Wednesday, July 2, 2008

 

From the Mountains to the Desert

The Million Dollar Highway starts in Ouray, CO. This small western town is located just north of the mountain range I was about to pass through.


The highway doesn't take its time to start it's incline into the mountain range above. The first 4 miles or so of the highway is embedded right into the side of the mountain cliff, with no guardrails and barely enough room for 2-way traffic. There are several pullouts to enjoy the scenery, though.



There were also several waterfalls. One of them went down the entire cliff but the pull-out was full of cars so I couldn't stop to take a photo. But I did pull over to shoot this one, from on top of the falls:


Near the first summit (Red Rock) the road gets less hazardous. It was also freshly paved. And the scenery is stunning!



There are also a lot of old, abandoned mining buildings in the area. This range was a major part of the Gold Rush in the 1800's.


The Red Rock highway summit is about 11,000 ft in elevation. The road leads down to a mid-mountain town of Silverton, CO. From here, it's just 35 more miles of mountain roads until you reach Durango (the large town south of the mountains). In total, there are 3 summits you must navigate, all of them over 10,000 feet.

Molas Pass (summit #2):



Coal Bank Pass (summit #3):



I got through the mountains by 5:30pm, so I only had a few more hours of light to go. My original intention was to get to somewhere in Arizona, but I really wanted to see Mesa Verde so I decided to find a hotel as close to the Four Corners monument as possible.

Mesa Verde National Park is an archaeological site, full of pueblos and old settlements within the canyon walls from the 1200's AD. A lot of the park was closed by the time I got there, but I still got to see some neat stuff:



These old cliff dwellings were all over the place, and many of them you can actually tour with a guide if you were there earlier in the day. The cliffs are situated on the edge of the New Mexico and Arizona deserts, and you can see out in the distance for miles!



I didn't make it out of this park until after sunset. Luckily my hotel was nearby.


Tomorrow is another big day of national parks and exploring Arizona!

Comments:
careful driving in this area and through NE Arizona, please! The American Indians, who heavily populate the 4 corners area, sometimes abuse alcohol--dad. P.S. Have a great time at the G Canyon and remember, going down is EASY so don't underestimate the return hike uphill!!
 
Larry -- you're such a worrier! Eric, about Dad's alcohol comment -- look out for ANYONE who's drunk . . . teenagers, tourists, business men & women, doctors, lawyers, (pharmacists!), farmers and cowboys too!! :-)
Love, Mom
 
Hi, Eric, I'm a work colleague of your father's (yes, I'm another pharmacist!). Your Dad made me aware of your wonderful "traveler's website" yesterday just before he left work for the July 4th holiday weekend. What a truly impressive effort you've made to share a memorable trip with everyone out in the blogsphere! I was so impressed that I've shared with family members your website here at my sister's house today. My 3 sisters and I took a trip that very closely paralleled your travel route with our parents when we were kids/teenagers. Best wishes to you during the remaining portion of your adventurous journey and also for a successful start to your career out of college on the West coast.
-Susan Rogers/MEDA
 
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