We left the campground at 10:00 and headed up I-70 towards Fruita and Colorado National Monument. Along the highway, we saw what we thought was the eastern edge of the Monument.
I think the name “Colorado National Monument” gives the wrong impression. “Monument” connotates something altogether different in people’s minds. Colorado National Monument rises 2000 ft. above the valley of the Colorado River. Vertical cliff walls and natural rock sculptures tower over deep canyons. If you’ve never visited Colorado National Monument before, I hope my pictures wet your appetite to check it out for yourself. We left I-70 at Fruita and took Highway 340 to the entrance.
We checked in at the ranger station with our senior lifetime pass. No charge for us, but $25 per vehicle otherwise.
The Rim Rock Drive is only 23 miles long, but climbs the Colorado River’s Grand Valley to the high country and then winds along the plateau rim. Bob started out driving, but soon came to realize it just wasn’t for him, so we switched places.
The drive was along the edge of the cliffs at times and hugging the rocks at other times.
Sometimes there were no guardrails. The view of the valley was amazing. At the start of the drive, it was kind of hazy, but as time wore on, the skies cleared a little.
Our first stop on the drive was Redlands View.
Then the road took us along the top of Fruita Canyon! What a view that was! At the Fruita Canyon View, we ran into 5 Jeeps from Missouri taking a little Jeep trip. This viewpoint gave us a whole view of the canyon.
Off in the distance, we could see the Grand Mesa. Grand Mesa is the largest flattop mesa in the world. It was still pretty hazy, but its shape was very recognizable.
The next part of the drive had a number of switchbacks and 2 tunnels–one after the other.
Bob was doing a good job of picture taking while I handled the driving since we switched our roles today. We stopped next to check out Balanced Rock View. Balanced Rock is a 600 ton boulder perched on a pedestal.
Four miles into our drive, we came upon the Visitor Center. We went in to look around. I found out (by eavesdropping) where we could see the place where the Gunnison River joins the Colorado River right in town. We’ll check that out later on our way home. From the Visitor Center, we drove into the Saddlehorn Campground to check out the Book Cliffs View. It was amazing!
From there, we took a short 1/4 mile walk on the Window Rock Trail to see Window Rock and from there we had excellent views of the Wedding and Monument Canyons and the major rock formations.
Going in the opposite direction, we walked the 1/2 mile on the Canyon Rim Trail and saw the Sentinal Spire. Every 4th of July, it is tradition to climb this monolith and place the flag at the top. In the third picture you can see the steps that they cut into the rock.
Back on the main road, Rim Rock Drive, and we continued on to Independence Monument View.
The monoliths were labeled on a picture at the kiosk. See if you can visualize them by their names.
Continuing on, we came to the Grand View Overlook. Here we could see a hole in the rock that looked like a cave.
The kiosk explained that it was really a tunnel built to relieve pressure on the road from the water runoff.
Our next stop was Monument Canyon View which overlooked Monument Canyon.
From here, we could see many of the rock sculptures.
We did drive to the Coke Ovens Overlook. The Coke Ovens area a series of colorful rock domes.
We saw signs that warned of a flagman up ahead and as we looked up the road further we could see some men controlling traffic down to one lane in each direction. We decided that this was a good place to stop and eat our lunch with such a fabulous view to enjoy.
After lunch, we decided we didn’t want to deal with the construction, so we decided to begin our descent from here. We had climbed from 4690 ft. to 6256 ft. in elevation and only drove about 8 miles of the 23 miles of Rim Rock Drive. The highest point on the drive was much further down the road at an elevation of 6640 ft., so we weren’t far off. It was already 1:00, so we ran out of time to go all the way to the end. The drive down gave us another look at all the beautiful rock structures and deep canyons.
We kept our eyes open for bighorn sheep on the rocks, but we never saw any. Our drive down went faster as it always seems to do, so we were back down in no time. We did some exploring in Grand Junction to find a spot where we could see the Gunnison River join the Colorado River. It took a little time to find a decent view, but we finally did.
It wasn’t as spectacular as I thought it would be, but it was interesting.
After all, Grand Junction was named because of the two rivers that came together here. We got back to the campground around 2:00 to relax outside with Auggie. Bob got permission to wash the bus for $7, so he did the parts what were in the shade. I put on my swimsuit and walked over to the pool for a swim.
I had the pool all to myself and the water was so refreshing. Once more people arrived, I went back to the bus. There was not a cloud in the sky all day. With a high temperature of 98 degrees today, it was warm, but not unbearable with a nice breeze. After dinner, we took our walk and saw the kids watching TV outside on the big screen by the KOA office. It’s a cool thing they have set up outside.
Back at the bus we settled in for the night. Randy and Jane will arrive at the campground tomorrow afternoon and have the campsite right next to ours. On Saturday, we all move on to Montrose/Ouray for a few more days together. It will be great to spend some time together.