Wednesday I started the day with the intention of driving a scenic loop north of Salida, up towards Buena Vista, Leadville, Vail and Frisco before returning to Salida. The theme for the day quickly became apparent. Mountains. Big ones.
There are 58 mountains taller than 14,000 feet in Colorado, more than in any other state. The locals call them “14ers”. Today I saw at least 8 of them (I think I saw lots more than that but there just wasn’t enough room on my map to print all their names!).
From south to north (the order in which I saw them) Shavano 14,229, Antero 14,269, Princeton 14,197, Yale 14,196, Harvard 14,420 (they call this road the Collegiate Byway), LaPlata 14,361, Elbert 14,433 (the highest point in Colorado) and Massive 14,421.
Here are some of them, taken with my smartphone camera (you’ll see some better detail shots when I post close-ups, taken with the digital camera):
These next two were taken looking down, showing the road as I approached, and started to climb, Independence Pass.
It turns out I never made it any further north than Independence Pass today. Thursday I hope to pick up where I left off and finish the loop before heading over to Colorado Springs for 4 more nights there.
As I neared the top of Independence Pass I stopped after making a hard left turn at one of the final switchbacks. The first photo is from the driver’s seat, looking back towards the switchback itself. I was parked safely off the road at 11,977 feet (allegedly).
The next picture was taken after I got out of the car and walked back towards the area beyond the curve which, as you will note, has NO GUARDRAIL (a scarily common practice out west).
No need for one. Just pay attention to the goofy yellow arrows as you drive down off the mountain, trying not to pay attention to the spectacular views, and you’ll be just fine…
Next, I decided to take one of my famous panorama series of pictures. Normally I would do them all from one spot but here I did move a little bit between some shots to keep those pesky yellow signs out of the pictures (and to dodge cars which were careening off the edge). The sequence is basically panning left to right, 180 degrees from where it starts.
After taking Route 285 North out of Salida and continuing on Route 24 North past Buena Vista towards Leadville I turned left when I got to Route 82. This road would take me over Independence Pass, yet another threshold of the Continental Divide (and eventually on to Aspen, Colorado if I had continued on it). The CD is the ridge which runs in a serpentine manner up the Rocky Mountains. Water on the west side of the Divide flows towards the Pacific Ocean, whereas water on the east side flows towards the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve crossed the CD several times during my trip, sometimes more than once a day.
These were all taken at or near the peak of the Continental Divide. This was around 330pm local time and it was 53 degrees and windy (it was 68 degrees at 9,300 feet before I started the climb).
This lake was on the right side of the road, next to where I parked:
This little pond was behind the sign on the opposite side of the road, where a path lead even higher to a scenic overlook.
The sign itself tells you the elevation is 12,095 feet.
Which presented me with a dilemma. I don’t know exactly where they measured the elevation, I would like to think it was at the highest point of this ridge, up where the scenic overlook is or perhaps on the ridge behind the pond behind the sign which may be a tad higher. Well here I am parked on the opposite side of the road, about level with the sign, and my GPS is telling me I’m at 12,171 feet. Yet ANOTHER thing my GPS apparently lies to me about. I’m telling you, her days are numbered….
I joke about tossing my GPS units out the window when I get frustrated with them. Well, as tempted as I get sometimes, that’s not true. Unit #2, the TomTom, is in my trunk, ready to serve as a backup (albeit with maps which are now over 72 months old in her little brain). And Unit #1, the original Magellan my brother gave me as a Christmas present, is back in Durham.
About 25 miles north of Salida is the little town of Buena Vista. First of all, let’s get the name straight. Most times, such as where Disney World in Florida is located, people pronounce it as if the U were a W. Bwena Vista. Well, they like to be a little different here in Colorado so they actually pronounce the U as a U, as if you were saying Beauty, or perhaps “Bueller…. Bueller… Bueller…”. So it’s b-U-na Vista, thank you very much. A person working in a shop in town told me she believes it is even in the city charter that the founders specifically wanted it to be pronounced that way.
The main street in Buena Vista is really quite charming, with many of the original buildings restored and beautifully painted.
I really like the triangular building above. A guy came out of it to get something out of his vehicle (it is now home to Blue Tail Technology, a computer repair company) and I commented that I liked it. He invited me inside to see a picture which had been in the local paper showing what it looked like back in the day. Note that there was a spiral staircase in front, though it is actually a drawing, not a photograph.
And the photo below may well be the last photograph ever taken of the Green Parrot Bar sign (the building on the left). Workers were taking it down as I was driving out of town about a half hour after I took this picture.
And I thought this was a neat idea. Where a building used to be there is now the “People’s Stage”. Want to vent about Trump or gun violence in America? Want to try out your comedy monologue? Want to play your harmonica for the masses? Here’s your chance to grab the spotlight…
And the owner of this vehicle clearly knows where and how to have fun. I actually found him inside the building this truck was parked in front of. His name is Brian and he hosts a website which talks about camping, hiking, and other fun things known as “Overlanding”. You can find it at coloradobackcountryadventures.com.
While I was in Buena Vista this morning I noticed something in the courtyard of an ice cream shop which I have seen a few times at various places around the country. A wall full of head-to-toe blackboards with the phrase in the post title pre-written, followed by a blank space. People use chalk to “fill in the blank”. I took pictures of all the spaces (as I did in previous spots, I’ll post them eventually as I find them after I get home) but I got some closeups of some of the answers which I thought were particularly poignant.
Some were obviously written by children, or on their behalf. Miles, age 6, wants to “be a superhero,” for example. I did not write anything myself – at any of the venues I’ve found in my travels – who am I to judge which one to erase?. I noticed that someone wrote “see the world” and I guess that’s exactly what I’m doing…..
What would your answer be?
And think about this sign the next time you eat a chicken nugget…. Careful what you wish for.