My husband took me to the mountains for a romantic weekend. He knew a couple of great places because his friend had taken him to his own favorite destinations over July 4th weekend, and my husband had been saving them to share with me during my visit to Colorado.
We drove four hours into the mountains. You have to understand, driving into the Rocky Mountains is almost enough all by itself. It's a feast for the eyes, and the chronicler in me wanted to plaster a camera to my face and capture every image, every crag, every golden hillside, every purple flower, every cloud, every shadow of a cloud, every silver streak of snow-- but the light in the Rockies is a living, moving thing -- too fleeting for stop-action. So we just looked and exclaimed.
Our first stop was a hot springs camp hidden deep and high in the mountains, overlooking a vast fertile valley. The fence posts along the 8-mile dirt road leading to the camp were hung with shoes of every size -- some old, some new -- where, we decided, people who had just opted to stay at the springs forever had left the last thing that tied them to civilization. We spent the afternoon soaking in the warm healing waters and emerged rejuvenated and relaxed. You might find my shoes on a fence post there, someday.
We drove another hour and a half to the Rock-N-Row, the best rafting place on the Arkansas River, where my husband had scouted out a little cabin with a private beach on the river. It was one of three cabins used by the rafting guides during the season -- one of them was vacant, and it looked like just the place to my husband, at least from the outside. He didn't look inside.
We pulled in at about 7:00 in the evening. The main building was closed, but one of the guides was waiting for us. The private beach was noisily occupied by a large family who were camping on the property, so not so private, but the cabin was off to the side and it did face the river and had a nice little porch, so there were possibilities. Until I opened the door.
Picture this: a 10 by 10 foot wooden box with a double bed, a filthy rag of carpet, and a two-month layer of dust on a rickety wooden dresser. There were clean threadbare sheets on the bed that reeked of river guide. One of the pillows even had a pillowcase. A bare light bulb hung dead-center. A picture of Cochise was thumb-tacked to the wall. No bathroom. No running water.
My husband smiled hopefully at me and mumbled something about "right on the river." I tried to be a good sport. I investigated. The main building across the big yard had a toilet that was accessible, and there was a pump in the yard with clear, cold mountain water.
I thought back to earlier times when I would have rejected accommodations that didn't have a hair dryer. It's not all about me, I thought. I'm past that. It's right on the river. I determined to make the best of it. But the floor was so filthy I couldn't imagine taking off my shoes, and a night in that bed would be like sleeping in the boy's locker room at your local high school. And no running water.
I know I looked stricken, but I held my tongue. I tried to smile. I failed. Said my husband: "Do you want to go up the road to one of the motels instead?" YES! And so we did, and it was cozy and perfect. And right on the river.
The next day we went back to the Rock-N-Row for a thrilling whitewater rafting trip. I met the owner, who had booked the cabin for my husband and was surely curious about how the wife would react. "Sorry you went to the trouble of putting clean sheets in the Honeymoon Suite," I said. He laughed.
Whitewater rafting, fishing, rock climbing, horse riding.
The best place on the Arkansas River.