Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

3979.7 Miles Later...

... and we're home. *laughs*

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?

We got up fairly early in the morning, getting through breakfast and onto the road before 9 am, which I wasn't really that used to doing, but I guess I was getting enough sleep again, and we were just getting tired of hotels. We got up and headed further East from Utah into "Colorful Colorado."

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.

The nice thing is that on the rainy side of the Rockies, they could grow fruit. Lots of it. Especially melons and peaches that love the sunshine that they get most of the year. We stopped at this fruit stand right off of I-70, and after wandering about there a bit, we found out that they sold entire boxes of peaches that were ripe off the tree. They couldn't ship them because they were too ripe, so we happily took them.

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.

Vicco's Charcoalburger Drive-In was just what I remembered, an old-fashioned kind of place with 23 kinds of shakes, a whole table of burgers (they had elk, buffalo, veggie, and turkey along with their all-natural Angus beef all crossed with the number of patties, various toppings and serving styles), onion rings that were lovely and crisp on the outside and cooked through on the inside, French fries, and all kinds of soda drinks as well. It was really good, and they only cooked things to order, so after ordering, you went and sat until your order was read, and only then did you pay for the food.

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.

It turned out to be well worth doing. We got to see views and vistas we'd never seen before, the back of the Rockies in some sense, with rivers I hadn't known were there. There was a railway tucked behind a ridge, and the river itself was big enough for people to be rafting down it. At the beginning of the dirt road was a store and campground with a shuttle stop that took them up to the top, where there was another campground and plenty of rafting equipment. People would just take the shuttle up and ride down the river all day and it was a beautiful ride.

Eventually the dirt road gave way to an oiled gravel road, and that smoothed out the washboarding and the ruts. And it went up and up and up... until we got to this really steep portion just beyond a curve, and I had to stop for this picture of the valley we'd just left. I got a good picture to the front of us, too, and we parked by the side of the road.

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.

I got us to the Visitors' Center by Grand Lake, where up on we were back on pavement and let John take over there. The startling thing was finding that the pine beetle kills were far more prevalent than they were five years ago, when we came and stayed in Grand Lake for a weekend with John's parents and Jet. The projections say that nearly all the pines in the Park are going to be dead soon. They eat into the living layers of large pine trees, and since there haven't been many fires nearly all the pines are older ones. So entire hillsides have gone gray and white or sometimes startling reds and oranges from the dying trees.

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.

It was kind of odd, though, to be here when there was no snow. We're used to the spring or fall, or either end of the summer, not the middle of it. Still it was 60's and blowing wind. I put on my hoodie to be outside in, but in the car the sun made it good and warm, so I didn't need it. The views up there went for miles.

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.
Tags: travel

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