Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hwy. 50 -- Canon City, Colorado to Gunnison, Colorado ~ Monarch Pass

Tuesday morning it was time to leave Canon City to continue our journey West along Highway 50.  We have reservations in Gunnison for 6 nights.  It will only be about a 110-mile drive but it will be a slow one.  We will be going over Monarch Pass on this leg of the trip.  As we began the drive out of Canon City, we could enjoy views of more beautiful snow covered peaks.  The Arkansas River traveled along with us for quite a while.  This portion of Hwy. 50 is an easy drive through some canyons and ranch land.

We saw so many rafters on the Arkansas River.  There were many areas for launching the rafts for their guided trip down the river for up to 45 miles.  Here where the rapids were biggest the canyon narrowed and the walls rose steeply above us. 

We got to the town of Salida and made a pit stop for Annie at the local Walmart.  Salida may be an interesting town to visit, but we had no time for that.  Just a short 5 miles further west and we came upon the small town of Poncha Springs.  Poncha Springs is the town I tracked on the MSN Weather website getting information on snow/rain/road conditions getting to Monarch Pass.  I've been checking in with them for over a month seeing how fast spring was arriving and if the road was free of deep snow.  Going West Poncha Springs is the closest town to the pass.

Once we left Poncha Springs the landscape turned more Alpine and we began a slow steady climb to the top of the pass in the Rocky Mountains.   I had purchased the Mountain Directory West after reading Al's blog. He uses it when the Bayfield Bunch travel from Ontario, Canada to the Southwest in the winter.  Thanks for the tip, Al.  We knew exactly what to expect on the Monarch Pass after reading this directory.

Bruce took it slow.  We were in no hurry.  There were several curves going up, but nothing major.  Actually, Hwy. 50 through the mountains in West Virginia seemed worse than this part.  We began to climb higher and higher and saw old snow off the road.  Finally we saw the large parking area for checking brakes before your descent down the other side.  There was a small cafe and gift shop so we parked and went inside. 

Outside I took a couple of quick photos.  There was still a lot of snow up here.  The sign on the cafe notes the elevation and the fact that we are straddling the Continental Divide.   It was a crisp, clear day with a few puffy clouds.  The elevation as noted is 11,312 feet and is the highest point on the entire Hwy. 50 route.  The annual snowfall here is 30 feet.

Once we took a quick peek at the shop and cafe we were on our way down the mountain on the western side.  This was a 6.4% grade over 9 miles.  Again, Bruce took it slow and steady.  Using the engine brake rather than the brake pedal most of the time helped. 

Once we had gotten off the pass completely the road opened up to meadows and cattle ranch lands.  We pulled off the highway at a turn-out to fix lunch.  We were able to enjoy another fantastic view of Colorado from our window.   

Once we finished our lunch and Annie had a walk, we were on our way to the final destination of Gunnison.  It was a good, safe and successful day.  What more could you want?

Until next long for now!


Sam&Donna Weibel said...

Reminds us of our trip to CO. it is so pretty out there, and the mountains do look a lot differant than the ones I was used to in PA. & W VA. Hope you guys are having fun, Be safe out there, Sam & Donna.

Phyllis said...

I'd be biting my nails and grasping the hand rails. Come to think of it, can I do them both at the same time?


Would sure love to be where you guys are now.

Margie and Roger said...

Beautiful snow capped mountain photo!

We use that same directory to learn about the roads ahead. I don't mind the climb, but going down the other side scares me to death - I have a huge fear of the brakes failing.

Which layout do you use for your blog? I like the wide width of your page much better than what I am using. The colors for text are great too.

Happytrails said...

Margie, The area you guys are driving through is simply beautiful. Unfortuantely, mountain roads are very curvy and steep graded, but the view from mountains is well worth it. I am glad you had safe travels and enjoyed your day.
Take care and continued safe travels.
Mike & Gerri

Margie M. said...

Margie and Roger: I just use a "boiler plate" template provided by Blogger. I am not creative nor experimental in trying to use 3rd party templates and attach them to my blog. Whenever I've tried something different I've had major problems. So, this one is just one of the samples offered by Blogger right off my dashboard settings. I like it because it has the wide format. I've experimented with different colors and so forth. I liked the way Bayfield Bunch's photos show up so well on their black background color, so that is why I switched to dark blue from the tan color I used to have. Al's blog is awesome.

If you have other questions, just ask! Have a great day.

Margie and Bruce

Gypsy said...

I wouldn't be without Mountain Director East and Mtn Directory West! But I've looked up some places I've been and if I had read the directory first, I wouldn't have tried them.

Carol K said...

Glad to hear you made it up and down the mountain. You were smart to make it a short driving day! Enjoy the rest of your time in Colorado!

Rick and Paulette said...

Thanks for taking us along on your trip along Hwy. 50 in Colorado. It looks to be a very scenic drive.

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His4evr2c said...

Agreed. I miss Our Colorful Colorado. We drove to Gunnison area many times thro the yes. Don't miss the Grand Lake area. Always Layer been there Glad I did that...: Don't like the weather Wait a minute it'll change' one year We we're at Horn Creek Singles Retreat when Snow came in about 2' of Snow on Our Cars: We'd had a Great Time but had to leave early than planned cause none of Us could afford to get snowed in. It was Beautiful though. Thanks for the Scenic Views again. I haven't been back since Our 25th LHS77 Reunion in Littleton,Colo Colo next to Southeast Denver ...

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