Skip to content

Along the Scenic Byways

After a couple of days of “honey do’s”, it was time to further explore this incredible Arkansas Valley.

Now you’re all wondering why I have the Penn logo as the post’s featured image – fair question – it will become clear in a minute – well sort of…

What most of you don’t know is that this nomad is an Ivy League educated SOB – yup – mother J was a school teacher and her kids were going to get the best education possible – and , the scholar Gods shone upon poor young Stephen – damn generous package of scholarships, grants, and work study made it all possible.

yup – and it’s why some friends chuckle when they see an RV heading down the highway – they get a kick out the thinking about yours truly – an Ivy League educated, former Wall Street Managing Director – now sporting a ponytail and beard and putting it all on hold to roam around this beautiful country – you know the drill – start whistling “God Bless America “ 🙂

But I digress – back to the byways…

One of the two byways I would be exploring would be Collegiate Peaks – followed by Top Of the Rockies – a couple of the finest stretches of roads labeled Scenic Byways – a designation for US roads that was begun in 1991 to recognize roads “having outstanding archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, scenic qualities” Yup – a tall order – but one that these two roads fit perfectly.

In fact, Colorado is home to 25 Scenic and Historic Byways, 11 of which are also federally designated America’s Byways – we’re talking about a major chunk of beautiful roads

The Collegiate Peaks – near/around Salida – could also be called “the Avenue of Fourteeners.” – along its entire length, the Collegiate Peaks continuously rise above the 14,000-foot mark

And then that byway connects to the Top of the Rockies – north to Leadville – with its constantly unfolding views of impressive peaks, along with intermittent stretches of lush farmland all along the river, as well as active high altitude ranches and an variety of commercially developed natural hot springs. An incredible mix collectively known as the Upper Arkansas River Valley

Between the two– they contain some of the most incredible Rocky Mountain scenery that exists and lead to/into some remarkable history – they reach altitudes of more than 2 miles above sea level and pass near Colorado’s highest peak as well as those other 14ers – a stunning expanse of landscape!

Well, first stop was the Collegiate Peaks overlook just south of Buena Vista

And, now the Penn connection – or, should I say lack of connection…

Seems the geologist, Joseph Whitney, a Yale alum, on an 1869 expedition sponsored by Harvard, named one peak Mt Yale and another Mt Harvard. And, then the rush was on to name the other surrounding peaks after prestigious universities – Mt Princeton, Mt Oxford, Mt Columbia –

But, what’s this?? No Penn… say it ain’t so… 🙂

Damn – reminded me immediately of the T-shirts some the Penn students wore – T-shirts adorned with something along the lines of the following

Where were all the Penn geologists in the late 1800’s?? missed a great opportunity to name a mountain – a 14er no less –

I would have climbed it too – would have had too…

But I digress…

North to Leadville along the Top of the Rockies – with 14ers on my shoulder all the way – amazing…

Leadville is a legendary frontier mining town with seventy square blocks of Victorian architecture, an adjacent 20 square miles of mining district, and tons of history…And, it’s North America’s highest incorporated city at a lofty perch of 10,430 feet

In other words, no shortage of subjects to explore and photograph – even decided to process them differently for this post – just playing – after all that was this day was all about – no honey do’s today…

The Delaware Hotel is a fine example of the elegance that money brought to this mining town – opened in 1886 – even operates as a hotel today.

And, Tabor Opera House, opened in 1879 and was once considered the grandest structures of its kind between St. Louis and San Francisco

Well, all this exploring at 10,430 feet builds up an appetite – and, since this is a journey de cuisine – how about lunch from the Mobile Muncher – outstanding

Now replenished, time to explore the land of the 10th Mountain Division of WWII fame; explore the alpine lakes; stop at one of Colorado’s 1880’s mining towns – St Elmo.

St. Elmo was originally settled in 1878 and was made official in 1880 when gold and silver began to bring many people to the area. Though it was first called Forest City, the small town’s name was changed when the post office objected because there were too many towns with the same name. The new name was supposedly derived by Griffith Evans, one of the founders, who was reading a romantic nineteenth-century novel by the same name.

The town went the way of other booming mining towns – reached a population of more than 2000 and took on all the trappings of a single male population with saloons, dance halls, and bawdy houses – evidence of which stills stands today and is fun to wander around and photograph.

Well, after nearly a couple hundred miles with numerous stops along the way , it was time to call it quits – a really wonderful day – a long one – but still time though to grab an adult beverage and sit and watch the sun go down again over Mt Shavano…nice!

Take care….see you down the road

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS