Later in our hotel room I remarked to Mom that it was weird to be not moving and she agreed.
The crown jewel of the day was easily Lake City, the gateway to seven 14ers (mountains over 14,000 ft. tall; there are 53 in CO) just outside of town in the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area. Actually, I had been to Lake City before, when I headed to one of those 14ers back in 2009, but didn't remember it's name. When we got to the turn-off outside of Gunnison, I immediately knew I had been there before.
Lake City thrives in a way most small Colorado towns supported by outdoor activities (see: Leadville), do not. Hemmed in by peaks, it exists for off-roaders, and somehow convinces them to buy organic coffee and locally-made art on the same trip. Most of the tiny downtown is historically accurate and protected, and what isn't doesn't look like it has gone through the hard winters this town must survive. Luckily our sun allotment for the day ended only after our first drive through town.
Down the road, which follows the Rio Grande (yes, that one, it's tiny here), is Creede. Creede would normally would go without mention, but we stopped to eat lunch there. When I left Austin, because of what The List entailed, I decided not to eat BBQ for a while. It would be unfair to the poor BBQ being compared to Franklin's brisket and Cooper's beans and Black's sausage. But when a female pit master sells BBQ out of a food trailer at 8,800 ft, you break your rule and try it. Solid brisket, if a bit bland, and easily the best baked potato I have ever had. She does them in the smoker and the inside is practically the consistency of butter.
The end of the day's drive marked the end of our first stint in the mountains. We bombed down off Wolf Creek Pass (our fifth crossing of the Continental Divide) and immediately everything flattened out.
And tomorrow: now for something completely different.