Yesterday was a big travel day for us as we finally made it to Colorado in our RV. And boy, this state definitely did not disappoint. We started the day leaving Chama, New Mexico, a beautiful, forest-filled area just 35 miles from the Colorado border and heading to Gunnison, Colorado. I had miscalculated the time it would take for us to make the journey. I had thought it would take 2 ½ hours. Instead, it took 4 ½ hours. But man, what a drive.
We Left New Mexico for Colorado
Chama is at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains. As we drove, the roads began to curve up, down and around the mountains. We saw steep cliffs, huge fir and aspen trees covering the roadside. We’d wind and climb our way to the top and then wind and descend our way to the bottom only to start again. At one point, we were at an elevation of over 13,000 feet high, then turned into a steep downward 7% grade that forced us to travel no faster than 25 mph.
Driving Our RV through Colorado
There’s nothing quite like navigating twisting mountain roads with 10,000 pounds pushing you along the way. We finally learned what the 2nd and 1st gears on our automatic truck were for. Those accustomed to pulling large loads or driving on rough roads would have smiled at our inexperience. If I’d had cell service, I would have put in a call to my brother who regularly pulls horse trailers up and down the East Coast.
At one point, after Chris had spent quite a bit of time riding the breaks, he asked me to pull out the driver’s manual and read about when to use the 2nd and 1st gears as well as 2WD verses 4WD. We’re glad he did because the adjustment made all the difference. Here’s what we learned:
- 2WD is for normal, everyday road driving
- 4WD is for loose or rocky roads (4WD-Lo is for speeds of no more than 25 mph, 4WD-Hi is for speeds up to 45 mph)
- 1st gear is for steep inclines/declines up to 25 mph
- 2nd gear is for steep inclines/declines up to 45 mph
Three of Colorado’s National Forests
As we drove through the mountains, we passed through three national forests: San Juan, Rio Grande and Gunnison. As beautiful as it was, there was also a large number of dead trees standing in the forests. I remembered learning during an earlier trip the Colorado with my dear friend Glenda Bunkofske that Colorado trees have experienced an insect infestation from the mountain pine beetle, a little creature that is no bigger than 5 millimeters. It’s pretty amazing that something so tiny can cause so much devastation. This tiny insect has largely contributed to the widespread death of Colorado’s trees and the result is a larger threat of forest fires.
The Rio Grande River and The Great Divide
We also discovered that the mouth of the Rio Grande River, which flows through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico begins in this area. The Rio Grande, which my kids studied during Cycle 3 in Classical Conversations, is the third longest river in America, right behind the Mississippi and the Colorado.
We crossed the Great Continental Divide, which I’ve looked forward to seeing ever since I watched the Disney movie, [amazon link=”B00O8NVF86″ title=”Across the Great Divide” link_title=”Across the Great Divide” /] as a child. I’m in process of planning a movie night for our family.
When we finally arrived in Gunnison, the land had changed yet again. Beautiful grass covered mesas surrounded the Gunnison Reservoir. The landscape looks so stunning, it reminds me of anOlan Mills photography studio backdrop.
The entire day, I kept taking pictures out the window because every twist in the road brought another breathtaking scene. We moved from craggy mountain cliffs to evergreen forests to rolling mesas. Just beautiful. I hope the pictures capture even a fraction of the story.