Posts From Colorado


Santa Fe Trail, Old Bent Fort (La Junta, Colorado)

Journal entry for Monday 24th Sep, 2012 (day 86, miles 11119)

We saw off the last of Kansas this morning and entered flat dry farming land of drought plagued eastern Colorado. Signs along the road reminded us that we were, and had been since St Louis, pretty much tracing the route of the original Santa Fe Trail the southern most route by which settlers traveled into the West. This trail brought many settlers to what is today New Mexico and was then Mexican territory and eventually precipitated the Mexican-American war. In the hey day of the trail one of the few outposts of supply and security was Bent Fort, a fortified adobe trading post built by the Bent brothers and a son of a French nobleman a few miles from todays town of La Junta. The fort burned down in 1849 but was rebuilt in the mid 1970's as a historic monument and filled with historic artifacts and is today staffed by Park Rangers and volunteers in period costumes. We spent a pleasant, though hot, few hours there enthralled by the fort structure and the old tools and other implements. An interesting point of trivia was a discussion with one of the staff about the word Arkansas, which of course we all now know to pronounce as Ar-kan-saw. However it seems (or at least we were told) that when the state of Arkansas joined the Union its two Senators differed on their pronunciation of the word. One used the now accepted pronunciation of Ar-kan-saw while the other called his state Ar-kan-sas. Soon after statehood was granted the state legislature adopted the >Ar-kan-saw pronunciation as the officially correct form. Just to confuse us foreigners apparently many people from Kansas still call it Ar-kan-sas.

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Rob P's shop, Hanagan's Farm and Koshare (La Junta, Colorado)

Journal entry for Friday 28th Sep, 2012 (day 86, miles 11119)

Our four days in La Junta were like many travel experiences; one arrives in a place with some plans but really little, if any, conception of how events will actually unfold. Our La Junta visit was that type of experience in spades.

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The Rockies (The Crags CG, Colorado)

Journal entry for Saturday 29th Sep, 2012 (day 87, miles 11311)

The early morning fog had burned off by the time we merged onto I-25 heading north to Colorado Springs. It felt strange to be back in the hustle and bustle of an interstate after so many days on the more relaxed secondary roads of Kansas and Colorado. After shopping and other chores we did a quick tour through the Garden of the Gods Park then joined highway 24 heading into the mountains looking for a place to pull over for the night. However improvised camping spots proved hard to find and before long we found ourselves at the town of Divide at 9000ft. Camping at 9000ft was certainly not part of our plan but there seemed to be no alternative. The nearby state park campground was full so we eventually turned onto a narrow gravel road towards a forest service campground called The Crags at 9600ft.

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Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

Journal entry for Sunday 30th Sep, 2012 (day 88, miles 11392)

After a lazy start to the day we alighted from our snug camper to a sunny but cool morning (the truck computer told us it was close to freezing overnight) and spent an hour or so strolling up the road to a trail head, then along part of the trail reaching well over 10,000 ft before returning to the truck to get underway. We were both more than a little surprised how well we were reacting to the altitude. On previous occasions a sudden climb to this kind of level has had the usual side effects of head aches and shortness of breath. The truck was reluctant to start and even with the aid of the new air-intake heater coughed, spluttered and belched smoke for a few minutes before finally settling down.

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The Gold Belt Tour, Phantom, Victor, America Eagles (Victor, Colorado)

Journal entry for Monday 1st Oct, 2012 (day 89, miles 11493)

The Gold Belt Tour is a linked series of roads connecting the towns of Florence, Canon City, Victor, and Cripple Creek. We had been debating for some days whether we would attempt the Phantom Canyon Road (one of the Gold Belt Tour roads), and today decided in the affirmative. Why the debate? Well the guide book Nina has been reading points out that there are two tunnels along the road (something that is usually an issue for us) that the road is narrow, twisting and unsuitable for long vehicles (over 25ft). The road turned out to be fabulous. It is, as advertised, twisting and in places very narrow. Most of it is an old railway bed and in places where the road runs through cuts in large rocks it has not been widened since its railways days. For miles it runs along a narrow man made ledges on the sides of steep valleys; it was exhilarating.

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The Shelf Road (San Isabel NF, Colorado)

Journal entry for Tuesday 2nd Oct, 2012 (day 90, miles 11578)

We met the fox in the parking lot of the American Eagles Overlook he was very bold and followed us around while we tried to use the morning light to get some better photos of this amazing hole in the ground. I am not sure we improved on our previous efforts in regard to the open pit but we did get a better look at some of those dump trucks this morning; they make our Mog look small.

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Autumn colors, and Sand Dunes (Sand Dune NP, Colorado)

Journal entry for Wednesday 3rd Oct, 2012 (day 91, miles 11742)

Although we did not know it at the start, today would be consumed by autumn colors, The Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dune National Preserve. From our camp in the San Isabel NF (in the Wet Mountains) we passed through the town of Westcliffe (which seemed pretty much closed down for the season) and down highway 69 which travels north-south just east of the Sangre De cristo Mountains. There are many minor roads heading west from 69 into the S de C and eventually we succumbed and started west towards Mosca Pass along CR-580. This country road changed names a number of times as it wound its way west and gradually deteriorated from a two lane black top into a narrow wheel track as it climbed to Mosca Pass at just short of 10,000 ft. Along the way we passed through farmland, open range and wonderful high alpine forest where the Aspens were displaying a wonderful mix of fall colors and providing a breath taking contrast to the dark spruce. We have been captivated by the yellow and orange colors of the Aspens for a number of days now and have been at great pains to capture these vivid colors with our camera, but they continue to prove elusive.

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Chaco (Durango, Colorado)

Journal entry for Wednesday 10th Oct, 2012 (day 98, miles 12357)

We started our brief exploration of Chaco Canyon and ruins with the usual visitor center film. This one was a bit disappointing; too much mysticism and not enough history. Though to be fair not much is really known about the people of Chaco. Some deductions from the ruins they left, a few artifacts and references in the oral histories of a number of South West tribes. However one look at the size, scope and nature of the ruins in Chaco canyon and it is evident that they were a prosperous, well organized and skilled people. The ruins on display in the canyon are called "great houses", they are large D shaped complexes with hundreds of rooms, built over succeeding generations but according to the original plan. Current archeological theory is that these buildings are ceremonial rather than domestic. Why and how did this thriving culture fall or depart; seems there is no answer to that question.

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Laundry, chores and a chance to spread out (Haviland Lake, Colorado)

Journal entry for Thursday 11th Oct, 2012 (day 99, miles 12392)

A house with a laundry and space to spread out captivated us this morning so that we did not get going until the morning was almost done. A few more shopping chores and a chance meeting with another Unimog owner and Rosie and her friends from Texas and we were really late getting underway. As a result we got only as far as Haviland Lake Campground; only about 30 miles for the day.

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First signs of winter (Lizard Head Pass, Colorado)

Journal entry for Friday 12th Oct, 2012 (day 100, miles 12560)

Overnight the weather turned and today we have been traveling in a mix of rain, light hail and a few snow flurries. Higher on the mountains there is a lot of fresh snow. We saw very few bright yellow Aspens today; their leaves are now mostly brown or gone. It is amazing how things have changed in a week; though of course we have moved more into the heart of the Rockies and should expect that fall/winter is more advanced here.

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