Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Durango to Ouray, and a wonderful hike!

This morning we got a bit of a later start than we had hoped, but the time was well spent, visiting with several of the folks we had met during our stay at Alpen Rose RV Park in Durango.  Several of the folks who are staffers, but are actually work campers from all over the country, we met over the course of our stay and they all are really nice folks.  And our "next door neighbors,"  the folks in the site next to ours are really wonderful folks--12 year old Antonio and his mom, Barbara.  I had had the chance to visit with them several times over the several days we were there, and Trisha got to meet them this morning.  When we first chatted, I learned that Antonio has a fantastic knowledge of trains, which of course Santa just loves!  We had some great talks about various trains he's ridden, and shared our experiences riding the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad.  He also had lots of questions about Santa, and was so sweet in his thought process!   Well, I had promised him that I would tell him the story about how God created Santa on the very first Christmas, but our schedules had not meshed for the last few days, until last night.  So I got the chance to share this story with him and really had fun.  This morning as we were all getting ready to leave, he wanted to take several pictures of Santa to show his friends when he got home!  What fun!

So we headed out on the road to Silverton--it was fun to see a lot of the same scenery from the highway that we had seen from the train a few days earlier.  But before we got there, we stopped at Honeyville--a wonderful honey bee farm where they had a hive right in the store with a glass front so you could see it, along with a very interesting explanation of the whole process.  They had a clear plastic tube that went through the wall to the outside so the bees could go out and come back in at will.  Plus they had some fantastic varieties of honey, including bumbleberry, which is a combination of blackberry, blueberry and rasberry--we had to get some of that!  We also got some chokeberry chipotle vinaigrette salad dressing, too.

Then, as we continued on our route to Silverton, we came to Molas Pass, elevation 10,910 ft.  Our friends Jim and Sue Ann had told us not to miss some hiking on the Colorado Trail, which crosses the highway at Molas Pass.  At first it was a bit confusing to find the way to the trail, but as we tried to make sense of the signs directing us to Little Molas Lake, where the westbound trailhead is located, we met a couple just coming down this dirt road from there, where they had been doing maintenance work on the trail, and they were so friendly and welcoming, they showed us where we could access the trail right from the highway.  So off we went, hiking for somewhere between 6 1/2 and 7 miles, roundtrip.  Though my GPS app was saying weak signal, we encountered a man and his son hiking up as we were heading back down from where we turned around, and he had a topo map.  Reading the map, with the contour lines, we figured that where we were was at just a little under 12,000 ft. so we had an elevation gain of something over 1000 ft. from where we started to where we turned around.  This trail goes from Durango all the way to Denver, but we decided we didn't have time to do the whole distance today, so we cut it short--LOL!  Anyway, it was the most wonderful hike, with lots of variety, going across wide meadows, with spectacular views of peaks rising all around us, fields of beautiful wildflowers, and some glimpses of places where there is still a little snow.  Everywhere there were these gorgeous stately firs, spruces and pines--looked like we were in a forest of Christmas trees sometimes, so Santa really enjoyed that!!  Stopped to eat lunch, sitting on a rock overlooking this remarkable expanse of valley, trees, mountains extending well above the tree line, with rivulets of snow still showing and waterfall.  Hard to beat this!  Every  time we would round a bend, or look in a different direction it just blew us away.  So we hiked up to pretty much above the tree line before we decided it was time to turn around and head back.  You can always say, just one more bend, but we were trying to be mindful of the warning signs we had seen at the trailhead that said "Keep track of your time on the trail and be realistic about your abilities and limitations."  So we headed back and got yet more different views.  Here we realized we were seeing yet another perspective on the scenery we had seen from the train, and then from the road, now from a hiking perspective.  So beautiful--it was cool, sometimes gentle breeze blowing, sometimes quite windy, the sky was so blue--reminded us a lot of Germany and Switzerland. Indeed, later as we were coming into the little town of Ouray, we saw several signs proclaiming this area to be the Switzerland of America; very much an Alpine feel here.

Anyway, I just loved seeing Trisha get so excited--that's one of the things I've loved about her from the time we met--she gets so excited over things, particularly things of beauty, that she just exclaims all over herself!  It's so sweet and makes me smile--to paraphrase Paul Simon, I'm still crazy (in love) after all these years!  How could life get any better than this?? To be able to spend so much time together, out in this beautiful natural world, all the while getting into better shape and improving our health.  Trisha was so happy when she put on some jeans she had bought new on the trip several weeks ago because the ones she brought from home were too big--she hadn't worn these new jeans since she bought them and today they were even so loose as to be almost too big!!  How great is that!!  She was particularly pleased that we could hike nearly 7 miles today at this elevation after riding 14 miles on our bikes last evening!  Though we both have become fairly well aclimated to the higher elevation, since we've been out here for a while, we could both feel the impact of the elevation, given the level where we started and the gain as we went along.  So we just made sure we kept drinking water, and thank heavens for the protein boost from Cliff Bars we had for lunch!

At one point as we were heading up, we met a young woman, walking her mountain bike along the trail coming toward us.  At first we thought it might be someone who was just winded, but the closer we got, we could tell that this woman was super fit.  She told us that she had been just a couple days into a 10 day trip on the trail on her bike when it developed a mechanical problem she couldn't fix, so she was having to walk her bike up all the hills, since none of the gears would engage.  She was hoofing it back to the highway, to hitch a ride back to where she had left her truck just outside Durango.  We felt so bad for her, but she was really pragmatic about it.  She asked us where we were from and when we told her and said this was our first visit to southwestern Colorado, she just beamed and said Welcome to our little piece of heaven--and we would agree!  Turns out she had hiked the whole Appalachian Trail, which starts in Georgia at Springer Mountain, not far from where we live.

Anyway, the hike was glorious and we were really glad we were able to do it--thanks, once again, Jim, for guiding us to the right place!  Then we were off to Silverton, and the road has a few switchbacks, some pretty steep ascents and decents, but none anywhere near as spectacular as the Million Dollar Highway, from Silverton to Ouray.  This highway is so named because it cost a million dollars a mile to construct, and it is literally breathtaking.  In some places there are so many repetitive hairpin turns, where the signs say 15 mph--and they mean it!--and no guardrails, since otherwise it would be impossible to get the snow off the road in the winter.  You pass several places where they have gates to come down to close the road when it gets impassable, but the most unique feature of this part of the road is the fact that they literally just cut a shelf along the side of the mountain, with just barely clearance enough for the road.  So you're driving along and one one side you smack dab up against the side of the mountain, with sheer rock face of rock towering straight above you, but the other side is right on the edge of the shelf, in some places just about no more than a foot, if that, between the white line marking the edge of the lane, and a sheer drop of about 1500 ft or more to the valley floor.  Quite intense, to say the least.  Fortunately, today they were doing work resurfacing part of the highway, plus shoring up some of the hanging off the edge places, as it looked like the road was about to fall off the mountain in some of these spots!  What this meant is that they were having escort vehicles turn stretches of the road into one lane, and just as we were about to come to one of those places where just moving your vehicle a tire width too far to the right would have resulted in a not too pleasant swift trip down to the valley floor, they moved the one lane away from the edge to the opposing lane, which put us up against the mountain on the driver side, but more importantly for Trisha, put a whole lane width between us and the sheer drop off.  Very glad we did this drive, but also glad it's done!

Got into Ouray, where there are natural hot springs flowing into the town, found an RV park right downtown, and went for a walking explore of the town and to the visitor center to pick up hiking maps and brochures of other things to do here.  It's a quaint little town, with these towering majestic mountains rising all around, almost like the town is being held in the palm of the mountain's hand.  We had planned to go to this one hot springs at the Weisbaden Hotel, where they also have a vapor cave--the woman who had helped me at the bike shop in Durango had mentioned that this was a place not to miss--but we were quite hungry, and by the time we had supper, it was getting close to their closing time, so we'll have to do that tomorrow.  On the way back to the RV park, Trisha wanted to stop at this little local microbrewery we had seen the sign for as we walked into town.  The sign was interesting, in a funky sort of way, but as we got closer to the front door, it looked a little sketchy.  But we went in anyway, and it's really just a beer tasting room for the brewery, nothing but beer, no food, no soft drinks, and the owner and the other bartender were a bit quirky as well.  But Trisha loved the light amber ale she had--they had all these handwritten signs giving the unusual name of each beer, plus a description of what inspired the naming.  The chart also had a column headed S.Q.  I couldn't figure this out, so I asked the owner and he told me that was for the "Slamability Quotient."  He then referred me to a funnel and tube as the "scientifically calibrated measure of this--if you're not too far removed from college, you know about the funnel, right??--and the funnel had the scale handlettered on the wall next to it:  "low, medium, high" and the final one--"like sex in a canoe!!"  Hilarious!

We fixed a big salad for supper, using all these incredible veggies we had found at the Durango farmer's market--carrots that were the sweetest you've ever tasted, these beautiful purple bell peppers, which we had never seen before, arugula and radishes, just to name a few.  Thought the park manager was going to come over and tell us we were violating the noise restrictions due to all that crunchiness!!  Just another wonderful day!

Some pics:
Our lovely campsite at Alpen Rose RV Park!
 Hanging with my bud, Antonio!

The beehive inside the Honeyville store
 This pipe is how the bees get in and out
 Santa and Mrs. Claus with Honeybear!
Some views from the highway on the way to Silverton

Looking down on Lake Molas from the overlook at the pass, getting ready to start our hike
 On our hike we saw many trees where the little pinecones were almost bright red or purple, and then could see from other trees how they would begin to turn more of a brown color
 There's the carhouse down there, waiting for our return!
 Just a few of the shots of this incredible scenery along the Colorado Trail

Beautiful wild flowers along the trail
 Just about made me break out into a yodel!
 Looking down onto Little Lake Molas

Still a little snow up high, but locals have told us there was unusually light snow this winter; ordinarily even at this time you would typically see these peaks still almost covered in snow

 Next three shots of more beautiful flowers along the trail--especially the middle one!!

 How beautiful is Little Lake Molas!!
 The Colorado Trail!

 Striking, this tall remaining tree trunk from an earlier fire
"Can you believe all this beauty??"

 Two very happy campers!!

 Couple views of the path of the trail

Views of Little Lake Molas, on our way back down

 Where we had stopped earlier for lunch, passing by on our way back down
 Stopped by this sign as we were coming back down by the campground near Little Lake Molas
Back in the RV, some views of Silverton as we're approaching the town

Remains of some mining operations
 Trying to give some perspective of the dropoff, but no way my camera can capture what it's really like

 On the Million Dollar Highway, between Silverton and Ouray--not too much room for error on the right side!
 Many, many of these practically 180 degree turns
Here you can see how much iron there is in these mountains

 We're all going about 15-20 mph, and as you can see in the second shot here, how the road makes a complete 180, in lots of places

 See how all this iron deposit makes the stream run almost red

 No extra support here, the tunnel is just hewn out of the rock
Some shots in Ouray, as we walked through town--such beautiful flowers!

 River runs right through town
 Some of the signage in the brewery tasting room!

1 comment:

  1. I can feel your happiness in your writing! What a blessing to be able to share this trip!