Monday, August 24, 2009

Colorado: August 22, 2009 4X4 Road to Clear Lake

A photo of the happy couple taken from the road today

Saturday morning we took the 4X4 road to Clear Lake. The road starts about a mile from our camp and with 12 switchbacks gains 2100 feet in 4 miles. It is a beautiful drive with fantastic views, and ends at a pretty lake.

Start of the road to clear lake

The first few switchbacks are in the trees, so no pictures here, except for the Ptarmigan we saw. She blends in to the grass well, doesn't she?

When we broke out of the trees we could see a little of the hillside we are climbing.

The switchbacks we will be taking are in the lower part of the picture, above, behind the trees, not the ones on the upper part. The upper part is an old mining trail and not wide enough for a car or truck

These are the switchbacks we will be driving.

Looking back down the switchbacks to valley below

Looking down into the valley, where we started.

Above the switchbacks, road to Clear Lake. The lake is in front of the peaks in the background.

Along the road we saw this cute Marmot

And a Pika

Pika’s typically live at altitudes above 10,000 feet in cold rocky areas like you saw in the pictures. They don’t hibernate in the winter so during the short summer they must harvest lots of grass & seeds and store them in their den for the long winter.

The road ends at Clear Lake surrounded on three sides by sharp ridges.

About half way up the talus slope in this picture, is a ledge with an old mine entrance

I just had to see what was there. I told Sharon it shouldn’t take more than about 30 minutes to hike up and back the 300 yards with an elevation gain of probably 100 feet. Oops! I forgot I was starting the short hike at 11,900’ and ending about 12,000’. It took about 45-50 minutes. I did a lot huffing and puffing and stopping to catch my breath on the way up.

Looking back to the parking area from mine entrance

Approaching mine entrance

Entrance, closed by a dust covered snow bank. There also is a wire mesh screen blocking the entrance too. Not that I would venture inside. At least not more than 10-20 feet if I could, or not! Just don't tell Sharon.

Looking inside the mine. To take this picture I stuck my hand with the camera through a small hole in the entrance.

Some pretty flowers I saw on the way up to the mine

On the drive down from Clear Lake we saw this beautiful rock strata on the wall across the valley.

That’s all for now.

Until later,

Al & Sharon

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Colorado: August 21, 2009 4X4 road across Ophir Pass

Since we arrived here Wednesday we have had absolutely beautiful weather. Clear blue skies with afternoon temps in the upper 70’s to low 80’s and the mornings right at freezing.

Thursday was a day of rest. Sharon’s back was more uncomfortable than usual. We did drive into Silverton and look around the area a bit. It hasn’t changed much since we were here back in the mid 1990’s.
The town of Silverton from the overlook

This pretty rock cliff is visible from our camp.

The Silverton & Ouray (pronounced U-Ray) area is noted for the hundreds of miles of back country and 4X4 roads as well as hiking trails.

Friday we drove Ophir Pass road (CR8), a 10 mile gravel, dirt & rock road suitable for 2 wheel drive going up the east side up to the pass. Going up or down the west side is definitely 4 wheel drive.

Good gravel road on the east side

Two views of mountain valley from the road

The water coming from this spring gives new meaning to the term 'white water'. Usually the term applies to rapids in a river. The color of this water is actually white from some sort of mineral in the water. Most of the white you see in the picture is residue left from the mineral so it is not quite as white as it would appear. When you see the water running down the steam it is the color of skim milk.

In the valley there are these spruce trees blown down. It is hard to tell from the picture, but all the downed trees are pointing up hill. Must have been some intense micro burst from thunder storm to cause this.

A pretty meadow and mountain tops, near the top of the pass

At the pass

Road going down the west side

Looking up the road

The road cuts across this talus slope. It is a rough & rocky road. We drove down this road to about where it exits the picture and turned around. Since we could see the view down the valley, there wasn't much more to see by going all the way down the road. The only way back from the west side is back Ophir Pass road, or to drive 70 miles around to the north on a paved highway.

In the middle of the picture above, on the talus slope, below the road is the remains of what looks like a red pickup truck which went off the road.

In the same area is this camper cover, possibly from the red pickup.

Jeep coming down the road

We are following this Jeep down the road

We stopped at a wide spot in the road to admire the view

Pretty views of rocks and mountains above the road

That’s all for Ophir Pass.

Al & Sharon

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Colorado: August 19, 2009. Travel from Grand Junction to Silverton

Off to Silverton

To get there we need to drive over Red Mountain Pass at 11,120’. The climb to the pass starts in Ouray at 7780’ and climbs the 3340’ in about 12 miles. A beautiful drive, but a winding 2 lane road with steep drop offs. It was a fun, but challenging drive for me.

A few pictures of the drive to the pass:

Driving across the plains we see the mountains we are going to in the distance

In the valley ahead is Ouray. They call the town Little Switzerland because of the steep mountains which surround the town.

Sharon was nice enough to take these pictures while I was driving.

This what Sharon saw outside her side window. These are pictures Sharon took while we were driving, not stopped looking over the edge. She must be brave to look out the window!

When this sign said 10mph, it meant it!

On the way down the other side.

A few scenic views from the road across the pass

Our destination today is a boondocking area along South Mineral Creek about 5 miles NW of Silverton.

We are in a beautiful mountain valley at 9500 feet.

A couple of pictures of our camp.

We are in what the National Forests call a disbursed camping area. Generally in National Forests, disbursed camping is allowed along the Forest Service roads as long as you camp at least 50 yards off of the road. Since South Mineral Creek is such a popular area the NF set aside three areas designated as disbursed camping areas (free camping). Also at the end of the road we are on is a NF developed campground with assigned campsites, a campground host, and fresh water spigots scattered around the campgound. There is also a $20/night camping fee. However almost all the campsites in the campground are in the trees, so you can't see the pretty mountains and sky.

We prefer to stay in disbursed camping places. Usually we find peace and solituded and beautiful views. As noted above a lot of the developed campgrounds have a lot of trees.

When we arrived at South Mineral Creek on Wednesday, there were a few campers in the designated camping areas. As usual come Friday afternoon the weekend campers come in. Sunday morning, this is what our camping area looks like.

So much for peace and solitude! All the campers who came in are well behaved and are enjoying there weekend out in the cool mountains. Come this evening many of the weekenders will be gone. Many times come Sunday evening we are the only campers left and we are back to our peace and solitude.

Here is a 3D map of the valley we are in. The camp is at 9500' surrounded by 12 & 13 thousand foot peaks.

That's all for now. Until later,

Al & Sharon