I heard John speak about Marshall Pass for 50 years, and we actually drove through it! In 1880 a toll road was put there to cross the Rockies. Subsequently, a narrow gauge railroad was built on it. Of course, that’s why John talked about it. In 1948 (when I was six years old) there were 48 people living there, and it had the smallest post office in the US. The rails were pulled up in 1955.
It was 19 degrees when we left Gunnison, and John wasn’t at all sure we would make it all the way over the mountain. He set a rule for himself, that he would turn around if the driving seemed dangerous. I took one photo from the car to show the mountains near Gunnison. I hesitate to say anything critical, but some of the Colorado mountains were ugly. These were brownish and bare, as if big boulders were pushed up and scraped off. Somebody forgot the thin layer of earth and hardy grass.
We turned off the highway and soon came to a sign pointing to the Pass. An animal was beside the road — a porcupine. I jumped out of the car and took a series of pictures as the porcupine climbed upwards. We talked about how some of the needles on his back matched the surrounding grass. I kept one shot. I knew that animal was in the picture, but I could not find him on the screen, no matter which way I looked. Evidently we could see him only because he was moving.
Before long we came to real snow on the road. There were tire tracks, so someone had been there before us. John felt he had to say we should turn around, but I knew how much he longed to see that historic sight up on the mountain. It was a joint decision to continue.
We made it! John agreed to pose with the sign, and I was thrilled for one other reason. It was the continental divide. Rain falling on one side would go to the Pacific Ocean and on the other side to the Mississippi River. The sign says the Atlantic Ocean, but I think that is a stretch. It would go into the Gulf of Mexico, which I don’t really think of as the Atlantic Ocean. A child might color it that way, but I wouldn’t. We often see posts in our NC mountains about the continental divide, that being the point where water would flow to the Atlantic or the Mississippi River.
As we went down the other side of the mountain, we saw the majestic, snow-capped mountains that one expects in the Rockies. An added bonus was a lake, high in the mountains, with a tiny little boat and a tiny little man in it. Actually, I couldn’t see the person, but the boat was moving.
We came to another place where there was snow on the road, this time with no other tire tracks. Going back was unthinkable at that point. Soon we reached other graveled roads and a highway. We had lunch beside the Arkansas River where we could see men in kayaks practicing going through gates. We were in Salida, a former railroad town. I took a photo of an interesting bench made of metal, a log, and boulders. We also liked an old radiator made into a bicycle rack.
Our stop for the night was Buena Vista. John made sure I was able to use the computer before he set out to explore a small road that matched one on the other side of the mountain. I don’t think they ever broke through there. From our motel window, we could see snow on the mountains in the distance. There were two framed pictures over our beds, about five feet square, of mountain scenes. By day or by night, we were guaranteed to see mountains.