The previous night is a blur, really. Our gracious host, and I can't for the life of me, remember his name... David, Ron, Ray... filled champagne glasses with yogurt and fresh fruit, and made us omelets with pesto and vegetables. Hungry and tired, we couldn't resist eating, even though we had plans for breakfast with a good friend this morning.
For a few years, I've been corresponding with a customer of mine from Colorado. Ute's house must be a Btaylor Quilts showcase! She is my best customer, and over the years has become a friend as well. One of the best things about having my shop on Etsy is the fact that I've gotten to know some really great people, albeit mostly on-line, but still, I've made some significant connections since I joined in 2007. The first time I "met" Ute was in July of 2012 (her name is pronounced "oooo-tuh"- so, as in "ooooo - that sunset is beautiful", and "tuh" "oooo-tuh!!). In 2012, she found my Kimono quilts and purchased two of them, and we've had a steady correspondence since then.
Plans were made to finally meet Ute well before we left on this journey! She had picked out a restaurant in Woodland Park. The Hungry Bear was busy, and with good reason. The decor and food was just what you'd expect when thinking about Colorado, the mountains, forests, aspen trees, and wide open skies. It was cozy-cabin-home-cooked wonderfulness, and we enjoyed a hearty, second breakfast! I was excited to finally meet Ute, it's weird to have a relationship with someone for so long, who you've never met in real life, and then suddenly they are before you, hugging you! Weird, but totally wonderful! She had hand knit for us the most beautiful scarf and cowl. For Jeff, an exquisitely soft blue scarf knitted from German wool, and for me, a red-toned, very warm cowl of soft wool! She had also made us a card with an image from Garden of the Gods , which she encouraged us to go see. We were on a schedule and didn't have the time that day. There are definite plans to come back to CO in the near future! Mostly because I totally forgot to get a photograph of me and Ute!! HOW could I have forgotten to do this?!
I know Ute is going to read this. So Ute, don't be embarrassed! Both Jeff and I were so happy and lucky to meet you. Thank you for the fabulous gifts and for being so awesome and kind. Many many hugs to you! And next time, you'll have to suffer through photos :)
Beautiful, beautiful Colorado, from a rest stop in Salida, looking West, towards the mountains: Antero, Princeton, Mt. Harvard, Monarch Pass, and Tomichi Dome. This rest area is just above the town of Buena Vista, which you can see in the valley below. It's right where 24/285 and 304N meet. This is one of the most picturesque views we encountered on our trip.
The flora and fauna have changed as we've traveled. Today we saw pronghorn antelope on the way out of the Rockies and into Utah. It is becoming drier and more desert-like.
Passing over the Continental Divide through Monarch Pass. I walked from this spot up a small incline to the visitor center and market. Being from near sea level New England is quite evident when you start walking up inclines at 11,312 feet! I was kind of gasping for air by the time I got up to the store, lungs squeezed, and I could feel my heartbeat in my head. The drive up through the Pass is very thrilling. See all the Miatas in the photo below, surrounding the sign? A group of them, maybe 40 or so...not sure, I didn't count. They were zooming around through the mountains. We saw them from time to time as we stopped along the way. They were a bit annoying, honking their horns, and being idiots passing trucks on less than ideal corners. We also saw many, many bikers on their Harleys and BMW's, tooling around through the mountainscapes. Having ridden a Harley for the last eight years or so, I've actually got NO desire any more to ride a motorcycle across the country. It was hard enough in a car. The stress of the curves, inclines, hair-pins, etc. would be exhausting, not to mention the other cars, campers, trucks to deal with. Although, I guess if I was given five months and a support van/camper to follow me, I'd do it :)
Continuing on 50 and through the most southern part of the San Isabel National Forest and Gunnison National Forest, you pass through Sapinero, Cimarron, and finally into Montrose. Along the way we encountered the Dillon Pinnacles, in Gunnison, CO. There are a ton of hiking trails here, and it's so beautifully quiet.
Jumping on 550 South, it was starting to get to the point where we'd have to decide where to stay for the night. Originally, we had planned to head more west from Colorado Springs, up into Utah to Moab, and find camping at either Arches National Park, or Canyonlands NP. We were running so late, that we decided to cut off the whole of Northern Utah, and just start heading directly south to Grand Canyon. So, we no idea where we'd camp. There are a ton of campgrounds in this general area! There was a campground called Ampitheater in the Uncompahgre National Forest that we thought might be a good stopping point, but passing down 550, we spotted Ridgway State Park. It didn't look like much from the road, but it was nearing 5:30 and we thought we'd call it an early day. Given we hadn't camped yet, we'd be struggling with finding everything and first set up, etc., so we thought we'd check it out.