Salt Lake City and a steady, pouring rain - that's almost an oxymoron, isn't it? Be that as it may, that's what we encountered as we ended our two day trek across incredibly wondrous expanses from Fort Collins, CO, where my sister lives to my brother's on his 59th birthday. Today, October 4th. We pondered over which way to cross the Rockies out of the Denver area but with the help of a few locals who had taken several different routes we opted for route 14. This two lane highway would be vitually free of traffic and wind over Cameron Pass at just over 10,000 feet , Rabbit Ears Pass at a titch over 9,00o feet and then connect with route 40 east of Steamboat Springs, on past Dinosaur National Monument , through the Wasatch Range at Park City, Utah and down into the Great Salt Lake Valley.
At long last, Lee would realize a dream that he thougth might never come true - to drive his Dodge Ram pulling his rig up over some challenging mountains. Mind you, the one ton Dodge diesel would have done a very adequate job of doing just that, but Lee is a man's man, a guy. He wants all the bells and whistles and as if 350 horses are not enough he had to have a "chip" installed which would give him 450 horses!! Now he sold me on the deal saying that we would get better gas mileage and what do I know about such things as chips and torque and horse power? So while in Fort Collins we dropped a little cash at a local performance shop and on the day of departure he flashed a bigger than ordinary smile as we waved goodbye to family. I later learned that it is not the icreased gas mileage that was so great but MORE POWER. You remember the old Men are from Mars......well, later on, in low gear in a mountain area parking lot, pulling a fully loaded 28 foot fifth wheel, he peeled rubber:) I tried to act impressed. He said words like," and it even has limited slip rear differential." This is the same guy who notices every bump in guardrails and even makes out-loud noises like BAMB BAMB BAMB as he relives the poor fellows fate who banged those guard rails. Did you ever notice the tire rubber on concrete barriers on extra sharp turns? You gotta be kidding! So does Lee!! Oh, and as I'm all agoggle over the Red-tailed hawk I see circling overhead he's telling me about the extra reinforcement on the road signs in this high-wind area of the trip.Keeps them from fluttering. We laugh at each other and wonder at our differences but also appreciate how those differences make for a more enjoyable whole.
As I revel at the beauty of the scenery I find myself feeling wholly inadequate when thinking of how to describe the beauty of the land. I need to hire a poet to put together a string of words in such a beauteous way that anyone reading those words could envision what I was seeing. Take the trees for instance. The Aspens cling to the valleys of the green pine covered hillsides wearing such bright golden colors that they shout out to all. As the wind blows through their leaves it scatters them like yellow snow flakes across the road and into the streams. In the higher elevations where the leaves have fallen, it's as if they have shed a golden petticoat on the ground below their outstretched branches. Take each individual tree - golden is just one word. Some are light gold, others bright yellow, others amber. One would need an entire jewel bag full of color words to describe the individual hues. Then there are the Cottonwoods that line the stream and river beds - they have fat brown trunks, unlike the lithe white trunks of the Aspen, and they,too, need words of many shades to describe the yellows and golds that they wear with such grace. From a distance, as I glance up to the high mountain slopes, it's as if an artist has taken a paint brush and splashed the green forest canvas with bright flashy colors, a last hurrah before the bland, monochromatic colors of winter. I think about all the artists and poets and song writers who have written and painted in an attempt to capture what their eyes behold, and convey that vision to the rest of the world. Shops and books and recordings are filled with such attempts. No wonder I am struggling.
Up out of the mountains, on to the vast high plains of western Colorado and eastern Utah the landscape changes. For endless miles I see no one in the rear view mirror and no one up ahead. Signs warning of antelopes crossing cause my scan to widen for signs of danger. I sight herds of the white and brown beauties far off on the sage colored hills but fortunately none crossed the highway as I passed. Colors now are muted in shades of mauve, putty and bronze. Just grab a color chart at any Lowes paint department and chose a Laura Ashley palette- those are the colors of the high desert. Mixtures of beige and rust, maroon and cafe au lait all paint the colors of the rock formations that loom on the horizon, layers of old lake beds hardened into sedimentary rocks and lifted up by gargantuan forces that have turned them into grotesque forms, then eroded into sensuous, smooth undulations of solid rock. What a magnificant sculptress Mother Nature is!
As the sun sank lower in the sky we needed a place to stop and sleep. The Barbed Wire Campground was easily accessible and we were tired. Lee hopped out and went into the office. As I glanced around I became more and more uneasy and quietly locked the doors to the truck. Tough looking, long haired cowboy types milled around some ratty trailers and I knew instantly that I would be as out of place as a Lady Di in a strip joint. Lee came out of the office carrying an envelope and my heart sank. How could I tell a tired and weary traveler that I wanted to move on? His first words to me were,"We're out of here!" Besides his own intuition, the sign in the office saying No Drugs, No Guns raised his protective instints and we drove on into Dinosaur National Monument. It was at the end of a 10 mile paved road that we found a spot that will rank in the top 5 places I have ever camped. Split Mountain Campground. Located on the Green River flanked by towering red sandstone cliffs, we parked the rig and began settling in. There were no services but we were prepared so I cooked a gourmet dinner which we ate by candle light. By nine o'clock the stars were dotting the sky like pin points and we slipped under the covers and snuggled until we were warmed. The thermometer read 44 degrees in the camper by morning but as the sun rose over the rocks it warmed us up and I took an early morning walk to discover the campground was full of rabbits! After a breakfast of hash browns, eggs and sausage we took my kayak to the river and Lee helped me launch into the brown silted waters of the Green River. I was in HEAVEN!! I LOVE the Green River and had white water rafted down a section known as Desolation Canyon years before. So I paddled upstream, caught some light rapids and floated down, crossed to the far side and explored some caves. It was a wonderful treat and as I marveled at the beauty surrounding me I stored the images in my mind for tough times ahead.
The sky turned grey as we headed west towards Salt Lake City . Lee no longer had to slow for my photography requests . We ate lunch at a rest stop and I drove on in pouring rain down 6 degree grades into the Great Salt Lake Valley. In total contrast to the night before we are camped in a KOA campground in the middle of the city with a few hundred other rigs. All safe, all manicured and green and close to my brother. My son flies in on Friday and will be our companion for the trek to Seattle.
Hope all is well and safe with each and every one of you.
Nancy and Lee
Click on Photoshow to see full size. Enjoy...Don