My love for the western slope has grown exponentially. I obviously love living in Colorado, but the western slope has really solidified my love affair with this great state. No, I am not a native. But my husband and I have lived many places and our decision to move to Colorado in 2010 was one of our best choices. With that being said , I have to be honest, not everything has been rainbows and butterflies. I have struggled trying to find a job. The job market on the western slope is vastly different from the front range. It seems no one is interested in a technical trainer with an educational background. But, the silver lining—love living in Colorado is doing great! On Instagram I now have 20,600 followers and I have been published in two local publications. The first, Spoke and Blossom (spokeandblossom.com) is a magazine that showcases adventure and life in western Colorado. I am featured as one of their favorite Instagrammers (on page 22 of the Fall 2018 issue). The second, Colorado Country Life (coloradocountrylife.coop) is a magazine that features photos from across Colorado as well as news about Colorado’s electric industry. My fall leaf photo that I took on the Grand Mesa was featured (on page 3 of the September 2018 issue). I was beyond excited to be featured in each publication. Such an honor!
This leads me to my current obsession out here on the western slope. My muse, so to speak. The Grand Mesa. Otherwise known as the largest flat top mountain and home to over 300 lakes and reservoirs, it is our playground. It takes us about an hour from our house to get to the top of the Mesa. We can see the Mesa from our front yard and pretty much anywhere in the grand valley. This mountain captivates me. When you look at it from the valley, it doesn’t look like anything spectacular. For instance, if you have ever been to Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak a Colorado 14er makes quite a statement. The Grand Mesa on the other hand doesn’t have that stature. It looks, well, like a flat top mountain.
It isn’t until you drive up to the Mesa that you find its true gifts. I love that the Mesa makes you work, so to speak, for its beauty. Unlike other iconic and prominent peaks in our great sate, the Mesa is very understated in appearance. I am going to use the seasons (out of order) as my way of describing the its hidden beauty.
While looking up at the Mesa from the valley you would never know that hidden up in that mountain are glorious waves of gold, orange, and red Aspen leaves just waiting to be photographed. Fall is a magnificent time to experience the Mesa. The temperatures are always cooler on the mountain and the foliage is beyond beautiful . Trust me when I say that fall on the Mesa is a feast for the eyes. When you look out at the wilderness it is like a tidal wave of color. Rich golden tones cause your eyes to readjust, trying to figure out if what you are seeing is truly real. The pure and crisp colors that line the drive all the way through the forest make you question what truly qualifies as a yellow brick road.
If you follow me on Instagram you know that we have seen magnificent displays of foliage around the state. Kebler Pass, Guanella Pass, Flat Tops Wilderness, just to name a few. But the Grand Mesa, is my number one choice to photograph and enjoy nature’s fall bounty.
Late Spring/Early Summer.
Now if my fall description of the Mesa hasn’t enticed you to visit, let’s discuss late spring/early summer. If you like wildflowers, well you are in luck. Wildflowers up on the Mesa come in all colors of the rainbow. They are everywhere. If you enjoy photographing flowers, this is the spot for you. During this time of year the Mesa is green and filled with robust color from Columbines, Paintbrush, Thistle, just to name a few.
Another reason to love the late spring/early summer on the Mesa–wildlife. Do you get giddy at the sight of a moose? What about a moose and its babies? This year on the Mesa we saw a moose and her two baby calves. It was a sight to see. Thank goodness I had my Nikon because my cell phone camera wasn’t going to cut it. We were pretty far away, which is always the safe distance to be from wildlife.
Up on the Mesa you are more than likely going to experience a traffic jam. A cow traffic jam that is! Yep, up on the Mesa, cars aren’t our source of traffic. It is cows. I can’t tell you how many cow photos I have. Oh, and videos. I can’t resist taking their picture. They are free range and graze all over the Mesa. Sometimes they appear out of nowhere or they are along the side of the road, so be careful!! I especially like to see the calves during this time of year. Watching them frolic around on the Mesa is sweet. You can tell I grew up in the city! 😊 *Other animals we have seen are deer, rabbits, elk, and marmots.
If you enjoy hiking, summer on the Mesa is for you. This summer we explored many trails on the Mesa. The temperature on the Mesa is at least 20 degrees cooler than it is in the valley. Hiking on the Mesa is quite the experience. Home to over 300 lakes and reservoirs you are bound to stumble across water. It is like an Easter egg hunt. You never know where a lake or reservoir may be hiding. It is exciting! The only down side to so many water sources, mosquitoes. In the summer, they are an issue. If you decide to hike the Mesa in the summer, bug spray is a necessity or those blood suckers will ruin your adventure. Otherwise, summer on the Mesa is a grand time. Views are abundant, and it feels as if you can see for miles.
My other favorite summertime activity is exploring the many dirt roads on the Mesa. I really enjoy the off-road experience and the Mesa has plenty of dirt roads. My favorite dirt road can be accessed at the Land’s End Observatory. It is a windy road that looks menacing when you look down at it, but really it is not that bad. You don’t need a high clearance vehicle to access it. With all of its twists and turns, it reminds me of Lombard Street in San Francisco. If you take it all the way down it will take you to Hwy 50. This road is not accessible in the winter. With that being said, let’s talk winter.
It recently snowed on the Mesa and I was given a reality check. All of the dirt roads I was able to access this summer, are not accessible by our vehicle in the winter. During the winter months cows are replaced with snowmobiles, haha! Snowmobiling is a popular sport up on the Mesa. The Mesa in the winter is the quintessential winter wonderland. Snow abounds (usually, we had a severe drought this last year) and all of the trees are coated with white winter sweaters. The wilderness becomes still and silent. The only sound is snow falling from the branches above. The trails that were once clearly defined are now covered in pristine, untouched snow. We don’t own a snowmobile so this year we are going to give snowshoeing a try. With an abundance of trails snowshoeing is the ideal way for us to explore the grandeur of the Mesa during the winter. We figured that because we like to hike, snowshoeing would be a great way to still get out and exercise. We will see how this turns out!
No matter the season, the Grand Mesa is my favorite place to not only explore, but to take a billion photos. In my opinion, Skyway Point and Jumbo Reservoir/Mesa Lakes area are the best places to capture a sunset. I think it is probably obvious that I love the Grand Mesa. Knowing that this mountain anchors our valley and holds such immense beauty is one of the many reasons I love living in Colorado.