The Road Home
After a lovely week in Colorado with my family, I am back home in Flagstaff. The road home was a study in variations, from weather, seasons, and colors in the landscape. I left before the sun rose and was well into the mountains by the time it peeked over the horizon. On previous trips, I had noted the Stanley Mill near Idaho Springs, CO and made a little side trip to see it. The aged metal siding glowed beautifully in the early morning light!
Just up the road is a wooden mine structure. I love the rich colors of the old wood.
One of these days, I must blog about all the tunnels I pass through on the road home (11 or 12 depending on the route I take!). On this trip I skipped the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels that travel for over a mile deep under the mountains in favor of taking a slightly longer and far more scenic route over Loveland Pass. From the interstate, only the bases of the mountains are visible, but up on the pass, the peaks come into glorious view!
After crossing the Continental Divide on Loveland Pass at 11, 990 feet in elevation, the road winds down towards the A Basin Ski Area (towards the right). The chair lifts were still running but I wasn't able to see any skiers on the mountain. There is still a lot of snow in the Colorado mountains!
In Glenwood Canyon, at a much lower elevation, spring is well underway at the Grizzly Creek rest area! When I stopped here just a week ago, spring was barely a hint in the landscape.
The new spring growth on this tree next to the Colorado River caught my eye! It's as though the tree is cheering with pom-poms or setting off fireworks in celebration of spring!
The Palisade/Grand Junction area is known for its peach orchards. I've only seen them from the highway before, so I decided to take a detour along the rural roads to see them up close. How delightful to find these pink blooms just coming out!
A little further on, the trees are in full bloom! What a contrast to see all this flowery loveliness comparred with the stark desert landscape in the background.
In addition to the orchards, there were lots of vineyards and small farms. The road was lined with beautiful trees covered in brilliant green leaves as well as lush blossoming trees and enormous lilacs in bloom!
As the highway moves into Utah, the landscape changes back to desert mode with high cliffs and buttes in every direction.
Turning south toward Moab, the rocks exhibit lots of color, from the surprise of these green bands on the hills...
to the deep red cliffs near Moab...
and the golden sandstone mounds south of Moab.
As you can tell the weather made some changes too... from sunny skies in the foothills of Colorado, to cloudy skies over the high peaks, to partly sunny on the western slope to grey skies and sprinkles near Moab. Then south of Moab, the virga (rain that doesn't reach the ground) started...
and then between Blanding and Bluff, the sky became rather ominous looking. Somehow, that flat opaque grey seemed terribly oppressive.
But I loved how everytime the road dipped into a canyon, spring was immediately present with lots of bright new leaves on the trees despite what the sky was doing!
Near Mexican Hat, the reason for the ominous sky became more apparent... the wind was fierce and whipping sand high into the sky, enough that at times it seemed to be dusk, even though it was mid-day. This is an area known as Valley of the Gods.
At this point on the road, my favorite view of Monument Valley is usually visible. Not with all the sand in the air though! Yes, those are raindrops on the window too. Not enough rain to clear the air, but just enough to make the dirt cling to the windshield! By the time I reached Kayenta, it looked like I'd been off-roading, though I never left the paved highway.
Oh, there it is... just a hint!
Even up close the view was quite obscured by all the dirt in the air. Quite an "other worldly" view! The strong headwind and decreased visibility made for a long and tense ride.
What a relief to finally reach Tuba City and find that the front had passed, the sky was once again a clear blue and the landscape accentuated by the setting sun!
Near Flagstaff, the clouds covered the San Francisco Peaks, the temperature hovered just at freezing and I arrived home to a dusting of fresh snow!