I gave my good friend, Denise, a birthday gift this past weekend—a road trip. We had been planning this trip for more than a year, having to postpone several times due to schedule restraints, yet finally the time arrived. We drove across Colorado to Utah’s Arches National Park. Sounds simple enough, yet there was so much more to this trip than either of us could have imagined.
Leaving Denver early in the afternoon on Friday, we found the drive along I-70 filled with exquisite scenery complete with varied hues of green painted across the mountains thanks to the winter’s good snowfall and spring rains. Fluffy white clouds pasted over the vibrant blue sky provided the proper backdrop for the mountains and valleys along the way. This stretch of Interstate system between Denver and Glenwood Springs has always been one of my favorites.
Grand Junction served as our gracious overnight host allowing us to fill our bellies with some delicious Italian food at Pantuso’s Ristorante (Our server, Brady, was so adorable!) and a good night’s sleep.
Saturday morning’s sunshine welcomed us as we continued on our journey to the Arches National Park, just an hour-an-a-half away. The grand green mountains and melted away as the tans, browns and reds of the desert and smaller hills approached. The temperature climbed into the upper 90’s making us very grateful for our air-conditioned car!
After a brief stop at the Visitors Center, we continued to drive through the Arches, greeted by magnificent views of naturally formed sandstone arches and soaring pinnacles. Each time we stopped to take photographs, the spiritual ‘vibrations’ of the rock formations filled our souls. As temperatures soared as high as 105 degrees, once again we were grateful for the air-conditioned car as we enjoyed our picnic lunch in the parking lot near Balanced Rock. We eventually spent about four hours in the park admiring each and every view.
A quick trip into Moab was definitely a must-do activity, afterward beginning the drive back toward Colorado. A welcomed overnight rest and an interesting encounter awaited us in Rifle, Colorado. Before leaving on Sunday morning, we met a wonderful gentleman named Ray from Kansas who was traveling with his wife on an odd looking vehicle—a Polaris Slingshot. Ray told us a bit of about his background in motorcycles and the events leading up to his purchase of this interesting motorcycle. He even let us sit in it to take pictures. (What a sweetie he is!) Of course, Denise and I each want a Slingshot of our own—mine in red and hers in pink or green.
After saying goodbye to Ray and Rifle, we continued our journey east by making a bit of a detour through Aspen for a quick stop at the John Denver Sanctuary, then following Hwy 82 over Independence Pass, and down to Twin Lakes; each stop presenting itself in full glory.
We turned northward toward Leadville, stopping at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, the second oldest hatchery in existence today. Rainbow Trout were eager for the bits of fish pellet food thrown to them in the shallow pond. The outdoor runs were filled with Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout that appeared to be continually jockeying for position for some unknown destination. This was the perfect final destination before returning home.
Our weekend had come to an end. Time flew by as Denise and I talked and laughed, sharing stories and comparing likes and dislikes. Our friendship had already brought us to a coveted “sister-from-another-mother” status, but on this trip we discovered there were even more similarities than we ever realized (Our mutual appreciation for Edgar Allan Poe surprised us both!).
I have visited all of these places in the past, but visiting them with someone who had never been helped me to rediscover and brought new appreciation for each stop. Denise used the word ‘blessed’ throughout the weekend. Yes, blessed. My intent was to give my friend a special birthday gift. However, the resulting deepened friendship was a birthday given right back to me.