Silverton and Ouray, CO

After setting up camp on 7/585 just north of Silverton, CO on Oct 1st, Kelly and I spend the next day cooped up inside due to rain from the remnants of a hurricane that pushed ashore down in Baja. The morning after dawns bright and clear, this is reported to be the one good day of weather we’ll have while here.

October 3, Wednesday

Good morning world! I’m out of bed early to get photos of the Hiker in our camp spot, which is quite lovely. The creek running right by us is strangely colored though. Curiosity demands that I crouch down at the shore and stick my finger in the mud, which is the color of mustard. It must be due to minerals in the soil around here.

There’s no chance of any work getting done today. We need to play while the sun is shining. The first order is business is driving back along the Million Dollar Highway (550) north to Ouray, so I can actually see it this time. As I was able to gather from the crazy drive in the dark a couple days ago, there are some steep drop offs along this road!

There’s also some amazing mountain views, and great fall color – although it’s past peak now.

Once in Ouray, we hike a bit of the Perimeter Trail that surrounds the town. It’s a gorgeous day, partly cloudy and in the low 60’s. Good hiking weather.

At a high point we stop to turn around. Have you ever taken panoramas with friends, where you’re present for the start of the photo, then run out of the frame and jump back in at the end? This allows you to look like you’re in two places at once in the photo. It’s juvenile, but fun!

But wait, there’s more.

In the afternoon I have another first on the road – my first off-roading experience. Kelly tows her trailer with a Ford Raptor, a beast of a truck that was modified by the previous owner to have all sorts of bells and whistles. The thing is ridiculous. But most importantly, it’s 4×4. We drive back north of camp just a little ways and turn west onto a little dirt road called 679/630 on maps. It’s more commonly known as Ophir Pass road.

Kelly and her Raptor

The climb up to the pass from the east isn’t anything too special, even 2WD Bertha could have made it most of the way. We reach the pass at 11,789 feet and I think, that wasn’t so bad. Then I look down at the west side.

It’s gorgeous. We’re above the treeline and the west drops sharply off in a cascade of colorful loose rock to a valley of beautiful aspen below. But the road is definitely only one lane, over scree, and quite steep. And if you go off the edge? You’ll be falling for a while. We spot two piles of twisted debris at the bottom. Uhhhhh….

We wait at the wide spot at the top for a Jeep coming up the other direction, and as we start down, I’m hoping with all my might that nobody else is coming up behind them. As we creep down, I can see the loose rock shifting under the Raptor’s wide gait. It really looks like it should be a hiking trail to me.

But we make it down without incident, and are rewarded with a colorful grove of aspen near the town of Ophir. After getting gas in Telluride, we turn around and go back over the pass, which I don’t find as scary going up for whatever reason. When we get back to camp I ask Kelly what that road was rated. “Easy.” she says offhandedly. Yikes, if that was easy, I don’t need to see moderate or difficult, hah!

What a fun day!

October 4

How quickly the weather can change in the mountains. What starts as a partly cloudy morning quickly becomes overcast and chilly in the afternoon with sprinkles. But Kelly and I are tired of working by about 2 pm, so we hop back in her truck to try another dirt road – this one further down our own spur road and up to a place called Clear Lake.

7/585 is beautiful, following the south fork of Mineral Creek through a narrow valley surrounded by mountains. There’s evidence of beaver activity everywhere and we spy no fewer than three moose along the creek during our stay. Elk and bear are also in the area. Clear Lake Road (815) does a bunch of switchbacks up into the mountains on the north side of the valley, inching ever closer to the peaks which have a dusting of snow from today’s precipitation.

It’s actively snowing when we arrive at Clear Lake, and the biting wind is bitter cold. Kelly’s dogs Trixie and Gizmo hop out of the truck and look up at us as if to say: “Really? Do we have to?”.

The blowing snow and gray clouds make for a moody scene. The lake looks dark and foreboding, although when I get close I can see that it is in fact clear as promised.

We don’t stay long, hopping back in the truck and heading down to the relative comfort of camp.

October 5

Today, the rain waits until later in the afternoon before gracing us with its presence. So in the morning we bundle up against the chill and drive south of Silverton to Molas Pass, where we park and hike out on the Colorado Trail to, and a bit past, Little Molas Lake. A person can drive up to the lake, but we’re wanting the exercise today.

Again it’s mostly cloudy which doesn’t make for good photos. But it’s a nice enough hike. Being at high elevation there is again a quite a bit of huffing and puffing.

October 6, Saturday

“So, about the weather…” I say to Kelly in the morning. This is an ongoing conversation we’ve been having since arriving in Silverton nearly a week ago. 40’s and raining isn’t particularly great weather to camp in, particularly when you’re in a trailer as tiny as mine. But it’s doable. The problem is tomorrow.

It’s notoriously difficult to predict the weather in the mountains. For a week our weather apps have been calling for snow starting tomorrow, the question is how much. Several times a day I’ll check Sunday’s snowfall total, and it changes every time I look – often several times an hour. It might be as little as 2”, it might be as much as 11”. Two inches we can handle, in fact two inches would be rather fun. Eleven inches? Not so much. And the snow isn’t suppose to be a one day event. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are also calling for snow about 75% of the time we check, with totals varying between a trace and 4”.

I need to get down to Mancos by Tuesday to attend a friend’s birthday party, so I’m already planning to leave Silverton. Kelly isn’t sure. So today we talk and arrive at a compromise. There are two passes between Silverton and Durango to the south along 550. And there happens to be a boondocking spot not far south of those two passes that has a good internet signal and a moderate chance for snow, but where we’d be less likely to get stuck if the snow gets bad.

It ends up being a good choice, and the view is pretty!

October 8

The snow does come, but it arrives a day late. Sunday it rains most of the day, with temperatures hovering stubbornly in the upper 30’s. Kelly and I take a drive down to Durango for dinner to escape the crummy weather. Finally as we’re coming back to camp near dark the rain starts to transition to snow. I wake up in the morning to this!

I take shelter in Kelly’s rig and we work in the morning while fat flakes drift down out of the sky.

Early in the afternoon the sun makes an appearance for all of about 7.4 seconds – but I’m ready. Kelly and I get photos of each other goofing around in the snow.

Not long after we both hitch up and pull out to head our separate ways. I stop in Durango for groceries and then go west on 160 towards Mancos for the aforementioned birthday party. Kelly keeps going south from Durango into New Mexico. Our goodbye is quick and painless. After all, we know we’ll meet again further down the road!

* * *

The website has gotten a bit of an overhaul today with new trailer photos! The “About” page also now has info on the Hiker Trailer. This will be an ongoing process for a while as I slowly gather more pics of the Hiker.

Thanks patrons and PayPal donators!

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Ava on November 2, 2018 at 10:22 am

    I was determined to stop at the Grand Canyon on my trip from Northern California to Southern Texas but was concerned about running in to snow. I can’t count the number of times I checked the weather! Loved this post and the photos. Scary looking road over the pass!
    Ava recently posted..Lessons Learned from Two Weeks on the RoadMy Profile

    • Becky on November 6, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      The rim of the grand canyon is pretty high in elevation! Hope you get to visit it soon. 🙂

  2. RGupnorth on October 31, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Very nice area of CO to be in. Are you going to do a piece on being in the TD full time. I have a TD, but have to admit that it might be a bit small for full time, especially on days when the weather does not cooperate.

    • Becky on November 1, 2018 at 7:42 pm

      I’ll probably continue to answer the questions of teardrop living one piece at a time as I did with the bathroom/kitchen article as that allows me to go into more detail about each topic. Then when I have several of those, I may group them together in a “teardrop living” section on the Start Here page.

      • RGupnorth on November 3, 2018 at 6:07 am

        Good thought.

  3. John Davidson on October 31, 2018 at 2:41 am

    This is not too far from where my mother lives. I have never been on a drift boat

    • Becky on November 1, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      Cool John. 🙂

  4. Cory D Brink on October 26, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    My wife and I traveled out there from Springfield Missouri on the same dates you were out there when you are at Clear Lake we went to Telluride going over ophir pass taking the same pictures you have and eating lunch in Telluride while it rained. When we came back out the mountains have snow on them and we travel back to Ouray going over Imogene pass. My wife and I got stuck 100 m from the top in about 4 in of snow in her GX470. With some fancy maneuvering and some help from a local we were able to climb to the top where it was cold cold cold and very windy. But we made it back to Ouray. The day before that we made it up to Clear Lake, just kind of crazy how close are we to drive in the same Trail. Thanks for sharing your story it almost feels like I wrote it! It is a beautiful place

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      Wow, it’s a small world Cory! Glad you were able to make it over that second pass, and I’m glad we did Ophir when the weather was good!

  5. Linda Sand on October 26, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    If you are ever in the Big Horn Mountains and your GPS tells you to turn onto Alkali Road, don’t do it unless you are in Kelly’s vehicle. Dave managed to make it all the way driving our former Class C but it looked just like your picture and description above of the “easy” road; it was a white knuckle ride.

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:36 pm

      Yikes Linda, glad you were okay. I navigate using Google Maps and yeah, sometimes it leads me astray.

  6. Rene Kipp on October 26, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    My son and his wife are back in the states (he was in Japan for 3 years) and he wants to get a Raptor. However, he will soon be a dad and practicality is steering him towards getting a Four Runner instead. The ‘road’ of scree and drop offs would be on his list to conquer. As for me, I’ll pass 🙂

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      The Raptor is fun but yeah, not the most practical vehicle for a family. It does have a lot of space though…

  7. Terry H on October 26, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    I visit that area nearly every summer. I live in Colorado and there really is no reason to leave! I drove over Ophir pass all by myself shortly after moving here years ago, loved it. I’ve been to all the places you mention. Next time you’re in Ouray, try the 4×4 road up to Yankee Boy Basin. It’s best mid summer when full of blooming wildflowers.

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      I love the Rocky Mountains, it is so beautiful there! I don’t think I could do the winters though, I got enough snow in Wisconsin to last me a lifetime. 😉 Thanks for the 4×4 suggestion.

  8. Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on October 26, 2018 at 12:05 am

    We have been going into the Silverton/Ouray area for more than 30 years. Your photo of your campsite next to the creek, combined with your last photo of the creek and bridge tells me that your exact site is where we boondock routinely, most recently this past spring on our way to Wyoming to summer workcamp. Believe it or not, I actually built that very firepit that is in your photo. Small world. We’re now in Quartzsite. Ready for another ice cream?

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      How fun Ed! That spot is where Kelly had camped last time she was in the area, and she directed me to it. Yes, I’ll be back in Quartzsite again this winter and would love to meet up again, still in Colorado at the moment though!

  9. Noreen N on October 25, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Beautiful photos! Love those fall aspens! Thanks for sharing your travels!

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      You’re welcome Noreen!

  10. Kathi Foy on October 25, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Hey Becky, thanks for another meditative blog. Your photography is always stunning and you describe your adventures enough for me to imagine hanging out with you. I loved your panoramic photo, I’m going to try that sometime. I also appreciated how you have to factor in weather as a major part of your decision making on the road, checking and re-checking. Great photo of before and after the snow with foreshadowing earlier on the blog. You are inspiring. Safe travels

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post Kathi! It’s comments like these that keep me blogging, knowing that my writing is inspiring and encouraging others. 🙂

  11. Pamela Campbell on October 25, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Becky – Very pretty photos! I do agree that the sketchy road you mentioned looks like a hiking trail. Yikes. I’m finally back from my Michigan to Virginia trip and at the rv resort for a few months. I haven’t decided if I’m going to the RTR again. Happy Trails in your cute new home! Pamelab

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks Pamela! I’ll be at the RTR for a bit, just long enough to give the work-camping seminar again probably.

  12. Kit on October 25, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I wish I knew you were in town. My studio is in Durango, and my partner and I live in Mancos. We would have treated you to her cooking, she’s a chef!
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    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Sorry I missed it Kit, sounds delicious!

  13. Annette Mitchell on October 25, 2018 at 7:03 am

    I really enjoy your adventures, .
    Watching from Ontario Canada.

    • Becky on October 29, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks for following along!

  14. EmilyO in southern NM on October 24, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    WOW! That’s all I can think to say.

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