A thousand miles, from the prairies, past the ranches, through the mountains, and into the desert. We’ve done all that and more in the last two days.
On Thursday morning we said goodbye to the farmers of Kansas, busy gathering in the grain with their combine harvesters, and crossed the state line into Colorado. Deciding to take a break from the interstate for a while, we swung southeast, between a seemingly endless succession of cattle ranches.
At Colorado Springs we began our real ascent into the Rocky Mountains. Although this part of the Rockies isn’t as rugged as areas like Banff or Jasper (always a favorite of mine, for obvious reasons), it has a beauty all of its own. Along the way we grabbed the oldest geocache in Colorado, hidden back in July 2000.
Continuing to climb steadily, we passed through Alma, the highest incorporated town in all of North America (10,578 feet above sea level). A short while later we crossed the continental divide at Hoosier Pass, 1000 feet higher still.
There’s something about the continental divide that fascinates me. The idea that rain falling on one side of it ends up (in the case of North America) in the Atlantic Ocean, but water landing just a few inches away – and so on the other side of the divide – is bound for the Pacific, is just mind-boggling.
Eventually we rejoined the interstate near the world-famous skiing town of Vail. As dusk fell, we snaked our way through Glenwood Canyon on a road clinging to the walls of the canyon on stilts, to arrive at our hotel in Grand Junction long after dark.
Yesterday morning we were up with the dawn, all eager to see Utah for the first time. The speed with which the forested mountains gave way to dry barrenness was incredible. It’s as if the clouds know where the Colorado-Utah state line is, and refuse to drop their precious water to the east of it.
Making another detour south of the I-70, we headed to Arches National Park, stopping to see some dinosaur footprints preserved in the rock surface at Copper Ridge along the way.
There’s many words you could use to describe Arches NP, but I only need one: breathtaking. The desert landscape is surprisingly varied and stunningly beautiful, like something from another world. And the arches themselves are incredible. Unfortunately, since we had to get all the way across Utah before the day’s end, we only had a couple of hours in the park. But after what I saw, I know I’ll be back sooner rather than later.