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By popular demand(?), our Primary Highways series moves next to Colorado. This edition is a bit different, in that I trace a family trip from a great many years ago, but insert more contemporary interests along the way.

As always, we welcome feedback and thoughts from those familiar with the state. And thanks to everyone who has supported this series so far.

[originally posted at, with cute highway shields.]

Our "Primary Highways" series continues with a visit to Colorado. This edition is a bit different, in that I trace a family trip from a great many years ago, but insert more contemporary interests along the way.

We initially entered from the northeast on I-76. The road was relatively straight here amidst softly rolling hills of the High Plains. The landscape is dotted with farms amidst open grassland. The Rocky Mountains appear to rise from the plains quite suddenly, as does the city of Denver.

[By Hogs555 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

On that original family trip, we did not actually stop in Denver, but here we will do so. We turn south on I-25 along the edge of downtown Denver, passing through the interchange with I-70 known as "The Mousetrap." We exit with US 6 which is surprisingly enough Sixth Avenue in Denver. Actually, it's a freeway, the "Sixth Avenue Freeway." Heading east in the freeway, it empties out onto city streets near the Santa Fe Arts District. A quick look at the websites for the galleries along the corridor suggests a relatively conservative selection, though I did see some interesting things from Sparks. Further north we find the Denver Art Museum.

[By Archipreneur (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

This building, which is just part of the museum, is designed by Daniel Libeskind, who also designed the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the plan for the new World Trade Center complex in New York. The shape of the building is intended to reflect the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, although such angles appear quite often in Libeskind's architecture. In front of the museum, we also find once again another sculpture by Mark di Suvero, who we have encountered before in this series. This one is called Lao Tzu. The museum currently has an exhibit of Garry Winograd photography that I wouldn't mind seeing.

We leave Denver on I-70 and head into the mountains, on one of the most spectacular stretches of interstate highway in the country. At the Continental Divide, there are two options. One can stay on I-70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel, or take a detour on US 6 up through Loveland Pass. We opted for the latter on that original trip, with spectacular views of mountains in all directions, and a chance to walk on a patch of hardened snow and ice…in August. Not surprisingly, it was quite cold. I don't have any pictures from that trip, but here is what the pass looks like today:

Further west, I-70 meets the mighty Colorado River and winds its way through Glenwood Canyon, which was my introduction to the southwest with its distinctive colors and rock formations. The difference from the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains and the peaks is dramatic. And while I loved the forested mountains, there is something personally compelling about the sheer red rocks. The highway itself is also quite a marvel, both in terms engineering and aesthetics as it attempts to be both functional and blend with the landscape.

[By Patrick Pelster [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de], via Wikimedia Commons]

Along I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, one passes a turn off for a place called No Name. The community of No Name supposedly did not receive its name (or lack thereof) until the coming of I-70, when it was assigned to the exit because the area lacked a formal name. There is also No Name Creek and No Name Canyon, and a No Name Tunnel on the highway.

Grand Junction, where they meet US 50. One can exit the interstate here and travel on State Highway 340 through Grand Junction and Fruita to Colorado National Monument.

[I, Daniel Schwen [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The formations in the monument have this distinctive bottle shape - not unique to this location, but I noticed more of them there. Another thing I noticed there was an upper layer of rock, more gray than red, then seemed to have been gone from the more well-known canyons and formations in Utah and Arizona. It was also my first chance to see the rocks up close and personal, touch them and observe the details.

From there, we took I-70/US 6/US 50 west into Utah. But, we later reentered Colorado from the Four Corners along US 160. The quiet and stark southwestern landscape particularly appealed to me then and still does now. We then headed north on what was then US 666 (the "Devil's Highway"), but has since been renumbered as US 491. Honestly, I wish they kept the 666 designation. But it is what it is. The two highways separate in the town of Cortez, and one can continue on 160 east to Mesa Verde National Park.

[Andreas F. Borchert [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The Cliff Palace was is largest of the cliff dwellings in the park. The geometric shapes and layout still present in the dwelling are quite interesting. There are distinctive towers, one square tower reaching almost to the ceiling of the cave, and the round tower; and also the sunken round spaces known as kivas. One can see the parallels in these ancient structures to contemporary southwest architecture as well.

I have not had much time to re-explore the southwest in recent years, except for a bit of Arizona, so I would very much like to return to Colorado sometime soon.

Originally posted to catsynth on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 07:00 AM PST.

Also republished by DKOMA, Colorado COmmunity, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ill never forget... (12+ / 0-) first trip to Colorado. I drove down Wolf Creek Pass in the rain. Suffice it to say that I was happy to get to the bottom after seeming endless changes of direction. And not many guardrails. But is was pretty.

  •  My only experience with Colorado (7+ / 0-)

    is seeing it from an airplane and even from up there it's beautiful, but one of these days I'll get there. We just have endless miles of cow pastures and farmland here. I probably wouldn't mind road trips as much if I had that to look at.

    TEABAGGER: Totally Enraged About Blacks And Gays Getting Equal Rights

    by yg17 on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 08:10:17 AM PST

  •  Fixed the Mesa Verde picture (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boran2, x, realalaskan

    Sorry about that

  •  Planning a CO trip for July (8+ / 0-)

    GALA choruses has their 4-year convention right after the 4th. My spouse is singing, then we are going to drive down to Trinidad, then over to Mesa Verde. Looking forward to the trip. I love the stretch south of Denver, though I hold my nose in Colorado Springs.

  •  Love this series! (9+ / 0-)

    Love Colorado! The B.I.L. lived in Denver for a long time and we really enjoyed visiting. We once considered moving out there but at the time, my grandmother was dying of cancer so we put it off then just never went back to the idea. We've spent several vacations in Estes Park and it now feels like visiting an old friend. Maybe when I'm an old lady.... A girlfriend moved to Grand Junction so I got a taste of the southwest a couple years ago on a visit and that was awesome, too. Just love it!

    Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. --Mark Twain

    by Debby on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 10:15:30 AM PST

  •  May have changed since my last trip (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boris49, dskoe, realalaskan

    but did you notice how 76 went from bliss in Nebraska to pure hell in Colorado, as far as the maintenance of the road? But, like I said, they may have done some repaving.

    "You can't run a country by a book of religion. Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side." Frank Zappa

    by Uosdwis on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 10:16:00 AM PST

    •  Bad Roads (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BusyinCA, ColoTim, realalaskan

      Well, about those bad roads and bridges. The good citizens of Colorado, at least all the republicans and half the indies, do not like to pay taxes. Which does lead to the reason why most Coloradoans drive SUV's and pickups - those are tough enough to drive on the roads.

      Pam Bennett -6.95 -7.50

      by Pam Bennett on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 04:39:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The roads here were really (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ColoTim, realalaskan

        pretty good until just this past year. The GOP and the Dems liked to spend money on roads because they didn't want to spend it on light rail or high speed rail. They gladly accepted a bunch of federal money but of course that dried up this last go round. They finally did build a 'boondoggle' light rail system for the southeast corridor about 15 (?) yrs ago and on the first day it opened the parking lot was overflowing with commuters. Of course it didn't shut them up. They still think light rail is a boondoggle.

        I would correct that one evil person doesn't like to pay taxes, convinced a bunch of us (well not me, I think I was still too young then) to vote for his insane Tabor amendment that requires all tax hikes to be put to ballot initiative. You can imagine how well that goes. Unfortunately, I can't remember the guys name because whenever someone mentions him the hissing sound I emit is involuntary and quite loud. Instead of raising taxes, the legislature just raises fees on everything instead.

        Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

        by whoknu on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 05:40:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not just Douglas Bruce (Boo, Hissss!) but the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          realalaskan, whoknu

          whole Colorado Springs area cursed the whole state. What was worse was that tax revenues couldn't be raised. During the downturn, revenues decreased. Well, even though rates were the same as in good times that saw sufficient funds, when the state needed to increase rates to maintain funding levels, the TABOR (which stands for TAx payer Bill Of Rights) amendment prevented the government from raising funds without a statewide vote. Bruce's proud plan was to shrink government in the best traditions of drowning it in the bathtub. Stupid, Stupid bill. And just like California, we can't get rid of a bad Amendment which is crippling the government of the state.

  •  One of my favorite trips (9+ / 0-)

    was a train-oriented trip with my dad. We rode the Cumbres & Toltec which snakes along the state line between northern New Mexico and Colorado, then moved on to the Royal Gorge train out of Cañon City that parallels the Arkansas River, and from there drove many back roads that are former train routes, including driving up to the first tunnel through the Continental Divide, the Alpine Tunnel, a remarkable feat of engineering and construction at 11,523 feet.

    Riding the Cumbres & Toltec between New Mexico and Colorado
    Enter Colorado, on the Cumbres & Toltec, September 2001

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 10:30:48 AM PST

  •  You skipped US 285 one of my favorite roads (6+ / 0-)

    US 285 heads SW out of Denver, then straight south through a beautiful valley between the Front Range on the East and the rest of the Rockies on the West. Really spectacular, a nice alternative to I-70 to get you out to Gunnison, Ouray, Durango, Mesa Verde, etc on US 50.

    sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

    by stivo on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 12:02:35 PM PST

  •  Colorado is spectacular. (5+ / 0-)

    We lived in Denver for 12 yrs of which we explored many areas of Colorado. Now we live right on the NM Colorado border in the NW corner for which we are now within 1-2 hrs from the REALLY cool areas of Colorado. Ouray and Telluride are certainly one of the many gems of the state.

  •  My mother was born in Telluride (6+ / 0-)

    in 1915. A picture of her, her sister (who was a baby) and my grandmother is in the museum there. My grandmother was a washer woman and cook for miners at a mine miles from Telluride. I grew up in Palisade, 12 miles east of Grand Junction under the mountain of Mt. Garfield. I went to Mesa College when it was a two year college and got my BS at Ft. Collins. I married a geographer and lived in Boulder, CO while he got his 4 year degree. His parents lived in Berthoud and every 2 or more days off we explored roads in the state. Of course vacation time meant going back and forth to my family in Palisade and most of the time we took the easy route which is now I70. And I do remember some fun times on Loveland Pass (before the tunnel). Thanks for your post.

    •  Ah, the books your post brings to mind: (4+ / 0-)

      Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner - mining in the high, high country
      Tomboy Bride, Harriet Fish Backus - "a woman's personal account about minining camps of the west"

      "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

      by nzanne on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 12:59:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My favorite route was (7+ / 0-)

    what I called 'THE Loop' that I took anytime I had friends visit me while I lived in Denver. 70 out of the city. You hit that first peak and its just an explosion of mountain vistas in every direction. My buddy got married in the church right there, best wedding pix I'll ever see. Go north on 40 through the drunken switchbacks, past Winter Park to Granby then north on 34/Trail Ridge Road past the lakes and you're in Rocky Mountain National Park. Stop and eat in Estes Park (at the picnic area at Lake Estes if you want) and head home via 36 through Boulder. It's a long trip but I must have done it a dozen times in two years. Man I miss Colorado!

  •  I am undoubtedly prejudiced here, (13+ / 0-)

    but the prettiest corner of the state is mine: the southwest.

    The San Juan Scenic Byway, through Ridgeway, Telluride, Dolores, Mancos, Durango, Silverton and Ouray, with a quick jaunt over to Mesa Verde National Park. Breathtaking roads, hairpin turns, hot springs, and hikes galore.

    "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

    by nzanne on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 01:03:15 PM PST

  •  Anybody remember the Big Thompson Canyon (5+ / 0-)

    flood in 1976? My ex's aunt and uncle had to be coptered out of there. A lot of people died in that flood, and as a result, signs are now posted in the canyons to climb out of danger.

  •  The Amtrak California Zephyr (9+ / 0-)

    through Colorado is spectacular. The route is designed so, both east and west bound, you travel across the Colorado Rockies during daylight hours. Some of the route follows I-70; some goes places you can only see from the train.

  •  Cliff Palace is magnificent. One odd thing about (4+ / 0-)

    the site is the series of handholds carved in the rock on the way out. I heard someone claiming that there was a secret to how to use them, and that those not knowing it would eventually find themselves unable to go up or down, hanging on until they no longer could. That's the sort of story one hopes is true.

    Mesa Verde also includes Balcony House, the entrance to which is a tunnel that leads to a large rock. The guide said, "Anyone trying to enter must go around the rock, so they'd station Grandma there to bop any unwelcome visitors."

    I wish I'd been older and more interested in scenery when my family visited Colorado perhaps 40 years ago. I remember very little, despite our touring completely around the state. As an adult, I like cities far better than countryside, so my visit in '92 was to Denver and Colorado Springs only. Managed to miss the Mint, but I did see the capitol and an enjoyable exhibit on the Aztecs ("How would you write 'Lord Tlaloc sent no rain this year'?" I asked a docent). I remembered the USAFA chapel, the most uplifting house of worship I've seen--better than some over the top cathedral. I even remembered the coat knobs outside the Jewish chapel.

    •  I'm afraid that's not true. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Not at Cliff Palace, at least. I've climbed out of there many times by that trail...:-).

      More logical, really, to assume that people hanging on a cliff's face, chipping away at the handhold/step above them, would make a logical series of steps. Yes, you start off wrong, you'll end up... below.

      "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

      by nzanne on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 07:42:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I heard the story from someone at Canyon de Chelle (0+ / 0-)

        Depending upon which you started climbing with - left or right hand, at some point you'd come to a place where if you chose wrong, you were stuck.

      •  I figured it was a tale, but as I said: one (0+ / 0-)

        hopes it's true. Unless I'm misremembering, one has to climb out of the site and if you could have seen my mother, you'd be as amazed as I that she made the climb. Well, she and I were both thinner back then.

  •  Lived in Colorado for 30+ years (6+ / 0-)
    From ALL Time Favorites
    This is my husband getting ready to do his fly fishing thing by Long Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area - by Brainard Lake in west Boulder county. We go hiking there several times every summer. I am amazed at how big this county is.

    I have lived in east Boulder county for 30 years. I love the mountains - there is nothing like the smell of the pine trees.

    Everything is easy if you don't know what you are talking about

    by chocoholic on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 06:10:05 PM PST

    •  Or the sound of wind blowing through them. (0+ / 0-)

      Very different from wind through deciduous trees. Sadly, lots of the pines, especially on the west side of the front range, are dieing through beetle kill. Pretty soon, even this view is likely to be filled with dead and dieing trees.

      •  Have you seen the dead trees around Grand Lake? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        catsynth, ColoTim

        We drove through there in August and I was amazed at all of the dead trees. It doesn't look like it used to.

        We drove up to Steamboat Springs for a few days (after 30 years in the state, I had never been there) and there are so many large areas with so many dead trees that I won't be surprised if a lightening strike or camp fire ember starts a major fire. There won't be any way to stop the fire - and maybe that will be the best way to deal with it.

        From Steamboat to Grand Lake, we then drove Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. Such a pretty drive and park...

        Everything is easy if you don't know what you are talking about

        by chocoholic on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 09:09:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  CO I-70 is one of the most amazing US highways (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catsynth, bobinson, ColoTim

    I remember driving back towards Denver after a snow storm in the Rockies - driving above the clouds (!). In full sun and blue sky, but above the clouds that were hanging over Denver - it was absolutely beautiful

  •  I left Colorado for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, maryabein

    Alaska some thirty years ago. A friend in Summit Country. had a brother in Alaska. His brother was telling him how amazing the mountains and scenery are in Alaska. My friend asked his brother how great it could be, after all, he lived in Summit Co. My friend's brother replied, "Remember how amazed we were when we moved to Colorado from Iowa and saw the mountains for the first time? Well, moving to Alaska from the Rockies is just like that". I rest my case.

    Last time I was down there the stretch of road from Silverthorne to Vail seemed like one big strip mall. And all those outlet stores on the Blue River below Dillon Reservoir where we used to flyfish, how sad. But it is still one darn beautiful place. Just too many of us people mucking it up.

    •  Well, yeah... (0+ / 0-)

      Along there, it is like one big strip mall-- but that is just a narrow strip right along I-70. If you don't like that scene-- I don't either-- then I totally understand, but that certainly is not representative of Colorado.

      •  Like I said, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        still one darn beautiful place. You should see some of the mucked up roadside development in Alaska. We do everything bigger up here.

        Happily the legislature has not dropped the ban on billboards even though they have been heavily pressured to do so.

  •  no matter how tired you are... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you're heading west on US 40 (I-70) and feel like maybe you should pack it in for the night and find a place to sleep in Limon, Colorado...take another slug of luke warm coffee from the thermos and keep on driving.

    What a hell hole. The worst motel I can remember staying at on a cross country trip, and I can remember a few, was in Limon. The motel was a dive, and the town wasn't much better. Eastern Colorado is for people who would rather eat pigs feet than pork loin.

    "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

    by Keith930 on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 09:27:47 PM PST

    •  I have stayed there many times. (0+ / 0-)

      It's cheap, and if you're ariving late and getting up early, the attractiveness of the accommodations do not matter much. What did you expect, the Four Seasons? It's in the middle of nowhere along an interstate.

  •  Here is my "road" picture (4+ / 0-)
    From ALL Time Favorites
    I took this a few years ago in east Boulder county looking towards the Indian Peaks, I think the first week of October or so. It's pretty much my view driving to work every day.

    I love the mountains, but the plains also have their own beauty. A few years ago, I was driving my mom from Phoenix to her house in Kansas and we took a little used road from Walsenburg to LaJunta, Highway 10. It was the least populated area I've ever driven, but quite striking - bluffs and trees and absolutely no one, no power poles or anything. This is in the area :Apishapa Game Management Area

    Everything is easy if you don't know what you are talking about

    by chocoholic on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 09:37:33 PM PST

  •  US 550 "The Million Dollar Highway" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is probably my favorite highway in CO. Drive it between Durango and Ouray, one of the most spectacular mountain roads I've ever driven, summer or winter.

    Plus you can take the Durango narrow gauge railway up to Silverton for a nice day trip. Really worth it.

  •  My grandfather purchased the Hwy 25 land (0+ / 0-)

    Back in the 40s when they were getting ready to build Highway 25, they first had to buy the land. My grandfather was the guy in charge of purchasing the land under eminent domain for the government. Never got to talk to him about it. He died 2 years before I was born.

    Socks and sandals. Yeah, I wear 'em. They are comfortable and convenient. So, get off my case.

    by bobinson on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 06:12:44 AM PST

  •  My mom grew up in Stratton near the Kansas (0+ / 0-)

    border, on a large wheat, cattle and sugar beet ranch.

    During the war, she was a telegrapher for the railroad and was posted in Loveland.

    My dad guarded German pows brought over to help on our farms and ranches, in Loveland. They met at a boarding house dinner, and fell in love. The rest is history as they say.

    Mom alway had sheet music written about Loveland.

    Thank you for the series and the great comments it encourages.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 10:46:28 AM PST

  •  Gotta get off the roads. (0+ / 0-)

    Hit the trails and the bush. Not to be a hiking snob, but there are are exactly zero highways from which you can experience anything more than a flattened, distant view of the Sangre de Cristos, for example.

  •  Colorado (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We`d bypassed Denver on the way south & down the long grade to Colorado Springs.
    We were leaned over to counteract the crosswinds & would suddenly veer in towards the sides of semis as we passed them, cutting off the sideways force only to fly across the lane again until we could regain the lean, as we went by them.
    We stopped in the town of Pueblo after blowing through Colorado Springs & were lucky enough to have a service bay to spend the night in. (HT to the service station attendant)

    Heading out of Pueblo the next morning, a gorgeous day, we were running through rolling hills of the close kind, maybe undulating is a better word, when coming up over a rise I shot my left hand out as a signal to slow down quickly & to be careful, this as I flew by a cow in the middle of the road. I watched as my friend Lloyd, next in line, successfully avoided the frantic, bucking cow, which from my rearview mirror vantage point, reminded me of the cow jumping over the moon.
    Bobby was last, but by that time the cow the cow had frightened itself into the ditch, & he safely navigated the bovine boulevard.

    Soon the land seemed to flatten out & we noticed a river to our right but almost immediately the snake was under our wheels. Hard lean to the right, then the left, then right, left, right, left, through a series of S turns that almost did us in, but that were the epitome of what we love.
    After our hearts settled back to the road which had mellowed out, we took a break, & as we shut our bikes down, we simultaneously burst out laughing at one of the best sections of a cross country ride, me from Montreal to LA, & lloyd & Bobby, two other bikers I met on the road in Iowa.
    I`ll never forget that day in Colorado, from Pueblo on out, to the coast.

    I`m already against the next war.

    by Knucklehead on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 01:09:50 PM PST

  •  Catsynth (0+ / 0-)

    I love your series.
    Keep `em coming please.

    I`m already against the next war.

    by Knucklehead on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 01:13:44 PM PST

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