Friday, June 26, 2015

Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado

June 14 - 21, 2015:

As we leave Matterhorn Campground it’s nothing but blue sky, it feels real good !  I slowly wind back down the long steep hill from Matterhorn to route 145.  We are backtracking a bit, something I don’t like to do, taking route 145 to route 62 to Ridgway, Colorado and then back onto route 550 to Ridgway State Park.    

I meet Twinkles at the town of Ridgway where we attach the tow bar to the jeep for the final few miles tow to Ridgway State Park.  This keeps us from paying the idiotic $7 a day extra vehicle charge at the State Park.  Also at most other state parks when you pay for a campsite, the daily use fee is waived, but not in Colorado. Paying the daily use fee brings the daily campsite fee up to $29 per night for an electric only site.  The good part is that Colorado has a reasonably priced annual camping permit at $70 that eliminates paying the daily use fee.  You need to stay at a Colorado State Park 10 days to break even and we expect to do that.  These State Campgrounds all have slightly different rules, it can be very confusing and the reservation systems are pretty terrible and add additional cost.  If we had reserved a campsite, paid a daily use fee and the extra vehicle fee it would be costing more than a nice full hookup private campground with all the amenities.  These things are no big deal for those vacationing, but when you are doing this full time, within a budget of sorts or possibly just being cheap (we are), you need to cut costs when possible.

I knew the town of Ridgway was small and would be very scenic but was surprised by the number of restaurants, shops, a museums, a theater and a brewery.  It’s another historic railroad town, where the Galloping Goose railcars were fabricated.  The volunteers have reconstructed a completely authentic and functional reconstruction of Galloping Goose number one.   Of course, they have a museum with lots of local railroad history.  I can’t seem to get away from the Colorado rail fan tour ?  There is much to do here, hopefully the weather will improve as we’re really tired of the rain.  The locals will not say anything bad about the rains as they have had drought conditions for the past few years.

Many old buildings in Ridgway

I just missed that show, it happens !

Interesting old fire department, now a sculpture studio

Galloping Ghost #1

And some old freight cars, a hundred feet of track
thats all that is left

I love their sign

A nice view

We are here mainly for the spectacular town of Ouray, so without delay we head there on Monday.  It did not disappoint, We did a partial hike on the “perimeter trail” which climbed steeply up the mountain side to the Cascades Waterfall.  As we started hiking the clouds rolled in and by the time we reached the waterfall we were in a light drizzle.  This cleared shortly and we the had lunch at the “grumpy old Man Saloon” which Twinkles insists I am fast becoming.  We then did a walking tour of the town and some shopping.  We were told not to miss the candy store and now we know why, it’s simply fabulous !  I am too cheap to buy the chocolates but the “scrap cookies” are really good.

Twinkles taking a break along the trail

The trail ahead has me a bit nervous

This is around the corner

As we wind back downhill it sure is pretty

Time for a cold beer

The views here are stunning !

One of the finest Hotels in Colorado in it's day

We spent some time on the upper patio of the brewery

Great details on this building

Love the paint scheme

No Walmart in this town !

Public Library is pretty special

Another great view

It was then about time for a jeep ride so we headed for Yankee Boy Basin which was a beautiful ride, but it’s early in the summer season and these roads are still under repair, barely open in places causing us to turn around a couple of miles short of the end.  In the first few miles, the road was wet and there was a sign saying that Calcium Chloride was being applied to the road.  We thought little of it as others were also driving on the road, until we noticed all this gooey gray slime being flung all over the side of the jeep from the tires.  It was caked on about an inch thick under the fender and wheel well areas and I latter had to spend about an hour at a car wash to get it off. I am staying off those roads from now on !

An imposing section of road to drive through ?

Roadside view

That's Twinkles on the road to add perspective

Just a general observation, everybody around here waves to you here, especially on back roads and I’ve noticed many vehicles with a rock placed behind the wheel on steep slopes.  

We headed to downtown Ridgway at 8:15 PM for their Tuesday night movie in the park series which I had seen advertised, but no one was there, no movie, no nothing !  It was supposed to be “The great Lubowski” and we were really looking forward to seeing it again.  So we instead went to the Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery for a beer.  Halfway through our beer, the bartender comes over and tells us it’s time for last call.  We didn’t want another, but sort of laughed about them closing at 9 PM.  I kind of wonder about their work ethic, they open up at 4 PM, have a good crowd, but push all the customers out at 9 PM, or is it a city ordinance ? The Colorado Boy Brewery has something special to draw a crowd, really good pizza and something called the “cowboy can”, it’s a 32 once can of draft beer that that they pour fresh and then with their special machine at the bar crimp at top onto it.  I gotta have one of them !

Another must see Ouray attraction is the Box Canyon Falls which were way better than we expected.  It is a 1/4 mile walk partially on a steel walkway secured to the side of the slot canyon that takes you to this wild crashing waterfall and then down stairs near the bottom of the gorge.  We then took a more difficult short hike up above the Falls that connect to the Perimeter trail which goes around Ouray.

The waterfall drops down between and behind the
rocks and is difficult to photograph

The noise and water spray are intense

Ouray was the home territory of the Ute tribe who were the predominant tribe in this San Juan Mountain area of Colorado.  They were removed, as the westerner’s say, when gold and Silver mining became a profitable endeavor.  The leader of the Ute’s during this time of conflict was Chief Ouray, who the town is now named after.  He was a chief who tried to keep the peace diplomatically, but virtually every treaty made was violated, his territory was taken away and they were put onto a tiny reservation, another sad story.  The site of a farm that the US Government gave to Chief Ouray to live on is now the Ute Indian Museum.  It gives the history of the Ute tribe and has a really great collection of photos and Ute indian items.  The museum is located in Montrose, Colorado about 20 miles from Ridgway.
Paintings of Chief Ouray and his wife Chepita

These are known as ledger drawings that were drawn
by Indians after they were moved to reservations

Actual items worn by "Buckskin Charlie"
another famous Ute chief after Ouray

Buckskin Charlie and his very attractive wife

The Ute's did some amazing bead work

Another general observation, the sun and the heat have returned this week, summer is here and all of a sudden it’s close to 90 degrees and we are about ready to jump in the lake at the campground to cool off. 

This area of Colorado is heaven for jeep and ATV enthusiasts, there are remote back roads going everywhere.  We go off on another one on Thursday to Owl Creek Pass.  It tops out at 10,022 feet elevation about 3,000 feet higher than the campground.  It’s an easy drive, some potholes and washboard, no water obstacles but lots of dust.  It takes you into the Uncompahgre National Forest over Owl Peak Pass with an up close view of Chimney Peak and is most scenic.

Chimney Peak is way more impressive that this photo

Another mountain view that was equally impressive

A beautiful meadow, scenes from the John Wayne movie True Grit
were filmed in this area
Ouray has a hugely impressive museum, the Ouray County Historical Museum, with twenty some rooms on area history, railroads, toll roads, mining, rocks, an old soda fountain, mail delivery, land surveying, the Ute indians, it goes on and on for twenty rooms.  The building was originally the Miners Hospital and most of the hospital equipment remains in the upstairs.

A photo of the old Ouray toll road gate

We found an upscale Hotel in Ridgway with the ” four corners cafe”, which has live music most nights during dining hours on their outside deck. It is in a beautiful setting, the food is better than average, but the music was not so inspiring, but pleasant.

View from the patio

We didn’t want to move to another more expensive campground over the Fathers Day weekend and this place was filling up fast with weekend reservations.  As a result, we make a reservation for the weekend here, while there were still openings.  This campground is a really popular park with boaters, fishermen and even has a small beach area.

Next week we have reservations for two nights at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, all we could get, but hopefully once there we can get into another first come first served campsite.  There are other back up options in the area as well.  

Next stop is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park,
Twinkles and Slick

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