On the Road Adventures
Friday, August 31, 2012
Here’s the map of the perimeter trail around Ouray. The green segment was our first day of hiking. It’s a little over 3 miles from door to door, and this stretch was a 400’ rise. As I said before, 400’ over and over again. As it turns out, that is one of the lower levels.
The orange loop was our second day’s leg, over the bridge that spans the river that runs by the RV park and up to the Ice Park, then down the road and back into town.
We did the pink loop today. It was only 2.2 miles but actually the highest rise, 472’. We planned to go farther, but the afternoon storm blew up earlier and we come off the mountain when we start seeing lightning. It’s neat here when the thunder starts rumbling, because the cliffs on all sides of the valley grab the sound and throw it back and forth.
The hotel around the corner has a beautiful collection of hollyhocks.
We picked up the trail at Cascade Falls, and climbed up until we could look straight across the canyon at the trail on the other side. Yes, there is a trail over there! Then we went up even farther to look down on the town.
Shortly after we got to this point the sky turned dark and we started seeing lightning, so we took the first chance to come back down off the trail, went back to Cleo and later in the afternoon, after the weather moved away, we went to the hot springs to soak. A most leisurely day.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Our goal for today was another segment of the Perimeter Trail, so we set off up the road in front of our RV park. The road goes by houses that were built during the mining years of Ouray, in the 1880s and 1890s. This house started life as a log cabin in 1884, and the subsequent builders kept the bones of the house while they remodeled and added on. Isn’t that a great backyard view?
Like the other side of the trail, this one also has a 400 some foot rise, which is what happens when a town is built in a bowl of lofty cliffs on all sides.
See that bridge waaay up there? That’s where we were headed. Either we’re getting acclimatized to the altitude or the rise was more gentle, but at this stage, at least, the walk was a bit easier than yesterday’s mountain goat scramble.
Oh, wait, I take that back. At least there is a cable that I can grab to help haul myself up. Up. Up.
But the view from the bridge is wonderful in both directions, and I stood there a long time enjoying it. (And breathing.)
After enjoying the view from the lofty bridge, we went ahead on an almost level path around to a small reservoir where Gypsy got to soak in the chilly water.
There are a lot of the little yellow daisy-like flowers, and I happened to see this one, lone pink flower.
Then the path lead us down to the Ice Park. Ouray has ice climbing competitions in the winter and there are viewing platforms and benches all along the southern wall of this canyon. We’ll just have to imagine it covered with ice and intrepid ice climbers showing off their skills to the local population. I can pretty much guarantee that I will never actually be at a place where they are ice climbing since that involves winter, and I don’t do winter.
We chose to leave the trail here and walk back into town, since it was after 1 pm and I was ready for lunch. Gypsy likes it when we have lunch in town – everyone who walks by tells her how pretty she is, and she usually gets a bite of whatever we’re having. Deli sandwiches in this case.
Here are a couple more of the old Victorian houses originally built during the mining era. I like the Nutcracker guards at the red house’s front door.
This is the view looking back down the valley toward town. We thought this crack in the cliff filled up with monster boulders was pretty fascinating. We’ll come back here when it’s sunny and we have more time.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
When we left Montrose yesterday we drove the 26 miles south and 1,500’ up to the little town of Ouray. When we drove through Ouray last month on our San Juan mountain loop, we blew through here pretty fast, as it was getting late and we still had 90 miles of challenging road to travel (remember the million dollar highway?) Since it is so close to Montrose, coming back down here to give the town a little more thorough look was on my list of things to do. Since we didn’t want to stay in Montrose, we figured a couple of nights here should do it.
So we’re staying a week. This is our front window view.
There is a hot spring just a scant quarter mile walk from our rv spot, and they have a pool with koi (must not have egrets here!) Gypsy was fascinated.
Ooooh, look! Fish! I like that one! Here, fishy, fishy
The town has a perimeter trail which they claim is 4 miles and circles the town. They say the trail climbs 400 feet over the length of it. They lie. It was 400 feet over, and over, and over again! But the views from the trail were great once I got enough oxygen into my lungs that I could see again.
Only half way up, only half a mile into it. Colorado Stress Test
As we were going along a relatively flat stretch of trail right against the sheer rock wall above us, we heard the first roll of thunder. This is not a good place to be when there is lightning around! Good incentive to keep on trucking along. Where did that blue sky go?
We finally came to a cross trail that lead down into town, following Cascade Creek. When we got down far enough to be able to look back, I took a picture of the trail. It runs right along the top of the green bushes, about a quarter of the way up. It doesn’t look so bad from here.
The trail dropped us into town just a block from Maggie’s Kitchen, which we knew from our last trip makes a mean hamburger. We split a hamburger and an order of onion rings, and sat out on the porch while we watched the rain come pounding down in torrents. Our timing was perfect!
We stayed there, laughing at the poor motorcycle riders who got caught by the rain and renewed our friendship with Brooke, the owner’s 4-year old daughter until the rain let up enough for us to venture out and back to Cleo. And now it’s pouring down rain again. Obviously the morning is the time to go on adventures. We just hope it lets up enough for us to try out the hot pools later.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
You know how we roll into a place for 2 nights and end up staying a week? We’re not doing that in Montrose. It’s a very nice town, rather uninspiring, but nice. However. The allergin count in the valley here is a 9.9 out of 10. Personally, I think the raters were too conservative. I’d give it a perfect 10 and then add on a few points for style. I need to type fast before I claw my eyes out of my head.
And then there’s the other reason. The RV park where we’re staying is a bit out of town. Just across the fence, Old MacDonald has a farm. And on that farm he has a manure pile. A monstrous, malodorous, mature, massive mountain of moo manure. And it’s about 100 yards away and directly in the way of the prevailing wind. Allergen-laden wind. We’re keeping the a/c on, even though the temperature is pleasant. Temperature pleasant; smell and allergen levels, not so much.
The river is waaayyyy down there, and it’s a big, fast, roaring river, even though it looks like a little stream from up on top. Even 2,000 feet above it, you can hear the river’s fierce song. It’s amazing that the river has slowly eaten through the very hard metamorphic rocks over all these millions of years.
This is called the painted wall, because melted magma was forced through cracks in the base rocks by volcanic action, and they crystalized into shiny, mica-laden dikes in the stone that weather more slowly than the basic rocks, so they make pretty pictures. As we were looking at this, and looking and the long way down to some pretty rough water far below, we saw three kayakers paddle into view. I wondered if they were going to tackle that wild water they were headed toward, but they beached and started carrying their kayaks around the monster rocks and waterfalls. I was relieved. I didn’t want to have to call the park rangers and tell them we saw kayakers paddle in but not come out.
After we got back into Montrose we stopped at the Ute Indian Museum and watched a film about the Bear Dance, looked at the beautiful beadwork and read about the sad history of the Utes. Much is owed those people, which is why I have no problem with Indian casinos – it’s about time they got a share of the wealth!
Saturday, August 25, 2012
We signed up for a boat tour of the upper part of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on Thursday. There are a series of dams on the river that created a relatively smooth stretch of water down in a narrow section of the canyon and the Park Service does a 2 hour pontoon-boat tour. It was a very cloudy day, thus the almost white skies in all the photos. I really need to photoshop some blue sky into these, but looking back over Blue Mesa Reservoir the thunderheads were really pretty. As we drove along we came to a pull-out where a formation called Pinnacles was reflected in almost perfectly smooth water.
We parked at the top of the hill and then walked down the 232 steps to get to the canyon bottom. If only I had known how many times on this trip I’d be walking down (and, of course, back up) many hundreds of steps, I’d have spent a lot of hours on a stair-stepper before starting. It wouldn’t have done anything for the fact that we’ve been at 7,000’ or thereabouts but it might have made my legs a little stronger. As it is, I do 20 or 30 steps and then stop to look at the rocks, the view, the vegetation or any other excuse to just not move for a while until I can get enough oxygen into my body to take off again.
This is the 3/4 mile trail that we walked at the canyon bottom to get to the boat dock. It is an old rail bed. Those railroad men in the late 1800’s were incredibly optimistic – who in their right mind would ever think you could build a railroad through a canyon that is mostly straight up and down and way the heck a long way down from the top of the plateau, but they did it! ( I took these shots the next day from the other rim of the canyon.)
After our whole boat load of people finally arrived (the strict instructions to allow at least half an hour for the walk to arrive no later than 12:15 surely didn’t mean that some people actually needed to pay attention to them, no matter that they were repeated multiple times when they made the reservations) and we sailed off down the Morrow Reservoir between sheer cliffs of rocks that were laid down 2 Billion years ago.
It was pretty awesome to realize that as tall as the cliffs were on either side of us, the water covered half their actual depth. If we had 600-800 feet of cliff above us, there was that much more beneath us!
This spire called The Needle was used as the symbol of the Rio Grande railroad, which ran through the canyon and on to the gold and silver fields of Silverton, Durango and down to Antonito and Chama, where we rode the train last week.
On Friday, we drove along the rim of the northern side of the canyon. There are beginning to be signs of autumn here and there.
The views of the canyon were pretty spectacular from the northern side.
Friday night we went to the town’s planetarium to see the night sky. We only got about half an hour of star gazing as the twilight deepened, and then the next thunderstorm moved in and covered up the stars, but it’s certainly a place to go the next time we’re in this part of the world. I find myself very fond of Gunnison.
Today (Saturday, 25 Aug) we moved over to Montrose on the western end of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s lower in altitude, flatter in geology, and warm enough to remind us that it’s still summer.