Monday, May 12, 2008


We are at the Sage picnic area and scenic overlook in the BLM's Angel Peak Scenic Area (map), overlooking the breathtaking New Mexico badlands.

Normally, I would post this blog in the morning, over a lazy cup of coffee, and tell you how our night here went. However, I've just been doing my nightly routine of route planning for tomorrow, and it looks like we will have a long day ahead of us.

We've been moving very slowly, because we don't need to be in Hotchkiss until Thursday. So we only did about 70 miles today, since last night's planning disclosed this spectacular stopping spot, and we really wanted to spend a night here. The plan was to see the Aztec Ruins National Monument tomorrow as we passed through Aztec, NM, then roll north into Colorado and spend the night somewhere north of Durango, maybe in one of the forest service campgrounds along the ascent into Silverton. That would leave us fresh on Tuesday to do Coal Bank and Molas passes into Silverton, and Red Mountain Pass into Ouray. This latter pass is twisty and narrow enough that the route is restricted from commercial trucks.

I discovered tonight, however, that a storm is moving in, and there is an 80% chance of snow in those passes on Tuesday. If we stuck with our original plan, we'd be sidelined in Durango until the passes reopen, which, with the forecast for possible continuing snow through Thursday, might take us from well ahead of schedule to well behind. While our friend in Hotchkiss would certainly understand if we had to wave off in order to make it to Denver in time for Louise's flight next Monday, our mail is already en route to Olathe, north of Montrose, and so we are committed to finding our way north at least that far.

After poring over the maps, including the whizzy elevation profiles provided by DeLorme's Topo USA, and checking out the weather chart like go-cart Mozart (with apologies to The Boss, who I've now quoted twice, if you include the post title), we've decided instead to make a run for it: We'll get a fairly early start tomorrow, and do all the mountain passes in one fell swoop. Our goal is to be well on the downhill run from Ouray to Ridgway by Tuesday morning, where the precipitation will merely be rain. That will give us three days to kill in the Ridgway/Montrose/Delta area, rather than spending more time in the scenic Durango-Silverton corridor, but them's the breaks.

I am hoping that we will still find time tomorrow to check out the Aztec Ruins National Monument, if only briefly. And we're still glad we stopped here at Angel Peak, which rivals Bryce Canyon, in my opinion, for this type of landscape. It could easily vie for national monument status, if it were not for the natural gas wellheads that dot the valley floor.

The picnic area here has a pair of brand new ramadas over high-tech synthetic picnic tables, and a vault toilet. We had to park a bit close to this latter item to get a level spot without blocking the access road, but we've had this wonderful scenery out our side windows for the whole afternoon, and we can't see the potty with the front blinds closed.

We've been mostly alone all day, although there is a fifth-wheel a quarter mile away at the next scenic overlook. And we considered moving along another couple miles to the next picnic area, or even four miles to what purports to be an actual campground, but the washboard dirt road rattled the cat food off its perch and nearly dumped the fish tank on the floor just in the half mile or so we came to get to this spot. So we called it good enough, not wanting to endure possibly four more miles of teeth-rattling.

There is always a downside to taking the closest site to the main road, and this afternoon a 45' bus full of tourists pulled in behind us. Everyone got out, milled around near the canyon edge, took photos, and/or used the vault toilet (although I'm imagining the one in their bus was probably cleaner). Several folks decided Odyssey was part of the interesting scenery and took photos, so I took one of their bus, too.

We again had the place to ourselves while we cooked and ate dinner, taking advantage of perfect weather to eat at one of the thoughtfully provided picnic tables. Just after dark a pickup camper pulled in behind us, and is sharing the parking for the night.

After breakfast we'll break camp, and head north to Bloomfield, whose lights can be seen tonight shimmering in the distance.


  1. If you're going to be "stuck" in Montrose, then (unless you already have) you MUST go see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which is just to the East. It is amazingly dramatic and beautiful. Think of a skinnier Grand Canyon with black walls. Very cool. -- Jon

  2. Great suggestion. Yes, we've been there, westbound on 50 after passing through Curecanti:

    We've got plenty to keep us busy in Montrose, though, as we need to get the laundry done and stock up on supplies, not to mention another teleconference tomorrow night. So we'll probably skip it this time.



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