Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy Independence Day

It will be celebrated with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.
– John Adams

Above: Old Glory proudly displayed atop the 150 foot tall Royal Gorge Bridge tower.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

winter whitewater

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
Albert Schweitzer

It's a different kind of whitewater this time of year on the Arkansas River.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Phantom Canyon Road

With gold discovered in the mines near Cripple Creek and Victor, the race was on to connect the mines by rail to the outside world. To the west, Shelf Road, completed in 1892, had already connected Cripple Creek with Canon City with a toll road for horse drawn wagons -- but this didn't prove to be efficient given the tons of gold ore needing to be processed. In May of 1894, the first narrow gauge train from Florence (elevation 5,180 ft) climbed through the canyon and on up to Victor (elevation 9,730 ft.). The railroad ran from 1894 to 1912, when a devastating flood damaged the rail line beyond repair.

Today, the old tracks have long since been removed. The rail line was converted to an automobile road in 1918. The road is now part of the Gold Belt Byway. The 30 mile trip from Florence to Victor takes about an hour to an hour and a half. While this is a dirt road, it's usually in pretty good shape. I recommend going during the week to avoid other motorists.  The views are amazing and the drive, although not really off-roading, is still a lot of fun. 

Directions: Take Colorado Highway 67 north from Florence. 

Be sure to check our my post re: Shelf Road

Before you go...
  • The road is often closed during winter months.
  • While it is a two lane road in many parts, portions of the road are single lane with blind corners. 
  • No vehicles over 25 feet long.
  • There are two single lane tunnels in the southern portion of the road.
  • The impressive steel bridge built in 1897 is the only bridge that remains from the original railway -- the deck of this bridge is wooden (see photo below).
  • Click here to see a photo of a train making its way through the canyon. 
  • Click here for a recent newspaper article about the road's history.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Cottonwood Lake and Pass

Cottonwood Lake

Ventured up to Cottonwood Lake to see the fall colors and then up to the pass to take in the views. Cottonwood Lake is located outside of Buena Vista, CO and is a popular destination for camping, kayaking and fishing. The road leading into the lake was actually the best part of the trip with vibrant aspen trees putting on their annual autumn show. This small lake is at elevation 9,400 feet and surrounded by mountains. Definitely worth the stop if you are in Buena Vista or headed up to the pass. 

View from Cottonwood Pass looking east.

The winding and steep road to Cottonwood Pass was recently closed for two years for repaving and other improvements. It reopened in October 2019, offering tourists spectacular 360 degree views. The road is the third-highest paved road in the state and the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the United States. At 12,119 feet at the divide, Cottonwood Pass Road is often closed during winter months beginning in October or November, and usually opening back up in May.

View from Cottonwood Pass looking west.

Directions: From Buena Vista, turn west on Main Street and continue for 6.5 miles.  The road is also known as County Road 306 (known locally as Cottonwood Pass Road). Turn left onto County Road 344 for 3.4 miles (gravel road).  To get to the pass, return to CR 306 and turn left (west) and drive 12.3 miles.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Keebler Pass

A favorite autumn drive for Coloradans, Keebler Pass climbs to 10,007 feet and connects Crested Butte with Paonia to the west. While much of the drive (County Road 12) is gravel, it's usually in decent shape with manageable grades. Though it is only 32 miles long, expect the trip to take about two hours. Along the way, you'll find numerous opportunities to stop for photos or to hike. The road passes through one of the largest aspen groves in the US and affords magnificent mountain views. 

Peak color can vary from year to year depending on weather. The photos here were taken on October 1st and most of the areas were clearly at peak, in some lower sections the leaves were still green and in higher elevations the leaves were past past or had already fallen. Weekends during 'leaf season' can find the road busy, so I recommend sneaking away during the week!

Additional information can be found here.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Blue at the Gorge

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.

--Author Unknown

Blue at the Royal Gorge taking in the sights from the Overlook Loop Trail outside of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Red Mountain

Located on the "Million Dollar Highway" (Hwy 550) between Ouray and Silverton, Red Mountain has an elevation of 12,598 feet. The photo above was taken at Crystal Lake (elevation 9,610) near the trailhead for the Hayden Trail.  There are three peaks that comprise Red Mountain -- the one pictured here is Red Mountain Number 1.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

We Love Ewe

Pictured here are big horn sheep on the side of Pikes Peak — above is a female (ewe) with three little ones (lambs). This day we were fortunate to see many ewes along the side of the road leading up to the peak. 

In the second photo you can see the visitor's center atop Pike's Peak (14,115 feet) (Click photo to enlarge).

Ewes typically lives 10-14 years and weigh between 125-200 pounds. It is estimated that only 145 big horns live on Pike's Peak (2019). 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Grape Creek

After exploring the headwaters of the Arkansas River, Zebulon Pike ventured south into Spanish territory. No one really knows why. Was he lost? Was he trying to fill in the map? Was he a spy? Whatever his motivation, it must have been strong, as he and his men set out (from what would become Canon City) along Grape Creek on a cold morning in January, 1807.  After reaching the Wet Mountain Valley, they would cross the Sangre de Cristo Mountains through Medano Pass (10,040' January!) and eventually reach the San Luis Valley. He was arrested by Spanish authorities, held in Mexico for a time and then released in Louisiana. Today, you can retrace his steps on a portion of Grape Creek on the western edge of Temple Canyon Park. The trail follows the route of an old railroad line that ran briefly between Canon City and Westcliffe in the 1880s. A small portion of the trail lies within private property and is fenced, so unfortunately you can't travel very far going south from Temple Canyon Road (~0.5 mile), but the views make the trip worthwhile.

For more history of the railroad and for descriptions and photos of Temple Canyon, click here.

Directions: Getting to Temple Canyon Park can be a challenge depending on the condition of the road. Although only 7.6 miles from the corner of US-50 and 1st St., the last 5 miles are not paved and many areas are prone to deep ruts from runoff. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended. Head south on 1st St., passed the Robison Mansion and Greenwood Cemetery for about one mile and then, at the "Y" turn right onto Temple Canyon Road. Proceed for 6.5 miles to a parking area next to the bridge over Grape Creek. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

DeWeese-Dye Reservoir

The Grape Creek headwaters are in the Wet Mountain Valley south of Westcliffe. From there, the creek flows into DeWeese Reservoir north of town. The reservoir was constructed in 1902 to store water for the DeWeese-Dye Ditch, which brings water to the Lincoln Park area of Canon City. Dall DeWeese and C.R.C. Dye were developing a 1500 acre area in Lincoln Park they called "Fruitland." The plan was to bring water from Grape Creek for irrigation, but it was soon discovered the water flow was not sufficient year round. Thus, a dam was built to create a reservoir that would insure a steady flow of water in Grape Creek year round.  The intake for the DeWeese-Dye Ditch is west of Ecology Park in Canon City, about a mile south of the confluence of Grape Creek and the Arkansas River.

The area around the dam is fun to explore. Lots of boulders and interesting rock formations -- and, of course, amazing views!

For more on Grape Creek and its history, click here and here!
Directions from Westcliffe: From Main Street, turn north on Highway 69 (towards Texas Creek) and drive 0.3 mile, turn right on Lake Deweese Road (County Road 241) and proceed 4.6 miles, at the "Y" turn left and drive 0.2 miles to a 'day use' parking area.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

spring has returned

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. 
--Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Temple Canyon

History.  The Grape Creek headwaters are in the Wet Mountain Valley south of Westcliffe. From there, the creek flows into DeWeese Reservoir north of town. The reservoir was constructed in 1902 to store water for the DeWeese-Dye Ditch, which brings water to the Lincoln Park area of Canon City. Prior to the construction of the dam, a stage coach road was constructed along Grape Creek, but was soon washed away.  Undaunted, Levi Haley and Harry Breton built a narrow gauge railroad along the creek in the early 1881 to reach the mines in Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, requiring 35 bridges over the winding creek. As the creek drops 2,300 feet in 28 miles in an area prone to cloudbursts, it's no surprise that the line was washed out in spring of 1884. The line was repaired and rebuilt a couple of times before finally being dismantled. It was during the initial construction of the railroad that workers discovered a side canyon leading to a natural amphitheater 100 feet across and 50 feel deep which they dubbed The Temple. It is believed the Ute Indians used the temple for ceremonies. By act of Congress, this area was sold to the City of Canon City in 1912.

Hiking. Today, visitors looking for a fun, adventurous hike can visit The Temple just six miles southwest of town. This hike is really dependent on the amount of water in Grape Creek, which can run so strong in the spring and summer monsoon season as to be dangerous to ford. The trail down to the creek is steep, but the views of Grape Creek and The Temple will make it all worthwhile. You'll want to wear good shoes, but not so good you don't mind wading across the creek. While on the portion of the trail next to the creek, see if you can spot where the train tracks might have once been located.  Once across the creek, you begin your climb into Temple Canyon itself. Although fairly close to town the area seems so remote and undisturbed. The Temple itself is such a unique formation -- it's huge! -- there's lots to explore.

Directions. Getting to Temple Canyon Park can be a challenge depending on the condition of the road. Although only 6.6 miles from the corner of US-50 and 1st St., the last 4 miles are not paved and many areas are prone to deep ruts from runoff. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended. Head south on 1st St., passed the Robison Mansion and Greenwood Cemetery for about one mile and then, at the "Y" turn right onto Temple Canyon Road. Proceed for 5 miles. You'll see a sign pointing the way to "Temple Ridge and Picnic Area," turn right and drive 0.4 miles to the end of the road, near a picnic shed. You'll see a sign pointing the way to the trail which winds around the back of the hill and then down to the creek. You'll have good views of the Temple throughout your journey. Once at the creek, the trail will parallel the creek for a distance. You'll soon come to a crossing, although no bridge or stepping stones exist. After walking through the creek, you'll pick up the trail that will lead you through a canyon and to the Temple. Total hiking distance one way is 0.6 miles.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Shelf Road

Take the high road. Take the narrow path. Take the road less traveled.

All can be accomplished with a drive on Shelf Road.

Constructed in 1892 as a stage coach route to connect Canon City to Cripple Creek, it was originally a toll road, allowing for people, goods and ore to be transported to and from the booming mines up north. According to, "A trip along the Shelf Road took six hours upgrade and four hours downgrade. Tolls ranged from thirty cents for a horse and rider to $1.75 for a six-horse stagecoach." The road follows Fourmile and Cripple Creeks and offers amazing views at every turn. It is a memorable, if not harrowing, ride. The south part was cut from the side of the cliffs, high above Fourmile Creek ... thus the name "shelf." It's hard to believe a stage coach pulled by a team of horses could safely maneuver on such a perilously narrow road with its sheer drop-offs, steep grades and sharp curves. While you may not need four wheel drive, a high clearance vehicle is recommended -- and to avoid the road in snowy or muddy conditions. Don't attempt with a trailer, camper, or motor home. Take your time and keep your eyes on the road!

Above is "Window Rock" which is easily spotted from the road on the northern end of Shelf Road (taken in early spring).

Below is a view (looking south) of the road with the Wet Mountains and the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance (taken early October).

DIRECTIONS (Adapted from BLM site): From Hwy 50 in Canon City, you can turn north at the Steinmeier traffic light (at Wal-Mart) or head North on Raynolds. Travel north on either road as both will curve to the left and intersect Field Avenue. Turn north (right) on Field and travel on this two-lane road for about five miles. It will join Fremont County Road 9 (also called Red Canyon Road or Garden Park Rd.) at a "Y" intersection. From here, continue north for 9.4 miles...when the pavement ends, that's when the fun begins! From here it's 14 miles to Cripple Creek.

To learn about the Shelf Road Climbing Area, click here.

Saturday, April 20, 2019


Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
--Marcel Proust (1871-1922) French Novelist and Author.

It's almost time for the Canon City Blossom Festival!

Click here for details!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Dakota Ridge Trail

From the first parking area, follow the signs to the trail.
For most visitors the drive up and over Skyline Drive is thrilling enough as it is. The narrow, one-way road, winding along the top of a hogback defining the western edge of town, was completed with prison labor in the early 1900s. Skyline offers amazing views of Cañon City, Fremont Peak and the Wet Mountains -- and the drive itself is its own reward.
There is another aspect of Skyline Drive that I highly recommend. At the first parking area (right after the dinosaur tracks), park the car and head up the trail on the Dakota Ridge Trail. You'll immediately come to the sign pictured here - if you're daring and sure footed, I recommend going left and continuing your climb up the ridge. You'll come to a very narrow, somewhat perilous span of trail that will have you clutching the ridge to pass by. (If you go right, you'll by-pass this section). From here, the trail continues along the top of the ridge for 2/3s of a mile before turning east and sharply descending through a series of switchbacks.  This ridge-top portion of the trail will deepen your appreciation for the hogback's unique geology and offer many stunning photographic opportunities.  While Skyline Drive is indeed thrilling, getting out on foot and exploring the ridge offers an unforgettable and unique perspective of this amazing geologic formation.  To read my post on Skyline Drive, click here. To learn more about the Hogbacks Open Space and discover more trails to explore, click here.

Fremont Peak from the Dakota Ridge Trail

Skyline Drive and US Rt. 50 from Dakota Ridge Trail

Sunday, February 24, 2019


We should not judge people by their peak of excellence;
but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.
- Henry Ward Beecher

Above: Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the distance.

This was taken from the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center, which I highly recommend -- for the educational displays and video and for the views!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Overlook Loop Trail

While visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, I recommend hiking up the Overlook Loop Trail to get stunning views of the gorge to the east as well as views looking west to the bridge. The trail is mostly easy, but can be challenging if you want to venture in on one of the many side trails for a closer look. Obviously it's important to stay far back from the edge and watch your step to avoid cacti. The trail is a favorite of mine as regardless of season. The trailhead is located at the picnic area just off of Route 3A before entering the park (look for the picnic pavilion and restrooms) -- park here and cross the road and then take the right fork.  For those with limited time, you can drive up the Overlook / Elk Horn Road. But the hike in from the picnic area is well worth the time and effort!  Click here to see all my posts for the Royal Gorge.

Royal Gorge View (looking east) in June

Saturday, February 16, 2019

lofty dreams

Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.  
--James Allen (1864-1912) English author and poet.

This spectacular view welcomes you to Silver Cliff and Westcliffe.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

deep thoughts

Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind. 
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English lyrical Poet, Critic and Philosopher (1772-1834).

Above: Snowy scene from the Fremont Campus of Pueblo Community College in Cañon City.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

echoes and whispers

Angels descending, bring from above,
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love. 
~Fanny J. Crosby 

Above: The Holy Cross Abby in Canon City, Colorado. Built in 1924, the Abbey served as a monastery and boys boarding school -- closing in 2005. Tours are available -- visit their website for more information.