Just simply gorgeous. Moab and the vicinity are one of my favorites of the trip. I was happy to pass back by going the other way, even though it is now in season with temperatures dropping and crowds increasing. I’m really trying to get the video going here because I filmed part of my favorite scenic drives.
I have to talk about the scenic drive in reverse order, as it’s the way that I came the first time. For some reason, it doesn’t make sense to me to write about it the way I am going except that maybe if you are coming from Denver, west, your GPS won’t even tell you the road is there. Scenic Route 128. There are actually two exits off of 70. I recommend the first as it fits my love of contrast and the change is more dramatic. The second exit is a couple mile paved road. The first takes you through what I found out was Cisco Ghost Town. It is like something out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You just know that there are a few of Tarantino’s Gimps in basements there.
You quickly cross a set of train tracks and start winding through nicer country, southern Colorado and then northern Utah. Farms start springing up and then you run into the Colorado River Valley around mile marker 30 (It’s going down to 1). Riding along the valley is just an incredible drive with vistas or places to pull over and camp or swim or kayak around every turn. At about 17, you enter what I think of as the real “gem” of Moab. Most people will never know it is here as they’ll fly up or down Route 191.
Mile 17 is another special drive. Once you are in Moab, with 191 the main road, you go south a little way and there is a sign for La Sal Scenic Loop. Locals like it because it takes you up into Castle Rock where the temperature drops by about 20 degrees. Eventually, you’ll hit Castle Rock Road and that brings you down into a valley and then back onto 128. There are plenty of spaces along that loop as well to pull over, hike, camp or what have you.
But I was heading north. After a quick stop in Grand Junction, I went north. My destination: Wyoming. Of course, the scenic route took me back into Utah. I think I have entered Utah now about 10 times? It might be telling me something. I was on this wonderful road, cruising through northern Colorado, when I hit the Rocky Mountains.
The torturous (but enjoyable) drive I took down into Sedona with the hairpin turns? This road was it’s very bigger brother. In Sedona, it was red buttes and hills. This was the Rockies and there was no playing around. 1,000 foot drops, roads that seem to cling to the face of the mountain, 20mph postd speed limit might be too fast for some of the turns, and just to make things even more fun: cows. But not the good kind, the kind I encountered all along my trip. These cows don’t stay on their side of the fence. They are right there on the sides of the road or in the road.
I was racing daylight when I finally came out, passing through a small town, not really having any idea what state I was in. The gut at the convenience store said when he moved here, it was the first time he knew what quiet was, afraid his neighbors could hear everything he said inside his home. It was also the first time he saw the Milky Way, thinking it was clouds until he looked it up on the internet.
I had some fun with the drive, but also a regret. I really wanted to stop. I made a left hand turn at one point onto Brontosaurus Drive in Dinosaur Nevada, gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. As night descended, I started a long drive through another National Forest, Ashley. It’s along side of another thing I’d like to go back and see: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. I was told the Flaming Gorge is a beautiful three hour scenic loop drive and Dinosaur National Monument can have looking thousands of feet down–someone even said it is better than the Grand Canyon.
When I was almost at the end of drive, a bird swooped down in front of my car and raced the headlights for a few seconds before veering off. I’d swear it was an owl.
But then I made it. Green River, Wyoming. State #35 along the journey, 45 –I believe–for my lifetime.