3. Colorado in Summer…7.2017

day 9…7.7 
Jill would be arriving later today & I was so excited to see her.  But first, I had time for a solitary hike along Goulding Creek.  The research said not too many people do this hike & that was true.  Its off Molas Pass & even the trailhead is kind of hard to find.  There was one car in the tiny dirt lot when I got on the trail which seemed almost hidden in thick vegetation.  And the trail climbedswitchback after switchbackup & up & up.  As I got near the top of the switchbacks, a young trail runner was headed down.  That was the only person Id see on the trail.  I kept hiking as the trail flattened out a little then came to a locked gate.


Most of the time when you see these gates, you just open it being sure to close it because of cattle in the area.  But this one had a big old stick wired across it….impossible to open.  I was glad no one else was on the trail as I’m not that graceful of a person.  I threw my hiking poles under the gate, & climbed over, picked up my poles & continued to hike on.


I’d read there was a little cabin at the end of the trail, that’s still used by a local rancher.  After taking the trail through forest, then meadow, then forest, then meadow, I came upon the cabin.


The trail continued on beyond the cabin supposedly to a viewpoint.  I kept hiking going up & up again, but could never actually see where it would ever get above the trees.  The cabin was technically the end of my hike, but I’d wanted to see the view.  But, my research didn’t tell me if it was another mile or three.  So, eventually I turned around & headed back down.  Once at the top of the switchbacks, I noticed a view of a pretty lake that I’d not seen on the way up.


Once back in the parking lot & in my Chacos, I got word from Jill that she was near.  We met out at Ska brewing as we were both hungry & they had a Cuban sandwich I wanted to try (those of you who faithfully follow my travels know I’ve done EXTENSIVE research on Cuban sandwiches as well as other food & drink).  Ska’s Cubano wasn’t the worst I’ve had, but it’s definitely one I wouldn’t order again. We met with big hugs & both excited to start our adventure together!

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I absolutely LOVE the pic below! I built a fire & we had an awesome evening of catching up, laughing, talking about upcoming places to see, laughing & just enjoying our time together!

day 10…7.8 
Jill usually takes about three days to acclimate, so Im always trying to think of what we can do during that time other than hike.  Usually in the tiny town of Crested Butte, shopping & eating & hanging out at camp are our options.  But I had some new ideas being we were in a new town & it was helpful that Durango is about 3,000 lower elevation than CB.  We ate breakfast at camp then packed up in one car & drove out to Vallecito Lake to tour the wood carvings.  Danny & I have done this once before so I knew they were pretty awesome.  There was a huge fire here a few years ago, which there is still a lot of evidence to that fact.  One of the local chain-saw carvers has carved trees all around the lake that represent the people & animals that survived the fire & one firefighter who did not.  So we started on the tour seeing 12 of the 14 & laughing while searching for the other never-found two!

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Then I’d seen a place that I thought looked interesting to check out for lunch.  It’s called James Ranch & it’s outside of the crowds of downtown Durango.  I didn’t know much more about it than that, but it turned out to be a perfect spot for a wonderful tasting lunch!

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After our super-yummy lunch, we drove the mile or so back to the Honeyville Meadery.  There are a lot of tourists here, but we both enjoyed walking around inside & tasting the mead & honey wine they sell.  Jill bought a bottle of wine which sent us both on a search for traveling wine glasses…we’re alike in that way!

We headed back into Durango to check out the shops…mostly gear shops that we both love. We also love shopping for our grandkids.  We had a nice time then we decided to go into a small little Thai restaurant downtown & ordered dinner.  While we were eating, sitting next to the window, I noticed an old 4Runner drive up.  I wanted to ask the guy what year it was, but after he got out, he turned & went up the sidewalk headed somewhere else.  I was scoping out the SUV though.  Soon he popped into the restaurant for a to-go order & I whispered to Jill across the table “don’t hate me for what I’m about to do” & then boldly asked the guy about the 4Runner.  He was eager to talk about it & at the end of the conversation, asked me if I wanted to buy it.  I asked him how much?  And for the first time during my travels, I almost bought a car!  We all ended up out on the street, him showing me the inside & me inspecting the outside & fact finding about his particular history with the 4Runner.

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We exchanged information & I told him I’d get back with him later.  The texts, pics & phone calls rapidly began between me & Danny.   I had internet service at the campsite, so I was also doing some research on the 2nd generation 4Runner (those of you who follow me know I’m almost an expert on 3rd generation’s, but don’t know too much about the models before then).  Danny agreed it sounded like a good deal, that I should drive it, he’d get the opinion of our Toyota mechanic, so I set up a time with the owner the next morning to take it for a drive.  A definite twist in our plans.  I finally settled down, built a fire, we concluded our evening in our fun usual way of chatting, laughing, chatting & laughing! 

PS:  The night before Jill & I were having fun talking RV’s, trailers, & campers (our girl talk for sure, that I’d bet not too many other friends of ours discuss or research) & I’d found the camper she was looking for in Pueblo.  She had begun the long-distance conversation with Greg about the possibility of stopping on the way back from Denver (where she would pick him up next week) & seeing the trailer & possibly making the purchase.  So, now it was funny that both of us were looking at buying some type of vehicle while on this trip & all the crazy logistics that would follow a purchase.

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day 11…7.9 
Jill found us an awesome place for breakfast out.  She knows me SOOOOO well, & knew I was nervous that morning.  Ive done a lot of research on vehicles & know mostly what to look for, but the thought of making the decision & the logistics involved of buying a vehicle 14 hours away from home & ending up with two at once was distracting to say the least. But Oscars was a great choice & the food was super good!

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We had some time to kill before driving the 4Runner, so we made a quick stop back at the gear shop (I had to exchange something from the day before) then Jill took me to hardware store to introduce me to some type of super duper hard core velcro…which solved the problem I was having!  Then we drove to the owners house, jumped in the 4Runner & took it up the mountain to the top of the pass….pushing all the buttons, making sure the heat, A/C & everything we could possibly find to turn on to make sure it was working.  The interior was almost perfect.  Jill even FT Danny while were driving so he could hear it shift.  We stopped at the top of the pass, looked under the hood & under the body, opened the hatch, & Jill even removed the car seat & laid down in the back so we could see how much smaller is was than my two 4Runners.  We finally took it back & I told the guy I’d be in touch in the next couple of days.  He said he wasn’t going to post for a few days, so no hurry.  He was also working on an old Land Cruiser (I love those too!) in his garage so we talked about that Toyota for a bit.  He had this unusual Aspen tree in his front yard, & he showed me claw marks from bears over the years.  He was a nice guy & I appreciated him ‘going with my unusual flow’ from asking him questions in the Thai place to letting me drive the car the next day.

But it was time to move on with our original plan & let the car idea simmer. Before we were test-drive-delayed, our plan was to drive to Silverton.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to work with Jill following me in her ‘camper-car’ on our Tour of Colorado, but it was great.  She is such a flexible traveler!  So, the two of us toodled on up the road, stopping so she could take in the views from Molas Pass then dropping down into Silverton.  

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The town is pretty small & mostly it’s tourism is from the stop that the Durango-Silverton railroad makes.  But they have some cute quirky shops too.  

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I wanted to take her up this back road to a gnarly 4WD road that we could just walk for a bit.  I did it a few years ago & the view from the top was great.  But, I couldn’t remember the entrance or the name of the road.  Asking at the VC wasn’t too helpful, but they sent us to a road…it was the wrong road, but a beautiful drive!

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After we did the drive, we went back into town & strolled through the shops (we found our traveling wine glasses) then went out for an early dinner.  

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Our next to-do was to find some camping for the night.  We headed down a road I’d read about that had tons of free camping.  As we were driving through a campground (kind of crowded but still free) a couple of bikers stopped Jill & told her about an awesome solitary campsite down the road.  This time I was behind her as she found her way to our bit of woods for the night….it was great.  A few more flies than we would have liked, so I quickly set up the screen tent & we spent a nice evening.  We both went to bed early, reading a bit, then heading off to dreamland.

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day 12…7.10 
I had a trail picked out for us today & we were going to try it out.  This trailhead leads to two different places…one is Ice Lake, which Danny & I did a few years ago & it was amazing (although as it turns out I didn’t quite remember the details perfectly).  But, knowing this was Jill’s first hike, we were headed to the other trail, Clear Lake.  


We started going up the switchbacks & Jill was doing great. We made it across one easy water crossing. 

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We got all the way up to where the two trails diverge & faced a big waterfall crossing.  We looked at it & figured a way across.  Jill was hesitant & I didn’t want to make her first hike difficult.  I was game for either way…across the water was ‘adventurous’ to say the least, but I knew going the other way to Ice Lake was going to be a hard hike.  



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But, the truth is, most hikes in Colorado are great even if you don’t make it the ‘end’ or ‘summit’ or whatever the set goal is.  You’re still surrounded by beautiful views, amazing wildflowers & usually awesome waterfalls.  We could turn around anytime she felt like it.  I was also keeping an eye on the sky.  It’s monsoon season in the mountains, so most afternoons there is a thunderstorm & I knew we were up high.  She said let’s go to Ice Lake Basin & so we did.  I couldn’t believe she did so well…it’s the biggest hike I’ve ever done with her & we’ve never hiked so big on her first day.  I had forgotten we didn’t hike at all last year…she had broken her knee the year before & on top of that had a reaction to something last year that made her sick most of the time we were in Crested Butte…so this was her first hike in two years & it was a biggie.  We climbed 1,800’ feet of elevation all the way to the Basin…& it was beautiful!



Ice Lake Basin below.


Two happy hikers!

We hiked all the way back down just before a deluge hit.  We didn’t get too wet, but sat it out in our respective cars, snacking & getting hydrated & watching the gullywash of rain come down.  We were on our way to Ouray which requires going over Red Mountain Pass…it’s not my favorite pass …at all.  I had asked Jill if she thought she could do it…I know she doesn’t like edges.  We’d be on the inside for worst part of the pass.  She said she’d do it, but wanted to wait until after the storm.  And so, we headed to Ouray…up & over the crazy pass with just a few rain drizzles following us.  

Note:  Our  “Davids”.  Jill has a brother named David & my David is my brother-in-law…Danny’s brother. Several times our Davids’ have met us in Crested Butte & hiked or biked & camped with us.  They even have done it at the same time, so now they are in contact with each other once in awhile.  My David…we’ll call him David H. had been at the lake visiting his mom for then past couple of weeks.  But since he left Kansas, I’d been getting daily texts asking where I/we were & him telling us his location.  He said he might meet up with somewhere.  Jill’s David, David P. had text her while we were in Silverton that there was an awesome Vapor Cave with Hot Springs & a cool little hotel in Ouray…a not-miss!  So, once we had service, Jill made us a reservation.  David H. had text me that he was still far from us near Buena Vista.

We checked into the Wiesbaden hotel just a couple of blocks off Main street, showered (that felt good!) dawned our suits & went down into the Vapor Cave.  It was HOT!  But it was neat.  Obviously, we couldn’t take pics, but it was definitely a cave & the springs were definitely hot..so was the air!  We soaked awhile & took in our strange & other-worldly like surroundings.  Once cooled off, we dressed & headed to town.  Jill knew I love the Ouray brewery…their beer is good, but the ‘swings’ (instead of barstools) are great! So, that’s where we ate dinner, I had a beer & swung!

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Jill was super wiped out…she had done a huge hike & stressfully driven over Red Mountain Pass in a drizzle.  I put my suit back on & headed outside to the hot springs pool, laid in a float-lounger & it all felt wonderful!  I think I stayed there about 45 minutes…It was great to be under the night sky with the cool mountain air & the backside of me & my feet soaking in super warm water…just lovely!  I went to bed soon after.

Note:  I got a couple of phone calls & a text message from David H.  He had driven his SUV..a new Suburu across Engineer Pass which is a horrid 4WD road that tricked out jeeps & ATV take from Lake City to Ouray (It’s on You Tube, if you want to check it out).  It was night & he’d had to abandon his car up on the pass & thankfully got a ride in town until he could decide what to do the next day.  We text back & forth a in about 20 minutes he’d gotten an hotel room on the other side of Main.

day 13…7.11 
Jill & I were up early & back in the cave.  It didnt seem as hot this morning, but it felt super good.  Then we hit the hot pool outside & she agreed, it was fantastic!  I contacted David H. around 8:15 to see what hed figured out with his car.  He had to get it off the mountain.  I was hoping it was drivable, because these kind of tows are around $700-$1,000 when you can find a truck to do it.  I suggested I drive him to the trailhead & he hitch his way back to the car.  The guy at his hotel & told him of another dirt road a couple of miles behind him that was much easier than Engineer Pass & it would take him down into Silverton.  So, I picked him up, gave him a bottle of water & some snacks & off he went.  About 5 hours later, I got a text from him that hed made it down to Silverton & the car was in good shape (I think he had some bumper damage, but thankfully it was very drivable!)

Jill & I packed up & headed out. We were going to hike the Perimeter trail which goes up high above the town & around.


We also wanted to hike Box Canyon Falls which is across town.  We took the shortcut, avoiding another big uphill climb through the forest & went through town, stopping in a couple of stores along the way & at Mouse…I bought their famous “scrap cookie” & Jill got an excellent Chai.  You can see the bridge from this pic I took across from the other side of town.

Once at the county park for the short hike back to see the falls, we paid our $4 fee & strode off over the metal bridges & down the metal staircase that drops you right near the falls & over the water.

Then it began to rain.  After exiting the park, we ran up 98 metal steps to a shelter up above & waited out a downpour.  You can tell from the pic, we can have a good time even in the rain!

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The downpour had let up to a sprinkle so we hit the trail, filled with slick rocks & roots & made it up to the bridge the spans over the falls.  There’s a cave on the other side that we ran to, explored (it’s really just a walkway) then headed back over the bridge.  Jill just followed & I had no idea she was nervous about it…but she did it…once going across & once coming back!

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The view from the top of the bridge.

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The view of the Perimeter trail looking back over the town; you can see the waterfall we’d hiked to.

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Happy hiker…although a little damp!  On to our next town & adventure!

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Our next stop was another new one for Jill…Telluride.  The drive from Ouray is so beautiful & she was gushing about it when we finally landed there!  I drove her down to the end of town to check out the waterfalls…they are the spectacular awesomeness of this town!  We hit a couple of shops then went out for dinner.

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There was a NF campground just outside of town, & as the skies grew dark & dripping, we found ourselves a spot at the NF Sunshine campground (ironic there was no sunshine by then).  The skies eventually cleared long enough for us to sit & chat around the picnic table, but in the end we both turned in, read in our respective ‘campers’ & fell asleep.

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