We got up pretty early and packed up pretty much right away; we still had leftover cooler food for breakfast, so we had that and then got on the road before 8 am. We took a slightly different entrance into Rocky Mountain National Park and went back up towards Trail Ridge Road, this time going the other direction, and stopping quite a lot for photo ops (beautiful misty light of the early morning) and for a couple of mini hikes, one just to look into a valley from up top, and one to see the Colorado River really close to its spring just past the Continental Divide, where it’s still very small. We had gorgeous blue skies for all of that and stopped for lunch once we got out of the park, and before we took another incredibly scenic route, a dirt road (Country Road One/Trough Road) before we hit I-70 and went along that all the way to Utah. We stopped at a very cool rest stop along the I-70, where it’s still going through deep canyons, right along the Colorado river, and watched big rafts and a massive freight train. The formations in the canyon are just amazing, and that stretch of the freeway (which was only started to be constructed in its current form in 1975) justifies the rest stop brag about it being one of the most scenic stretches of freeway in the U.S.
Once we got out of the Rockies, the landscape started changing to desert mesas and cliffs, first with and then without sage brush, and the colorations and dimensions were still really impressive–but we didn’t take any more stops or pictures, but kept going past Grand Junction about 60 miles into Utah, to find ourselves a hotel room and some dinner in the first available town with motels, Green River. The restaurant, Tamarisk, was right on the river, so we could see that it is actually quite green, and it’s understandable that it was the first town we could find, since there was only a vast stretch of desert along the interstate until this classic “we’ll settle where there’s a drop of water” town of 2,000. It’s hard to describe this bizarrely arid and hostile but beautiful and enormous landscape, and it will be interesting to see just a little more of it tomorrow. We’ll be back for a closer look at Utah after Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, so we’re not stopping for any specific sights at this point.