Monday, August 31, 2015

Ouray, Colorado

Once again we drove into the San Juan Mountains through its gateway in Ridgway.      This time our destination was Ouray, called the Switzerland of America.    Pronounced "You ray" this small valley town is less than 15 miles from our home base.

Our reason for driving to Ouray was water.   Ouray has a famous public hot spring, non sulfur swimming pool and a number of small hotels with private hot spring pools.  The public pools range in temperature from 80 to 106 degrees.

  We parked and walked around the pool area and I suppose it would have been inviting if it wasn't chock full of people.   Kids and adults swimming and soaking, lathering on sunscreen and laying on towels and chairs and eating hot dogs.    I didn't take any pictures as I didn't want to appear to be photographing people I didn't know!    Perhaps when it was less busy.....

 Ouray also boasts an intriguing water fall, Box Canyon Water Fall, just north of the city proper.    We took our lunch up to the small park and sat beside a cliff to eat before exploring the canyon and falls.

After we finished our sandwiches and a shared peach galette we hiked up a short hill to the edge of the catwalk leading to the Box Canyon Falls.    This spectacular natural wonder pours thousands of gallons a minute down 285 feet through an extremely narrow canyon, the walls of which overhang the falls by some 100 feet.

The walk was green and damp, the sound of the thundering falls in our ears.

The picture above is about as far as I actually got.    I understand that the rest of the way was perfectly safe and there certainly were people coming back from the falls, so there was no crashing of the catwalk, no collapsing of the railing.   But.....The walking surface was see through, as was the railing.   What I saw through was occasionally grey stone and occasionally - nothing below me.  The cliff walls on one side were straight up as we started the walk, but the further we went, the more they intruded into the path making us lean out over the canyon below to avoid banging our heads.    So with claustrophobia and height issues making me vibrate, I asked Dave to walk me back to the "safe" zone and then continue on to the falls.

Sigh.....I'm glad I went, I'm mad I couldn't finish the hike but I'm glad Dave did.   He said it was magnificent.

After returning to the car we drove back into the main street of Ouray and walked the streets, enjoying the beautifully restored buildings.

old glass and new keep watch

Ouray boasts the largest number of surviving original Mesker Bros. cast iron facades in the state.   These ornamental sheet metal and cast iron storefronts were sold by mail order in the 1880's through the mid-twentieth century.

fleur de lis are one of the Mecker signatures


On our way out of town, on the way back to Beluga we saw a sign pointing up to another water fall.    Anxious to redeem myself I suggested we see what the hike to that falls looked like.

But, its late.    I'll show you more tomorrow.    

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ridgway to Telluride

The nearby town of Ridgway was the starting point for most of our day trips into the mountains.   Its slogan, "Gateway to the San Juan's" is an apt one.   Though it is a small town we came to really enjoy what it had to offer.   One tiny market, a nice library, a great pizza shop, home made ice cream parlour, a water sport rental store, a little railroad museum and a really really good (albeit tiny) Friday farmer's market.

Motor 1 (a Galloping Goose)

Friday Ridgway Farmer's Market

We found the people to be very friendly, relaxed with a great sense of humor!

One day (actually a couple days) we traveled a few miles south, turned west on rt. 62 then sharply east on rt. 145 and at the end of the road was the historic ski town of Telluride.       We stopped for lunch along a rushing, clear river (don't ask which one, there are streams and rivers every way you turn and I can't begin to keep track of where one starts, which one merges with another, or where one changes direction).    We parked in a wide pull off, opened the tailgate and enjoyed our sandwiches and the spectacular Kouigns Amann fresh from the Ridgway Farmer's Market.   nom nom nom.....

Dave rinsing his sticky hands
The drive took us through more spectacular scenery - are you tired of seeing mountains and steep valley's yet?

As we entered the outskirts of Telluride, we saw this sign and had to laugh at its accuracy and its bad spelling.    This town is definitely "pricy".

Colorado has no shortage of beautiful trails and
Telluride definitely has it's share

it also has no shortage of water falls -
this one cascades through mining ruins

Telluride ends at those mountains

now, that's clear water!
As we've come to expect here in Colorado on summer afternoons, the skies began to darken over the mountains.  We were sure we were in for a wet ride home.

We were entertained by spiked flashes of cloud to cloud and cloud to ground lightning.   I wasn't lucky enough to catch any of them with the camera, but they were beautiful to see.    The light was magnificent....patches of brilliant sun and black sky over the mountains.    What a show mother nature gave us.

We never did get a downpour,  just a few enormous raindrops pelted the windshield and we had the feeling we could almost drive between them.   An odd phenomenon we've experienced here on more than one occasion.

The day ended with a beautiful sunset over McKenzie Butte, right out Beluga's dining room windows.   How lucky are we?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

On one day's excursion we drove north to Montrose, then west and north into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

my first view of the canyon  - NOT from the edge

Its scale is overwhelming, its sheer walls terrifying to me.    It is very deep and very narrow.   From one of the overlooks, the Painted Wall, the wild Gunnison River is 2250 feet below.    One can only see a ribbon of it from the very edge, a place I did not go.

I could only see the tinest snipet
of the Gunnison River below

the river below the man in orange is
2250 feet straight down....

the Painted Wall

Dave is out there....

he's out there too....

green Gunnison roaring below

Pictures do not do justice.   As I said, the scale is unbelievable. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a much more intimate experience than the Grand Canyon.    Each time we pulled into an overlook, the view took my breath away.
H oly S hit was all that came out of my mouth - very eloquent I know, but I could find no words.

In 1909 a nearly 6 mile long tunnel was blasted through the Canyon's sheer walls to carry water from the substantial Gunnison River to the semi-arid Uncompahgre Valley providing irrigation to over 75,000 acres of previously unusuable land.

arid hills above the
irrigated valley

lush hay field being irrigated
On our way back home we drove through rich green fields of alfalfa, wheat, corn, and potatoes.

Next, Telluride.