July 30, 2017


“Nature is all the body of God we mortals will ever see.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Carol writes:  The awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado surely best symbolize the sentiment in the above quote by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Unquestionably, Colorado’s “purple mountain majesties” provide a marvelous peek into the mind of the Creator. 


We decided to park ourselves in a nifty KOA campground just outside the tiny little mountain town of Ouray, situated in the dramatic San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

KOA in Ouray

This KOA turned out to be a fun place to camp.  The KOA Creekside Cafe enticed us a couple of nights with a tasty home-cooked barbecue menu topped off with killer cobbler a la mode for dessert, along with live music for entertainment. 

Ouray, which lies in a relatively tiny valley surrounded by towering mountain cliffs on three sides,

was best seen from high above on the Ouray Perimeter Trail.  This spectacular geography gives Ouray the nickname “Switzerland of America.” 

Originally founded as a mining town, which changed its name several times, Ouray was eventually named in honor of Native American Ute leader Chief Ouray.


We found that Ouray was an excellent basecamp for a variety of interesting day trips; the most popular and famous was the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to scenic Silverton, Colorado.  The day we visited Silverton, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was doing a brisk business.

We passed on the train ride, since we had done that with Al’s parents many years ago.  We were content just to soak in the western ambience of the streets of Silverton.


and restaurants

made for unique western photographs.

And, of course, at over 9000 feet in elevation, Silverton provided two types of “Rocky Mountain high.”  We couldn’t resist a quick peek inside a business that displayed a green cross, the informal symbol of the medical marijuana industry.  For those of you who might wonder, we weren’t even tempted to buy any samples from jars. 

Off-roading and four-wheeling in all kinds of “buggies” was the chief form of entertainment for many of our fellow campers.  Every morning at the KOA we observed campers loading up a variety of four-wheel drive vehicles for a day of fun in the back country.  If your Jeep wasn’t filthy dirty by the end of the day, you weren’t having the right kind of fun!  


We decided to spend a day four-wheeling to Animas Forks, one of the best preserved ghost towns you will ever find in the Colorado mountains.  Our Jeep Trailhawk didn’t travel all that fast on these rocky back roads, but on the whole it did great on what was a very easy-rated trail.

Animas Forks was founded in the 1870s as a mining town deep in the heart of the San Juan Mountains during a time when there was a frenzied search for silver and gold.  Several of the town’s original historic buildings have been preserved, the most famous being the Duncan House, a Victorian beauty that retains many of its original architectural features.

Taking photos in the Duncan House looking out the Victorian bay window has always been a tourist favorite, and so it was with us on this 2017 visit… and likewise back in 2005 on our first visit.

2005 visit to Animas Forks

2017 visit to Animas Fork
It was interesting comparing a photo of Al taken 12 years ago on the front porch of another building.

2005 visit to Animas Fork

2017 visit to Animas Forks
Those early residents of Animas Forks certainly had a spectacular view looking back down the valley in this old photo from 1905.  

The present-day view was equally sensational.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the original residents of Animas Forks admired dazzling views out of their windows as much as we would today…

The historic buildings made for irresistible photographs, always searching for that one shot that was perfect in every way.


We took some interesting hikes locally in Ridgway, a little town just up the road from Ouray.  One of Ridgway’s most famous residents was Dennis Weaver

of Gunsmoke and McCloud television fame.  In Dennis Weaver’s memory, the Weaver family has donated 170 acres of land to the town of Ridgway.  This gift of land is now known as Dennis Weaver Memorial Park.  Adding to the spirituality of the memorial site, in addition to  numerous rock cairns, was a 40-ft bronze eagle with a summer solstice astrological alignment to the rising sun over the eagle’s left wing.


The walk along the Uncompahgre River in Ridgway

provided superb views of the distant Mount Sneffels wilderness area.

A day hike in Ridgway State Park, one of the nicest and most popular of Colorado’s state parks, revealed more sensational views of fourteener Mount Sneffels in the background,

along with the most recognizable silhouette of the Cimarrons.  


We planned a day in Telluride as one of our more ambitious day trips.  As a scenic alternate route from Ridgway to Telluride, we decided to go by way of a four-wheel dirt road called Last Dollar Road. 

The scenery was awesome and our plan was working out just perfectly until we met the unexpected.     
A 3-foot-deep mud hole that spanned the entire single track proved to be a deal breaker. 

Keeping in mind the tow bar on the front of our Jeep, we didn’t want to take the chance of getting stuck, and so we turned around and went back to the paved route. 

Telluride was just as picturesque as we had remembered from a previous trip.  Since our last visit, the development above the town has expanded as a favored locale of the rich and famous, with 7-figure mountain mansions and ski condos in the hills high above town. 

We took the free gondola 

up to the Mountain Village ski area,

simply for enjoyment of the sensational views of Telluride below, nestled perfectly in a stunning mountain terrain.


We had heard from the locals that of all the hikes in the Ouray area, the most popular was the hike to the Blue Lakes in the foothills of 14,150 ft. Mount Sneffels.

Al informed me that the Blue Lakes trail would climb 1500 ft over 3.3 miles up to an elevation of 11,000 ft, so I knew I was in for a challenging hike.  For me, it was a demanding climb; however, the thrill at the top was worth every step!

The lake really was blue, a turquoise blue like none we had ever seen before, with an incredibly green north-facing slope and stark snow-filled crevices to the east.

Thanks to a generous snowfall last winter, the wildflower bloom around the lake was out of this world… simply heavenly!  Delicate columbines and lupines

were at their peak, along with a copious variety of wildflowers

that I couldn’t even begin to identify.  In all the years of hiking Colorado’s fourteeners, Al had never seen a high-altitude wildflower display as grand as the one at Blue Lake.


The natural scenery in the San Juan Mountains certainly could be considered some of the Creator’s best work.  Woven throughout local lore is the fact that this area provided many incredible filming locations for the John Wayne western True Grit, the only movie for which John Wayne received an Academy Award. 

We sure enjoyed our 11 days in True Grit country.  Some evening real soon we should look that movie up on Netflix so we can savor the story and its setting in the San Juan Mountains all over again.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.”  John Muir

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