Art in the Rocky Mountains
via Salida, Westcliffe and Florence in Colorado—
a road trip through the Rocky Mountains, Sangre de Cristo Range
and the San Isabel National Forest

(23-24 August 2013)

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This road trip came about as a last-minute decision, and I thought I could combine getting away for a night with a visit to the Four Winds Art Gallery in Salida, who has some of my artwork.  I needed to drop off some newer art, some more greeting cards and some panels and just visit for a while with Linda.  I had done this trip along the Arkansas River on Hwy 50 and loved the views, so repeating the journey was very pleasurable.  Even the weather was fantastic.  If it wasn't for the great car rental I found, I would not have been able to take this trip.  Here is the route I took.

My first stop was at a Subway in Cañon City to pick up something for lunch.  Then it was back on the road for a few miles until the Royal Gorge Bridge turnoff (left onto CR-3A), about 7 miles out of town.  I went as far as I could (the bridge is closed) and saw the bridge and the river below.  The dramatic sights from the recent horrific fire were heart-wrenching.  I spotted this guy atop a tame bull, just hanging out on the road to the Royal Gorge.  Next stop was a brief stop to eat my lunch in Cotopaxi, but not before turning right and investigating this tiny town.
   
     

Arriving in Salida was familiar and I made my way downtown to the Four Winds Art Gallery on F Street.  After visiting with Linda at her gallery and handing over some of my own art, I went for a long walk along the Arkansas River and watched the many people and dogs swimming in the water.  There was a river raft with a couple of fishermen on board.  It looked like a lot of fun.  I walked around the different streets and popped into another couple of art galleries and stores before making my way to check into my accommodation, the Salida Inn & Monarch Suites, and then continued my drive around town.
       
 

A walk up and down the eclectic streets downtown is really worthwhile.  There are galleries, restaurants and lots of other interesting shops to stop by.  Not to mention bicycle rental places and ski shops.  There were quite a few people bravely riding bikes along the streets and even further away from downtown.  I wandered into Smalzel Gallery and spoke a while with Stephen as he was painting a pretty sunflower.  The lovely park is also a pretty place to sit and ponder a while.
       

Driving up F street back to Hwy 50 (or Rainbow Boulevard as it's also known), I spotted a female deer with twin youngsters.  Naturally I pulled over, whipped out my camera and began taking photos.  I spotted deer a few times all chowing down on people's lawns, plants and trees.  Some of the houses were so quaint and beautifully decorated.  It's worth driving or walking or cycling around these few blocks to see the pretty homes.
     

I drove back towards the entrance to Salida from the east and took a right turn towards a B&B (I can't recall the name of the street but it's just before you enter Salida from the east), and on both sides of the little street were beautifully-colored fields.  I also noticed a lot of birds about, some of which were curious enough to sit on a fence pole and watch me watching and photographing them.  I saw lots of mountain bluebirds, an Eastern Kingbird and a Western Kingbird, some magpies and that's about it.  I thought there would be more but I was very happy with what I did see and photograph.
     

Not that I was even thinking about swimming, I stopped in at the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center to check out what was what.  There are three pools at varying degrees of heat.  One was 84 deg (29 C), another 98 deg (37 C) and the other at 100 deg (38 C).  Definitely a winter swimming spot as it was about 89 deg (32 C) outside!  I popped into the Visitors' Center (Salida Chamber of Commerce) right next door and picked up a few brochures on things to do in Salida.  There is a phenomenal amount of activities to choose from, like archery, fishing, golf, dog sled rides, hikes, climbing, horseback riding and more.

After checking into my motel, I drove around some more and found the Spiral Drive off CO-291 West, which takes you to the top of the huge hill overlooking the city.  It's a dirt road that is easily accessible and it winds its way to the top of the hill where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the town below, the Arkansas River, farms and hills, and of course, the mighty Sangre de Cristo mountains.  Ahead of me was a brave cyclist pedaling his way to the top.  I saluted him as he passed me at the top.
     
   

The next morning I was out of my room (just for a while) at 6.30am in search of coffee and breakfast.  Even though there was coffee in the room and in the office, I opted for a quick morning tour and picked up a big cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito.  Driving around and meandering here and there around the town as the sun was rising, was a beautiful thing.  The sun cast a rather pink hue over the town.  People were setting up for the farmers' market that morning on the green square downtown.  I even saw a mama deer and her twins crossing Hwy 50 successfully, by trotting across the westbound land, stopping in the center turn lane, and then crossing the eastbound lane, just as Jay from the hotel told me he'd seen.  I also spotted a mama deer and her twins (couldn't tell you if it was the same three I saw earlier) eating flowers in a lovely garden!
     
     

During the night I thought about the return trip and decided that as much as I love going west on Hwy 50, I didn't enjoy the return journey for some reason.  An option was to go home via Buena Vista or cut across south through the San Isabel National Forest and go via Westcliffe, Wetmore and Florence.  As it turned out, it was the perfect decision and I am so happy I made it.  I left Salida around 9am and drove eastwards on Hwy 50 until I got to Cotopaxi.  I was looking for the right turn onto CO-69, which apparently, is at or near Texas Creek, some way further along.  The kind people at the gorgeous little Cotopaxi Store told me that CR-1A, just behind the store, would connect with CO-69, and it was much quicker.  Off I went!

This route is fantastic, and I would love to do it again.  Because of all the recent rain, everything was verdant and healthy looking.  I couldn't help myself and had to double back a couple of times to take some photos.  I missed one of a little squirrel-type creature sitting lazily on a tree branch watching the passing traffic.  If the tree wasn't on a corner I'd have stopped.  I did get to see some lovely ranches/farms and horses and cattle.
   

Just before you get to the quaint town of Westcliffe, you come across the Beckwith Ranch, all white and pretty.  I stopped and walked around and took some photos.  There is a board with all the history of this place and it's quite fascinating.  The buildings are huge and it must have been quite something in its day.  I visualized a B&B in the buildings.
     

My brief visit to Westcliffe was fortuitous as I found another art gallery who was interested in my work.  Peggy at the Sangre de Cristo Gallery & Rockshop took a bunch of my wildlife greeting cards and some of my original art cards!  We chatted about her husband's paintings (very nice) and their rock collection among other things.  Perhaps this was the reason I couldn't get my original travel plans off the ground.  I wasn't supposed to go on the Turquoise Trail south of Santa Fe, but to Salida and Westcliffe, both on my doorstep so to speak.
     
   

After my visit to Westcliffe I hit the road headed for Florence to see my friend's new art gallery.  The drive was fantastic.  It rained heavily just after I was on CO-67 en route to Wetmore.  There were road works on the go and possibly they were repairing rain damage.  If this road wasn't so curvy I would have stopped and taken some photos but it was dangerous to do so.  Svetlana and I chatted for a while and I saw her new furniture and artwork and really liked it.  Her gallery is called Raindrops Art Gallery.
   
 

Before long I was back on CO-115 heading for home.  I love these spontaneous road trips, providing of course that I can secure a fabulous car rental rate through Enterprise!


Art Galleries

Four Winds Gallery 118 F Street, Salida, CO 81201
Tel: (719) 539-6075
Website: www.fourwindsgallery-colorado.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/FourWindsGallery.Salida.CO

Smalzel Gallery 123 North F Street, Salida, CO 81201
Tel: (303) 917-9666
Website: www.smalzel.com

For more information on the many artists in Salida, visit this website: www.salidaartists.com

Sangre de Cristo Gallery & Rockshop 114 Main Street, Westcliffe, CO 81252
Tel: (719) 783-9459
Email: gallery@ris.net

Raindrops Art Gallery 108 E. Main Street, Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (719) 214-1493
Website: www.raindropsgallery.com
Email: raindropsgallery@gmail.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Raindropsgallery


Accommodation

I spent the night at the Salida Inn and Monarch Suites on Hwy 50 which was just fine.  The room was very basic with a very comfortable bed, television, lovely shower (and bath), little fridge, microwave, coffee maker and closet.  It was on the ground floor facing the busy road, but after dark, it was quiet.  I did have a rather restless night as a "neighbor" had the TV on all night, albeit very softly, I could hear chatter the entire night.  This could happen at any establishment and is not a slight on this particular inn.  Downtown is not far to get to and there are any number of restaurants up and down this busy road.  Rates differ so ask ahead of time or check out their website.

Please always check on the hotel/B&B website or call for information on latest rates and special offers (sometimes you can get really incredible bargains on rooms at different times of the year) and to ask about their pet policy.  Check-in times are also important to make note of ahead of time.
See more hotel reviews on my Hotels, Lodges, Inns, Ranches, Motels, etc. web page.
See my TripAdvisor review.
   
Salida Inn and Monarch Suites - 7310 West US Highway 50, Salida, CO 81201
Tel: (719) 539-2528
Web: www.salidainn.com
E-mail: salidainn@gmail.com
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Salida-Inn-Monarch-Suites/483107085089386
Television, microwave, swimming pool and hot tub.

Contacts   Email me

Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Colorado Springs Airport, CO): I got a free upgrade to a Hyundai Elantra which proved to be a great little car.  The rate was worth looking and waiting for as I ended up paying $7.99 a day (plus taxes) which came to $40.44.  I drove 360 miles and got about 35 mpg.  I spent $32.00 on gas.
The airport branch of Enterprise does not offer the "we'll pick you up" but the service was good and the staff were polite and helpful.  I highly recommend you try Enterprise.
Web: www.enterprise.com  Tel: (719) 591-6644   Toll-free (Reservations): 1-800-261-7331   Toll-free (Customer Service): 1-800-264-6350
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enterpriserentacar

   

Royal Gorge Bridge
4218 County Road 3A, Cañon City, CO 81212
Tel: (719) 275-7507   Toll Free: 1-888-333-5597
Email: rgb@royalgorgebridge.com
Web: www.royalgorgebridge.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RoyalGorgeBridge

Cotopaxi Store
20204 Hwy 50, Cotopaxi, CO 81223
Tel: (719) 942-4151
Great little place to stop and get something to eat or drink.  It's the CR-1A turnoff just behind the store that you'll need to take to get to CO-69.

Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center
410 W. Rainbow Blvd, Salida CO 81201
Tel: (719) 539-6738
Web: www.salidarec.com (Visit the website to see what events are currently on offer)
Entrance: Adult $11 during Open Swim (usually 1-8pm or noon-8pm and 9pm on Saturdays)
Seniors 60+ and Military $9
Youth (6-17 years) $5
Child (0-5 years) $3

Salida Chamber of Commerce
406 W. Hwy 50, Salida, CO 81201
Tel: (719) 539-2068
Email: info@salidachamber.org
Web: www.salidachamber.org


Route

I started from Colorado Springs and headed south on CO-115 to Florence (I don't like taking Hwy 50 from CO-115 to Cañon City) and on to Cañon City.  This way is slower but certainly prettier and less frenetic traffic-wise.  I got onto Hwy 50 and headed west along the Arkansas River to Salida.  On the return trip I headed east on Hwy 50 to Cotopaxi where I turned right onto CR-1A to the CO-69 junction.  I turned right and headed for Westcliffe.  Then it was west on CO-96 to the junction with CO-67 at Wetmore all the way to Florence.  For the home stretch it was back north on CO-115 to Colorado Springs.
 


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