South to Colorado: The Snowy Range Scenic Byway

Miles Driven Today:    203             Total Miles Driven 4427

Not the best night’s sleep.  The Wolf is very creaky.  We don’t mind normal creaky.  But…. seriously every time someone moved on the stairs or on the floor above, it woke us up!!!  I think our advice on Saratoga would be: Eat at the Hotel Wolf, sleep somewhere else.

We were on the road about 915.  Decided to eat breakfast en route.  We were taking the Snowy Mountains Scenic Byway en route to our destination which was Grand Lake, Colorado.  Our day got off to a really exciting start when a large elk darted out in front of us just as we were leaving Saratoga!  How we missed it is a miracle.

So, the Snowy Mountains Scenic Byway:  This is an amazing road that runs between Saratoga and Centennial, Wyoming. It was originally a wagon road built in the 1870s. In the 1920s it was widened and smoothed using horse-drawn equipment. The road was paved in the 1930s and designated as the nation’s second Scenic Byway in 1988. After six years of working on the road, it was completed and known as the “Great Skyroad.”

The Scenic Byway over the Snowy Range is one of the shortest of Wyoming’s scenic byways, both in length and in the number of months it can be driven. The Snowy Range Scenic Byway is the second highest mountain pass in Wyoming.  It rises from sagebrush and lodgepole pine forests below, and offers views of rugged peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation, crystal clear lakes, and gorgeous displays of native wildflowers in the spruce-fir forests and alpine areas of the high country.  A great deal of it passes through the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.

The land known as the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests has a long history dating back to 8,000 years ago when ancestors of the Plains Indians inhabited the area. The Northern Arapaho, Oglala Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Eastern Shoshone, and the White River Utes all frequented the area.  It is a truly huge area covering nearly 2.9 million acres from north central Colorado to central and northeastern Wyoming.

We had amazing views from every direction.  Lots of elk and antelope today too.  We had breakfast at a little campground very high in the Snowy Mountains, maybe 9500 feet.  It was cold: 6C.  But we manfully ate our branflakes out in the open.  We came through the pass at about 10800 feet.  High peaks on either side.  In the distance to the south, we could see the Rockies.  We were lucky, it was a very clear day.  The trees are definitely beginning to turn yellow and golden as the autumn sets in.  Some very beautiful views today with the yellow aspens in juxtaposition to the dark green of the conifers.

We stopped in Centennial for a coffee.  Then we took a gravel road down to route 230 which would lead us nearly all the way to Granby, Colorado.  The Snowy Range looked like a wall as we cleared them and headed south.  Couldn’t help reflect how daunting they must have appeared to western heading pioneers.  Saw loads of wildlife as we travelled down 230.  Herds of elk, literally biggest herds we’ve seen.  Far bigger than we saw in Yellowstone.  And a strange doglike creature that we think must have been a coyote.  We were in the wilds and we saw it running across the plain.  At first we thought it was a wolf, but then came to think it was a coyote.  It was big.

we crossed the Continental Divide again at about 10,000 feet inside Colorado, still in the national forest.  Honestly. the sheer scale of these places boggles the mind.  If we had a cent for every tree we’ve seen in the last month we would be richer than Bill Gates: multi billionaires for sure.

We stopped in Granby, Colorado for groceries.  The next three nights we are in a cabin on Grand Lake, just outside the Rocky Mountain National Park.  We went to a store called City Market, which was pretty upmarket for a supermarket.  Bought dinner for three nights – nice to be able to properly cook – the cabin has a full kitchen.  We weren’t entirely sure that it had a freezer as well as a fridge so we didn’t buy ice cream.  Durn.  It does.  Will have to get some tomorrow.  The lo-no cal ice cream here is insanely good.

Got to our cabin at about 4pm.  Such a lovely spot on a ranch which runs down about 100m to Grand Lake.  We rented it from VRBO online.  We have a one bedroom with massive glass windows and a wood burning stove as well as heating.  We won’t need either probably.  Its still about 19C during the day with a strong sun although freezing and below overnight… so…. maybe…..  The seperate kitchen/diner area is also lovely and so well equipped.  Nice new bathroom too.  Outside we have a grill and seating area and tomorrow we will explore the lake.  We have free access to canoes, kayaks and a rowing boat.  Even 2 fishing rods have been supplied!!

Bob did the driving today so I have cooked dinner.  Beef short ribs, green beans and he has a baked potato.  Nice margaritas to start.  Some wine with. This is a lovely cabin,

Alcohol policy is odd here in Colorado.  Bear in mind that in this state cannabis is totally legal.  Well, in a supermarket you can only buy beer.  If you want any alcohol other than beer you have to go to a special liquor store.  Bob even had to give his DOB to buy the beer.  Is it only me that finds this an odd policy?  Why should you have to go into a separate (but adjacent) building to buy wine or liquor?  I guess it puts wine on a par with cannabis and maybe that’s fair enough and I am merely revealing my hideously out of date views LOLOL.  But it’s definitely one of those things “that are not the same as the UK or Europe”.

4 comments

  1. Colorado is unusual in several ways. It is one of the few states that allows folks to carry a firearm into a saloon. (In Wyoming, on the other hand, you cannot carry concealed into a saloon, but can open carry into a saloon.)

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  2. A huge number of Wyoming residents hunt, and we stock our freezers with meat that lasts our families all year. This would be mostly elk and deer hunting, although many people also hunt pronghorn or black bear. As a result, there’s lots of hunting rifles in Wyoming, and many folks also carry handguns. I am armed anytime I leave the house. The difference here, as opposed to what you’re used to, may partly be the result of geography. As you’ve noticed, Wyoming (as well as Montana and some other western states) are big and desolate, so if something bad happens, you may find that you’re pretty much on your own.

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  3. I understand and of course both historically and geographically as you say, hunting and self protection in such a wilderness area makes sense as it always has done. Our country is tiny and relatively crowded. Hunting is quite severely restricted and very, very few people (actually generally only very rich people) have the opportunity to hunt game for food or any other purpose. A day’s bird shooting – for instance – can easily cost something like $2000. When it comes to handguns, we have no historical or social reason to carry them and they are very strictly controlled. Our police are not routinely armed (we have about 7000 who are specialist firearms officers and drafted in when required). Since 2000 only 6 police officers have ever died from shooting incidents in the UK.

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