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I’m not sure how it’s happened, but every day here has gotten more beautiful.  Today, we drove south of Gunnison to Lake City and San Juan Mountains.  IT WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE I HAVE EVER BEEN.  Literally, at one point, I looked at Tom and said, “I am feeling so overwhelmed by the beauty of this place that it’s almost making me sick.”  I’ve never seen anything like it.

One of the intriguing things about Colorado (to me) is how swiftly the terrain can change.  Here in Gunnison, it’s a high mountain plateau, so rather flat with random rock formations and bluffs here and there.  Yesterday, when we drove west to the Black Canyon, the terrain became much more rugged, with deep chasms.  Today, the San Juan Mountains are tall and beautiful (the continental divide runs through them), full of pine and aspen forests, and so many creeks and rivers–water everywhere.  

The drive to Lake City took about and hour and was beautiful every minute of it.

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Lake City turned out to be a charming little town tucked in close to the mountains.  Much the downtown (about two blocks) consists of historic buildings and little shops.

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We found a coffee shop that would definitely have appealed to Dad:

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After purchasing a few souvenirs, we started out on the day’s main adventure: driving the Alpine Loop.  This is a road that swings west of Lake City, across two passes, and back into town.  Much of the road is 4×4 passable only (especially over the passes).  Although our rental happens to have four-wheel drive, we weren’t sure how far we could push that (especially with the tires that are on it).  However, the long stretches leading up the valleys to the passes are 2WD accessible (theoretically), so we decided we would drive as far as we could, and then come back if it seemed too rough.

We started with the north portion, which starts right on the edge of town.  It follows a narrow canyon, alongside the most beautiful creek (river?) you could ever wish to see.  We could hardly stop taking pictures of it.

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We also got to see some wildlife today, including a hummingbird and several deer.  We even got a picture of this little family.

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Along the Alpine Loop are the remains of several mining towns.

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In Lake City, we had bought sandwiches at a little grocery store, and we stopped to picnic along that lovely little creek.  Here is Tom, enjoying what he calls the happiest moment of his life.

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I’m pretty happy, too.

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It just kept getting more and more beautiful.

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Eventually, we decided to turn around.  Although the road was still passable, it was very rough and narrow, and Tom feared for the tires.  Driving back past the same scenery was no hardship.

After stopping at the Mocha Moose for smoothies, we headed out of town to pick up the southern part of the loop.  And, not surprisingly, it was just as overwhelmingly beautiful, although much more open.

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There were trailheads all along the road, and we stopped at a few.  Most of them followed narrow valleys up to the ridgeline (which was the continental divide on the south of the south part of the loop).  We followed one trail about 1/8 or 1/4 mile (my idea of distances gets fuzzy when I’m climbing straight up a mountain at high altitudes), following another of those beautiful creeks.

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Do you see what I mean about being overwhelmed by beauty?!?!  I stopped taking pictures after a while.  I just couldn’t handle it.

We continued until our way was too rough, then turned around.  I like the picture below because you can see the road winding off along mountain.  Mom would have hated that part (although she would love the parts in the valleys), but the views were definitely magnificent.  The road is open to vehicles of all kinds, including ATVs, horses, dirt bikes–so there was an interesting mixture of traffic all day, too.

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On the way home, we took some back roads to see some more scenery.  I didn’t take as many pictures, but it was actually probably my favorite drive of the day.

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And that pretty much wound up our day.  We ordered a pizza and showered up.  Tom is already asleep, and I’m just finishing this up before heading that way myself.  Tomorrow, we are driving up to Boulder.  Vacation is on the downhill slide now!!

Oh, and when I talked to Mom this morning, I promised to upload a couple of pictures of the outside of our little home in Gunnison.

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The view from our front porch–a nice little yard/campfire/picnic area between us and the road.

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The Jeep is parked in front of our room!!  Isn’t it adorable??  (The room, not the Jeep.)

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View from the road.

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This has really been just a charming place to stay, and a perfect staging area of the day trips we had planned.  We’re sad to be leaving Gunnison tomorrow, even though we’re headed off to more vacation!

Sarah E. McCafferty

August 2013
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