Coal Creek Canyon

I don’t even want to type it, but it’s my final week in the States, and although I’ve said similar things on previous occasions, this really will be the last for a long time.

For the remaining days, me and Grace are heading out of Denver and off to explore different places. First up is a cabin in a place called Coal Creek Canyon.

The cabin sits on land owned by Grace’s family, and was built by them sometime in the early 70s. From the way she spoke about it, I thought it was going to be some sort of shack – a tin roof held up by a couple of bits of string. Instead, it was like a proper house in the woods, complete with classic furnishings. I mean, how cool is this fridge?

Whilst the electricity and plumbing seemed to work better than a fair number of hotels I’ve stayed in, I can’t say I would place too much faith in the reliability of the fire extinguishers.

The land itself is nestled in the forest near a tiny village in the ‘mountains’ – roughly 9000 feet above sea level. For a bit of comparison, the peak of Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK) is around 4000; the City of Denver itself clocks in at 5000. For those not familiar with that sort of altitude, it really screws with your breathing. I’m out of puff after walking up some of the steeper streets in Glasgow, so a short trek in the woods can rapidly take it out of you. Far easier to sit outside and drink champagne.

This is the sort of place where it’s pitch black at night with your eyes closed, and the sort of place where I swear it almost gets darker when you open them.

Despite being close to power lines and paved roads, the area felt fairly isolated and cut off. It may have been my unfamiliarity with all of the barbed wire and ‘No Trespassing’ signs, coming from a place like Scotland (thank you Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003!), or perhaps just from watching too many American horror films, but there was definitely something potentially eery about the place.

It didn’t help that we had to cross somebody else’s land in order to get to the cabin, or indeed that we found the gates we had come through on the first day padlocked the next. I had Jeepers Creepers-esque images of a shotgun toting lunatic forcing us to drive 100mph at a barbed wire fence in order to escape.

Luckily, that didn’t happen.

Despite all that though, venture out, we did, and Grace showed me some of the other buildings that are dotted around – none of which were without their own bizarre character.

Yes, those are chainsaws. In cases.

The highlight was obviously this tyre swing though. Who doesn’t love a tyre swing? Sure, it might have been a bit threadbare, but I’m sure I recall something from my rock climbing days (don’t give me that look) about how even a single thread of those ropes could hold the weight of a person.

That’s what I told myself anyway.

Being the intrepid adventurer, I climbed to the highest possible level and jumped off into the unknown. The rope did its job, but my aim proved to be terrible, and I crashed straight into a tree, nigh on ripping out all of the piercings on my right ear.

Grace was far more graceful. (no pun intended)

She’d clearly done this before.

There was all sorts of weird stuff kicking about, like bits of old trailers, tractor engines, and random pipes.

I’m not sure I want to know what could do this to a barrel like that.

…and whilst the picture will never convey the context, I don’t think a basketball hoop is ever something I’ll expect to find in the woods.

Perhaps weirdest of all was the occasional ‘Blair Witch shit’, as Grace put it.

Like this.

I know that rock balancing is a bonafide past-time for lots of people, including Dave Gorman, but it doesn’t decrease the creepiness of finding such a thing in a place like this.

It wasn’t till later when we were looking at the pictures and decided that there was something even more odd about the whole thing. After all, those were wee stones… and this area regularly gets covered in a substantial amount of snow. How on earth did they stay balanced? We returned the next day to investigate, and this is what we found…

Whilst it should probably have helped to discover the reason for the rock’s uncanny ability to balance despite the elements, this revelation just raised more questions. Who would do something like that, and how? It’s not as if those type of rocks were just lying around, nor could the precise size of hole have been made by just any old drilling equipment.


Anyway, we heated up some toasted sandwiches we had bought earlier in the day from a place in Denver called Snarf’s (best name ever?), and drank some expensive whiskey-cask aged port whilst we played Scrabble. Apparently individuals in a two player game should be obtaining a score of about 300-400.

It became clear that neither of us have a career in Scrabble ahead of us.

Instead, I proved my manly credentials by having Grace build a fire, and we read Gary Larson cartoons together.

Although I did get to maintain it later.

The next day I tried my hand at chopping wood. I’ve always fancied myself as being one to operate an axe – be it as some type of macho outdoor camping type (I’ve got the beard for it at least), or just wielding one like a maniac.

Apparently it’s a lot more difficult than it looks.

I’m going to blame the altitude.

That and it was clearly the wrong type of wood.

Off to Kansas next, followed by Oklahoma.


1 thought on “Coal Creek Canyon

  1. Carolyne Janssen May 28, 2013 — 00:50

    You’ve summed up the cabin pretty perfectly. I won’t ever stay up there alone, as my imagination got the best of me the few times I did. Next time up you need to see some of Axton’s weird old stuff – the ancient tractors, graders, rusty crap, etc., that has collected over two lifetimes (his and his father’s before him) that are scattered all around his house. Or maybe I’ll just take photos of some of what you missed.

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