July 7, 2016 Ridgeway State Park, Colorado

Heading North on Route 145
Heading North on Route 145

On to Ridgway and the Million Dollar Highway

The image above was taken along Route 145 as I headed north and upward towards Telluride, Colorado on July 6th. After doing some extensive research on whether or not to drive Route 550, the Million Dollar Highway, from Durango to Ridgway, I chose to take the slightly longer, safer ( read chickened out ), route staying on Route 160 west through Durango, then picking up Route 145 near Cortez, then north on Route 62 at Placerville, joining Route 550 at Ridgway, and then a few miles north on Route 550 to the Ridgway State Park where I have reservations for a two week stay.

Route 145 north through the mountains is a pretty decent road that makes a very long, gradual climb before a short steep ascent to Lizard Head Pass, elevation 10, 222′, and a steep decent to Telluride. It was touted as an easier route through the mountains than Route 550 and I would have to agree. I had no trouble at any point along this road and would do it again in a heartbeat.

I arrived at the State Park in the early afternoon with temps in the mid to high 80’s and found my  reserved site unusable, just way too severely sloped. What would have been a disaster was averted by some very nice, accommodating volunteer hosts and a park ranger who turned a potentially awful situation into a pleasantly resolved one. More on that in the next post along with some images of the campground in the next post.

Looking Down on Ouray
Looking Down on Ouray

The Million Dollar Highway

View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road

At the crack of dawn Thursday, I loaded my photo gear, and Sam, into the Prius and headed back south down Route 550 to see if there were any million dollar views along the Million Dollar Highway.

( I have included all the images in this post in a gallery, located at the end of this post, where you can see larger images and view them as a slideshow, if you like.)

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View Along the Million Dollar Highway
View Along the Million Dollar Highway

Turns out, there are ! Quite a few indeed. WOW ! I have never been here before and I will say, I am REALLY impressed with this country.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway

Of course, ideal conditions, a blue sky day with temps around 70 ( once I climbed to above 8000′ ) didn’t hurt.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway

Heading south and climbing to an elevation of 11,118″ at Red Mountain Pass, I was really glad I chickened out and did not decide to take this road in the motorhome towing the Prius. That said, a lot of other folks obviously feel otherwise as I passed several motorhomes with toads, along with 5th wheels and some travel trailers. There also were a few tractor trailers poking along the highway, but not all that many. What did amaze me were the number of cars , not quite traffic jam numbers but a whole lot more traffic than I anticipated on a highway with such a fearsome reputation.

Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway
Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway
Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway
Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway

There is just SO much to see along this road, it is going to take a few trips to even begin to take it all in. And since I am spending all my time rubbernecking along the way, this highway may well be the end of me since there are countless opportunities to go off the edge of the road, and straight down hundreds of feet, no guardrails along much of the way, At one spot I stopped to take a few shots, I could see the remains of three different vehicle several hundred feet below.

View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road

I took only one side trip off the highway today, out South Mineral Road to check out the campgrounds, and designated camping areas, located along the road. If I ever worked up the courage to take the motorhome up into these mountains, the camping along this road would well be the reason why.

Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction

I passed this bicyclist heading up to Red Mountain Pass and just after doing so saw these two deer on the side of the road, so I did a quick u-turn and waited off the road to see what their reaction would be to the guy on the bike as he approached them. Thought I might get something interesting, but as luck would have it,  some jackass on his roaring Harley ( one of many, way too many, on this road today ), came through in the opposite direction and just had to rev it up as he passed the deer, scaring them off just before the bicyclist got to them. I will never understand the mentality of these idiots, destroying so much in their wake, I guess just to draw attention to themselves, pretty pathetic.

Waiting Alone
Waiting Alone

And speaking of pathetic, here is lonesome Sam, waiting for the photographer to return to the Prius after shooting something along the way. I guess it’s going to take some more time before she gets over our loss … she hasn’t touched her food bowl in going on three days now, and is just seriously depressed. She is getting a lot of attention now with no competition, so I’m sure she will come out of it sooner or later. This is the first time in her ten years that she has been alone, so it is a new experience for her.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway

The area around Red Mountain is simply spectacular, I’ll just let the images show you what I mean.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
Looking Down on Silverton
Looking Down on Silverton

South of Red Mountain Pass is the town of Silverton, seen here from an overlook a little farther south of the town itself. Note the Railroad train coming into town in the lower right.

Million Dollar Highway Image Gallery

Click on the first ( or any other ) image to see larger versions of the images in this post.

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September 15, Stewart, B.C.

Fishing Fish Creek
Fishing Fish Creek

Another Trip in to Fish Creek and Salmon Glacier

Up and out very early and made the 35 mile drive in to Stewart/Hyder while it was still dark. My game plan was to try and get up the Salmon Glacier Road in time to catch some early morning light, and hopefully some blue skies.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Salmon Glacier
Salmon Glacier

As the Prius climbed up the road, I could see some pretty heavy cloud cover moving in and it looked like I wasn’t going to get my early morning shots.

Salmon Glacier
Salmon Glacier

I did manage to snap a few shots before the blue sky disappeared completely …

Clouds Moving in on Salmon Glacier
Clouds Moving in on Salmon Glacier

… but it didn’t take long before the clouds were only allowing shafts of sunlight through. No sense in wasting the long trip up here so, since the cloudy conditions were conducive to shooting a couple of the small  waterfalls up here, I turned my camera around to concentrate on the uphill side of the road and slowly headed back down the mountain.

Waterfall Above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall Above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier

You’ll have to forgive my fixation with this type of waterfall shot …

Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier

… but i just have this thing about a single rock fixed in the center of a waterfall.

Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
Waterfall above Salmon Glacier
A Little Autumn color
A Little Autumn color

A little local color and then on down to …

Fish Creek Bear Observation Site

Fish Creek Bear Observation Deck
Fish Creek Bear Observation Deck

A view of the platform above Fish Creek on this gloomy day. I wandered along the platform for about two hours patiently waiting in the drizzle and rain for a bear to show up. There were only a few other hardy ( foolhardy? ) souls here today who risked getting wet for an opportunity to see some bears in action.

Chum Salmon Spawning
Chum Salmon Spawning

There are still quite a few, a little worse for wear, chum salmon spawning in Fish Creek. One of the rangers here told me that this season has seen the best chum salmon run in nine years. The female fish ( on her side in the image above ) is fanning out a spot in the gravel, with her tail, where she will deposit her eggs. The male, the darker fish behind her, will then fertilize the eggs.

A Sign That Bears Are Around
A Sign That Bears Are Around

Salmon remains on the bank of the stream indicate that there are still bears in the area that are coming in here to feed.

Fishing Fish Creek
Fishing Fish Creek

And finally, on my third trip in here, this handsome fellow comes wading down the stream to try his luck!

Fishing Fish Creek
Fishing Fish Creek
Fishing Fish Creek
Fishing Fish Creek
Fishing Fish Creek
Fishing Fish Creek

Kind of a thrill to be this close to one of these beautiful animals. This guy is almost directly below me, only about 20 feet from where I am standing on the deck above.

I just happened to stumble on this blogger’s post on Fish Creek and was a little surprised to see what she was lucky enough to run into when visiting the site, click: here to check it out.

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September 13, 2015 Stewart, B.C.

Just One of Those Days!
Just One of Those Days!

Just a Spectacular Day !

This part of the world certainly has it’s fair share of gloomy, damp weather, and my trip through the region has experienced more dark days than sunny ones, to be sure.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Meziadin Provincial Park Campsite
Meziadin Provincial Park Campsite

But as I left my campsite at Meziadin Provincial park this morning …

On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart

… on the 35 mile trip down Route 37A to the small coastal towns of Stewart and Hyder, it became quickly apparent that today was going to be one of those blue sky days that leaves an indelible mark on your memory.

On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart

Route 37A weaves it’s way down through the coastal mountains along a glacier fed stream that parallels the highway and those jagged mountains rise rapidly above the stream and loom over the road.

On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart

The autumn colors, the golds of the aspens and birches and the reds and oranges of the shrubs and ground cover, certainly add to the spectacular scenery.

On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart

Hidden above the steep mountains that tower over the valley are extensive glaciers that every now and then reveal themselves as their toes dip down to the valley they carved out below.

On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart

Glacier fed waterfalls from the ice fields far above tumble to the river below as you approach the small town of Stewart, British Columbia.

Along the Road to Stewart
Along the Road to Stewart

The image above reveals only above one quarter of the height of this waterfall …

On the Road to Stewart
On the Road to Stewart

… somewhere way up there lies an enormous ice field, an example of which I shall find later in the day.

Salmon Glacier

Initially, way back before the disasters on the Top of the World Highway, I had planned to be here in Hyder the last week of August for the final chum salmon run on Fish Creek to get a chance at some grizzlies enjoying that last run of the season.

Muddy Toe of Salmon Glacier
Muddy Toe of Salmon Glacier

Even though I most likely had now missed that salmon run, I still wanted to come down here to once again experience the climb up the Salmon Glacier Road, a drive I did 22 years ago in my old Class C motorhome.

Camping Above Salmon Glacier, 1993
Camping Above Salmon Glacier, 1993
Half Way Up the Salmon Glacier Road
Half Way Up the Salmon Glacier Road
Salmon Glacier
Salmon Glacier
Salmon Glacier
Salmon Glacier

The view at the top was every bit as wonderful as I remembered, perhaps even more so on this gorgeous day.

Above Salmon Glacier
Above Salmon Glacier

And when you turned around, the autumn colors of the upper slopes of the mountain just added to the wonder of this very special place.

Above Salmon Glacier
Above Salmon Glacier
Above Salmon Glacier
Above Salmon Glacier

WHAT A DAY ! Kind of makes up for missing the bears and the salmon run, but I think I will check out Fish Creek anyhow tomorrow, just in case there happen to be some stragglers still around.

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July 19, 2015 Wasilla, Alaska

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow
Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

A Gorgeous Day at Hatcher Pass

Yesterday I left Anchorage and travelled a short way north to Wasilla and set up in the Walmart parking lot. I am truly experiencing a real wilderness adventure the past week or so, boondocking first in Cabella’s parking lot and now at Walmart, but the truth of the matter is that I have yet to find a decent private campground in my Alaska travels. All have you packed in like sardines and seem very much overpriced for what they offer.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Three Rocks
Three Rocks

With nice weather predicted for today I was out and about before 7 AM and drove out the Wasilla-Fishhook Road heading for the Hatcher Pass. The Little Susitna River parallels the road as you gain elevation on the way up to the pass, so I had to stop for a few river shots.

Little Susitna River
Little Susitna River
Little Susitna River
Little Susitna River

The easily climbed paved road up to the State Historical Park at Hatcher Pass provides several great vantage points for photos as well as a couple of primitive campgrounds that would handle mid-sized rigs.

Hatcher Pass Mine State Historical Park
Hatcher Pass Mine State Historical Park

There are a few restored buildings at the State Park and some old mining facilities that have definitely suffered from years of abandonment.

Old Mine Works
Old Mine Works
Alaska Marmot Catching His Morning Rays
Alaska Marmot Catching His Morning Rays

There also was this Alaskan Marmot warming himself up in the early morning sun.

Alaska Marmot
Alaska Marmot

He appeared pretty used to human presence but kept a close eye on this photographer as I was capturing his image.

Hatcher Pass Road
Hatcher Pass Road

Hatcher Pass

Just before you reach the State Park, there is a gravel road that takes off to the left and heads up to Hatcher Pass itself. This is a little narrow and steep in a couple spots, and although it probably could be done in the motorhome, i wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Hatcher Pass
Hatcher Pass

The road climbs for a half mile or so to a small parking area at the very top where you can walk out a footpath for some pretty dramatic views of the valley below where the road then takes you eventually to Willow.

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds
Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

Some of the high meadows up here have this weird mounded texture. These mounds are about a yard wide and rise up about a foot or so in the center and are covered in moss.

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds
Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

I have no idea how or why these exist, and can’t say as I have ever encountered anything like them before.

Hatcher Pass
Hatcher Pass

At times today, I literally did have my head in the clouds.

Hatcher Pass View From the Top
Hatcher Pass View From the Top
Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow
Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

As you can see, you are well above treeline up here and the air is crisp and clean, the distant view just simply spectacular.

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow
Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

The narrow gravel road, in relatively good shape, leads you down from the pass and to the town of Willow, about thirty miles away.

Mine Tailings
Mine Tailings

Along the road there are a few active mining operations as well as some abandoned ventures.

Sounding the Alarm
Sounding the Alarm

All along this road, especially at the higher elevations, were these ground squirrels, some of whom were a little wary of me …

The Lookout
The Lookout

…and some that probably had discovered that some people will throw them some little treats if they look cute and approach your vehicle.

Ground Squirrel Portrait
Ground Squirrel Portrait

This guy was one of the latter.

All along this road, I was constantly scanning the meadows and mountain slopes looking for wildlife. I was sure I would have to see some sheep or bears somewhere along the way, but I never saw anything, even though I stopped every mile or so and glasssed all the slopes. Perhaps the weekend warriors scared evrything off? It just looks like there would have to be wildlife up here.

Descending to Treeline
Descending to Treeline

The road eventually descends back below treeline, where you start to encounter fireweed once again.

Road to Willow
Road to Willow
Roadside Fireweed
Roadside Fireweed

This was close to a ninety mile round trip and it took me about six hours to make it around with all the stops for photographs. The Willow side of the mountains appears to be a very popular spot for the local ATV crowd.  THere were several pulloffs for camping along that section of the road and on this Sunday afternoon, almost all of them were occupied by campers with ATV’s. The State Park land doesn’t allow ATV’s.

If you are ever in the Wasilla area and have some decent weather, this is a must do trip.

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