RV Life – A Trial Run, Part 3 (Colorado)

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Welcome to Colorado
Photo courtesy of the Colorado Tourism Office.

Colorado presents some of the most picturesque landscapes America has to offer.

Towering snow-covered granite peaks, crystal clear lakes and streams, and colorful forests of aspen and pine showcase some of the Creator’s best work.


Cortez, Colorado is at a crossroads along the Trail of the Ancients. This scenic byway travels through some of most magnificent scenery you can find in the American Southwest.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Trail of the Ancients
US Highway 160. The Trail of the Ancients. Beautiful distance.

Sandstone canyons intricately carved by wind and water, sweeping views of windswept desert plains, and centuries of Native American history abound on this 116-mile scenic drive.

We left Cortez bound for Ouray, Colorado and traveled through the heart of the San Juan National Forest. Our first stop along the way was Mesa Verde National Park.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Mesa Verde
Cliff Dwellings tell the story of an ancient society.

Ancient Pueblo people once thrived in this area and remnants of their civilization can be found throughout the southwest region.

The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are among the most famous.

We followed the park loop stopping at several locations for views of the ruins and various historical points of interest. We spent about 2 hours hitting the highlights before getting back onto US-160.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Mancos Valley Overlook
This overlook offers a bird’s eye view of the distant La Plata Range.

I made a quick stop at a scenic overlook high above the town of Mancos.

The panoramic view was well worth the stop.

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At the town of Durango, we turned onto US-550 and headed north, climbing high into the San Juan Mountains.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Molas Pass
The county and mountain range bears the same name as the pass.

We stopped at Molas Pass, almost 11,000 feet, and enjoyed sweeping 360-degree views of rocky peaks and forested slopes.

Colorado has never disappointed to deliver beautiful horizons.

We pressed onward to Silverton following the Million Dollar Highway, aptly named due its exorbitant cost to build. The road clings to steep mountain sides providing dramatic views at every turn. This was another tightly gripped steering wheel experience, as we traversed the edge of sheer drops thousands of feet down.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Million Dollar Highway
A rest stop along the Million Dollar Highway calms the soul.

Despite my nerves, the majestic beauty we encountered along of this stretch of highway is unparalleled.

I would do it again and again.

Simply stunning.

We finally arrived at Ouray, Colorado a quaint little town surrounded by towering mountains. Originally a mining settlement called Baker’s Park, Ouray is now a tourist destination for outdoor adventures of all kinds into the beautiful San Juans. I parked the RV right beside the Uncompahgre River at the 4J RV Park. The sound of the flowing water offered a peaceful and soothing ambiance as sunset colors slowly faded away to a starry night sky.

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I got up early the next day and sat in the stillness of the Colorado morning sipping a fresh cup of coffee. The aroma of campfire smoke and sizzling bacon filled the air. The sounds of chirping birds and a gurgling stream lulled me into a trance, filling my mind with visions of the amazing sites I had seen over the past few days.

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A distant low rumble echoed through the mountains. At first, I thought some weather might be moving in, but the thunder was quickly getting closer and louder. By the time I realized what I was hearing around the corner of a mountain emerged a massive C-17 military transport jet. It was flying very low right over town and heading straight for me!

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - C-17 Globemaster
Watch this video from Death Valley, California, similar to what I saw.

The sheer size of the aircraft filled the sky, seemingly as wide as the town itself. I thought for sure the thing was about to crash land right on my head!

In a panic, I scrambled to my feet spilling coffee everywhere and catching a foot in the leg of the chair. Did I really think I could outrun this plane with a chair stuck on my foot?

At that moment the plane made a hard bank right. With a deafening roar of its 4 massive turbines the entire under-belly of the plane was exposed. I could feel the rumble in my body as goosebumps rose on my arms. Wow!

In jaw-dropping wonder I stood there and watched the mighty machine level off and disappear over the mountain tops. In a matter of seconds, the whole thing was over. The rumble gave way once again to the soft gurgle of the mountain stream. I was wide-awake and quite ready to start the day after that heart-pounding experience!

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We packed-up the RV and headed out for the next destination. US Highway 550 continues north out of Ouray to the town of Montrose. I turned east onto US-50 and arrived at the entry to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Dramatic cliffs stir the senses, and the tummy!

Vertical walls of dark granite plummet thousands of feet to the Gunnison River below.

Some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America are here.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Can you find me in this photo?

We explored the park loop for about an hour stopping at curiously named points of interest, such as “Chasm View“, or “Devil’s Lookout” to peer down into the depths.

Millenia of wind and water has sculpted this impressive vertical wilderness of rock and sky.

We continued onward traveling east on US-50 through some of the most picturesque landscapes Colorado has to offer. Places like Curecanti National Recreation Area, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre & Gunnison National Forest, and Monarch Pass presented majestic mountain views in all directions.

  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - San Juan Mountains
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Monarch Pass
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Gunnison National Forest
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Monarch Pass
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - A Trial Run - Monarch Pass

At Poncha Springs we turned north onto US-285 and entered the Collegiate Valley, named for various peaks in the area such as Mount Princeton, Mount Yale, and Mount Harvard. This stretch of highway showcases the highest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks in the United States. Centrally located on this “Avenue of Fourteeners” was my destination, the town of Buena Vista.

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Conveniently located on the north side of Buena Vista is the Mount Princeton RV Park. Unobstructed views of snow-capped peaks surround the area. No matter where I parked the RV, I had a commanding view of the fourteeners. At 8,000 feet above sea level, I could feel the chill of the Rocky Mountain air as sunset colors painted the horizon. This was a perfect night for sitting around the campfire to star-gaze in the moon-shadow of massive mountain peaks.

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Steve Coryell