Larimer Co. (7/2005)
Along I-25, the Front Range of the
Rockies dominates one side and the vastness of the Great Plains,
One of the most useful state welcome centers is based here. Stop
to plan your trip. Loveland.
A suburban city surrounded by lakes. Estes Park.
This village is rather
dominated by yuppies, but was (despite them) quite an impressive
sight. A lot of art here. The road into town passes through the
winding walls of the Big Thompson River valley. The approach
reminded me of the very similar town of Gatlinburg, TN.
Rocky Mountain NP.
What a beautiful place! Alpine meadows and forests interrupted
by scenic cliffs and bald peaks and glaciers. Wildlife included
prairie dogs and mountain goats. When I visited, the NPS was
searching frantically for a missing ranger who was later found
dead. This land is exceedingly beautiful and exceedingly
dangerous. Some of my highest elevations ever attained here.
Drove down the Peak-to-Peak Hwy
in the skies. Allenspark. Ferncliff. Raymond. Ward. Nederland.
Site of a good restaurant guarded by an oxygen-deprived dog.
Mountainous alpine forests filled with mule deer. This is the
heart of Colorado, as I always imagined it.
Rollinsville. Black Hawk. I first heard the
name of this town uttered by angry old ladies in Nederland. When
we passed through we were shocked to see an entire city (maybe
once a mining town) dedicated to casinos. It is in such a
beautiful site among massive forested cliffs that the casino
builders made sure to include ramps and skywalks so that patrons
would never go outside. And I saw very few souls on the streets.
Gambling is more widespread in the West. I wonder if this is
related to its relative lack of religion, when compared to the
Midwest and the South. While we argue about casinos, they build
Passed through the rocky cliffs of
the Argo area riding the brakes all the way down the front range
and out of the county toward Denver.
Suburban Denver covered in cookie-cutter houses in land that
slopes up toward the Front Range as one heads west. We put the
car in neutral and rolled east. Evergreen. Golden.
Lakewood. Chatfield Reservoir located nearby.
More suburban Denver. After so long away from the big city
during our Cowboy Trip it almost felt good to sit in a traffic
jam again. Littleton. Highlands Ranch. Lone Tree. Larkspur.
A city with strong faith and a long military history. It seemed
a very pleasant place to live. Thanks to Lidya's hospitality, we
were able to sleep in clean beds during our Cowboy Trip. Garden of the Gods.
A city park in Colorado Springs, the most curious rock
formations rise up out of the plains. An A+ place for
rock-climbing (watch for snakes and cacti) and bird watching in
the desert scrub and truly a place where God must spend some
time. Much more interesting than the place of the same name in
Avoid the gift shop like the plague. Manitou Springs. Pike NF.
Rolling up the Front Range along US-24 the driver is met with a
thick forest that eventually peters out to a more arid plain.
Very small town that is famed for having the most average
lightning strikes in America. Florrisant Fossil Beds NM.
Walking around the hilly, arid grassland here I was met with the
fossilized tree stumps, which I guess are pretty big. I was not
so impressed with them as with the Richardson's Squirrels and
overall scenery. Crystola. Woodland Pk.
Divide. The sun seems so close to my bald head
consists of a bowl filled with a lonely, scrub-covered plain
interrupted by some dried river beds. The walls of the bowl are
magnificent mountains. Lk
George. Wilkerson Pass. Enter the bowl. Hartsel.
The only interruption in the ringed plain are the trees around
this hospitable town. Stop at the store with a huge ice cream
cone out front and buy some fossils. Trout Creek Pass.
Exit the bowl.
Johnson Village. A rest stop on Midland Hill in the
scrub overlooking the Arkansas River Valley is a good place to
view the gargantuan Collegiate Peaks (all over 14k feet) and to
smell the fresh air. Buena Vista. The
headwaters of the Arkansas. It seems impossible to get away from
the pull of the Mississippi. Nathrop. I'm not
into whitewater rafting. Poncha Springs.
Poncha Pass. This pass is the northern lip of
the San Luis Valley. From here the Sangre de Cristos to the east
slowly pull away from the Rockies to the west. This part of the
state seems walled off from the rest of the world and is
untainted by busloads of tourists. Villa Grove.
When we pulled into Loretta's Kitchen, an old cowboy with
reddened skin was tying a tired horse out front to his pickup.
When he took a seat the waitress asked: "Howya doing?" He
answered gruffly, "Scorched..." After a thoughful pause, he added,
"...as usual," and ordered an iced tea. That is the best way to
describe this outpost. Moffat. The valley
widens here and the Rockies pull out of view. The land is hard,
dry scrub actually used for driving beef. Forests blanket the
bottom halves of the Sangre de Cristos.
Hooper. Bone-dry cattle land and a few small
houses. Great Sand Dunes NP. They seem small
from the main road, but after an hour of driving toward them and
across countless cattle guards, you see just how far one can see
in the San Luis Valley. Huge desert sand dunes lap up against
the forests of the Sangre de Cristos. A few inches below the
dry, wind-blown sand is a watery mud. The sand is scorching hot
in the sun.
Lonely scrub, cattle towns with Spanish accents line CO-159.
Blanca. Fort Garland. San Luis. Garcia.
Desert turns only slightly more verdant. US-191 is the spine for
a ribbon of farmland to the south. Dove Creek. Cahone.
The scene in
this county is a stark difference from the surrounding desert.
The Dolores River is an oasis and home to considerable farming
activity. If it weren't for a few mountains in the distance, I
would have thought I was back in the Midwest. Canyons of the
Ancients NM. Because of the water brought by the Dolores
River, the area is filled with the remains of ancient Anasazi
dwellings. These are scattered sites surrounded by farmland.
A seedy farm market and crossroads. Mesa Verde NP.
A wonder of the world! The park consists of a
series of wooded canyons, when viewed from above, resembling an
outstretched hand. Wedged on the sides of the canyon walls are
Anasazi ruins dating from a span of 500 years or so. The
well-preserved ruins were discovered by wandering cowboys. It
seems as if the people left in a hurry. It can be explored via
car and binoculars. The wooded areas of the valley are home to
some massive deer. Ute Mountain Res. A seedy
farm market and crossroads. Pleasant Valley. Yellow
Jacket. Ouch! Lewis. Arriola.
Fort Morgan. Coming Soon.
Walsenburg. Coming Soon.
The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is
much more interesting the site by the same name in Illinois.
I am dwarfed by the Great Sand Dunes, which is made of
wind-blown sands stopped up the barrier of the Sangre de Cristos.
My favorite restaurant in Colorado is Loretta's in Villa
Grove. The place was full of lemonade-drinking cowboys.
The kind of sites Colorado is famous for can
be seen just west of Estes Park in Rocky Mountain NP.
The shadows of the Mesa Verde valleys
hold historic treasures: abandoned Anasazi ghost towns. (2007)
The Collegiate Peaks is the how the nearby
town of Buena Vista got its name. (2005)
Looking for water in the scrub near the
In the summer rain and lightning can erupt
quickly in the Rocky Mountains. (2005)
Anasazi ghosts fill this hallway at Mesa
Verde NP. (2007)
I am looking up... the direction everyone
looks when seated on the valley floors in Colorado. (2005)
Photos (c) 2007 by J. Bezold. All rights reserved.