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Published: April 22nd 2018
Lathrop State Park, Walsenberg, Colorado
Yes, we made it! I was aiming for leaving right around 1:00 and, well, it was more like 1:30. But we actually managed to get everything done - packed everything on the list, and a few things that weren’t; got the car fully gassed up, checked the mail, bought a bag of ice, hitched up, took a shower, and then shut down the house electrical and water systems. Makes me tired just thinking of all that!
But, in the end, everything got done and it really wasn’t too bad. I think it helped to have a detailed exit plan with dozens of things to check off over the last few days. Yes, probably a bit of OCD shining through, but it helps me cope and not forget things.
We took a different approach to exit day this time and think its a good idea - don’t try to leave real early and drive a long distance on the first day. Instead, just get out of the house and far enough away so you can’t go back.
We did that this time, leaving later in the day, and just driving a hundred miles.
We headed north into Colorado up the San Luis Valley, an agricultural area in southern Colorado known for its potatoes! The road takes you through San Luis, advertised as the oldest town in Colorado, incorporated in 1851. Compared to a lot of places back east or on the coasts, that is a fairly recent date, showing how recently Colorado was settled.
I recently saw a Facebook post on the oldest cities in each state and it was interesting. Yes, it had San Luis as the oldest town in Colorado. The oldest city in the U.S. was listed as St. Augustine Florida, established around 1585 (I could be off a few years on that date, but not much). We were there last year on our Southern Charms trip - it is a beautiful city rich in history. But while it is true that a lot of the west was not settled until recently, people frequently underestimate the length of Spanish history in New Mexico. In fact, the second oldest town in the U.S. is the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe (also the highest capital in elevation) dating back to 1607. You might think about that a while, the Spanish
were establishing a city the same year the English landed in Jamestown. Jamestown, however, didn’t survive while Santa Fe has thrived for more than 400 years. Somehow the history books spend more time talking about our English past than our history from other cultures.
Of course, it is a little perturbing to see dates like that tossed around nonchalantly. What needs to be added to those claims is that these were towns settled by Europeans!. In fact, Native Americans created towns all around the country well before white man even knew North America existed. One of my favorites, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, was flourishing in the 700’s, and some of the great houses they built were unequaled by anything Europeans created until centuries later. We need to be careful how we word our superlatives.
Anyway, we drove through San Luis and on up to Fort Garland, Colorado which is at the base of Mount Blanc. There we stopped for lunch at the Old West cafe and had terrific burgers with fried chile strips. While I think New Mexico does the best chile, the burgers were very good competitors.
We had been watching the weather off to
the East a little warily, but I checked the Colorado highway web site for alerts on the highways and they were still clear, so we headed East out of Fort Garland to navigate our only mountain pass on this trip, La Veda. The temps dropped to black-ice level (34 degrees), and the snow, at times, was very thick. Roads were wet, but we managed to avoid ice and snow. It isn’t a really bad pass by any means, but I don’t like driving in bad weather with the full rig. And this time, I have two bicycles on top of the car to catch the wind. Fortunately, all went well.
Up and over the pass, we drove down towards Walsenberg, a small town right off of Interstate 25, and pretty much right at the point where the Colorado Rockies end and the great High Plains begins. Just before town, there is beautiful Lathrop State Park which was a destination for the day. We found a great campsite in the freezing rain and set up camp for the night.
Clouds were low last night and it was pretty gray, so there wasn’t much to see. But this morning is
a different story. I’ve included pictures of our sunrise view of the Spanish Peaks - just stunning. What a fitting way to say goodbye to our mountain home. But we will be back at the end of this trip. We are On the Road Again, headed for a Rendezvous with the Great Lakes.
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