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January 02, 2006 - Monday, 11:59 a.m.

Day 1 - Trip to California 1976

I’ve one more day of time off from work. It’s today. I’ve slept in until nearly 10. I am supposed to meet with my personal trainer at 5 pm today. I am really going to have to work at dragging myself out of the house and to the gym. My stomach is a little upset and I’d really rather sit around doing northing. :o)

Very strange dreams again last night, I can’t recall them exactly. Isn’t it funny how dreams are like that? While you are dreaming everything is crystal clear, but within minutes of waking up the dream fades away. And you end up with only a vague recollection of it.

The other day I can across some journaling I did of our trip to California when I was sixteen going on seventeen. It is interesting to read something written when I was so young. I remember writing it. I just sat in the car with an open notebook, writing as we went. Sometimes repeating things said by others in the car, but mostly an armchair view out the window of the day.

December 18, 1976

At last we are on the road. We left the house, finally, at about 9:30 am. Today is a gorgeous day, thus far. Not a cloud in the sky. Actually, we are still in Woodland Park, at the bank. At the bank we got a bunch of money. Mom passed around a $100 bill, so we could see one. Now, of course, we are getting gas.

Now, as we head for Divide, I look back at Rampart Range and Devil’s Head – two familiar sights I won’t be seeing for a while. As I look at the last trees atop Rampart, I turn to see rolling mountaintop prairies, still covered with a haze of snow. – Divide – what a gorgeous day! I can see the snowy peaks of the Continental Divide off to the west – crystal clear! To the north and east, the back view of Pikes Peak disappears – that peak I will miss. The sky is the most BEAUTIFUL blue I have EVER seen! Unbelievable! If only I possessed the words to describe the way it looks outside.

The mountains just to the east side of Wilkerson Pass look like mounds covered with a velvety green carpet – so pretty! The whole of the outdoors here is four basic colors: blue, forest-pine green, golden brown and snowy white. – Wilkerson Pass – Gorgeous South Park – This is the clearest day I’ve ever seen. Everything is so distinct and crisp. If only I had the power to take a fantastically wide-wide angle picture.

Charlotte [she was seven on this trip] keeps saying, “It looks just like a picture, Mom!” And does it ever! I love South Park, always have since the first day I saw it. Mom thought I was crazy, but today she can see my reason. It’s like a bowl. Flat plains throughout the center, surrounded by gorgeous, clear, snow-capped mountains.

“Look at it now – ooo – it’s so beautiful!” Charlotte’s comment – how true! Such a distinct line of mountains, I have NEVER seen. The snow seems to sparkle from the direct sunlight on the mountains. The South Platte looks to be frozen. A frozen snake, twisting and turning its way through South Park.

Such picture perfection! I seem to carry on and on, incessantly. But, I am in awe of such beauty.

“Oh, gosh, it’s just – pretty!” Lynn’s comment [she was eleven on this trip] – We are beginning to come into Buena Vista. These mountains are spectacular. The brownish plains seem to reach up to the mountains, holding onto the skirt hem of evergreens. – Mt. Princeton – We are now heading south along the Collegiate Peaks. The peaks here are so pretty. Velvety brown and white peaks with pine green cascading down from the timber line.

The Collegiate Peak’s have been left behind and we are now approaching Monarch Pass. It’s really neat here. One side of the road has scrub pines and desert-type vegetation – the other side has tall, straight pines and a thin covering of snow. We are slowly approaching the timber line.

We just went through Garfield, a model Alpine town with “A” frame houses and swiss designed buildings – quite beautiful.

10,000 ft. – The aspens look like sickly white twigs, bare of their green or gold foliage. The soil seems to be made of rocks and gravel, yet the pines seem to prosper. There are a lot of electrical lines around and ski slopes, lifts and chalets.

11,312 ft – Monarch Pass – We got out and took a picture. The most lush green color covers all the mountains as you look down, after going over the crest of the pass. Evergreens – evergreens – more then you could ever imagine – an endless view of trees. Mountains and mountains of nothing but trees and snow, with a now-and-then silver ribbon of hiway zigzagging up and down the mountains. Now, the pines seem to be a springy pine green, off in the distance the mountains are almost a blueish color.

Now, over Monarch Pass, we have entered the desert-like area – scrub vegetation, shanty-like buildings and – cattle. Broken down, grey, weather beaten fences trailed haphazardly across the plains.

Ah-hah!! The first clouds of the day lurking at the western horizon. The mountains are becoming barren of any trees, except for some willow-type trees that follow along a frozen creek; and a few misplaced pines. The land seems to be leveling out; we’ve crossed the Continental Divide and left the Rockies behind for a while. The clouds are only wispy white tendrils, lazily crossing the sky.

“Look at all those cows!” Camille exclaimed [she was thirteen on this trip].

Lynn said, “What is it – a cow farm?” (giggle – giggle)

Mom said, “Ranch, cattle ranch.”

The Continental Divide still looms at the eastern horizon. Slowly, disappearing over the edge of the world. Almost every house (or ranch) I’ve seen doesn’t look too prosperous. They seem to have been thrown-together-for-the-time-being, but the ‘time-being’ turned into 10-20 years.

Gunnison – We stopped and bought some food for lunch (which we are eating in the car, as we go). We’ve just passed Blue Mesa Reservoir and are climbing – the reservoir was pretty – It was the first ice-free water since we left Woodland Park. Now, we are way above the reservoir, driving along the edge of what looks to be a canyon of some sort. Now, the clouds are like big fluffy feathers, wind blown and bedraggled. Off the road behind us, on some bluff-like mountains are leafless deciduous trees stacked on the hillside like matchsticks on end. Now, we dropped down again into rocky gullies.

We took another few pictures, in this gully area. [I have GOT to find these pictures that my dad took!] This road passes through an area with walls of rock along the sides. We seem to have surfaced again in an area of rolling sage plains. At the bottom of this area is a golden grassland. We are now out on the prairie, leaving behind grayish-brown mountains.

Montrose – We are now heading due south for a large range of mountains. We have to cross two more passes, before we get to Cortez for the night. It’s starting to get hazy – we are leaving the clouds for the haze – Oh well. The mountains are still that lush green, but now, instead of tall, slender pines, they’re little scrubby piñon pine. It looks like a nice, warm fall day, rather then summer. And actually it’s supposed to be WINTER!

Again, we are climbing, this time up to Red Mountain Pass. This seems to be cattle and sheep country, with a few horses thrown in for good measure.

When looking up you can see the sunlight shining on the mountains, but it is shaded down here. Ouray – This is a really neat town with hot springs. A very pretty Alpine tourist town. We saw two shops – a gift shop and a rock shop – that were carved into a big wall of rock. Then we climbed a switch-back, up and out of the valley. Mom called it – Ouray – very picturesque. – We’ve taken another picture. The mountains rise above us a couple thousand feet, straight up! – Mom and Dad said Ouray – and the area – is called the Switzerland of America – I can see why.

This is one of the SCARIEST roads I have ever been on. NO guard rail, drop offs straight down. There are frozen water falls by the side of the road, hanging off the cliffs. – Dad got out and took a couple pictures. – Actually, even though I’m petrified, this is really a fantastically beautiful pass. The sun has finally come out from behind the mountains as we climb higher. At last we are up on top. I doubt any of us will EVER forget that pass, except maybe Char. Now that we are back in the mountains the haze is gone. This pass is brown in color. There are lots and lots of aspen bereft of their leaves, giving the mountains a shaggy appearance. There are quite a few mines to be seen. Mom and Dad guess they might be silver or iron ore. Many of the mountaintops are red, no wonder it’s Red Mountain Pass.

“Never ending?” I hear my mother question from the front seat. As we climb up the pass – switch-back upon switch back, steadily we climb – onward and onward. “Look at that – still going up… worse part is we still have to go down.” Mom is still talking up front – We do seem to be going up, up, UP! – Finally we are over that pass. – 11,018 ft. and dropping VERY quickly, (Too quickly, seeing as my father is driving). Just to climb up again one later – but just now before we begin our second climb over Molas Lake Pass. We are driving through the bottom of a valley. It’s quite cool here and there are tall, narrow pines bordering the road.

Beautiful reds and oranges cascade down the hillsides depicting iron ore. Another worn, grayish, derelict mine – deteriorated. Silverton – a small city, nestled in a valley at the foot of two passes – Red Mountain and Molas Lake. Now, we begin to climb. Silverton is spread out below us, to the right of the city, fingers of a river reach outward from the main stream, all of them frozen and reflecting the light. Dad got out and took some more pictures. Again, we climb precariously onward and onward. So much sight seeing, one can hardly take it all in. Such gigantic masses of rock! How small the mountains make one feel! I makes me think of the thousands of years it took to mold and shape.

We topped Molas Lake Pass – 10,910 ft. – This was, by far, the better of the two passes. Now, we begin our downward trek to Durango. Again, the trees are different – shorter and plumper, like classic Christmas trees. (My favorite pines – the thin ones – are gone). Lime Creek – is the river that we have seen lately –crawling through the mountains.

“This has been quite an interesting drive.” Mom has repeated many times. How true!! Again, you can see the matchstick trees, scattered across the mountains. We are again rising?!

Coal Bank Pass – 10, 640 ft – Ah-hah!! THAT pass I didn’t see on the map. You can see the layers of the rock walls – gorgeous – (I can tell you, I sure have used a few words repetitiously.)

It sure looks like God used a ruler when he made some of these mountains – straight cuts every-now-and-then, giving a sense of geometric simplicity to the mountains.

We are into an area that reminds me, a great deal, of the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming – minus the aspens. Another ice-free lake, except in the very middle.

By now the sun is beginning to set and it is again hazy. The mountains off in the distance, northeast of us, are blue and the horizon is a soft pink. We are a few miles out of Durango. Mom and Dad are checking out a Ramada Inn. It checks out – A.O.K. (5:30 pm)

We went swimming for a while and then went into Durango for supper at A& W. Then the five of us (Mom, Dad, Camille, Lynn and I) laid down on the bed and watched “Starsky and Hutch.” We got to bed (I did after a shower) at about 9:30 pm.

Wow - that was really fun to read. I so remember that trip. I remember writing about the view ceaselessly. It was an amazingly beautiful day. This was our trip to California to see Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Marineland. We stayed with my mother’s sister Peggy Jean for Christmas. She and my mother’s brother joined us for all the attractions. Somewhere in Wayne’s stuff is a video he took of us at Disneyland. I’d love to see that again!

At some point during this trip, I recall I waxed very philosophical for a teenager. I am not sure where that is in all of this, but I am sure I’ll come across it. We left on the 18th and returned home the 27th. I wrote every day of that trip. I am sure this wasn’t terribly interesting though perhaps my sisters, and perhaps one day my kids or grandkids might find it interesting. I wish my mother had an account of their trip to California when she was about eleven. It would have been so fun to read.

This day is slipping by. Char called and we are working on the party for my mother’s 70th birthday. It’s going to be nice. We did a really nice book for her 60th birthday. It was about her life with pictures. I’ll have to think about just what will want to do for this birthday. Her birthday is February 3rd. Not much time between now and then.

Somewhere I have the book that Mom put together for my Grandma’s 100th birthday. I really need to get that posted on my family tree pages.

It’s noon. Perhaps I should get up, take a shower and go out and meet the day.

Later… M.

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