Stolen Kiss

Stolen Kiss

October 21, 2010

Rocky Mountain High, Colorado

We can understand the passion that John Denver had for the Rocky Mountains and Colorado. The mountains are more than awesome; beyond expectation. It was the change in terrain that was the most surprising; however, the people of Colorado are purported to be the fittest in the US, which is not surprising! There are 52 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet) which some make it their mission in life to climb all 52. We made 2 – driving of course!

Who needs to fly to join the mile high club when you can just go to Denver!! You don’t actually realise the altitude of Denver until you start to walk up the hills; small as they are. Speaking of flying; we had a little adventure flying from Tucson en route to Denver. The starboard engine lost its oil pressure and had to be shut down, leaving us to return to Tucson, with one engine. Landing was a little delicate as was stopping the aircraft without reverse thrust, but we did have two fire engines pacing us down the runway!!! We were relieved that there were no thunderstorms around and figured that pilots would have had to have lots of practice for this in flight school, so all should be ok….and of course it was as we are still here!!

Although Denver is quite a sprawling city (airport is 30 miles from town!) it is well serviced by light rail, with reports of improvements.  The 16th Street mall stretches about 5 blocks and is the center of all that happens. The sign people were there again throwing, catching, twirling and jumping to advertise their wares.

Some odd real time art (we said we were actually taking a photo of the lady)

 and entertainment...............

Denver is a wonderful example of yet another city that has transformed old warehouses into apartments and built new ones to keep the population in the city center. Around here in the 1850’s, gold was discovered, closely followed by silver in the 1870’s, which inevitably and sadly meant that the Utes, and other Indians lost their land and their wealth. Today Denver has captured some of its old buildings/churches and blended it with the new.

..of which some are bare and others not so!!

We took a quick trip down to explore Colorado Springs enjoying the early morning in God’s Garden

and out to Royal Gorge (another gorgeous gorge), this time carved by the Arkansas River, whose headwaters can be found on the way up to Independence Pass.

Crossing the Continental Divide twice; once in The Rocky Mountain National Park and the other, Independence Pass (3681m, which is the top of the Rockies!!) on the way into Aspen, put us above the tree line which cuts out at 11,500 feet. A tads cool at the top, as one would expect!

A smart old Elk was hanging outside Estes Park; very wise as it was hunting season! How anyone could hunt these beautiful animals for sport is beyond us. However, I guess others say that about Kangaroos.

Skip and Cathy (aka Traveler) were our wonderful hosts in Steamboat Springs, known as Ski Town USA and working towards Bike Town USA title as well.  An amazing amount of retired cruisers live here! Maybe it’s the name, which was aquired from the sound of a geyser nearby. 

 It is a wonderful town with its main street being 4 lanes wide as it used to have stock running through it in earlier days during muster.  Steamboat is located in a very long, wide sub alpine valley, with its resident, rather large, mountain lion living up on a mount overlooking the town. We could not find him….which was probably a good thing!

Although most of Colorado is consumed by skiers in winter, summer up here is to be enjoyed.  Then there is fall; absolutely spectacular with the trembling Aspen showing us their golden colours! It is hard to imagine 40 feet of snow and 40 degrees below 0 (C).  With such variance in temperature and the run off from the big melt, the erosional forces are busy returning the mountainous terrain to the coast!!

Vail is now THE Colorado ski town, being accessible to Denver by 3 lane highway. It stretches out along a valley with the motorway running through it! As it is a relatively new town, if it was not for the American flag, one could be mistaken as to which continent we are on! Aspen on the other hand is a stunningly beautiful town with many (surprise, surprise) Aspen trees lining the verges.  One requires a considerable amount of coin to exist there; a bit of a giveaway are the numerous Lears and G2’s lining the runway, not to mention the shops that sell furs.  In both towns, women have been sighted skiing in their ankle length fur coats! Taste and style are two things that just can’t be bought!!!

The sub alpine landscape is a mix of mining, reservoirs and beautiful glacial valleys; the grasses of the latter enjoyed by the cows and horses (Sherpas take the cows up the mountains during summer).

Being cowboy and cowgirl country, one must have the right apparel! Peter found a beaver cowboy hat for $700 and there were walls and walls of colourful footwear to boot!

Road signs reminding us of deer, replaced the usual sign of kangaroos that we are used to in Australia. Which reminded us of our deer joke….

What do you call a deer with no eyes…..
No idea
What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs….
Still no idea
What do you call a deer with no eyes, no legs and no balls
Still no f***ing idea.

Moving swiftly on……………

One cannot ignore the awesome Colorado River and the landscape it has carved over some 5 million years, with its tributaries causing as much erosion as the Colorado River.

We checked out the headwaters; a beautiful mountain stream…

Having seen the beginning and the end, we had to see the middle....The Grand Canyon! As it was easier to get from Steamboat to Las Vegas by road, we decided to take the Greyhound experience in itself and yes, all that is written and said about Greyhound America is true! We have never heard a good word said about them. Seems strange that Mexico, by comparison, has amazing bus travel.

We made it to Las Vegas (another story) then hired a car to drive the remaining distance back to Phoenix.

Photos (well, ours anyway) just do not capture the awesome nature of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The surrounds of the top of the canyon are so incredibly flat as far as the eye can see, and then some; one would want to have a good torch at night if there was hiking to be done!!!!

We did not realise that the Grand Canyon, stretched for some 227 miles; the canyon changing depth according to its gradient and of course colour with the sun.

 Following excellent advice from Trip Advisor, we entered the Grand Canyon National Park from the South Entrance and out the East Entrance, the latter of which affords some of the best views. We took a short hike down the Yaki Trail with at least one of us wishing we could have walked to the bottom! Another time for sure!

A walk to Tonto’s Platform (the green mesa in the photo, part way down the canyon) still places you 1,300 feet from the river!

The last time Peter had to scrape ice off a windscreen, credit cards had not been invented!

The watchtower was built in 1932 to recognise some traditional Indian structures that had been found in the surrounding desert. Although a wonderful viewing platform today, its original function was to store food during winter.

The Colorado River was phenomenally wild  before the Hoover Dam was completed in 1936. A major engineering feat itself, it employed 5000 men for 5 years in place called Black Canyon. The dam wall is 660 feet thick at its base, narrowing to 45 feet at the top. There was enough concrete used to pave a 16 foot wide, 8 inch thick road from New York to San Francisco!! In the age of terrorism, a new bridge has been built across the canyon so as to divert traffic away from the dam wall.

Backing up behind Hoover Dam is the stunning Lake Mead, of which we could only see a small part of. We certainly did not expect to find a sailboat and marinas in the middle of the desert! A great place to charter a yacht for a few weeks! As with the reservoirs up in the mountains, the water levels are reduced so that they can cope with winter run-off and the great melt!

South of Hoover Dam is another smaller dam, Davis Dam which controls the water flowing from Lake Mohave, a comparatively smaller lake. The Colorado River is nothing of its former glory, ending its journey on the fertile flood plain at the head of the Sea of Cortez! Although the dam has brought water to a very arid area, it has of course had a negative impact on the Sea of Cortez as there is now a much reduced water flow, that comes into the sea.

It must have been cold whilst we were in Las Vegas (en route to the Grand Canyon) as we could see snow on the peaks off to the east. As we left the canyon heading south to Flagstaff, we were amazed that the snow covered peaks we saw earlier were on nearby San Francisco Peaks which afford wonderful skiing at 12, 600 feet!

Continuing on our way to Phoenix via Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona was another unexpected awesome drive down a valley flanked by 300m high cliffs, along the customary mountain stream. At the end of the valley, the landscape opens out to red rock formations that litter the plains, surrounding Sedona; a centre for artists and tourists!

Arriving in Phoenix, we had not only dropped over 2000 m (6, 500 feet) in altitude, our temperature variation for the day was 30 degrees C.! Now back among the cacti, in the Great Sonoran Desert (which surrounds us in Guaymas!) we felt at home!!

Barns had sent us an email titled ‘Adventure before Dementia’. Every day is an adventure; some more than others!

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