Rocky Mountain Ramble (Part 2 of 8)

May 24, 2008  •  Leave a Comment

On my way to the Rocky Mountains on I-25 and south of Estes Park in a town called Mead, I found an abandoned weigh station on the service road running parallel to the interstate. It was on Frontage Road and was made out of wood frame and aged to the point of peeling paint and rust. I typically avoid interstates so I do not miss these types of opportunities and luckily I was able to see it from the expressway. This was going to be my first photo of the trip so I needed to get off the interstate, make a u-turn and drive south so I could get up close and take the photograph. After studying the site and taking several photos, I then continued on the road and entered Estes Park. The park consists of thousands of acres of Wilderness in the center of nearly 50 mountain peaks and their breathtaking views. My journey past Estes ended with the start of the “Rocky Mountain Ramble.”

The Ramble involved driving 110 miles starting with US 34 across and over the mountain, from the east side to the west side. It then extends south onto US 40 through the Apapho and Roosevelt Forests. However, my plans didn’t turn out the way I wanted. When I entered the park, I was told by the ranger that US 34 was closed nine miles up the mountain because it was still covered in snow. Changing my plans, I drove the nine mile loop within the Rocky Mountains and discovered that they have many dirt roads, so I decided to take one to see where it might lead.

When deciding what type of vehicle to rent, I decided on a SUV and knowing that the Jeep Liberty has four wheel drive, I opted for it. When I moved onto the dirt road, I looked to shift into four wheel drive. I glanced all along the center console. The controls were not there. I then looked under the dash. Still no controls. I pulled to the side of the road to consult the manual, which indicated the controls were on the center console. They were not. I would learn later that the rental agency does not rent four wheel drive vehicles to discourage renters from driving off road. Had a known, I would have gone with a convertible sports car, my usual rental choice. Although the Jeep did not have four wheel drive, I continued onto the dusty road with all of its dirt and gavel. The road gave me great views of the snowcapped Rocky Mountain peaks. As I continued up the road, signs indicated that only vehicles with Colorado state plates where allowed further. The registration sticker on the window showed the contrary. The plates were from Texas. I continued up the road. I passed a second sign - only Colorado plates allowed. Since I already had two strikes against me, two wheel drive and Texas plates, I pulled over and photographed the graceful mountain peaks and moved back to the paved road. I concluded the nine mile loop within the park and exited, moving onto the “Peak to Peak Scenic Byway”.

This 60 mile byway extended south from Estes Park along the east side of the Rocky Mountains and Roosevelt Forest. The Byway is a combination of county roads which happily does not include any tolls. The road gave impressive views of Rocky Mountains’ Longs Peak, rising over 14,000 feet. Longs Peak is the peak depicted on the back of the Colorado State Quarter. The Byway ends in the city of Black Hawk. The city’s buildings’ 1800s historic architecture of the mining industry have been preserved. However, it appears that every building in the city has been converted into a casino and oddly it seems to be the only listing in the AAA Tour Book guide with no mention of its rich past or points of interest other than to list the 10 casinos as bullet points and the town’s population of 118.

My next destination was Colorado Springs, and with no clear road to take, I grudgedly hopped on I-25 to drive 100 miles south, so that I could spend the night in that city with morning plans to drive the “Colorado Springs Loop.”


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