Our second day of travel found us driving from Amarillo to Estes Park, a route that took us through New Mexico’s Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. The highlight was the Capulin Volcano, an extinct cinder cone volcano that was designated a national monument 101 years ago. Considered relatively young, the volcano was formed about 60,000 years ago and rises 8,182 feet above sea level, providing views into five states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado). The rim is about a mile in circumference and the crater is 400 feet deep.
We entered Colorado via the Raton Pass, located on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost subrange of the Rockies. The pass was established in 1821 as part of the Santa Fe Trail, a major 19th-century settlement route between Kansas City and Santa Fe. Today, the pass takes drivers along U.S. Route 85 and Interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Denver.
As we neared Pueblo, we encountered an intense thunderstorm, with torrential rains, lightning, and winds. It was the first of several such storms we passed through, including at Colorado Springs and Denver. The storms forced us to slow to about 20 mph, adding about 90 minutes to our trip.
We finally arrived at our Estes Park destination around 7:15 p.m., in time to watch a lovely sunset over the surrounding peaks. Getting into our narrow, cramped site at Manor RV park was an even greater challenge than Fish Camp at Yellowstone National Park. Prior to this, “Fish Camp” was the benchmark. “If I could park this rig at Fish Camp, I can park it anywhere!” From this point forward, until the next great challenge, “Manor” will be the benchmark. “If I could park this rig at Manor….”
A few lessons we learned along the way are worth sharing:
- The time to learn about the tow vehicle’s transmission is not while descending at a 6 percent grade.
- Pulling off onto the “safety area” of a busy interstate to take the dogs out for some relief is neither safe nor a relief.
- Spotting a deer in a thicket is always a delight.