National Parks Tour: Colorado National Monument & Denver

Saturday, September 4, 2021

The hotel breakfast buffet was to begin at 6:00 and the bags had to be ready to go at 7:30 so another early morning. At least this morning I had time to transfer pictures from my DSLR camera to my laptop. My phone camera pictures go to the Cloud pretty easy, but I take so many on the DSLR, I prefer to use the USB transfer to the laptop. I would hate to lose all of my pictures if something happened to the camera.

The hotel really had the COVID protocols in place for breakfast. Everyone had to don plastic gloves, all the fruit was wrapped in cellophane, and all the pastries were individually wrapped. The breakfast area was small, so it was crowded as 40 plus people were trying to find items to eat.

We got two surprises this morning. The morning temps were in the 60’s and our new bus was waiting for us. Al calls it “Bumblebee.” Both were nice surprises. We have more legroom to stretch, and the overhead bin space is larger. I am not mashing and shoving the backpacks as much as I had to do prior to this bus. We have now rotated to the back of the bus. There is an empty row behind us so we can spread out even more if we want.

We left promptly at 8:00. Our group has been very conscientious of the allotted times and have done their very best to not hold us up. Very appreciated.

We are taking Hwy 70 toward Colorado and the speed limit is 80 miles per hour. Can’t remember the last time I saw 80. The landscape is barren but there is a train track running parallel to us. Al says it is used by the Amtrack Zephyr and the Rocky Mountaineer for scenic travel.

At 9:20, we stopped at the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, Colorado. I was expecting some sort of structure, but it is a huge, beautiful gorge area. Why was this area not a national park?

Al told us the main difference is that National Parks are created through acts of congress and must be large enough for broad use by the public. National Parks should have inspirational, educational, and recreational value. National Monuments are made through declarations from the president and have historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest. Currently, there are 129 protected areas known as national monuments.

We hiked a short way down the Canyon Rim Trail to enjoy the cool breezes and stunning scenery. Once we got back, we toured the Visitor Center. I was surprised at how uncrowded this Monument area was. In addition to the short hiking trails, it offers backcountry trails, backcountry camping, rock climbing, and picnic areas.

The landscape is changing to more mountainous. We have crossed over the Colorado River several times and we have passed through some tunnels already. Al said this area is known for landslides. Oh, yay.

We stopped in Glenwood Springs, CO for lunch. Before we arrived, Al told us a lot of interesting facts about Glenwood: ex – it is located at the juncture of the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork River, has many hot springs to enjoy, is home to the historic Hotel Colorado, was named one of the most walkable cities in the US, was one of the first cities to have electricity, and is a stop on the scenic routes of the Zephyr and the Rocky Mountaineer. In addition, Doc Holliday spent his last days at Glenwood Springs. He had hoped that the springs would help his tuberculosis but the springs made it worse. He is buried in the town’s original Pioneer Cemetery.

We ate lunch at the Doc Holliday saloon and then walked along the river toward the Hotel Colorado. We saw the Amtrack Zephyr at the station. We walked back through the downtown and visited some of the shops. Really a nice town. We both said it is the first town we have stopped that we could consider living here.

We drove through the Vail Pass. Bicyclists travel the 18-mile, 10,603 high mountain pass almost daily during good weather. We saw many bicyclists peddling furiously along the trail including a man that had a dog sitting behind him in a basket. The scenery in this area was remarkable. Chuck sat in the row behind me so we could both sit by the window and stretch out some. Typically, we take turns sitting by the window.

We went through the Eisenhower Tunnel and started the steep decline into Denver. Saw some runaway truck ramps. Glad Wade didn’t have to use one of them. He got us safely into Denver.

Before we got to the hotel, Al handed each of us a Palisade peach. The peaches are grown in Palisade, Colorado and are supposed to be very juicy and extra sweet. The peaches were very large. He just doesn’t want us eating them on the bus.

We got to the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Denver about 5:00. Al told us that this weekend was the Taste of Denver festival and there would be music, food trucks, and a lot of activity at the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall. Since it was only two blocks from the hotel, we walked there. He was right. We had a good time looking at the shops and people watching. I thought there were an inordinate number of people walking dogs. So many dogs – great danes to teacup yorkies in purses.

Instead of looking at all the people with their dogs, I should have been watching where I was walking. I stepped off the curb suddenly. It stung but luckily, I didn’t turn or break my ankle. Finishing the two weeks on crutches would have been a bummer.

We had a great dinner of carne Asada soft tacos at the Yard House. We were able to sit outside and continue the people-watching.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, our bags were in the room and it’s time to get ready for tomorrow. I ate my peach. It was delicious, but Al was right not to let us eat them on the bus.

Onward to Custer State Park.

Travel Trivia

Colorado National Monument

The canyons were single-handedly explored by John Otto, who built many miles of trails through the area in the early 20th Century. He and citizens from Grand Junction campaigned to make the area a national park. On May 24, 1911, Otto got his wish. President William H. Taft established the Colorado National Monument with presidential proclamation No. 1126, under the authority of the Antiquities Act. It became the 17th National Monument in the United States.

Otto was named the park’s caretaker. He did the job until 1927 for $1.00 per month.

The monument spreads over an area of 32 square miles.

The drive along the plateau provides the view of the Grand Mesa, the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.

Its main attraction is Monument Canyon, which runs across the width of the park and includes unique rock formations.

The Independence Monument is an isolated 450-foot tower of sandstone at the junction of two canyons.

Denver, Colorado

The name “Denver” was not actually the first name for this city. Originally, there were three different names, including St. Charles City, Auraria and Montana City.

The very first permanent structure in Denver was a saloon.

Katherine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful” while visiting Pikes Peak looking out towards the Denver skyline.

Denver is responsible for an American classic – the cheeseburger. In 1935 a man named Louis E. Ballast created and trademarked the combination for his drive-in, the Humpty-Dumpty Barrel.

Denver is home to one of the highest populations of high school and college graduates, baby boomers, and health-conscious individuals.

The Denver Mint officially opened in 1906 and now produces over 40 million coins per day.

Colorado – The Centennial State

In its beginning, the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains was a major migration route that was important to the spread of early peoples throughout the Americas. The Ancient Pueblo people lived in the valleys and mesas of the Colorado Plateau. The Ute Nation inhabited the mountain valleys of the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Western Rocky Mountains. The Apache and the Comanche also inhabited Eastern and Southeastern parts of the state. At times, the Arapaho Nation and the Cheyenne Nation moved west to hunt across the High Plains.

The Spanish Empire claimed Colorado as part of its New Mexico province prior to U.S. involvement in the region. The U.S. acquired a territorial claim to the eastern Rocky Mountains with the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803.

Mexico surrendered its northern territory to the U.S. with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the conclusion of the war in 1848.

The United States Congress passed an enabling act on March 3, 1875, specifying the requirements for the Territory of Colorado to become a state. On August 1, 1876 (four weeks after the Centennial of the United States), U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th state.

The state was named after the Colorado River.

The Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado is the highest vehicular tunnel in the world. The tunnel crosses the Continental Divide at an average elevation of 11,112 feet.

Colorado has the highest elevation of any U.S. state.

Colorado is the only state in America to turn down the Olympics.

Colorado’s famous Red Rocks Amphitheater took over 300 million years to form and is world-famous for its natural acoustics. Musicians such as the Beatles, Nat King Cole, U2, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, and John Denver have all performed there.

The Colorado Trail is a 500-mile-long hiking trail from Durango to Denver, crossing eight mountain ranges, seven national forests, six wilderness areas, and five river systems.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia, Colorado National Monument literature, and Globus

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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