We left Leadville and moved a few miles south to Buena Vista, to Arkansas River Rim RV Park. This is a nice little RV park that backs up to the Arkansas River with a trail leading down to the river. We originally took three nights and have extended this for another week, so we will have plenty of time to explore the area. We are surrounded by 14,000 foot mountains as we are in the middle of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway area. This is the Sawatch Range which lines the west side of the Arkansas River Valley, its high peaks soaring to meet the clouds and sky. This long range stretches for almost one hundred miles and is studded by fifteen 14,000-foot peaks including 14,433-foot Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest point. We are situated across from Mount Princeton, 14, 127 feet.
There’s nothing quite like driving over the Continental Divide, and when you’re taking a road trip around Colorado, you’ll likely have the thrill of cresting several of these high passes. For our first excursion, in the area, we drove up to Cottonwood Pass, the highest paved mountain pass in Colorado. It is one of only a three paved roads crossing the Continental Divide through this range, actually Cottonwood Pass is paved only on the east side, the west side toward Crested Butte is at partly gravel and dirt. The road threads up Cottonwood Creek past beaver ponds, the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, and loops above timberline to the pass of 12,126 feet. It follows the Taylor River down the west side, but we did not continue down that side this trip. The pass is only open for a few months of the year. We were here in June a few years ago on the day that it officially opened and snow was piled well above our heads, but here in the middle of August, there is no snow. There are still fantastic views from the top. You look down on the curving road cut that looks like cooked spaghetti carelessly dropped on the ground. Chipmunks were happily playing around the glacier pond just off the divide.
One of our goals was to check out possible camping areas. We had a couple in mind from past trips that we hoped would be excellent boondocking sites. We found the places that we were thinking of, and they are perfect for tent camping, but the roads in to them are almost impassable, and would not accommodate pulling in our trailer. Our favorite spot from previous trips had trees that had fallen down over the road, so you could not enter. We then explored the National Forest Campground. Here again the parking areas for the sites tended to be very short, so it is commercial sites for us in this area. Fortunately, we are happy with where we are.
We checked out Buena Vista the next day. It’s a small town, with the motto of “8,000 Feet Above Average”. and seems to have grown since our first trip to the area. We visited the city park where Main Street dead-ends at the Arkansas River. This is an area where some white water rafting groups put in for the wild ride down the river, rock climbing and other activity areas are provided. All throughout this area the river runs through a deeply cut ravine and has limited access. We stopped at a local Mexican Food Restaurant for supper, a mistake. After a trip to the local grocery store it was back to the comforts of the trailer. It’s great sitting outside reading or visiting with other campers while enjoying the views.
Today it was cold and rainy all day, we stayed around camp, mostly hibernated inside and read.