“What do you want for your birthday?”

Each one of us gets this question from our spouse, our mother, our friend each year. Sure, you could ask for something like jewelry, a new dress, or even some techy gadget.

But when I reflect back on all my birthdays, one stands out as my favorite in recent memory.

And it wasn’t for the stuff I got.

Back in 2009, I worked for six months in Capitol Reef National Park. Thought it’s a gorgeous park, the summer proved difficult for me because I was separated from my husband. We lived in Grand Junction at the time, a three-hour drive away. So I spent four nights at the park, and three nights back home week after week.

Not only did I miss my husband dearly, but also our dog Simon. What I also missed greatly was time in the mountains. I found canyon country uniquely beautiful, but I’m a mountain person through and through. I told my friends, “When I’m in the mountains, my heart sings!”

So that year, when my husband inevitably asked the question, “So, what do you want for your birthday?”

I had a ready answer.

“I want to go camping at the Amphitheater Campground with you and Simon.”

Fortunately, my birthday fell on my “Friday” — departure day from my work week at Capitol Reef. That day, I arranged to leave two hours early and made the drive back to Grand Junction, with longing and anticipation.

We packed the camping gear and Simon and drove down to Ouray.

If you’ve never been to Ouray, Colorado, you’ve missed out on one of the most scenic towns in all of Colorado. It’s a quaint and small town nestled in an alpine valley ringed by 13,000-foot, soaring peaks.

Halfway up from the valley on the south side of town lies the Amphitheater campground. It literally clings to the side of the mountain.

The sites are spread out and quite private. But what really makes it special is the views — in the evening you see the pink alpenglow reflected off the San Juan Mountains, as you peer down on the small town below. In the morning, the sun rises up above the peaks to the east as you drink coffee at your picnic table.

That evening, we bought some firewood in town and made a campfire. Roasting marshmallows, making s’mores, with Simon curled at our feet.

Even now, it brings a smile to my face thinking back on that evening.

While Coronavirus may have stolen away some of my summer plans, camping isn’t one of them. What better time to grab the camping gear and make your own memory in our beautiful state? After all, you get to take your own personal lodging with you while socially distance from others.

I’ll leave you with a quote from and old John Denver song that make me think of that special birthday in Ouray…

“I have to say it now, it’s been good life all in all,

it’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.

and lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire…”