Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Colorado Mountains

Monday, August 28
We drove to Tincup Pass. I always wanted to do it simply because of the name. We were not impressed. On the way, we stopped in the not so ghosty town of St. Elmo. Most of the former mining camps are now privately owned and inhabited. Some of the structures are deteriorating, some have been rebuilt and some are brand new. The best ghost town for us remains Bodie in the eastern Sierra.

Tuesday, August 29
An hour south to Ohaver Lake CG which is at 9,200. It has a small charming lake. We grocery shopped in Salida. We sure do eat a lot.

Wednesday, August 30
We took another trail through mining country. Porphyry Pass. We were again not impressed with Colorado scenery. Gray-Brown rounded mountains just don’t do it for us. Most of the time you are in the trees with no view. We have tried Colorado twice before and were mildly disappointed. This trip confirms our previous opinion.

It’s cool in the mountains. Texans flock here to escape the heat. Strong demand and limited supply always mean higher prices. It allows the town of Salida to charge $7 to dump your tanks and then they ask for another $5 for fresh water.

Time to kick the tires and light the fires and head south to the only part of the state we like - The San Juan Mountains. We will leave the Rockies for the rest of the folks.

Thursday, August 31
But, first, we have to stay in one place for the freaking holiday. We lucked out and met up with some friends in a great campground north of Gunnison - One Mile.

Friday, September 1
We made a late start and took a leisurely drive up Spring Creek Road. Nice valley and the rocks are sand colored, much better than gray brown. There are lots of dispersed sites along the way, but the road is way too much washboard for our RV.

Saturday, September 2
Absolutely no whining today about Colorado scenery. It is totally different here than 30 miles away. We drove to Crested Butte. We expected a zoo. It was. They were having a street fair so the main street was blocked off and people were walking, biking in the streets daring to be hit. It seemed normal for a long weekend.

Escaping CB, we turned north on Slate River Road. This turned out to be one of the most picturesque roads we have been on. There was haze, but even through it we could tell this was a spectacular place. We had never heard of it, but it’s very popular area. There was plenty of traffic to prove that, but everyone respected right of way and like us were just out to enjoy.

We drove up Slate River Road to Schofield Pass and came back to Crested Butte on Gothic Road. Had we known, we would have returned the way we came, because scenery along Slate River beats Gothic Road which itself is not shabby.

The roads are rated 4WD, but most vehicles were AWD, mostly a smooth road bed and wide enough for passing.

Sunday, September 3
We are changing the name of this trip to The Smoke Trip

The plan was to drive Keebler Pass, but what we thought was haze yesterday is actually smoke and it was denser today, so we abandoned the trip. We spent the afternoon doing laundry and enjoyed a pretty good dinner at Garlic Mike’s. Dorothy had Sea Bass and I had Veal Scaloppine Piccata.

Monday, September 4
Dear Diary,
We wanted to get on the west side of the mountains near a little burg of a town named Marble to drive two Jeep trails. I had thought we might drive the well-maintained dirt road from Crested Butte there. Glenda advised us that it would take an hour longer, so we drove the longer paved road route. The longer route used Colorado 130 which twists and turns up from the Gunnison River. We had been on this road before when we day-tripped to the north end of the Black Canyon. It’s quite scenic but gives precious few views into the canyon. On top, there is a south facing view of the San Juan’s. We could make out the jagged contours of the mountains, through the smoke.

We picked Redstone campground because it’s hot in Colorado right now and the place has electricity. It has the highest rates we have ever seen for a Forest Service campground. $39. Our cost is $22, but that is still high for a Forest Service campground.

We were also surprised that the town of Redstone is a Carmel like artists colony. About a quarter-mile of shops offering artistic items. There must have been some big deal holiday event that had just broken up as the street was filled with folks returning to their cars that had been parked at some distance to the town.

 Cleveholm - Now a B and B

Tuesday, September 5
Yeah, the smoke is still here and now denser. We drove a loop road through the mountains. The far views would have been excellent if the air was clear. Next time. We did get to see “the most photographed mill in Colorado”. And Dorothy describes it.

My first post since we got on the road.  Today the goal was to get to Crystal Mill, which is one of the most intact and photographed in Colorado. We started at Marble, CO.  Marble is just not your ordinary mineral mine, it is a marble mine. Marble from here is in the Jefferson Memorial and many other places.  Driving through town, you see yard ornaments, except they are made of marble.

After leaving Marble we began our ascent through the aspen trees over the very rocky dusty road. You need high clearance in a few places and definitely need tires that are up to lots and lots of sharp rocks.  After two hours, we started descending into the very small town of Crystal.  The old mining homes are now private residences and are rehabbed. I don’t know why anyone would want to live there. Right past the town is the Mill.

We pulled off the road so Don could get some pictures.  He started down a rough looking path - I knew I could not go there. Immediately a man on a motor bike pulled up and very politely told him to come back. We asked who he was. He told us that the land was private property and he was the owner. He said that path was dangerous and just a couple of months ago, a woman in high heels started down it, had a very bad fall and had to get life support to air lift her out.  Of course, she sued him. She was trespassing, wearing high heels and obviously stupid and still wants to sue.  The law says that if you trespass in Colorado and are injured, then it’s your fault. Totally makes sense, but the owner has to get a lawyer and fight the case.  This has happened three times this year.

He talked to several of us for a while.  He is fourth generation owner.  His great-grandfather was one of the founders of Aspen having tent-camped on the main street during the mining heyday. His grandson is now the sixth generation. He doesn’t want to fence the area off so that others can enjoy it, but in the last ten years, the site has become so popular from the internet that it is getting damaged. People have crossed the stream, climbed up the ladder and kicked in the door to get inside. This is a wooden structure that is 100 years old and is not in a constant state of repair, so it’s not only dangerous, but it is damaging private property. I admire the owner for wanting to share history with others, but at the same time, the lawyers are expensive. Since it is in the national forest, I thought it was forest service land.  He said that if there is a building from the “old” days on forest service land, they knock them down - there goes history.

The 15-mile trip took four hours. It takes a long time when you go so slowly. It’s exhausting to bump along a rocky road for hours. Soon we should be in real “Jeep” territory.

The loop was rated “Red” in Wells book. Other than being extremely dusty, rocky in places and a narrow shelf in other places it was not anything exceptional. I am sure when it is muddy it is a difficult trail, but who in their right minds would drive a narrow muddy shelf road. I think only Utah offers technically challenging trails.

The Hamlet of Crystal's Fire Equipment

 The Crystal Mill

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

Wednesday, September 6
We drove 3.5 hours south to Ouray encountering the densest smoke we have seen. A wind storm came up just before dusk and cleared a lot of it out. Woohoo!

One forecast calls for rain almost every day for the next week. Another says the chance is much less. We have drugs being shipped to Silverton so we will get whatever falls from the sky.

Hiking: There are almost as many hiking trails as there are hikers. Some trails are short, some long, some take days to complete. I was thinking, why bother with trails? You can be anywhere and start a hike, even an epic hike. How about through the Bob Marshall Wilderness in March? Or you could be in an elevator and decide you want to head north. You would just path find when the elevator doors opened. This is the what the first American path finders, like Fremont and Bridger did. Be a real hiker, be a Pathfinder.

Thursday, September 7
We were inclined to stay in Ouray another day or two. We did a little touring and had lunch at the local Mex place. It was still good and way too much food. We noticed several trailer loads of ATV’s heading south and it alarmed us. Could they be going to where we were going for the weekend? We decided screw Ouray and headed south 23 miles and found our campground half empty. Good news. I walked around the river sites deciding where I want to park based on who might be using a generator. I asked a guy in a motor home if it would be OK with him if we parked next to him. Fine, he said and then he said he knew our rig and the woman standing next to it was named Dorothy. I looked at him and nothing registered and then I figured out it was Keith who we met here six years ago. Serendipity. We went into town for drinks and pizza and jawed until I was got sleepy.

Keith, Elaine, and Sandy

Her Royal Self On Mineral Creek

Friday, September 8
Keith and Sandy were due to leave but elected to stay another day and visit. We are so glad they did. We also got to know Harley and Elaine who are a lot of fun.

It got hot, then chilled off three times during the day. I about wore out my clothes changing.

Saturday, September 9
The sky was totally clear at 9:30 so we got away to a Jeep trail I have been wanting to do since we were last here. Last time, the narrow ledge trail greatly alarmed Dorothy, so I back down and turned around. This time she was not in the least bothered by the drop-off. Near the end of the trail there had been a massive slide and rather than try to return it as a road they just ended the trail there. So I had to hike the last half-mile or so, starting at 12,250 and going UP. Dorothy went a little way, but she was huffing and puffing and had to give it up. I was not doing very good myself, but I decided to push it. I made it to the first lake but had no energy left to continue to the second and third ones.

This is the picture I was after. But, the little bog lake was dried up, only a few pots of water remaining.

So I continued to the real lake. Which was not as cool. The sky cooperated, remaining almost cloudless for the whole climb. Five minutes before I got the lake gray clouds suddenly appeared behind the jagged rocks and the another cloud hide the sun. I was torked. I did not have time to wait it out as we had to get to post office before it closed at 1. I stayed 30 minutes, but the clouds did not budge much. And so it goes.

 I got this “also participated” shot

The road to the lake

Still a few flowers blooming up high

Sunday, September 10
The day opened with mostly blue skies, so we made haste to get to the roads that transverse the Red Mountains. We had some great views and I got a few pictures before dark clouds appeared. The San Juan’s remain our fav mountains.

The county has really made an effort to improve the roads. We were surprised by the sparse number of people on the trails on a Sunday.

Why We Come To Silverton

Heard on the radio; Colorado has an Alligator Park where you can go and wrestle a gator if you are of that mind. Reminds me of Florida in the 50’s. Also heard an ad for condoms, a first for us. The couple were whispering what they wanted to the clerk. They were told there was no need to whisper. They replied they had lost their voices from pleasure screams using them.

Monday, September 11
We wanted to return to Red Mountain again today. We got away too late. By 10:30 the clear skies were replaced by gray clouds. After noon, we had light rain.

Dorothy’s drugs were in Denver Saturday en route to us according to the postal tracking service. This morning they were in Atlanta!!!

Tuesday, September 12
We took the short drive up to Clear Lake and got a few pictures before the clouds made too much of an appearance.

 Even The Creeks Are Stained With Minerals

The End Of The Trail To Clear Lake

About 2PM, we got a deluge of rain, hail, and sleet.

Dorothy’s drugs have been turned around and are now crossing the country again. No expected delivery date yet.

Actual suggestions made to park rangers:

Trails need to be wider so people can walk holding hands.

Trails need to be reconstructed so they are not uphill.


Bullwinkle and BF chilling in the mud


  1. We keep meaning to return to this part of the country and spend more time. Maybe next year.

  2. We did the Tin cup pass drive 7 years ago in a Saturn View, it was interesting:) If I went again, four wheel drive would be nice:)