Byway #11 – Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway Tour by Sport Bike, Auto and 4 x 4 –Highway of Legends Scenic Byway

Highway of Legends Slideshow

Highway of Legends Interactive Map

When I was much younger and working on my under graduate degree, I took a third world literature course. I learned a lot about other cultures by reading the various stories from those cultures. And while most of the readings took me to other cultures around the world, there were some that originated from America, as well. These stories, which were spiritually based, were from the Native Americans  and seemed to always help to explain the world in which they lived.  Little did I know that when I embarked upon my latest byway tour, that I would once again hear the stories of the Native American culture.

Legends and lore are the oral history of times gone by, told by peoples from various cultures and passed down through the generations. One such story was that of the Spanish Peaks themselves…the East and West Spanish Peaks are said to be the breast of the world, from which all life emerged. I spent the whole day traveling around these two peaks along the scenic byway from the east to the southwest and then to the northwest and listening to the legends read by my travel buddy and partner in enthusiasm – my co-worker and friend, Vicki.


I started my day early…real early…like 5:00 am early…on a Saturday. I wanted to get down to Trinidad in time for some morning coffee and a bite to eat at What’a Grind. Plus, I had one stop-over in Colorado Springs to pick up my byway tour buddy, Vicki. So, by 6:30, I was out my door and heading south. The total mileage from where I live in Denver down to Trinidad is 211 miles. We arrived right around 9:30, so I figured we made good time.

I did not know the town of Trinidad at all until this tour, so I conducted an internet search for places to eat. I looked for something close to the downtown area, so we would be able to do a short walking tour before heading out on the byway.

What’a Grind was a fantastic little café, bakery and eatery just off of Main Street and right along Commercial Street. I would share their website, but the owner had said the website was still under construction. So instead, you will have to put up with a photo of the small Snickers Latte that I ordered along with my egg whites, Canadian Bacon, ranch potatoes and a light multigrain toast. Yes, I did that on purpose. I figured I could walk off the latte throughout the day.

Now, on to the town of Trinidad: What Vicki and I realized as we started out on our “short” walking tour, was that this town was a diamond in the rough…very rough in some places, but extremely unique with its red brick cobblestone streets and old world architecture alongside the adobe-covered walls of some buildings reminiscent of southwest architecture. We fell in love and vowed to return. It didn’t take us too long at all to find ourselves walking around the Trinidad History Museum. Here is where we came across a wealth of information and the Highway of Legends booklet which not only included a map of the highway, but also included an interpretive tour of each point of interest along the route. The best part of the booklet wasn’t so much the map as it was the various legends retold at many of the points of interest.

Vicki and I soon realized that we were spending quite a bit of time roaming around Trinidad though, and so we attempted a hasty retreat to the highway. One last stop before leaving Trinidad brought us to the Highway of Legends scenic byway sign and one last photo op. Unfortunately, it was this stop that would be the demise of my favored Nikkor lens, the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. How exactly did this happen? Have you ever watched those cartoons where a character trips, but doesn’t exactly fall right away and instead does this sort of trip-di-di-trip dance half hunched over until they finally fall flat on their face? Yep! That was me. And when I fell, my camera went tail over end across the sidewalk and into the street, throwing the lens in one direction and the camera body in the other.

As I watched in horror from flat on my stomach, I was immediately thinking, “I gotta get up and save it! A truck is coming down the street!” As soon as my body hit the ground, it seemed I was upright again and running into the street, making eye-contact only once with the truck and then bending over to save my camera…what I thought was going to be a dead camera.

When I reached the sidewalk again to sit down and survey the damage, I realized almost immediately that my lens was in worse shape than my camera as I gently closed the camera’s view-finder which had been flung open with the impact of the fall. At the same time, I noticed a very tiny sliver of plastic hanging off of the lens right at the joining point with the camera. I screwed the lens back on and attempted to take a photo. The camera attempted to focus the lens and I could hear the lens motor trying to work. Then the camera beeped letting me know it was ready to take a photo and then shot only once…then the lens went dead.

The byway sign – a.k.a. the demise of my camera lens

Despite this sad turn of events, I laughed as I sat on the sidewalk thinking about that little tripping dance I did before hitting the pavement. I must’ve looked like a cartoony riot. As I suspected, I think I did, because when Vicki and I started walking toward the byway sign, a gentleman who had been standing in the garage of the auto repair shop across from my sidewalk perch was walking across the street. At that same time, Vicki tripped over a small plastic bottle in the sidewalk. Laughing, we all met at the sign when the gentleman said he thought I was going to break my neck when he watched the fall. He then chatted with us about Trinidad and having grown up in this town before moving to California. He said he missed the place and was thinking about moving back to Colorado and closer to home and his family.

The tour

Finally, Vicki and I were on our way to the 80-mile tour of the Highway of Legends. Our first point of interest was across from the Trinidad Lake State Park area. I shot a few photos of the sign at this stop and adjusted to getting used to the telephoto lens.

As we drove along the byway, every turn produced more scenic wonder and tales of times gone by as I drove and Vicki read from the byway booklet. It was a great way to spend time on this byway, because the two of us not only had the pleasure of witnessing more of Colorado’s beauty, but we were taken back to the past with the legends and folklore of the region.

I want to retell the entire story of our tour, but I know I have said a lot already. Instead, I will mention the highlights and point you to the interactive map for more photos and telling of the story of the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway tour.


  • Works Progress Administration projects still standing all over the byway and in the towns along the route
  • The Trinidad Coal Miner’s Memorial
  • Holy Trinity Catholic Church
  • The house built on a bridge – near Vigil
  • Two black bear cubs crossing the road – yes, two bears
  • Cowboys – “Real honest to goodness cowboys!” as Vicki exclaimed
  • Golden, orange, red and bright yellow hues of the changing leaves all along the byway
  • Cordova Pass – which I was told my car would never navigate because this road, which intersects the byway at Cucharas Pass is a dirt and rock road, not a dirt and gravel road – so I dropped the transmission down to first gear and crept over the rocks and dirt until I made it to the arch
  • Cordova Arch – 10 miles from Cucharas Pass along the dirt/rock road
  • Monument Lake – a legend of two chiefs from the north and south who met in a valley and hugged after searching for water for their tribes only to find out they had not found any water. At that moment, they wept and water pooled at their feet. Then a volcano spewed smoke and lava in the air covering the two chiefs and encasing them into stone. This monument of the two chiefs remained in the middle of the lake for years until a fierce storm blew the monument down in 1999. I couldn’t help but mention this legend.
  • West Spanish Peak as seen from Cordova Pass. This area is also a National Natural Landmark
  • A solemn hidden roadside memorial in honor of Don F Wagner, CDOT worker
  • All the natural dikes that radiated from the Spanish Peaks like spokes of a wheel

And so much more…

There were things we missed along this tour only because of the fading light. Of course, those of you who follow this blog know what that means…I’m going back!


As to the demise of my lens…I was lucky enough to be convinced to purchase accidental damage coverage for my camera and lenses at Best Buy where I purchased the camera. I took my lens in to the store the next day and one of the Geek Squad customer agents tagged the lens for shipping back to Nikon…I should have a new lens in about 14 days. Now that was money well spent. Phew!

3 thoughts on “Byway #11 – Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway Tour by Sport Bike, Auto and 4 x 4 –Highway of Legends Scenic Byway

    1. LOL…no worries, I laughed my tuckus off when I sat there looking at my poor lens and thinking about what I must’ve looked like. I am hoping to get at least one more done this year…maybe even during winter. Should be beautiful. 🙂 Thanks!

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