Sunday, April 3, 2016

Highway of Legends

 I picked up a pamphlet about the Highway of Legends when we visited Walsenburg a few weeks ago. I knew it was a drive we must take before leaving southern Colorado. From La Junta, driving southwest on highway 10 across the prairie, we got to watch parts of the Rockies growing bigger and bigger. This peak is called Greenhorn Mountain. It is 12,352 feet in elevation.
 
 I was able to identify several of the majestic peaks we saw, but our destination featured the glorious Spanish Peaks, towering over Walsenburg and Trinidad, just off the interstate I-25 freeway. These two peaks sit out from the main line of the Rockies, like Pikes Peak does. The east mountain, on the left, is 12,688 feet and the west peak rises to 13,631 feet. As I watched them growing closer and closer, it was fun to think that we would be driving on a road that runs around behind these peaks and next to the ridge of mountains just beyond.

 Mr. Keith needed a snack when we reached Walsenburg so we stopped at a fast food restaurant. I was delighted to see this mural right across the street telling about the Highway of Legends. We were excited to begin our journey on the highway! We learned that this area of southern Colorado has been home to many different people from indigenous native tribes and Spanish explorers to Mexican, French, English and American trappers and traders. In the 19th and 20th centuries, waves of immigrants came from Europe to work and mines or farm and ranch the fertile plains and valleys. All have left their marks, leading to the name given the area, Highway of Legends.

 I snapped this photo along the beginning of the road. 
Spanish Peaks
(American Name)
Huajatolla
(Spanish Name)
Wahatoya
(Indian Name)

 Right along the highway we spied this native American shrine. There were several crosses, various items of unknown meaning, along with a fence filled up with prayer ribbons.
The lore of this area is vivid, swirling in the spiritual myths of the American Indians and the history of their clashes with Spanish explorers. Like much of Colorado, where the promises of fortune led, trouble followed and tales of outlaws “settling their differences” are common. - See more at: http://www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-scenic-byway-highway-legends#sthash.wBJM3bOv.dpuf

The lore of this area is vivid, swirling in the spiritual myths of the American Indians and the history of their clashes with Spanish explorers. Like much of Colorado, where the promises of fortune led, trouble followed and tales of outlaws “settling their differences” are common. - See more at: http://www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-scenic-byway-highway-legends#sthash.wBJM3bOv.dpuf
 After we passed through Cuchara, which seemed mostly to be a place of resorts for tourists, we made it to the top of Chuchara Pass, elevation 9995 feet. When I added in my own height I could say I was at over 10,000 feet!

 I didn't get a very good photo of this rock wall, which was similar to many such rock walls we saw on our drive. It's called the Dakota formation. All the walls we passed by were tall and not very wide, quite striking. This one is in the tiny town of Stonewall, named so appropriately.

Just a few miles from Trinidad we drove through the tiny town of Cokedale. These puzzling structures snaking across the valley vaguely resemble ancient Roman ruins but are actually coke ovens that transformed coal into coke for use in smelting iron. It seems coal mining was the main industry in this area. We could see old piles of black powder-like earth with vegetation growing in it.

 The peak in the distance, part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, towers over the city of Trinidad. It's called Fishers Peak. There is a large lake formed by a dam across the Purgatoire River. We knew we were nearing the end of one of the most scenic drives we've taken. Beyond Trinidad we'd be once again crossing the prairie back to La Junta.

 After a late lunch in Trinidad we drove around the town a bit. I looked up the city, population 9,000, on my iPad and discovered an astonishing fact. Trinidad was known as The Sex Change Capital of the World! I could hardly fathom it. Why Trinidad? It is a fascinating city, filled with Victorian style mansions and brick buildings in the old part of town. We'd have spent more time had it not been getting late in the afternoon.
 
The Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church was right in the heart of town, on Church Street. Beautiful! We enjoyed our lovely drive through the Rockies and said our good-byes to the Highway of Legends as we headed up highway 350 towards home. This road's claim to fame is that it was the part of the Santa Fe Trail from La Junta to Trinidad. Other than that fact, this highway is 80 miles of fairly boring flat land. We wondered how long it took the wagons in the mid 1800s to traverse this trail. There are a couple of road-side signs pointing to parts of the trail where folks stopped for water and rest. We were happy to be home after a day logging on 250 miles!



1 comment:

Char Hardt said...

Beautiful country we live in!