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gadfly homepage on the road home notes on places last contact: 8/2009 first contact: 7/31/2005

CO Trip Stats (6/10):


Counties visited: 21

Best county: Saguache Co.

Last visited: 8/2007

Town visited most: Colorado Springs

Places slept in: Loveland, Colorado Springs, Cortez, Sterling, Walsenburg

Most impressive town: Villa Grove

Least impressive town: Cortez

Biggest town: CO Springs

Most scenic area: Rocky Mountain NP

Most scenic spot: Garden of the Gods

Runner-up: Collegiate Mts. overlook outside Buena Vista

Highest Elevation: Three Parks Peaks turnout at Rocky Mtn NP (9600 ft)

Three Words: elevated, Rockies, heaven

Animals: huge deer

Road Trips: Cowboy Trip (7/2005), Ring of Fire (8/2007), Omarock (8/09)


Neighboring States: WY, NE, KS, NM, UT, OK


Major passes: In early August, 2005, passed north to south along the front range and then skipped over to the San Luis Valley.


Future Plans: This is probably not too different a place than heaven is and so I will be back. I think there is much to be discovered on the "blue roads" in Colorado.


People of CO:   Even though I have friends and family in Colorado, they are transplanted Chicagoans and would probably agree with me when I say that the people of this state are mostly friendly and mostly odd.


First Contact: Entered Colorado for the first time near Carr along southbound I-25 as a passenger. Jessica was trying to drive around a huge thunderstorm that was ripping down the front ranges and across the plains, coughing up lightning and wind furiously. We crossed the border, just missing the worst of the rain and hail and stopped at the state welcome center off the road in Fort Collins. We arranged for a hotel stay in Loveland, further south, since the mountain storm seemed so unpredictable. The next day we headed west into the mountains.

Weld Co. (7/2005)

Carr. Greeley.

Larimer Co. (7/2005)

Along I-25, the Front Range of the Rockies dominates one side and the vastness of the Great Plains, the other. Fort Collins. 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.

Boulder Co. (8/2005)

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. Roosevelt NF. Mountainous alpine forests filled with mule deer. This is the heart of Colorado, as I always imagined it.

Gilpin Co. (8/2005)

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 them.

Clear Creek Co. (8/2005)

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.

Jefferson Co. (8/2005)

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.

Douglas Co. (8/2005)

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.

El Paso Co. (8/2005)

Colorado Springs. 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 Illinois. 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. Cascade.

Teller Co. (8/2005)

Florrisant. 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 around here.

Park Co. (8/2005)

This county 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.

Chaffee Co. (8/2005)

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.

Saguache Co. (8/2005)

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.

Alamosa Co. (8/2005)

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.

Costilla Co. (8/2005)

Lonely scrub, cattle towns with Spanish accents line CO-159. Blanca. Fort Garland. San Luis. Garcia.

Dolores Co. (8/2007)

Desert turns only slightly more verdant. US-191 is the spine for a ribbon of farmland to the south. Dove Creek. Cahone.

Montezuma Co. (8/2007)

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. Cortez. 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.

Sedgwick Co. (8/2009)

Coming Soon.

Logan Co. (8/2008)

Sterling. Coming Soon.

Washington Co. (8/2009)

Coming Soon.

Morgan Co. (8/2008)

Fort Morgan. Coming Soon.

Pueblo Co. (8/2009)

Coming Soon.

Huerfano Co. (8/2009)

Walsenburg. Coming Soon.




The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs  is much more interesting the site by the same name in Illinois. (2005)

I am dwarfed by the Great Sand Dunes, which is made of wind-blown sands stopped up the barrier of the Sangre de Cristos. (2005)

My favorite restaurant in Colorado is Loretta's in Villa Grove. The place was full of lemonade-drinking cowboys. (2005)

The kind of sites Colorado is famous for can be seen just west of Estes Park in Rocky Mountain NP. (2005)

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 roadside. (2005)

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.