Traveling Coloradans recount their adventures during a wild Memorial Day weekend
Winter’s stranglehold on Colorado did not lessen over Memorial Day weekend as several travelers dealt with a variety of seasons during their travels. The Great Sand Dunes experienced high winds on Friday and Saturday, while campers and hikers in Colorado’s mountain ranges experienced everything from wind to rain and snow.
“We pretty much saw three seasons over a three-hour drive,” said Marcus Banks of Englewood, who took his family to Durango and the Four Corners region before making his way over the Million Dollar Highway into Ouray. “We went from 82 degrees at the Four Corners to rain just outside of Durango and snow in Silverton and Ouray. The kids really enjoyed the changing seasons.”
Banks said he and his family were planning to avoid the drive along the Million Dollar Highway - a narrow stretch of road from Silverton to Ouray that has both majestic views and tight turns along steep cliffs - but were “forced” to take it due to another unwelcomed weekend guest.
“Our plan was to take Highway 145 and maybe stop in Telluride on our way to Ouray, but we were told a giant boulder had shut down most of the highway,” he said.
On Friday two boulders blocked Highway 145 just north of Dolores leaving some travelers stranded on one of the key highways that connects the Four Corners region to Telluride. Though no one was injured, the boulders - which were blasted on Sunday, allowing a bypass road to open on Monday - did cause an inconvenience to commuters around the area.
“After seeing the size of those things, I was more than happy to take a scenic drive over the Million Dollar Highway cliffs and all,” Banks said.
Rock slides, high winds and changes in the weather are not new to Colorado, particularly during spring storms that can seemingly tie a multitude of seasons into one, but for Memorial Day travelers, sudden snowstorms and high winds can ruin a vacation.
“The winds at the Sand Dunes were tough to deal with,” said Genevieve Grace, who traveled to the Great Sand Dunes from Colorado Springs over the weekend. “I don’t know if it was better on Saturday and Sunday, but when we went on Friday it was a little too much for our 3-year-old to bear.”
She added that after a couple of hours and several mouthfuls of sand, they chose instead to drive up to the Zapata Falls trailhead and enjoy the short hike to one of the state’s many gorgeous waterfalls.
“That kind of saved the trip from our perspective,” Grace added. “Up to that point the kids were more upset with us than enamored with the scenery around them.”
One area that travelers were not able to explore was Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.
According to the National Park Service the road remained closed during Memorial Day weekend due to continued snowfall and the service is still unable to affix a date for its opening to motorized vehicles.
“Park snowplow operators will continue to plow the road, the road will open as soon as it is safe to do so,” the NPS said. “Due to ongoing snow accumulation, wind and below-freezing temperatures at higher elevations it is too soon to predict when that might be.”
Prior to the weekend the NPS warned visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park to prepare for all conditions and that warning remains in place today as unseasonable storms continue to roll through the state.
“Visitors planning to recreate in the park’s backcountry, depending on their destination, should prepare for a variety of conditions including snow, ice, slush and rock,” the NPS said.
Fortunately for pedestrians, they and bikers were able to access Trail Ridge Road during Memorial Day weekend and can continue to do so with some caveats.
“When plowing is taking place, for visitor’s safety, park plow operatives will post signs that indicate the point on the road where pedestrian and bicycle travel is not allowed,” the NPS said. “It is critical that you adhere to these closures.”
For more information about Trail Ridge Road and Rocky Mountain National Park conditions visit www.NPS.gov.