Traveling off-season is such a treat. No matter where you go there are rarely big crowds. This was true during a visit to the “Colorado National Monument” — a site I’d never heard of until now. Heading west toward Grand Junction, CO one literally runs right into the place.
Warning: I’m going off on a tangent for just a moment. The methodology for earning a recognized US Forest Service status is nuts. Nominated sites must first go through a national monuments approval process. This means congressional approval, local support and lots of hearings. This is akin to the Catholic Church’s sainthood process — if the site successfully passes through all these hoops it may earn national park status. Becoming a monument is step one. Storied parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone were participants in this process prior to their cannonization. There I’m done.
Traveling to the monument on I-70 we passed a number of colorfully named towns: Rifle, Fruita and Parachute. The interstate also playfully zigzagged with the Colorado River. Once the Rockies were left behind the land flattened into farmable patches of corn and also groves of peaches, apples and cherries. Toward the Colorado-Utah border the land boldly rises to become the Colorado Monument.
Rim Rock Drive is the main monument road and leads one through most of the protected land. The monument combines vivid colors — rocks and plants; as well as expansive canyons surrounded by steep red-sandstone wall: it looks like a modest version of the Grand Canyon.
The Colorado National Monument reflects the gradations of rock strata that includes layers of shale, sandstone and volcanic ash. The weather was perfect–upper 80’s. And there were no crowds.
Next we headed south from Grand Junction along the western edge of the Rockies. Along the way there are a number of towns — some seem a bit eccentric. In Ridgeway there was a railway museum that included a postal car that traveled on its own:
In Ophir, the scenery in the Uncompahgre National Forest was truly awe-inspiring. The next stop would be just past Telluride, CO.