AMERICA the BEAUTIFUL

When Katharine Lee Bates first published her poem America, on July 4, 1895, she certainly got it right. Combined with Samuel A. Ward’s music, and published as the song, America the Beautiful in 1910, it has become one of the most popular and beloved of all our patriotic songs, and after having completed another grand tour of the American West, I was continually reminded of those beautiful lyrics every day as we drove through endless vistas of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plain.

With my brother-in-law Bud Keirn, and old friends Jimmy Reed and Virgil Cook, we departed Mountain Home, AR on August 6, and covered 4,000 miles over 9 days, on a route that took us to Oklahoma City, OK, Amarillo, TX, Albuquerque, NM, Monument Valley, UT, Moab, UT, Grand Junction, CO, Gunnison, CO, Idaho Springs, CO, Creede, CO, Denver, CO, Colorado Springs, CO, and many lesser stops in between.  We experienced temperature extremes from 105 degrees in Oklahoma City, to a wind chill of 10 degrees (38 degrees, 40 mph wind) on top of Mount Evans in Colorado (14,247 feet).  We camped out two nights at Taylor Park Reservoir, elevation 8,500 feet, in one of the most beautiful settings once can ever imagine (the picture at the top of this blog is the exact view we had looking out the flap of our tent, minus the snow cap on the half-dozen or so 14,000 foot peaks to the north)!

I won’t attempt to describe the beauty of what we saw, I think I’ll just post a few pictures from our journey, with a brief caption for each. I will say this…  I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot of this old world in my 65 years, from England, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Israel, China, Japan, Korea, much of the Pacific, Alaska and Central America, and I can honestly say that there’s no place like home! There is no feeling in this world like flying into JFK, or LAX after a long trip overseas, and feeling that you are HOME, in the greatest nation on the planet, and have been blessed with being born an American.  It’s just like the father of modern rock ‘n roll, Chuck Berry said, “Anything you want they got right here in the USA”!

No place on Earth can equal the natural and diverse beauty of America.  If you haven’t seen it all, get out there and do a road trip. (You might want to do it some other month than August – it was DAMN hot!)

WILDFLOWERS IN TEXAS (OR WAS IT NEW MEXICO)?

MORE WILDFLOWERS, IN ARIZONA.

MONUMENT VALLEY, UTAH ON A RAINY DAY. UTAH HAS PERHAPS THE WILDEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL GEOLOGY OF ANY STATE IN THE UNION, AND WE DIDN’T SEE HALF OF IT!  MISSED THE GRAND STAIRCASE ESCALANTE AND BRYCE CANYON!

MONUMENT VALLEY – MILLIONS OF YEARS OF WIND & WATER EROSION.

THE SUN WOULDN’T COOPERATE, BUT STILL SPECTACULAR!

THE BEST BREAKFAST IN AMERICA, AT THE “W” CAFE in GUNNISON, CO!  GUNNISON IS OFF THE BEATEN PATH, UP IN THE BACK COUNTRY, BUT “THE DUB” IS WELL WORTH A TRIP JUST FOR THIS BREAKFAST.

THE TAYLOR RIVER (JUST A CREEK, ACTUALLY) WINDS ALONG THE 25 MILE DRIVE UP FROM GUNNISON TO TAYLOR PARK RESERVOIR.

TAYLOR PARK RESERVOIR, ELEVATION 8,500 FEET.  THIS IS THE VIEW LOOKING OUT THE FLAP OF OUR TENT, WHERE WE CAMPED FOR TWO NIGHTS. I’VE NEVER SEEN THE MILKY WAY AS BRILLIANT AS IN THIS PITCH BLACK ROCKY MOUNTAIN SKY, A VIRTUAL RIVER OF LIGHT!

BUD KEIRN & VIRGIL COOK AT THE SUMMIT OF COTTONWOOD PASS, 12,126 FT. COTTONWOOD PASS IS THE HIGHEST PASS IN COLORADO, AND IS CLOSED FROM NOV. 1 THROUGH MAY 1 DUE TO DEEP SNOW AND AVALANCHE CONDITIONS.

TAYLOR PARK RESERVOIR AS SEEN FROM THE TOP OF COTTONWOOD PASS. OUR CAMPSITE WAS TO THE LEFT OF THE LAKE, NEARLY A MILE BELOW THE PASS.

A HIGH MOUNTAIN LAKE TUCKED JUST BELOW THE SUMMIT OF COTTONWOOD PASS, ELEVATION 12,000 FT.   THE NOON TIME TEMPERATURE HERE WAS ONLY 49 DEGREES, IN FULL SUNSHINE (IN AUGUST)!

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SECTIONS OF ROAD WAS THE 75 MILES OR SO ALONG US HIGHWAY 50, THAT RUNS THROUGH THE ARKANSAS RIVER CANYON BETWEEN CANON CITY AND GUNNISON.

THE WEMINUCHE WILDERNESS AREA IN COLORADO. THE LAKES SEEN IN THE DISTANCE ARE THE HEADWATERS OF THE RIO GRANDE RIVER.

ALTHOUGH WE HAD GREAT WEATHER MOST OF THE TRIP, THERE WERE A FEW THUNDERSTORMS ALONG THE WAY, LIKE THE DAY IN MONUMENT VALLEY, AND THIS ONE NEAR CREEDE, CO, AN OLD SILVER MINING TOWN WHERE BAT MASTERSON RAN HIS GAMBLING PARLOR AND THIRST EMPORIUM!

ALTHOUGH WE DIDN’T MAKE IT TO MONTANA THIS TRIP, WE DID FIND A PLACE TO PARK THE HERD THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN QUITE SUITABLE TO WOODROW F. CALL, AUGUSTUS McCRAE AND THE BOYS OF THE HAT CREEK CATTLE COMPANY.

MT. EVANS IS HEAVILY POPULATED WITH MARMOTS, ALMOST A CROSS BETWEEN A BEAVER AND A FERRET, AND VERY CURIOUS.  MT. EVANS HAS THE HIGHEST PAVED ROAD IN AMERICA, AND YOU CAN DRIVE TO THE SUMMIT, (14,247 FT.) IN AN ORDINARY PASSENGER VEHICLE (SEASONAL OF COURSE).  AT THAT ALTITUDE, THE AIR IS QUITE THIN, AND JUST A STROLL ACROSS THE PARKING LOT WILL LEAVE YOU GASPING FOR OXYGEN!

MT. EVANS’ OTHER RESIDENT SPECIE, BILLY GOAT GRUFF!  THESE GUYS ARE PRETTY NUMEROUS, AND ONE OF THE MORE POPULAR ATTRACTIONS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS.  THE DAY WE WERE THERE, IT WAS A BALMY 38 DEGREES ON THE SUMMIT, WITH A 40 MPH WIND, MAKING A WIND CHILL OF 10 DEGREES. NEEDLESS TO SAY, I DIDN’T HANG AROUND LONG TRYING TO GET THE PERFECT POSE ON MR. MOUNTAIN GOAT!

MT. EVANS’ “YOUNGER GENERATION”

VIRGIL, BUD, JUNIOR & YOURS TRULY AT THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE IN NEW MEXICO.  WE CROSSED AND RE-CROSSED THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE SOME SEVEN TIMES ON THIS TRIP AS WE WOUND OUR WAY NORTH FROM NEW MEXICO TO NORTHERN COLORADO.

JAKE SPOON, CAP’N WOODROW F. CALL AND CAP’N AUGUSTUS McCRAE

TEXAS RANGERS

Junior had to leave us early, to get back for the start of classes in Oxford, and we were unable to capture the Outlaw Blue Duck, although we crossed his track a few times.  All in all, it was a splendid adventure, and one we will probably make again, with Gold’s help.  Good friends and the spectacular beauty of America make for some fine times.  Get off your butt and make a trip like this.  It’s your country too, you should see it in all its splendor!

— Joe —

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6 Responses to AMERICA the BEAUTIFUL

  1. Jerry Wexler says:

    I loved your trip detail and pics.
    Ya’ll need to tour through the ROCK MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK. I loved it so much I have a condo at Grand Lake, CO. the gateway to the park and go there a much as possible. The park is the source of the Co river and is full of fourteeners, the Never Summer Range. Check it out on the web. I truly love the West and I also encourage everyone to make a trip there. Pictures are nice but doesn’t do justice to the real thing.

  2. Tommy Cheairs says:

    Joe, Looks like the “trip of a lifetime”..I recognize the valley picture in the WEMINUCHE WILDERNESS AREA….I’m sure they filmed in that location in the Billy Crystal movie “City Slickers” ..

    Tommy

  3. Jack Glaze says:

    Awesome photos. I wish I had gone with you guys. God has truely shed his grace on our incredible country. The first time I say the Rockies, I was driving across the plain and saw the mountains in the distance and they were purple (for purple mountain majesties) and I was overwhelmed. The closer I got, the more I was just blown away with God’s handywork.
    Thanks so much for sharing this.
    jack

  4. Bae Cascio says:

    Don’t believe Cap’n McRae had to leave early. The real story is Blue Duck captured him on the cattle drive and he still has him. July I’m going to let you go for now. You need to go raise horses and service Woodrow’s woman. Next time you take a picture stand up like a man!
    Jake, you racoon eyed lookin cow girl, I’m coming after you next.
    Woodrow I can see the fear in your eyes. I’m saving you for last!!
    “The Outlaw Blue Duck”

  5. Leland says:

    Joe — These photos are inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

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