If you haven’t figured it out by now (as it’s taken me like 20 years to figure it all out), the western slope of Colorado, also known as the Grand Valley, is chock full of agriculture and recreation opportunities.
Just an hour drive from Grand Junction on Hwy 50
Named after Olathe, KS, the town is just outside the Grand Valley, still on the western slope.
Home to the Olathe Sweet Sweet Corn
Each August there is a HUGE festival honoring the veggie. The Olathe Sweet Corn Festival. Let me tell you, this corn is worth the wait, the drive and for some of us, the pain of the eat (many conditions such as Crohn’s, Colitis, Gastroparesis shouldn’t partake in this wonderful veggie). I have yet to go to this festival, from what I hear, it’s a big fun time!
Home to the Olathe BMX
A short hop of 20 minutes from Grand Junction, gets you to the home of The Peach Capitol of Colorado and many vineyards and wineries
Apples, cherries and pears are also in grand supply!
As with all festivals, it includes: vendors, food and a carnival.
It also includes; a parade, a talent show, a golf tournament, cooking contests, and even a night street dance
Cedaredge is one of the entrances to the Grand Mesa on CO – 65
a small agricultural town producing, of course, apples, peaches, and beef from cattle.
Home of the Little Britches Rodeo and Parade (the Western Slope chapter)
Don’t miss the Pioneer Town museum and village. Travel back in time to the early 20th century and visit the saloon, the marshall’s office, a bank, jail and much more! You can even hold your wedding there or see a summer concert there.
Out of the Grand Valley and just an hour down Hwy 50 is a great time in Cedaredge where we spent last weekend and their Apple Fest. I have been to the Canon City Apple Blossom festival, Old Colorado City’s Territory Days, Palisade Peach Festival and the Fruita Fall Festival and I have to say, the only thing that comes close to the Apple Fest is Territory Days and Apple Blossom. The Apple Fest is a four day fest filled with such things as a chili cook off (my aunt says this is a huge event! They always run out of chili and all donations go to the fire department), pancake breakfasts, 5K run, music, arts and tons more! There were so many people, vendors, food and apples, it was impossible to see everything. We HAD to get some apples, one just doesn’t go to a fruit festival and not get the fruit. We started with an apple fritter…YUMMO! at the same booth were apples: I had heard someone in the crowd say, “we need to go to Red Mountain Ranch for our apples.” I looked at the sign on the tent and that’s exactly where we were. The people working the tent were (according to my intel/aunt) were 2-3 generations apple growers. They were very pleasant, friendly and the tent was very clean! I had a taste of the Honey Crisp and it was aMAZING, so we purchased just three.
I don’t like big crowds and this was one of those, but we were able to look around at the vendor booths and saw so many creative people showing off their arts! Even got to see what happens when something gets stuck in a power line. Crowds at the festival are about 15,000, I have to say, I think there were 15,000 just on the day we were there (although the pictures don’t really reflect that). There were cars parked in every parkable place for miles! I was very impressed with the whole experience and the best thing about it was, it’s FREE; unlike the Palisade Peach Festival or the Olathe Corn Festival!!
Thank you for traveling the Western Slope with me this past summer, we have a long list of ideas for next summer. Let’s see where winter takes us.
It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn. B. C. Forbes
I first experienced the Grand Mesa Loop a few years ago when mom and I had gone on a drive to check out the fall leaves. The colors on the Mesa are simply amazing, so I wanted to go back to see what the summer had in store for us. We wanted to make it up there before the snow flies and the road closes, this is Colorado though and there is still some snow on the tops of the mountains. B and I jumped in the ride with Max and headed east. This trip through the Grand Mesa National Forest will be, what is called “the loop.” Starting in Grand Junction we head east on I70 to State Highway 65, over the mesa and through Cedaredge and Delta, then to US Highway 50 west, back to Grand Junction. Of course, you can take the loop either way.
It is 11,000 ft above sea level, which makes it the largest mesa in the world!
It is home to Powder Horn Ski Resort
It has over 300 lakes, many trails for hiking, fishing, climbing, hunting and more
It also have cabins, lodging and camping areas
Cooler packed, sunscreen and bug spray applied, dog in harness and away we go! Once you get off of I70, you will be able to turn off your AC as the temperature cools as you climb. One of the most wonderful things about Colorado is the greatest summer sport out there, seems no matter where you go, you will be able to watch teams of men and women baking in the sun on the hot asphalt while waving the magical sign, STOP/SLOW. Welcome to road construction season. Our first wait at the STOP sign was about 20 minutes long, while the sport may contain many hard moves or daring feats, this one happened to be boring. There was, however, a nice stream I could have gotten out of the ride to see and take pictures of, but I chose to stay in the car and work on my window suntan. Once the pilot vehicle drops off its parade of following traffic we get the go ahead to take our turn following him. I have to say, if I HAD to choose a job in road construction, that would be the one I choose, being a pilot vehicle.
The Summer Sport of Road Construction
Alongside the ride while we wait
more from alongside the ride
The road wasn’t crowded at all, but the campgrounds and trail heads looked like they had quite a few people in them. It was a nice cool, drizzly drive up the north side of the Mesa. There are many pull offs along the way to grab pictures of the awesome views! If only we knew what the mountain ranges are in the picture, something we are working on. We found lots of flowers, a few chipmunks, a hawk with dinner mid air and the Forest Service out looking for some kind of wild life (truck and trailer), but no Moose, Cattle or Snow Mobiles.
We didn’t get to go down to the Land’s End Observatory, but it is for sure on the next trip. The road to the observatory is about 12 miles of dirt. Along the way, you will see the historic Raber Cow Camp, which is an example of camps used when the ranchers moved cattle up the mesa in the summer. The observatory is the original visitor center built in 1936-1937 and the access road was primarily built by 200 WW1 veterans between 1933-1934. Once you reach the observatory, you will be able to see Utah’s La Sal Mountains, the edge of the Grand Mesa, beautiful wildflowers and over the Gunnison Canyon. The views of the sunset from here are said to be exquisite, so pack your blanket and camera and head up there for some amazing photos, that’s what I plan on doing. Want more fun? Just past the observatory is a nail biting hairpin – turn road which makes a 6,000 foot decent into the valley below. Pretty sure you shouldn’t drive and take photos while on the way down, unless you have a copilot.
Heading down the other side of the mesa, you will find more lakes and trails, lots of wildflowers and the visitor center. Something to remember, whether a day trip, a drive through the loop or camping, there are no waste bins so you must pack out your trash and such. That’s a friendly reminder from Max. The visitor center was small, but growing and this Saturday (July 29th, 2017) there is a moose walk, should you find yourself in the area! I finally found the pocket guides I had been looking for. I only purchased five, but it was like I had found the Holy Grail! I will be back for more, unless I find them on another trip.
You will pass Island Lake, can’t miss it, it’s HUGE! While we were there, just catching some sun and pictures of wildflowers, we also spotted a lot of fish jumping. Seems the lake is stocked with trout, and also has a fish known as a splake. Splake? Looking it up now. One of the pocket guides I didn’t get…fish.
Splake: a hybrid of two fish species; a male brook trout and a female lake trout. And you didn’t think you would learn anything.
Continuing down the mesa, you will notice the temperature rise. It was a difference of 20* from the top of the mesa to the entrance to Cedaredge, that’s when the AC came back on. A nice drive through Cedaredge also known as the Gateway to the Grand Mesa and is a Historic Pioneer Town. Guess what’s on the to do list now? We jumped on State Highway 50 and headed west towards home. It was a beautiful drive, however, going back to tackle the outdoor recreation will be a process of more than six months and with the snow coming, it may take longer. Don’t worry though, we will share the experiences along the way.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
Our trip to Rifle Falls State Park was not what we had expected. B and I packed up the car, slathered on the sunscreen, applied the bug spray. Max and Mom stayed at home. We’ve driven by the town of Rifle many times, it sits right off I-70 in Colorado. However, we had no idea what we were in for.
To us, the town of Rifle was just a quick stop off the side of the road, nothing impressive, just a pit stop along the way. We realized we had been bamboozled. We drove into town, filled up on gas at an extremely busy gas station. You would think that would be the norm for just a small town along the Interstate, but no, there were at least four other gas stations within a mile radius, so you know the town is bigger than you think and more active than we thought. Soda and snacks in hand, gas paid for, off we go! We head north on CO – 325, where the downtown buildings were a throw back to the golden days, small mom and pop shops, cafes, and offices. However, the farther north (or south) you went, the newer the town and the buildings became. Big buildings, beautiful ranches and even a golf course! The scenery was gorgeous and alive, cows, baby cows, horses, hay fields, and around a huge corner we stumbled upon Rifle Gap Reservoir. The lakes color of blue was absolutely stunning, it was something I have only seen in Canada where the salt water hits the glacier water, that color of glacier blue. The pictures do it no justice! They are the wrong color of blue! A handful of water skiers, fishing boats and even some waders were have a great time in the lake!
This is the color blue the lake is
This is the color the camera shows
We hopped back in the car and headed north again. More cows, more horses and now we are seeing some roadside pull offs for picnics. We arrived at the park entrance and found a “Max Capacity” sign in the window and the three vehicles ahead of us being turned away. We were in luck though, we only had one vehicle and they only had one vehicle parking left! SCORE! This was nothing like I had expected. It was a campground full of day campers, over night campers and picnickers. The parking lot was full, there were cars parked parallel along the roadway and I had small feeling of anxiety. This isn’t what I expected. This was crowded. This was going to be no fun, too hot, too much climbing. But, I reeled myself back in and hopped out of the car. B had to use the facilities so I ventured up into the trail. B told me the park ranger had said: the falls are just about 100 yards from the parking lot. What I found, made my tummy drop.
Once we were back together, we headed back up the trail, we could hear the water and when we saw the water, there were no words to describe that feeling.
Welcome to Rifle Falls. Colorado’s only 80-foot triple waterfall!
At the bottom of the falls there was a shallow stream running down where there were places for people to get in and enjoy the fresh, clear water. I had to just stop and take pictures, I have never seen anything as beautiful as these falls. We decided to take a hike to the back of the falls (there was a trail to get to the top of the falls, but we are city slickers and haven’t gotten our outdoor legs back just yet). I was mesmerized by the water, it was forceful, it was graceful, it was calming and beautiful, even though the park was full, I felt like I was the only one there and got lost in my thoughts and so peaceful.
Once we got to the top of the trail, we found there were several small limestone caves. You could walk through some of them, others you just marveled at the art work the water had created. B was totally excited when he yelled into one of the caves, Hello and got an echo (reply) back. He was so excited he called me over only to find out there was a gentleman in the cave who had answered him the first time, the two of them became fast friends.
Back down the path we go and looking back onto the falls, there in the stream were rainbow trout! We found seven of them who braved the flocks of people sticking their feet in the water and I wondered to myself, “Self, wonder if the fish find it fun to tickle the toes of those in the water with them?” Self had to giggle. Around the corner from the fish was a small Amphitheater. Would be great for a wedding or maybe a play or even some music.
The top of the falls is home to a fish hatchery and we wondered when the fish got big enough to leave the “nest”, could they be seen falling over the falls in the water! I am sure it looks nothing like salmon swimming up river to spawn! We were lucky to find more critters here than I had in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We were treated to the appearance of a chipmunk (I was able to get a picture this time), birds (even got a video of the little guy bathing), flowers, butterflies and of course, some flying pests. We had applied our bug repellent, so we were good.
We were only there a couple of hours, but we had a great time! I grew up camping and as I mentioned above, we are now considered city slickers. I love getting back out in nature for the sun, the smell, the peacefulness (even with a lot of people around), the grounding it has on my body and just a time to disconnect with the world.
Rifle Falls Info:
Cost: $7 for a day pass
Summer (May 1 to Sept. 30)
Basic Campsite: $20.00
Electric Hook-up Campsite: $26.00
Winter (Oct. 1 to Apr. 30)
Basic Campsite: $18.00
Electric Hook-up Campsite: $24.00
13 drive-in and seven walk-in campsites
If you are a winter camper, fear not Walk-in tent sites and sites with electricity hookups are also available in the winter
Park Hours: 6AM -10PM.
Fishermen(women) and campers have 24 hour access
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Since1884, Rifle Falls has been a tourist attraction. James Watson created the Rifle Falls Ranch, where he charged admission to view the caves and waterfalls.
The town of Rifle built a hydroelectric plant in 1910 which was one of the first hydroelectric power stations in Colorado where the falls became a source of power for the town of Rifle from 1908-1959.
In 1966, the falls became a state park and recreation became the focal point again. The falls are as close to the tropics as you can get in Colorado due to the cascading waterfalls mist keeping the trees and greenery moist and lush.
I love the sounds and the power of pounding water, whether it is the waves or a waterfall. Mike May
Hello and welcome back! This week I will be starting my new “series” of
Where In the World Wednesday.
I will be focusing on the National Parks, Mesas, Vineyards, Winery’s and so much more you can do in and around Grand Junction, CO. This weekend mom, Max and I will be loading up Sally, she’s my trusty Kia and we will be heading east into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The park is located just outside of Montrose, CO, contains 12 miles of the 48-mile long Black Canyon of the Gunnison River and has the deepest and most dramatic section of the canyon. Which I am totally psyched about, mom, not so much and Max will just be happy for the ride. Fortunately, there are places to get out and wander around, hike, bike, camp, raft, fish and even bird watch. I think we may need plenty of these stops.
The canyon was named due to parts of the gorge receiving just 33 minutes of sunlight a day, according to Images of America: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. In the book, author Duane Vandenbusche states: “Several canyons of the American West are longer and some are deeper, but none combines the depth, sheerness, narrowness, darkness, and dread of the Black Canyon.” 1
So…with that said, let’s talk size!
The Canyons deepest, darkest, most dramatic section, is a drop of 2,722 ft; it’s 1,100 ft across at the widest part; and its narrowest part it’s just 40 ft across. Just in case that doesn’t impress you; The Gunnison River, which runs through the canyon, drops an average of 34 ft per mile, compared to The Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon, only drops an average of 7 ft per mile. And even more impressive; at the steepest point, within the park, the Gunnison River drops an amazing 240 ft in one mile!
The park is home to many animals, such as, the Pronghorn, Black Bear, Cougars, Beavers, Elk, River Otters and six (yes SIX!) species of lizards and many more. I’m looking forward to spotting all six species of the lizards myself! If you are a bird watcher, you might get a glimpse of a Peregrine Falcon, White – Throated Swift, an American Dipper (not sure what the last two are, maybe need to find a bird watchers book) and many others. Looking for flowers and trees? The park has over seven types of trees, including the Utah Juniper, the Gamble Oak and of course, the Aspen and the Ponderosa Pine. The Black Canyon “Gilia” or more commonly known as the Aliciella Penstemonoides, this wildflower native to the park. Hopefully, I will find said native wildflower and have pictures to show.
So, I am off to prepare for our journey by packing books, binoculars, bug spray, sun tan lotion, cameras, water (lots and lots of water) a picnic lunch and $15 for the entry fee to the park. I may even wash and wax Sally…yeah, maybe just a wash for her. I hope you have a great weekend and be safe out there. It’s going to be hot!
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
Moving is never fun. It’s a chore, it’s tedious and in this case, it’s going to be drawn out. See, B hasn’t gotten released from his first position to go on to his new position, but I had to make sure I was somewhere where I was
able to get my classes started and would be able to continue without any down time. So, last Sunday Max (our furbaby) and I traveled the mountains to my momma’s house.
I have to admit, it was a beautiful day. There was still snow on the mountains and the roads were clear. Traffic wasn’t at all bad, which makes me happy. Max on the other hand just wants his A/C and a great place to
nap and he is good to go.
We left Colorado Springs around 11:30 am, Memorial day Sunday, with hopes of no major traffic jams. 30 minutes out of the gate we were at a stand still. Nice! Once we got through that it was smooth sailing. The traffic in Denver was very light, but still warm.
Heading into the mountains, I was really glad I was able to roll the windows down, get some fresh air and clear the cobwebs. We went through Golden, Idaho Springs and finally found a stop for Max in Downieville, as he decided it was time NOW to use whatever facility I could find. Downieville is a very small town pull off, with a rafting business, two gas stations and a Taco Bell, just off the interstate. One of the gas stations has a nice area behind it for animals to use and Max loves to make sure he has the right spot, so…a 5 minute venture turns into a 20 best place, seek finding mission.
With that mission accomplished, we headed west again, Georgetown and Silver Plume were so beautiful. I actually saw people out in Silver Plume looking, for what I assume, was silver. The old mines there have left a residual orange look to the ground and the tin mines are the exact versions of what you would expect an old mine shack to look like.
Next up was to tackle the Eisenhower Tunnel. Have you ever been through the Eisenhower Tunnel? It’s long, it’s noisy and you can go in one side in sun and come out the other in a blinding snow. The tunnel’s actual name is Eisenhower – Edwin C Johnson Memorial Tunnel. Long name = long tunnel, in fact, it’s one of the highest car tunnels in the United States, the longest mountain tunnel and takes it’s traveler’s under the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. So with all that said, it’s a pretty special tunnel.
Eisenhower Tunnel Entrance
Loveland Ski Area
If you’ve ever driven I-70 WB, you know there are a lot of stops along the way for one to take a break. I find, however, getting on and off the interstate can be extremely confusing with the one ways, the stop for this street, but not for that street, the round abouts, the traffic and the hidden entrances into shops and restaurants. I pull off in Silverthorn, I’ve been there, “know” the streets where I can find my drive throughs and get back on the road. So Arby’s it was and Max couldn’t have been happier. Got into the parking lot like I knew what I was going, however getting out, we took the long way to the interstate, which included finding one of the many Outlet Shops, a very nice park and the river. After finding my main road, I was in the wrong lane to turn where I needed, in the wrong lane to go straight (turn only lane) and then, headed back into town. Finally, making my way out, my sandwich was cold, my potato cakes were cold and my soda was refreshing! But, we were headed west and on the right track.
Next up, Glenwood Springs. Glenwood is where the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River come together. Glenwood was formally named Defiance. Founded in 1883, it was a camp of tents, saloons, and brothels with an increasing amount of cabins and lodging establishments and populated with gunfighters, gamblers and prostitutes. Teddy Roosevelt spent a summer at the Hotel Colorado and Doc Holliday spent his final months of life in Glenwood Springs. He and Kid Curry are buried in the town’s original Pioneer Cemetery above Bennett Avenue and where Ted Bundy was jailed until he escaped on December 30th, 1977 and was on the loose for 17 hours before they had noticed he was gone.
Glenwood Springs was one of the first places to have electricity in the United States and is known for its Hot Springs. Glenwoods’ Hot Springs stays at 93* year round and it the world’s largest hot mineral springs pool. The Yampah Hot Springs vapor caves are under ground steam baths, are over 100 years old and used by the Ute Indians for rejuvenation and healing. Glenwood Spings also has skiing nearby, rafting, kayaking, fishing, paragliding and so much more! It is also home to never ending road work.
Back on the interstate, Max is snoozing, I am ready for on, and the never ending search for a radio station continues. Along the way, I get to see nature at it’s finest: cascades of water coming from the rocks, the rushing waters of the Colorado River, the wildflowers and budding trees. Just for an hour or two, you get to see Colorado Mountains, shine in their glory, you think, if it’s this along the instate, just think of what the trails of hiking areas would include.
We finally reach our destination just 5.5 hours after leaving. We are hot, tired and hungry, not necessarily in that order. Our new adventure has begun and with that it brings more new places to explore.
The Rocky Mountains realize – nay, exceed – the dream of my childhood. It is magnificent, and the air is life-giving. Isabella Bird
We ended up with priority boarding. Let me just say, it’s worth it! We walked right on to the ship. Once you get on the ship, it kinda slows down from there. Since the ship was just emptied and now being refilled, cabins aren’t ready yet. Where to go? Find the food, of course! Along with everyone else, get to know your neighbor, share your tale, since we are first timers, we heard all the in’s and out’s of sailing. According to Mabel, George, Jim Bob, Evelyn, you know faces you may never see again and everyone has a different plan of action. Don’t eat here, eat there, don’t get off the ship here, make sure you get off the ship there. Well, when I went to ……I did this and that!!!
My rules, just have fun, don’t worry about time and take lots of pictures! This is where memories are made!
I must say, the Muster Drill has absolutely nothing to do with hot dogs or hamburgers. It has everything to do with loud alarms, lots of people trying to trickle down the stairs, onto the deck where you become fast friends with the person standing next to you in your space! Thank goodness I took a shower! Of course you now have to sit through the drill on how to put your life preserver on, what to bring and not bring to the Muster Station, should this be a true emergency. Thank you Titanic for showing us what NOT to do!
Rest of the day was just getting familiar with the ship. Let’s rephrase this. Rest of the day was spent getting lost. Time after time after time. We did find the important things however, ice cream, specialty coffees, and places to take great pictures. Temperature at sail time was about 50 degrees, which was about 30 degrees cooler from where we came from. The sea, the sky, the sun, the waves, it’s all very magical. Very calming. Very humbling.
Day 2 started out with very little sleep and a minor dose of seasickness. While I slept the morning and part of the afternoon away, my traveling partners found the casino’s. Which is great, I got to sleep without being interrupted. I love to sleep! Who knew sleeping in a twin sized bed, waves crashing outside and the sun not setting until 10 pm, could be so peaceful? The rocking of the ship, just relaxes you. The rocking of the ocean, not so much. The good thing is we really haven’t had much “turbulence”, we HAVE had, rain, wind, and beautiful sunsets!
Food on the ship is far from what I thought it would be. I thought there would be more. I thought it would be better. I thought there would be more. I believe we have eaten at every place on the Lido deck. We have even tried room service and it all tastes the same. I’m thinking, fancy dining room, lots of different glasses, plates and silverware to figure out. I’m thinking dining scenes from Titanic and Pretty Woman. Slippery little suckers!
The crew has been absolutely amazing. They see over 4,000 people in one month, know my name and even how to pronounce it. They know my travel partners names, which cabin everyone is in and they love to chat. Our cabin stewardess is Russian, she’s worked for Carnival for 15 years and this is her last cruise. She is going back home, she is also 3 months pregnant and just so nice! I wish her nothing but happiness and love!
Everything is a miracle,
not just the beautiful and lovely things.