Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 73 - Colorado and the ballad of Shorty Ballard

This morning, while milling around at the post office, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shorty Ballard. I mistook him for the mayor of Riverside-Encampment, since everyone who at the post office stopped to say 'hello' and share a bit of the latest town happenings. Mr. Ballard kindly gave us a lift from Encampment up to Battle Pass. He was a fascinating character, so I have to share a small slice of what we learned.

Mr. Ballard asked if he looked 94. I thought he could pass for a spry 71, but he's actually 82. And he's a native Montanan, born in Augusta. He was orphaned at 9, and spent a few years running around before someone collared him and made him a ranch hand when he was 12. He earned $1 / day with room & board. He later became a rancher in the Encampment area, and told us all about the town's history as a mining boom town, then a lumber town, then oil, and now in its dotage, fittingly, a retirement town. One of the nearby homesteads (including logs) was bought by his friend for $310, with $10 down. His friend said he was good for the balance, but was fretting about how he was going to eat that month. While exploring the property, he found a strap protruding from the ground--it was a purse with $2.80 inside, and his friend made it through the month. Mr. Ballard was full of fascinating anecdotes about the town, and our ride was sadly too short. Mr. Ballard, thank you very much for the company and the ride. I wish you the very best.

When we got back on trail, it was a little after 11am. We were 20mi from the state border. It would be a frenetic day, but I was determined to make it to Colorado for my own mental health. Wyoming hath 23 days, if we made it today.

We booked it, and just as the sun was starting to set around 7:45pm, we crossed the border. Gangles let out a huge, echoing whoop! The maps note that it is not well-marked for southbounders, but someone has arranged rocks to mark the border, spelling out the states.

We are officially done with Montana (and Idaho, if you count it) and Wyoming! Hooray!

Tomorrow is our first full day in CO. And next, on to Steamboat Springs. I've been promising myself a haircut in CO for months, and it is almost time to tame the mane.

p.s., Thanks to Elana, Genna and Benji for the amazing care package. Who knew funfetti + poptarts = delicious

Mileage: 20mi from Battle Pass to the WY-CO border

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