Kayaking Applegate Lake

Kayaking Applegate Lake
Kayaking Applegate Lake

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24 Over the Rockies

Chatfield to Gunnison (9) We headed west over the Rockies today, no more agenda, no more visiting or guests, just homeward bound.  Of course, between here and home lie the red canyons of Capitol Reef, my heart home and sweet spot on the planet.  Before we slip into canyon country, however, I thought it might be fun to wander west via a different route than the fast, winding interstate across the mountains out of Denver.

We chose Highway 285 south from Littleton, across Kenosha Pass, famous for its mountain bike trails, turning west on US 50, the road that crosses the US from coast to coast.  Another climb, Monarch Pass, looked challenging on the map.  How in the world do we haul the baby car over 11.300 feet?! The best part of the day was going to be the ability to drive as long as we felt like it, and then stop wherever we wanted to stop.

Chatfield to Gunnison (31) The passes were a piece of cake, really, most of the way had two lanes and the steepest grade was maybe 6 percent.  The MoHo has an automatic transmission downshift, so that  makes the downhill sides of the passes easy and safe as well, even though we don’t have any extra brakes on the car.  The aspens are turning at the higher elevations, and the colors were backlit by the afternoon sun.

The only problem with this plan is that it all went by much too quickly.  We saw two forest service campgrounds on highway 50, just before 1pm, and thought it was way too early to stop.  Once over Monarch Pass, however, the west slope of the Rockies opens up into big wide ranching country, and by the time we found a place to stop around 3, the landscape was as barren as any we have seen in Nevada.

Chatfield to Gunnison (20) Don’t get me wrong, I love the desert.  Rabbitbrush and sage are familiar to me and camping in the wide open spaces is something we actually seek.  But on this day, somehow, I thought I would be camping in the Colorado Rockies, among spruce and aspen.  Instead I am at the Stevens Creek BLM campground on a reservoir of the Arkansas River, surrounded by sage and silence.  The skies are clear, and at 7600 feet, I am sure the stars will be breathtaking. 

Not far north is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a dramatic National Park, and yet the drive there looks tortuous and we have decided to continue west on 50 tomorrow morning and camp tomorrow night in Canyonlands, at the Island in the Sky, at Horse Thief BLM campground.  Canyon country calls, red canyons, not black ones, and I am a bit like a horse heading for the barn.

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>