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Touring Colorado in spring 2006

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Keith’s driving and photo tour of Colorado in Spring 2006

Driving around the Rockies

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In 2004 I took my then fairly new Canon 1Ds camera on a driving tour round the Rockies in the USA.

This photo-diary covers my second driving trip around Colorado in April/May 2006.

This collection of photography and comments has been re-written to make it easier to follow than the original (big) web page. Subsequent photo-blogs have somewhat bigger photos, since this was the last one where I had to regularly use a dial-up connection for updating the site.

On my return to the UK, I wrote a more technical article about the photographic aspects as a follow up to my original “Keith’s first all digital visit to the Rockies”

Keith at fish creek falls

The photos and comments in each section below were written up on my travels. This version of the trip condenses all of the individual blog pages into this one article, however it is as written in 2006.

27th April: London - Denver

Travelling out from the UK

First of all, my flight was cancelled — it seems the plane never even got over from the US yesterday.

Delay at LHRNot too bad apart from the fact I’d got up at 3am to get to Heathrow…

Since I’m not wandering round the airport with a camera, we’ll have to go with this example taken with my camera phone.

Quite possibly the worst technical quality image on this site…

I’m in a motel near Denver Airport, and it was time to check that all the kit was in order.

assorted photographic equipment

As you can see, the 24mm T/S lens has also made it along.

So the eqpt list is Canon 1Ds, 16-35 2.8L, 24 T/S 3.5L, 24-70 2.8L, 70-200 2.8L

Oops, I seem to have forgotten to bring a tripod ;-)

Fortunately there is wireless access here, but the signal strength is a bit low in my room.

Keith in the corridor

But there’s a much better signal in the corridor :-)

Tomorrow – head west into the Rockies

28th April: South Park / Fairplay

South Park / Fairplay

Well, after a good night’s sleep (loads of waiting at airports helps). It’s a trip round Denver and along US285 to Fairplay. Not even too much trouble remembering which side of the road to drive on…

Unfortunately it’s raining in Denver and sleet/snow while heading on to Fairplay. Not bad enough to make travel difficult, but certainly enough to hide the big mountains that the maps say are here…

dull day in the mountains

A dull day in the mountains does not make for the best source material for black and white pictures

News to some of you in the UK – there is a real South Park :-)

This sign from a scenic (in good weather) overlook at Kinosha Pass

Some roads were just not worth going any further on…

far enough

I must remember to ask for 4WD next time…

A fine breakfast (OK, early lunch) at the Brown Burro in Fairplay

Lunch at the Brown Burro

Just as I was sticking a pin into Leicester, on the world map behind, I heard another English accent. Paula from Cirencester, who now lives here (with Jeff) and raises and trains sled dogs. Seems she funded the trip a while ago by selling a Ford Cortina…

I’m staying at the rather nice Hand Hotel in Fairplay

hand hotel, Fairplay, Colorado

Where do you go when the weather is a bit dismal…

Why, over to the Fairplay Hotel, where people are being locked up for a fund-raising drive for a local clinic. Never being one to avoid free food, I went over to see what was happening.

Live music and drinks at 4:30pm :-)


The local taxman in festive mood

Do those lights look at all unusual?

novel use of shotgun cartridges

Yes, they are shotgun cartridges –

And here are three ladies I had a chat with at the bar…

at the fund raising event

Sandy, Debbie and Kim …

Note to visitors to the area – Beer is much more effective at altitude (this is around 10,000 feet), so remember to drink lots of water :-)

Some of the South Park characters were supposedly based on real people here — I can say no more :-)

Tomorrow it’s off to … Leadville

29th April: Fairplay to Leadville

Fairplay to Leadville

I’m not really an early morning person, but one of the nice things about travelling 7 hours west, is that it becomes easy to get up at 6am (well for a week or two).

This morning it was bright and sunny, with a light fall of snow everywhere. I set off for Leadville via Frisco and I-70

A quick diversion up a side road and some of yesterday’s hidden mountains were visible.

side road
Side road

And one for next year’s Christmas card collection…

trees and snow

Trees and snow

I’m just doing quick conversions to black and white here, and many pictures at this size look better in colour on the web. Hopefully a bit of work back home will produce some of the B/W prints I’m looking for.

The difference this time using the 1Ds, is about 15,000 photos taken between my first visit to Colorado and this one :-)

That equates mainly to a better knowledge of how to get the best exposures, and a better eye for what will look good in black and white.

Even so, I find it takes a couple of days before I start to ‘see’ the shots that really work.

twin lakes

Twin Lakes, CO82 towards independence pass — closed :-(

Taken with 24-70mm lens, converted to B/W with ‘Convert to B/W Pro‘. The image was cropped at the bottom to get rid of the foreground and emphasise the sky. As a print I’ll be able to get a lot more ‘texture’ in the clouds. [note: 10 years later – it didn’t work, and I still use this image in teaching as an example]

So after a while I stopped in Leadville, at just over 10,000 feet. At this time of year you get the impression that nothing much happens on a Saturday afternoon.

leadville, CO - main street

Well, apart from a few bars…

saturday afternoon drink

Cold and dry

The pictures below was taken in the Cloud City Coffee house. It is converted using ACR and has had some shadows/highlights adjustment.

coffee on table

I’ve exposed to just clip the brightest part of the sky, and pull the rest out of the shadows. I’ve also improved the focus/depth of field (16mm at f18)

While the image is much easier to work on than the 2004 original below (which took a lot of work), the place just didn’t look so interesting, and the picture on the wall that makes the original had been sold.

leadville latte

Anyway, enough of this … time to go out for the evening ;-)

Tomorrow … East of here I think :-)

Oh, I forgot to mention the nearby gas station/qwik-e-mart, the interestingly named “Kum & Go”, with this perceptive sign outside :-)

chocolate trumps flowers every time

Tomorrow: to Aspen

30th April: Leadville to Aspen

Leadville to Aspen

With the more direct route (Independence Pass) closed for the winter, the route from Leadville to Aspen involves heading north to I-70, then going west to Glenwood Springs, and turning off towards Aspen.

Note – Keith finally travelled over Independence Pass in Fall 2008

I took a short detour on the way to I-70 explore some side roads – good maps help. Always be sure that you can actually go where you want to take photos. We have nutters in the UK as well, but they are not allowed guns…

friendly welcome
So much for taking some trees back home as presents…

It’s not that bad really :-)
The people I meet on my travels over here are usually pretty friendly – certainly more so than the miserable people I’ll see on the tube in London when I get back ;-) It’s one of the reasons I like visiting the US – people talk to you.

So to Aspen, which immediately has a rather more monied look to it…

With all the usual stores you find in any small town

gucci store, aspen
Gucci — More presents I won’t be getting…

I called in at Pismo – a really good gallery devoted to fine art glass. You could easily find half a dozen items on display that together would cost as much as my house in Leicester…

In that strange way that things just happen, I also ended up doing a quick bit of Photoshop instruction :-)

yes, I am taking your picture...
At Pismo — Isabelle suggesting where to put my camera :-)

As well as items of extremely good taste, there is always the simply bizarre.

aspen home consignment
So, if you want your home consigning somewhere truly awful.

Note – I’ve since found this is the name for what I’d know as a 2nd hand shop — Perhaps the gift problem is solved, I know Alistair needs some furniture/lighting for his new flat :-)

Or there is always the Salon next door.


I saw these on the way back to the Aspen Hotel, where I’m staying for a couple of days. A good size room with a walk-in wardrobe.

exploring the wardrobe
Keith explores the wardrobe

I’m here a couple of days, so stay tuned :-)

1st May: Aspen


I was up fairly early and headed up Castle Creek. Unfortunately at this time of the year you can’t get up to Maroon Bells or Independence pass, so a couple of other interesting locations were out.

OK, I could have cycled, or walked 12 miles, but that just wasn’t going to happen :-)


Aspens – how the place got its name

The sun is just illuminating the background trees, which I’ve deliberately kept out of focus. I exposed for the background so that none of the image clips. For a print, it would be important to get the contrast and brightness of the foreground trees right. By being careful with exposure and working at 16 bit, there is plenty of detail to bring out in the darker areas.

There had been a very light fall of snow and the early morning light looked very cold

castle creek

Heading up Castle Creek road

At last a chance to use the 24mm shift lens

Taken (hand held) by pointing the camera parallel to the trees and shifting the lens upwards to get the composition I wanted.

snow and aspens and morning light

Aspens in the morning sun

If I’d used a normal wide angle lens I’d have had to tilt the camera upwards which would make the trees lean over – they are on a fairly steep slope. Not a problem at all to use the shift lens like this (manual focus and meter for the shot before shifting). One other thing is to move so that one of the trees blocks out direct sunlight.

Aspen has built itself a reputation for free-thinking and being a bit different (it helps if you have money ;-)

Who needs signs to tell you what to do?

biking prohibited

No Biking

There are several other prohibited things listed above the sign…

After several trips driving round the US I’ve decided that Dodge produce the best range of ugly vehicles when viewed in your rear view mirror.

The example below should give an idea what I mean.

seriously ugly vehicle from Dodge

An unpleasant looking vehicle from Dodge.

Grace, elegance, styling – who needs it :-)

Tomorrow… off north to Steamboat Springs for a few days I think.

2nd May: Aspen to Steamboat Springs

Aspen to Steamboat Springs

Interstate 70, heading west from Denver passes trough some spectacular scenery as it cuts through the Rockies.

Leaving I-70 at junction 133 is a road (to Burns) that follows the Colorado River. This is just east of the deep Glenwood canyon cut by the river. According to my map, I could take this small road on the way to Steamboat Springs.

colorado river - lyons gulch
Lyons Gulch – Colorado River

Converted to BW with ‘Convert to BW Pro’. Selective (masked) application of a curves adjustment layer allowed me to emphasise some of the tonal variations in the foreground, which otherwise looked a bit plain.

A bit further up the river, the cottonwoods are just coming into leaf

cottonwoods by the colorado river

Straight conversion from raw. On a larger version of the print I’d look to emphasise some of the lines that lead the eye through the image. Mostly these are quite subtle variations – ideally they should not be directly visible.

The railway also follows the river, and I spotted this train heading the other way

big train

It was a long train, taking several minutes to pass by.

Just for my friends interested in such things, I’ve got a detailed view of the seven power units

union pacific seven header

Note for Mike ;-) – you can read the numbers clearly on the full resolution original

Not far after that, the tarmac runs out. Just how good was this road going to be? particularly given I’m not in a 4WD car.

Dirt road
Dirt Road

Fortunately there were some people working on the road who confirmed that it did go where the map said, and it was in good condition.

So to Steamboat. I spent a few days here on my last trip, so I’m staying at the Alpiner Lodge (lots of places here try to give that ‘Alpine’ feel :-)

Not quite the cosmopolitan air of Aspen, but it’s a great place to buy a stetson…

This is the slack time of the year for places like this, and I had the Metropolitan Mudd Coffee Co. to myself…

Mudd coffee co

For those of us from the UK, gas (petrol) prices over here still seem quite reasonable.

Gas price shock

Gas and liquor – shock horror price rises

  • US price $2.97 per US Gallon (78.5 cents/litre)
  • UK price (last week at home) 92pence/litre (~$1.66/litre)
  • or, for US visitors, we pay ~$6.28 per US Gallon

Cheap at half the price…

3rd May: Steamboat Springs


A damp grey day – not the best to inspire me to go and take pictures :-)

Anyway, I decided to drive a few miles north to Steamboat Lake where the rain turned to sleet…

Sometimes overcast conditions can bring out quite subtle colours, such as the picture at the start of the South Park section. Although the aspens near Steamboat have that spring flush of yellow/green, the ones up here still look quite stark.

muted colours
Muted colours

I took several pictures at this spot, and I’ll be curious to see how they work out as large prints, where all the fine detail will be visible. The saturation has not been altered in the conversion. Whilst it is good to check out pictures on the same day, I’m always aware that I’m only working on a laptop and my appreciation of what will work as a print may well change when I’m back home. It’s another reason I like to shoot more pictures – disk space and memory cards are relatively cheap, compared to wishing I’d tried a different angle.

spring aspens 2
Spring Aspens 2

On the drive up I saw this superb example of a roadside sign.

warning sign

It’s blurred, since I was in my car and it was raining. I could have got out, but you never know how someone who puts up a sign like this is going to react to an Englishman with a long telephoto lens. :-)

Perhaps, someone unaware of his country’s involvement at the 1944 meeting at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. — perhaps, someone not overly aware of a lot of things. :-)

By lunchtime it had brightened up a bit, so I decided to go to Fish Creek falls, which is just a few miles outside of Steamboat Springs.

Walking up to the falls I spotted this bird trying to look inconspicuous amongst some spring flowers

bird and flowers
Spring flowers

Given the amount of work that went into producing this particular 2004 B/W picture of the falls, I’ll leave it in the article :-)

Fish Creek falls 1

Fish Creek falls 1
The falls at Fish Creek, near Steamboat Springs
The falls are a wonderful sight – the sort of place I have spent several hours just sitting and watching the water, slowly helping wear down the rocks. This particular shot has sunlight just catching some of the main falls, giving a much more dynamic view than a few years later when I visited again. One of the limitations to my own style of landscape photography is that conditions have to be just right when I’m at a location, or the photo won’t get taken. I’ll wait for the sun to come out from behind a cloud, and have even revisited places the next day, but the traditional patient approach just isn’t for me. When I see a scene, it’s the immediate emotional impact I try to capture. Spending a while setting up a tripod and camera is one sure way to suck the life out of a situation. Perhaps unusually for a landscape photographer I wouldn’t ever dream of painting behind my radiators… :-)
— Sizes:|11×7|16×11|25×17

The lighting is better than this morning, where the sunlight was a bit hazy.


Thanks to one of the other visitors to the falls, I’ve this picture of myself at the bridge where the other photo was taken.

Keith at fish creek falls

Notice how much ‘flatter’ the falls look without the good sunlight.

Hopefully we’ll see a bit of sun while I’m here…

4th May: Steamboat Springs

water droplets
Droplets of water at Fish Creek Falls: 1/5000th second exposure.

Steamboat Springs

A lovely bright morning, enough cloud to make the sky look interesting in black and white (pure blue equates with a smooth grey sky – not want I usually want). Studying the maps had also found several locations worthy of exploration. Off I headed in the general direction of Yampa.

Unfortunately a relatively small rock in the road (from a nearby cliff) exposed one of the difficulties of low profile tyres and alloy wheels — fortunately I was able to pull over and change the wheel (to one of those horrid ‘spacesaver’ tyres)

alloy wheel

With alloys, you can’t just hammer out a dent

hole in wheel

Broken wheel

Ho, hum, it’s off to the rental people to replace the car.

Unfortunately, since it needed to be returned to Denver, I ended up with a bigger car. Why unfortunately you ask?

Well the Mercury Grand Marquis is a big car, and has all the delicacy in handling and performance I’d associate with a river barge. This is perhaps not the vehicle I’d choose for exploring mountain passes :-)

On the way back from the ‘bump’, the sky decided to get even more interesting, just to remind me what could have been :-(

Shed and tree

The rocks in the background are the core of an old volcano – there are several such outcrops near Yampa.

Image converted to black and white using channel mixer, to emphasise sky.

See Introduction to digital black and white article for more info. When working up an image like this as a print I’ll pay considerable attention to getting the tonal balance right for the print I want. It’s difficult to show on the web, but I’d want to emphasise the cottonwood tree and the shack a bit more. I’d also do a bit of dodging and burning to show the different slopes on the hill. Paying attention to this allows you to lead the viewers eye through the composition in a clearer fashion.

Back in Steamboat I spotted this sign.

prayer day

Surely not? No, the rock incident had happened earlier that morning :-)

5th may: Steamboat to Delta

Steamboat to Delta

After a thunderstorm and giant hailstones last night I woke up to see dark skies and sleet. Fortunately by the time I was ready to leave, the skies were brightening from the south. Using my executive decision device (a quarter) I decided to head south out of Steamboat on CO-131.

My first day driving the SS Grand Marquis. As I said, not an ideal vehicle for mountain passes.

I looked in the manual and noticed it didn’t have bow thrusters — a bit more difficult to reverse out of the car park, although the foot operated anchor (parking brake) confused me a while. I also waited a while before checking out its acceleration. As I drive an automatic at home, I was used to the idea of kickdown (push throttle sharply to drop a gear and accelerate). With the barge (as I now know it) the kickdown is more a request to the engine room to shovel more coal into the boilers – things will happen eventually, but get used to it before trying to overtake anyone!

I’m being unfair — it’s a lovely car… ;-)

front end of barge
Bow view

back end of barge
Stern view

I passed by the place I’d took some shots yesterday and got a more detailed one of the shed, but the sky was not nearly so interesting.

shed and tree 2

One of those times where the first pictures I took (yesterday) didn’t include a view that I later thought was good for a print. That’s one of the reasons I like to take quite a few pictures at a location – I don’t always get it right.

There are two ways I’ll go about landscape photography, one is for a specific location where I’ll go back to a place several times to get it ‘right’. I may well try several sets of lighting conditions and even work out where the sun should be for the effect I want.

The other way is much more hit and miss, looking for opportunities while I’m travelling around. I have to take several shots, since I probably won’t get a second chance. It is spontaneous and produces my best black and white work – it produces pictures that have the greatest emotional impact. It’s also one of the reasons I generally dislike the traditional approach to landscape photography, that promotes patience, a measured and considered approach and tripods :-)

Another downside is that on a trip like this, you are partially at the mercy of the weather. Well, nobody said I couldn’t have a good time as well as taking pictures ;-)

Just out of Steamboat Springs I went through Oak Creek, a very small town…

oak creek
Upholstery Emporium and Wash House

I decided not to try the road with the rocks in it again, and headed south towards I-70

The CO-131 road is a pleasant drive, with some nice scenery.

co 131

And the sounds of loads of these birds singing

singing bird

South on CO-131

view on CO 131

Eventually I reached I-70, but the westbound ramp was blocked by a concrete truck that had turned over after taking a turn a bit too fast (I’m presuming concrete trucks handle worse than the SS Grand Marquis)

Anyway I decided to have an early lunch, and moored up at the Yacht Club Grill


Yes, at Walcott, on the Eagle River :-)

yacht club grill

A rather nice ‘Breakfast Burrito’ (note the shells and nets in the table top)


With a range of sauces :-)


Along the Eagle River I stopped several times to have a look around…

eagle river

See the small patch on the middle rock in the picture?

It’s a nest, made by these birds

birds nest

Not long after, I joined I-70 heading west, through Glenwood Canyon

glenwood canyon

Nowhere to stop, so that will have to do :-)

Although there is this one of me at the helm of the barge…

on the bridge of the ss grand marquis

I turned off I-70 at Junction 49 and took CO-65 up over Grand Mesa. It’s a good 50 mile scenic drive up over the top of the mesa, where it was snowing :-)

On the way up, you can see for a fair distance

looking west from grand mesa

A web version of the picture doesn’t really show all the detail.

detail of view

When I’m back home I’ll have a go at stitching some of the panoramic shots I took, which might well make a nice big print.

It’s snowing and the road surface is steaming – probably from when it was sunny earlier…

mist on road

I also had a go using the 24mm Tilt/shift lens to get a couple of odd looking pictures of a tree.

tree with tilt shift lens

Lens tilted to play around with the plane of focus

creepy tree

Another creepy tree…

I’ve ended up in Delta … possibly one of the less inspiring places I’ve stayed at. A lot more to do in Leadville or Fairplay :-)

6th May: Delta to Gunnison

Delta to Gunnison

Actually Delta is quite a nice looking place, but it’s just that I was expecting a bit more to do on a Friday night :-)

I took a few shots as I was driving out (~8 am)

Delta, CO

Main Street, Delta, CO
Main Street, Delta, CO

And the ‘Classic’ used car lot

Used car lot
Used cars

Of course if I really wanted that 1970’s handling, this would be the place to go.

70's performance

Compared to these, the ‘barge’ probably performs like a rally car :-)

I took CO-92 out of Delta and headed east towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. On the road up to the canyon there is a good view of what I take to be a volcanic plug (core of an old volcano)


If it was in Europe, someone would have built a castle on it :-)

detail of rocks

I went to the canyon two years ago, but only visited the south rim.

North rim
North rim

It really is difficult to convey the scale of the canyon with these small images, but it’s nearly 2000 feet down to the water.

When you visit places like this you do have to accept that some views, however impressive may not make good photos. I’m sure lots of people every year are disappointed by their photos of the Grand Canyon. Part of the knack in my particular approach to landscape photography is being able to spot what -might- make a good photograph :-)

View from CO-92
Along CO-92

The north rim is less developed and probably gets a lot less visitors, however the overlooks are at least as good as those on the south, and if you continue east on CO-92 the views of the canyon are much better (you are riding along the north side of the canyon for much of the way.

Canyon overlook
Stitched panoramic shot giving an idea of some of the overlooks on CO-92

The image was stitched in Photoshop CS2 from 4 overlapping vertical images (24-70 lens) If you are careful to rotate the camera carefully there is no need for a tripod … of course for panoramic shots, it does help.

One final point, it seems that old cars being driven by people wearing hats are just as slow and prone to erratic behaviour as in the UK. This particular car kept its indicators on for several miles :-)

Hat wearers
Hat wearers

7th May: Gunnison

Gunnison – Crested Butte (and back)

After that fascinating evening in Delta, I was glad to find that it was graduation weekend at the prestigious Western State College at Gunnison.

An entertaining evening in the company of numerous recent graduates, where I found that it does indeed help to have an English accent ;-)

From my conversations I understand that a major attraction of the college is the fact that Crested Butte ski area is just up the road…

So, the next morning, somewhat later than usual, I decided to go for a brief excursion into the mountains.

leaving gunnison

Not long after this picture was taken, I spotted an interesting view off to one side. It’s the best example I can give of how I sometimes see shots that might make good prints.

I pulled over and took 15 different pictures at the location. The one below has had only minor adjustments after conversion to black and white. It might be that one (or two) of the others looks better when I’m back home.

roadside view

View from the road, towards the Anthracite range.

It’s only 25 or so miles to Crested Butte

crested butte

Crested Butte appears…

A bit further on, the town is visible

crested butte town
Crested Butte, CO

In case anyone is wondering, I shoot the in-car shots with the 16-35 lens at about 20mm, manually focused to infinity. This gives a huge coverage, requires no real aiming, and allows me to crop out the images you see.

The town has a 15 M.P.H. speed limit, which is relatively difficult to maintain, although there is a convenient radar speed indicator…

radar speed check
At 15 M.P.H.

in crested butte town

Quite a pleasant little place – probably without the range of shops (Gucci, Dior etc.) that you find in some other ski towns I’ve visited.

I decided to go up the Kebler Pass road to see how far I could get. I knew it was closed but it was worth seeing how far the car could go.

There were lots of snowmobiles parked by the road, and eventually the track ended with a large collection of vehicles, all looking better suited to mountain driving than mine.

end of road

It seems that the road is pretty heavily packed with snow and it is the best way to get to higher ground for snowmobiling and skiing.

parked up snowmobiles

Some people live further up the pass and need snowmobiles to get to their homes. I’d seriously question the wisdom of this, but then again I live in a city that gets an inch of snow a year…

I had a chat about all this with some people getting ready to head off up into the snow. Including this guy, who had a video camera mounted to his helmet :-)

snowmobile video

I also learnt from them that my car (aka the ‘barge’) is indeed an ‘Grandma/Grandpa car’ :-)

Note – I revisited this spot in Fall 2008 and was able to carry on…

Back in Gunnison, I decided to go for a coffee, since I’m staying not far from the main street.

The roads really are appreciably wider here than back home, indeed you get the feeling that -everything- is slightly flattened. With a 25 M.P.H. speed limit (that people do observe) you also get the feeling of traffic gently flowing past in a slightly unreal way – or maybe I just had too many shots of espresso in my Latte :-)

intersection, Gunnison
Road junction, Gunnison

Walking back to my motel I went past the Sonic Drive-in, where you have a sumptuous 3 course meal in the comfort of your own SUV…


Sonic – minimise your interaction with other people

Although if you wanted to get a drink from the nearby liquor store, you will be out of luck – closed on Sundays throughout Colorado.

closed in colorado

Fortunately this does not apply to the bars…

8th May: Gunnison

Gunnison – Powderhorn (and back)

One of the nice things about staying at one place for a few days, is that you can just have a good look at detailed maps and pick out of the way places to visit. The weather was a bit grey and damp this morning, but I headed off down the CO-149 road towards Lake City.

driving along co 149

The road rises quite a bit until you can see some distant snow covered mountains.

co 149 view
On CO-149

After a bit I turned off towards Powderhorn.

The roads here are in pretty good condition, and not like some of the field roads I’ve taken cars across, back home in the UK.

Even so, I’m keeping a good eye out for rocks in the road after what happened last week…

road to powderhorn
Road to Powderhorn

There are plenty of small farms/ranches along the way – I don’t know the right term, but there was a lot of beef munching grass in the fields :-)


And just in case I’d forgotten where I am…

tattered US flag

There are definitely more flags about than when I first came to the US in the 90’s. that said, they have a long way to go to match the number of flags everywhere in Switzerland.

A bit further on it had brightened up quite nicely.

Cebolla creek
Cottonwood beside the Cebolla creek

And since when I’m in Colorado I love getting pictures of interesting trees…

cottonwoods and sky

The picture above may well make a good black and white print, since there is a lot of detail in the tree bark. I tried making a B/W web version, but at this size it looks better in colour.

Back in Gunnison I took this panoramic view of the road (US-50) running past my motel. The road really is about as wide as a UK motorway :-)

US 50 Gunnison CO
US-50 Gunnison

Then off to the The Bean for some excellent coffee.

The Bean, Gunnison
The Bean, Gunnison

Then of course, there is the Sonic.


Strangely enough I never saw any places like this when I was in Aspen. This reminded me of a picture I forgot to include in the ‘blog’ when I was there.

Hidden Macdonalds at Aspen

This is as much advertising as the Aspen ‘good taste and decency’ committee allows Macdonalds :-)

but back at Gunnison…

… the liquor store is open today.

flags, shells and liquor
Liquor store

In case you were wondering, the red flag is for the US Marine Corps.

Probably explains the huge shells outside as well… I’d suppose anyone wanting to rob it might also think twice ;-)

And finally, since the ‘barge’ did such a good job on the dirt roads today, I took this (slightly) more flattering view of it.

Mercury Grand Marquis
Mercury Grand Marquis – aka ‘the barge’

9th May: Gunnison to Fairplay

Return to South Park

On my way back from Gunnison to Denver I decided to pay another visit to Fairplay. Planning the end of a trip usually involves working back from the fact that I’ve got to hand the car back early one morning, and thus I tend to stay pretty close to the airport the night before.

Leaving Gunnison, US 50 climbs up over Monarch Pass, and the scenery changes quite noticeably. I thought I’d capture a set of pictures showing the changes, the differing views you get going over some of the high passes.

It starts off fairly arid – we are already at about 8000 feet.

US 50

A few conifers start to appear

US 50 conifers

It’s now quite heavily forrested


This view from a stop at a sharp bend shows how far I’ve climbed so far.

There were bits of car wreckage down below…

scenic overlook

With the steep slopes there are truck run off lanes. I think the idea is to see how many buckets you can knock down.

I’m not sure how you are supposed to read all those road signs as your truck hurtles on to the ramp, perhaps afterwards…

truck run off ramp

A few bits of snow appear


And lots more – nearly there now

lots of snow

This shows some of the snow they get up here

gift shop behind snow

The continental divide is marked on almost any road that crosses it.

Monarch pass

Here’s one of the ways of clearing the snow

snow clearing device

And the view looking East

view east

Meanwhile I stopped off for a coffee in the gift shop, which boasts an impressive range of stuffed animals.

mirror in gift shop
Keith – reflected

After a while I got to Fairplay, where the weather was a bit better than my first visit.

This view is looking towards Kenosha Pass, where I stopped off on the way.

south park sky
South Park Sky

Converted to B/W using convert to B/W Pro. one curves layers to enhance sky contrast. The layer was partially masked to stop the foreground becoming too dark

Back in Fairplay I had a quick look at the ‘restored’ South Park City, which although closed until May 15th, I was allowed to have a look around :-)

More pictures of trains for certain people back in the UK ;-)

south park city station

no. 22

D S P & P R R

This time I’m staying in the Fairplay Hotel.

Unfortunately it’s Tuesday and it looks as if I’ll miss the open mike spot and back woods review…

open mic night

This is how my laptop is currently being powered.

I have not seen a light fitting used like this since at my Grandmothers (for the iron) in the 1960’s

light fitting

All seems well.

Now to find a telephone socket to connect to that internet thingy

Note added next morning from a Starbucks in Woodhouse Park — I did eventually find a telephone socket, it was in the office of the Hotel. The site was updated over a 26,600 dialup connection – it took a while ;-) I’m assuming that not many people are following this photodiary with dialup connections!

9th May: Back to Denver via Pikes Peak

Back to Denver via Pikes Peak

At last it’s time to head back to Denver to get a flight to Chicago and then back to London. I left the Fairplay hotel pretty early and headed south towards Hartsel on CO-9. There I turned East on US 24 towards Colorado Springs. This was the route where I first headed into the mountains a couple of years ago, on my first trip to Colorado.

The long straight road heads towards Wilkerson Pass.

towards wilkerson pass US 24

It’s the place I took a similar photo, but with much better clouds..

Last time it was cold, cloudy and icy up on the pass, with frost and rime coating the trees. I wasn’t expecting to see the pass with its own bit of cloud this time, but I was greeted with a particularly stunning view of low sunlight shining through wisps of fog/cloud.

mist and rime

I took quite a few shots here and have just selected one to give an idea of what it was like. I’ve also included a detail view to give a better idea of the effect

mist and rime detail
Rime and mist

After a mighty US breakfast (it’s 5pm now and I’m only just feeling a bit hungry), I went to the Starbucks in Woodhouse Park, where they had free wireless access. A bit easier than out at Fairplay – someone at the coffee shop pointed out that Fairplay still had its mail delivered by Pony Express :-)

laptop at starbucks

Checking my email

Just under the Starbucks sign is Pikes Peak, which I decided to visit, since it is the ideal Keith type of mountain — they have built a road to the top (just over 14,000 feet)

Here’s a better view

woodhouse park

Unfortunately it had snowed overnight, so the road was only open to about 11500 feet – at least it only cost $5 instead of $10 :-)

It’s a steep climb, but the barge seemed quite happy

towards pikes peak

Before long some snow, and wet unpaved road.

pikes peak dirt road

The barge, being rear wheel drive, was quite slippy on some of the hairpin turns.

snow clearing

Big snow clearer

End of the road…

I went into the gift shop for a drink. Just then they decided that it was clear to go further (the road was paved for another mile or so)

road to pikes peak

Then, up above the tree line

road closed

You can just see the line of orange cones marking how far you can go.

Snow rocks and clouds

And the view…

towards colorado springs

The view towards the edge of the Rockies and Colorado Springs (well known enclave of reason, liberal thought and the US Airforce Academy)

Here’s a panoramic view stitched from 12 pictures (70mm – portrait orientation)

edge of rockies

The best view of the other direction is from when I turned back down.

going down

The thin line of snowy peaks on the horizon are those west of Fairplay and are almost 100 miles away.

So there you have it… out of the mountains, up I-25, skirt round Denver, to a motel near the Airport. This time I even have a good wireless signal in my room.

The $5 I saved at Pikes Peak went on a car wash, since the Barge was looking decidedly muddy after those roads up the mountain, and I didn’t want to be charged some ridiculous amount for cleaning the car by the rental agency (they are like that).

Tomorrow I’m off, so this is really the end of my Photo-diary. Hope you have found it interesting/amusing.

Just a few odd pictures I meant to include in earlier days, but forgot :-)

For Steve, who I know is interested in the varieties of electricity pylons you see when abroad.


Who needs lights to control traffic at roadworks when you have a supply of inexpensive labour.

traffic control

One of the difficulties you sometimes get on US Freeways, is which lane to choose?


A better stitched version of the wide street at Gunnison, after I realised that I had a copy of some specialist stitching software on my laptop.

gunnison street


Well almost… I got an extra 2 1/4hrs waiting in the plane at Denver airport, due to bad weather at Chicago. At least I had a nice view of the mountains out of the window.

Here are some of my fellow travellers :-)


Now I’m back and have just been asked to provide some pictures for an exhibition next week!

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