Summer in Colorado off the Paved Highway

There is joy and wonder exploring landscapes that cannot be seen from the paved highway.

When I was young, my summers were spent in the backseat our family station wagon making a 60 MPH dash across the US.  My parents would alternate driving and make it to the porch of a distant relative within 24 hours.  The small towns, big cities, farmlands and perhaps a mountain or two would be a blur.

Fast forward about 65 years.  Our new “Beast” crawls at 5 to 15 MPH up,  down and over any and all obstacles.  The narrow rocky trails are uneven and filled with switchback turns.  When either of  us are the driver, all our attention is on the trail, especially when the wheels are just 6 inches from the edge of a shelf road on a cliff face trail.  One look away to admire the lush and wild landscape could possibly result in tumbling down a steep mountainside, something to be avoided at all costs.   Only the passenger can gawk at the wondrous landscape that is too big and vast to use words to describe.

We have captured peaks and valleys with snow on the ground in late August.  Just three weeks ago we descended from Engineer Pass surrounded by 14 foot walls of snow.  This trip, the snow in that same location has melted revealing fields of giant boulders and green meadows.  The wildflowers in their kaleidoscope colors cascade down the hillsides into the meadows.  The sky above us is so blue, it seems artificially saturated.

Rio Grande River

In our last post we chronicled our 9-hour, one-day adventure in the San Juan Mountains driving the Alpine Loop. Just this past week, we joined a smaller group of 5 jeeps and split the Alpine Loop into a two-day trip beginning in Ouray with an overnight in Lake City.   We aired down to 20 lbs. per tire and were on our way.

Golconda Bunkhouse

On the second morning, we set out for Stony Pass, which had just opened  and passed the point of origin for the Rio Grande River  where almost 3 million years ago, water draining from the snow fall began to carve its way south to the Gulf of Mexico.  Before crossing the Continental Divide, we drove to the Golconda Gold and Silver Mine, elevation 12.400 feet.   A conservation group has restored the Blacksmith and Boarding Houses. The original mine was swept away by an avalanche.  In 1920 a new camp was established.  We marveled at the ingenuity and determination the 100 men who worked this mine to transport everything, regardless of weather, to rebuild the camp. The Ingersoll Rand steam engine found in the Blacksmith House weighed just under a ton!

View to Yankee Girl Mine

Stony Pass proved to be a challenge but worth the effort.  Late in the afternoon, we reached Cunningham Gulch, turned south to follow the Animas River to Silverton and home on the Million Dollar Highway.

So many peaks, so little time…..we won’t be able to visit and compare all 58 peaks in the Colorado Rocky Mountains cresting over 14,000 feet.  However, we do believe the nature and beauty of The Rockies are not surpassed, even by the Alps in Switzerland, the Dolomites in Italy or Hvannadalshnjukur in Iceland.  Hopefully our photographs will depict a  landscape that is too big and vast for words to describe.

Aloha to our friends, Traci and John, who live on Maui north of Lahaina, in Kiehl.  They are safe; however, many on Maui are homeless and hungry.  Traci and John have shared the names of two local donation centers that are distributing much needed food directly to the community.  Here are the links to the Maui Food Bank or Maui Strong Fund

Until next time.

Alpine Loop Gallery 2
Alpine Loop Map
Rock Crawling (1)
Golconda Steam Engine (2)
Jeep Club
Iron Oxide River (1)
Rock Crawling (2)
Iron Oxide River (2)
Abandoned Mine (2)
Rock Crawling (4)
Alpine Loop (1)
Alpine Loop (2)
Golconda Interior (4)
Mineral Spring
View to Yankee Girl Mine
Golconda 6
View to Abandoned Mine
Golconda 5
Red Mountain at Yankee Girl Mine
The Beast
Golconda Bunk House
Engineer Pass (2)
Engineer Pass (1)
Alpine Loop Trail
Abandoned Mine (1)
Golconda Mine (1)
Continental Divide
Golconda Interior(3)
Engineer Pass
Alpine Loop (3)