My little town of Salida sits along US 50, a two-lane highway that crosses the state roughly east to west from Kansas to Grand Junction. It's scenic and winding, but once you leave the plains you'd best be sure it's the road you want. It can be a long drive until the next available right or left turn, as I was reminded today.
Climbing west out of Cañon City I spotted a highway notice sign that said, "US 50 Closed because of accident. Alternate route Hwy 9 to Hartsel."
This is no small detour. From Cañon City to Salida up US 50 is about 60 miles. Taking Highway 9 to Hartsel adds 50 miles to the trip. A second sign tells me that the closure is at Howard, a mere 20 minutes from Salida. I could turn a few miles up Highway 9 and then try to navigate unfamiliar dirt roads and come over Aspen Ridge... but the chances are good those routes are still snowed in or washed out. (I think I am one of the few people in the entire state who a) doesn't have a 4WD or truck and b) could actually use one or the other on a regular basis.) Of course, I didn't have a decent backroads map with me either.
Hartsel it was.
I took the attitude that the universe had decided I needed another hour of down time, and adjusted my brain accordingly. Forced site-seeing? Okay. What did I see?
1) Pronghorn. Don't let anyone tell you these are strictly a prairie species. They are all over mountain meadows. This year they struggled with all the deep snow... we even had a small herd move in to town in January because they couldn't get to the grass in the open valley. (Sketch from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science dioramas.)
2) The road to the town of Guffey. The mayor of said town is a dog. This was an upset, because for years the mayor was a cat. (This Wiki entry lists the cat from 1998.)
3) Someone driving the other way with a dashboard so full of papers that it reminded me of a stereotypical newspaper office desk. I'm not sure how they saw where they were going, but since they stayed on their side of the yellow line...
4) Far more snow than I would have seen going up the canyon.
5) Entirely too many "For Sale" signs on ranch properties.
Of course, I took a few obligatory "camera-perched-on-the-steering-wheel" photos, and one "pulled-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-because-I'm-sick- of-being-stuck-behind-this-semi-going- 40" photo.