Closed due to COVID–19, Molly and Ted Dey couldn’t get an up-close visit to southwest Colorado’s Puebloan Cliff Dwellings or the Four Corners Monument where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet. However, they were able to drive through Mesa Verde National Park before trekking through the mountains of Southwest Colorado, transiting the Million Dollar Highway and the seasonal Kebler Pass for the final week of their America the Beautiful tour in the Crested Butte area
A lunch stop in Ridgway (epicenter for the filming of John Wayne’s academy-award winning True Grit) at the True Grit Café was a must for Ted – a longtime John Wayne fan.
“Once in Mesa Verde Park we found a good vantage point where even from a distance we could see the Puebloan people’s impressive ingenuity in building the cliff dwellings more than 800 years ago,” said Molly Dey, President of Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. “The 52,485-acre refuge park was established in 1906 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site protecting 5,000 Puebloan archeological locations and the largest such preserve in America. It would have been great to get a tour of the dwellings, but exploring Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in and around Crested Butte provided more than we imagined.”
10,007-foot Kebler Pass is on a 30-mile gravel mountain road that runs between the town of Crested Butte and Paonia State Park, and a popular short-cut to Aspen in non-winter months. The stretch is part of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway and offers a marvelous panorama of alpine vistas, streams, lakes, meadows and wildlife, including moose sightings. It also is home to one of best fall foliage displays in America courtesy thousands of Aspen trees.
This area of Southwest Colorado is home to one of the largest aspen clones in the country. “The aspens were at full peak during our stay, and it was like seeing rolling waves of Yellow Brick Road,” Ted said. “Above the trees were endless mountain canopies and striking terrain. We could see the two 14,000-foot plus peaks of the iconic Maroon Bells in the far distance”, Molly adds.
The couple four-wheeled, biked and hiked throughout the region, including stops at Ruby Anthracite Trail, Pearl Pass, and Gothic Mountain. The Deys found an idyllic spot at Kebler Corner Campground, the western terminus of Kebler Pass, where the Anthracite Creek and Gunnison River converge. “With 25 RV spaces, several cabins, outdoor event space, and world-class fly-fishing it is the perfect spot for a family reunion,” says Ted.
One of the literal climaxes of the tour was driving the Million Dollar Highway, one of the most scenic and spectacular roads in America, albeit dangerous. Part of the San Juan Skyway, the stunning stretch runs between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado where the mountains rise more than 11,000 feet with hairpin turns, few guardrails and steep drops. “It was a challenge to drive and not look at the mesmerizing scenery,” said Ted, “but we made it.”
Thank you to all who have followed their journey, and soon we’ll release a video homage to America the Beautiful, for it truly is an amazing place to live!