Western history Western Travel

Scenic Routes and Rest Areas

Grand Mesa 1
You can see for miles from Grand Mesa.

We are fortunate in Colorado to enjoy the most beautiful scenery in the world. No matter how much you travel throughout the state, there are still surprises left to discover. This was the case this past weekend. On a jaunt to the West Slope, we were running early and decided to take a side trip to Grand Mesa. Although we had been there many years ago, we had approached from the south. Lured by a “scenic byways” sign, we drove in from the north on roads we had never before traveled. After traversing stark rocky canyons which made our jaws drop, we crept upward onto the high flat mesas that allowed us to view vast panoramic miles of valleys which surrounded us. The terrain at well over 10,000 foot altitude reminded me a little of Swan Lake Flats and the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. I don’t often compare scenery to Yellowstone terrain. In this case, I made an exception. The only thing lacking was wildlife, which I attributed to the mid-day hour. My eyes strained through the dark scrubby trees and underbrush for wildlife — any wildlife! Marmots, who should have greeted us from among the tumble of crumbled basaltic rock columns, were absent. A moose crossing sign gave us hope, but no critters other than hawks and insects appeared to bring life to the landscape. The mesa left us wanting more and pondering a return trip.

Grand Mesa 2
Taking the Other Road through Grand Mesa

At the beginning of summer, I usually vow to take better care of my yard, and to get out to see more hidden corners of my chosen home state. Although I’ve done a little of both, summer has a way of slipping away before all expectations are met. As usual, I reach out to a book for perspective.  The book, a gift from my publishers at Filter Press, is “Colorado Scenic Byways: Taking the Other Road” by Jim Steinberg and Susan Tweit. Winner of the 2008 Colorado Book Award, Steinberg’s outstanding photography, and Tweit’s enlightened insights and connection to nature bring it all home. Not only does this gorgeous publication introduce the reader to roads never before experienced, but it also chronicles those routes already traveled. I feel a sense of satisfaction and some pride when I recall the scenic byways I have driven and enjoyed since arriving in 1974. I am also proud to know Susan Tweit through Women Writing the West, and I willingly turn myself over to her guidance through and connection to this wonderful mountainous place. This book is a must for all Colorado road trip junkies and their coffee tables. Visit Susan’s web site at: www.susanjtweit.com

Eagle Rest Area
This pit stop includes a history lesson.

Now, about that rest area. On I-70 west of Vail, Colorado, we often stop in Edwards for a comfort stop and to stretch our legs. This trip, we stopped at the rest area in Eagle instead. I had forgotten about the charming little history museum there. Kids of all ages can enter a real Denver & Rio Grande caboose as well as historic log cabins for a little diversion before scrambling back into the confines of the family auto. This little museum, complete with a visitor’s center, is a delightful surprise and a real treasure for interstate travelers who wish to take a break.

Joyce B. Lohse, 8/30/10