May 16th-May 17th
As we left the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we descended onto a fertile plateau, irrigated by Gunnison River water that had been piped through the mountain. We made a stop in civilization to restock our groceries and then continued west to a small mountain town called Ouray. Ouray is a little mountain resort town beautifully wedged in between two mountains on the beginning of the “million dollar highway.” We camped in Ridgway State Park, about 10 miles outside of Ouray, which had a lovely area for tent camping- the only catch was that we had to cross the river to get to it. Luckily, they provided us with wheelbarrows to cart our stuff out. (We weren’t in the mood to get out our backpacking gear that night.) We spent the afternoon in the Ouray Hot Springs, which consist of several pools of different temperature waters. This was exactly what our tired muscles needed after a strenuous hike and a long drive. Back at the campground, we could see the storms building in the distance and after dinner (and laundry) we hunkered down for a night of possible rain storms.
The night was surprisingly calm, and we awoke early the next morning to sunshine. By the time we finished breakfast and packing up, the weather turned and it started to rain. These weren’t ideal conditions for sightseeing and driving through the mountains, but sometimes you have to go with it. We started with a walk down Ouray’s Main Street, which still has some charming architecture from the end of the 19th century when Ouray became a boom town. We did a small hike to see the falls and ice park (no ice left, but it must be beautiful in the winter.) Then we drove on what must be one of the highest roads in the U.S. The rain quickly turned to snow, which stuck to the north-facing trees, quickly creating a winter wonderland. By the time we reached the summit, at 3,300m , the snow was coming down hard.
Our next stop was in Silverton, an old mining town that was virtually abandoned, and then was revived in the 1990s as a tourist destination on the Durango-Silverton Scenic Railroad. Today it resembles a “wild west” theme park with old style saloons. It was still snowing when we got there. So after a quick visit of the town, we chose one of the old saloons for a hot lunch. After Silverton the road descended, and we passed several ski areas (closed for the season, although they had a fresh blanket of snow) before we arrived in sunny and warm Durango. Durango is a mix of Wild West and hippy outdoors- with a nice little main street. We visited the train museum, of course, and picked up some souvenirs for Fab’s dad. It was a fun day filled with beautiful mountain views and crazy weather. We continued the road a little further from Durango to Mesa Verde National Park.
Tags: BIG TRIP 2011, Colorado FR, In English 2005-2006