A Travellerspoint blog

A Drive on the Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

Thursday, July 10, 2008

semi-overcast 25 °C

We pack up and get an early start today. We have a long drive through the mountains.

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But as we drive through Montrose we see the Russell Stover Candy outlet store (they appear to have a factory behind the store), so we end up spending 45 minutes at the store and buy way too much candy.

I'm not sure if it's the beautiful sunny day or the fact that I ate lots of free chocolate candy samples at the Russell Stover Store, but the scenery today is wonderful! We drive route 550, also known as "The Million Dollar Highway". It is an incredible road that goes through the San Juan Mountain Range between Ouray, Silverton and Durango, Colorado.

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I really like the town of Ouray and tell Jere and Joe that we should move there :-) It's a relatively small town with some wonderfully restored old buildings and is totally surrounded by tall mountains.

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The road over the mountain coming out of Ouray is scary, and I try not to look over the side of the road: no guardrails and some very steep drop-offs. However, the scenery is incredible.

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Not sure how well this photo shows the drop off beside the road, but here is my attempt to show the lack of guardrails and the steep drop off. I take the photo by sticking my arm out the window and snapping :-) It's a long way down:
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We pass several deserted mines during our drive today:
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We stop along the road above Silverton and have some lunch.
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Then continue our scenic drive to Durango before turning east through the Rio Grande Mountains along the Rio Grand River. More incredible scenery.

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We stop at one roadsite rest where there is a waterfall and there are lots of little chipmunks. This one chipmunk walked over towards me and started eating the flower near my foot.
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We leave the mountains and continue to the Alamosa KOA. Long day of driving, so we have a late dinner and relax around the campground for the remainder of the night.

Posted by jengelman 09:13 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

sunny 32 °C

We are trying to visit all (most?) of the country's national parks, so today we will visit one of the newer parks (created in 1999): Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We're not sure who came up with this name, but we think they should have just called it Black Canyon National Park. Anyway, we head out to the park and of course our first stop is again the Visitor Center, where we look at the exhibits and watch the movie. This movie is actually very good (some of the national park's have movies that were produced in the 1970s and really need to be updated). Part of the movie is about Reverand Warner, who was the person responsible for getting the Black Canyon designated as a national monument in the 1930s. This Episcopal minister loved the canyon and would often use the canyon as a theme for his sermons. He preached that "God gives abundantly, but not limitless" -- we need to take care of the beautiful places on earth that he has given us. The man was "green" before it became fashionable.

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The park is essentially a scenic drive around the top of the canyon. The walls of the canyon are too steep for anyone but experienced mountain climbers.

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The logo of the park includes two "dragons" in the sky. The logo is based on these two "dragons" on the side of the canyon:
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So we stop at most of the 12 look-outs on the South Rim. The look-outs are of the canyon; it's a hot day and getting in and out of the hot car make for a not-so-pleasant drive. We take one short hike at the end of the drive, Warner Peak Trail. It's a scenic hike and it feels good to be out of the car.

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After the scenic drive we take the East Portal Drive down to the river, part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area. The road is narrow, with no guardrails and some of the drive is somewhat scary. When we get to the bottom, Joe and Jere walk on a trail by the river while I sit and enjoy the scenery.

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We head back to the RV Park to play a round of miniature golf

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and then head to Wendys again for a late dinner (the campground gave us coupons for Buy 1 Get 1 Free Combo Meal coupons for Wendys; good deal and Joe likes Wendys).

Posted by jengelman 10:53 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Scenic Drive to Black Canyon, Colorado area

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

semi-overcast 31 °C

We pack up and start our 5 hour scenic drive from Colorado Springs to Montrose, Colorado (the closest town to Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, which we plan to visit tomorrow). Most of the drive is on Route 50, with many miles following the shores of the Arkansas River. We stop and watch rafters go down the river. We had debated about rafting this river, but decided against it. After seeing how high and rough the water is, I'm glad we decided against it. We watch one raft dump several people into the water as the raft goes through some rough white water.

We also stop at Dillons Pinnacles in Curecanti National Recreation area to read some signs and enjoy the scenery.

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We get to the Cedar Creek RV park in Montrose by mid-afternoon. Jere goes to the other end of town to get all the mud from yesterday's Pike's Peak drive washed off, while Joe and I hang out at the campground. We then run some errands and go out to Wendy's for a late dinner. We actually have cable TV at the park so we spend some time watching the Discovery Channel and then call it a day.

Posted by jengelman 10:49 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Pikes Peak, Colorado

Monday, July 7, 2008

semi-overcast 25 °C

The weather is still cloudy and rainy in the morning, but we decide to drive up to the top of Pikes Peak anyway. We get to the entrance and see the sign that says it is 36 degrees at the peak. We ask the cashier if the sign if accurate and he says "a storm just went through so it is probably a few degrees colder". I'm glad I wore pants.

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We drive up in the dreary weather and they are working on the road near the top where the visibility is a few feet at places. The road is muddy and the drive gets kindof scary at places.

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We get to the top and look around.

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There's a plaque at the top of Pikes Peak commemorating the 100th anniversary of the writing of the song, "America, the Beautiful".

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Apparently the composer wrote the song after traveling to the top of Pikes Peak and being inspired by the beautiful view. She must have traveled to the top on a clear day; here is the view we saw:
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We go into the gift shop and have some of their freshly made donuts (according to the sign, this is the only place that the donuts can be made due to the high altitude). The donuts are actually very good. And they're warm, which is good since it's cold up here. So after eating our donuts and drinking some hot chocolate, we head back down the mountain.

We stop at a lookout on the way down and Joe wants to hike over to a large rock outcropping, so Jere and he hike over to the rock while I check out the wildflowers near the lookout. They are tiny specks on top of the rock:
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The tundra wildflowers are everywhere on this part of the mountain, so the three of us head down the trail to look at the wildflowers. We see lots and lots of wildflowers everywhere along the path,
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AND the fog breaks up several times for us to see a view of the valley below us.
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We continue down the mountain and stop at Halfway Picnic Grove to eat our lunch. As we're eating, the sky is getting blue. Jere thinks we should head back up the mountain now that the fog/clouds are lifting. Joe votes NO, but I know Jere well enough that he's going to drive back up no matter what Joe and I say, so I say "sure, let's go. I have nothing else planned for the rest of the day".

We get back to the top and it is initially still very cloudy, but then the clouds break apart and we get a wonderful view. Yea!
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We drive back down the mountain again (it's a lot different drive in clear skies versus the fog; we never realized how big a drop off was beside the road at places when there was so much fog that we could barely see where to drive). Our only stop on the way back to the campground is to get some diesel (we're paying around $4.75/gallon these days). We have some leftovers for dinner. The wifi is down again so I organize some photos, read a book, and watch the one channel we get on TV.

Posted by jengelman 10:47 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Mead to Colorado Springs, Colorado

Sunday, July 6, 2008

storm 31 °C

We pack up, have lunch with Jere's brother and wife, and then head out for our drive to Colorado Springs. We have an uneventful drive with some occasional showers and stop at a campground south of Colorado Springs, Mountaindale RV Park. Soon after we set up the skies open up and it pours. I try to use their wifi to try to get caught up with my travel blog, but the wifi is down -- very frustrating night. No cell phone, nothing on the one channnel we get on TV, no wifi, no campfires allowed. So I call it a day early, go to bed, and finish reading my book.

Posted by jengelman 08:18 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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