GRMA Day 11: Between Mountains and Desert
The Navajo conclude a ritual by proclaiming: “Beauty all around us. With it I wander.” That sums up nicely my experience so far in the Rockies. What a beautiful place to “wander.”
The western edge of Colorado marks the boundary between the soaring Rocky Mountains to the east and the desert-like Colorado Plateau to the west and the first three hours of today’s ride gave me an abundant helping of both. North from Grand Junction to Rangely I was frequently surrounded by small hills and mesas covered with sage and scrub brush, yet I also climbed several thousand feet as I crossed Douglas Pass on CO 139 (8300′) where I had a good view of the valley I had come through.
The reds, oranges, yellows, grays, tans and whites that streaked the rocks offered a constantly changing and mezmerizing view as I dutifully obeyed the speed limit and took time to enjoy the ride. There were no roses, but if there had been, I would have stopped and smelled them. I did, however, strike up a conversation with a retired couple at a pullout in a Miata NB from Jaynesville, Wisconsin, who were likewise leisurely enjoying the ride. We discussed the pleasures and pitfalls of touring on a motorcycle and in a “Barbie” car in the mountains and concluded that the pleasures far outweighed the pitfalls. We wished each other “safe travels” and motored down the high highway, each absorbing the satisfying sensations of the open road.
A little before 11 a.m. I pulled into Rangely, ready for a pie hunt. And right there on Main Street was a tidy little eatery appropriately named the Main Street Cafe, whose signs advertising baked goods and deserts pulled me in the green door like a big bakery magnet. The red-haired waitress began to name off the pies on the menu but she started with triple berry and I stopped her right there. The owner/cook has a flair for baking as evidenced by the flaky crust that enwrapped the berries. Once again, pie provided the perfect lunch and was all I needed until the end of the day when I pounced on a juicy steak in Evanston.
At Rangely, the Colorado Plateau ends and the Uinta Range of the Rocky Mountains begins. The Uintas are the tallest east-west oriented mountains in the United States, topping out at more the 13,000 feet. They were one of the last ranges to be uplifted during the Laramide orogeny (50-85 million years ago), being forced up about 50 million years ago. Since then, of course, erosion has reduced their size, but there are great opportunities to see the various layers layed down 200-300 million years ago by wind and shallow seas and subsequently eroded in the past 40 million years or so. Flaming Gorge Canyon/Reservoir in Utah and Wyoming is one of the best places to see the clearly demarcated layering and to identify the various 200-500 feet thick bands of sandstone and limestone.
Even the rain that passed through as I climbed and cornered in the Unitas didn’t dampen my spirits. I expected the precipitation to be of the short-lived summer variety, and that’s what it turned out to be. Appropriately garbed in rain gear, I reduced speed on the wet roads and in hour the rain was gone. I was at about 8,000 feet, though, and the temperature dropped to the low 60s when the rains came, so I was grateful that the rain gear kept me both dry and warm.
Tomorrow I head for even higher elevations in Wyoming and Idaho as I continue my northwest tack in the Rockies.
More pictures I liked from today: