We stopped at the area of the Royal Gorge, near Canon City, CO and spent several days there. Lucky for us, a beautifully maintained rail trail wends its way right through the town of Canon City, right next to the Arkansas River. The river flows directly through the town after making its way through the Royal Gorge.
We got lots of river views during our stay, as well as amazing views of the Rocky Mountains just west of us. What I did not realize until we started sharing photos of our trip with family was that my great-great grandmother, E.J. Philllips, had visited this area many many years before me. A traveling actress, she traveled cross country by train several times during her career as a character actress on the Victorian stage. As she traveled she wrote letters to her son, my great-grandfather. Thankfully he saved her letters, and we are lucky to have these letters to treasure and learn from. Here is a brief excerpt:
Wednesday July 28th/1886
West of the Rockies
My dear Son,
Came through Grand Canyon and Royal Gorge by daylight. Over Marshall Pass by Starlight – and over the Mountain Peaks we could look down on the Stars in the distant firmament. It was a lovely sight.
We had two engines pulling us up the Mountain, and as they turned the curves we could see them puffing out flame and sparks and lighting up the way before them. It was better than fireworks at Coney Island. We have the same sleeping car conductor we had on our last journey. It is pleasant so far away to meet someone who has met us before. Love and Kisses from your loving Mother
E.J. Phillips described riding the train through the Royal Gorge. A train (presumably a different one!) takes passengers through the Gorge to this day. We declined, because of concerns about the pandemic, to take the train ride, but we were able to view the river and surrounding mountains from both the upstream end at a city-owned park, as well as from downstream as we walked along a section of rail trail overlooking the gorge.
An extra fun aspect of our walk above the gorge on the rail trail was traversing four tunnels blasted through the rock when this path was being prepared to have a railroad travel through it.
Our visit took place in Autumn, and we were rewarded with stunning fall colors for much of our travels. The time we spent near Canon City offered great views of mountains and glowing aspens. We spent an entire day riding along the Arkansas river through and past Canon City, packing our lunch and stopping often to take in the views.
We spent time simply exploring the Arkansas river west of Canon city as well, and were lucky enough to spot big-horned sheep just returning from their daily drink at the river before heading uphill back to the cliffs where they spend most of their time. We wondered how they safely cross the busy road each evening, but at least the day we saw them, they all appeared to make their way over with no injuries.
It was getting late in the season when we visited this area, and we soon decided to head for home. Earlier in our trip we had crossed the Rockies and got in some great rides in Glenwood Canyon, our ultimate destination. More soon!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in everyday (and some very strange) Places.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.