Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Colorado's San Juans, August 2004

I left Tucson around noon on Friday and drove to Colorado. I took US 60 north of Tucson through Globe and Show Low. This is a terrible stretch of road, especially north of Globe. It winds through a lovely canyon area, which is beautiful, but winds is the key word. Hills are short and steep and corners seem unnecessarily sharp. It is quite a workout for your vehicle, at least for the underpowered Forester with the AC running. This may be a fun drive for scenic value, but I was trying to get to Colorado, and all the online map services said this was the shortest route. I took my time, stopped in Holbrook (along I-40) and had chicken strips from a run-down side-street Dairy Queen. The most horrible fast food meal I’ve ever had. Sabkha ate most of it as we sat at a local park. After awhile heading east on the interstate, we went north up New Mexico 666 (renamed 451 or something). We passed Ship Rock, and two other cool monoliths close to the road, as the sun was setting. Some mountains were vaguely visible to the north. Passed through Cortez, CO in the dark and it certainly didn’t feel like the cool Colorado mountains (yet). It felt like the hot AZ/NM desert and the Indian reservation. Checked out one campsite (as indicated on the CO Gazzetteer) but turned out to be a no camping area. Two other marked campsites were full, and charging $18 a night! (Nat Forest campgrounds, but run but private company). Angry and tired, thinking how typical this is of my trips (didn’t plan ahead of course), I drove several miles up a gravel road before giving up. Finally I pulled into a state hunting area (camping prohibited!) and just slept in the car (for a quick getaway in case a ranger showed up). The back of the Forester is just big enough for me to sleep ok, with the seats down. Woke up early, snapped a few photos and got outta there. Headed up the highway toward Telluride, stopping at Lizard Head pass and taking photos of the 14-er nest to the west, including Lizard Head peak (not a 14er). Good future hike, but of course there was a horse trailer there (Sab has problem attacking horses). Drove into Telluride and hung out. Yuppy place but it started to grow on me. Got some decent coffee, postcards, drove around town. Finally left to find a camp spot. The sun set around 7 pm, so I needed to be at a decent site by 5 to cook some food and set up the tent before dark. And after dark, it’s a bit scary to do anything, especially if it involves food, because you can’t see anything, and Sab barks at anything. I’m afraid of bears. We drove up a road south of Telluride. About 7 miles up the road, well over 11,000 feet elevation, we camped in a cirque with a nice lake, and lots of other rough-it car-camper types in 4WD’s (the road was only a class 2 in my book). Beautiful place! Back down to Telluride the next day. Got some coffee, took the gondola up the mountain (and down to Mountainview) (or was that on day one?). Hiked up to Bridal Veil falls on gravel roads with Sab. Lots of drivers and motorcycles and bikers. Wonderful area, fun Jeep stuff like a one-way over B Bear pass into Telluride. Back down, got some rain. Hit the road west out of then NE out to Ridgway on 550. Nice view of the other side of Sneffels (14er north of Telluride). Got a slice of pizza in Ridgway (didn’t eat much at all on this trip) and south through Ouray. Checked out a few $12 campgrounds. Found several free areas on the road west of Silverton. Camped near a nice river. Next day hiked up to Ice Lake (3.5 mi one way). Sab had such a great time! She is inexhaustible. I was tired and winded. Made it to the lakes around 12000 feet. I was puffing. A storm blew up and we hiked down mostly in the rain. The hardest 7 mile hike I’ve ever done? The only real hike of this entire trip!! Checked out Silverton, ate at Brown Bear CafĂ© (this is afternoon after the hike). Sab was only moderately tired. Back north to Ridgway, were my “service engine” light came on! So I called Subaru number and went north to Montrose, 20k-ish community on the plains north of the San Juans. Subaru dealer said 8am Tuesday (the next day) they could check it out. I found a wonderful coffee place on main ave (Coffee Trader) with a great side yard with trees. Overall Montrose had a nice midwesternly feel – sort of. Stayed at a nice clean hotel for $45 (not cheap, but it’s tourist season!) on Main also. Pets no prob. Nice to be inside and take shower, sleep without (neurotic) fear of bears. Watched Olympics. Next day went to dealer – rodents chewed hoses on vapor capture system – not a big deal. Then drove east in the plains to Gunnison, a nice little town. Ate a mediocre Mexican place. Drove south back into San Juans. Rain. Stayed at pay campground $8 – but no bears “this summer”, so I felt more at ease and slept ok. Next day sab ran off after deer but came back quickly. We began to mosey home to Tucson via New Mexico. Near Los Alamos, I called Kim Tait but didn’t answer, finally she did so I went there. Went hashing with local group (her first time). Stayed there. Next day (yesterday) got coffee and burrito and hung out a bit, then had lunch with Kim, Romanian guy and two other silent engineers at LANL at Hill Diner. Mediocre chow. He told stories of driving his Porshe fast and getting pulled over. I left, went west (the loooong way through the mountains) and made a dash for home through some spotty but cool-to-watch steppe thunderstorms. Got home at “11 pm” but then discovered it was only 10 (AZ time).


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Anonymous said...

Nice work. Felt like I was there myself (which I have been before and wish I were now). Not sure what hashing is - have to look it up. Time for another installment of your adventures, don't you think?