Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When One Mountain Pass Isn't Enough

July 25, 2013

We left our humble little Camp Compound and embarked on a long drive.  We wound through the  mountains and past countless enormous ranches.  The Agency Ranch was especially huge and boasted a beautiful complex of log buildings.

We found ourselves in Gunnison National Forest, in a sea of reckless ATV riders.

I love the smell of pine.  The sky was very blue today and made for great pictures.  We started our ascent towards Cumberland Pass.  It was a wonderful drive, cool weather, easy roads.

Cumberland Pass boasted some wonderful views.  Looking down, you could see the river winding through the valley.

It was well after lunch, but Mandy and I thought ahead and packed wraps.  An impromptu picnic was enjoyed at the top of the mountain.

As we began our descent we heard the tell tale sound of a Harley engine.  Wait, that can't be right? A Harley on a dirt road, climbing a mountain? Had the altitude gotten to us?  Nope, we saw an honest to goodness bagger climbing the mountain. Bravo man. Bravo.  Mike is disappointed that I didn't get a picture of the Harley.  He says no picture, no proof - like a UFO sighting.

At the base, we entered the small town of Tincup. It was tiny.  But it still had all the charm of when it was first established.

The clouds were rolling in from the distance, but we were hours away from experiencing rain.  We drove past Taylor Park Reservoir and decided that no matter the beauty we saw today, we probably wouldn't intentionally return.  The park was very busy, which is great for them, but not our cup of tea.

The following drive to Cottonwood Pass (The Continental Divide) was even easier than the one to Cumberland Pass.  Which meant even more people.  We reached the pass and aired up the tires in both vehicles.

It was growing late and we were hundreds of miles from camp.  We rolled into Buena Vista and decided to grab dinner.  We avoided the new yuppie section of town and ate at a small mom and pop shop.  The boys enjoyed a slab of cow and Mandy and I opted for fish.  It down poured while we were eating.

The sun had set long before we actually made it back to camp.  I was starting to feel the effects of all the altitude changes throughout the day and couldn't wait to crawl into our tent.  Unfortunately Elly had other ideas.  My poor baby was sick all throughout the night.  The moment I fell asleep, she needed to go out.  She would panic if I took too long to let her out.  The sky brightened all too quickly and I knew that sleep was an illusion.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lake City and its Beautiful Surrounds

July 24, 2013

The dreary sky persisted into the morning.  Elly and Rommel lazed around through dinner and camp pack up.

The day prior, we topped off our water at a spring on the Last Dollar Road.  Today, after showers and other water usage, the boys put their thinking caps on and managed to pump up and filter water to replenish.

Meanwhile, I was enamored with the young pine cones.

Blue skies beckoned from Lake City.

We made it to Lake City and hit the only laundromat in the county.  While our clothes were drying, the boys walked the dogs and Mandy and I hit a boutique.  Before leaving, we had a yummy pizza lunch at Poker Alice.  I like Lake City.  The town itself is charming and I fell in love with the surrounding landscape.

We hit a lookout on our way up the mountain.  Elly was once again uncooperative for a family picture.

A few miles straight up a mountain (11,500 ft) we found a National Forest access road.  We meandered our way down the winding one lane road, past campgrounds to find a perfect spot.

We were waved down and pointed towards a moose.  It was munching away in a small pond off the road.

Elly didn't know what to make of all the tall dogs she saw this trip. She whined at cows, horses and now a moose.  It didn't care.

Further up the road, we found a perfect camp spot, tucked off the road and close to the meandering creek.  I stopped in the middle of setting up the tent when I spotted a faint rainbow behind camp.

Rommel was very thankful to camp at another water source.

We were full from lunch so just lounged through the increasingly menacing cloud cover.

After one light rain, we opted to climb the hill side adjacent to camp.  Mandy and Pete stayed at camp.

It was steep at the top.

The sky was getting darker.  But off in the distance there was just enough clear sky to make a pink mark across the clouds.

The approaching sound of thunder drove us back to camp.  I tucked the camera under my light jacket as we dodged rain drops on our way.  A dinner of left over pizza and cocoa was enjoyed while we chatted about the day.  A light rain fell, but by bed time, the rain had stopped.

The Never Ending Day

July 23, 2013

We invested in Butler Maps Back Country Discovery Route collection.  The maps were specifically designed to traverse a state off road on an adventure bike.  We knew it could be done in a Jeep.  What we didn't realize is that when the map said a section was easy, that a two wheel drive sedan could manage it.  The last several days worked out, easy roads and phenomenal scenery.

Today...not so much.  The scenery and weather were lack luster.  Over cast sky, dry dusty roads, meh landscapes = a cranky driver.

We packed up the compound and said goodbye to the Last Dollar Road.  From Ouray, we hit a country road with National Forest access and started our climb.

We stopped at an over look for a quick taco lunch then continued on.  Owl Creek Pass was our first destination.  We made it to the sign that said we were at the pass and we were....let down.  Silverton spoiled us.  Cinnamon and Engineer Passes were something to behold.  Owl Creek provided a muddy river section.

My driver was grumpy before we even finished this loop.  It was long, easy and boring.  We hit pavement on 50 and drove by the Morrow Point Reservoir.

We needed to make camp for the night, but finding an easy spot proved difficult.  We had passed a tell tale brown sign that pointed towards camping south of 50, so we headed back that direction.

Of course, once we passed through a neighborhood, we found ourselves faced with an Indian Reservation.  Hmmn... perseverance pays off, right?  It did.  We found ourselves on National Forest land, and next to a swift moving river.  A nice fisherman pointed us in the direction of a good spot.

The sun briefly made an appearance and Mike played with the dogs in the river.  Rommel would get the tossed rock, Elly would get Rommel and Mika would get....well I wasn't sure what she was digging at.

The water was icy and the current was pretty strong.  Elly didn't go past her elbows, and she got out and watched from above with me for a while.  Rommel is a strong swimmer, he would get caught in the current and expertly (and calmly) swim diagonally back to shallower waters.  Mika....panicked.  I pictured her being swept away and urged her to stay in shallow waters.

After water play, everyone was toweled off to prevent a drastic drop in body temperature after sunset.  Mika toweled herself off, much to the chagrin of her dad.

It briefly rained, but it was consistently windy in the canyon.  As pretty as this campsite was, I knew based on the winds, we would only stay a night.  We made lemon chicken and fresh veggies for dinner, then turned in.

Day 3: Bridal Veil Falls and Ouray

July 22, 2013

We woke late, as usual.  Breakfast was served and we hopped on the Last Dollar Road towards Telluride.  Today we were headed towards Bridal Veil Falls.  On the drive out, we lamented on how beautiful the houses were here and planned our abode for when we win the lottery. (riiiight)

Surprisingly, this would be the most technical off road driving we would do the entire trip.  The routes this go around were pretty easy.  This drive was cake, comparatively speaking, although we still took it slower than those dummies in rental cars.

Looking back towards Telluride.

Approaching the falls.

Today was the only day I wish we woke and left earlier, because trying to get good photos of the falls during the noon sun was tough.

We hiked down a bit to avoid the crowds and let the dogs play about freely in the pools.

We tried our damnedest to get a family picture at the base of the falls but Elly wasn't having it.

After a good relaxing time at the falls, we started our decent back to town and back to camp for lunch. Today was probably our laziest day, in terms of trails.

After lunch, we made our way out the length of the Last Dollar Road, hit pavement and be bopped around Ouray for a while.  

(You can see our camp in the center of the picture at the bottom.)

I loved driving through the Aspen groves.  The afternoon light made for wonderful shots.

In Ouray, we did some touristy shopping - hats, t-shirts and ice cream were bought.  I was less impressed with Ouray than I was with Silverton.  Silverton just does it right.

We made it back to camp at last light and I was able to snap a shot of the setting sun lingering on the distant mountains.

Dinner was made, and we relaxed for a while before turning in.