And we ended as we'd gone, on roads far less traveled, and with a few goals in mind. The first included the fruit stands in Fruita and Palisades, the second turned into a quick tour of Rocky Mountain National Park, where we bought an annual pass. It's nearly in our backyard, why not go see it as often as we wished?
The Western Slope of Colorado works a bit like the Cascades do for Washington. The mountains slope up and squeeze the clouds that are being driven eastward by the prevailing Jet Stream. So all the rain falls on the Western slopes of the mountains. In Seattle, that means a lot of rain goes on the temperate rain forests over there, whereas in Spokane it's nigh on desert. Eastern Washington grows a great deal, however, as it has all the sunshine and the bulk of the Columbia (and the water reserves from the Grand Coulee Dam) with which to irrigate the rich soil left behind by the Ice Age.
Still, in Washington, the bulk of the population is on the West side, by the Pacific Ocean. In Colorado, the bulk of the population is on the sunny Front Range, which is on the East side of the Rockies. On the West side lies the orchards, farms, and much of the best known skiing, as where would skiers go but where the snow falls? It's greener on the West side of the Rockies, and there's more water, though still not all that much with the altitude, mountain soil, and the fact that the clouds have already been squeezed once by the mountain ranges off the Pacific. There's a reason Nevada, Utah, and Arizona are so very very dry, and why Colorado has water rights built into the state constitution.
From there we headed into the mountains and for Glenwood Springs, a place we'd gone to in the winter which had both a hot pool and a cooler swimming pool that were both warmed by the thermal springs in the mountain. We'd gone swimming there in the winter, when snow was falling, and it had been wonderful. We'd also stopped there during spring break, but only to stay at a small motel to the side, that was within walking distance of a ice cream and burgers place that I'd remembered.
We sat for a good twenty minutes, as we hadn't gotten there until nearly 1 pm, and there was a vintage car show in town, along with all the people that usually come for the swimming. The food was worth it, though. From there, we drove by the pool and found it utterly and completely mobbed. The parking lot was impossible to get into, and just seeing the pool filled with people in flotation devices, under umbrellas, or just paddling about made it so that we decided not to even bother trying. I just kept driving, and since I was the one driving, John did the navigating and a bit of picture taking.
One of the things he thought about doing, instead, was going up into Rocky Mountain National Park. The Eastern gate is less than an hour's drive from our house, and we like going up there with people, so we usually get an annual pass. It seemed a good time to do that.
Since we were well south of the park and our usual accesses, John found a by-pass up to where we could get into the western gate. It turned out to be forty miles of dirt road. You know me and my attitude toward even two-lane roads. I kind of have some of the same attitude toward dirt roads, but different, as John taught me how to do off-roading with the Land Rovers when we had nearly a dozen of them. So it's a different kind of awareness, especially when climbing or bombing down steep grades. The Eurovan was no Land Rover, either, and being a little top heavy, it made me mildly nervous.
The coolest thing happened, as we were standing out there, a pickup pulled up to us, with two guys in it and the driver lowered the passenger door window down and asked us, "You folks all right?"
"Yes, we are," I answered. "Just stopped to take pictures that's all. Thank you, though, for checking on us!"
That was really nice of them, to just stop and ask if things were all right, as it was a pretty isolated road, and I loved that people just do that, just try and help. That was one of those things that someone once pointed out to me, was that on the most part people like helping out other people, and the prove he had was that if you ask nearly anyone for directions, they'll usually do their best to point you in the right direction. If they don't know, they'll usually tell you, and, sure, sometimes if they think they do and don't you'll end up funny, but they try.
These moose were happily grazing just inside that side of the park, and as we went we saw two big herds of elk, and lots of birds as well. We went up along Trail Ridge road, to the usual visitors' center at the top and found our favorite peak climb was closed for repairs! It was nice because we could climb to the top of the fairly short path and we're higher than the top of Mt. Hood in Oregon! It's breathless fun, as the air up there is pretty thin, but quite doable for most folks, especially with the well-paved path. But they were redoing the whole path to make it more accessible.
We threaded through, enjoying the views, and made it off the mountains by sunset. The low light turning everything to flame. We headed home, stopped just long enough to unload the cooler and open the house to let it cool, before taking Jet to Noodles, as he really wanted to go there for dinner. He reasoned that we didn't have any food anyway...and in the driveway the mileage read 3979.7 miles. 22 more to go to make a full 4000, but we were tired enough that we decided not to do that. *laughs*
So we're home again, and trying to catch up with everything online and at home. It was a really good trip, and I'm glad we did it. *grins* But it feels awfully good to be back home.