Friday, July 20, 2007

taking the backroads


I am now in Denver.

Wishing I was still in Crested Butte, but oh well.

I had plans to come in to Denver to see Bob Dylan
in concert tonight with a friend, so I tore myself
away from the mountain paradise, and here I am
back in urban sprawl. What have I done ??

I spent the week in CB relaxing, and resting, and
exploring. I hit some of the usual trails -

Cement Creek Road ...... 15 miles of bad road, but
such a wonderful and quiet escape that most of
those tourists do not frequent. There's the creek
itself, open meadows, towering mountains, going
past smaller waterfalls, ponds created by beavers
(which you can sometimes catch out working) and
just the escape from reality.

Gothic Road / Schofield Pass ..... another 15 mile
drive into the wonderful back country, although
this one always has more tourists. I wish they
would learn to slow down on days when their
vehicle is putting up clouds of dust. Not just for
when they pass me, as I have my windows down
(until I realize they are not slowing down), but
also I see them blow right past bikers and hikers,
and leave them in a cloud of dust, not caring. I
always slow down to a crawl when I pass bikers
and hikers, so I do not stir up dust for them to
have to breathe, and most everytime, I get a
verbal "thanks", as they appreciate it.

Going up through Gothic is always scenic, as there
are wildflower and botanical gardens and testing
plots along the way. Usually, there will be some
of those employed there (or some are volunteers)
out working in the areas as well. Beyond Gothic
is the route to Schofield Pass. A 4-wheel drive
vehicle is highly recommended for this trip, and
a smaller one is even better for parts of it. Once
past the actual pass summit, the road deteriorates
even more, and is not recommended past a certain
point for vehicles other than jeeps or bikes, etc.

Emerald Lake is well worth the drive, and you
reach it before the pass summit. It's a scenic
alpine type lake, just as green (or blue, depending
on the sun that day) as it can be. It's got an area
for picnics, swimming (yes, it's a cold lake), and
fishing is an option as well.

Blue Mesa / Black Canyon of The Gunnison was
the starting point for the fullest day of my drives.
I stopped several places along Blue Mesa, and
then took the North Rim Drive around the
Black Canyon for the first time. I'd been on the
South Rim Drive before, several times. There
are some awesome vistas along both routes, but
the South Rim Drive has the advantage of having
access to drive down into the Black Canyon, while
you do not have that option on the North Rim.

I took that highway on around further Northwest,
and came into Paonia, which is quite the place to
find locally grown fruits, as well as preserves, jam,
and wine. I then followed the highway up past
the turnoff for CB, and up to the road to Marble.
Marble is a town on the backside of Schofield Pass,
so had I been able to go on across the pass a few
days before, it would have taken me here, as well
as the town of Crystal, along the Crystal River.
Marble is famous for, yes..... a marble quarry, some
of which was used at the Oklahoma State University
Library, the Lincolm Monument in Washington DC,
and other places. It's quite an interesting place to
visit, with huge chunks of broken marble at some
places along the road, and in the river.

The drive then took me on up to Redstone, which
is one of those small towns you pass by on the
highway, but this time I made the turn, and took
some time to see the town, and it's art galleries,
etc. There is also a Redstone Castle, but I did
not take that tour, as it was getting late in the day,
and thunderstorms were on the way. I had to save
something for another trip up there. I then took
the drive back down the highway, just past Paonia
Reservoir, and turned off onto the Kebler Pass Road
headed to Crested Butte. Even though much of this
drive was in a pouring down rain, I did get to see
2 deer during a let up in the rain.

Today's trip took me up Jack's Cabin Cutoff, to
the Taylor River Road, and on up to the Taylor
Reservoir. Past that, I kept going up to the road
to Cottonwood Pass, over that and down to Buena
Vista. That was a road I'd not taken before all the
way, though I had been up to the summit of the pass
before. As I got to Fairplay and made a planned
stop for a carved wood bear I wanted, the sudden
sounds of sirens filled the air. On beyond Fairplay
towards Denver (yes, in the direction I was headed)
there had been a 1-car accident, where the SUV
had rolled over into the field. It held up traffice
for an hour, as 2 lifeflight helicopters came in and
landed on the road to carry away those in need.

That was the 3rd accident of some sort I had seen
today. The other 2 were caused by boulders
falling onto the highway, and cars hitting them
(such as the one on Cottonwood Pass Road), or
the boulder hitting the car's side (such as the one
on Taylor River Road). Plus, a week before when
driving through Fairplay to visit some friends that
have moved up there from Dallas, there was an
accident right in Fairplay itself that delayed me
30 minutes or so. Those, plus an accident on the
highway to just north of the Kebler Pass turnoff,
left me being very careful. The 2 non-boulder
accidents were both one vehicle accidents. How
they happened, I do not know. Over-correcting ?
Speeding ? Cell phone / text messaging ?

Long day, but I'm here in Denver, and headed out
before too long to the Bob Dylan concert. Then
heading out tomorrow across flat eastern Colorado
and into even flatter Kansas, stopping in Wichita
to see a friend, before heading back to Tulsa on