WE WERE REACHING the end of our tour of the four corner state’s big parks—leaving Alamoso, Colorado, ready to hike Great Sand Dunes National Park, then in the afternoon, making a turn for home with Evie the RV pointed straight for Kansas. The weather was okay; a little overcast, but 46 degrees (per the weather app) with no precipitation to come.
A few miles in we stopped for gas. Just as Tim put the rig in park, Is that snow? he asked.
“No way,” I said.
He opened the door.
“Get some pictures!” (I hollered this.)
I clicked on WEATHER again. No mention of snow, and I confirmed our location, and I looked through the windshield and suddenly there was no denying: SNOW was coming down.
I looked around. Tim was back there pumping our gas, and I noticed he was also engaged in conversation with the man in the slot just next. The guy drove a truck, and in the bed were three furry dogs that I swear to you, looked like the real life wolf we met our first night of RV life. Good luck, I heard the fella say, and he got in his truck and drove those big dogs away.
Here came Tim. He got in, settled, buckled. “Maybe we should skip the Dunes and head straight for the pass.”
The pass? I thought. I looked up, and around, and toward an endless line of impressive ridges that seemed enshrouded, now, in storm. WHAT PASS.
To travel from Colorado to Kansas, it turns out, given our current location, we were to cross the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Notable for several fourteen thousand foot peaks, we’d cross via the La Veta Pass, at an elevation of 9,413. “Our best bet is to head straight there,” he said.
I had not considered the mountain barrier. I didn’t even realize our route that day included crossing it. “Did that guy say something?” I asked.
“Just that we’d need to take it easy up there.” Tim paused, and looked around. “Yeah, we should head on.”
Well, you know me.
“Wait,” I said. “Clearly there’s already snow.” I may have gestured toward the range, as if our mortal eyes could see new drifts forming. Sweet Tim considered, being logical, being patient. “We need information about what’s going on up there, and I’ll bet the Rangers at White Dunes have a weather station, and of course they know that pass. They can advise us.”
Thankfully my husband agreed, and we went on to the park, and as snow came harder and visibility in the valley reduced, we discussed alternate routes should the La Veta pass become a non-option. We arrived fifteen minutes later, parked the RV and got out.
We walked to the front door. Taped to it was a hand-written sign that read: Welcome Center Closed; Power is Out. Still we were able to talk to a most helpful Ranger who checked the weather at La Veta and reported that by some miracle, the pass was to remain clear until the afternoon (yay!) when snow would start AND CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT FIVE DAYS. (Can you believe that?) She also stamped our National Park Passports (double yay! ) and we hopped in the RV and drove away. Just as she’d said, within 30 minutes we’d driven out of the storm, and we went on to enjoy a beautiful, non-eventful drive alongside, and then across, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
We had a lovely stay that night in Kansas City, KS, then we were off to visit friends and family in St. Louis, MO: Paducah, KY; Bean Station, TN; Asheville, NC; and finally, Columbia, SC—home!
Here’s a quick look at those highlights.
Here are some interesting totals:
- 6178 miles
- 600 gallons of gas
- 7 hotel/vrbo nights
- 6 nights with friends/family
- 18 RV nights
- Lowest temp 18 degrees in Glendale, UT
- Highest temp 96 degrees in Phoenix, AZ
- 14 states
- 12 national parks
- 3 state parks
- 1 ghost town
How we loved this trip. How lucky we are to have had the chance to experience so much beauty, awe, and wonder. What a joy it has been to have you come along with us, for the ride!
Until next time—
PS: A couple of RV tip posts coming up!