childs, one of my favorite authors. The workshop was fantastic and on my way there and back again, I crossed paths with three people who reaffirmed my love for the open road.

After a night of free camping at the Angel Peak BLM land just south of Bloomfield, New Mexico, I headed north on the Avalanche Highway (aka 550) between Durango and Ouray, Colorado. The route winds up and over 10,910-foot high Molas Pass, already deep in snow. My dogs love to roll in the snow, so once we were well into the white stuff, I pulled over at an overlook for a few minutes to let them have a good romp.

Dogs roughhousing at Angel Peak

Dogs roughhousing at Angel Peak

As I was standing there, laughing at the dogs’ snowy antics, a woman in an old pickup pulled up and asked if I could do her a favor. Sure, I said. She handed me a wallet and explained she had driven off with her husband’s wallet that morning and she was hoping I could drop it off at a coffee shop in Ouray for him. Then she pulled out a fiver from the cash inside and handed it to me to buy myself a cup of coffee for my trouble. I gave her one of my Blonde Coyote business cards, so she’d have some remnant of me, and she took it with a smile and said she was sure I was trustworthy. “Any woman who travels alone in winter with a trailer and a pack of happy dogs must have some epic karma,” she told me.

Walking Sunset Ridge at Angel Peak

Walking Sunset Ridge at Angel Peak

In Ouray, I dropped the wallet off at Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee and bought myself a hot chocolate and continued on to Paonia. I’d never been to Paonia, but I’ve always heard great things. I rolled into town an hour before dark with no plans for where to park for the night. I pulled over just off the main drag, and within a few minutes, a local named Steve strolled up to ask about the Teardrop. I gave him the tour and asked him if he knew where I could set up camp and he offered me his backyard, just a few blocks away. He was heading to Aspen for the weekend, but I was welcome to park in his yard, use his house and come and go as I pleased.

On Sunday, after an enlightening and inspiring all day Saturday workshop, I headed back to New Mexico, this time east towards Gunnison and then south on 149 past Lake City and Creede. Rolling out of Creede, I stopped to pick up a hitchhiker holding a sign for Durango. I wasn’t going that far west, but I could take him as far as Pagosa Springs. I pulled out fixings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and told him to help himself. (One of my hitchhiker hostessing tips: feed them! Travelers are always hungry!)

Blue Eyes Bruce at Angel Peak. I'm dog sitting this handsome boy. He's a real road trip professional now!

Blue Eyes Bruce at Angel Peak. I’m dog sitting this handsome boy. He’s a real road trip professional now!

Also named Steve, the hitchhiker turned out to be from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Strasburg! We graduated high school the same year and knew some of the same people. Steve told me he’d been living on the road and rails for the past five years, ever since he read “Into the Wild” and decided to go Supertramping. In between huge bites of PB&J, he gave me a crash course on riding freights (the safest time to catch trains is in the morning, not at night). I doubt I’ll ever have the stones to travel that way, but I relished the insight into another way of getting around the world. I dropped Steve off in Pagosa, where I headed South and he headed West.

Here’s to all the trusty people in this world! May we meet again and again. Happy Holidays! 🙂

Angel Peak Sunset

Angel Peak Sunset

Check out my previous crossing paths posts the Lost Art of Hitchhiking and the Loneliest Road in America.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Crossing Karmic Paths: On the Road to Paonia

  1. Barneysday says:

    What a wonderful story of sharing and trust, just right for this holiday time. Best wishes to you and yours

  2. Donna says:

    Have a great holiday season. Did I miss a post, when did you add the picture to your teardrop? Most likely gets good reactions on the road.

  3. Sandra says:

    What a beautiful post! Happy New Year, and happy travels to you!

  4. Ingrid says:

    I admire your guts for taking those roads in the winter pulling a trailer. As long as they are dry, no problem….but once covered, I get nervous. Great story. There’s something about the west and folks helping each other out. Happy trails!

  5. Dennis says:

    Looks like a different tow vehicle too. A small pickup perhaps?

  6. pmdello says:

    Bruce is handsome.

  7. Pingback: I was awarded the The Versatile Blogger award… | Jesse Talks Back

  8. Reblogged this on Jesse Talks Back and commented:
    Thank you for always showing such beauty- I gave you the versatile blogger award thank you!

  9. openspaceman says:

    What a nice read and a good looking pic of the hound, would make a great album cover.

    *Reminds me of the last line of this poem…

    “Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
    And a man makes friends with out half trying-
    That’s where the West begins”

    – Arthur Chapman

  10. Fossillady says:

    Pretty amazing example of trust . . .

  11. Upriverdavid says:

    You missed a couple of bloggers in Ouray…box canyon blog..I’m sure they would have given you a place to park. I would have hit the hot springs myself…

  12. beachman says:

    🙂 assume as always, to hear about ur travels makes my heart sing…

  13. Marcia GB in MA says:

    What a great post. It’s so nice to hear about honest, open, friendly people!

  14. Wild Writes says:

    Such a great example of the good in people! I love hearing about kind people out there chasing down adventure and grabbing life by the horns. Good for you. I’m excited that I found your blog and I can’t wait to read more!

  15. Jetendra says:

    Good For You 🙂

  16. Pingback: Ouray Ice Climbing! | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  17. Linda P. says:

    I’m just catching up with some older posts. Loved this one!

Comments are closed.