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Old 06-20-2008, 08:32 PM   #1
gypsyrr OP
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Wicked Roamin' The Rockies: a woman's solo adventure

First ride report posting here, but I’m having a blast and thought I’d share some sights.

I’m wandering around this summer. Kind of a neat way to spend the summer and since the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it. I’m traveling with truck, tandem trailer that I outfitted with tie down points and chocks, and two bikes - an ’05 BMW R1150R and an ’04 Suzuki DR650.

I live in Texas, but I started my wanderings in Arkansas. I wanted a more “tame” terrain to learn to pull a trailer, back up a trailer, load/unload bikes by myself, and camp exclusively before hitting the Rockies.

So far, only two constant problems 1. Getting the RR out of the chock. The chock is 6” and the RR wheel sits in there tightly, so I have to find someone to help me with that at each campground, and, 2. Properly and accurately backing up the 12’ tandem trailer with this huge F350 4x4 Diesel truck. Although, after a couple of weeks I did start to get the hang of it a bit.

I don’t really have any plans. Just sort of wandering, traversing Colorado now, then heading to Wyoming in July, a short trip into Montana at the end of July, then working my way back to Texas, the first week of August.

The Bikes:

DR650 and R1150R

The rig:

Arkansas was not much of a dual sport ride, so I’ll leave much of that trip out. But it was an adventure, so I’ll throw some of those in.

Campsites - I stayed at Daisy State Park in the south, and Withrow State Park further north, while in Arkansas and took day rides and fishing trips out from those two places.

I had a great spot at Daisy State Park. School was not out yet, so the place was pretty vacant.

I stayed right on the tip of the land in this cove.

Roads around there were nice. Not as fun as further north, but they had their share of nice paved roads.

One day the RR and I took a dirt road through the forest. I’m still not sure where I was, but SPOT kept track of me, and I did eventually show up by Albert Pike State Park, and was able to find my way back to my campsite then.

Camping at Daisy was great. I bought a JetBoil right before I left and I was really pleased with how well it worked and compact it is.

Dinner one night. I added a little summer sausage I brought from home to the meals and that seemed to make them even better. Sometimes I could eat the whole amount, but most of the time it was just wasted because I could not find mre’s for just one. I have not tired of them yet, but I do get a meal on the road occasionally. The Beef Stroganoff is still my favorite.

The weather was perfect, and still warm enough that I could keep the cover off the tent so that I could see the stars at night and the trees in the morning when I woke.

This is one of my favorite memories: Looking up in the morning from inside my tent

and breakfast still consists of maple syrup oatmeal and coffee made with the JetBoil

I’m using this REI infusion thermos for making coffee. I’m not so sure I like it that well. I keep thinking I’ll get it right, but after this many days, I don’t think right is ever going to come, and it might be time to find a better method of making coffee in the a.m.

After a few days in the southern part of Arkansas, I moved further north to Withrow State Park and wandered around from that point.

I hit the usual good roads - the Pig Trail, 16, 21, 74, 374, 123 - all up in that area, but I also found Rockhouse Road. That was a pleasant surprise. It drops south out of Berryville and eventually turns to dirt. I could not tell on the map where the dirt would end, and since it was getting late, I turned around and took it back the other way.

Then all of a sudden a fog almost as bad as the California Tule fog rolled in. This was an adventure trying to ride through it:

Other times I was fly fishing on the waters in Arkansas. I just would strap my 5 piece 3 wt to the bike and a pack, and that’s all I needed for a day of fishing. Here I was at the Buffalo River near Ponca. I only caught bluegill there.

Withrow State Park was really a first class camping spot. Really not primitive at all. Almost too easy. I knew Colorado was not going to be this easy.

I always meet the most interesting people when I travel like this. On this particular day, I met Paul and his wife Glenda. They had an old Studebaker sitting in a pasture. I stopped to photograph it for a collection I’m doing called “Rusty Old American Dreams”. They saw me and came out. I put the camera down and as Paul limped down the driveway, I stood in my place until he could hear me ask if I could photograph his old cars. He held up a hand in a ‘stop’ motion as he walked closer. I waited. When he got to me, I repeated my question more distinctly. He waved me off as if to say “I heard ya the first time” and said, “Sure, but if you want to get pictures, you better come up closer.” Haha. I eneded up spending the afternoon with Paul and Glenda photographing and talking about his old cars. He had a stack of books about 10 inches high - all about old cars. He brought them out and started showing me different photographs of old cars. He didn’t seem to notice that I was stepping away to take his picture as he spoke.

(how about those eyebrows?)

And then soon, I was led around their land to photograph old cars. The funniest part was this old 1934 Model A he showed me. His first words were “Yep, ALL O R I G I N A L 1934 Model A!!” But as we worked our way around the truck - every other sentence was, “well, now, that there part ain’t original. I made that from a 19XX Ford car and a 19XX Ford truck and welded them together” or something similar to that. By the time he had showed me the whole truck, I’m not sure if there is anything original on it. However, - it did start on the second crank! And he wanted to put all his flags on it for me when I photographed it. Then he wanted me to get in it for my picture.

And a couple other old cars

and with my bike

On another ride I was chased by these dogs protecting the barn I was trying to photograph

The closer they got, I realized they were all puppies with their mother. Real ferocious. I ended up trying to gather them out to the street to protect them from traffic along 21!!!

That kind of summarizes the ‘shake down” part of my journey - getting me ready for these days in the Rockies.

I had to return to Texas briefly for a graduation, but left the next morning for Colorado.

Arriving in Colorado, I headed toward Canon City, because I have friends there who I thought would point me in the right direction. Unfortunately, I did not get to see them,, so I was suddenly looking for a campground in the area.

Driving along, almost to Canon City, I saw a sign signaling Phantom Canyon just a few miles ahead. I had remembered my friend telling me about a great road through the canyon. Since it was early afternoon and I was ready to start my adventures, I decided to head that way and hope to find a campground.

Having never ridden in the mountains, nor driven a truck/trailer through the mountains - and being quite new at it, I was kind of nervous about how things were going to go for me.

Phantom Canyon Road (67) runs north and south connecting 50 and 24 near Woodland Park, CO.

Here is a google map link to the road:
Phantom Canyon Road

And here is what it looks like via satellite:

I pulled down 67 and found the first part to be very promising for a great ride. Now - all I need to do is find a campground~

I felt like I had just discovered some unknown secret road. No motorcycles on this road at all. Hardly a car even. As I headed further north on 67, I saw the sign I had been wanting to see: “Campground - with showers” YES!! The pavement gave way to a meandering one-lane trail of red dirt which I followed for quite a while it seems. It was probably merely 2-3 miles, but you know how it is when you are trying to get somewhere; those miles go on forever!! The place looked like rattlesnake country to me!

Here is what I drove down to find the promised campground with showers.

And the office at Indian Springs Campground.

The camping area was stark. But I didn’t intend on hanging around the campsite all day, just sleeping and eating there, so it was fine for me. I set up camp and visited with the owners briefly.

It was starting to get late, and I wanted to at least explore around a bit on the RR, so I headed into Canon City for gas and then back toward Phantom Canyon. After a few miles, I realized I would probably want the DR to make this trip. But it was an incredible first taste of the fun to come the next day.

Heading into the canyon I started to see white flakes streaming toward me. I knew it was going to be cold that night, but it certainly wasn’t cold enough for snow yet!! I slowed to get a look - The Cottonwood trees were blooming - and these little white particles were everywhere I went for a while in Colorado. I tried to capture it with the little point and shoot - kind of cool.

Here’s my first view of the canyon before the road turns to dirt

Since it was already late, I turned back just after three miles and headed to my campsite while it was still light.

Once back at the campground, and assessing the family reunion drinking binge that had been going on a while, as well as the promised drop in temperatures to 34 degrees and the news that there was a bear in the camp while I was gone - I decided that even though my tent was already set up - that perhaps tonight would be a good time to try out sleeping on the back seat of this truck. So I fixed myself some dinner - Beef Stroganoff MRE and made a ‘bed’ in the back seat. It got very cold that night, but I managed to stay warm enough - and safe. The bear was reported to have climbed into the back (bed) of a truck the next morning. I can imagine how scared I would have been had that been the truck I was sleeping in. The whole next day, different people working at the camp had a shotgun with rubber bullets always at the ready. That ought to make a bear really mad!!!

The next morning, as soon as the sun was up, I was ready to explore the canyon. But clouds moved in and rain seemed imminent. I readied the DR650 for a canyon ride and then waited to see if the clouds would move out. They didn’t. I rode into town to fill up the bike and check the pressure in the tires, hoping the clouds would move out. They didn’t. I went back to camp and waited. Still - the clouds lingered. Once in a while a small sprinkling of rain would fall, but never anything more. Finally I decided, if that is the only amount of rain, then I don’t need to fear a wash out in the canyon, so I headed off on the 650 for Phantom Canyon, just a mile up the road.


A little further up the road, I saw this sign

So - now - some shots from the canyon. This road could be ridden on my BMW, but since I had not ridden it before, I was unsure what I would find, so I took the DR650. Toward mile 14, the road gets a little more rocky, but nothing an RR could not handle. Cars travel this road. They have a length limit of 25’, but still, they are traveling this road often. Here are some scenes from the canyon. An incredible ride that I will do again when I’m back in that area the first of July. There are so many shots I took, it is hard to pick just a few. Every turn yielded another shot that I had to take.

There were two of these stone tunnels. Very cool.

Here is what the road looks like when it starts to get a little rough at higher altitudes.

I had gone 16 miles on this road and the clouds were moving in when I saw this sign:

I decided to go a bit further just to see if it would ever turn to pavement, but by mile 18, it was still dirt and getting late, so I turned back shortly after crossing this cool bridge.

I look below at the road I had just ridden

So I turned back and just started riding and not taking as many photos. I was having a blast - almost too close to the edge a couple of times and that scared some sense into me - but not enough. I had come to a flat, more open area and started playing around on the 650 - something I should not do when alone in a canyon in the late afternoon with storms threatening. Lesson learned. But sliding to a stop was fun.

So then I decided sliding OUT of a stop - throwing some dirt on taking off would be even more fun. What was I thinking? This bike is too tall for me to let it spin out! And although certainly not as heavy as the RR, I found that I could not control the weight of it on the spin out, so it laid down while I stood standing trying to keep it upright. It wasn’t technically a “drop”, I just could not hold the bike up any longer in a leaning spin, and with one leg planted, I had to lay the bike down.

Trying to get it off the ground, was impossible for me. I tried every method taught and nothing was working for me. In fact, I pulled something in my back. Thankfully, I don’t have lower back problems, so I knew some anti-inflammatory and care the next day would have me feeling right again soon. But I did try for several minutes to get the bike up. No good. I was within minutes of pushing the ‘help’ or the 911 button on SPOT, but kept thinking I would see a car sooner or later as I had seen at least a dozen on my way up the mountain already. So I waited.

Eventually an older vacationing couple from Ontario arrived. He got the back end of the bike, I got the front end, and together we lifted it. While doing so another car arrived. This time it was a young couple from the area. How fortunate I was. Steve and Mary both rode bikes. He had a Ducati and a Yamaha dual sport. The 650 was flooded from laying on its side that long. Steve showed me how to open up the carburetor and let out some of the gas, let in some air, wait a couple of minutes and voila - the 650 started right back up. But to make sure everything was going to be fine, they waited with me while I put the tail pack back on the bike and got my gear on - moving kind of slow because of my back. They didn’t mind at all when I asked if I could take the picture of those who had helped me.

To be sure I stayed safe, Steve and Mary drove behind me for a few miles to make sure I had no more trouble with the bike. None at all. In fact, there is not even a mark on the bike from the lay down.

Coming out of the canyon, the sun was setting and the canyon walls began to glow. I did not stop for many pictures on my way out, but I couldn’t pass up this shot of the sun lighting up the mountain rock wall in this photo.

That’s Steve and Mary taking off ahead of me now, once they saw me stopping for photos again. Thanks again to them and the couple from Ontario.

Back at the campsite, I knew my back was hurting pretty badly. I was not sure if I would stay there another day or not because I had plans to photograph a cowboy shoeing horses the next day. I feared if I waited till morning to load the bikes, my back would be too sore, so just in case, I loaded them that evening - sore back and all, and settled in for another cold night hoping the Aleve I took would kick in and make the pain leave soon. It took all of the next day of taking Aleve and alternating cold and heat, but by the evening, my back was fine again.

After some days here, I traveled east to Montrose. I’ll add to the report when I get a chance and internet again to write about my continuing travel through the Rockies.
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gypsyrr screwed with this post 08-26-2008 at 02:05 PM
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:08 PM   #2
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I envy your free time, bikes, pull rig and your destinations. Lucky you!

Try Mountain House, MRE style, food. Some of the best I've eaten while climbing and mountaineering in the mountains. The pasta selections are pretty tasty along with the blueberry granola breakfast selection.

Do you know where you will tour around in WY and MT and do you plan on fishing in those two states?

Surprising you can get a connection on your notebook to even post about your ride in some of those areas.
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:10 PM   #3
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Wow!! That's some adventure!!!

Thanks for sharing your awesome ride with such great pics!! You just gotta work on your picking up the bike technique! On the other hand, it's a good way to meet people!!
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:22 PM   #4
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Great Start


Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. I can only imagine that you are reeling from filling up 3 tanks this summer with fuel.

Ride Safe and keep us posted.

Sometimes it takes a whole tankful of fuel before you can think straight
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:38 PM   #5
gypsyrr OP
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Originally Posted by Fast55
I envy your free time, bikes, pull rig and your destinations. Lucky you!

Do you know where you will tour around in WY and MT and do you plan on fishing in those two states?

Try Mountain House, MRE style, food. ......

Surprising you can get a connection on your notebook to even post about your ride in some of those areas.

I'll stage in the Dubois area with ride outs from there. The rig just gets me to the area with both bikes. From the area, I ride either bike depending on where I plan to go. I've fly fished that area before, but if you have suggestions on other areas, I'd be glad to hear them. Montana will be a short visit I think. I've been invited to come to a pow wow and photograph it. I don't know that I want to spend much time trying to find a place to fish in Montana since so much of their water seems to be privatized now, but if you have suggestions on that or places to ride, I'm open to that as well. I have no specific plans. I do have some work that I have to do along the way, though, so I have to schedule those days.

It is Mountain House that I'm eating. Recommended by guys at REI in Houston.

I CAN'T get a connection. I can barely get text messaging let alone a phone call at most places - and certainly no internet. I can write in Word documents and then when I pass by a motel, I can pull into the parking lot and usually pick up wifi. The other day, I had to sleep in the parking lot of a Super 8 in Buena Vista because I arrived around midnight and it was too dark to find a place to camp and all the motels were booked. So I just slept in the parking lot in the truck, then had breakfast and internet with them in the morning. That was a scary night.

I have found that there are many motels that sell a shower for $5.00. That's a good thing on nights when I end up having to sleep in the truck or in parks without showers or water. State Parks sometimes have showers too, but you have to pay the entrance fee first and sometimes the parks in Colorado charge per minute for showers. It ends up being cheaper to go to a motel to shower sometimes.

And I do intersperse a motel stay periodically - maybe once every 7-8 days, if I arrive too late to look for camping or if I have to do some work while on the road. Today I worked, so I'm staying at a motel tonight.

Thanks for reading. I'll try to keep posting. Advice on roads in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana is appreciated - as is good fishing spots. TIA.
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:44 PM   #6
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Great pictures. I can feel you on the back, I herinated two discs about a year ago and I'm still recovering.
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Old 06-20-2008, 10:06 PM   #7
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Looking forward to the rest of this one! You have a nice writing style & a good eye with the camera. Good work....and a great first ride report.

Thanks for taking the time to share.
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Old 06-20-2008, 10:13 PM   #8
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Thumb keep up the good work...

Thanks for the pictures and travel notes, looks like some days it's the scenery and other days it's the people that make the trip so memorable...either way it's a great way to travel.

Thanks for sharing, it's great to see the summer adventures happening all over the place

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Old 06-20-2008, 10:18 PM   #9
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Great report Post up or PM if you'll be in the Denver or front range area. I'm out here for a couple more weeks and riding most every weekend and many evenings If ya haven't been up Mt. Evans yet its a very nice ride (and at 14,260' how could it not be?).
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Old 06-23-2008, 06:26 PM   #10
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Too cool. I don't envy your fuel bill but how can you put a price on such memories?
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Old 06-23-2008, 06:56 PM   #11
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Looks like you got yourself up into the Phantom Canyon courtesy of the old Florence & Cripple Creek narrow guage RR. The rock tunnels and a few other spots gave it away from pictures taken by the Photographer Jackson in the 1880's or '90's. Can't wait for more reports and pix.
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Old 06-23-2008, 07:05 PM   #12
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I remember taking the canyon as a kid with my folks and a 64 Fleetwood wagon, my mom screamed the whole way down from Cripple Creek.

Needless to say we went back home on highway 50.
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Old 06-23-2008, 07:24 PM   #13
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I couldn't imagine a better way to spend the summer then wandering around the west exploring with both a road and dirtbike at my disposal. Awesome! If your up for suggestions, check out Mt. Evans while in Colorado, It's the highest paved road in the US. and tops over 14'000 feet. Nice view from the top not to mention a hair raising ride up.
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Old 06-23-2008, 07:54 PM   #14
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Thanks! Phantom Canyon was incredible. All of Colorado has been great. US 50 didn't really thrill me. Too many people! But I've found some nice side roads to explore along the way.

My full report is here Summer Journey 2008, but I'll try to keep the report here as up to date as that one. Here's some more.

WARNING - no dirt in this section of the report

Catching up: so after packing up one morning from my stay in the campground in Phantom Canyon, I decided to head west. I had heard that the Black Canyon in Montrose was suppose to be absolutely beautiful, and so I wanted to see it. I needed to download some photos to my external hard drive first, however, so that required stop by the camp office for electricity and some wifi to check email. It was 2:30 before I got away from there!!! Taking US 50 from Canon City all the way to Montrose was going to have to be a non-stop, don't you dare stop for photos kind of trip if I wanted to arrive before dark.

So I finished up at Indian Springs, said my good-byes, and I was off - to the west.

My first stop was 11 miles away in Canon City (pronounced 'canyon'), for cell service to return calls, and ice for my cooler. Canon City is a nice town. It use to serve as a place for people heading out for the Colorado Gold Rush's to stock up before plunging into the wilderness areas around it. Canon City makes a good base area if you want to ride many of the great roads of Colorado and/or fish some of the great trout waters in that area. It is also a big prison town. There are prisons everywhere in that area, for some reason. I think I saw more prisons in Freemont County during my short time traveling through there, then I have ever seen in total in my life. Okay - an exaggeration, but they do have a hefty lot of prisoners there!!

Once I had ice, gas, and calls returned, I head west on US 50, one of the famous coast to coast highways of the US. There are few places to pull over on this canyon road for the first 50-60 miles. There seemed to be constant traffic at most times of the day and days of the week, and many of them are white water rafting companies carrying their rafts or shuttling people to sites to put in. So........ because of that and because I was trying to arrive in Montrose before dark, most of the photos are road shots. But the canyon is so narrow at points, that a simple road shot covers the canyon area!!!

Before getting too far out of Canon City, I came to the Royal Gorge tourist area. I typically stay away from tourist areas, but the Gorge had a nostalgic call and so I wandered that way for a peek. My dad tells me I saw this a couple of times as a kid, but being the youngest of the litter, I just don't remember it. I probably had fallen asleep in the car and was left behind while they went on the tour!!!

That is one long, high bridge!!!

I didn't stay long. Just long enough to say I had been there again for my father to be satisfied, and then I moved on toward Salida, Co.

Along US 50, the Arkansas River is running fast. This area draws many whitewater tourists. You will see many rafts floating down the Arkansas River during the summers in Colorado. If you can see their faces during some fast water - it's worth the time to try to pull off and watch a bit. I didn't catch their faces in this photo and didn't have time to wait either. I needed to get back on the road because not only was there mountain passes with which to contend, but there was also road repair work along 50 before Salida.

Here are looks at the great ride this road affords a motorcyclist.

Eventually the canyon opens to a valley, and agricultural and livestock areas appeara. It too is very beautiful.

About the time it flattened out for me, I was sitting in a long que waiting my turn at the one lane road caused by road repair. I think the road repair went for 7-8 miles, and I was behind a string of 10-12 cars.

Once I got to the other side of Salida, though, things opened up for me and I was on my way to Monarch Pass. Brrrrrrrr.

The Aspen groves were fully green and the rustling of their leaves in mountain breezes sounded like chimes to my ears.

When I got to the top of Monarch Pass, the temperature registered 51 degrees F. Quite a change from the 107, I had noted when I rolled into Midland, Texas a few days earlier!!!!! I was reaching in the back seat to find my BMW jacket quick!!!

Once you start the descent, things look greener and the temperatures feel cooler than on the eastern side of the pass. I was amazed by the shades of green.

At the bottom of the pass, I noticed a stream 'snaking' through a valley. It looked like perfect trout water, and I needed to check it out. I pulled to a side road and found myself on a road to White Pine, which I believe is a ghost town; previously a gold rush town. This was a beautiful valley and wonderful short road - perfect for riding on a late afternoon!! Great looking trout water, I thought. But private!!

It was absolutely stunning. The road ended at this coral, and so I had to turn around and head back out. But, the nice thing about mountain roads is that they always look completely different when you go the opposite direction. So..... more scenery treats on the way out!

Once closer to Gunnison, the valley enlarged and farmland appeared. I liked this area of Colorado the best so far.

By the time I reached Gunnison, it was 8:20 and I needed a break and some gas. My intent was to be able to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison the next morning. The temperatures on this side of the continental divide seemed to be a bit cooler. That meant, if I stayed in Gunnison for the night, that in the morning, I would be too cold to ride the next 70 miles to the canyon and I would end up wasting a half a day waiting for the weather to warm. I decided to push on to Montrose, knowing that it was unlikely that I would find a place to camp in the dark and so I would start looking for a motel room once I saw the city lights. That would give me a warm and early start to see the canyon.

I drove the next 60-70 miles of mountain roads in the dark. I could tell I was missing some pretty incredible scenery though, so I vowed to come back through that area during the daytime just to see it.

I finally arrived in Montrose about 10:00 p.m. There seemed to be plenty of motels. Now - just need to pick one that looks safe. I went up and down the street a couple of times and finally came to a stop at one that had a police car sitting in the parking lot. That looked like a safe place for me to spend the night! So I checked in, and I was so excited to have electricity and running water and heat all in a room after a week in a tent, that it was hard to fall asleep............ the first 3 minutes.

Next - the Black Canyon and the sights between Montrose and Gunnison.
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Old 06-23-2008, 08:23 PM   #15
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Wow! I must have spent an hour just looking at the pictures....they're wonderful. You have an eye for photography. I admire your courage and I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip. Stay safe!
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