The bittersweet irony of Labor Day is upon us.
The day is dedicated to the laborer, the weekend to avoiding as much labor as possible, and the timing is the semiofficial end of summer fun. We have before us what some places consider the dregs of the year, the gray and bitter cold of winter that in Colorado is a completely different and wonderful recreational experience all its own.
But to many Coloradans, including myself, Colorado is at its glorious best after Labor Day with the onset of fall. The weather cools, the crowds on the highways thin, and the eagerly anticipated riot of color begins to touch the leaves.
And it's begun.
As I write this from the precipice of the Grand Mesa, above 10,000 feet the color is changing as the temperature drops. It won't be long now till the hills will be filled once again with ephemeral gold.
I spent Eclipse Day not stuck in traffic on I-25 northbound, but rather south, near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, one of Colorado's most amazing natural splendors. Having invested the effort to ready the camping trailer for that trip, and thanks to technology, I have no pressing need to return home immediately because as long as I can find a high spot with cellphone service and the generator has fuel I can write anywhere.
And Colorado has the best anywhere, anywhere.
So I've been on the road a week now finding places I've never been and that's what I recommend you do this Labor Day weekend. Pack up the car and have an adventure. Pick a rough direction and start driving. Don't set a destination. Make spur-of-the-moment decisions to go left or right, to stop and explore, and to take in the majestic beauty of the best place in the world to live.
Here are a few of my favorite routes:
South Fork to Creede and over Slumgullion Pass to lake San Cristobal and the enormous landslide that created it, then on to Lake City. From Lake City head toward Gunnison on CO 146 but turn left after about 20 miles on County Road 25 and turn left at the intersection and switchback up and over to Blue Mesa Reservoir.
From there one of my very favorite roads is Colorado 92, or the Black Canyon National Park north rim drive from the Blue Mesa dam to Crawford, home of the late rocker Joe Cocker, and the Crawford State Park and Crawford Lake. This is 41 miles of awesome scenery and views of the Gunnison River Canyon people in a hurry never see. From Crawford continue on to Hotchkiss and go left on Highway 133 to get to Delta and Grand Junction, or go right and go through the coal mining towns of Paonia and Somerset and reach Paonia State Park and reservoir.
Just below the reservoir dam a right turn takes you to the West Elk Loop and County Road 12 to Crested Butte. This part of the West Elk Loop is famous for its aspen viewing.
On up the road on Highway 133 is Marble and Carbondale.
Another favorite is Highway 141 from Whitewater, near Grand Junction, to Gateway through Unaweep Canyon, the "canyon with two mouths."
If you have the money, a stay at the pricey Gateway Canyons Resort is well worth the trip. One of the notable attractions there is the $10 million auto museum built by John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel. The prize of his collection is the one-of-a-kind 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept sports car.
From Gateway the Dolores River canyon is spectacular as you head toward Naturita. Stay on Highway 141 south out of Naturita and experience the canyons and plateaus on the way to Dove Creek and then to Cortez, which puts Mesa Verde National Park within striking distance.
These are just a few of my favorites, there are thousands more to choose from.
This Labor Day have an adventure, get a little lost and know that there are always roads that will lead you back home again, but the road less traveled is always worth taking because it makes a new memory for you and your family.
Readers can contact Scott Weiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.