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
Oh, I love the blue lake!! Is it just the purity of the water or are their specific minerals that make it that color (like the blue lagoon in Iceland)? It looks we’ll worth the effort, glad you made it there! On the other hand, I’d need a Xanax for that tram of death you rode. Lol!
I’m not sure what the exact reason is for the color of these particular lakes. Generally, it’s caused by the content of glacial sediment in the water that reacts with light, but these bright colors can also be caused by certain types of algae and minerals in the water. I’m not sure of the exact cause here. It was definitely worth the effort to get there though. It was such a cool sight to see. And yes – you would need all the the Xanax, though both Kevin and I agreed, this gondola was less scary than the huge gondola we took when we visited Palm Springs. You would hate them both, though. 🙂
So pretty! I share your enthusiasm for a hike that has a “reward” and a turquoise glacial-flour lake is a gorgeous one for sure!
I think you just answered the question above… Jen, it’s because of the glacial sediment.. Thank you, Joodie! I probably should have read through all the comments before I started responding to them. Ha!
The scenery is simply magnificent, no other word for it. We enjoyed our time at Ridgeway very much. Dave rented a SUP and paddled around the reservoir, we enjoyed the small but excellent farmer’s market in town (think perfect tomatoes AND insanely delicious Kouign Amann pastries) and just basking in the impossible beauty. Thanks for taking us back there but I’m worried about that metallic noise, I don’t like to hear unusual noises in my blogs……
I am bummed that we missed the farmers market in Ridgway. We assumed it would be on Saturday, but it was actually held on Friday and by the time we realized that, it was too late. But, we made up for it in Grand Junction… We got the most incredible local cherries we’ve ever had there. So delicious…. It always shocks us how much better the fruits are at these local spots than what you get in the grocery stores now. I can’t remember the last time I had a grocery store tomato that actually tasted like a tomato. So disappointing.
Anyway, you and me both on the strange noises… it really threw our plans for a loop, but spoiler alert, while it screwed up our plans, it wasn’t the catastrophe we thought it might be… Phew! The bug invasion on the other hand…. Ugh….
Haha – I once started a post with the very same Dickens opening. Glad the beginning of your time in Colorado was wonderful. I look forward to hearing the rest of the tale.
That quote has come to mind more than a few times since we started living in the RV… I think it’s all just part of the balance we are constantly seeking as we travel. One day, everything is awesome, and the next we wonder what the hell we were thinking when we decided to move into a tin can on wheels. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure. 🙂
I just moved to Denver and am excitedly collection hiking recommendations so pretty much this entire post is going on my list! I’ve heard Telluride is a pretty neat place. Sorry to hear about your car trouble, though.
Thanks! The biggest bummer of our entire visit was that we didn’t get to hike more of these places. There are tons of incredible trails in this area and we were so excited to check them out, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully we’ll be able to return some day. In the meantime, living in Denver you’ll pretty much be in hiking heaven all the time!!
Pretty much! If you’re ever back in the area and looking for a couple hiking buddies, let me know!
What a stunning start to your time in CO. Too bad it sounds like it isn’t going to end that way! I’m with you, real estate there is a bit out of my range.
Yup, all our plans went right out the window, but things have gotten better now, so we’ll just add these places to our list of return stops and hope for better luck next time!
Absolutely gorgeous, picture postcard perfect scenery. You worked hard for those views on the Blue Lake Hike! We’ve spent very little time in Colorado, and it’s on our list—including Ridgeway and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. But I couldn’t relax while reading your post because I was worrying about the disasters lurking right around the corner! The suspense is awful. 🙁 I’m glad you had such a great time before things went downhill.
Haha! Don’t worry… in the great collection of Kevin and Laura disasters, these were pretty mild. They were just disappointing because things got off to such a great start, but really, if no one ended up in a hospital, it’s still a success story! You guys would LOVE the Telluride Bluegrass festival. Hell, I don’t particularly know anything about bluegrass music, but even I could tell the performers were top rate, the fans were really into the music, and the whole town just had a fun vibe for it. It’s obviously a huge event and everyone was really happy to be there. And, before or after the music, there are tons of incredible trails to hike, excellent food options, and a beautiful state park campground. I would definitely put it high on your list!
I have alway said like is made up of peanuts and shells, glad you got to enjoy the peanuts before chomping down on shells…we will be in the Durango and Silverton area in August. Hope you got to see the veil falls near Telluride, they are spectacular
Peanuts and shells… yup, sounds about right. The falls are some of the many things we did not get to see… along with the Million Dollar Highway and Silverton… Though Silverton was questionable for us anyway because of the fires. They were closing down roads and I’m not 100% sure we would have headed down there anyway. Hopefully they’ll have everything under control by the time you get there in August. It’s certainly been a rough season for them and they could use some tourists coming in and spending money.
Oh Oh, now I know why you were so quiet for some time, which I even mentioned to Steve that I have not seen your Co blog yet. I hope that disaster is already behind you.
Anyhow, I’m salivating with your recent hike and would love to follow your trail in Fall. Yup those turquoise lake is beautiful and I think and can hear you huffing and puffin for we just had similar one a few weeks ago. Your phone can only take good pictures with your thumb and eyes directing it. Only Steve had been to this part of CO so am glad you have given me a preview when we get there in October.
Haha, yup, I missed a week of blogging because we were busy running all over the place trying to re-work our plans. We’re in Idaho now and things have settled down, so that’s great, but I now have to catch my blog up again. I love it, but sometimes it can feel like a job. I can see why people need a break at times, but then they get behind and it’s even more work to catch up.
Anyway, yes, you and Steve would love the Blue Lakes Trail. It’s right up your alley. And there were a bunch more I found on Alltrails that we were going to do, but we had to skip. I have no doubt you will absolutely adore this area.
Glad you got to enjoy some of the beauty of CO before it goes downhill. We love hiking in the CO mountains, thanks for reminding us why we’ll be back in a few years, hopefully when it’s not so dry.
Yeah, I think when we come back, we’ll make a point of coming in the fall. I have a feeling hot and dry summers are going to be pretty much the norm for this area for the next several years and the wildfires are pretty scary. Plus, given the number of Aspen trees in these mountains, I can only imagine how gorgeous it is when they turn bright yellow. Should be an incredible sight to see.
Wonderful pictures and amazing scenery…we have spent several weeks in Montrose ( just down the highway from Ridgeway, Ouray and Telluride) and enjoyed every second, but Gunnison is our most favorite CO place to be so far. We have always gone in July and had perfect weather and beautiful wildflowers. Glad to read things have settled down for you.
Thank you! We actually headed to Montrose after our visit to Ridgway and spent a couple days there. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was very cool – we actually visited twice – but the heat was pretty bad. I’d love to go back in the spring or fall and hike some more of the trails. We did not get to the town of Gunnison, though we have heard good things about it. There’s a LOT of Colorado that we will have to see on a return trip!
Wow…beautiful scenery! Curious about the dread that is coming next post! After reading your post, and Ingrid’s, MonaLisa, & Dave & Faye’s, we are drooling at the beautiful mountains & lakes. We are in a beautiful Oceanside Campground, but after 3 months, ready to turn in the flip flops for hiking boots! And the humidity is a killer! Love the quote.
Yup, I can totally see that! After our time in the desert, we were dying to get into the mountains. And I expect after several months in the mountains, we’ll be dying to get to the beach. 🙂 I will say, as much as we are tired of the oppressive heat out here, we are happy to not be dealing with much humidity. Since we got into Idaho, we’ve noticed a slight uptick in it, but it’s really not bad considering what most of the east is like this time of year. We don’t miss that craziness at all! Anyway, try to stay cool!
Some amazing pictures Laura. I really hope we are able to tour that area some day!
I hope so too! It’s really gorgeous!
Colorado can be a fickle lady like that. (Okay, I guess every state can be that way). Was so awesome to get to enjoy the good times with you guys though. Hope Idaho is treating you better!
Fickle. That is a GOOD word to describe this. SO Fickle!
Anyway, yes… I am very happy that we got to hang out with you guys. The fun part of our trip to this Land-of-Fickleness was very fun, indeed!
So beautiful! I want to live there — in the summer anyway. I’m afraid to hear what happened to you in part 2.
Haha – I agree. While I have no doubt it is very beautiful, I have no desire to see the Colorado mountains during winter in person. I’ll happily look at photos of it while I sit in a nice, warm, sunny place – thank you very much!
Saving this as an itinerary for the area! Now: where’s part 2? 😉
It’s coming, it’s coming… Jeez! No patience…. 🙂
One of the many joys of life on the road is the constant changing scenery. Spending time in the mountains is a nice break especially with those beautiful lakes. Love those colors:) You found a great hike! Don’t you love it when you hit on those unexpected pleasures. The concert sounds awesome. We don’t like those metallic sounds in either vehicle ever! Hope all is well. Looking forward to part two!
Yes, all seems to be going well these days which is a relief! Part II is coming soon, but first, we have a LOT of hiking to do in Yellowstone! I’ve been reviewing your posts from when you were in this area. We’re looking forward to it. If all goes well, we’ll find some more gems like the Blue Lakes Trail… you are right: those unexpected finds are the best!
Ahh for The Blue Lakes Trail. Everything about it is so beautiful. I love the Rocky Mountains. Ugh for the picture of the crowd. It’s a reminder why we love our RV lifestyle, we could get away from the crowd when we want to.