Back to the Mountains

After a month in north Texas during the dog days I headed back where I know I belong —the mountains. My last trip to the east coast was less than stellar and after a week of swelter in G’Vine I was ready to amscray. Ironically, the day I left Impact Guns shipped my new pistol so it’ll have to just collect dust at the FFL until I return in October. At least I’d completed the course, qualification and application to carry license, which should be back by then too.

Leaving Texas is always hard. Because it’s so damn ugly and boring until you get to New Mexico. A full day drive across west Texas took me to Clayton and a past its prime campground. Is was good enuf for the night. On a side note, the MORryde suspension upgrade definitely improves the ride down the road, especially in my truck. Interesting…

Raton Pass Video A relatively short day drive to Alamosa, Colorado was lengthened by a truck moving van fire on Raton Pass. Full stop for 45 minutes but it could’ve been worse as it occurred just before the road narrowed to one lane and no shoulder. Thankfully looked like no injuries either.

After setting up camp I made an appointment for the morning to get the truck’s oil changed and then found a couple breweries in town. Square Peg Brewerks poured me a decent First Cut farmhouse ale and excellent MFU pale ale, but I wasn’t really feeling the vibe there so I went next door to San Luis Valley Brewing Co. I tasted their Valle Caliente because I love hatch chilies. Good but needed to be colder. The Sinner and the Saint Mexican lager seemed to fit me (not the Mexican part, lol) and went well with the BBQ pork tacos I had for dinner. SLVBC made me wish I hadn’t already reserved a site in Pagosa Springs for tomorrow. It’s my latest favorite brewery!

After a late start in Alamosa I dropped Synko off in a dirt lot and took the truck in for the oil change. A quick hour later and a stop at Locavores for a locally sourced sandwich and I was on my way to Pagosa Springs. Was nice to get up into the mountains again after crossing the wide San Luis Valley. I like Pagosa Springs. Cool town.

At Pagosa Springs Brewing Co I ran into Ron & Blanch, a couple I’d met a year ago here. A cool, interesting couple who run a hunting lodge in Charma, NM. We shared our common political persuasions and disdain for how our country has overacted to Covid. Twice this year I’ve come across people I’ve met on previous trips. And in both cases neither of us is from where we run into each other. I think that’s pretty cool!

Ended the day at the campground community center where a local band was playing country western music. On a nice Colorado evening, it worked just fine! A glass of rye accented the music!

A couple hour drive took me to Silverton, one of my favorite places. It’s just such a cool setting at 9300 feet. One road in town is paved, the others are well-maintained dirt/gravel. I love the valley setting surrounded by high mountains. Silverton is a Mecca of off highway vehicle riding. Gotta do that sometime when I’ve got company.

As small as it is, Silverton has two breweries. Golden Block Brewery was closed because they’d run out of food. I recall from last year they have great pizza so I was kinds bummed. A block down the street Avalanche Brewing Company was in their new location. They used to be on Blair Street (aka Hooker Row) and I liked that location better. Not because of the hookers . I had the Sultan IPA, which was just ok. The pizza was also just ok. I was amped up for a pie from Golden Block.

The next day I drove some of the forest service roads and kicked around town, enjoying the 70s drop into the mid 60s. Feasted on an elk burger and dinner salad at Handlebars Saloon and then wrapped up the day watching the RNC on TV. Good stuff.

In the morning I was heading over the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray. I’ll pick up there in the next post.

Silverton to Laramie

Note: this post is a tad late in finding its way to the site. Don’t really know why but a couple posts are gonna hit within a couple days. Read on.

The drive north over Red Mountain and Molas Passes on the Million Dollar Highway is always a thrill. I’ve mentioned before I’d only do this with a fiver in tow in good, dry weather. Nothing has changed. Approaching Ouray crews had the narrow highway down to one lane with alternating traffic halts and flows. The concrete barriers had the one lane down to maybe 10’ wide. My rig is 8’ wide. I spent half the time looking in my mirrors as I rounded curves making sure all was clear of the cliff side.

Spent a couple uneventful days in Ouray. I had managed to misjudge the distance from my seat to the ground when I stepped outta my truck on a slope so my knee and lower leg were sore enough to discourage hiking. I’ll get over it hopefully in time for some light treks at Beaver Creek.

Visited Red Mountain Brewing and Ouray Brewery. The Tropic Thunder English IPA and the cole slaw at Red Mountain were delicious—and I’m a slaw snob. The IPA I had at Ouray . . . Meh. I headed back to camp to watch the RNC.

A 2-3 hour drive to Gunnison included a stop at Horsefly Brewing for lunch and their Hop 101 pale ale. Decent on both accounts. I cut it short because I was parked along the highway and more than a couple degrees out of level, side to side. That’s hard on propane reefers and I didn’t want to overwork the system. It was warm enough (80, lol) that the reefer would be cycling on while it sat there.

My second stop along the way was for road construction—a 30 minute full stop just 2.5 miles from my campground turnoff. Oh well . . . it was a nice day sitting there listening to the thunder roll. After checking in some moderate rain started just as I was setting up. Oh well . . . it cooled things off ten degrees!

The Gunnison KOA is nice because most of their sites are on soft, lush fescue. How they keep the grass in such good shape with RVs driving on it is a mystery to me. But I love stepping out and sitting on grass. So much nicer than dirt or gravel! 

Friday dawned chilly and turned showery. Decided to clean house and futz with a couple minor repairs. Successfully adjusted one drawer catch so the damn thing wouldn’t slide open during travel and, stopping just short of fixing it with a sledge hammer, decided another drawer needed a new catch. Going magnetic this time.

Having no real food on board, I went into town and landed at The Dive for lunch and to stay out of the light rain. During the couple hours I was there the temp on the bank across the street dropped from 62 to 55. Not too bad for a day in late August. I taunted friends in Texas that I was enjoying a full 40+ fewer degree day. Despite their colorful responses I know they still love me!

From Gunnison I headed east over the pass to Salida. I’d been through Salida many times and always wanted to stop so this time I did. Enjoyed a beer or two at a couple breweries. Nice cool August day. Scratch that. Nice cold August day.

In the morning after watching church online I headed a few miles north to Buena Vista, another drive-thru town I’ve never stopped in. Met up with Rob and Mere for lunch and a walk through town with their cool dog, Hank. Good time.

My next destination was Beaver Creek to join Shelley & Brett for a few days. We’ve played this game a few times before: a couple hikes, a couple visits to local breweries, a couple visits to local favorite restaurants in Avon and Edwards. Fun times, always.

My next stop was Laramie to hook up with Julie & Brad for a couple weeks. We were going property hunting. Well, at least location hunting. I’d like to have Plan B in my pocket for when the shit hits the fan in our great country. The Left is doing everything they can to ruin this country. I’m fighting back. But a Plan B just makes sense. I wanna be in a fairly remote place where I can see the enemy coming. My favorite road sign reads, “Private Road. Owners have guns and backhoes. Turn around now.” Yup. Xactly how I feel given the bullshit the Left is bringing.

Next up: a week in Wild, Wonderful, Maskless Wyoming!

Wyoming

Wild, Wonderful, Maskless Wyoming!

I met up with Julie & Brad in Laramie September 6th, just in time for the season’s first cold front and snowfall. The 18 inches forecast didn’t happen but about 3-4 inches accumulated. It was nice. The day after the snow we drove around the Snowy Range south of Laramie looking at properties, mainly to get a feel for different regions within Wyoming. Why? In case the country makes a horrible mistake in November by electing democrats to the White House and Senate. That would certainly F America. Take a look at any of the democrat-run cities and states to see how well their loony policies work out.

We liked a couple areas, namely Ryan Park and the Mortenson Lake Wildlife Refuge area south of Laramie but no particular properties lit us up. On to Casper…

The drive north to Casper was beautiful with snow covering the hills and fields. Casper is a cool town along the North Platt River. One of its most attractive areas is Casper Mountain. The mountain is a quick 10-15 minutes from town and the day before we got there had received up to two feet of snow. Many of the roads are private which kept us from seeing the specific properties Julie had researched. It’s one thing to explain that you’re on a private road looking at potential properties to buy; it’s another to ask for a tow. We opted for discretion over valor… Plus, we were in Brad’s Ram truck and I was concerned it’d get stuck (it’s simply not a Ford!) 😂 Anyway, we spent the afternoon checking out Casper’s breweries and then in the morning we were on to Greybull, east of Yellowstone.

Greybull, well, you can keep it. It’s pretty enough but just too small. There’s really nothing there to compel a 365 day-a-year commitment. The drive to Lovell and through the Bighorn National Forest was pretty but no particular places hit us as investment worthy. We enjoyed a simple lunch in Shell after viewing Shell Falls. But it was time to head on through Cody & Yellowstone to Dubois.

I’m very glad I’d visited Yellowstone last year because it was so smoky from fires dues to California’s forest mismanagement; it was hard to even see across the lake. We did see a couple elk fighting it out for mating rights. Very cool. We might’ve done the southeast section of Yellowstone in record time, just rolling through. With the rigs in tow pulling off to see sights we’d visited just last year didn’t make sense. We continued on toward Dubois.

Dubois is a nice small town but, like Greybull, not too much there for year-round living. Did see some nice lots and homes up on the hill, but the Dubois/Lander region wasn’t quite cutting it either. While in Dubois for the three nights we made ourselves regulars at the Rustic Pine Tavern. Cool 100+ year old joint with a cool and pretty bartender. Played lots of dominoes. From Dubois… back to Casper to meet with a realtor for access to some of Casper Mountain’s properties.

About 100 people live full-time on the mountain and there are a couple vacant lots we liked but they had water access challenges—like about 500 feet of drilling challenges. Just not sure I’m willing to throw $40K at a water source… Other lots did not have year-round access. Gonna keep Casper Mountain on the short list but I’m not convinced just yet.

Julie & Brad headed back to Frisco and I headed to Saratoga for the night and then into Beaver Creek for a couple/few weeks. Frankly, I was a little tired of driving and my truck had developed a steady oil leak that I needed to get fixed. So, as I post this I’m hanging at friends’ awesome condo in Beaver Creek just chilling, hiking and watching football and hockey. Mid-October I’m heading back to G’Vine for the fall and winter so unless something exciting happens I’ll post a trip summary then, which will be it for a while. Until the road beckons once again… (And I gotta say, I already miss maskless Wyoming. Hopefully the rest of the country soon finds its senses on the stupid mask charade.)

Beaver Creek & Trip Summary

Chillaxing

When leaving Wyoming I considered whether to revisit the Black Hills of South Dakota, the vastness of Montana, or spend some lazy time in Beaver Creek, Colorado. BC won out.

My good friends Walter & Doris own a condo in Beaver Creek and were kind & generous to let me stay there a few weeks. The earliest I could get into the Vineyards in Grapevine without having to relocate from site to site was October 12 so I hung in BC until the 9th. Three weeks stationary—a change of pace that would resume once I got back to G’Vine. . .

I dropped Synko off at the Wolf Lot in Beaver Creek, set her up with the solar panel juicing the batteries to keep the ice in the freezer and a couple beers in the reefer cold, and then settled into Borders Lodge.

The timing was good, as my truck had developed a significant oil pan gasket leak; I poured six quarts of oil into it within a weekish. Finding a diesel mechanic was a challenge in the Vail Valley/Frisco/Silverthorn area. So I ended up driving 82 miles to Columbine Ford in Rifle. I can’t recommend them enough. They worked me in and, although the parts had to be brought in from Denver, had my truck squared away in a week (oil pan jobs on Ford diesels are a 2-3 day event). Although the work was covered by warranty, the dealer didn’t have loaners available or a car rental on-site. I ended up renting a Hertz SUV at the Rifle airport. When I say renting I actually mean it felt like buying. I may take that up with Ford later. . .

The rest of the time I took a few hikes (but not while my hiking gear was safely stored in my truck in Rifle), hit Vail Brewing Company and Bonfire Brewing, and perfected being a lazy bum. I didn’t even find the motivation to visit Vail, Frisco or Breck. Been there; done that.

So on Friday morning the 9th, I hooked up Synko and headed back to the flats. I was ready to be “home” but not looking forward to the drive. I am not a fan of the long, first/last day drive from Grapevine; it’s just boring, familiar scenery. Initially I planned to stretch the 1-2 day drive into three so I could watch some college ball and see what creative way the Cowboys could find to score 38 points and likely lose—again. #WorstDefenseInFootball

Instead, I muscled through to Amarillo the first day and then Day 2 I detoured through Denton for a badly needed rig wash (with a 90 minute wait). As the Vineyards was full up, I stayed in the beautiful Elk’s Lodge parking lot for two nights. Spent Sunday at Ryan’s watching the Cowboys win the game and lose a quarterback. Ugh, there goes the season. . .

All-in-all, ’twas a decent trip.

Trip Summary
  • Racked up a total of 4315 miles
  • Synko hung with me for 3320 miles (77%); most of the non-towing driving was in Wyoming looking at potential property purchase locations)
  • Drove a total of 111 hours
  • Traveled through 4 states
  • Crossed the Continental Divide just a few times, unlike last summer when I lost count of how many times I crossed the Divide
  • Visited Yellowstone National Park (but just a quick drive-thru)
  • Saw a couple elk fighting for love rights, a moose when I stopped to pee, and several antelope.
  • Enjoyed an early season winter storm in Laramie
  • Stayed in 17 different campsites and one condo (twice) over 56 days
  • Averaged 11.2 MPG in fuel consumption
  • Got oil service in Alamosa and oil pan gasket repair in Rifle for the truck


To the Bears Ears

Finally back on the road my primary destination this summer is the East Coast — by way of the Southwest. I’m picking Julie up at Las Vegas airport the last week of May and then we’re going up to Pahrump to visit Pam & Billy.

But first I planned to visit a few places I’ve missed so far.

The first hurdle is to get through North Texas. It’s such a beatdown drive with simply nothing to see. I do like Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas panhandle but for a stupid reason state parks were still closed due to the Corona virus farce. So I spent the first two nights in unremarkable Lubbock and North Albuquerque KOAs.

Day 3 took me to a Harvest Hosts location—Mancos Brewery, where I stayed last year. It’s a cool spot in a sleepy Colorado mountain town but, of course, they could only sell food and beer to go thanks to the Corona virus farce. Still, good food and a free night with a solid view is a deal.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley
After watching church Sunday morning I drove to Monument Valley Utah and pitched camp early, throwing a rack of baby backs on the grill. The lazy afternoon included visit from a small herd of sheep and then ended with a beautiful sunset across the mesa.

My layover day gave me the opportunity to visit a couple areas I’ve missed in past trips: Bears Ears National Monument and Natural Bridges NM. Like other massive national monuments, Bears Ears is managed by the Bureau of Land Management while Natural Bridges is part of the National Park System. The entire area with its bluffs, monoliths, arches and bridges is beautifully raw, bold and intimidating. I love it!

Bears Ears is named after an Indian legend:

One of the more popular Navajo stories is that of Changing-Bear-Maiden, who was very beautiful and desired by many men. She would have nothing to do with them. However, Coyote, the trickster, persuaded Changing-Bear-Maiden to marry him in spite of her brothers’ warning that the union would bring evil.

Changing-Bear-Maiden began to change and by winter’s end her transformation into a mischievous bear was complete. Realizing that the only way to save her was to change her into another form, her brother killed Changing-Bear-Maiden, cutting off her ears and throwing them away. They became the buttes seen today.

Ok then.

The area includes Monument Valley and is quite remote. I was impressed that the campground had reliable power and good water. And while I know it defies physics, cell and internet coverage seems to vary with the wind, of which there was plenty. Another interesting feature is the Moki Dugout, a two-mile section of steep, narrow gravel road between two paved state highways. It ascends/descends an abrupt cliff face so I guess would be pretty expensive to widen and pave. It’s kinda cool… Anyway, check the photos below for this period of the trip. They don’t do the landscape justice but you’ll get an idea of why I travel. And with that, and a thin layer of dust throughout my rig, I continued on toward the north rim of our Grand Canyon. Stay tuned!

The Final Stretch

Wrapping up summer . . .

After a two-year hiatus I returned to Beaver Creek, my stomping grounds of several of the past nine summers. Met up with Shelley & Brett and just lazed around for a few days. We also met with our friend Dennis (from Puerto Rico days) and his bride in Breckenridge on Saturday. Sunday brought sailing on Lake Dillion. Or not.

We had a 18 footer rented for two hours at the Frisco Dillon Marina but by the time we crawled through ridiculous holiday weekend traffic at the marina and I dropped S&B off to check out the boat while I parked, we were 40 minutes into the rental period before I found a parking spot 3/4 mile away. I opted to just hang in Frisco and prep for the evening’s fantasy football draft. Didn’t make sense to delay them getting out on the water. I was fine with it.

Monday was recharge & refuel day. Synko was parked in the Elk lot at Beaver Creek Resort. Very cool benefit—free, pretty secure parking, albeit without power. I hung out in Synko for an hour or so to let the generator bring my house batteries up to 12.5 volts. The solar panel just wasn’t keeping up and I’m still not sure why. Anyway, that earned me a trip to Eagle to fuel up at Costco, saving 39 cents a gallon on diesel. Savings which I used at one of my favorite breweries: Bonfire. Great place, great always-changing brews, great people.

The final stretch—perhaps “slog” is a better term—back to north Texas took me first 20 miles outta the way to Gypsum, CO for wheel bearing repacks and suspension lubing on Synko. She already has more than 10,000 miles on her and I’m pretty diligent about trailer wheels & tires. Bearings, suspension and brakes were all in good shape; the wheel bearing grease was more than ready to be changed but I caught it in time. After the upcoming trip to Orlando later this month I’ll likely replace her tires, too.

The relatively short & easy drive Thursday to Leadville landed me at the RV park/parking lot in town. I really just wanted a place to watch the NFL kickoff game! So I pulled into the weary & weathered parking-lot-called-rv-park—but within walking distance to Periodic Brewing and with clear skies to the Dish satellites. Turned out to be a poorly played game.

Since it was only a couple hours out of the way home I visited Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. Cool place. I like how the two creeks that run down each side of the dunes carry sand to the lower valley where predominant winds carry the sand grains back to the dunes. Interesting cycle of generating and regenerating the massive dunes.

A few hours later I arrived in Raton, New Mexico and debated just continuing toward home but decided to hang in the utility KOA for the night and set up a 500 mile drive to Brushy Creek Vineyards in Alvord, a Harvest Hosts location. Brushy Creek is a cool little Texas winery with, perhaps, the best Texas wines I’ve had. Turned out to be a great stopover with the Texas/LSU game playing on the outside TV.

And with that, my summer 2019 trip came to an end with an hour-long drive in the morning to arrive at 121 Community Church, just in time for the 9:15 service. Trip summary:

  • Racked up a total of 9897miles
  • Synko hung with me for 7864 miles (79%); lots of non-towing driving in Yellowstone, Ouray, British Columbia)
  • Drove a total of 286 hours
  • Traveled through 9 states and 2 Canadian provinces
  • Crossed the Continental Divide countless times
  • Visited 6 National Parks, 6 National Monuments and 5 Canadian National Parks
  • Lost track of which time zone I was in three times
  • Saw innumerable bison; lots of elk; a couple moose; several bighorn sheep, mountain  goats, pronghorns, eagles; and an otter. And wolves across the Lamar Valley, which were there but couldn’t be seen with the naked eye.
  • Stayed in 45 different campsites, one motel and one condo  over 97 days
  • Averaged 11.6 MPG in fuel consumption (I was averaging 11.8 until the last day of the trip when I had persistent cross winds from Raton, NM to Alvord, TX). Overall, happy with the fuel economy given all the mountain driving.
  • Got oil service and new tires for truck; repacked Synko’s wheel bearings.
  • Used about 50 pounds of propane for cooking & cooling.

I’m now back at the Vineyards in Grapevine, adjusting to the slow-to-end Texas summer. Turned on the air conditioners for the first time this summer!…

Thanks again for your prayers for safe travels and to the Good Lord for looking out for me and blessing me with incredible weather, sights and an always-renewed appreciation for His beautiful creation. I’m ridiculously blessed.

Early Summer Route
Late Summer Route
Initially Intended Route

Western Colorado

Pagosa Springs

The drive from Red River southeast toward Taos and then northwest through Carson National Forest was beautiful. West of Tres Piedras, New Mexico the highway winds through rolling mountains, past lush meadows and across a couple ridge lines where there were still a few patches of snow hanging in there. Eventually the route crosses into Colorado to wind its way up and then down into the cool town of Pagosa Springs. It was really a pleasant drive, despite the jackelope in the Class A holding up a long string of traffic who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—squeeze more than 40 miles an hour out of his rig. I got around the lineup using a few straightaway sections of passing lane.

Tuesday started with phoning in to my 121 life group to hang with the guys for an hour. Followed that up with a hike along the raucous Piedra River. Started out as a beautiful day—sunny, warm, fun trail. Then a thunderstorm built up and dropped rain, small hail and lightening bolts. Like a dumbass, I’d forgotten a rain poncho (always carry rain gear in the mountains!) and I quickly got soaked and cold. But the rewards of the mountain rain aromas, the echoing of the bone rattling thunder and the dramatic colors of cloud and sun sparring were worth every shiver. Just before the storm blew in I’d spent maybe 20 minutes just sitting on a rock enjoying creation. The storm reminded me of what a thunderous God we have!

Finally back at camp I took advantage of their shower facility because I knew I wanted lots of hot water and didn’t wanna fill my holding tank. LOL, I felt a lil bad abot how much hot water I used but so it goes.

Wednesday I ventured outside my comfort zone and hit the hot springs at the resort in town. Going for a quick soak after a workout or rough day, sure, but just sitting around for a couple hours soaking in communal juices is kinda a stretch. But I gotta say, it was cool (the water was hot, lol) and I got a check in that box. Followed that up with a visit to Riff Raff on the Rio for their Yak & Tequila Chorizo meatloaf. It did not disappoint! The brewpub’s beers are good but didn’t really knock me back. The view of the river and mountains sure did.

Durango

The easy 90 minute drive to Durango landed me at the Riverside KOA north of town. Nice campground nestled in the trees alongside the fast-flowing Animas River. This location flooded out last year after the rains followed a pretty devastating fire and it’s been nicely rebuilt.

Historic Durango is a cool town with several hotels, restaurants, pubs & breweries. I bypassed the numerous gift shops to sample a few brews instead. While meandering around Durango I wandered into the railroad museum at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This donation-only eclectic museum is packed with railroad memorabilia, antique cars, an old Indian motorcycle and tons of other seemingly random stuff. It’s definitely worth a visit if you like trains.

D&SNGRR

I’ve wanted to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for as long as I can remember. So I ponied up $200 for a seat in the Alamosa parlor car. The four hour trip, each way, is nothing short of amazing! The Alamosa is the last car in the train so you get outstanding views from the back platform.

I’m not sure why I like trains so much but I do. The coal-fired steam engine just sounds so cool as it chugs up the track. And the screeching and clacking of the wheels really is the rhythm of the rails is all (you) feel. The four-hour trip was over before I knew it. The slideshow pics simply fail to render how gorgeous the scenery is.

Our porter, Ellie, was wonderful. Her knowledge of geography & history and a commitment to superb service made the trip so enjoyable. Each round trip up & down from Durango to Silverton consumes five to six tons of coal (all shoveled by one guy) and about 10,000 gallons of water, which we replenished at a couple stops along the way.

The short layover in the mining town provides only time for lunch and a quick shopping stop for those so inclined. I didn’t mind since I was spending the next two days in Silverton. I was glad I did not opt for the quicker return via bus. The train ride is just too good and is clearly one of, if not the best tourist attractions I’ve ever experienced. If you’re ever near Durango be sure to take this trip. If you’re not near Durango go there.

Our return trip downhill was cold, sometimes rainy & the skies threw down some sleet and hail. But that didn’t dampen the experience I just threw on a heavier sweatshirt.

D&SNGRR Videos

Rhythm of the Rails
Animas River & Train View #1
Animas River & Train View #2
Animas River Rear View #1
Animas River Rear View #2
Cliffside View #1
Cliffside View #2

As a side note, I’ve added a page that shows the National Parks & Monuments I’ve visited. Check it out here.

Western Colorado Part II

Wonderful Risky Road

Heading north from Durango the Million Dollar Highway weaves its way up-valley, crossing a few high mountain passes. US Highway 550 requires diligent attention to downhill speed, several times as slow as 10-20 MPH. With 14,000 pounds behind me and sheer drop-offs, I heeded the speed warning signs! As risky as the road might be it’s a stunning drive. I arrived in the historic mining town of Silverton for a couple days. Silverton is base to tons of off-highway roads and the economy has transitioned from mining to renting ATV & OHVs. There’s a popular loop that runs between Silverton, Lake City and Ouray and I headed up that road for several miles before it was still closed due to slides. I probably wouldn’t have gone all the way anyway, as the road is pretty narrow and rocky, best suited for jeeps and OHVs. A long-bed truck runs the real risk of high-centering. Outside of the D&SNGRR crowds who flood the town each afternoon, Silverton is a pretty sleepy village. Even the bordellos have closed up (dang it!). Lunch at Thee Pitts Again, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, was only fair (think Spring Creek). Meat U Anywhere and AJs on Main in Grapevine serve up much better BBQ. Half a pizza for dinner and a Pizza Girl Black Lager at Avalanche Brewing were great!

Welp, the drive from Durango to Silverton is nothing compared to the northern section from Silverton to Ouray. Gorgeous, but I’d never consider this road at night or in the rain while towing a fiver. There’s a few videos from my newly acquired dash cam below.

Ouray

Ouray is a really cool little mountain town. A bit touristy but still very cool and very friendly. Troy’s crew at the Ouray KOA are awesome. I’m kinda jealous; he just bought the campground. Gonna be looking into that…

Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail

Friday I hiked the Ouray Perimeter Trail. This isn’t your typical walk around town. Yes, the trail has great views of Ouray but it also gets away from civilization with sections that wind into canyons and across plateaus. Clockwise from the visitor center the trail climbs constantly until it drops into cool Cascade Falls canyon. After that it rises & falls until the final stretch drops steeply back into town. The southern section through Ice Park is mosquito city and doesn’t add a lot to the overall loop; I should’ve taken the Ice Park shortcut. The reported 6-mile loop took me 5 hours, with a few stops at waterfalls and river crossings. I ran outta water the last mile-ish and got super dehydrated. I laid very low the rest of the day and the next. Lesson learned (dumbass). 🥵


Ok, I’m always skeptical of food offered at a campground. But I got to visit with Troy, the new owner of the Ouray KOA, and he insisted their weekend BBQ was very good. I’d had breakfast at the small café and it was, indeed, excellent. The combo BBQ plate Saturday evening (which I got halfway through for just $20) was some of the best I’ve had anywhere. Props to this campground for such a good operation in a beautiful place!

Made a day trip, backtracking 23  miles to Silverton. I wanted to drive the Million Dollar Highway again, this time without Synko in tow so I could easily pull off to enjoy the sights. Took another spur near Silverton, up South Mineral Creek about six miles. On the way out I saw two moose head off the road into the brush. Very cool!

Check out a couple video slices from my dashcam of Million Dollar Highway in the links below. It’s a beautiful, wild drive—especially towing 35′ Sykno!

Video Links

Million Dollar Highway I
Million Dollar Highway II
Million Dollar Highway III
Million Dollar Highway IV
Cascade Falls – Ouray
Bear Creek Falls

That’s it for now. I’m headed to Montrose for an engine oil change, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Gunnison, Lake City and Crested Butte to wrap up my western Colorado travels in the next week or so. Happy trails!

 

Western Colorado PART III

Montrose

It’s a short drive from Ouray to Montrose but there ain’t nothing wrong with rolling slow! Checked into a mediocre site at the KOA in town then headed over to Montrose Ford for an engine oil change. Great, quick service! Then a restocking visit to City Market and a stop by Horsefly Brewing for a couple quick beers. The Bug Eyed Blond was nondescript but their Green Chili Lager was pretty decent.

July 4th I headed over to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. What a rugged, remote, forbidding canyon! Pretty amazing history of its exploration and the 10,000 foot tunnel they built through the mountain to bring water to Uncompaghre Valley farmers. Spending time in one of our National Parks seemed like a good fit to our national holiday. Wrapped up the day enjoying President Trump’s Salute to America and then listening to local dogs bark at the fireworks going off. Friday’s drive over the hill to Gunnison was very pretty through rolling hills, mountain canyons and alongside the reservoirs of Curecanti National Recreation Area. Really nice. I see why it’s another scenic byway.

Gunnison

Gunnison is another town on my short (but growing) list of possible long-term stay towns. Made the drive up to Mount Crested Butte for a quick revisit of a weekend ski trip years ago. It wasn’t as cold as it was then (minus 27 Fahrenheit). High Alpine Brewing Company on Gunnison’s Main Street serves up really good groceries and good brews. I especially liked their Basil Pale Ale, though the ? Double IPA was pretty fine too.

After an attempt to attend camp church Sunday morning I gave up, as the Internet gods kept throwing inconsistent bandwidth my way. Got too frustrating so I clicked off and headed into the hills to see what Lake City was all about. Lake City is a cool mountain town, not as quaint as Silverton but nice nevertheless. Lots of avalanche debris on the road outta town toward the season-long closed Engineer Pass. Lake City Brewing Company on the OHV road in town has decent brats and good beer; I enjoyed their San Juan Pale Ale and ’74 IPA.

Got back to Gunnison in time for a good downpour and lingering rain for most of the early evening. The rain, happily, washed tons of cottonwood pollen out of the air. Earlier the stuff had been falling like snow showers.

Colorado, for Now

As I started heading north and west, away from Colorado for now, I took the much less direct road from Gunnison to Grand Junction. State highway 92 runs north from Gunnison area, following the Black Canyon lands for a while then rolling up & down across a few ridges. After a couple hours state 65 heads north, onto and across Colorado’s Grand Mesa. Beautiful drive that is probably 2-3 times as long as the direct route through Montrose, but worth it. The Grand Mesa Scenic Byway earns its stripes.

Before heading out to destinations beyond Colorado I visited the Colorado National Monument and Dinosaur National Monument. Cool drive through the rimrock of Colorado NM and then a nice drive north to Jensen and Dinosaur NM. Really extensive finding of dinosaur bones in very good condition.  Glad they had the foresight to preserve these fossils as they were uncovered.

The drive up the hill took me out of Colorado and into Utah’s Ashley National Forest and Flaming Gorge Recreation Area than spans Utah and Wyoming. Snagged a nice campsite nestled in the trees at Mustang Ridge. Where to from here tomorrow? Stay tuned!

Four Corners Area

With the splendor of southern Utah in my mirrors I headed south to the Four Corners region. Snow flurries met me near Monticello but didn’t slow progress to the geo-marker that defines the intersection of four States. The monument is kinda kitschy but I wanted to get that check in the box. I would not advise driving more than 30 minutes out of your way to see this. The Navajo taco I had there filled my gut. I was glad it stayed there…

My plan was to overnight at the nearby Teec Nos Pos Trading Post but given it looked like I’d be the only RV in their parking lot, across from an interesting looking bar in the middle of nowhere, I opted to drive into Cortez where there was a legit campground—and people.

In the morning I headed over to Mesa Verde National Park, unhitched the fiver in the visitor center parking lot and headed up onto the Mesa to see the Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. Gettin’ culture be ‘portant dontcha think?!

After driving, some hiking & picture taking I recoupled my home to the truck and headed a short eight miles to the Mansco Brewing Company, where I’d spend the night as a Harvest Hosts member.

HH is a member network of breweries, wineries, farms, museums and golf courses where RVers can stay free overnight (with an annual $70 fee). It’s a great gig, as you get to meet cool people and not spend much on campsites. To my delight, Mancos Brewing crafts excellent beers and serves up excellent food. Score! (Plus, my rig parked right in front was good advertising for Grand Design RVs!) I liked every beer I had at Mancos: the Dizzy Blonde pale ale, Desert Drifter rye ale, Mancos sh’Ale dark ale, Extra Dizzy IPA, and their Cherry Stout.

And with that, the Four Corners was history. After camp church I headed downhill to Albuquerque and then to Ruidoso for a couple days to visit friends before turning east and into the flats of North Texas. Leave a light on… I’m slowly headed home—for a little while!