3. Colorado here I come! (& bringing my face masks)…June & July 2020

Day 15 6.22
I made my breakfast in camp & FT with the girls.  Cheryl & Jen were off again for breakfast in town

For the third time, I’m going to try to get to the top of the 403 trail.  I’ve tried the other two ways, now I’m going for the most popular way which includes driving a nasty road.  I’ve driven this road a bunch of times; I dislike it everytime.  And, you never know from year to year, or week to week or day to day (depending on the amount of rain & washout) what its going to be like.  So, you get a new adventure every time.  But, it wasn’t bad today.  And, it’s a super awesome bonus when you don’t meet another car going up or down the steep, rocky, washout part or around the steep hairpin turn.  All was good.  

Always a joy to be on this trail….it’s filled with great views all the way to the top!

And, I was the only one up there….for 40 minutes!!  What a nice treat!

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I tried to stop at the Memorial Bench both on the way out & on the way back.  I was just barely able to capture this photo before a family of five got to the bench.  There had been another big family on it when I passed by it earlier.  I’m not sure if neither family made it the viewpoint or not, but I was glad I got a fast shot  of the bench.  The forecast was not for a storm today, but the mountains dont care what the weather folks say.  The sky grew dark, I heard rumbles & had some sprinkles on the way back to the car.  I was just hoping to get down the steep part of the road before much rain hit.  And, I did.  The storm blew over.

I drove back to camp & made myself some lunch.  Then I pulled out some guide books & my atlas & started planning the next part of my trip…away from Crested Butte.  I’d blown my 14 day camp limit & wasn’t going to try to get away with more this year (well, not too much more.)  I’d be back in a few weeks…or a couple.  I can’t stay away too long, but I’d decided I’d be gone over the 4th holiday & a bit longer to try to avoid the crazies that come to to camp.

Cheryl & Jen came out to camp after their dinner in town & I built another fire.  Tonights campfire was a lot better than last nights!

Day 16 6.23
I was up earlier this morning & broke down the Castle tent Ive had up since I arrived.  I packed everything in Thule.  As I was sitting there drinking coffee though, I kept hearing a noise to my left.  I looked over a few feet & this little guy was popping his head up every so often snacking on whatever was green near the hole.  It was kind of cute.  But I didn’t name himIm headed out tomorrow.

I ran some errands in town & then headed south a little ways to the Caves trailhead.  I rarely hike this whole trail.  I torture myself with all the switchbacks, then once at the top, hike about a mile further on the trail to check out the wildflowers, then turn around & go back down.  If you hike the loop, you end up hiking a dusty busy ATV road….I’d rather past on all the dirt (I’m dirty enough).

There were quite a few pretty wildflowers along the trail!

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This grasshopper had a beautiful blue butterfly in it’s grasp…things didn’t look so good for the butterfly.  But the grasshopper kept jumping in front of me…over & over down the trail.  I just kept following him until eventually he hopped off the trail.

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Cheryl’s daughter, Conner & Jen had gone bike riding.  So, when I landed back in town, Cheryl was just getting ready to go walk the Lower Loop.  I’d already done this trail this year, but it’d be nice to hike it with Cheryl & I’d read that Storywalk was now along the trail.  I love this!!  Each year a book is chosen & displayed under a waterproof case…just opened so two pages at a time can be read.  As you hike, you can read the book.  The Lower Loop is a trail very close to town, so easy to get to & easy to hike, so tons of families chose this trail.  I was anxious to see what book they’d chosen this year!

The book is Under My Tree 

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Cheryl & I were in no hurry & the day was perfect.  We both enjoyed reading the story as we walked.

We eventually made it to our turn around point…the Slate River.  This view is always breathtaking!  By this time, Conner & Jen had stowed their bikes & joined us on the trail.  We all sat by the river & just took in the beauty.  

Photo of Conner & Cheryl.

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Then we walked back to the car.  We all went to the Last Steep for a late lunch, then over to Bonez for a happy hour margarita.  The three of them decided to stay longer, but I was done after one.  I walked to Townie Books & they had the book featured in the Storywalk.  I now had a new book to read to Emma & Claire next time we FaceTimed.

I drove back to camp, grabbed a beer & started reading, but mostly just looking out at how wonderful it is here.  Cheryl & Jen showed up a bit later & the two of them took over camp fire building tonight.  I just chilled & enjoyed the conversation.  My plan is to come back here in a couple of weeks, but I’m always kind of melancholy when I know I have to leave.  And with Covid, you never know what is really going to happen.  But, it was another wonderful day & evening in Paradise.

Day 17 6.24
I made myself coffee & said good bye to Cheryl & Jenthey were headed into town for breakfast again.  I drove south making a brief stop in Gunnison for gas & a couple of other things.  I drove all the way south of Ridgway past this amazing view.

... to a FS road called Dallas Creek & turned off.  I’ve been here twice before…two times to hike & one other time to camp.  I was looking for camping tonight & quickly found a spot by 12:30 & set up.  It was too late in the day for me to start my hike, but too early for me to have nothing to do.

I was camped right next to a creek, so I filled my sink with stream water & took a bath.  When I was done with that, I washed all my clothes & hung them out to dry on the fence.  The sun was hot & soon everything was dry & cleanor as clean as you can be with stream water.  I did other things like eat, drink & started & finished a book Id picked up from the Little Free Library in CB on my way out of town.  I have no cell service here, so no scrolling on my phone.

PS:  I am getting quite a collection of masks & Buffs.  I also washed all of these today.  I think the mask is the new souvenir…instead of a t-shirt or coffee mug or pint glass.  It’s a sad reminder of the time, but as soon as Covid goes away, the girls & I can use them for costume masks! 

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Day 18 6.25
I slept good last night & Im glad because I have a big hike today.  The trailhead is only 1/2 mile from my camp spot.  There were about 10 cars in the parking lot already at 8:30am when I arrived.  Ive done this trail twice beforethe first time I turned around because of the upper water crossing that crosses the top of the water fall.it was way too fast flowing.  Then I was determined to come back someday & hike the whole thing & I did a few years later.  

The trail gains 1,800 elevation in 3.5 miles to the first lakeyou just go up up up switchback after switchback through the forest.  There are pretty views out towards the mountains once in awhilea good thing to do while you suck in all that air that seems elusive.  There’s a stream flowing next to the trail all along the way…it also changes it’s level of elevation, but the water flows out of Blue Lake, so by the time you make it to the lake, the stream is at the same elevation.

Gorgeous views of the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area.

A pretty waterfall along the trail!

There are trails that go about 1/2 way around the lake.  Lots of camping spots up here too.  There were several backpackers up here already.

The color of this water is amazing!

The waterfall crossing was easy today….not like the first time I hiked this trail.  I watched a few other hikers ahead of me take their time & cross on the log…I loved just plowing through the water in my Altra hiking shoes.

Taken from the Upper Blue Lakes trail.

My panoramic photo of Lower Blue Lake.

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So, the water crossing I did struggle with a bit, was the first one.  On my previous two hikes, the stream, (the one that comes out of  the Lower Lake & that follows the trail up) which is wide & deep at the crossing, had multiple logs bolted together with cross hatches along the flattened top where you walked…essentially a nice sort of rustic bridge.  But, they had be busted up at some point…not so nice.  (The water isn’t too deep on this side of the trail, but in between & on the other side of the logs it is…& you have to lunge up the side of the steep bank to get to the trail on the other side.)

The water was deeper & more rushing than I wanted to wade through, so I carefully crossed the logs.  I really don’t like doing this.  Danny doesn’t mind at all.  But I’ve fallen & watched him fall while crossing logs…evidently it’s a memory that won’t go away.  I made it across just fine, but as I climbed up high on the trail to go up to the two Upper Blue Lakes, I was determined to find a better way going back.  

I made it up to the basin where the trail leads to two more small lakesnot near as pretty as the Lower Lake.  There were about 8 other people ahead of me on the trail.  But the sky started getting dark & I could hear booms off in the distance.  Lots of stuff was happening above.  This time, I didnt feel the need to go on.  All the other hikers, kept going.  As usual, I was the only one to turn around.  I think the elevation is at least 11,500’…not sure, but I didnt need to be.  You dont get much more exposed than up high in this basin with not a tree in sight.

Once back down to the first water crossing, I went off trail towards the lake.  I thought it looked really wide but easy flat water where the lake feeds the stream.  I found a spot to cross within a few minutes & took off across the water.  None of it was deeper than my calf & none was fast moving.  A better way across for sure…for me anyway.  

Before I got out of the lake area, big fat drops of rain started hitting me.  I put my pack cover on & my raincoat & headed down.  It rained hard.   Then it stopped.   Then it started again, this time with freezing cold hail & didn’t quit until I was almost at the bottom.  I was so cold by the time I jumped in the car!  And I was a big muddy mess too.  As I drove out I couldn’t help thinking about those that had kept on the trail & the tons & tons of hikers & backpackers I’d passed coming down as they were going up.  There were about 50 cars at the trailhead as I left…glad I went when I did & glad I turned around when I did.  

One of the best things about solo hiking, is the only discussion you have about stuff like turning around, or chickening out about going ahead…is with yourself.  I always argue with myself when I am getting ready to make a decision like this.  I sometimes even call myself names…like …."chicken-shit" or sometimes “you can do this…if you don’t throw up!”  But, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to.  I am not competitive with anyone else or even with myself…some people think that’s just sad.  I think it’s a relief!  I see & hear others on the trails sometimes, & I know they are at odds about the speed or distance or treachery of their hike.  “Hike your own hike” is a term thrown around by hikers….mostly long distance hikers, & I think it’s a good mantra.  After all, you’re out here to enjoy yourself!

My next stop was Telluride.  I got there at 4:30 & parked in front of the Visitors Center….I wanted to ask them about another hike called Blue Lake that is above the Bridal Veil falls.  WOW!  The town was packed!  Crazy busy packed!  The sidewalks were really crowded.  Like Crested Butte,  they’ve made their main street one way, so businesses & restaurants could spill out into the street.  The nice girl at the VC told me it was a no-go on the hike.  She said it was one huge muddy mess.  I’d wanted to grab some dinner while I was in town, but the shear volume of people made my turn around & leave.  I stopped at two NFS campgrounds & both were full.  I wasn’t surprised & as I drove through them looking for sites, I wondered why I’d want to stay here anyway.  NFS campgrounds have bigger & prettier spaces than most RV parks, & some state parks (state parks can be really pretty though), but they are all still closer together than what I’m used to.  So, I drove up towards Lizard Head Pass.  

Most all of the dispersed camping was full up there, but I asked an older couple riding bikes where a road I saw went to.  She said camping & there was enough space for me down there!  Yay!  I found me a spot, made a salad, popped open a beer & enjoyed my evening.  I have seriously been neglecting both my website & writing another article for Girl Camper.  I had no service at camp, but I did manage to get the article written.  I’ll have to wait to send it next time I have service.

Night! Night!

Day 19 6.26
I left camp at 6am headed the 30 minutes back to Telluride.  I wanted to snap some photos of the waterfalls at the end of town.

I just wanted to buy a cup of coffee & maybe hit the grocery store before I left.  I did manage to find a coffee house open at 7ambut they dont serve dark roast coffeeimagine that?  I bet if I would have asked for a double chocolate coconut milk soy gluten free extra hot no caffeine drink they’d have had that.  I bought my weak coffee, submitted my article to Girl Camper, checked email, etc. & headed out of town.

On my way down the highway, there’s a huge pullout that looks into the mountains…don’t know why I didn’t get a photo of it…I have a bunch of photos of it from previous times here.  I had good service here, so I FaceTimed with Emma & Claire, had a video chat with Jill & talked to Danny.  He’s on vacation this week (I’d hoped he’d be here with me) but is spending it at the lake taking care of business stuff, & as always, maintenance at the place.  Sounded like a sad vacation to me, but I hope he’s enjoying himself.

Then I ran into the little store in Ridgway for 1/2 & 1/2, lettuce & ice; gassed up the 4Runner & drove into Ouray. I had planned on coming here on Friday to go have lunch & a beer at my favorite brewery with swings, but after seeing what Telluride looked like on a Wednesday, I rearranged my plans to go today.  I got there right as they opened.  They are very serious about keeping people & themselves safe during Covid.  You had like a little interview before they seated you & got a squirt of hand sanitizer.  Does that piss you off?  Then you should probably stay home. 

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Most everyone wanted outside up on the roof (they were all in groups), but I wanted a swing at the bar!  And, I was the only one inside…fun! fun! fun!

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I had the silly idea I might rent an SUP today & go play at Ridgway State Park.  I went to the first entrance ready to pay my entrance fee…they couldn’t take credit cards there, but I could pay cash or write a local check or go a mile up the road to pay…where they also rented SUP’s.  So, that’s what I did.  Credit card receipt & entry ticket in hand, I drove to the marina.  Asked the guy if he had boards to rent & yes he did.  I walked three car lengths to put sunscreen on, grab my hat, my dry bags & wallet & came back…& the people standing there had rented everything he had.  

So, I drove back to the other entrance booth, waved my entry ticket & went to the SUP trailer.  Did they have them rent?  Yes, but I’d need to make a reservation.  Can’t I just pay you now?  No, it doesn’t work that way.  UGGGHHHH!  I took it as a sign, I wasn’t meant to be doing this today.  Guess I’m not great at going with the flow, but when people make things too complicated…I’m done. Then, as another sign, the wind picked up & someone in the parking lot told me the water was freezing cold.  OOOOOKKKKKK….now what?  There didn’t seem to be anything I wanted to do now in the park.  I hate wasting money but I can gift it to someone else.  So, before I left the park & pulled out onto the highway, I stuck my entry ticket out the window & a car of young guys stuck an arm out, grabbed it & said “thank you”.  You’re welcome!

I headed for Owl Creek Pass road to find camping.  This area is famous for being used to film western movies…most specifically John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn movie.  There’s some big wide open spaces & some unique rock formations….& there’s also dispersed camping.  

I drove up past the pass & took the west fork to almost the end of the road…found a nice camp spot in the trees right next to a lovely stream.

I hadnt been there long, when a beautiful fox slowly walked through my camp.  I didnt get a shot of it.  But, about 45 minutes later, I was sitting in my chair reading & overlooking the stream, when it came back.  This time I got a couple of shots!  Sweet!

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I’ve done some hiking up in this area before…there are some pretty unusual rock formation mountains around.

My panoramic photos of the area.

I took a short walk out on the road to stretch my legs & see what was out there…a few pretty wildflowers!

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Tucked into camper before dark (got a tiny bit buggy) & read.  

My site was forested & when the sunset, it was pitch black…like super black!

Day 20 6.27
The next morning I headed back into Ouray to hike the Perimeter Trail.  I’ve done this at least once before, but not for a long long time.  But, on my way, I stopped at Kate’s Place for breakfast.  YuM!  I ordered the pancake their known for…Lemon Ricotta Blueberry & some bacon…it was perfect!  Pic is of cool sculpture near the park in Ridgway.

I parked the 4Runner & headed out on the trail in the same spot I always have…across from the Visitors Center.  There are several ways to jump on this trail that circles around the top of the town.  Another trail that goes up up up then follows the side of the mountain on a narrow trail all the way to the falls…then it goes down down down.  This section of the trail had quite a few people on it.

Then the trail crosses the water at the bottom of the fall & goes up up up again.  You cross an area called Baby Bathtubs, which gets it’s own number of hikers.

You get this amazing view right before you cross the busy highway.  All of this was really familiar to me, as I said I’ve done this before.  Hiking ahead of me, since the bathtubs, was a couple about my age.  We’d said hi once & they told me they were from San Antonio & were supposed to be hiking Machu Picchu right now.  They stopped to take more photos & I wished them a good hike to kept going.  But once I crossed the road, the trail signs pointed down a road going to the Ice Park.  I certainly didn’t remember that. My guide book had said the whole trail was only 4 plus milesl.  

But, going down that road, seemed like I was going in the wrong direction. I remembered the trail heading directly towards Box Canyon at this point.  After about 1/2 mile on the trail, I started to second guess myself.  Had I read the sign right?  Did I take the right direction?  I was trying to pull up info on my phone, when the couple came around the corner.  They were asking themselves the same question.  They’d never done the trail before, but they also thought it was going in the wrong direction.  The guy was smart enough to have a map, & soon verified the way we were heading was right.  I was thinking I was a crazy person for not having remembered this part of the trail.  We hiked on.  I was ahead & nothing, nothing looked familiar.

I passed the Via Ferrata where you can hike & climb, with a guide across & up the rocks.  That’s right, there are hand & foot holds bolted into the wall for climbing up & crossing.  This type of trail has become popular over the years & more & more of them are popping up in tourist areas.  

I did remember the hike crossing the road & ending up near Box Canyon…the canyon,

the tunnel, 

& the stairs.

But then it took off in a direction I didn’t remember…I distinctly remember it not going way back up a big steep road then back into the forest.

My panoramic above the town on the Perimeter Trail.

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View of the trail from across as you approach it.  It’s the tiny one about 1/4th up from the bottom of the photo.  I sure didn’t remember this.

A waterfall along the trail.

After a lot more hiking, the trail finally went down.  It ends by going in front of some quaint homes, then through a huge RV park & finally, finally ends in the parking lot at the VC.  But, I was going crazy inside my head.  How had I forgotten so much about this trail?  My GPS said I’d hiked 7 miles.  I checked my guidebook again & it did say 4+.  The VC was open now, so I went up & asked them if the trail had changed over the past few years.  Yes!  The nice guy said, we added some new sections to the trail increasing the distance & difficulty.  

And there it was.  I texted Danny so relieved that I wasn’t crazy.  He said he was glad for me I found out about the new trail addition, but that really wasn’t proof I wasn’t crazy.

A drive over the Million Dollar Highway or Red Mountain Pass isn’t for the faint of heart.  Right when my tires hit the highway, it began to rain.  Awesome!  More adventure!  Actually, it didn’t rain very hard & it’s only the first part coming out of Ouray that is nerve racking.  If you’re headed towards Silverton, which I was, you get to be on the outside…the edge with no guardrails…fun!  I was going to try to find camping along this road, but after the nerve-wrecking part.  And I did.

This area is called Red Mountain….so much mining went on here.  There’s tons of ATV & 4x4 trails that all connect over crazy steep gnarly roads.  I camped near the base of Corkscrew Gulch.

This was my camping spot in the treesright before the rain came.  

I tucked myself in my little spot & read for the evening under booming skies & off & on rain showers.

Day 21 6.28
I had fallen asleep early last night, but a midnight, woke with a start to gun shots.  There were 8 of them & I had no idea exactly where they were coming from  Each shot was a couple of minutes apart, so I didnt think anyone was fearful for their life & using a weapon to protect themselves.  It was just another idiot, illegally shooting his gun in the middle of the night in the National Forest!  Ugh!  I can’t tell you how much I hate this & part of the reason I despise guns.  This happens more often than it should…because it should never happen.  I didn’t fall back asleep until after 4am.  It was a long long night.

I drove into Silverton early.  The one reason I wanted to come here was to hike a trail called Island Lake.  It’s a popular trail, so I got there by 8am to start the trail.  But the parking lot was already full, as well as the road leading up to the parking lot, as well as all the spots right under the “no parking” signs.  It was packed!  There had to be about 50 cars there & it looked like everyone came in groups.  Yikes!  It’s not that big of trail.  So, I decided I’d just drive around Silverton, checking out the views & come back early on Monday morning.

I saw these alpacas (or llama’s…I don’t know the difference) & stopped to take a photo with Flat Emma & Flat Claire.

(here’s what that photo looks like)

One of the views as I drove around Silverton. It felt like I spent all day driving.

In late afternoon, I drove back to the trailhead.  Still packed with cars only there more of themsome parked at weird angles, on flowers, on hills, etc.  I drove into the NFS campground thats across from the trailhead & chose a site.  I filled out my form & went to hand it the host, telling him Id be leaving early in the morning to drive across the road to the trailhead.  It would be a Monday so I figured it would be way less crowded.  He said no it wouldn’t.  Tomorrow would be just as crowded as today.  And he said, people get their cars blocked in all the time.  So I might score a parking spot, but I might not get out when I was off the trail.  

I’d been super nervous about doing this hike anyway.  I’ve done most of it before—to Ice Lake, but it’s 3,000’ elevation gain.  I wondered why I was worried? if 80 people got on the trail on the trail this morning…surely if they can do it, so can I.  But, I didn’t want to be on the trail with 80 people.  Usually you can get way from crowds on a trail…but not that big of crowd.  I asked the host if I could have my money back & he said no problem.  I was so bummed.  But, I moved on.  

I headed out towards Durango but hoping to find a camp spot somewhere around Molas Pass.  Yay!  I did!

My spot for the night…not too far off the highway, but a super beautiful view!  I felt a little blue tonightmissing Danny, my cat, the girls & not choosing, for better or worse, to hike the Island Lake trail.  But, I made dinner, whacked big time on my hair & started a really good book called “Leave Only Footprints”.  That got me out of my funk….

And this magnificent alpenglow!

And an amazing sunset!

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