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.
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!
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.
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!
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!