October 8, 2014

Back to the Mountains

After a whirlwind tour of Mesa Verde country, it was time to head back to the mountains.  We left Cortez on June 6 and headed east on Highway 160, crossing Wolf Creek Pass at 10,856 feet.  We stopped for two nights in the small town of South Fork and enjoyed one of my favorite kinds of campsites – directly on a river, the Rio Grande.  Here I took the opportunity to sit outside with a good book, enjoy the sun on my face and watch the river flow by.  I even fell asleep, something I never seem able to do.  It was divine.

My Favorite Kind of Campsite (Kitty Liked It, Too)

South Fork is at one end of the prettiest scenic drives we’ve taken, and we’ve taken many so far.  The Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway winds its way next to the banks of the Rio Grande with Palisade rock formations on either side.  We drove as far as the colorful, historic mining town of Creede, where we stopped to have lunch at the town’s historic hotel.  Definitely a very cool town.

Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway

During our stay in Cortez, Tim had been in touch with the staff at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument about cataloging some of the park’s paleontology records.  Maybe it would be a contract, or perhaps a volunteer project, but it was something Tim was interested in pursuing. Tim had worked at Florissant in 2013, and I had been able to join him, so I was excited to return.  We had stayed at Mueller State Park and snagged one of the few remaining campsites so we could stay there again.

It appeared to be a nice day for travel when we left South Fork.  Within an hour or so, however, conditions began to deteriorate.  As we were driving north on Highway 285, we encountered one form of extreme weather after another – howling wind, almost-blinding dust storms and driving rain.  Should we continue or stop? 

Luckily, we had our two-way radios (thank you Chuck and Alice), so Tim and I were able to keep in touch with each other (remember, we are driving both the RV and the Subaru).  Since there was really no place to stop, we decided to keep going, but very, very slowly, and we finally crossed Poncha Pass at 9,010 feet.  On top of everything else, the temperature had made a drastic drop to 44° at midday.  The weather finally cleared a bit, and we pulled into a rest stop for lunch.  That was certainly one of the most exhausting and stressful drives we’ve endured.

As we got back on the road for the last leg to Mueller State Park, I heard on the radio that a tornado had destroyed an RV park in Lake George – a town that we would be passing through.  Thank goodness we did not go through there any earlier.  If we hadn’t been hit by the tornado, we would have been stuck in traffic since the road had been closed for hours.  When we did make it through the town, there was still an amazing amount of hail on the ground.  It looked like snow, but was actually hail the size of golf balls.

An Extreme Weather Kind of Day

What a relief to finally pull into Mueller State Park.  We had made it safely.

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