This story, long overdue and continued from this post.
I left Breckenridge, CO a day early to make my way to Cimmaron, CO, which would be my one night base-camp while I explored Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I woke up and felt strange. It took me a minute to rub the sleep from my eyes and realize that the strange feeling I had was that I was sick with something that felt eerily like the beginning of the flu. No. NO. But yes. There I was in the mountains of Colorado, over a thousand more miles and several days of travel left before returning home and I could feel my sensitive skin, flushed face and general malaise. There it was; the flue…equipped with a fever. Ugh. I rallied and made my way to the nearest gas station. There were no pharmacies or convenience stores located anywhere nearby—at least the way I was going. I didn’t want to shave 45-60 min off of my trip by traveling in the opposite direction to Frisco, plus it was so early that I doubt any of the shops were even open.
I purchased some packets of overpriced DayQuil and made the best of it. On to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I followed through and drove straight there, dosed with ‘Quil. Unfortunately, I was so congested upon arriving that hiking was completely out of the question. I had to make the best of my time there by driving to the various look out points and walking to them from the car. It’s not ideal, but lucky for me, this is still quite the amazing way to enjoy Black Canyon of the Gunnison. One of the best pieces of advice I can offer for roadtrippers, especially if you’re a solo traveler, is to know that unexpected things are likely to happen…that you’re trip may not go exactly to plan and that’s okay.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of the least visited National Parks, which makes absolutely no sense to me, other than it’s a tad out of the way from things one might be traveling to. However, if you plan to visit southern Colorado at all, Ouray, Silverton, Durango etc, I highly recommend making the trip out the this park. It’s one of the lower priced parks, only a $15 entrance fee per vehicle, or no fee if you’re like me and have an interagency pass. It could be very easy to do Mesa Verde, as well, in the same trip.
I want to tell you that it’s breathtaking, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m looking for another, better word that will convince you how vast and wonderful it is. How you will have a moment, staring into it with your mouth agape because it’s really that grand that everything just goes slack for a minute while you’re almost paralyzed in amazement (extra agape if you’re very sick though, too). Ah, America’s Best Idea. Yes, so true. The canyons will take you back in time. They will teach you about the different eras they have seen and about the life of rocks. And if you listen closely, they will also tell you about the life of birds and of the river that flows down, down, down in the very far away bottom of the canyon. You’ll see my pictures. People always say the photos can’t do certain places justice. In this instance, it really cannot be more true. You simply cannot take it in, in a photograph. You have to see it for yourself.
I did just that, in my sick haze. I listened to some ranger talks that serendipitously were taking place just as I arrived. As I finished my driving tour, I found myself hungry for the first time that day. I ended up in the town of Olathe, CO, which turned out to be famous for their corn and were having a corn festival that day, for said famous corn. I decided to go to this festival. I was hungry, still too early for my next Air BnB check-in and where was I going to find anything vegan except for nuts, bad fruit and other gas station bites? I paid a minimal entrance fee and made my way in. I wandered around for a bit, before seeing the corn eating area up on a hill. It was all you can eat corn. Like…unlimited roasted corn on the cob. I walked up to a table where several teenage girls were working furiously and quickly to shuck corn like some of kind of corn shucking robots so that not a single person waited more than a few seconds for fresh corn.
I went over to the condiments/toppings area. Lots of butter, seasonings, bacon flavored things…things I wouldn’t eat and other things I felt would spoil the corn. I decided on simple salt and pepper. I don’t know what kind of crack they sprinkle on the soil of Olathe Sweet Corn, but it was one of the best things I had ever eaten. Not even just for corn or vegetables, but of foods in general. If you knew me personally, then you’d know that was saying a lot. It was crispy, juicy and sweet as could be. Every single bite made you want another bite. Then your corn would be gone, but as fate would have it, the corn was bottomless. I had very grand expectations on how many I would be able to eat, but shamefully, stopped at 3 cobs. Full at only 3 cobs, sigh. Olathe, you will forever and always will be the King of Corn in my mind and heart. The corn was so delicious and otherworldly, I decided to buy some. I think I paid $5 and got an inhuman amount. I knew right away I would give half of it away to my Air BnB host. And speaking of which, it was time to head on over there.
Cimmaron, CO. Not even a town. Just a little place called Cimmaron, in the middle of nowhere. I rented a little wood cabin, built in a row of similar cabins, in an RV park. Did I mention it was the middle of nowhere? Beautiful nowhere. I met my host, Bill, who was and will remain one of my favorite people and probably best all-time Air BnB host. We met and he showed me around. I handed him a bag of corn. He beamed and told me all about how famous Olathe corn was and how they drove it by the truckload down to Texas and everywhere in between. He called me “Kid”. His personality put me at ease right away. He told me all about how he and his son came to build each cabin by hand. I could have listened to his stories forever. I also could have cried, knowing that for the first time in days, that I would have good night’s sleep because I knew, right away when I met him, that I would be safe there.
The rest of the park was littered with fancy and a couple of not-so-fancy RVS where there were kids playing and dogs woofin’. What I would have given for just one extra day there to rest.
My trip and my job back home dragged me on the following day. I had a long drive back to Utah ahead of me with Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon left to visit. More on that in a future installment.
When I finally did arrive back home in Los Angeles, I still had a bag of Olathe corn in tow. I decided to make one of my favorite summer recipes featuring corn, this pie from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made it several times and Deb’s recipe is pretty easy to veganize. Just swap out the dairy things for vegan counterparts. Even substitutions work fine here. Earth Balance, unsweetened-plain almond milk or coconut milk, Vegenaise and Cheddar style Daiya shreds or Follow Your Heart shreds etc work great with this recipe.
This slice, seemingly, isn’t holding together that well, but it’s because it was cut while hot. Wait for the pie to cool completely and refrigerate for a perfectly cut slice. I highly recommend making this pie in the summer time, when tomatoes and corn are at their peak. If you can get a hold of some famous Olathe sweet corn, even better.