Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our Last Week in the San Juan Mountains

Sunday, August 23

Laundry Day. In the evening we went to the Brass Band concert they have every Sunday evening.


It rained.


We drove to Stony Pass with Keith and Sandy. Since they have been coming here for over 20 years, they make fine tour guides. It was mostly overcast all day.

The ranger stopped by the other day to let us know a bear had been sighted. He gave us a pamphlet ‘Living With Wildlife’. In addition to the usual precautions was this one. Abstain from sexual activity.


Mostly overcast after 10am. I swapped the water pump and did some other chores. This has become a real neighborhood, even borrowing vinegar. Another fine campfire.


We drove to the top of Mt. Kendall that is the backdrop for the town of Silverton. This is not a saddle, from the top you have a 360 view of the San Juan’s. Fantastic. Dorothy was a little unnerved by the long narrow shelf road. We left Pelli and put on our hiking boots and walked about 1/2 mile up and had more fantastic views, also it was good to get a little exercise. Which does not take much time at nearly 13,000 feet. Huff and Puff

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Note we are almost as high as 13,500 footers in the background

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On Top of the World


Another scenic drive day for us. The first drive was very easy and we stopped at an old mine (one of thousands in this area) and had great views. We continued on for a few minutes and found more sheep grazing, but did not see the dogs. Then we went to Black Bear Pass. This is another jeep trail that is quite popular and difficult, but we only saw four other vehicles. We got to the top of the pass, which was as far as we could go. You need more jeep than we have to continue downhill. The views were spectacular, probably in the top three vistas of the trip.

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We Made It

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Looking West from Black Bear Pass

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The Road Down from Black Bear Pass

Interesting side note – when we arrived in Colorado, we weren’t impressed at all and I was ready to head home. Now that we have been in the Silverton area, we know we will be back. Most everyone we meet has been coming here for years and years.

Saturday, August 30

On our last day here, we went with Keith and Sandy up Arrista Gulch. This is the site of the Mayflower Mine and Mill, which operated until 1991. The highlight of the drive was spotting six mountain goats high above us.

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Fuzzy Picture of Mountain Goats – 420mm Hand Held

Dorothy is made dinner for Keith and Sandy and they brought a triple chocolate desert.

Today marks a minor milestone, we have not had hookups for three full months.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Week in Silverton

Sunday, August 16

It was a fun day! The town of Silverton held it’s 28th Rocky Mountain Brass Band Concert this weekend. It started out with the National anthem. Since 9/11, I get teary eyed every time I hear it. To see the audience stand, hands over hearts is moving and if that doesn’t move someone then something is seriously wrong with them. I love Sousa marches and Stars and Stripes ended the concert. Now the important question – how do we get back here next year!

Another good thing, I made cornbread today and it was good. It’s really hard to cook at over 7000’. I think have figured it out but will have to wait and see how I do cooking rice the next time.

A woman was killed by a bear(s) here recently. She had been feeding them for years and had been warned several times. The tragedy of it is that two bears have already been put down and they are looking for more.


We drove the alleged scenic Lime Creek Road today. It was a bust. Perhaps when the Aspens are turning this would be a great drive.

We toyed with the idea of getting dressed up in cowboy and madam outfits and having our photograph taken. Then we wondered where we would hang it.


We spent the morning doing a few chores. Dorothy fixed tilapia sandwiches for lunch, which was followed by a short nap. And then we were off in the Jeep. We drove to Eureka again and turned left to Eureka Gulch. There are a lot of gulches around here. It was splendid drive to 13,300 and the view back the valley was magnificent. We saw a few snowflakes!

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Another meadow in the San Juan’s

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The dog wanted to be between us and his sheep

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One man, five dogs, over a hundred sheep


This was to be a fun shopping day. We drove into Durango about 50 miles south that took about 1½ hours. First we went to Home Depot and then found a Mexican restaurant that was only okay. We wanted to do a few more things, but it was warm and we went to Wal*Mart for grocery shopping. Durango is a way too busy little town, with lots of touristy stores.


We bit off more than we wanted to chew today, but we could not spit it out.

The plan was to drive Cinnamon Pass. Our guidebook said the trail would be no problem for us. When we got to the fork for Cinnamon, one look convinced us to pass it up. Darn it! Moose had been reported along that trail. I came up with Plan B, to head east on Engineer Pass. A mile or so on that trail convinced us to turn around and head down to US550 on the west side of Engineer. Very bad choice. This was the worst trail we have seen and once on it there was no turning around. While Pelli can slide down rock shelves on her skid plates, going up was out of the question. So we spent almost two hours descending to the paved road. Once we had to pile rocks in a hole to have a possibility of passing over an especially irregular section. It was really fun, or something else, when Pelli did a diagonal see-saw on two wheels.

The really fun thing was at the turn around point – lots and lots of sheep and five sheep dogs along with the shepherd from Bolivia. It was interesting that as we stood there watching, the sheep headed downhill toward us. One of the dogs checked us out. He was very friendly but very watchful of his sheep. We chatted with the shepherd for a few minutes and gave him some much needed water.

Had a fireplace discussion about all matters of importance with the our neighbors.


A lazy day. We walked round Silverton checking out the tourists shops and people watching. We had rum cocktails at the Silverton Distillery where they make rum. Another evening around the fire, with Bill & Ruby of Victoria, Texas, Keith & Sandy of Iowa, and Ron and Patty from Utah.


The water pump started doing odd things a few days ago and last night it continued running after it should have re-pressurized. This morning I decided to replace it with the spare we carry. But first, I wanted to try adjusting it before tackling the replacement. Of course, to access the adjustment screw I had to take out the converter to get to it. Grumble. I turned the screw clockwise two turns with no effect. I returned it to the original position and then a quarter turn to the left and bingo the pump cut off. It has worked flawlessly the rest of the day, so maybe I will put the converter back in tomorrow.

Having solved that puzzle, we took Pelli on the Ophir Pass. This proved to be fine road with remarkable scenery all the way to the pass. The road down to Telluride was not so great. Pretty rough. When we got to the pavement, I went south toward Lizard Pass looking for the place where I took a picture in 1994. They must have moved the mountain, I could not find the place.

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On the way up to Ophir Pass. It was clouding up.

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Taken from Ophir Pass. Yes, that’s our road in the foreground

Rather than return via Ophir Pass, a mere 10 ,miles, we drove 80 miles around on the pavement. We stopped in Ouray and had an abysmal and over-priced dinner at a Mex place. But, other than that, a great day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Black Canyon, Ouray and Silverton

Sunday, August 9

Today we drove to the north rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We had not gone but a few miles when three Lazy Daze passed us. I suppose they had spent the weekend at the state park and were on their way home. Two brown and one gray rig.

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The Black Canyon at Noon

The CG at the north rim is small and quiet. Evidently the attraction here technical climbing on the sheer canyon walls. We drove the rim road and peered into the awesome gorge. Some canyons are longer, some are deeper, some are narrower and a few have walls that are as steep. But, no other canyon combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. That said, we think the canyon is worth only a few hours visit. That is what we gave the south rim in 1994. Overall, we think the Curecanti area is more scenic than the area inside the park.



Finally, correctly fashioned mountains. The San Juans. They have jagged peaks. None of that rounded off mess.

We left the north rim at 9 and did not park the rig for the day until almost 4. We thought we would spend a day or two at an RV park in Montrose and shop, enjoy the library, etc. All spaces were taken by A’s. Plus the traffic in Montrose is horrendous. We tried the FS Amphitheater CG in Ouray – full. We continued south toward Silverton and spotted parking on FS/BLM property right off the highway. We have a great view of the mountains, but no amenities, which Dorothy wanted. But, we are situated to do the four-wheel roads in the area.

Dorothy only drove KoKo for 20 miles and Pelli for 10 miles today, but her foot is very painful. The 10 miles she drove on winding US550 gave her a very bad attitude that took a stiff drink to remedy. She said she would never poop again. I suppose that is something akin to having the poop scared out of you.


Why would Dorothy complain about this road?


They paved it in the 60’s

We saw a green LD northbound in Ouray.



After a yummy breakfast of cinnamon toast, we drove into Ouray to do a few tourist things. We got on the Internet at the library and found a FS CG in Silverton with water. We don’t really want to move, but we will need water before the weekend. And the thought of driving there to get water then coming back on the mountain road is more than we care to deal with.

US 550 from Ouray south-bound is, first, a spectacular drive, second, scary since the curb side white line is missing in a few places. Straight down. Guard rails? They are for sissies. They were winching a vehicle out when we passed at 8:30. They were still winching at 1. Two wreckers. The speed limit varies from 10 to 25 and most vehicles comply with the law. It’s called Million Dollar Highway. I recall it from out 1994 trip here. I also recall smoking the brakes going down into Ouray. You should see the original road bed, it was just wide enough for a wagon. [Photo above]

At four, with Radio Margaritaville playing A1A, we took Pelli for a drive up the Corkscrew Gorge. The afternoon sun was perfect to illuminate the three iron faced mountains. We did not have time to get to the top and make it back in time for dinner, but the views from 11,700 were spectacular. The San Juan’s are the most scenic area we have been in since we left Escalante country. We will spend a few more days here four-wheeling. The trail we took today is rated 4 out of 8. However on the authors scale, more than a 4 requires more Jeep than we have. Pelli did fine and it was an enjoyable and memorable drive.

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Scenes of Red Mountain on the Corkscrew Gulch Trail



Colorado is geared to the tourist. Every town has shops to appeal to the tourist. This is unlike Utah. In many Utah towns there is barely a hint of commercialism, much less business for the tourist trade.

We drove south to a CG just north of Silverton. The FS website said it had water, which we needed. The CG has no water, but the VC in town does, so we parked. We later found out that the CG we were seeking is further down the road the dirt road and the park host is a Nazi. We lucked out again. Great views, friendly neighbors, no traffic and it is free.

It’s very interesting about campgrounds – some are very friendly and there are some where you never see the neighbors. People here are out walking and talking to each other – got to love it.



We took Pelli out on the trails again. We first went to the “ghost town” of Animas Forks and then continued on over California Gulch and finally down Corkscrew Gulch. The last trail was the one we partially did Tuesday afternoon.

The terrain was rugged and breathtaking. The only rub - the skies were overcast all day.

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Lake Como

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More of Red Mountain(s)

This small area of Colorado had hundreds of mines in the late 1800’s. Some of the mines were little more than a hole in the ground. Others had miles of tunnels and produced more than a million dollars of ore a month. Most of the mines closed after the US went off the bi-metal standard and the price of silver plummeted. Remember WJ Byran and his Cross of Gold speech? The hillsides are covered in the remains of the mine structures. We saw one gold mine that is still in operation.



It started raining last night and has continued off and on most of the day. The radar shows more rain coming in from Utah. No jeeping today.

We had a double rainbow. The lower one was barely above the tree tops.

Rain, however, does not dampen a hummingbirds interest in feeding. We have a stick clamped to the ladder and the feeder hung from the stick. The “little darlings" are less than six inches from the rear window. We have Black Throated, Broad Tailed and Rufus varieties. [Our bird guide says the Rufus does not live in these parts] We get a lot of enjoyment from a cup of sugar.

We had an enjoyable lunch with our neighbors Jerome and Ann of Andalusia, AL. This is first place we have been with a wide assortment of license plates. Next to us we have Arizona, Arkansas and Alabama. The area has a LOT of Texas plates.


Saturday, August 15

The sun is back! We got a late start on another 4WD road to Clear Lake. There was a knock on the door as we were getting ready to leave and it was an Alabamaian. He asked where we lived and we said Hoover. They live in Hoover also. They invited us to call them when we get back and join them for Square Dancing. We have one of the requirements for joining their group – an RV. They are a RV Square Dance group. It’s great exercise, right Nancy, so we may just give it a try.

The views were dramatic at Clear Lake. The lake was most camera-friendly.

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This is the way I like my mountains to look

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At 12,000 feet, Clear Lake. And yes, the wind was  blowing.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Rockies and Curecanti NRA

Sunday, August 2

We drove south to Buena Vista Sunday and parked with Lee and Debbie, a Lazy Daze couple on their lot. The lot has a fine view of the surrounding mountains.



We followed Lee and Debbie in their tricked up Jeep north to Leadville and then over Mosquito Pass, the highest unpaved road in Colorado. Lee said the road is rated 3 out of 5 in the four-wheeling guide. It’s not difficult, but it is very rough. Thankfully they took us west-to-east as the opposite way is more difficult. Pelli did fine, she only light scraped on a skid pad in a few places.

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What the road looked like

We had some good mountain views all during the tour. While the mountains are 13-14 thousand feet, they are gray granite with dark green Spruce below the timberline. They are not especially photogenic to me any more. My tastes have changed since 1994.

Next we went to a goat farm, where we got to pet the woman’s many Nubian goats and a dozen or so cats. We had more fun than our grandkids could have had. We bought some goat cheese spread.

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Our final destination was half-way up another mountain to a grove of Bristlecone Pines. These are different from the variety in the White Mountains of California. Their bark is white, not golden with resin.

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Lay Day – We did shopping and Dorothy got a haircut. Dorothy cooked a fine meal for the four of us and Lee and Debbie had one of those big birthday cookies for Dorothy.


We went 24 miles south to Salida, dumped and got a few more groceries at Wal*Mart. Judging by the people we saw, there has been a lot of inbreeding in Salida. We find these towns from time-to-time.

Before noon, we were in a campsite on the east side of Monarch Pass at 10,500 feet – the highest we have parked. The elevation will be helpful as it warming up today. Sadly, the CG is not much.


90 miles west of Monarch Pass is the Curecanti NRA. We had never heard of the place until we noted it on a map last week. [We are truly winging it in Colorado, we did not study on places to go and we have made no plans] Anywho, this NRA is on the Gunnison River. You have probably heard of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NM, well not all of the canyon is within the monument, part of it is here. It is a deep canyon, but the walls are not as dark as it is in the monument.

Our parking spot is really nothing but a striped off place on an asphalt parking lot right on the water. The view is pretty good. The best part is a water hydrant right next to us. Yes, water, cool clear water. All we want. Plus there is a dump a hundred yards away. Water to clean KoKo, Pelli, the yaks and long showers for us. We are in luxury.

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View from parking area

The FS CG’s in the area must not like RV’s as there is only one dump located in a remote area and water is available only through hand pumps.


We took a short drive to see the Curecanti Pinnacle, which is not all that great from above. It may look fantastic at river level. The view into the canyon is much better. At the overlook for the pinnacle, two streams join the Gunnison, so you have a four-way intersection of canyons. The effect really messed with my perception. It appeared that one of the streams was running uphill to me.

Dorothy developed a migraine? headache and that shut her down for the rest of the day. I amused myself patching the seat in her kayak and other little chores.

At 9:45 a travel trailer pulled in right next to us. Dorothy had just gotten to sleep. I went near ballistic. There were 50 equally good empty spaces he could have taken. I went outside and gave him a piece of my mind. He was pleasant. His wife wanted to kill me. They moved. All we needed was to listen to them level the trailer for a half hour. The next morning she put the evil eye on us. Plus they had a slide! No way was it going to fit.

Saturday, August 8

I noted on the Delorme map that the Lake Fork River drains into the Gunnison. The canyon is supposed to be fiord like. That sounded just right for paddling the yaks. I found a road that went to head of the canyon. We were off. The road along Lake Fork was originally the bed for an 1890 era railroad. We passed a dozen people fishing the river and one fellow with small gold dredge. The scenic drive ended about a half mile before we had access to flat water. Plus a few hundred yards downstream was a huge log jam. Foiled!