We said goodbye to our tent and drove towards town. I had been seeing a “Welcome to Moab” sign each day that we’d been there, and now took the chance to photograph it. But, I wouldn’t be able to get as close as I wanted, since the area around the sign was roped off, marked for plant regrowth efforts.
I did the best I could, while Alyssa read a nearby sign describing early life in Moab. Soon we were in the car again, driving on River Road, passing by the canyon and rapids we had experienced over the past couple of days. This road had also been my first experience in the region, having taken it into Moab on the previous year’s trip, where I had commented then that this was a place I wanted to bring Alyssa. It was fitting then, that this would be how I’d leave the town.
I-70, through western Colorado, is one of the few entries in my list of “Places I like in the Interstate Highway System.” The road twists and curves its way through the Rockies in a way that it does nowhere else. A portion of the time, we followed along the Colorado River, seeing kayakers and rafters tackling rapids stronger than what we had faced the day before. Aside from some construction near Vail, which looks significantly different in the summer than when I’d been there during previous winters, traffic flowed smoothly.
We kept driving, and soon left the Interstate for a local road that would keep us in the mountains and bypass Denver. The smaller road climbed higher, and soon we were above the snow line once more. I said to Alyssa that we would stop somewhere so she could touch the snow, a rarity now that we were a few days into summer. Moments later, I saw a sign marking the Continental Divide at Hoosier’s Pass and decided there’d be no place better to stop. We stepped out of the car and walked along a trail leading off into the woods. Roughly a hundred yards later, we stopped at a remaining pile of snow, dense enough to still support our weight.
Earlier, while we were in Silverton, Alyssa bought a film called “Ghosts of the West.” The hour-long film talked about many of mining boomtowns built during the late 19th century only to be abandoned later, becoming ghost towns after the ore had dried up. At one point the film mentioned the South Park City Museum, which relocated and restored many of the old buildings, creating a historic town identical to how a boomtown would’ve looked in it’s time. Unfortunately, we learned about this much later and drove through the town of Fairplay never knowing it was there. But the name piqued our curiosity and after some quick Googling, we discovered another thing we missed: Fairplay is the real life setting for the show South Park. Another missed opportunity.
Over the past few days, I had fought with the solar power kit we had bought in Albuquerque. I didn’t know if it had overheated while sitting in the car throughout the hot Moab days, or if another issue plagued it, but I had decided that it wasn’t working like it should be. Arriving in Colorado Springs, our first major city since leaving Albuquerque, we headed to a REI. The cashier had no issue with doing the exchange, and while there I chose to pick up a few of the travel items I had lost earlier in the trip while Alyssa went to go look at climbing gear. I was glad that she overcame her apprehension about the rappel and, more than that, was seeing every rock as something either to scramble up or to rappel down. She was hooked.
We left the store and stopped a moment later for dinner at Carraba’s, before making our way to the Air Force Academy where we’d be spending the night. I explained to Alyssa that, even though it wasn’t my source of commissioning, I felt that by traveling to the Academy and seeing it, I might be able to relate a little better to my fellow officers who had graduated from there.
A moment later, an animal passed by us on the road. I didn’t recognize it, and by the time we stopped, it was gone. It didn’t look like a deer, and I didn’t think of Colorado as moose country. I drove onwards while Alyssa searched the internet and decided it was an elk. A mile or two later, I saw a deer on the side of the road, and pulled over. As I grabbed my camera, another deer appeared, grazing on the grasses. I snapped an image or two while hearing Alyssa tell me they were mule deer.
We reached the hotel and checked in. After taking our bags to the room, I talked Alyssa into going to Walgreens with me. I wanted some hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin. As much as I liked the idea of having a scar running across my face, I realized I should do what I could to minimize it.