It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…
And no, I’m not talking about the lead up to the French Revolution.
I’m talking about our visit to Colorado.
Turns out Charles Dickens missed the boat entirely. Colorado is where all the painful contradictions can be found.
One minute you’re completing challenging hikes surrounded by glorious scenery in perfect weather, and the next, it’s 103 degrees, you’re parked six feet from a dumpster, and hundreds of bugs carrying their little bug suitcases are moving into your house because, apparently, they’ve decided they, too, want to “live the RV lifestyle.”
Let’s start with the good….
The Drive to Ridgway
As you may recall, when we left Cortez, we were super excited to be getting out of the desert. We were burned out on rocky scenery, dusty conditions, and endless heat and we were looking forward to the the fresh air, cool temperatures, and jaw-dropping vistas we expected to find in the mountains of Colorado. The drive to our campground at Ridgway State Park seemed to confirm all of our hopes. It was even raining – which usually wouldn’t be great news – but given the fire danger in the area, it was a welcome sight.
These are just cell phone pics taken through a badly watermarked motorhome window, but it should give you some idea why we were so happy after spending so many months in the desert.
Additionally, we knew that when we got to Ridgway, our friends Celena and Shoam would be there. We’d hung out with them for a couple days in Cortez, but expected to spend much more time with them once we got to Ridgway. So, everything was looking up – new environment, less fire danger, good friends to hang out with… awesome!
Ridgway State Park
We wasted no time hitting the trails once we got settled in. Ridgway has a number of nice walking paths, one of which goes right by the reservoir at the park. The trail actually reminded us a lot of the bike trail we explored when we were in Stowe, Vermont. Fields of wildflowers, farms, mountains in the background…. Just lovely….
And after months of brown and red rock, a huge blue reservoir was a nice change.
Just down the street from the state park is the town of Ridgway which we explored a bit with our friends. In addition to hitting up some of the local restaurants (recommendations: Colorado Boy Brewery and Eatery 66), we hiked the Uncompahgre Trail that leaves right from downtown and offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains.
Also, please enjoy this very awesome sculpture made even more awesome by Kevin, Celena, and Shoam.
The Blue Lakes Trail
As I was researching trails, I came across one described as “difficult, but with a nice payoff.” Our kind of trail. The Blue Lakes Trail is located in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness, just north of Telluride, Colorado. We knew the hike would be a challenge because it gained about 1,800 feet of elevation and ended at 10,950 feet – quite a bit for these East coasters, but we absolutely loved it. It was everything we’d dreamed a hike in the Colorado mountains would be.
While we certainly enjoy exploring the red rocks of Utah and the Sonoran deserts of Arizona, places like this feel like ‘home’ to us. Some people find comfort and peace in desert environments, but for us, hiking through old growth forests, climbing mountains, and wading across streams, provides a sense of familiarity and security that we never quite get from the desert. While experiencing new places is what this project is all about, sometimes it’s just nice to be in a place where we feel completely at ease. And, for us, this:
feels more comfortable than anywhere else.
The Blue Lakes hike was a ton of fun too… it had a bit of everything: wheezing, gasping, hunching over to let our oxygen-deprived brains catch up; but, also, stream crossings….
Alpine meadows so pristine they could have been paintings….
towering mountain ranges….
and views that went on forever….
And this was all before we even got to the “payoff.”
After climbing and climbing and climbing (and gasping and gasping and gasping), we walked into a clearing where we could see just a sliver of turquoise lake surrounded by snow capped mountains….
We followed the path around the perimeter of the lake, allowing us to get a better view…
When we got to the midpoint and looked back toward where we’d come from, we couldn’t help but wonder if what we were looking at was even real.
It was a “Wow!!” for sure.
There are two other blue lakes that are only a couple miles farther, but we couldn’t figure out how to get to them safely. We found one trail that would have gotten us where we wanted to go, but it crossed a stream that was raging as a result of the recent rain. If there was another safer crossing, we couldn’t find it, so we ended up calling it a day and heading back. Not that the views were disappointing….
Last Dollar Road
The next day, we decided to drive the Last Dollar Road down to Telluride (Thanks for the idea, Ingrid). This is a back country road that is a blast to drive in a high clearance vehicle.
The views are more Colorado magic. From fields of wild flowers to groves of Aspen trees, it was one picture perfect moment after another….
We passed ranches, forests, mountains, and meadows. And sometimes, a view that contained all four….
As we got closer to Telluride, we started noticing the obscenely beautiful homes, complete with massive tracts of land, and the tiny airport full of multi-million dollar private jets that service the local clientele.
But we also noticed an issue that ended up being the first in a long line of things going wrong in Colorado. Right after we completed Last Dollar Road, we started hearing a troubling metallic scraping sound coming from the rear brakes of our car. Ruh-Roh!
We visited Telluride again a couple days later with Celena and Shoam. We took advantage of the very awesome free gondola system that operates around the various ski and town areas (you can park for free at Mountain Village and take the gondola down to Telluride).
We checked out the downtown area, grabbed lunch, and wandered through the main business district…
We also took a gander at some of the real estate listings (which seems to be a major economic driver in the area) and quickly concluded that we would not be moving to Telluride anytime soon…
As it turned out, our visit to the mountains coincided with the huge annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival. By the time we found out about the multi-day event, tickets were sold out, but, the day we happened to be wandering around downtown Telluride, which was the day before the festival actually started, there was a free opening night concert! We just followed the masses of people headed toward the concert, found a spot to hang out, and took it all in.
Talk about great timing!!
The music was fantastic, the surroundings were lovely, and we noticed our fellow concert attendees were doing something really rare…. paying attention to the music and their friends, rather than staring at their phones or videotaping the performances.
Indeed, the only asshole with their cell phone out was me, but that’s because you wouldn’t believe me about these things if I didn’t show you pictures.
Anyway, what was a fun afternoon with our friends ended up being a pretty lucky one too. Sometimes our timing is great and luck is on our side. Other times, like the rest of our visit to Colorado, our timing is lousy and all our plans go straight down the toilet… More on that next week.
Where we stayed: Ridgway State Park, Ridgway, Colorado