September 30, 2008–
We never know what our day will be like. We decided to take it easy today — and just ride up to Telluride for lunch. The map highlighted route 145 into Telluride as scenic and then we could continue on up to Route 62 and then turn south onto 550 and complete the loop by ending up in Durango and then back to Cortez. Looking at the map, we figured we could do all of this in 4 hours, maybe 5 hours. Ha!
First this is a very scenic loop. We quickly realized that we would be experiencing “fall” in Colorado — the Aspen trees are mostly yellow or “golden” and the contrast of that against the green with a river flowing alongside the road. We couldn’t get enough of this and stopped frequently. We passed through a town called Stoner, but it was the next town, Rico, that we fell in love with.
This whole trip, we have been saying that every time we go around a bend we are surprised with a new scene.
Today was most definitely an example of this. Each state seems to have a unique geography and as we started our trip — the scenery was looking very “Colorado” with moutains and golden apsens. But then, as we started to climb up Lizard Head Pass, the scenery changed. It started looking more “Utah.” At this point, we have learned just enough of the geology that we can do a quick read of the land. Actually Carl is better at this. Regardless, when we reached the top of Lizard Head Pass, we were over 10,000 feet high.
It is a bit past here that the roadside markers explained about the original railroad, and that this was this was the mining area that first proved that Tesla’s AC (alternating current) was a superior solution over Edison’s DC (direct current).
We arrived in Telluride about half past noon. Not sure what time we left the hotel but I think it took us nearly three hours. Telleride was interesting — quite obvious that there is no zoning — the niceor newly renovated is mixed in with old and run down. I like this mix but Carl found it a bit over done.
You can see that many of the buildings were built in the mining days and that the newer houses are built skinny with tin roofs to handle the snow. I saw one sign that said that the whole town sits on top of bunch of tunnels from the mining days.
We had lunch at a bakery, sitting outside and sharing our bread crumbs with the birds. Reminded me of our favorite bakery that used to be in Key West (until it burned down).Telluride is definitely a skier’s town — with a gondola that leaves from the town up to Telleride mountain. We considered taking a ride but we had already left our parking was an issue.
After leaving Telluride we came to some small towns (like one called Sawpit) and then we turned right onto route 62. Another surprise. We climbed back up to 8,970 feet peaking at Dallas Divide. Another terrific photo opportunity.
62 ends at Ridgeway, which seemed to be a gas station. Although we were looking for a “pit stop,” the town happened too fast and we kept going. Here we came to Ouray, which is a hot springs location. We learned about this as the visitor station (and pit stop). We took a bunch of photos while going through the town.
Again, we never know what to expect next — and no description in our guidebook prepared us adequately for the next stretch of road. We drove up a guardrail-less narrow road (Highway 550) that formed a steep switchback up the side of the mountain. Wow! I am so glad that Carl likes to drive. We reached the top which was just over 11,000 feet.
Interesting note: While I was working on this entry, Carl was watching a segment on the History Channel on the world’s worse highways to drive. Guess what? Highway 550 from Ouray to Silverton is one of the most dangerous. Seven lives were lost during avalanches last year! We did note how high the snowplow reflectors were… no, this is not a place we will consider living. (Is it a coincidence that I chose to post Poornima’s review of TRAFFIC on MostlyFiction after this day? Actually, outside of the avalanches in winter, this is probably a safe road because everyone drives so cautiously…)
Of course, coming down the other side is still a narrow road, but at least we were now the on the inside. The Red Mountain Pass was one of the key area for mining silver and other ore. In today’s standards, the made 250 billion dollars in this mining operation, but as you can see, they destroyed the area — though I do find the mountain top colors fascinating.
We thought we were all done with the up and downs, but alas we still had the Molas Pass — which peaked at an amazing 10, 910 feet — that’s practically 11,000. To put this in perspective NH’s Mt Washington is just over 6200 feet. So, our Prius climbed above 10,000 feet three times today — and we didn’t even get a bumper sticker!
It was while we were approaching the peak of Molas Pass that I realized that I had used up the battery in the camera and that was the end of my photography for the day. Still, it appears that I took almost 200 photos in one day, so let’s say that I took enough already!
Durango was a bit of a puzzle. Hotels and motels every few feet but the town itself didn’t seem to offer anything of interest – just a lot of traffic. We figure that it must be popular because of it’s proximity to so many scenic things and fun things including the Durango Ski area about twenty miles back.
We were exhausted by the time we got back on 160 and the 45 minutes back to the hotel. So much for a light day. Although we only clocked 241 miles on the odometer, It seems it was an 8 hour day. We stopped at the grocery store before going back to our room and we got here about 6 pm.
As I work on this the Internet here is very flaky. It’s practically 10pm and I’ve lost patience with this whole thing. I’ll finish this when I can.
We are still in Cortez, Colorado tonight. We have no idea what we are doing tomorrow!