July 19, 2016 Ridgeway State Park, Colorado

Black Sky
Black Sky

A Little Rain, a Little Drama Along the Million Dollar Highway

Dark Sky
Dark Sky

Well, yesterday we finally saw some of the dramatic afternoon storms I had been told of. So, hoping to get something a little exciting, like a lightning streaked sky against a mountain backdrop, I set out for the top of the Million Dollar Highway to see what I might see.

Dark Sky
Dark Sky

The dark threatening skies allowed the setting sun to peak through every now and then illuminating the peaks of some of the colorful mountaintops around Red Mountain Pass.

Red Mountain Rainbow
Red Mountain Rainbow

Then it got a little weird, and threatening. The skies were suddenly glowing with this strange yellow cast and thunder was cracking all around, though I never saw any lightning.

Red Mountain Rainbow
Red Mountain Rainbow

Now being around 8:30 PM, I headed back down the mountain for home, but had to stop as the skies opened up and rain blasted the windshield. As I passed Red Mountain, I could see the beginnings of a rainbow  above the peak. I pulled off the road and tried to position the car so I could take some shots through the open driver’s side window, shielded somewhat from the driving rain.

Red Mountain Rainbow
Red Mountain Rainbow

Not the best of conditions to get some rainbow shots, with little light and rain blowing sideways, but a very dramatic sight to see.

Tomorrow I break camp and leave Ridgway heading just a few miles farther north and east to around Cimarron, where I hope to explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and make the drive up to Crested Butte, the wildflower capital of Colorado, to see if I can locate some of those fields of wildflowers I have not been able to find as of yet.

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July 11, 2016 Ridgway, Colorado

Columbine
Columbine

Exploring Back Roads Searching for Wildflowers

The last couple of days I have been driving the dusty, washboarded back roads around Ridgway and off the Million Dollar Highway, searching for mountain meadows carpeted with wildflowers. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any.

Columbine on the Edge of the Woods
Columbine on the Edge of the Woods

Columbine is in bloom along several of these roads and I have found some small patches with several clusters of flowers, but nothing on a grand scale … yet.

Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove
Columbine
Columbine

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this single clump growing out of the sheer face of the road cut  along the Million Dollar Highway. It was hanging on about twenty feet up the sheer vertical face of the rock cut and with no shoulder on one side of the road ( just a straight drop down about 200 feet, no room for a guard rail ), and the rock wall just three feet from the fog line on the other side, the only way I could get the shot was setting my tripod up on the road, dodging in and out of traffic.

Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive
Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive

Caught in Yet Another Cattle Drive

Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive
Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive

This is getting to be a regular occurrence for me, I believe this is the fifth cattle drive I have gotten involved with in the past couple months.

Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive
Caught In Yet Another Cattle Drive

I’m getting to be an old hand at staring down these bovines.

A Young Cowboy
A Young Cowboy

And this is definitely the youngest cowboy I have photographed to date !

Approaching Red Mountain
Approaching Red Mountain

More Shots From Route 550 and Roads Outside Silverton

Approaching Red Mountain
Approaching Red Mountain
Along the Million Dollar Highway
Along the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
From Yankee Basin Road
From Yankee Basin Road
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton
Outside Silverton

Caught Up in My First Sheep Drive

Sheep Drive
Sheep Drive

I ran into three large and empty livestock carriers ( tractor trailers, 18 wheelers ) parked on the side of a narrow dusty road outside of Silverton and assumed I was going to run into yet another cattle drive, but when I rounded the next corner I encountered my initial “sheep drive “.

Sheep Drive Chaos
Sheep Drive Chaos

Several hundred sheep, one sheepdog, one guard dog, three shepherds on foot and another walking with a horse. At times the sheep were bouncing all around the place and the three shepherds were running like crazy trying not to have the herd breakup.

What made it really interesting was the fact that they were driving them down the road and one side of the road was a National Forest designated camping area, full of people and tents … and many of the sheep were running through the campsites and among campers and their tents as the men and the sheepdog attempted to get them back to the flock. I felt kind of sorry for the campers because the road and all the ground in the flocks’ path was now covered with sheep droppings, and several hundred sheep leave a lot of droppings.

Sheep Drive
Sheep Drive

Eventually the flock was driven off the road and up the side of the mountain.

Sheep Drive
Driving Them Up the Mountain

And the side of this mountain was very steep, probably a 30 degree slope or more and they were being pushed straight up by the shepherds. These guys had to be in some kind of great shape for this job since this location is about at 10,000′ elevation and they were driving the flock straight up the mountainside and it was a long way to the top. How they don’t lose individuals is beyond me.

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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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