Sat Jul 19, 2003
Sangre de CristoThe Sangres are the last mountains we will see for a long time and they are beautiful.
Day 30: Salida to Westcliff
One more full day in the mountains and this one was a good one. The road from Salida follows the Arkansas River for a few miles before heading away from the main highway and South along the Sangre de Cristos. Along the river, we pass by so many whitewater river outfitters that we wonder how they can all make a living.
After a while we climbed from the Arkansas River Valley up a steep secondary road to Hillside in the Wet Mountain Valley. This is gorgeous country! The Sangre de Cristos are every bit as awesome as the San Juans but much more uniform. Where the San Juans are jaggedy and twisted, the Sangres line up in a straight line, one 14,000 foot peak after another.
Early in the afternoon we rolled into Westcliff (there is no cliff) and we love it instantly. It is a small town in a beautiful green valley about five miles from the base of the Sangres. There is another set of mountains to the East which are the last mountains before the Plains. The town itself only has a few hundred residents but has a lot going on. There is a concert series, a rodeo and an art festival each summer and it has a cosmopolitan feel for such a small town.
That night we stayed at the Courtyard in right in the center of town. John Johnston who we also took an immediate liking to owns the Courtyard. John and his wife Laura are recent (three years) transplants from Ft. Worth Texas who seem to have landed in paradise. John is also a real estate broker (Custer Freemont Realty) which he runs out of offices in the front of the building. They have had the hotel for just a few months and are still in the process of renovating it.
We had a very nice conversation and a couple of beers with John and Laura and they give us a great alternate route to Pueblo the next day that took an unpaved county road through the mountains via an area called Rosalita.
Day 31: Westcliff to Pueblo
The alternate route that John gave us was a perfect way to end our time in the Rockies. There were wild flowers everywhere and we finally saw the fields of Columbine that we had been looking for throughout Colorado.
After a final climb to about 9500 feet, it wasn’t long before we were tearing down the final descents of the Eastern Rockies and into the Plains. The sky opened up like we had never seen before with the horizon seeming to just drop off the edge of the earth.
Four thousand feet lower, twenty degrees hotter and a couple of hours later we were in Pueblo and The Great Plains. And so ended the beautiful mountainous western portion of our trip.