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April 20th 2017
Published: April 22nd 2017
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It took us 26.5hrs to get to Denver!! We got up at 4.00am 17th April and arrived in Denver about 11.30pm which was the equivalent of 6.30am 18th April in the UK.

First Day Denver 232 miles

Crashed out and got the car the next morning and headed for Morrison ( a place recommended by our hotel receptionist) Quite busy along the IS70 but as we headed out of the town we saw our first ‘Point of Interest’ – Dinosaur Ridge. Decided we weren’t up for hiking the ridge (especially as there are snakes about!) and took the Guided Tour Bus instead with a very knowledgeable geologist! We drove up a road where he explained that Denver used to be sea and that the rocks around were the old sea bed, showing us the ripples, and also various tracks made along the sea/river bed by dinosaurs, 100 million years ago.

We then went to Morrison, a quaint little town with a church (1857) before driving to Red Rocks amphitheatre situated between two enormous pieces of red sandstone. Impressive place. Decided we wanted to drive the Lariat Loop, one of the most scenic and historic drives in the west and set off up into the foothills of the Rockies along a creek (Bit like Cheddar Gorge!!) Very pretty, passed through Evergreen with Bear Creek and a beautiful lake, before going onto the Lookout Mountain Visitor Centre and then onto William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Codys’ grave, (1846-1921) At first he was going to buried near Cody, but then he remembered the beautiful view from Lookout Mountain and asked his wife to bury him there! There were wonderful views as well – in one direction you could see the Rockies, still covered in snow at the top, and the other view was of Denver and the two table top mountains and the route down the mountain, with its numerous hairpin bends!

That was enough for the day, the high altitude and the travelling certainly takes its toll – so it was back to the hotel (Best Western, Denver Airport. Miles driven today 5803 -6035)

Denver to Gunniston Miles 295

We were up early and on the road just after 8.00am and headed, with the rest of other rush hour traffic, out of the city. Boring drive on the !S25 south, past Colorado Springs, where we had a quick pit stop at a viewpoint to take a photo of snowy Pikes Peak, before we reached Pueblo and turned onto to highway 50.

Stopped at historic Canyon City for lunch, and had a wander around the town admiring the ‘old’ churches and colonial buildings. (The city was built in the late 1800’s) Then it was onwards into the mountains, along Little Bigbear Creek with its snowy peaks and following the river Arkansasl !

Did a little detour to Royal Gorge to view the bridge (highest in USA!) and gorge – there was also a 1902 engine that used to belong to the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, and also survived the Gorge Fire in 2013 although that could be why the engine is now black!!

Little did I know, at that time, as we carried on towards Salida and a Petrol stop, that we would have to go up to the snow-line to cross the Rockies at Monarchs Pass at 11,312ft. Not my favourite, especially as they were saying do not proceed without snow chains, but fortunately there was no snow on the road, although plenty of deep snow either side of us.

Dropped down into the valley again and stayed the night at Gunniston (Econolodge)

Gunniston – Grand Junction Miles 187

Up early and on highway 50 by just after 8.00am again. There were some lakes on the way and we stopped at Stevens Creek and a couple of other viewing points to take in the view of the snowy mountains reflected in the blue lakes.

Carried on, and decided we would take highway 92 to take in the north rim of the Black Canyon on the West Elk Mountains. A quite spectacular gorge and we climbed higher up into the mountains until we reached the snowline (yet again!!) Stopped at Pioneer Point and visited the viewpoints to see the gorge and the Curecanti Needle, a large granite piece of rock carved by a fault line and two rivers. Didn’t hang around too long as there was a notice warning about Black Bears! Drove onto Hermits Rest where we got talking to two passing Rangers about the gorge and the snow covered San Juan Mountains infront of us and about a 23 mile rim drive at Fruita.

Drove onto Crawford State park, basically a large reservoir but pleasant enough, and then across the scrubland desert, onto Dominguez where we stopped in a carpark at the beginning of a National Conservation Area. It was all dirt tracks so we didn’t bother to explore and it looked as though rain was coming in, so, in Chris words, we cracked on!!

Got to Fruita, still sunny but cloud was building over the Grand mesa mountain (the tallest flat top mountain in the world!) and had a fantastic 4 mile drive, over the Colorado River and through two tunnels, up to the visitors centre at the top. Brilliant views of the red rock plateau with its weird rock formations and the Colorado National Monument! Apparently on July 4th loads of people climb this rock to put a USA flag at the top!

We were lucky it stayed sunny all of the time because as we descended back into the Grand Valley there were a few flashes of lightening over the Grand Mesa Mountain!

Anyway, back to Grand Junction where we were staying (Mesa Inn)

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