Monday, March 28, 2005

05-17 Grand Junction to Rifle Gap Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Mesa
Rifle Gap

Week 17 of 52
July 25-

Grand Junction. The gateway to Colorado from the west side of the state… So rather than talk about what I think about it, here’s there perspective of my home, Florida. In the Daily Sentinel on Sunday, they had a cartoon of a highway sign that said “ Hurricanes, and Gators and Sharks….” and the drive looking up says “Oh My!”. Further along in the paper was an article from Miami Beach by James Thorner about a nude beach in the area. His assessment was from the title of the article, “The nudist beach scene revealed -- as boring”. Apparently he was trying to pick up a girl on the beach and didn’t have any luck. We’ll leave it at that….

But to get back to Grand Junction, it really is a nice mid sized town/city. With an actual Mall, big stores like Target, Home-Depot and the usual Wal-Mart. The downtown area if filled with sculptures and the usual antique shops, restaurants and a few ice-cream shops for good measure. I found the Internet CafĂ© and Bagel shop where I’ve had coffee a couple of times and lunch, so I can get online and send you my reports and check to see what interesting mail I have coming in from you.

Since I was in Grand Junction, I decided to tour the Grand Mesa, no need to do the lesser attractions you know. So what makes it so grand? Well, it’s the worlds largest flat-topped mountain at 10,500 feet up, forming a large mesa with over 200 lakes and Powderhown Ski Resort. Now I thought I’d seen some great wildflowers at Cedar Breaks the other week, but Grand Mesa has the grandest assortment of wildflowers I’ve seen to date. I arrived around 8:30 maybe 9 am. The clouds hung so low, that at one point, I was driving through them. Misty clouds of white, drifting across the landscape.

It’s interesting to note that when I see the wildflowers along the road and off in the distance in the Alpine meadows, I’ve only seen about 1% of the them. It isn’t until I actually get out of the car and go for a walk along the roads or through a field, along the cliffs, that the world opens up in front of me. Such a variety of wildflowers blooming next to each other, the most vibrant colors. Some a couple feet high, others in small bunches as small as a couple inches from the ground, nestled between rocks and Pinion Pines. It’s essential to get out and walk amongst the wildflowers to get the full impact. I saw a number of cars just drive right on by, never stopping. And realizing that they were missing so much of the true beauty of the mesa. Especially since the vistas didn’t open up for about another hour, after the clouds burned off.

This is wine and peach country as well. So I hope to take advantage of both before leaving the area. Note: the peaches were hard, bland and tasteless.

Rifle Gap and Rifle Falls State Park. It was only an hours drive to my next destination, but an exciting one. Half way there, I almost ran into a doe, a deer, a female deer…. On the main highway. How it got there is anyone’s guess, since there are very high fences in this area. She was a big deer too! Then after settling into a primitive campsite (no electric, water or sewer), I headed to the Falls. Which were a triple surprise. Three falls all making a huge roaring sound on their plunge down to the rocky pools below. The park is small with a few campsites that are always full up. I took the short hike up and over the falls and was walking alone on a longer path that led back to the campground when I came across another deer. The deer was as surprised to see me as I was to see her. I couldn’t have been more than 10 feet from her.

At Rifle Gap, I’m actually on a 360 acre reservoir which is used for boating, fishing, water skiing, and swimming. Had a nice swim later this afternoon. The water was clear and blue, not like the very sandy tan color of the Colorado river. Fortunately, the temperature is great up here and I wouldn’t be needing a/c. (Day time temp: high 80s and night time: low 50s) Especially since I won’t have it for a couple days anyway…
It’s actually been pleasant without electric. It has gotten cool as soon as the sun sets, around 8:30 and the camper also cools off right away. Surprising actually. I couldn’t find the right plug for my battery operated radio/tv, so I have been enjoying the quiet time, reading my Harry Potter book, going to the reservoir/lake for an afternoon swim and just hanging out.

It’s particularly quiet early in the day, before the boaters arrive. The water skiers and jet skis can be a bit noisy, but the sounds are often muffled by the expanse of water and mountains. That and the lake isn’t all that large so only a couple boats are out there doing the water skiing and such.

I’m checking into being a volunteer and if it works out, I would stay at this site after my short trip to Denver. If it works, I would be here for a month as a volunteer. I’ll keep you posted.

Other than that, as I’ve mentioned, I’m reading my book, doing little chores around the camper and watching the small iridescent blue birds, black birds with white markings, striped chipmunks and a cute small rabbit stop by my camper each day, foraging for food.

On To Denver. It’s about 200 miles to Denver and should have taken all of 4 hours, but in actuality, it took me over 7 hours. What with a shopping trip to Wal-Mart, stopping for lunch in the camper, sight seeing, and having to take a detour. The height of my camper, 13’ 6” was the exact height restriction for a tunnel on hwy 70. So I ended up going up Loveland Pass at 11,900 feet! Wow, what a view! Not what I expected for a detour. I believe that’s close to the highest elevation I’ve ever been at. That and highway 70 going over the Rockies had speed restrictions due to sharp curves and steep inclines and declines…. At times once again, I was going as slow as 34-45 mph.

Who would want to go fast over these magnificent mountains anyway, going through tunnels, following the Colorado River for a good way and seeing all the folks rafting down the rapids as well. You know the mountains are HUGE when the GPS tracker kept saying, “I’ve lost the satellite signal“.

Ekkk! The traffic getting into Denver was horrid! I was ready to run back to the mountains. Lot’s of traffic heading out of town for the weekend too. It’s Friday today. I finally made it to the campground which is on the south east corner of Denver. Full hookups. Gee, they even charged an extra $3 on top of the park pass I’d previously paid for the year, plus the campsite fee of $20 a day. The $3 was for “water quality” at the park. I’m getting the impression that Colorado is really hurting for tax money and are charging everyone for every service they can think of. Shame. It really puts a damper on a persons view of the state.

We’ll see as I explore more of Colorado and Denver.

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