I’ve been making a trip to Colorado every year for the past 4 years. Michael and I lived there in the 80s and I really miss parts of it. It’s so beautiful but like Michigan, where I am originally from, I don’t want to be there in the winter. I visit my friend who was a woodworker and also owned a gallery for 40 + years.
This years trip took us to Glenwood, Aspen, Grand Junction, Moab, Telluride, Crested Butte, Denver, and Boulder.
On the way west I saw this sign during a pitstop in Frisco. It’s really become a neat little town.
And we made a quick stop in Vail at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. It was founded in 1985. And always have to stop at Piece Art Gallery, used to be Pismo when I knew the owner, a beautiful glass gallery. We carried some of the same artists but the main reason I stop there is to see the work of Stephanie Trenchard. She does this amazing cast glass sculpture. Here is an example. I met her years ago at an ACC show in Baltimore. She had this piece that was 6 feet tall of a lady. I’ve never forgotten it. At the time I could not afford it. There have been a few pieces of art I wish I would have gotten through the years and that piece is probably #1.
We always start our trips with a soak in the hot springs in Glenwood Springs, it’s probably the part I miss most about our time living there. It was especially neat to go in the winter with snow all around and steam rising off the pool. There used to just be the old springs but in 2015 they opened Iron Mountain Hot Springs. This year we just went to IRON Mountain because it was really hot out and they have shade. They also have 16 small pools, each with a slightly different temperature, and one larger cool pool. AND they have a bar although I can’t imagine driving home after soaking in hot water, in the sun, for a couple hours, and drinking on top of it. We did not partake!
We stayed at Four Mile Creek B and B owned by a jeweler, and a musician. They both owned a gallery with the friend I was traveling with, A Show of Hands in Cherry Creek – Denver. The rooms are full of art, as is the yard, and the food is really good.
An afternoon drive up Hwy 82 gave me my Aspen fix, I love that town and enjoyed the 6 years we lived there. A lot was still shut down from Covid but we walked around and enjoyed the beautiful city. I always love seeing the Maroon Bells, just look to the right as you begin to enter town.
But before we got to Hwy 82 we took the back road to Carbondale – thats Mount Sopris ahead, we could see it out our window from Aspen, from the other side of it obviously.
On the way to Aspen we stopped in Carbondale at True Nature Healing Arts. They have an amazing garden, restaurant, and labyrinth. Did you know there is a website that shows the location of labyrinths around the world? They list 6150 worldwide and 166 in North Carolina, including the one Martin made on Guion Street here in New Bern.
We then headed off towards Utah, stopping in a gallery in downtown Grand Junction. It’s been about 35 years since I’ve been there and they have done a lot with their downtown. It’s full of sculpture and thriving businesses. My favorite part is they took their very wide Main street and made part of it into a park on each block, traffic still goes two directions and there is parking but also now trees, shade, benches, etc.
On the way to Moab we took US 6 off of I-70 to visit the wide spot in the road, the town of Cisco. It’s a very funky tiny village but seems to have become a tourist attraction, the official population is 4. It was a railroad town but in Eileen Muza started an artist residency. There can’t be more than a dozen buildings and most might best be described as shacks.
From there we passed Fishers Towers, this is where you first get a glimpse of what eventually becomes the Grand Canyon.
This is an amazing area of some of the tallest freestanding towers in North America.
Just before you get to the towers you cross the Colorado River. Up until 2008 there was this neat bridge over the Colorado River called Dewey Bridge.
It was destroyed during a brush fire so just its skeleton is left.
I generally don’t like bridges but for some reason I liked this one. It was a suspension bridge, one way, and the decking was wood planks that bounced up and down as you drove over them, so disappointing that others don’t get to experience it.
Moab was next, I usually go west in the fall but this year I went in June, It was 109 degrees the three days we were there! I LOVE Arches National Park but we didn’t hike too much because of the heat but were able to see most of the major arches and just seeing the canyon walls is breathtaking.
The next day we got up at 5 am to drive into Canyonlands National Park, the road to it is almost across the street from Arches. We got up early to see the sunrise at Mesa Arch. It was a fairly short hike from the parking lot, we weren’t the only crazy people to be there that early, there were probably 40 other people there too. A lot has changed in this park since we were there last, the roads were all dirt and the signage was limited, I don’t think there was a visitors center either.
On that trip we were in our 1969 VW bus and were tooling along when three big horn sheep ran in front of our vehicle, they might have been going 10 miles an hour! In unison they came to a screeching halt and turned to look at us.
This year there were some fires so everything was a little hazy. We didn’t actually see a fire or where the smoke was coming from until we headed south out of town. Don’t know what people do that live where there are fires and have respiratory issues, three days was enough for me to be coughing and having a runny nose.
In this photo you can see the plume of smoke.
Telluride was our next stop, visiting all the galleries and shops. The beautiful waterfall is Bridal Veil Falls, a 365-foot waterfall at the end of the box canyon overlooking the city. Hiking and off-road trails pass by the falls and it has a hydroelectric power plant at its top. In winter people actually climb up the frozen waterfall. I say NO WAY.
Ophir, Ouray, and Montrose
North of town we drove part way over Ophir pass, as far as the little mining town of Ophir which has a population of 193. The towns elevation is 9700 feet. I was impressed with the flowers on the utility poles in town and I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of them or the lemonade stand we stopped at. I said to the girls that they probably didn’t get much traffic (dirt road, over a high mountain pass, 11789 feet), but they said they did pretty well! We did drive all the way over the pass years ago when we had an old Land Rover.
We stayed in Montrose, visiting their botanical gardens, THEY have a crevice garden too!. Montrose isn’t all that pretty but it is the shopping hub for the whole area.
Ouray is another mining town north of Montrose and over the mountain from Telluride. It also has a hot springs. We were going to soak in it but it was too hot, and there is no shade. So we just gazed at it longingly. Lots of nice shops, lots of restaurants and some galleries, all packed with people.
A Trip over Red Mountain Pass was hair raising with logging trucks, no guard rails, and steep dropoffs. You pass Yankee Girl mine and a host of others. There are no guard rails because the road is open all winter, the road is narrow, and the snow plows have to push the snow off the edge.
There is a parking lot across from the Yankee Girl that has signboards talking about the history of the mines and the railroads.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Leaving Montrose it’s just a short drive to the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s interesting because there is a lot of red rock around but the cliffs in this canyon are black, or at least appear black due to the fact that it is narrow and is in shadow most of the time. This canyon is one of the best exposures of ancient (nearly 2 billion years old) Precambrian-aged rocks in the world.
A quick stop at a coffee shop in Gunnison, the Tributary, kept us going – then we went up the Gunnison Valley to Crested Butte.
I used to do an art show in Crested Butte every year. One year I drove the VW bus over Cottonwood Pass, it’s remote and the summit is 12126 feet, only to lose my clutch half way over it. I managed to make it to Crested Butte and some guys helped me find someone to fix it while I did the art show. These were the days before cell phones. Thinking back I had some very interesting experiences roaming the mountains by myself. I could have gotten out of the jams easier if I would have had a cell phone. Of course who knows if I would have had service. I could do a whole blog post about those experiences! Losing the fuel pump in the middle of an intersection in St George after being in the desert alone miles from humanity; blowing a piston through the top of the engine between Grand Junction and Glenwood where there is NOTHING for miles and miles and hitching a ride with a guy with a gun laying on the backseat; helping people get unstuck on Independence Pass at the narrowest section and being the last person to make it down before they closed it for the winter ; then losing the clutch, yikes!
Crested Butte seemed a little more touristy than it used to be but it was still nice to be there. We ate in a great Thai restaurant, Ryce Asian Bistro, visited all the galleries, and stayed at Elevation Hotel and Spa where we swam in the pool and soaked in the outdoor hot tub.
Back on the Front Range we went to the Farmers Market in Boulder, visited downtown Louisville, and looked at murals in Denver.
The mural program in Denver is called Crush Walls, it’s been going for a dozen years. Each year they paint over some of the murals. Last year 80 murals were painted. I don’t know how they decide which ones to keep. These are some of my favorites.
Our last treat was to visit the Denver Botanical Gardens. It’s a beauty.
Then I zoomed home to finish cleaning out East Front Street house, work on new house, and get ready for my next RV trip to the northeast in late summer. And get some artwork done – the Artists Studio Tour is coming up the first Saturday of November – my new place will be one of the stops and then I’ll be the featured artist for November at Carolina Creations.
Stay tuned and stay safe!