As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent too little time in Telluride and it definitely warrants another visit. For this trip, after consulting Google Maps and Apple Maps, I planned about a six hour drive back to Boulder. You know the expression “You make plans and God laughs?” He must have been doubled over. Colorado has been having problems with I-70 due to mud slides and flooding and there have been several closures resulting in long detours. When I traveled to Ouray and Telluride I took Route 50 with no issues. That was my intention for the return.
Passing through Ouray I came across the Weber Ranch. I had seen it a couple of times, but this time the early morning light was perfect. If I was looking for an image to reflect America the Beautiful, this was it. Purple mountains majesty and all.
Somehow, I got distracted and unknowingly missed Route 50. My navigation system took me on a different route, first on Route 92 and then a good chunk of it on Route 133. I didn’t think much of it, and followed it. This was a happy accident. There were some cosmic gifts in the form of subjects for me to photograph as I drove through several small towns along twisty roads. I came across one of those drive-up coffee kiosks somewhere at the beginning of the West Elk Loop, grabbed a cold brew coffee with a sausage and egg pastie and I was on my way. Yes, it was delicious.
Passing through Hotchkiss, three shots presented themselves. I was drawn to the Rexall Drugs because it is a brand from my youth that I just do not see anymore. I thought it was an colorful contrast to the empty white building next door. I took the first exposure and then noticed the left turn arrow in the street pointing to the door of the white building. Gotta love it.
Two more buildings across the street from each other got my attention. An old building, the Bank of North Fork. It has two dates by the name 1893 and 1903, I didn’t know what to make of that. Across the way was an Elks Lodge building. I loved the events marquis and the graphic of an elk painted on the side of the building.
I continued onto 133 North, hoping to end up in Boulder. At this point I put all of my trust in Apple Maps on my phone. The car’s nav system was giving me routes hours longer. Somewhere along 133, I believe near Paonia, not far from the North Fork of the Gunnison River I came across this vineyard. You won’t see this vista in the Nappa Valley or Sonoma.
From this point on I followed Rt 133 along the East Muddy Creek, Lee Creek into Pitkin County. This road opened up a bit, but there were plenty of tight turns. I’m in a rented Toyota 4-Runner, which, with its severe body lean on curves, frightened me a bit.
At some point I ended up on another highway, it might have been 82, I’m not sure. I know I was pointed to Aspen, 30-some miles away. My phone was telling me to take a series of country roads and that didn’t seem to make sense. At this point Siri was no help! I stopped at a gas station and asked a man if he knew the area. I told him I wanted to get to Boulder. He said follow him, he was heading to Denver. He told me that I-70 was indeed closed and we had to take the country roads through Cottonwood Pass to get to Route 6 to where I-70 was open again. Apple Maps was correct after all. He said the roads were rough, narrow and not well maintained. That was an understatement. As this route to connect with I-70 got more well known, traffic got heavier. Essentially, there were caravans in both directions, along tight curves with limited visibility and of course, no guard rails. It was a slog, we averaged about 9 MPH. On the approach to the summit, the Colorado National Guard set up traffic control. They made the road one way, alternating directions. Once we started moving again I was able to grab this photograph of the Cottonwoods and the caravan. The summit of the pass was a magnificent sight, unfortunately, there was no where to pull over and take it in.
Not too many minutes after going through the pass, we hit Route 6, then I-70. The white in my knuckles disappeared, I was on my way back to Boulder. I had been in the car about 7 hours at that point and I was getting tired. I pulled off the road into Frisco, had a late lunch at The Lost Cajun; gumbo, boudin and a beer. By the time I got back to the apartment, I had been traveling for 9 hours. If I hadn’t missed Route 50, I would have been back at least 2 hours earlier, but then, I would have missed out on the adventure.