Mountains, canyons, and rushing streams, oh my!
Trip Start Jun 19, 2011
32Trip End Jul 20, 2011
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At any rate, we continued onward driving over Red Mountain Pass at 11,018 elevation. Our way was one of several 10% grades with corkscrew turns. One of our pull out stops was an overlook for the Red Mountain Mine which is no longer working. At one point as we were getting ready to drive on when we realized that the gentleman in a car that was parked beside us was pulling out with his jacket on the top of his car. John honked the horn to no avail. As he made a corkscrew turn above us we waved but did not get his attention. To make a long story short, we kept an eye out for his car as we traveled along and finally spotted it at a fishing stream about ten miles up the road. He had not even realized that he had lost the jacket...he thought he had put it in his trunk! Needless to say, he was tickled to death.
With our good deed for the day taken care of, we continued on towards Ouray with towering mountains with patches of snow and a huge canyon that we drove through before reaching our campground at 10:45. The last six miles or so of the road leading to Ouray was through a magnificent canyon. I don't have words to describe how beautiful it was...and what an amazing engineering feat it was to have built it. Wow!!
We are in a beautiful setting with huge mountains and cliffs surrounding us on all four sides. The folks that run the campground have had it for over 40 years and take great pride in it.
After getting hooked up, we started our 1/2 block walk up into town. On the way we stopped at Switzerland of America Jeep Tour office. Ten minutes later we were signed up for a private (no one else was there that wanted to go at the time) off road jeep tour! We took the time to go back to camp to have a quick lunch and to change clothes before heading back to the jeep office to meet our guide at 1:30. Our guide was Don and he was a treat. He is a retired history teacher with a real love of off road four wheeling. By the way, Ouray is known as the Switzerland of America because of all the mountains surrounding it.
We were off right on time and I can't tell you how good a time we had. Since neither of us was interested in a hair raising jeep ride, Don assured us that we would be on an "easy" tour. I would have hated to have seen a moderate one! Actually, after the fact it really wasn't too bad but there were a few, "Oh my, look how far down the bottom is," and "Are we REALLY going to drive down a rushing river bed using it as the road???" Don did a great job making sure that John wasn't getting too "swimmy headed" and we stopped a few times to change sides of the jeep so that I was the one looking down the side of the chasm. Don gave us both complete confidence however and by the end of the trip we were both doing fine. He took us to several old abandoned mines and we could see tailings along the sides of many of the mountains. The miners who worked here worked at 11,000 to over 12,000 feet as they dug deeply into the hills. At one point Don told us that there were many, many, MANY miles of mine shafts under that particular mountain. He said to imagine one of the ant farms that we used to see in school and that is what the inside of the mountain looked like--honey combed with shafts and tunnels. It was hard to believe. We went to Yankee Boy Basin and then to the top of a falls that was the area another mine had been in years past (I forgot the name to this one) before heading back to Ouray.
Our trip would not have been complete if we had not had the usual afternoon thunder shower. Luckily we had brought our ponchos with us (although Don had some also) which we put on and which did a great job. Don also had some wool blankets which we put over our legs and actually stayed pretty comfortable considering. At one point we had to put the tarp over the open back of the jeep in which we were riding to keep the worst off it off of us. After about 30 minutes we were able to take the tarp off once again so that we could take in the magnificent scenery that was towering over us. Our jeep trip a week or so ago in Creede was great, but this was truly a highlight of this trip so far. We got back to Ouray 4 1/2 hours later a little damp, a lot wind burned, and very satisfied with our off road adventure.
After getting out of the jeep and giving our thanks to Don we walked up a block to The Red Mountain Cafe for a quick supper. We are now back at camp and pretty tired. I am going to try to get this out this evening but (surprise!) the WIFI here is a little iffy also! If not today, I will try to get it out tomorrow. Also, if there are no pictures with this entry, look back tomorrow.
PS--I am writing this on the 8th as I just remembered a few things I forgot to say. By the way, thanks for all the kind words about this blog. I am having a good time writing it.
I forgot to mention all the rushing waterfalls we saw on our jeep trip. Apparently all the late snow fall that the west had a couple of months ago have made the waterfalls much larger than usual. I can only add five pictures per day to this blog and I didn't include any of the pictures of falls. The one we stopped at when we reached our highest point was spectacular. Also spectacular was the fact that part of the waterfall went over the road we had to drive out on!!! Exciting to say the least. I must have taken over 100 pictures yesterday alone so you can see it is hard to pick out which ones to put here. Also we saw several marmots yesterday. They were MUCH larger than any we have ever seen before so they must be a type that is native to the area. They were a golden color and looked to weigh in at 15 to 20 pounds. Neat looking animals!