US-50 West 2022:
Day 4 - Colorado National Monument [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

US-50 West 2022: [Day 1 - Owensville] [Day 2 - Dodge City] [Day 3 - Cañon City] [Day 4 - Colorado NM] [Day 5 - Great Basin NP] [Day 6 - Folsom Lake SRA] [Day 7 - Lassen Volcanic NP] [Day 8 - Humboldt Redwoods SP] [Day 9 - Portola Valley] [Day 10 - Pinnacles NP] [Day 11 - Yosemite] [Day 12 - Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP] [Day 13 - Picacho Peak SP] [Day 14 - Flagstaff] [Day 15 - El Reno] [Day 16 - Heading Home]

Tuesday, October 4, 2022: After a pleasant night of light rain, we woke around sunrise and cleared our campsite.
The sky was filled with low clouds as we made our way into the mountains.
A mile or two down the road, we came across a herd of bighorn sheep making their way down the mountainside onto the grass between the hills and the road.
We pulled off as soon as we could to try to get a good look at them, and they were trotting along the roadside coming right toward us. We figured they were coming out of the hills to get a morning drink from the Arkansas River. They wouldn't come any closer while we were there, so we reluctantly drove away from the turnout so they wouldn't be afraid.
Breakfast was served on the road: apple fritter- and Eggo waffle-flavored Pop-Tarts, clementines, and bacon jerky. The Pop-Tart flavors were interesting, but not something we would buy again.
The sky was clearing, and we were starting to see larger mountains that appeared to have snow on them.
By 9 AM, we were driving under a cloudless blue sky.
We passed another campground we'd love to stay at someday, where the campsites were right next to the Arkansas River.
Scenery murals are so pretty.
Here's another business with US-50 in the name: US-50 Burger in Salida, Colorado.
The Circle R Motel not only had a vintage sign, it had a vintage car and vintage gas pumps. The vintage gas pumps had been converted to electric vehicle charging stations. How cool is that?!
The Motel Western's sign was still there, but the motel itself was long gone. We really enjoyed seeing that even though the business was no longer there, the signs were preserved as a tribute.
The Salida Stove and Spa has every color of outdoor chair that you could want. It was very eye-catching.
We were fascinated by the streaks of bright yellow aspen trees growing through all of the pines. It was a nice pop of yellow in a sea of green.
This was part of the San Isabel National Forest, ...
... which likely accounted for the all of the beautiful trees that we were seeing.
We're not exactly sure what this building was, but suffice to say that it had seen better days.
Just before 10 AM, we reached the Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet of elevation, leaving the San Isabel National Forest behind and entering Gunnison National Forest.
Here's the view from the pass looking back toward the Atlantic Ocean side of the Continental Divide and the San Isabel National Forest, ...
... and here's the view toward the Pacific Ocean and Gunnison National Forest.
The US Forest Service signs for the national forests are very distinctive.
We were seeing more fall colors in the trees as we continued westward.
Debbie spotted this albino horse as we sped past its corral, and we had to turn around and get another look at it. Its nose and eyes were very pink, and the rest of it was completely white. It was beautiful.
As we entered the town of Gunnison, Colorado, we saw a McDonald's and very quickly decided that it was time for lunch.
Debbie saw a sign advertising a Cactus Plant Flea Market meal and asked what it was. There was a noticable pause as the order taker obviously asked someone else and came back with, "Uh, it's a Happy Meal?" Long pause. "For adults?" You could hear the question marks at the end of each of her sentences. We decided that we had to try one.
We were not ready for the toy that was inside. It was a hard plastic Grimace toy, but it had four eyes. Veeerry creepy.
Right next door was Western Colorado University.
It was clear as we drove through town that the townsfolk loved to decorate with antlers. This store even boasted that it had Colorado's largest display of them.
The Long Holiday Motel had a very sixties space-age sign, and promised new rooms and cable TV.
A few miles west of Gunnison, we drove through the Curecanti National Recreation Area.
US-50 continued into the mountains, ...
... alongside rivers, ...
... and past lovely lakes. This area is known as the Bay of Chickens.
We pulled off into a scenic viewpoint to take a longer look at the Dillon Pinnacles, which are beautiful spires that have eroded along the south face of Grand Mesa.
Here's the view back the way we had come, looking east and south toward the mesas on the other side of the river.
The aspen trees almost appeared to flouresce in the eerie light created by the very low clouds.
We paused for a while waiting for our turn to drive a one-lane road through the mountains.
There just aren't enough roads through the mountains to have a detour, so we had to drive very carefully around all of the workers and equipment as we slowly made our way through the construction zone.
Hey! That's a Big Boy statue! If you want to see it too, check in Cimarron, Colorado.
The sky had cleared again, and it was perfect weather ...
... as we arrived at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We had stopped here briefly when we came through here in 1998, but neither of us remembered much about it.
Let's take a closer look, shall we?
We drove along the rim road until we reached Painted Wall overlook, the farthest point that we were going to visit on this trip.
Tom is a little worse for wear, but he still walks like he owns the place.
From the viewpoint, we looked out over a gorgeous canyon, with seams of lighter colored Pegmatite running through the darker colored Gneiss rock.
There was a river running far below at the bottom of the canyon
There was an information sign at the end of the viewpoint showing just how tall the rock face was. Only the Burj Khalifa at 2,722 feet high would have been tall enough to overtop the canyon wall, and only by a little bit.
On the hike back to the van, Debbie stopped to take a close-up of the moss and lichen covering the rocks.
Fascinating, isn't it? All the little bumps and whorls and different colors. It was very pretty.
There were also pretty cacti along the walk.
As we worked our way back southward, we stopped at Chasm View, ...
... which was very appropriately named, ...
... and then at Rock Point, which has a 294-yard hike to get to the overlook.
This tree was in full autumn display and added a nice bit of color among the rocks and evergreens.
As we reached the overlook, we took a quick side trip up onto a large rock outcropping to see what was around. There were little pools of rain water that hadn't yet evaporated, but we didn't see any life in them.
We waited for our turn at the viewpoint, ...
... and then looked to the left (northwest), ...
... and to the right (southeast), ...
... and back toward Devil's Lookout, the viewpoint just to the north. You can see people walking along the top of the cliff to get out to the overlook.
Back at the van, we looked at the collection of various bugs stuck in our grill. We were very much in need of a car wash at this point.
As we left the park, we passed these deer along the side of the road. The younger one was a little disturbed by our presence, but the older one stood its ground and vigilantly watched us go by.
At 2 PM, we were back on US-50 headed west.
Olathe Sweet Sweet Corn is is so sweet that had to say it twice!
Apparently, Delta, Colorado, is the Gateway to the Canyons. This mural depicted priests bringing Christianity to the indiginous peoples of the area. We wonder how that worked out for everybody.
The Westways Court sign had an awesome neon sun on it that must have looked amazing at night.
Debbie had been checking the Roadside America app, so we were ready when we saw Orval's Used Cars with its lot full of very old classic cars.
The Egyptian Theater in Delta is for sale, if you want to buy it.
Just past Delta, Colorado, is the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area.
Check out that gorgeous weather.
When we reached Grand Junction, Colorado, there was no doubt we were on US-50.
Looking at Roadside America, we decided to detour a little bit to see the giant LEGO figure placed outside ...
... of eBricks, a LEGO reseller that Debbie already knew about. We parked near the store, downloaded this town's preferred parking app, paid the 72 cents to park, and headed inside.
They had a giant castle display, with a parade of minifigs walking the pathway to get into the castle, ...
... and cases of minifigs and other parts for resale. We were able to restrain ourselves and left after admiring their displays without making any purchases.
Back on US-50, we entered the neighboring town of Fruita, Colorado. A grain elevator in town has a mural of a bicyclist jumping through a big gear on one side, ...
... and a dinosaur with lots of bitey teeth on the other side.
We crossed over the Colorado River, Debbie's favorite river ever, ...
... and entered Colorado National Monument, our destination for this day.
We were on the lookout for bighorn sheep crossing but, spoiler alert, we didn't see any.
The road climbed up and up. That's the entrance to the national monument in the foreground far below, with the town of Fruita in the distance.
The walls of the mesa are imposing and gorgeous as you climb to the top.
That's Balanced Rock perched high above the road.
Tunnel ahead! You can see daylight through the tunnel.
The road uses the entire canyon as a switchback to make it to the top.
Once we were at the top, we stopped at the Fruita Canyon View overlook.
There was an information sign at the overlook that talked about how difficult it was to build Rim Rock Drive, the road through Colorado National Monument. On the right side of this picture is Balanced Rock. It is less than a quarter mile from the overlook, but more than two miles of road had to be built to cover the 800 feet of elevation change between here and there.
Our first stop was at the Visitor Center, where we found the Stephen Mather plaque. We recalled reading that there was a time capsule located here as well, and asked the park rangers inside about it, but they didn't know anything about it. Back outside, we rechecked our information and found out that the time capsule is in the base of the Mather plaque even though there is nothing to indicate that it is there.
This plaque is special. In 1986, the Chief Ranger of the Colorado National Monument had wanted a Mather plaque to be displayed here, and that started a series of events that led to a new mold being created and twenty new plaques being produced in 1991.
We made a quick stop at the rest rooms and visitor center before heading ...
... to the Saddlehorn Campground, which was where we were staying.
Debbie had selected a beautiful spot, ...
... that was private, had a good flat spot for the tent, ...
... close to the bathrooms, ...
... and had its own private ledge overlooking Fruita and Grand Junction.
We set up our campsite and brought our chairs out to the ledge along with cocktails and cheese curds.
This is the best camp site ever!
Since we were celebrating our fantastic site, we decided to have freeze-dried spaghetti with meat sauce from Mountain House, one of the finest camping meals ever, and sadly, recently discontinued. We had stocked up on several cases before it disappeared forever, fortunately.
As the sun sank, we treated ourselves to hot chocolate and watched as the shadows lengthened across the town below.
It was getting a bit chilly on the ledge, so we decided to bring the party back to the tent, ...
... and to top off the hot chocolate with some Rum Chata, which made it even more delicious.
By 7 PM, the valley below was completely in shadow, ...
... and we turned on some of our battery-powered lanterns. Don't you just want to be in that tent?
At 7:30 PM, we headed back outside to look at the International Space Station flying overhead.
After the pass was over, Tom used one of his astronomy apps on his phone to identify a few of the brightest stars that we could see. Jupiter was especially bright in the eastern sky.
The lights of Fruita twinkled below as we headed back inside to rest and relax before bedtime.

Day 5 >

US-50 West 2022: [Day 1 - Owensville] [Day 2 - Dodge City] [Day 3 - Cañon City] [Day 4 - Colorado NM] [Day 5 - Great Basin NP] [Day 6 - Folsom Lake SRA] [Day 7 - Lassen Volcanic NP] [Day 8 - Humboldt Redwoods SP] [Day 9 - Portola Valley] [Day 10 - Pinnacles NP] [Day 11 - Yosemite] [Day 12 - Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP] [Day 13 - Picacho Peak SP] [Day 14 - Flagstaff] [Day 15 - El Reno] [Day 16 - Heading Home] [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

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