June 14, 2004

Ouray, CO – Million Dollars, Black Canyons, and Biking Telluride

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:29 pm by diandy2004

The drive from Silverton to Ouray was breathtaking, and not just because of the steep drop-offs. It is referred to as ‘The Million Dollar Highway’, which we know is because of the expense to blast the road, tunnels and water diverters out of the mountain, but it still is a deserving name. The view along this road is of snow-capped mountains, forests, a deep gorge, and waterfalls.  Somehow, it was my day to drive the RV again.  This was another segment we chose to drive separately, so Andy was behind me in the car.  We use walkie-talkies to communicate on these drives.  At one point Andy radioed to me that my outside dualie was hanging off the edge of the road.  Parts of the road were under construction and the white line was missing in sections.  My choice was to trust the inner dualie in order to avoid the semi-tractor trailer coming at me taking the curve in the road with a wide swing.  Tough choices on these roads without guardrails!

We are still adjusting to the multitudes of greens in Colorado. There is the deep-greens of pines, firs and junipers, the bright-greens of meadows, the light-greens of quaking aspens, and the gray-greens of shrubs. And usually they are all patch-worked together in one setting.

A Common Colorado Scene

A Common Colorado Scene

Our first stop in Ouray was the Box Canyon Waterfalls. A ‘box canyon’ has walls on three sides. The waterfall cut through one wall and roared between the other two. We took two hikes – one to the top of the falls and the other to the bottom. It was about 20 degrees cooler inside the canyon. The canyon walls consisted of the black and pink rock.

Andy in Box Canyon

Andy in Box Canyon

Our second stop was the Ouray Hot Springs. We soaked in the mineral springs for about an hour or so. The different pool temperatures ranged from 74 degrees (for lap swimming) to 106 degrees. Afterwards we went back into town for lunch and a little shopping. Downtown Ouray is very quaint. The Main Street is lined with old-style brick buildings and the residences are mostly Victorian-style. The town is surrounded by a mountain range referred to as “The Amphitheatre” and National Forests.

Downtown Ouray

Downtown Ouray

We stayed at Ridgeway State Park up the road from Ouray. That first afternoon we decided on a short mountain bike ride. The beginning of this ride was a little challenging with switchbacks and a slope noted as 32 degrees. Warning signs were posted in this area and with good reason. We mostly “hiked-a-bike” up and down this section. The rest of the trail was great though with rolling hills above the reservoir. We saw several deer jumping pasture fences and lots of birds.

From Ridgeway we day-tripped to Black Canyon of Gunnison NP. This canyon got its name because in one section it is more narrow than deep, casting continual shadows into the canyon. We liked the pink Pegmatite rock. Pegmatite was originally red-hot lava that was injected into fractures of the black rock during an eruption and turned pink after it cooled. This created some fascinating patterns in the black rock.

Pegamite of Black Canyon

Pegamite of Black Canyon

Overlooking Black Canyon

Overlooking Black Canyon

Another day trip from Ridgeway was to Telluride, the well-known ski town. We took a hike up to Bridal Veil Falls and another waterfall. We took the free gondola ride up Telluride Mountain to Mountain Village. During this gondola ride we talked with several people regarding biking options. All bike trails are rated “difficult”, but one just looked like a jeep road. We decided to try it anyway. We got our bikes and went back up the gondola. They have bike racks on the back of the gondola to get your bikes to the top of the mountain. San Sophia is the highest point at 10,535 ft and is the start of the trail. The Telluride Trail is a double-blue-square rated ski slope, which is “advanced intermediate” or one step below a black diamond. What made it a difficult bike ride was primarily the speed. Our hands ached at the end from gripping our brakes to maintain our speed. There was a lot of skidding and fishtailing due to gravel and rocks. The tight switchback turns required complete control. And, humps in the path could cause you to catch airtime if you hit them at too high of a speed. Overall, it was a complete adrenaline rush. But once was enough.  Note:  We were hesitant to do the ride after we arrived at the top of the mountain with our bikes and met another biker – in full BMX gear with all of the protective guards, including a full helmet.  And here we were in our spandex!

Overlooking Telluride

Overlooking Telluride

We went back into Ouray for an afternoon and visited Ice Park, a slot canyon in which they water the cliff walls in winter to create ice cliffs for climbers. We also hiked to Cascade Falls, another beautiful waterfall right on the outskirts of town. The stream below Cascade Falls was filled with Malachite – a green rock. I just can’t get used to the colors of rocks out west. Aren’t ‘rocks’ supposed to be boring brown or black?

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