If Kansas makes you think, then Colorado puts an end to thinking and opens you to pure visual overload. If Kansas is radio (your imagination and intellect put to work), then Colorado is film, overwhelming, emotional. I wished I had downloaded that wonderful theme to “The Magnificent Seven” but I didn’t need it because it played in my head as we drove along. Dum-DUM-da-dum…
And drive we did. We left La Junta at 7:30 AM and rolled, braindead, into Durango about 5 PM. From La Junta, we followed the old Santa Fe Trail southwest on US 350 to Trinidad, then looped north around the mountainous Highway of Legends (State Rd 12) back to US 160. US 160 rises and falls, traversing what I might simply call “the Rockies” but are known locally by the names of their ranges: Sangre de Cristo, San Juan, etc. And we crossed the Continental Divide. 370 miles.
My knowledge of the Old West was instilled by Saturday morning TV: Lone Ranger, Wild Bill Hickock, Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy. Then later: Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and Bonanza. I know it was mediocre-to-crappy history — but gosh Durango. Somehow I knew it was associated with silver mining… and history. So, here we are.
I know that some people find God in the immense landscapes of Colorado. But (maybe because places like Kansas get under my skin) I’m still more fascinated by what human beings have made of this gift that is America — the indigenous people, the mountain men, the explorers, the settlers, the cattlemen and farmers — the scope of their imagination and ingenuity — and their choices about living in harmony and honoring the gift or running amok and desecrating it.