Taking the scenic route. 6 days from Portland to Denver, and all of the beauty in between

Last week, I hit the road with my cousin from Portland to Denver, heading out to catch a series of events with We Are Change Colorado. This was the first time I’ve done the trip between OR & CO without being in a hurry to get to an event, so we spent 6 days working our way east, camping and checking out some of the beautiful nature in between. Here’s the run-down of my journey, featuring lots of photos and my recommendations for the next time you’re traveling the same path.

Day 1: Crossing Oregon

We got out of Portland at a decent hour, and immediately pushed to get some good distance for the day. We skipped Multnomah Falls as we had both been many times, and it was quite busy, and probably would have killed our momentum a bit. I HIGHLY recommend checking it out, and the side-trails just about a mile down from the main tourist location lead to even more beautiful waterfalls. A little further down the freeway, we stopped at the Washington Stonehenge, a beautiful structure just off I-84, that most people have no idea is there.
This thing is such an awesome piece of construction, and it offers AMAZING photo opportunities, especially around sunset. The thing that is not so cool about this Stonehenge is the intention behind it; it was built as a memorial for local troops who died in WWI. The centerpiece of this monument is a plaque that reads (when translated from double-speak & euphemisms) “We immortalize the sacrifice of these poor souls who were tricked into fighting for the profit & power of others, in order to ensure that more young men will be easily tricked into killing & dying for the benefit of those same parasites”
Besides visiting the henge, we drove straight through the day, ending up Boise just before sunset. I had found a campground for us on Free Campsites, so we drove through downtown, through the suburbs, and into the hills. The campsite was just a couple of miles down a road that my cousin’s Corolla could barely make it down. The site was absolutely gorgeous, with a wonderful view west across all of Boise.
Boise Sunset
Setting up camp took a little while, mostly because the ground was too hard to drive stakes into. About the time I began drifting off to sleep, the wind decided to roll in; suddenly the rocks holding down the corners of my tent were no longer cutting it. I ended up having to get up, go to the car, and bring over everything that I own in order to weigh down my tent to the point that it would stop collapsing on me. Even with all the excitement, I still felt energized & well-rested when I woke up that morning.

Day 2: Meandering around Idaho

Our first day of actual sight-seeing started off with Balanced Rock, and on the way out to it we drove past a number of “geological sites” and “historical sites”. Upon backtracking to look at some of these, we were a little let-down to find that most were simply a pull-off from the highway with a big sign talking about something in history that happened in the area.
After monkeying around in the rocks for an hour or so while my cousin strolled around (that elevation change catches people off-guard), we headed into the nearby town of Buhl to visit the public library so we could charge electronics, use wi-fi, and come up with a plan. From there we wandered over to Twin Falls, ID, got some veggie burgers in town, and heading to the nearby Shoshone Falls.
Have I mentioned how much I love waterfalls? This place was beautiful, and not too busy. We had an entire area of picnic tables to ourselves to eat and burn one, then headed over to take in the scenery. I made some calls to friends in Utah, making some plans for the next couple of days, and then realized the fun that can be had with a phone camera’s “panorama” feature and weird angles.
Our plan was to next go check out the nearby ice caves and mammoth cave, but they were already closed for the day, so we headed over closer to the Utah border and found our campground for the night.

Day 3: Visiting SLC, land of the Mormons (queue South Park song)

The campsite we ended up with at the end of day 2 was quiet, well-forested, and next to a river, making for an amazing night’s sleep. Better yet, we got up that morning and headed straight for Lava Hot Springs to soak and relax for a couple of hours. After the springs, into Utah we went. The plan was to meet my friend @firstwords when he got home that evening, so we figured we’d knock out the tourist-y stuff in Salt Lake City that day. By the time we made it to the city, it was early afternoon and we were both very hungry, so we decided to land atThe Pie Hole, a local pizza joint that accepts Bitcoin.
PH Front
It’s become a regular thing for me, when approaching a town, to check online and see where all the local businesses that accept BTC are. As soon as I clicked on Pie Hole’s website and saw that they offer a daily vegan pizza, I immediately know where we’d be eating that day. The place has an awesomely low-key, retro vibe to it, arcade games in the back and everything. That day’s vegan slice was the “Mellvar”: spinach, bell peppers, onions, carrots, and cilantro with a hummus spread; let’s just say I started with 2 slices and went back for 2 more. The employees were both extremely friendly, and the BTC process went much easier than it has in many places. I highly recommend this spot to anyone passing through SLC and looking for some delicious food, whether you are looking to spend BTC or not.
With our appetites sated, we started moving around the city, checking out a variety of the gardens & other tourist spots. First up was the Gilgal garden, a small park filled with sculptures and stone pathways engraved with bible verses. The range of statuary was extensive, from the broken-up body of a giant, to a sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith on it.
Next up was a visit to Temple Square, at which point my camera died, which is quite unfortunate. The architecture is well-documented online, but the things that really spoke to me and I wanted to share were the Bible quotes all over the walls in the basement of the “North Visitor Center”, all about being of service to others and doing the right thing. I just realized how interesting it is that those are downstairs, tucked away in one area… This same building, on the top floor has a BEAUTIFUL mural of the cosmos.

There was so much beauty in the Temple Square (statues, paintings, architecture), but it’s hard to be there without your skin crawling more than a bit, seeing the amount of energy that so many people are pouring into that belief system. After the square, we headed out of town to meet up with friends, and ended up talking well into the morning.

Day 4: Hiking in the foothills

It was nice to sleep indoors for a night, and in the morning we all headed out into the hills for the day, to do some hiking and soak in that beautiful nature. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I LOVE trail-running, and the place we went was just perfect for it, so I would sprint out until I start feeling winded, then wait for everyone else to catch up. I forget the name of the “National” forest we were in, but there was a river running right through it, and on the other side of the highway had beautiful cliffs and rock structures to look out at.

Day 5: The International Peace Garden… and clouds of Mayflies

After saying our goodbyes to friends (and trading their housemate some Bitcoin for FRNs), we went back into SLC. This time we had lunch at The Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant, splitting one of the amazing vegetable combos that they all seem to have, and meeting up with my friend Brett. After eating, we made our way to the International Peace Garden, and spent quite a few hours wandering around there and taking in all the art & plants from around the world.
After wandering the park for most of the afternoon, we headed out to Utah Lake to set up camp for the night. The mile-long road from the highway down to the lake had a mile-long cloud of mayflies hovering about 10 feet above it, as did the entire beach of the lake. The sound of trillions of bugs was a little disconcerting, especially before we confirmed that they were not mosquitoes. While gathering firewood, we found quite a few black widows in the area, and about the time we headed to our tents, we got to listen to a rodent of some kind scream for a few minutes as it was killed by (presumably) a snake… a macabre lullaby for sure.

Day 6: Entering Colorado; sacred geometry on street-corners and blasting off in the forest

The sunrise on Utah Lake was magnificent, and we woke up motivated to make some good distance again, since we were now just 1 day from the first event in Denver. Down the the I-70 we went, and it was time to cross into Colorado again. We pretty much drove straight through to Glenwood Springs, a nice little town (where Doc Holladay died). We decided to stop so we could charge & wi-fi at the library, walk around town, and get something to eat. We had lunch at The Grind, and WOW!, their falafel burger was absolutely amazing, quite possibly the juiciest falafel I’ve ever eaten.
After eating, we stopped into a local crystal shop, poked our heads into a dispensary ($18+/gram… just ridiculous), and prepared to roll out. The campsite I had found for the night was only about 25 miles east, and there was only one remotely tricky part in finding it:
The site itself was right up against the Colorado River, and there were a good 10 camps altogether, 3 of which were occupied. We set up camp, had some food, and I spent about an hour gathering firewood. The “wood” was mostly dried vines, small twigs, and a few actually branches, so needless to say it took longer to gather than to burn. Once I was satisfied with the fire, I pulled out the little pouch of 5-MeO a friend had given me, and sat in prayer for a few minutes. Whenever taking in psychedelic medicines, it is VERY important to create a container for yourself, call in the support, guidance, and healing you are looking for, and give thanks to the medicine and everyone who helped it come to you.
As soon as I took my first hit off the pipe, I started to get fractals and other visuals like I’m used to with psychedelics. After the second hit, my body began to feel disconnected from my mind, and I was just able to take a third hit before I had to lay back down on the dirt. I don’t really remember any specific details of what I saw, but I remember them all being things I had experienced in this life, but with the overwhelming sense of being at home, cuddled up nest-like. This was the farthest I’ve ever gone with DMT, and I feel like I was about to go even further down the rabbit hole, but I got that feeling like I might lost control of my bowels, and as soon as my mind connected with that and I started to clench, my trip started winding down. I spent the next hour meditating with the fire, then went into my tent for the night, and wrote about 3 pages before going to sleep 🙂

Day 7: Hello Denver! Just in time for some amazing live music

Waking up right next to the Colorado River… you’ve got to try it. There was still enough firewood piled to get warmed up for the morning, and after breaking down camp, it was time to finally head into the big city. We spent the day walking around downtown Denver, stumbled across the Topless Parade, hung out down by a creek for many hours, and visited a couple of my friends, before heading to the Liberty Lodge for the night’s festivities.

sneak peek at the food I made that night

To Be Continued…

Next up will be my adventures in Denver last week, including a speaking event by Adam Kokesh, a fundraiser for the pipeline protest in North Dakota, an open mic, a few concerts, and much more. Be sure to follow me to follow my travels.