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1998-07-28 - 12:03:32

Moab

TUESDAY, JULY 28, IDAHO SPRINGS, COL. — Today was one of the most spectacular days of the trip for its driving and scenery. With clouds in southeastern Utah, it remained cool well past noon — the sun didn’t come out for good until about 1:30 as I sat on a rock ledge staring across at Delicate Arch standing almost a mile way, dwarfing the people who ran around its base. Arches wasn’t what I thought — much more hilly and varied terrain than I pictured — I saw a desert plain with lots of sand and sagebrush. While that does exist there’s also rolling rocks, cliffs and canyons among the arches, buttes and other formations. Once the sun did come out, the clouds moved on — dark rain clouds still visible at the La Sal peaks — giving way to the deep blue sky and red-orange rocks I’d seen in the pictures.

I sat on a rock face looking across at Delicate Arch waiting for the sun. And I heard absolute silence. Though Arches is crowded — more than I encountered at the North Rim, I think — I had found a spot with no one else, and if those at the base of the Arch were not too loud, I heard nothing but the wind. I would’ve liked to walk up to Delicate Arch and other places in the park, and to do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon — but to sit and admire it from a spot all to myself had a certain humble nature to it. Sometimes it’s best to leave things to the imagination. I think I preferred — on this first trip, anyway — to be alone and gaze in awe rather than stand beneath it, but with dozens of annoying tourists. The crowds surprised me a bit — I hadn’t even heard of Arches until I read Abbey a year ago. Other than the Jersey Shore on Fourth of July weekend, I have never heard so many foreign languages as I did in two days at the Grand Canyon and Arches national parks.

After a take-out lunch by the Colorado River, I took Rt. 178 which followed the river quite a way through the Utah rocks. At times trees grew in the desert, giving a more comforting feeling to the vast wilderness. I-70 through Utah into Colorado isn’t a sore sight either — but when I got past Grand Junction, the ride was enjoyable all the way into Idaho Springs. Just past Grand Junction, 70 follows the Colorado through the mountains — at times you ride right alongside, crossing it several times, cruising through the canyons. A few tunnels have made the trip easier than it once was. I saw my second rainbow of the trip — a double one, which turned out to be my first full rainbow ever, both ends visible over the Earth. Problems with the windshield wiper allowed me to pull over for a picture. Through Colorado, I-70 slowly climbs the Rockies — at times the Volvo struggled to hit 40 mph — crossing Vail Pass at 10,603 ft. and Loveland Pass at 11,992. I passed towns like No Name, Parachute, Gypsum, Eagle and Rifle, places you might only find in Colorado. The air got cold, I closed the windows and moved the temperature control into the red zone (for heat, duh). I was among the clouds, the fragrant aspen smell in my nose, and even snow lingering on some of the peaks.

The towns out here are all tucked into valleys between mountains and along rivers and streams. Idaho Springs is no different. Cornelia came to get me at the Texaco, and we wound our way up Mt. Evans to her friends’ cabin, tucked along a dirt road beneath the trees along rushing stream I have not seen but hear outside my window. No wonder John Denver — and Cornelia — love this place so much. But I hesitate — like Steinbeck, I don’t know if I could leave the ocean.

High among aspens,
Thin air and July snowcaps,
I've found the Rockies

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Next page: Denver

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