We leave Breckenridge in the early afternoon, after the exertions mentioned in the last post, and headed west out of the mountains. Our itinerary is a looking shakier by the day, requiring longer and longer stints in the car, and were hastily revising it almost mile by mile. Augmenting the dodgy planning is an increasing ignorance of the areas were heading into; Florida, New Orleans, Texas, Vail - these are all places we have established expectations for, either because one of us has been before or because they include places and towns that you recognise from the movies or other fiction. That's not so when we head west of Colorado. Suddenly the map becomes a guessing game, and we have no idea whether a town will have a motel, a petrol station, somewhere to eat...
It's not causing us undue concern, mostly because the drive out of the mountains is as stunning as on the way in, and this time we're seeing the mountain passes in the daylight. The snow is still falling and the roads are icy, despite the best efforts of the snowploughs we see relatively regularly on the drive out. The landscape is predictably stunning, with a scale that's hard to fit inside your head.
We press on through the valleys and passes, alongside tree lined slopes and frozen lakes, but what's equally impressive is the engineering on display here. Before you all rush off to do something else, just hear me out. I've mentioned before what I'm now going to term as 'Infrastructure Arrogance' that exists in the States and it's employed here to great affect - mountains mean nothing to the road builders and the highway out of the Rockies is surprisingly straight, with tunnels driven where there bends would be too much hassle, and the lanes split and separate with little regard for what's around them. It's an impressive, if somewhat disrespectful, approach to taming your natural environment but it seems the way things are done over here.
As the hours tick by, the landscape gradually softens and the mountain erode slowly into rolling hills. There's still plenty of snow about - the temperature has barely risen above freezing for the past few days - but it now lounges over everything rather than just dusting the high peaks. We decide to try and make it to the town of Moab, just over the border in Utah, as it sits at the head of Monument Valley and seems to be one of the few places worth stopping at.
As the sun begins to set, we get an impression of another change in the scenery around us. Hills soften again, but there are dark silhouettes on the skyline that imply the word 'Mesa' might soon be part of our future. Signs of inhabitation also seem to be dwindling, small towns shrinking into tiny collections of buildings and some shady looking motels.
As darkness descends, we realise it's been a long time since we last saw a petrol station, or indeed any other form of life. We pull into what appears to be a gas station and restaurant, lights blazing and the sole bastion of humanity for miles around. Somewhat eerily, the place is deserted even though everything's on in the petrol station, so we plunge on towards Moab (after Nick had played the hilarious 'drive off when you're trying to get in the car' game).
We arrive in Moab to find it's very definitely off-season in Utah - there's literally nobody else on Main Street as we drive up to a supermarket in the hope of grabbing some beers and some fruit for dinner (after a substantial barbecue lunch). We ask the cashier what you do in Moab in the off season and she replies 'You sleep'. An early night beckons I think. We find a hotel, do some laundry and enjoy a late night soak in the hot tub before getting an early night. We're going to try and fit another hike in tomorrow so perhaps it's better to be well rested - I wonder what it'll cost me this time?
Tomorrow we move on to Arizona and Monument Valley.