Our plan to cross the San Juan Mountains in the motorhome vanished in a huge wall of smoke. Due to the “416 Fire” highway 550 was closed indefinitely on 11 June 2018 and we instead of moving 160 miles from Durango to Gunnison over three passes moved 265 miles over only two passes.
Traveling in Colorado has convinced me that there is nothing better than a diesel engine powering a motorhome. The alpine passes we crossed were as high as 11600ft / 3540m and it was impressive how the Cummins ISC engine pushed us up the mountains. Admittedly, the speed dropped occasionally to 40 miles/hour but there was never any question whether we are going to make it.
The town of Gunnison is located in a wide basin at 7700 ft / 2350 m and is surrounded on three sides by high mountain ranges. The west side of the basin is open and offers the only outlet for the mountain runoff via the Gunnison River. Over a few million years the Gunnison River has cut a gorge into the western Colorado landscape that culminates in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The landmark is protected since 1999 as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
A visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park is highly recommended. Even though there is not much to do with two dogs other than stopping on vista points to stare into the abyss. The first glimpse at the canyon reminded me vividly in Hell’s Backbone in the Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah. The canyon is steep and deep and dark
We checked out the High Alpine Brewing Company in Gunnison (where beer meets the treeline) and enjoyed some decent beer and food. We also visited the little charming town of Crested Butte, which, not unlike Telluride, is located at the end of one of Colorado’s high alpine valleys and represents a mayor skiing location. The dogs got to swim regularly in the Blue Mesa reservoir located in the nearby Curecanti National Recreation Area and the Mill Castle area on road 730 offered excellent hiking trails in the Gunnison National Forest.
In Gunnison we stayed in a city park that offered RV parking for a 55+ audience. The park was clean, well managed and everything worked perfectly. However, the audience accumulating in these 55+ ghettos is absolutely not to my liking. A little bit more diversity would be greatly appreciated, all these old and very conservative white people frighten me. Last but not least we dealt with a defective toilet in the motorhome, which was a mayor pain in the neck. Meanwhile, a new toilet has been installed and life is good again.
The trip from Gunnison to Kremmling on highway 285 was very scenic along the eastside of Colorado’s highest mountains. The route led through the city of Leadville, the highest community in the USA, located at 10000 ft/3050 m.
The small town of Kremmling is located at 7400 ft / 2250m at the confluence of the Colorado River, the Blue River and the Muddy River. The city is best described as a mosquito infested hell hole. We did a little bit of hiking around Kremmling but were somewhat held back by the mosquitoes, high temperature, a broken windshield in the Honda Fit and later an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury by Cooper. The windshield got fixed within a few days but Cooper is still handicapped. We will have to find a long-term solution for him that will probably require ACL surgery.
We briefly visited the Rocky Mountain National Park and enjoyed the scenery. On the other hand, there were way too many people that did not know how to drive on alpine roads. In addition, as always, dogs are not welcome in National Parks.
Yesterday, Gosia returned to her homeland of Poland. This may very well have been the worst day of my life. On the other hand, I do believe it was the right decision for her to make. The boys and I will continue our trip through America and I predict things will change significantly. I will try to be as good a human as my dogs think I am.
In the short-term, after a 10 weeks stay we will leave Colorado tomorrow and travel to the Wind River Range in Wyoming. That place has been on my bucket list for quiet some time. You all stay tuned.