Colorado Road Trip (July 2019)
Sally and David took a road trip driving from Bellevue to Colorado, spending about 4 weeks on the road. The idea to explore Colorado, and other places in between while driving there. We did as little planning as possible. The original plan was to leave Bellevue on July 7, but due to need to be back on the 28th for a memorial service, we changed our plan at the last minute - to leave July 1. That resulted in some planning ahead because of the July 4 weekend.
Boise Idaho July 1-2
We stayed at Meridian near Boise and visited the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. The conservation area is named after Morley Nelson who invented a way to string the powerlines to prevent accidental electric execution of birds.
(R) Pelicans - Trueblood Wildlife Area
Salt Lake City July 3-4
Dinosaur National Monument July 5
Colorado National Monument July 6
This National Monument has red sandstone cliffs and canyons. It is sort of a mini-Grand Canyon. We had a nice and quiet campsite. But after one night, we were driven away by the black flies and head to the next stop.
Mesa Verde National Park July 7-8
Mesa Verde National Park is known for its pueblo people cliff dwelling which were occupied between 400 and 1200 AD. They left this area gradually around 1200 AD probably due to a draught.
We were able to get a nice shady campsite. To avoid the afternoon heat, we went for an early morning hike on the South Loop, Prater Ridge Trail. The trail goes up on a mesa with some rock cliffs, views over campground and across the valley. We saw lots of birds.
In the afternoon, we went to the Long House tour which involves driving one and a half mile to the end of the park. The next morning we went on two tours: the Balconey House and the Cliff Palace.
Durango July 9-11
We drove 1.5 hours to Durango. We did not see much of Durango since Sally had some gastrointestinal problems and stayed mostly in the hotel the next day.
The next morning we took the narrow gauge railway from Durango to Silverton. It goes through the narrow gorge along the Animas River which was full to overflowing. The gorge was pretty, but the scenes of rock faces, trees and river pretty repetitive over the 2.5 hr journey. We had a 2.5 hours of layover before the return train journal. The town was full of tourists from the train and cars crowding the restaurants and tourist shops. We were underwhelmed by this railway trip. It was much less dramatic as we expected.
Ouray July 12We drove about an hour to Ouray and hiked the Chief Ouray Mine Trail to an abandoned mine. While it is relatively short of 4 miles round trip, itt was stenuous as it goes from 8000 ft to over 10000 ft. We reached a steep waterfall in the heights where the trail had leveled out. It was scary because the water was coming down forcefully and the only safe way across was on one dry fallen 1 inch diameter tree trunk stretched across about 7 ft of stream. The trunk is lLong enough that you had to step firmly on the log at least 2 steps to cross. With our stabilizing hiking poles, it was possible. At first we considered turning back, but upon further examination it did not look too bad. So we went ahead.
The mine bunkhouse was a tattered tin corrugated building, with broken iron beds and a single, gutted, ghostly iron stove. Graffiti were on every square inch of wooden wall. We walked through this building to continue on the trail to the mine building. David went in and found old equipment inside. We wondered if they crushed rocks there and chute it somehow down the steep cliff wall to the valley bottom.
July 13In the next few, we started to make our way towards Houlder to visit Sally's cousin. Before heading out, we visited the Box Canyon near Ouray. Water shoots down this rocky narrow canyon. We hiked down the nature trail part of which is a metal broadwalk. We saw a mama Black Swift sitting on nest right on the cliff wall. A ranger confirmed that it was a swift which has a wingspan of 18 inches.
In the afternoon, we drove north to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
We drove south along Route 114 looking for a place to hike the Continental Divide.
We found a CDT trailhead in pretty country of rolling hills and meadows and cattle.
However we didn't stop as we did not feel the height and drama of the Rocky Mountains that we sought.
We wind up staying in the Buffalo Pass campground along 114.