The Shelf Road of Colorado

If any of you are very familiar with the great state of Colorado you may have heard of the Shelf Road that runs between the towns of Canon City and Cripple Creek (lots of Cs in that part of the world).  It’s a mountainous dirt road with steep drop offs, hair-raising corners, and not even a hint of a guard rail on the whole 24 miles.

The Shelf Road is actually part of the Gold Belt Byway, a string of scenic roads in Colorado so called because of the gold mining in the area.

The average person wouldn’t drive this road, but my husband is not your average person.  After buying a pick up in Texas and a camper to sit on top of it in Colorado, he chooses to christen our new rig by taking it on the Shelf Road.  Let me just say right now, as the person who sat on the side of the ledge, that it was total insanity.  It may have been enjoyable in a Jeep or something but as it was, our huge lumbering beast met a small truck and I was so busy white-knuckling it that I forgot to take a photo!

Below are photos of the drive, with some captions that you can see if you click on the image and scroll to the right, and below those are some photos of Cripple Creek and the mountaintop mine nearby.

Our reward for completing the harrowing Shelf Road was getting to Cripple Creek, a town that is clearly proud of their mountaintop removal!  Here is a satellite image of the mine and some from the town itself.  Hope you get there someday if you haven’t been already.

 

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Bandelier Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico

Happy Fourth of July!  Here are some photos from Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.  Cliff dwellings are always fun to see and this is one of the best places to experience them.  There’s more info on the captions and in order to see them and the photos at original size, click on the first photo and scroll to the right.  Be careful with those fireworks!

Jack’s new truck & Palo Duro Canyon

Jack bought a new pick up truck!  We picked it up in Amarillo, Texas and drove through Palo Duro Canyon State Park before heading on to New Mexico.  Click on the first one and scroll to the right if you are interested!

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Loud hail storm in the mountains of New Mexico

On The High Road to Taos (highway 518 in New Mexico) Jack and I ran into a pretty powerful hail storm.  Even Jack felt the need to pull over at this point.  At the very beginning of the below video you can see a little bit of lightning and later the road was totally white, it looked like snow.  There are photos below it.

Northern lights & Davidson Ditch

Here are more photos of our late summer camping trip up the Steese Highway.  Chilly, but hardly a cloud in the sky…

You’ll see Davidson Ditch, a water pipe built in 1920s, that runs 90 miles along the Steese Highway.  It used to bring  about 180,000 gallons of water per day to the gold dredges in Fox, Alaska from the Chatanika River.

(Click on the first one and scroll to the right.)

A Glorious Morning on the Road

An amazing thing happened when I was on the road with Jack one time.

We woke up at what the truckers call 62 Mile, a good-sized pullout used by truckers and tourist buses and just anyone traveling the road.  It was Pink Birch Tree on the Daltonlate September and the drive up north had been sunny and crispy cool.  I could not have gotten luckier on a time to be on the Haul Road.   Orange and yellow autumn colors abounded and even a pink birch tree showed up every so many miles.  (Click to enlarge.)

Tourists on the Dalton HighwayNo snow had fallen, but when we woke up that morning at 62 Mile the tundra outside was a winter wonderland.  There were tourists milling about, gazing at the frosty grasses that surround the pull out.

Tourists on the Dalton HighwayAnd as you can see, there was a long line at the restroom, so I decided to take a walk out onto the tundra, and I’m so glad I did.

I discovered frost-covered fireweed, spider webs glinting in the morning light, and best of all, an absolutely stunning mist rainbow.  I hadn’t known they even existed before, but now I have proof they do.  As the frost was evaporating off the tundra, the water vapor in the air created a rainbow that shimmered in the sun’s light.  As I stood watching, the sunlight slowly burned off the frost on the ground, leaving plants thawed on one side and still frozen on the other, and the glorious rainbow eventually faded away with the warmth of day.

A moment of astounding beauty.  Luckily, I took a quick video and lots of photos, some of which may give an inkling of how amazing that morning was.  If anyone ever tells you that the arctic tundra is a frozen wasteland with no redeeming qualities, here is proof that it is not true.

(Click on the first one and scroll to the right.)

 

 

Elk antlers in a tree trunk

Check out this elk skull and antlers that got engulfed by a tree!  The skull is encased by wood completely; the antler tips stick out on either side of the trunk of the tree that grew around it.  Jack and I found this display at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center in northern California along the Pacific Coast.  Will wonders never cease!?