Saturday, January 22, 2000

Hello from Gunnison, Colorado!

Today was a great day to travel.  And yes, I made it to another state!  And a beautiful state it is!  Tonight I am staying in Gunnison.  The town, population 4600 at an elevation of 7681 feet, was originally a trade center for the ranches in the vicinity.  Currently, besides being the home of Western State College, it serves as an access to a Gunnison National Forest and Curecanti National Recreation Area.  It is also the junction to the Crested Butte resort area.

I started out the day as usual, watching the sun rise on a new day.  Again, there were mountains to the west which provide for an interesting effect.  To continue my journey off the interstate, I headed south on Route 191 for twenty miles, then turned east onto Route 46.  This road leads around the south side of the La Sal mountains, which provided for a nice drive until I found fog.  The fog was a bit thick, and as I ascended up the slope, I learned that it snowed along this road last night.  Fortunately, the snow was not deep and the road was sanded.  During the drive, there were pockets where the fog had cleared, and the effect was striking.  This continued for about an hour, when at last, the fog and snow on the road began to clear.  As I entered Colorado, the sky became blue with puffy white clouds.  It was very pretty.

I followed a scenic byway along Delores River that lead to Grand Junction, Colorado.  This is the location where the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers meet.  This is also the where I return to Route 50. This is no longer a part of the Lincoln Highway, which turns north in Utah and is followed by Route 30.   It was good to see this road again, as I was anxious to continue my journey.  I will be traveling Route 50 until Topeka, Kansas.  Depending on time, my plan is to go north out of Topeka on Route 77, then pick up Route 30 East near Lincoln, Nebraska, picking up the Lincoln Highway again.

At this point on my expedition, I returned to the book that helped me decide my route.  The book, Road Trip USA, by Jamie Jensen, describes eleven trips through the United States that travel along the old paths, avoiding the interstates as much as possible.  Included are maps, points of interests, restaurants, lodging, and other items to assist in the drive.  He has a chapter dedicated to Route 50 (Trip 9,) known as "The Loneliest Road," as I mentioned earlier on the trip.  Unfortunately, Route 50 travels with Interstate 70 across Utah, which is why I took the southern route through the state.  Now, I have rejoined Route 50, so I begin reading the book again.

The first stop in Colorado is the Colorado National Monument south of Grand Junction.  As I approach the entrance, there is a sign posted warning of a rockslide ahead, and that the road is closed a short distance up the way.  I drove a bit up the mountain just to see the landscape and the views, which were striking.  I then turned around and headed back to Route 50. 

Driving through Grand Junction I noticed a motel called "Prospector Motel."  I have seen so many motels with that name, even staying at one in Escalante!  It must be a very popular name, for obvious reasons, since they are not associated with each other like a motel chain.

I continued east on Route 50, observing barren strips of land, and soon reached the town of Delta, known as the "City of Murals".  There are quite a few buildings with very impressive murals painted on the outside walls.  By this time of day, the sun was bright, bringing out the colors.

I continued driving, and noticed that I had reached a personal milestone.  Early this afternoon, I reached 3000 miles since I began my trek!  The last time I drove my car on a "freeway" or interstate was on the approach to Monterey on January 6.  Subtracting out those miles, at the end of the day, I have been on the back roads for over 3000 miles!  And I am only in Colorado?!?!?  I am thoroughly enjoying this.  I only wish there was more time.  Again, as I have said before, if the opportunity affords itself, take a drive on the back roads!

My final touring stop for the day was at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  In 1933, this area originally was set aside as a National Monument.  On October 21, 1999, it became a National Park.  The Black Canyon is known for its 2000 foot sheer granite walls, being the deepest gorge in the state.  The Gunnison River flows fastest through the park, dropping 2150 feet in 50 miles.  This is the quickest water flow in the United States!  This is a very impressive park.  At the overlook 2000 feet above the river, the roar is loud, and one can only imagine how loud it is at the bottom of the canyon.  They have a great video presentation which discusses facts such as that the river removes about one inch of rock material every century, how a narrow gauge train was built along the base (only halfway, as the rest of the canyon was too rugged,) and how a tunnel was built to route water to farmlands in the region.  One of the Rangers in the video, Paul Zaenger, was working today, and we talked quite a bit about the park history and the characters involved in the preservation of the canyon.  He directed me to an overlook requiring some trudging through snow, and it was worth it.  What a sight to be able to see and hear the river so far below.  Another interesting aspect is the programs they offer in the winter.  They have regular snowshoe hikes, and they also have an astronomy night to view the skies from the top of the gorge.  I would enjoy that very much.

Finally, as I drove towards Gunnison, I was able to see Blue Mesa Reservoir, an impressive body of water surrounded by towering mesas, and today, with the setting sun glistening in the sky!  It was breathtaking!  

Routes traveled today: Nevada 191 - 46 - Colorado 90 - 141 - 50  - 347 - 50

Thank you for dropping in on the page!  Send me a note and let me know how things are with you! Until tomorrow, and possibly once more from Colorado,  Igor

Hotel: ABC Motel

Gas: $1.60

Click on picture to get enlarged view:

Route 46 east of Moab.

My next state, Colorado!

A tablet describing a flume that was constructed along the Delores River to carry water to a nearby town.

 A view of the Delores River.

The view of snow-capped peaks from Colorado National Park.

A plateau crossed by route 50.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, our nation's newest National Park.

A view of the canyon, looking south

Another landscape view to the south

 

The view as I walked  a trial to an overlook.

A branch beside the trail.

Plants in the snow along the trail.

Looking northwest from the overlook, the scenery was spectacular!

This picture is a look towards the right of the previous picture, with a little overlap.

Snow covered trails on the side of the canyon.

One last shot of the canyon, looking towards the north.

The visitor's center for the south section of the canyon.

The top of the canyon.

As you can see, beautiful scenery surrounding this lake.

Mesa information.

Description of the Dillon Pinnacles.

A spectacular sky!

The Dillon Pinnacles.

The parting shot of the day before arriving in Gunnison!

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