The latter was selected, but of course it involved climbing a mountain pass, the Dallas Divide, which comes in at 8983’ (2738m). From there it was a coast down into the town of Ridgway at around 7000’. In case there were more passes ahead, it was decided to fill up the diesel tank . And the day was still young, so after a bit of wi-fi at Panny’s Pizza, we headed south again into Ouray. I’m not sure whose blog it was, but I saw photos of this area not that long ago and knew it was not to be missed.
The city was incorporated in 1876, and named after Chief Ouray of the Utes. At it’s peak, it boasted 30 active mines.
The weather was good and there was still plenty of daylight, so all cats and drivers assumed their places for the big climb. Flashing signs indicated there might be ice on the road, so better get going while the going was good.
While there are a couple of guardrails at the viewpoint just above the downtown to keep wayward vehicles from falling down on the houses, once you get on the highway, known as the Million Dollar road – there are none. And it’s not that they don’t need some, it’s just that they are hard to install in thin air! Most of the drop-offs are hundreds of feet. I’d be queasy being a passenger along here.
Some places the white line has fallen into a canyon. Definitely not a place to get distracted or careless. (Hailey took the photos)
Near the summit, there is lots of evidence of the historic mining activity everywhere.
Once again we coasted down into Silverton, which is still well over 9 thousand feet, and it seemed wise to head for a lower elevation spot for the night to find a slightly warmer climate. I had thought we were headed all downhill from here into Durango, but I was quite wrong, and glad to have filled the tank when in Ridgway.
Two more high passes were in wait for us. Molas pass was 10,910 and Cool Bank pass was only (!) 10,640. Fortunately, the roads were bare all the way. From there it was all downhill into Durango, and no inviting camp spots were seen along the way, made more difficult by increasing traffic as we found ourselves in the midst of rush hour. With daylight fading, out came the maps and a snap decision was made to head back west, aiming for Cortez. Luckily, it wasn’t too far west before the traffic moderated and we took the first national forest road we came across, and ended up at aptly named Snowslide campground, just past the community of Mayday.
Of course, this is all high country, and it was already below the freeze mark as we pulled in for the night. No wonder as we were still over 8800!