Sunday, June 28, 2015

Shifting to Low Gear

The trip to Ouray from Durango was a long day of mountain driving - illustrated with unbelievably gorgeous scenery, but ending with three tired travelers by the time we got settled into our new accommodations.  We are spending a few days at a B&B on Main Street in Ouray where we have the entire second floor to ourselves with private front and back decks, a view overlooking the historic business district and a lovely couple as our hosts.

We were ready for a bit of a rest from travel and restaurants, so we decided we would pick up some snack material for a late picnic on the back deck after we had indulged ourselves with the first dip in the Ouray Hot Springs pool.  I was itchy to see what the shopping district looked like after the 20 year hiatus, so David and I ran to the local grocery for some snacks and then we all settled in for a brief lie down.

Ouray hasn't changed all that much, if you don't count the fact that the area is suffering from a beetle infestation that has killed a large portion of the white fir trees on the surrounding mountains.  The crowds are a little bigger and the shops have changed names here and there, but mostly it is still the quaint little town in a gorgeous valley.  The hot springs pool is a little more colorful, thanks to the addition of colorful, inflatable activity centers for the youngsters.  It was sheer heaven to slide my aching hip into the hot waters.  (As I feared, I have big purple bruises in 2 places on my hip from the knocks it took on the railing of the train car.  What I had not expected was the bruises on my upper rib cage where I had bumped against the higher hand railing.  Those I had not registered when they happened.  My first night of sleep in Ouray was fitful due to the fact that I would wake up every time I rolled over on my left side and those bruises would protest.)

We ended our day with a great little repast under the stars, sitting on the deck.  The moon was so bright we almost didn't need a light to eat by.

Morning brought a resurgence of energy and while my companions slept in a bit, I decided to take a walk around town.  Ouray is small enough that I was able to cover most of the business district and a bit of residential district in about 30 minutes.   It's a hilly walk, though - my Fitbit gave me credit for having climbed 6 staircases.   I have every intention of walking every morning for the remainder of the vacation.  After my morning exertion, I was glad to tuck into a wonderful breakfast provided by our hosts and participate in an enjoyable conversation as we all got to know each other.

Ouray is the place to go if your goal is jaw-dropping mountain scenery, so our itinerary for the day started with a drive up towards Yankee Boy Basin.  This is a drive I had never attempted in the past because it is designated high clearance 4-wheel drive and I'm not gutsy enough to attempt that kind of thing, but David had driven it several times in the past so I put my trust in him and we headed to some new territory for me.  Here's a sample of the road conditions we encountered:
A portion of the road leading to Yankee Boy Basin

No high profile vehicles allowed
I distracted myself from the road conditions by letting my eyes drink their fill of the views around each curve.  (The forest service was keeping an eye out on intrepid tourists and that helped, too.)
The view at the end of the road.  (It wasn't quite the end of the road,
but we hit a rough patch in the road at this point and our vehicle declined
to go any further.)

Still lots of snow on the peaks.

And lots of snow means lots of run-off, creating little burbling
creeks along the way.

An old abandoned mine still clings to the edge of the mountain.

Rushing waters in Canyon Creek.

The weather was picture perfect for mountain photography.

Canyon Creek 
After we crawled our way back down the mountain, we were ravenous so we headed back downtown to eat some tasty Mexican food at Buen Tiempo and to check out the shopping before heading back to the B&B for a brief rest.  
The street corners in Ouray are all dressed up with gorgeous hanging baskets of flowers
But it is hard to stay down long when you have the lure of mountains to draw you back outside.  We decided to make a late afternoon visit to the Box Canyon Falls, an attraction we make a point to see on each trip to Ouray.  This year we discovered that the recent overly generous rains have amplified the effect of the falls several times over the norm.  In fact, we could not go all the way down to the creekside this time - which meant we weren't able to recreate an old pose from the past with David gazing up into the falls, but that small disappointment was more than compensated for by the sight of the volume of raging waters pouring out of the rocks.
Box Canyon Falls
You can always depend on seeing chipmunks at Box Canyon Falls.  I love these little guys and would gladly adopt one if I could figure out how to get him home and keep him happy in Texas, although I fear Mojo would not approve and the cats would probably consider him a tasty treat.  So, alas, no chipmunks in my future.  I'll just have to come visit them every so often.
Mr. Chipmunk getting himself a drink of water.

A ground squirrel kept striking poses for the tourists.  They are a bit larger than
chipmunks and have a different striping pattern.

Chipmunks and a ground squirrel, feasting on sunflower seeds.
The day ended with another dip in the Hot Springs and picnic on the back deck (Karen made some great tuna salad for some satisfying sandwiches, followed by a dessert of honey candies from Honeyville.)  

Today the plan is a visit to Telluride and a return trip via the Last Dollar Road, which is the wildest backroad drive I ever personally made and will be a cake walk compared to the drive to Yankee Boy Basin.

Lots more scenery to go!


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