Driving day. Northern New Mexico is just completely a postcard–I passed one rockface that had been shaved away to show a “rainbow” of reds and oranges and browns and whites in the sediment layers.
I’m mostly skipping Colorado as I’ve been here before and as I want to spend the time up in Yellowstone. I initially thought I’d overnight in Denver, but the interstate, while running directly up from New Mexico, actually bends away from that corner of Wyoming, so I’d have to backtrack a fair bit after leaving Denver. My go-to on this trip for these situations has been to just see which cities on the route have a decent Airbnb selection, and Grand Junction popped up as one. So I booked and drove, without really researching the route. Turns out it’s mostly US 550, and I’d inadvertently set myself up for a gorgeous, if rather nervous (90% of the road doesn’t have guardrails, and the drop-offs are nearly vertical sometimes) drive through the mountains. It’s not a route if you’re in a hurry, or don’t trust your driving skills, with the hairpin switchbacks and the meanderings through the old-time mining, current-resort towns (Silverton looked like a movie set), but man, it’s pretty. The green of the forests with the blue/brown and white of the mountains, and even the rust-red streaks where the old mines leached out tailings is kind of lovely. I turned off the GPS clock and stopped on top of Molas Pass (10,000+feet), and ate lunch and looked at all the glazed mountaintops around me.
The Airbnb I booked is in another mobile home community, not quite as nice as the one in San Juan, but the house I’ve in is spotlessly maintained, and shows the fruits of fourteen years of considered decorating in intensely cowboy-Southwestern style. And Grand Junction has a pretty four-block main drag with clothes stores and art galleries; I ate at Rockslide Brewery, mostly because Colorado breweries are supposed to be good and the last few times I was in Colorado, I wasn’t drinking age. They had some interesting brews listed–Kokopelli Cream Ale was light and sweet, with a nice roundedness that wasn’t overly rich–but the food was forgettable.
Animal sightings: Two deer standing on either side of the highway, pointed towards each except their heads, which were turned towards the oncoming car (me). I actually thought they were statues at first, and then they ran off. And some sort of ground squirrel up on the top of Molas Pass.