Johnson: Beauty and the Beast: An Idiot’s Guide to surviving Old Man Winter in Las Crevice

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By the time you get your grubby hands on this edition of the finest little newspaper in Colorado, the Lovely Woman and I will be rolling our antique but adequate RV, Goldie, into a remote, red rocked boondock near Moab, Utah: MounTain BiKing MeCCa of the world. Truth be known, Moab’s proximity is one of the best reasons to live in Lovely Ouray County, a mere two and a half hours is all that stands between us and what is essentially another world of topography, climate and recreational opportunity. So that’s the plan, to begin our annual winter migration in fall, roll west through the lonesome sage of Paradox Valley — with its nuclear red canyon walls — then brush up to the forested skirt of the LaSalle triplets and finally, coast into western Utah’s crimson labyrinths like escaped lab rats, out for kicks and in for trouble. The problem, if one dare call a choice between two wonderful things a “problem,” is Ms Autumn’s lingering mood this year. It complicates the decision, causing what’s called a conundrum in these parts, which is Cowboy speak for being skewered on the longhorns of a dilemma.  
For those locked in a dungeon or chained to a “treadmill” in a windowless office, this will go down in my book as one of the most beautiful, protracted and temperate Autumns in recent memory, and nearly two weeks into October there remains gold yet to be mined in them thare hills above Las Crevice, not to mention some mighty fine orange, lemon yellow and, as of this last-minute-before-deadline post, a little green. So I’m dragging my hiking boots on a firm departure date. I want to squeeze Ms Autumn for all she’s worth — right down to her last leaves — before moving on to Utah’s cedar mesas and slick-rock playgrounds.
I’ve been told that God laughs at the plans of mortals, but if He (or She, just in case) has a shred of mercy, and can get our “Confederacy Of Dunces” in Congress off their sorry, selfish and whiney asses, we would like to reunite with Ms Autumn and her palate of many colors in Zion National Park come November, a place where fall will have only just begun. If there is one thing finer than fall, my friends, it’s two falls, the latter spent in Almighty Zion.
Autumn’s brevity makes it a particularly singular time of year — remarkable, exceptional, soothing. Her coolness and colors reenergize minds, bodies, souls and spirits, all-the-while gently reminding us that the Beast Old Man Winter is in transit…somewhere to the north. It is in the midst of October glory, just when it feels like Indian Summer might last forever, that a knock comes at the door. A long-dormant genetic switch left over from Caveman days inaudibly “flips.” An inexplicable craving for carbs wells in the belly — it growls for attention and thus begins the slow, insidious rearrangement of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Sex, in all its peachy dandy-ness, topples from Numero Uno to twenty something — behind decadent, sugary oral fantasies like pumpkin, pecan and apple pies…eggnog, Scrap Cookies and double Dutch dark chocolate brownies, snowcapped with a mountain of whipped cream. Mountain Dwellers sleepwalk to the fridge dreaming that Ben and Jerry are in the freezer handing out free samples!
The immediate and most recognizable symptom that your winter “switch” has been flipped is when caffeine, alcohol and sugar intake slips from “recreational” use to something more bordering on addiction. Yes, some deal with the Beast by climbing on the good old Bi-Polar expresso, with shots of jack-me-up caffeine and gooey transgressions by day and quiet-my-nerves shots of Jack Daniels Black Label Bourbon by night. Whether one winters in the Yukon or Lovely Ouray, these are the drugs of choice to do battle with the symptoms of Winter Malaise and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I truly believe it would enrage the Devil within us to Cold Turkey the Beast. Caffeine, Goo and Alcohol in winter are every bit as much “medicine” as “Mary Jane,” and should be covered completely under Obama Care.
Get your “meds” in order, Dwellers of Las Crevice. You will need them to battle the Beast—less sun, long nights and icy sheets. Moving to sun-splashed Ridgway is only a partial remedy. The real solution is to buy an old clunker RV, quit your job and spend fall chasing Ms Autumn to the border of Meh-he-co where the Uniform of the Day is tee shirts, shorts and flip-flops. As I put the wraps on this column, I see wind cranking up outside…disrobing Ms Autumn. I guess maybe we’ll stick to a Wednesday departure. The next time we speak I’ll be in Roving Reporter mode…someplace warm, someplace opposite of “home,” someplace where Autumn is just unpacking her bags. Life is short; Play hard!

Mark Johnson is a restless soul who lives in Ouray, Colorado with his wife, Bobbie. He is happiest when exploring the West's nooks and crannies, hiking, climbing  and mountain biking. He authors two "wanderlust" based blogs: and