June 11: Good-bye, mountains!

I finally crossed the Continental Divide today. I don’t think I intended to spend almost a week in Colorado, but my first night in the state was four nights ago, and I’ve got tonight and probably one more before I cross into Kansas.

I love Colorado, at least the mountainous part. The climb up to Monarch Pass this morning was relentless, though. Seven miles of straight up. I have to say, Merlin has no problem keeping a reasonable speed through 6, 7, or even 8 percent grades. It was more than I expected when I bought him, to be honest. The only thing that slows us down is tight curves, and, wow, did the road up to the Divide this morning have a lot of those!

But the view from the top was worth it. And here’s the proof we made it, too.

The view from Monarch Pass, headed east.
The view from Monarch Pass, headed east.

1

I got to Salida (sa-LIE-da) about mid-morning, and stopped at a McDonald’s for iced tea (there is something to be said for being able to order a large unsweet iced tea with extra lemon anywhere in the U.S. and get exactly what I want – well-brewed tea with no sugar and real lemon slices, not just juice – for one buck <g>), then looked at my map and saw that I was only sixty miles south of Leadville.

I had always intended to get back to Leadville someday. It was settled in the 1860s as a mining camp, and, on a personal level, it was one of our favorite weekend getaways when I was a teenager in Denver. I had thought, maybe, when my friend Mary and I went to WorldCon in Denver in 2008, but after I dropped her off at the airport to go back to North Carolina, all I really wanted to do was bomb home in three days to western Washington, which was what I did.

This is Mt. Elbert, 14,439 feet (just taller than Mt. Rainier), on the way to Leadville.  My dad climbed this mountain when he was in geology camp in 1947, at age 25 (the year my oldest sister was born).
This is Mt. Elbert, 14,439 feet (just taller than Mt. Rainier), on the way to Leadville. My dad climbed this mountain when he was in geology camp in 1947, at age 25 (the year my oldest sister was born).

But this time, I was in no hurry. And the road was good – I still can’t believe I climbed from 7800 to 10,000 feet (yes, Leadville is way up there) in 34 miles without feeling like it at all.

A view of Leadville.
A view of Leadville.

So I went to Leadville. Wandered the main drag and took photos, then went to the Healy House, which is now a museum. The Healy House was built in the 1870s, and still looks like it on the inside. The charming part of that for me was that I kept thinking this was what the Cooper house (Eliza’s family) in Repeating History must have looked like, because that was the 1870s and a well-to-do family in the Old West, too. The guide who took me through was probably in her seventies, and she was a quilter, and, well, we hit it off right away <g>. So that was a lot of fun.

Daffodils!  In June!  Well, it is 10,000 feet up.  The garden at Healy House in Leadville.
Daffodils! In June! Well, it is 10,000 feet up. The garden at Healy House in Leadville.  No, the cabin isn’t Healy House.  But it’s amazing what that cabin looks like on the inside, too.  It was a rich man’s hunting “box.”
One of the bedrooms in Healy House.  Isn't the wallpaper crazy?  Not to mention the crazy quilt.  And the crocheted bedspread.
One of the bedrooms in Healy House. Isn’t the wallpaper crazy? Not to mention the crazy quilt. And the crocheted bedspread.
A penny-farthing bicycle at Healy House.
A penny-farthing bicycle at Healy House.

Then I drove out to Turquoise Lake, where we used to camp, and I even found exactly where we used to camp, which was really cool.

Turquoise Lake.  That's the Continental Divide in the background.
Turquoise Lake. That’s the Continental Divide in the background.

Then I said good-bye to Leadville, drove back down to Salida, and headed east again, through a whole bunch more red rock canyons, alongside the rushing Arkansas River (full of people on float trips), to the town of Caňon City, where I am tonight.

A view of the redrock canyon of the Arkansas River, somewhere between Salida and Canon City.
A view of the redrock canyon of the Arkansas River, somewhere between Salida and Canon City.

This is also the home of the Royal Gorge, but while I’d also been there as a kid, my memories of it are pretty much pure tourist trap. If you’ve been to the redwoods in California, it’s sort of Colorado’s answer to the Trees of Mystery <g>. So here I am, and tomorrow it’s on to Pueblo, and out into the plains.

And to a historic site I’ve been wanting to see for some time. So in spite of the fact that it was over 90dF here in Caňon City today, and it’s supposed to be even hotter to the east, well, here I go, anyway.

‘Bye, mountains. It’ll be a while before I see any more again.