By Steven Barclay
It was July 14th and the Christian Crawlers Colorado Overland trip was fast approaching. I was really hoping for an easy-going trip this year. The last two years we had some curve balls thrown at us on our trip. I just wanted a fun trip without a big story to tell, but things were getting hard before we even left. A storm had come through early Thursday afternoon and knocked out 13,000 people's electricity just in my area, and the electric company said it might be Sunday night before it was back on. We had planned to meet the other 4 families (the Flint, Evans, and Crow families and Ryan and Josh) west of Sand Springs, Oklahoma on Friday at 3 pm. To make a long story short, the electric came back on just as I was fixing to start taking the stuff from our freezers to two other people's freezers. As I was giving thanks for that, my wife, Michelle, tells me my younger son's incision from his abdominal surgery the month before looked like it was infected and pus was coming out. The surgery this time had been to remove adhesions (which had caused an intestinal blockage) caused from his ruptured appendix at the end of last year's Colorado trip. Thankfully the doctor got us in and took care of it enough we could still go on our trip. God got us through this with perfect timing to meet everyone, so I knew we were going to make it through the trip, but as it turns out, not without a story to tell.

As we headed down the highway, Wes' Jeep began overheating pulling his brand new off road trailer he had just built. We were hoping he wouldn't have the overheating problem when we got to cooler temperatures, but that wasn't the case. There will be more on this later in the story. Our first camping spot was to be at Fort Supply Lake Friday evening. We knew a storm was coming but little did we know it was going to be that bad. As soon as we got the tents set up it was upon us. It was the worst storm I have ever been camping in before. With 70 mph wind gusts, my family rode out the heart of the storm in our 4Runner, but Casey and his family were in their tent already. The wind was blowing so hard his tent was lying all the way over at times and it was a nice four-season tent not a cheap one. I think the only thing that kept the tent from ending up a mile away was because they were holding it down sitting inside it. We all still had our CB radios on, and I told the others I just saw a green tree fall right in front of us. James pulled his 4Runner on the up-wind side of Casey's tent hoping it would block some of the wind and limbs or trees if any more fell. Two and a half hours later after the storm passed, we all got out and inspected for damage. We then went back to bed and got a few hours of sleep.

The next morning we got up and looked above Casey's tent where we saw several large dead limbs in the tree over his tent. How green trees fell and not the dead limbs over Casey and his family was by the grace of God. We spent the morning drying things out and then headed off for New Mexico. Soon after leaving our camp that morning, we drove by a tractor trailer that had blown over from the storm the night before. We continued on down the road and stopped for lunch at a park out on the edge of the town of Clayton, NM, where we let the kids play for a few minutes and then hit the road so we could make it to Capulin Volcano. We drove to the top of the volcano and a few of us completed the one mile hike around the top looking at the amazing views.

We decided to take back roads from the Volcano and camp at Sugarite Canyon Campground for the second night. We drove to the top of that mountain to a great camping spot. Once we got to the top, that was it for Wes' Jeep. It overheated and was blowing steam.

We let it cool, ate dinner, and discussed what we would do about the overheating problem the next morning. There were no parts stores around so we would have to try to figure out something with what we had. My boys hung their hammocks and everyone set camp and headed to bed hoping to make up some sleep. A few people got some rest and slept through the excitement, but it wasn't my turn to get sleep that night as it turned out. My wife, Michelle, woke me up about 12:30am because she heard a noise about 12 yards from us and the boys in their hammocks. I got my flash light and looked out our roof top tent window and sure enough, it was a big black bear tearing up James' cook stove and water bottles. I grabbed my gun and out the tent I went chasing the bear. It ran with-in feet of my boys, but thankfully for both of us, it ran off and I didn't have to shoot it. The boys stayed in their hammocks and about 3am my younger boy starts hollering for me because he hears another bear. So here I go again out the tent and down the ladder. I didn't see a bear this time, but needless to say, sleep wasn't on my side that night either.

The next morning I found out the bear had been over by Wes' Jeep trying to get in his Trasharoo that night also. After everyone was up, we told the story about the bear to those that slept through it all, ate breakfast, and started working on Wes' Jeep. He ended up pulling the innards out of the thermostat and we welded up the fan clutch so it would lock up solid. We used two batteries at 24 volts, jumper cables, welding rods, and cutting goggles and got it fixed up. It was a success; it worked for the rest of the trip and never got over 210 degrees.

After we left camp we stopped in Trinidad to stock back up on water, food, and ice. As we were heading north we had to stop at Bishop's Castle to check it out. If you've never been there, I highly recommend it. Whatever you do, don't look at how the metal walkways were attached to the rock part of the castle, though. After that we headed further north and drove Skyline Drive at Canon City. It's a fun short drive that drives by dinosaur tracks along the way, and it's narrow and steep off both edges of the road. We left there heading to our first real "trail" of the trip. We took Phantom Canyon trail up to Cripple Creek. It's a fun trail that's not too hard with a few tunnels and some bridges that are curved.

Next we made our way back down Shelf Road trail to camp at a forest camp called Sand Gulch. It was probably one of the best camps of the week; it had beautiful views all around and was quiet.

After we were all settled in and had dinner, we fixed some s'mores and Casey led us in a Bible study about what we had seen and what we would see the rest of the week. He discussed how everything fits the model in the Bible and how it can be explained by the flood of Noah's day about 4,400 years ago and not millions of years like the evolutionists/humanists want you to believe.

On day four we took Shelf Road back up to Cripple Creek to the Molly Kathleen Mine for a tour 1,000 feet underground. Our tour guide left us with making comments and laughing the rest of the week. I had the trip planned out so we would hit pavement as little as possible but the unknown left us with rerouting two trails. After leaving the mine tour, we found that Gold Camp Road was closed so we were left with highway over to Pike's Peak. Pike's Peak is a must if you're in the area so up the mountain we went. A few of the people in our group hadn't been up it before so it was quite the experience. Elevation sickness set in on a few little ones so they headed back down and met us at the bottom. That evening we all got caught up on laundry, got groceries, and fueled up the vehicles. It rained off and on that evening so we sat around camp under my awning and talked about the next day's trails before heading to bed.

We got up early on day 5 and headed to Garden of the God (I know it's supposed to be Garden of the Gods, but there is only one God so that's how I say it) and took pictures, and climbed on some rocks before heading west to Fourmile Area trail. I originally just picked that trail because it was a good cut through trail heading to St. Elmo, but it ended up being a really great trail.

It was an easy one but had some awesome views. We ended up stopping in a grove of aspens for lunch and taking a short break. We made it over to the old town of St. Elmo just in time for it to start raining so we didn't get to take many pictures or look around much. On we went to Tin Cup Pass. We weren't on that trail long before it started hailing on us. It did that for some time and started building up on the ground. As we bumped along, a passing jeep slid over and hit my trailer. It didn't do any damage, but they didn't even holler "sorry" out the window. We seemed to meet a more than average amount of people who just seemed mad this year. We finished Tin Cup up to the summit, took some pictures while some played in the snow then we went on up to Mirror Lake where we saw a big bull moose. It was getting late so we decided to camp there for the night.

It was a little over 11,000 feet and the temperature started falling quickly when the sun went down. It was the first camp spot of the week where there wasn't a burn ban so my boys and Caleb gathered fire wood and got a nice warm fire going. We sat around the fire enjoying the moment, eating s'mores and laughing at some of the goofy videos we made, and making jokes about our week so far.

It was a chilly morning on day six, getting down into the mid 30's. We packed up and headed into the old mining town of Tin Cup. We didn't stop there long and headed up Cumberland Pass where we made it up quite a few of the switchbacks when the 1" nut off of Wes' trailer hitch came off and left the trailer hanging by the safety chains. Then began the hunt back down the mountain for the missing parts. Wes decided to start with modifying the bolt we still had to get it out of there because it wasn't looking good for finding the nut and missing parts. Shortly after we finished drilling the bolt, a few people on some ATV's brought the four remaining parts he had lost. What a blessing (after running into so many angry people so far) that some people took time out of their vacation to stop and look for the parts we lost. We were thankful, put the hitch back together and made it to the top for pictures. After that we stopped for lunch at an old mine site and then drove Waunita Pass, Black Sage Pass, and old Monarch Spur Pass. That popped us out on pavement for a few miles to the next trail, Taylor Mountain. It was a really good trail rated moderate and had some narrow spots on it. The three older boys found an old mine they explored and thought that was cool. The end of that trail popped us out on the road by Monarch Spur camp where we stayed for the night. My family ended up getting a nice camp spot by the river and the others decided to get a cabin and enjoyed a good night's rest.
On day seven we got up and took off to Rawley Mine and Bonanza Trail. It was rated moderate with long distances of very narrow roads with nowhere to pass on-coming traffic.

Part of the way through Rawley Mine trail we came upon a large mud hole where Casey got his Tahoe stuck up to his bumpers on the right side. Wes and I were the only ones in front so I unhitched my trailer and winched him out.

We stopped on the trail shortly after that for lunch and then took off to explore the old Rawley Mine site with quite a few standing structures left.

Our plan after Bonanza trail was to hit Hayden Pass, but it was closed due to forest fires. So once again we had to take more highway than we were hoping for, but sometimes you have to make adjustments for the unknown and move on. We ended up going back up to Salida and around to the north side of Medano Pass. It was getting late so we stopped at the first forest camp spot we came to. It was a nice quiet place that was kind of a mix between mostly mountains and a little desert. As we were setting up camp it began thundering and clouds were forming looking like a storm was coming. Casey was preparing for another storm like Friday's storm and had straps hooked to every spot possible on his tent I think. It ended up just sprinkling for a while.

On day eight we finished Medano Pass, where the mosquitos were horribly thick most of the trail and a forest fire had come through a few years back and killed most all the trees in the area. Medano Pass dumps you out at the Great National Sand Dunes, so the closer you get to the dunes, the more sand you get to drive in.

The trucks did good pulling the trailers through the sand. We ended up stopping at the dunes for a picnic and played on the sand for a little while. No one lasted too long on the sand because by that time it was getting hot and the sand was burning our feet. After that we aired up our tires and started heading toward home. We had decided to try and make it to Black Mesa State Park in the tip of the panhandle of Oklahoma so we wouldn't be up real late getting home the next day. I decided to take us on back roads between Trinidad and Black Mesa. It ended up being a very scenic drive through a very long valley with large plateaus on both sides. The rough roads caused Wes' track bar bushing to finish blowing out. This caused him to have a bad death wobble when he hit large holes, so we took it easy the rest of the way and pulled into Black Mesa an hour or so before dark . As we were approaching Black Mesa we were blessed to get to see a double rainbow.

It was the second double rainbow we had seen that week which is pretty rare to see. We sat around camp talking and eating s'mores for the last time, sad we were going home the next day, but happy we were blessed to have the opportunity to get to enjoy God's country and share it with some great friends.

Day nine, the last day of our adventure, was pretty uneventful. The further we got into Oklahoma, the higher the temperature went, hitting 103 degrees. We stopped in Woodward for lunch to have one last meal together for the trip. Soon we hit the highway headed east, and all the families made it safely to their homes in northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri, and northeast Oklahoma. It didn't take long to start dreaming of another adventure in God's creation once again!
Paul tells his readers in Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." You can't help but stand in awe of the mighty creation we are blessed to live in, and the 2016 Christian Crawlers Colorado adventure helped to underscore that we do, indeed, serve a Mighty Creator!