Since Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument had no campground, we were still looking for a place to stretch out horizontally and get some serious sleep. We decided to press on to the Gunnison National Forest. This meant crossing the Continental Divide.
I work for a land trust that focuses on the watershed of the Cedar Lakes, which includes a Sub-continental divide. Up on Washington Street, Highway 33, about two miles from my home, there is a brass plaque denoting this spot. From that hilltop, the water in the east flows down the Milwaukee River to Lake Michigan and out to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence seaway. The water to the west of that divide flows to the Mississippi River and down to the Gulf of Mexico. That divides the Eastern portion of the continent of North America. It is, therefore, the sub-continental divide. It’s on a hilltop. In Wisconsin. At an elevation of about 1,180 feet above sea level.
This is the Continental Divide that we drove over in Colorado.
At 11,312 feet above sea level, it looks nothing like Wisconsin.
So, after reaching this high point in our motor trip, we figured it was time to look for a campground. We followed the Gunnison River down the mountain at a steep decline. Every time we saw the road signs indicating a grade of 6% or more, Steve would call out “Truck on a wedge”. It sounded to me like short order diner slang, so I’d respond with “Truck on a wedge, hold the pickle!” This is what happens when you’re punchy.
After cruising the recreational areas through this canyon and downshifting to lower gears to avoid wearing down the brake pads too much, Steve noticed that the engine light on the dashboard of my 2005 Honda Accord (with 172K miles on it already) was lit up. Whaaaaat?
Decision point. Do we press on into the early evening looking for a campground on the mountain or do we get the car into town before 5 p.m. on this Saturday night to see what that engine failure light is about? This is when I learn that I am the person who would rather have as much information as I can get before making longer term choices.
We learned at an auto parts store that the light was telling us that only the oxygen sensor has failed. The car was not going to die and leave us stranded on a mountain. The part was available (at another store). The labor wasn’t, at least not until Monday morning. We bought the part and headed back into the mountains towards Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We didn’t have the daylight or stamina to search for free dispersed camping in the forest this time. So we made camp in the park at a developed camp site.
Steve was exhausted and hadn’t had dinner. Further decision-making would have to wait.