Our 2020 motorhome travels in the Phoenix Cruiser ... exploring Colorado and a road trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.
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  • Oct16

    Wrapping Up the Season ... For Now

    October 16, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 48 °F

    Our reward for waking up early on a cold morning at Mueller State Park was a delightfully colorful sunrise. At least the temp had risen from our overnight low of 24F to 32F. Inside the Cruiser, we were cozy and ready to begin breaking camp.

    We were on the road by 9:15a. The temp had risen to 38F ... and it warmed up another degree or two by the time we descended 2,000 feet from the mountains to Colorado Springs.

    Debating whether we should postpone winterizing the Cruiser for another day or two, we checked the weather. Nope ... too many hard freezes in the forecast. Best to just get it over with.

    Mui used to dread winterizing the Phaeton as it took a while to do so and the process wasn’t necessarily easy. Not so with the Cruiser. Basically ...

    1. dump and clean the tanks
    2. dip a short hose into the jug of antifreeze and hook the other end to the water intake
    3. switch the water valve to the winterizing mode
    4. turn the water pump on
    5. open the faucet at each sink — and run the shower and toilet flush — until “pink stuff” (aka antifreeze) runs out
    6. make sure the p-traps are filled, letting the overflow go into the grey and black tanks

    And voilà! The Cruiser is winterized. I’m guessing it took Mui 20-25 minutes to complete the process ... at a leisurely pace ... checking to make sure he did not miss a step.

    We’re still considering a winter trip somewhere south. But we’re going to wait and see how the pandemic is progressing through the cold months. If we decide to get on the road, it will be easy enough to de-winterize and re-provision the Cruiser. In the meantime, we have the peace of mind that any hard freezes will not damage the plumbing system.
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  • Oct15

    Cold Day Hike to Cheesman Ranch

    October 15, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 41 °F

    The forecasters warned us. They said it was going to be cold overnight. And it was.

    When we rolled out of bed at 7:00a, the outdoor temp was reading 27F ... brrrr! But inside the Cruiser we were comfy and cozy. We had breakfast at the dinette and settled down to wait for the temperature to rise. Even with the sun burning off the fog, it was another three hours before we saw the gauge read 32F. Still too cold to go for a hike.

    By the time we had lunch, the temp had risen to 43F. We have come to recognize that if the sun is out, anything above 40F is quite comfortable here in Colorado. Especially if there is no breeze. So, we bundled up and went off to do a short hike.

    The Grouse Mountain Trailhead is at the top of the Grouse Mountain Campground. That’s one of the campgrounds that’s closed for the season. So is the road that goes up that way. Knowing that we’d be adding about 2.7 miles just to get to/from the trailhead, we settled on a short trail ... Cahill Pond Loop ... 2.6 miles. Hah!

    Somehow we missed a trail marker — blended into the trees, I’m guessing. Or at least that’s my story and I am sticking to it 🤪. So, to Plan B we went and created a trail of our own ... kludging several of them to create a loop. The bonus? We got to see the Cheesman Ranch and Cahill Pond, and enjoyed a fairly easy uphill grade on the way back to the trailhead. Had we done the original loop, we would have been huffing and puffing quite a bit at the end.

    Overall, adding in the walk to/from the Cruiser to the trailhead, we did 7.3 miles! Not bad at all!

    We’ll be going home tomorrow. Though we are still considering a winter trip down south, we have too many hard freezes forecasted next week to leave the motorhome in storage without winterizing. So, that’s the work that awaits us when we get home.
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  • Oct14

    Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center

    October 14, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 64 °F

    A couple miles north of Mueller State Park is the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center. I was too late making reservations for a tour when we were up here in August. This time I managed to get us two spots for today’s 4:00p feeding tour ($25pp), which I figured would guarantee seeing the wolves.

    After spending the morning close to home with a 3-mile walk around the six campgrounds in the upper section of the park, we headed off for our tour. By this time, the strong winds that had been gusting all day had calmed down, and the sun had warmed things up nicely to around 70F.

    The CWWC is a non-profit organization that is AZA-certified (AZA = Association of Zoos and Aquariums). It is dedicated to educating the public about wolves, which no longer exist in the wild in Colorado although the state is part their natural range. (Hopefully, a proposition on this year’s general election ballot will change that.)

    The education efforts extend to wolf dogs, foxes, and coyotes. As well, thanks to the AZA-designation, the CWWC can participate in the Species Survival Program by providing a home to Mexican Gray Wolves, one of the most endangered of the wolf species, and Swift foxes.

    The animals at the sanctuary are all rescues ... some from other sanctuaries and some from zoos. Funds raised from donations and tours — some of the interactive ones are pretty pricey — are used to care for the animals and improve the facilities/enclosures.

    Our feeding tour started with a brief presentation that provided information about the wolves, their ranges, and their numbers — both past and present. It was quite eye opening. For example, according to info from the World Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, and others, there are fewer than 5,500 wolves in the US now. That’s down from 250,000-500,000 wolves that used to be around before colonists moved westward and eradication programs came into play.

    The next part of the tour took us around the sanctuary. The group was a little larger than I would have liked, but everyone wore masks and tried to social distance as much as possible when we stopped in front of the enclosures. That we were outdoors, of course, made us more comfortable about doing the tour.

    At each enclosure, our guide told us about the species of wolf housed there as well as the individual animal or pair. In response to a question about why there was only one or two wolves in each enclosure, we learned that “alpha animals” don’t “play well together.” In fact, we saw a demonstration of this when an alpha male in one enclosure took issue with an alpha in another enclosure being fed first. That said, our guide was careful to ensure that each animal got its fair share of the fresh meat that she threw over the fence.

    While the feeding tour did ensure that we saw the wolves up close, their proximity to the fence was not great for photography. Looking at my photos afterwards, the animals look like they are in small cages. In actuality, they all have plenty of space to roam ... and disappear from view should they choose to do so. I got my better photos before the tour from a spot from which I could photograph the foxes and Kekoa, a timber wolf, from a higher vantage point.

    Our visit to the CWWC was an interesting one. The presentation was eye-opening. The animals were a delight to see. And the group howl at the end of the tour — that set off a response from the wolves — was a small bit of fun.

    A really cold night is in the forecast. Time to fill the hot water bottles I keep in the Cruiser for just such times 🤪
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  • Oct13

    Moving Day ... Ridgway SP to Mueller SP

    October 13, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 57 °F

    We had a blue-sky day for our 238-mile drive from Ridgway State Park to Mueller State Park in Divide, Colorado. Despite the sunshine, it wasn’t a very warm day. We started out at 28F when we left Ridgway. Went up to 48F at Monarch Crest (elevation 11,312 feet at the Continental Divide). Finally reached 68F at Mueller SP. No complaints, though. Good driving weather.

    We wanted to drive up and over Monarch Pass before the forecasted high winds kicked up. Hence our plan was to get on the road by 7:30a, just as the sun was breaking over Enchanted Mesa. We missed that self-imposed deadline by 30 minutes, but still managed to get through the pass before the wind speed rose.

    Wanting a relatively short driving day, we didn’t dally much along the way today. Just a couple of stretch-your-legs stops for Mui and a brief lunch break at Monarch Crest. Our plans to set up the picnic table for al fresco dining, alas, went by the wayside. Despite the lovely sunshine, the windchill simply made it much too cold to eat outside.

    Our route today took us back on US-50 part of the way. Near Poncha Springs, we turned on to US-285 and then onto US-24 after we passed Nathrop. Both these sections were unfamiliar to us, but we found them to be easy driving. In fact, we made such good time following this route that it was 1:45p when we pulled into Mueller State Park.

    This is our second time camping at this state park. The first time was in August. At that time, we stayed in the Grouse Mountain Campground at the very top of the road that runs through the park. I had hoped to stay in that section again, but there was no availability showing when I went online to book our site.

    My suspicions that the campground was closed turned out to be accurate. I guess there aren’t enough people willing to camp at this elevation at this time of the year. The closure reduces the sites that need to be maintained from 132 to half that number. Smart!

    So, this time we’re in site 42 in the Conifer Ridge Campground. It’s a half-moon pull-through pad with a big patio set on a terrace built out from the edge of the road. We have a nice view down to the meadow with mountains in the distance on one side. Though there are plenty of trees, our orientation is such that we get no shade whatsoever. The site is wide open and gets the full brunt of the winds, too ... which was the case today.

    With only a 30A electric pedestal to hook up to — no sewer or water here (though water spigots to fill up are ample) — it didn’t take us long to get settled. At one point, when the wind died down a bit, we sat on the patio and enjoyed the fresh air. The sun actually felt good since the temp had begun to drop by then.

    We managed to stay out long enough for a quick meal ... watching the mule deer grazing in the meadow while we ate. Once the sun was behind the tall trees, though, the temp dropped so sharply that we had no option but to move indoors.

    There are some very strong winds in the forecast for tomorrow. We have a non-refundable reservation for an outing tomorrow afternoon. Whether we'll do a hike in the morning, however, is TBD based on weather conditions.
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  • Oct12

    Box Cañon Falls in Ouray

    October 12, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 54 °F

    I have no idea how cold it got overnight, but it was cold enough to freeze the water coming out of the ground at the pedestal at our site. The good news? The Cruiser’s plumbing system was fine ... as evidenced by the water flowing out of the faucets when we engaged the pump!

    It took five hours for the 31F we woke up to at 6:00a to break the 50F mark. As soon as it did, we deployed the awning and sat on the patio to read. Lunch was a simple affair. After which, Mui did some prep work for tomorrow’s departure from Ridgway. Chores done, we then headed off to Ouray ... approximately 15 miles from the campground.

    When we set off, the plan was to just wander around town and grab an early al fresco dinner somewhere with a patio. Once in the car, however, Mui suggested we check out Box Cañon Falls first ... just outside the downtown area. Sounded good to me.

    The 285-foot waterfall, formed by Canyon Creek plunging over a precipice, is in a park owned and operated by Ouray. Adult admission is $5pp, but the cashier let Mui in for free when he asked if they offered a military discount ... and honored the $4 senior rate for me ... even though I still have a few years before I reach that mark 🤪.

    Since this was a pop-up activity for us, neither of us had appropriate footwear for hiking. So, we stuck to the 500-feet long lower trail, which consists of a steel walkway for much of the way.

    Signs on the railing educated us about the ecosystem and geology of the slot canyon. We were advised that we were standing at the Ouray Fault and that some of the rocks here were formed some two billion years ago. One of the signs explained that the canyon is home to black swifts during the summer months. I looked for their nests, but the dim interior hid them from my view.

    We heard the roar of the water reverberating through the canyon long before we saw the falls. As we got closer to the end of the walkway, we noticed a waterfall visible through a crack in the rocks. A few more steps showed us the rest of the falls, flowing out of a hole further down. The water pooled at the base and then continued downstream ... more than a trickle, but less than what I’d expect from a creek. From photos I’ve seen since, the flow is much higher in late spring ... and, subsequently, the falls are much more impressive.

    At the end of the walkway, we took the stairs down to the creek level. From this vantage point, the falls were hidden behind some big boulders. We were happy enough to just enjoy the icy outflow waters of the creek cascading over the rocks.

    The rest of our Ouray outing followed our original plan. We found free parking near the Library, checked our emails and social media accounts for a couple of minutes by tapping into the wi-fi, and then went for a stroll around town. The restaurants and bars were doing brisk business, but several of them had open tables on the patio. Perfect.

    We ended up at a place called Goldbelt. Taking a photo of the menu on display at the patio entrance, we perused it on our phones at the table, and placed our order with the waitress when she came around. We both got chicken wraps ... me with avocado and homemade chips ... Mui with bacon and coleslaw.

    The wraps were quite tasty, but the “delicious” award winner is the ice cream we picked up at a place called Mouse’s Chocolate & Coffee. Yummy, yummy! A great way to wrap up our week-long stay at Ridgway State Park.

    If all goes as planned, we’ll be on the road at 7:30a tomorrow 🤞🏻 Our next destination is Mueller State Park in Divide.
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  • Oct11

    Moody Day @ Black Canyon of the Gunnison

    October 11, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 63 °F

    I’m not totally sure we did the right thing by going to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison today. Sure, the overcast skies and the often gusty winds fit the somber mood of the canyon. But the lack of sunlight dulled the scenery most of the time and hid details that were concealed in the crevices of the canyon walls.

    On the other hand, we were just 30 miles or so from the Black Canyon. It would have been a shame not to at least do a quick look-see visit. We had just two days left before we’d be leaving the area. Since Mui prefers an easy day close-to-home before moving from one place to another, we’d either have to go today ... or not. So, we went.

    Geologist Wallace Hansen said of this amazing place — “... no other North American canyon combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance of the Black Canyon.” What a perfect description. That said, give me the Grand Canyon anytime,

    From various signage posted around the park, we gleaned that the canyon’s birth is in part due to the Gunnison Uplift. That movement raised the rocks some 2 million years ago. Then, the Gunnison River began cutting through the rock, assisted by floodwaters and abrasive sediments carried by those waters. Moisture entering joints and fractures helped with the weathering of the rock, causing it to break apart and tumble down the tall cliffs. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Today, as the Gunnison continues to carve a path through the rock, the Black Canyon measures some 2,300 feet deep at the Painted Wall ... deeper elsewhere. It ranges from 40 feet wide at the bottom near the Narrows and 1,100 feet wide rim to rim at the Chasm. Those are impressive numbers by any canyon’s standards.

    We didn’t feel like driving two hours each way just to get to the North Rim of the canyon today. So, we focused on the South Rim, the entrance to which is just outside Montrose. The National Park Service ranger at the visitor center told us that the curvy, slow-speed South Rim Drive is 6 miles and that we could do it in 15 minutes if we didn’t stop. Yeah, right! We stopped at all but two of the overlooks and did the drive in 2 hours!

    There weren’t that many visitors when we arrived at the park at 9:00a. But that changed pretty quickly. Nonetheless, we easily found a parking spot at each stop and encountered only a few people on the paths to the overlooks. Some of the paths were shorter than others. None were very long. But the steps all added up to a significant chunk of distance and gave us a chance to stretch our legs on our stop-and-go drive.

    My favorite view of the Black Canyon was at the Painted Wall. Nearby signage described it as the highest cliff in Colorado ... some 2,300 feet high as I noted before. The dark, purple-lavender-pink hued rock (gneiss) was visibly crisscrossed with “rivers of rock” in lighter shades (pegmatite). These veins were formed when molten rock squeezed upward into the fissures . That was during Precambrian times ... during the earliest part of Earth’s history. Goes without saying that those rocks are incredibly old.

    When we reached the end of the road at High Point, we parked the car and went for a short 1.5 mile in-out hike to add more steps to our day.

    Named for a Montrose minister who was instrumental in the protection of the canyon, the Warner Point Nature Trail is described as moderate with stretches of steep sections. As we hiked, we traversed a forest of piñón pine and juniper. Through the trees, we glimpsed distant flat lands on one side and the Black Canyon on the other side.

    Of course, we took our time, stopping at markers along the way to read the trail pamphlet we’d picked up at the trailhead. (I liked that there was a sign at the pamphlet box advising hikers that due to COVID-19 they should keep the booklet instead of returning it. A good safety measure.) It was also nice to see that all the hikers had masks that they put on when they encountered others on the trail. That was our modus operandi as well.

    At the end of the trail, we arrived at a precipice ... Warner Point. From here we had expansive views of the mesas across the canyon, as well as the gorge itself. We took our time and made the most of the spot ... even if we did have to stand to do so. This scenic spot could have used a couple of benches for hikers to sit and enjoy the views.

    By the time we got back to the trailhead 1½ hours later, the wind had picked up big time. Our stomachs were rumbling, but the picnic area near the parking lot did not appeal to us ... especially with no sunshine to keep us warm. We thought about taking the East Portal Road down to the bottom of the canyon. But we were deterred from doing so by the gusty winds.

    Instead, we decided to have lunch at Dallas Creek, the day-use area at Ridgway State Park. Hah! By the time we got back to the park, the winds were not only gusting even stronger, but the windchill was prohibitively cold to sit at the picnic shelters. No al fresco dining today.

    We spent most of the afternoon in the Cruiser ... reading and writing in my case; reading and napping in Mui’s case. Outside, the wind rattled the coach and rain briefly fell on the roof.

    When the cloud deck parted and the sun showed itself around 4:30p, we headed out to use the wi-if at the Ridgway Library. If not for the sunny patch near the entrance, I think we would have skedaddled back home pretty quickly. As it turned out, we were able to take our time, enjoying the warmth of the sun as we researched alternate routes to our next destination. I apparently picked the best option, so our plans remain the same when we leave Ridgway SP on the 13th.
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  • Oct10

    Mountain Vlg — Telluride ... by Gondola

    October 10, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 57 °F

    Part two of our day on the San Juan Skyway ... and a change to the way we get to Telluride ...

    In 1996, a year after the home rule municipality of Mountain Village was founded, a three-stage gondola lift was put into service. This free public transportation system between Mountain Village and Telluride — funded primarily by the local merchants — was originally built to address air quality concerns ... to reduce emissions from the countless vehicles traveling the 8-mile stretch of road between the two towns. It wasn’t long before this one-of-a-kind-in-the-USA system became a popular attraction in and of itself.

    On our way back from Rico, we decided to check out Mountain Village before driving to Telluride. We had no intention of riding the gondola ... though it came highly recommended. You see, during these pandemic times, we had no desire to find ourselves enclosed in a glass bubble with people we didn’t know. That changed after we read the COVID-19 precautions that were being taken to ensure a safe experience ... one party per gondola; windows kept open for ventilation; masks required for the duration of the ride; frequent disinfecting of the cars (which we saw and smelled).

    So, off we went from the Market Plaza Station (Elev. 9,545 feet) to the Mountain Village Station, with hardly any change in altitude ... but with a delightful alpine landscape keeping us entertained. The lovely golden fall foliage was beautiful ... even with so many of the aspens denuded of their leaves.

    At Mountain Village, we learned that we needed to switch to another gondola lift. Unlike the first station, where there was no one else waiting to ride up, here there was a long queue. It looked to be moving along at a good pace, though, and the riders were all masked and lined up with good spacing between parties. So, we joined the line, taking advantage of the strong cell signal to while away the time as we made our way towards the head of the queue.

    Remember how I said I had discarded the idea of riding the gondola when I was doing my research? Well, had I not done so, I would have known that we didn’t have to get off when we reached the San Sophia Station (Elev. 10,450 feet). But we didn’t ... so we did.

    Actually, I am glad we did. Even though it was too late in the day for a high-altitude hike, we found a spot from which to enjoy the jaw-droppingly amazing scenery. The jagged peaks of the San Juans, the youngest range of mountains in the Rockies, rose high across the Telluride Valley, which was carved out by glaciers. The town itself was nestled into the valley. All around us was a colorful landscape ... shades of gray, purple, brown, green, red, yellow, blue, and white ... all playing off each other ... in every direction we looked.

    At the time we had stepped out of the San Sophia Station, we’d wondered what had happened to all the people ahead of us in the queue. Yes, we had noticed that some riders didn’t disembark. We assumed they went back down to Mountain Village. But surely some had gotten off like we did. Where were they? And by the way, where was the station for the gondola down to Telluride?

    It was while we were enjoying the scenery at the overlook that we realized there was a line of gondolas heading down to the valley. That’s when the 💡 went off! The lift continued down the mountain to Telluride without switching stations again!

    So, we discarded our initial plan to drive to Telluride. Instead, we returned to the San Sophia Station, told the woman in charge of loading passengers which direction we wanted to go, and hopped on a gondola down to Telluride ... some 1,700 feet below us.

    In town, we found all the missing people who had been ahead of us in the queue at Mountain Village ... and quite a number more! We considered finding a restaurant with patio seating to have an early dinner. But the eateries were all hopping, with long lines of people waiting to be seated. Even the outdoor dining area on the main drag, shared by a number of bars and restaurants, was at capacity. So, we just went for a wander instead. The crowds were more than what we wanted to deal with, though, so after a while we returned to the Telluride Station to go back the way we came.

    The 2.4-mile ride between Telluride and Mountain Village took about 12 minutes. Then we switched over to the gondola lift that took us back to the parking structure (also free). By 5:30p, we were driving away. There was plenty of sunshine still, but the sun was frequently blocked by the tall canyon walls, leaving the scenery in the dark. No matter, I’d taken my photos earlier in the day. An hour later, entirely satisfied with the way our sightseeing had turned out, we were back at the campground.

    We didn’t do much exploring in either town today. There are lots of hiking opportunities in the area, too. You know we’ll be back! Might even return to check it all out in the winter ... but not with the Cruiser 😁
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  • Oct10

    San Juan Skyway ... Ridgway to Rico

    October 10, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 64 °F

    A gorgeous weather day. A delightfully scenic drive. Should I leave today’s story at that? No, I think I’ll expand a bit on the words and include some visuals.

    So, here we go with part I ... mostly because I have more than 10 photos to share from today.

    Our second foray on the San Juan Skyway took us down and back a portion of the other side of the loop ... starting on CO-62 and then turning onto CO-145.

    When we left the Cruiser at 8:00a, we already knew we wouldn’t be driving the entire loop. What we didn’t know was where we’d stop before retracing our route back. By the time we finished using the wi-if at the Ridgway Library, we had the answer. Rico would be the turnaround point for today’s in-out drive and the Telluride spur would wrap up our day.

    Our first stop of the day was at a county park between Placerville and Sawpit. We pulled into the parking lot to find that the “lake-rimmed-by-trees scenery” I’d spotted as we were driving down the road was at the end of a short path in the park. Once we saw the view from a picnic table near the lake, we knew this was where we would be having our al fresco breakfast. It didn’t matter that the temp was only in the mid-40F range. We would just bundle up and enjoy the scenery ... with double-the-pleasure reflections on the calm lake.

    We were back on the road by 10:00a. The landscape along the way was breathtaking and encouraged us to make frequent stops ... which we did. That the wildfire smoke haze had pretty much dissipated made a difference as well and the jagged peaks of the San Juans and other mountain ranges added a stark contrast to the softness of the fall colors.

    This side of the Skyway certainly lived up to its scenic byway designation, just as the other side did two days ago. Plenty of fall colors remained for us to enjoy. But large swaths of completely denuded aspens stood in naked testament of just how much more amazing the scenery would be when the foliage is at its peak.

    One of our favorite dalliances along the way was an aspen grove I spotted. Mui blew by it before I had a chance to ask him to stop, but he was not averse to turning around when I asked him to do so. We talk about a snow-covered landscape being a winter wonderland. Well, this grove of aspens — with leaves still on the branches as well as blanketing the ground — was a fall foliage fantasyland ... complete with a shower of golden leaves when the breeze shook the trees.

    Further on, a hard-packed dirt road offered us a short detour that took us down to the South Fork of the San Miguel River. It was a nice chance to stretch our legs a bit and rest while the river sang its symphony as it trickled over the rocks.

    It was 1:30p when we reached our turnaround point in Rico ... a mere 60 miles from Ridgway. We didn’t see much in town, which was founded as a mining camp in 1879. We stopped briefly to take advantage of the cell signal to check emails; photographed a music-themed mural; and did a quick look-see at the headframe of the Atlantic Cable Mine. I imagine there are trails that one might hike in the area, but that wasn’t on our agenda today.

    As we retraced our route back, the clouds that had been delightful texture-elements in the mostly blue sky began to increase. As did the light breeze. Neither discouraged us from having a picnic lunch at the Trout Creek Rec Area where the 13,000+ feet high peaks of the San Juans served as a backdrop to the lake. Bundling up in our jackets, we found a picnic table in the sun and sat down to eat our meal.

    Back on the road again, our plan was to drive the 8-mile spur into Telluride and wander around town for a while. Those plans didn’t quite work out as we initially intended. But I’ll leave that story for part II.
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  • Oct9

    Relaxing with a Six-Mile Hike @ RSP

    October 9, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 70 °F

    Not that we were lazy all day, but our “stay home and enjoy the campground” break from sightseeing did start with a cup of tea and reading time on the patio. With the temp slowly rising from the mid-40s to 50F, the brilliant sunshine was welcome for the warmth it projected.

    Around 10:30a, we left the Cruiser and headed to the trailhead for the Enchanted Mesa hike, described in the brochure as being the most physically challenging in the park. If that’s the case, the remaining hikes must be cakewalks.

    With the grade ranging from 2% to 32%, we started off on a zig-zag trail that was technically no wider than a goat path. Eventually, the trail rose to a flat, wider path that follows the Ridgway Reservoir, providing aerial views most of the way. The meadow on the other side of the trail is said to be home to mule deer and elk. If they were present, they did not show themselves today ... though we did find the skeletal remains of an animal. Mt Sneffels and the Cimarron Range were distant additions to the scenery ... their beauty veiled by haze unfortunately.

    The trail is just 2½ miles in length, but we added to that distance by continuing on to the marina overlook on the Mear’s Bay Trail. Between the hike and the walk to and from the campground to the trailhead, we ended up clocking six miles today. Not bad for what was to have been a day of rest!

    We had an al fresco lunch when we returned to the Cruiser before settling down to a relaxing afternoon on the patio. Once again, I was happy to have the shade shelter ... it would have been a challenge to sit outside otherwise.

    Around 5:00p, we headed over to the Ridgway Library to use the wi-fi and then we took a drive around Ridgway town, which has an Old West vibe. I understand that parts of “Old Grit,” a John Wayne movie, was filmed here. Purely by chance, we came across one of those buildings ... the Fort Smith Saloon. We didn’t venture inside, but we did stop so I could photograph the mural painted on the exterior wall.

    All in all, a relaxing day with a hike thrown in for good measure. Now that we’re rested up, we’re raring to go on another “sightseeing by car” trip tomorrow.
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  • Oct8

    San Juan Skyway ... Idarado Mine Houses

    October 8, 2020 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 48 °F

    Part II of our first foray on the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway ...

    We dallied quite a bit on the 35-mile drive between Ridgway and Silverton today. We made many stops along the way. But where we spent the most time was at the Idarado Mine Overlook.

    The Red Mountain Mining district, which covered less than eight square miles, was home to a number of mines ... and the boom-and-bust towns that grew up around them. According to the signage at the overlook, six towns sprang up here during the boom years ... some 3,000 people lived in those towns.

    The Idarado Mine primarily produced lead, silver, and zinc. Gold and copper were also mined here ... but in lesser amounts. Signage near the mine trestle explained that this was one of the largest mines thanks to the building of the Treasury Tunnel in 1896. The main tunnel branched off into some 100 miles of underground tunnels, connecting several of the mines that had become inactive. The 5-mile long main tunnel traveled under 13,000-foot high mountains to emerge in Pandora ... not far from present-day Telluride, which is 60 miles away by highway! Definitely a shortcut!

    Though it was tempting to find the trailhead down to the Yankee Girl Mine, this was a “sightseeing by car” day for us, so we skipped the hike today. That’s not to say that I did not take time out to explore the Idarado Mine Houses near the overlook. The houses, I read on one of the info panels, were purchased from a bankrupt mine. There were ten buildings in all and they were moved here to serve as employee housing.

    Over 100 years old, the houses that still remain are not in great shape. In fact, I decided it was safer to wander around outside instead of going inside any of them. The light was perfect ... as was the background scenery. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the temperature was comfortable. I was a happy camper just exploring the grounds.

    In the years that the mine was active, 4 million ounces of gold, 21 million ounces of silver, and 12 million tons of lead, zinc, and copper were produced. All that mining activity “fueled the industrial revolution,” as the posted sign stated. But it also did a number on the natural resources in the area. The good news? Mine reclamation work is ongoing to remediate the adverse impact on those resources.
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