Continental Divide…….#225 (the 90’s)

Reaching the summit

Gift Shop


With the farewell to Cripple Creek and again on highway 50, the Buick Skylark reaching a summit on the Continental Divide,  Monarch Pass,  revered as one of Colorado’s most scenic overlooks.   The Willson’s halting their progression at the visitors center which included a gift shop and small restaurant.  The family taking notice of the aerial tram for those wanting to acknowledge the cable journey across a canyon to Monarch Ridge.  The family taking  a brief refreshment pause in the prevailing thin air Colorado environment,  acknowledging the postcard scene exposition.  Gary uncomfortable with the thin air of the 11,000 ft.  elevations, but relief was coming as they traversed downhill toward Gunnison, their westward journey continuing.

Down hill to Gunnison




The city and also the county of Gunnison Colorado was named for John W Gunnison,  a surveyor for the Pacific Railroad in 1853.  His demise coming from the Indians of the Ute Tribe resenting the intrusion in their majestic domain, the Tomichi Valley,  its area included the marvelous expanse of Gunnison.  The valley a scenic wonder, nestled at 7,200 feet, with the majestic Gunnison river.  Unlike the white water Arkansas which the Willson’s had witnessed during their scenic Highway 50 travels.  This smaller river journeys through the wide-spreading Gunnison Tomichi valley mostly presenting a presence of serenity.

Main Street – Highway 50 in Gunnison

Gunnison River

The Gunnison Super Eight Motel lodging accommodating Gary and his family for the night.  The morning found the Willson’s traveling north to the hamlet of Crested Butte,  a small scenic community 30 miles north of Gunnison.   Crested Butte was primarily a winter season Activity Center with ski lodges and lifts,  the pronounced presence of 12,162 foot Crested Butte with its  sloping 2.6 mile ski run overlooking the community.   The township with less than 1200  was dotted with small sundry shops,  Gary finding an atmosphere reminiscing of the Hippies communities from the bygone era of the sixties.

Crested Butte

Crested Buttes shops

The return to Gunnison on Highway one 35 found the outset of the Gunnison River,  it was a confluence of the Taylor river tributary from Crested Butte and the East River,  the two coalescing to form the Gunnison at the town of Almont, 15 miles north of the municipality of Gunnison.  The River flowing southwest, then making a horseshoe turn, changing and flowing northwest before entering the Colorado River at Grand Junction.   Jan and the kids mentioning   the numerous river rafting enterprises along the river on the return from Crested Butte, Gary getting the message, deciding to stop and inaugurate a new experience, river rafting.


The sign read Scenic River Tours,  Gary halting the Buick’s journey to inquire,  recognizing that Robert and Sandi’s excitement starting to blossom with expectation.   The world of river rafting an unknown to the family, the explanation of white water rafting being discerned,  a type 1 voyage being a gently float down a river,  advancing in scale to a white water type 5 perspective, requiring experience to work as a crew member,  able to adhere to the instructions from the guide without hesitation.   The juncture of the Gunnison river,  its flow towards  the town was a rafting category type 3,  not a floating experience, but in respect, not a hazardous white water type 5 encounter either.


he Willson’s adorning their life jackets, boarding the raft,  taking their assigned rowing positions.  with cast off they listened to the instructions from the experienced helmsmen,  even with their attentiveness they were still able to absorb the beauty of the countryside and the enhancement of the sparkling clear brisk moving river.  The 45 minutes of passage was an onstage presentation of Colorado’s natural beauty.  the quiescence experienced with the roar of the river,  then a calmness,  the silence of serenity abounded with the husbandry of nature,  the charisma of the flowing river removing all thoughts of the quotidian world.   Gary subliminally making a mental note, having  experienced the gleam in his children’s eyes, plus his own countenance, this first experience of rafting would not be their last.

Blue Mesa

black Canyon National Monument

Again the westward journey  began, the Willson’s departing Gunnison,  Highway 50 still a bulwark of progression,  another two hours would find their destination.   The high altitude plains of Colorado and Blue Mesa Reservoir promulgated before them,  the largest body of water in Colorado,  Gary having never experienced a 36 mile long reservoir.  the highway paralleling the seemingly endless body of water,  its presence but a brief pause for the flowing Gunnison river.   The roadside sign red Black Canyon National Monument,  its designation further north.  Gary hesitating,  a curiosity,  filing a thought for another time,  a possible inquisition on the family’s return to the plains of Kansas.

Montrose turn off


.Arriving at Montrose,  their westward trek on highway 50  coming to an end,  the Buick turning south on Highway 550, an hour’s journey to embrace their destination, a  small sequestered community of 800,  slumbered at seven thousand seven hundred and ninety two feet, nestled in the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, its prominence proclaimed as the Switzerland of America, Ouray Colorado.


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