ContentsRearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading
Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)
Sunday: Cowboy Country
Mid-morning we pulled out of Cortez and drove the 115 miles to Ridgway State Park, five miles north of the town of Ridgway. We took Highway 145 through Dolores, passed through Rico, passed by Telluride, turned east at Placer, and north at Ridgway. We were fortunate to reserve a site overlooking a pond adjacent to the Uncompahgre River--just gorgeous. We spent time relaxing outside admiring the fly fishermen and watching kids play around and in the water. There are trails all over and the mountain views are fantastic. This is one nice State Park. Fans of Western movies might recognize the Ridgway area from viewing How the West Was Won and John Wayne’s True Grit, which were filmed here.
Monday: Back to Durango
We had business that required us to go back Durango, so early Monday morning we got onto the San Juan Skyway and headed south. Just 19 miles down from our campground is the town of Ouray, billed as the American Switzerland--a beautiful town in a stunning setting. Just south of Ouray is the 12-mile stretch that is referred to as the Million Dollar Highway. I’m not sure of the reason behind the name, but it sure provided million-dollar views as we drove along, up and up around curve and curve with snowy mountains above, flowing waterfalls across, and deep valleys below. My hunch is that the contractor for this job started running out of money at this stretch of road. Many of the most extreme curves over really deep fall-offs had no guardrails, and, at some of the most door-handle-grabbing sections, the pavement seemed to be a couple feet narrower than normal. No wonder many RV drivers avoid this road like caster oil, preferring to detour many miles to travel less stressful roads! At over 11,000 feet we crossed Red Mountain Pass, later Coal Bank Pass, and finally Molas Pass before reaching Durango. This is one gorgeous drive. We stopped along the side of the road to shoot this old truck.
On our return trip just south of Coal Bank Pass, we saw a small bighorn sheep jump down from a rock onto Highway 550. The car in front of us luckily slowed way down, and I pulled off just 20 feet from this large lamb. He let me shoot him for at least five minutes before he methodically bound from rock to rock back up the mountain. Handsome fellow, isn’t he?
Little Molas Lake
Later in our journey we stopped at Little Molas Lake to enjoy the view of this postcard setting.
We then stopped in Silverton to check things out. Shortly after we finished lunch, the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge train pulled into town. We walked down and took a few photos. Here is my favorite.
The Million Dollar Highway always requires vigilance, but it is far less stressful going north rather than south, as you can hug the mountainside instead of treading on the edge. So this portion of road was child’s play compared to the morning’s trek.
We drove around Ouray, and when the lightning started we darted into the Historical Museum of Ouray County for an enjoyable and enlightening hour learning about the local area. They had some beautiful flowers showcasing their facility.
Tuesday: Really Big Cat
The day started with a brisk, one-hour walk starting at the edge of our campsite and winding up and back the Uncompahgre River. I took a few shots of flowers along the way. Here is one of a false lupine.
Later in the day, we took a scouting car ride into the Uncompahgre National Forest. I was hoping to find some potential trails for hikes later in the week--typical forest roads, rocky, narrow, and steep, with switchbacks that provided the occasional wonderful view. Fourteen miles up the road (close to an hour’s driving), we turned a sharp corner to see what first appeared to be a dead elk with its mother/sibling standing by its side.
As we approached within 30 feet, we discovered that the standing creature was not an elk but a really big mountain lion who had just made a kill. Finally noticing our presence, he slowly raised up from chomping on the carcass and looked our way as blood ran down his chin. This guy appeared to be in robust maturity, tall at the shoulders, square of head, and sporting a tail that looked long enough to jump rope with. Two big bounds and this master of the woods was out of sight, probably watching us and waiting to get back to his lunch. Although I had my big camera on my lap, the three-second or so delay in taking action meant it was too late!
Wednesday: One More Time
Although the odds of seeing the Big Cat again were phenomenally against us, we couldn’t resist the lure of trying. So before dawn we re-traced our steps to the location of our sighting the day before. No carcass, no cat, but we continued to drive up, seeing patches of snow and numerous deer and elk. At one point we saw a newborn baby elk hobble across the road testing its legs as it followed its mother in retreat from our presence. We drove past the pass and went on and on all the way to Silver Jack Reservoir.
Here we unloaded from the car, and with the Kids in the lead we hiked for an hour along the lake, through a meadow, and then up into the woods. Our path ended at the dam where we decided to walk the dirt road back to our point of origin. Another beautiful hike with head-turning sights everywhere.
Late afternoon we went to Box Canyon, housed within the city limits of Ouray. Along with a beautiful waterfall, Box Canyon is one of those rare places on the planet where black swifts nest. Apparently the swifts had just returned from their winter migration in Brazil and had not yet started their nests. The photographic challenge is that the black swifts are black and swift--we didn’t see a one, but enjoyed our visit.
Another scenic drive took us to the famous ski town of Telluride. We started by driving the streets lined with quaint shops and well-groomed houses (and an old vehicle or two), and then drove to the edge of town by the old mill to take in the view of Bridal Veil Falls. Next, we parked and walked the streets before taking the free tram to Mountain Village, Telluride’s sister city. This was the Pups first tram ride and they handled the affair with calm and dignity, just as you would expect of these worldly canines.
On our return home we took a diversion off of 145 taking Fall Creek Road south, down to the Woods Lake recreation area, another isolated location. Driving into the campground we saw this marmot.
Friday: On to Montrose
We took the short but pretty drive to Montrose. Here we had a very enjoyable evening visiting with Marge and David, our camp host friends from last year at Highline Lake State Park.
Saturday: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Early in the morning we drove the 20 miles to Black Canyon National Park. We parked at the campground and took the two-mile Rim Rock Nature Trail along the canyon wall trek to the Visitor’s Center and back. The Pups enjoyed the walk, and we had some nice views of the canyon. After that we took the scenic park drive stopping at some of the lookouts. We ended our time in the park by taking the East Portal Road down to the bottom on the canyon and on to the dam. Just as we turned onto this stretch, we saw this female dusty grouse cross the road.
This is Jan’s kind of road--hairpin turns and 16 percent grades.
Once again we ended the day with a nice visit with Marge and David talking about old times and new adventures.
Here is a pic from last week’s Anastazi ruin, Lowry Pueblos, visit that I neglected to put in last week’s blog. I really like this image, as it communicates the feeling of isolation and foreboding.
RV Park Review--Great RV Resource
Before I book a park I find myself going more and more to www.rvparkreview.com to get opinions from others who have stayed there. In fact, this is now my main resource. I was starting to feel guilty about using this great tool without contributing anything, so I am now writing reviews after each stay. If you are an RVer, I strongly recommend it.
June 13-15: Chalk Creek Park, Nathrop CO
June 16-17: ???
June 18-22: Chatfield State Park, Littleton, CO
June 24-27: Cheyenne Mt. State Park, Colorado Springs, CO
June 28-29: Colorado Campground, Pike National Forest
June 30 to July 4: Mary’s Campground, Estes Park
July 5 to 7: St. Vrain State Park
July 8-12: Travel East
July 13-14: McHenry, IL
July 15: Homer Glen, IL
July 16-17: Travel
July 18-???: Traverse City, MI
See you next week.