John & Anne Wiley

2014/04/24

Rocky 1

Having avoided flying the Rocky Mountains in Colorado since getting my license, we’re happy to have enjoyed a safe and comfortable passage today taking in scenes like this.

0291 Rocky Road

0291 Rocky Road

This does look a bit like rocky road ice cream, due to the Arizona dust that’s been blowing into the western peaks lately (and increasing the melt rate of the scarce snow they got this year). But my caption for the above pic has to do with what some pilots call IFR. Not the kind where you fly in clouds, but the life insurance technique known as “I Follow Roads.” In the very rare event of a sudden and total engine failure, the highway we were following would offer a landing option beyond rocks, trees and snow. The airports are reasonably close together along the highways too, which I also like. Happily, our trusty Tripp performed flawlessly and easily climbed over the highest pass. She’d have probably enjoyed continuing up to her 17,000′ rated limit, but was happy to accommodate our needs for comfort and safety just above 12,000′ at the high pass.

Starting at Durango, we climbed out to the east for a look at Chimney Rock.

0252 Chimney Rock Ridge

0252 Chimney Rock Ridge

The rock (presumably named for the one on the left) isn’t very impressive compared with the many we saw in AZ, NM and UT. But to early European settlers it would have stood as an attractive landmark among the CO forests.

0241 Chimney Rock

0241 Chimney Rock

To my 21st century eye, the rock blade next to it was more interesting, because of what appear to be many small caves that may once have held dwellings of ancient peoples.

0239 Rock Condos?

0239 Rock Condos?

Up until the 1960s many such places were looted and even dynamited, according to our captivating storyteller Ranger Franks at Mesa Verde. So it was cool to see these structures similar to some of those at Chaco Canyon.

0213 Ancient Ruins

0213 Ancient Ruins

Looking it up now I see what was once thriving community of several thousand was recently made a National Monument, according to the wiki page. After a turn past this landmark we headed back to fly over Durango and then turned to loosely follow the highway North past Silverton and then East again near Montrose through Monarch Pass. The tailwind had picked up to about 30mph, yet the ride was mostly smooth. Surely much different an hour or two later when mountain winds really picked up.

135907 Denver Sky

135907 Denver Sky

As expected, we have several thousand pix so far on this trip and it will probably take many weeks after our return before we’ve sorted, culled and shared them. But right now it feels really good to have made a quick and easy transition across the Rockies to Denver, where we’re enjoying this sky. Also the fact that, unlike that jet etching a high line you can just make out at the right edge of a cloud, we’re on the ground. It was a fun and mostly smooth flight, unlike now with the high altitude wind and severe turbulence that’s whipping up those beautiful (from here) cloud shapes. 🙂

Now we visit friends and family in this area for at least a couple of days, waiting out the forecast rain. Maybe we’ll find time to post more pix of our trip so far, or maybe we’ll post some pix of adventures we’ll have discovering the Denver area.

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