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The Million Dollar Road going to Silverton and Ouray

September 2016

When leaving Durango we called ahead to Pleasant View Resort, just to remind them we were bringing 2 motor coaches and make sure everything with the cabin was ok!!

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We discussed which road to take to Lake City, as they are much higher in elevation. Mr. Jim explained that the Slumgullion Pass, on route 149, had a really steep incline, of 7-8% and very hard on the brakes and nerves. He gave us another way to go, but would take an extra 3-4 hours. That was not what we were planning on, so we checked out our maps, conferred with gps and made the decision to head up Hwy 550, to Silverton and Ouray, then around towards Gunnison!!

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We did not check elevations nor did we check the road grade!! Once we were on Hwy 550, there was no turning back…there were switch backs, sharp turns, tunnels, 9% grades, it was straight down in many places over 2,000′!! There are no guardrails, very, very small shoulders along this road.  What were we thinking??? Talk about nerves….I will say that this was one of the most scaryest roads we have ever been on, Guy has stated that “No” he wouldn’t go on this road pulling out truck again.

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We learned that the road was called the Million Dollar Highway and was the most dangerous and beautiful road in Colorado!! When we arrived in the town of Ouray we needed to stop and let Rogers brakes cool down as they were smoking, it was a great time to have lunch.

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Ouray, “The Switzerland of America”

Ouray is known as “The Switzerland of America”. The town is surrounded by the most awesome mountains, of the San Juan Mountain range. Ourays  victorian buildings and the steep mountains are what bring many tourists to this quaint town. On the map Ouray is straight across from Lake City, but we needed to go around the mountains which took 3 more hours, overland we could have made it in 1 hr.

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It was a great relief when we finally arrived in Lake City and off the twisting and steep roads. Penny and I had already packed our clothes and most of the food items to be moved from coaches into the cabin but the refrigerator stuff still needed to be packed. The coaches were parked on the other side of the property and would be along way to carry all this stuff, so we waited until the guys got the buggies off the trailer and truck, packed them with all the bags and drove everything over to the cabin a few times.

 

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Our sweet 2 bedroom cabin

Pleasant View has 10 cabins, and 2 homes they rent as well as jeeps and polaris razors to anyone wanting to go explore the mountains.

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After moving into our little cabin we  decided we were to tired to cook and needed someone else to do it for us so we walked into town to the nearest restaurant and ordered a pizza, beer and wine.

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Our rigs on the other side of the resort

Friends of ours from RV Dreams Class of 2014, James and Cindy were staying in Ouray,  we were hoping we could meet up with them for lunch, but they were out hiking and couldn’t get back. It took us over 6 hours to get to Lake City which should have only been a 3 hr ride on Hwy 149.  (A week later when we left Lake City we took Hwy 149 and found it to be so much easier and really wish we had taken that way to begin with.) We all looked at it this way, we would not have seen so much territory and beautiful country had we not taken the Million Dollar Hwy. Now we know we can drive on anything.

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One of the reasons we were excited about staying in Lake City, was due to the amount of trail riding we could do. We were not disappointed, the trails were so numerous, most of the trails went up mountains as high as 13,000’.

 

The first day we explored off-roads that were close to Lake City as we could see some pretty wicked clouds coming our way. We found a couple of old mines that were being preserved and in good shape. There were no trespassing signs all around the area, but you could still get the idea of how the area must have been.

Some of the old houses we found as we were exploring.

This house was in the town of Capital City, which was founded in 1877

It rained, hailed and snowed on us a few times. We all luckily had hats, gloves, and 4 layers of shirts and jackets on. We all had purchased Frogg Togg rain suites, pink for the girls, black for the guys, which kept out the rain and the cold.

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Cindy and Penny in their frogg suites and it’s snowing

The beginning of the Alpine Loop left out of Lake City, we followed a map of the off-road area, we went up and over Nellie Creek, Wetterhorn Peak, 14,015′, Engineers Pass, 12,500′, Cinnamon Pass, 12,620, and Poughkeepsie Gulch. There are over 75 miles of roads that connect Silverton, Ouray, Lake City in the San Juan Mountains.

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James and Guy, Cindy on the left getting out

We met up with Cindy and James, on our second day out, they have been in this area for many years and knew the trails very well. They took us to a few mines and old mining towns where we could go in the preserved homes from the 1800’s. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to live in these mountains.

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Cindy and Roger

The guys climbed around the old mines, but most were sealed off. There were eleven mining town sites between 1875 and 1885 along the Alpine Loop. All the mines that are left are privately owned and off-limits to the public, most are unstable and have poison air in the mine shafts.

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Our first geocash house

We also accidentally found our first geocash. There was an old mining house that was in good shape, we climbed to the second floor, looked out the windows and there it was above the window.

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Our first geocash

We signed and dated it, then looked and looked for something to leave, found a pen with Rogers company name, Mertec Engineering, on it, which we left.

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It was such a great time to be on the mountains as there were so many colors going on, the aspens were starting to change colors, from green, to yellow and red. There were numerous flowers still in bloom, reds, purples, yellow and white. It was so beautiful as everywhere you turned there were multiple colors on the mountains, it just took your breath away.

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James and Cindy, Guy and Sue, Roger and Penny

The routes we followed through the mountains follow ancient paths worn by Native Americans as they moved from camp to camp and to their traditional summer camps. In the late 1800s, miners used these paths in search of precious metals, they widened them to use horse and mule drawn wagons to access mines. The remains of ghost towns, mines, mills and railroads are reminders of the mining history or the area.

 

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The guys exploring

One intact small town,  Animas Forks, was developed in 1873 at an elevation of 11,200′. By 1876 there was a hotel, general store, saloon, post office and thirty cabins. The Gold Price Mill was built-in 1904, which brought in the Silverton Northern Railroad.

We left James and Cindy here at Animas Forks, it was getting late and very cold, it looked like we were going to get some heavy-duty rain as well.  We headed over Cinnamon Pass, 12,620′ towards home and now know why it’s called Cinnamon Pass. The landscape here had changed so differently, it is called Alpine Tundra, it is found in the arctic and in high mountain ranges, tundra has a very short growing season.There no trees, the mountain scrub grass and low-lying shrubbery were all cinnamon colored.

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The fab 6

At the end of the Alpine loop we ended up at Lake San Cristobal,  which is the largest natural lake in Colorado. We checked out the campground but there are not any spots big enough for us. Darn!!

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The town of Lake City is very rustic with most of the roads still gravel, the mule deer come into town to eat what little grass there is. There is also a wonderful soda shop in town where, yes, we had more root beer floats!!

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Guy with his root beer float and my espresso chocolate and raspberry ice cream

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our new headbands

Lake City is along the Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway, in the heart of the San Juan Mountain Range at the elevation of 8,661′. The population is 408. Lake City served as the supply center to the cities and mines in the higher elevations, at that time there were as many as 3-5,000 settlers. When it was discovered that there would not be extensive or rich deposits in the area the population soon dwindled and it became farming for cattle and sheep, the Alpine meadows we great for summer grazing.

Here are some pictures of the Lake City.

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Cute artist studio

Two sweet churches in Lake City

 

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Our time at the cabin was way to short but we were all very glad to get back into our own beds and reorganized for our trip down to Pagosa Springs.

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The town of Pagosa Springs was having a big celebration, balloon festival, wine and cheese party, Porsche car show and quilt show so it was very busy. The one thing we didn’t understand was why they were doing a controlled burn at the same time, the air was filled with smoke, the mountains weren’t very visible, your eyes burned, and it was hard to breath. Didn’t make any sense to us. We walked the town, checked out the stores (bought some bear jammies) and decided that Mexican food and margarittas were in order, we found a great place outside of town and ordered way to much food.

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One more awesome vacation on the books

 

Roger and Penny left us on Saturday morning to head back to Bullhead City to drop off their buggy at their house there, Rogers brothers family were all there for the weekend so there was no rest for them, they continued the party well into the night.

My sister wrote something to add to our wonderful vacation.

Sweet Sister Vaca….
It was exciting to finally be off on a journey that Roger and I looked forward too for months..

With our long-awaited anticipation for the day to come, it’s hard to believe our awesome annual vacation has sadly come and gone and we are already back to reality and the hectic life. 

We hit the highway with power and speed from Bullhead with many adventures waiting for us up ahead. 

Our long-awaited trip to the Grand Canyon did not disappoint and to our amazement it was as beautiful, amazing, huge, colorful, and magical as you hear about. It was worth the wait and definitely worth a return trip. Our adventures left no stone unturned and included everything from driving, unpacking, packing, driving, challenging 280 stairs, drinking, driving, eating, laughing, singing, driving, off-roading, eating, driving, site seeing, walking and did I mention eating and driving.. LOL

After traveling with Guy and Sue for the last 2 weeks we have finally figured out why they have chosen the Nomad lifestyle during this time of their lives.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy the beautiful and wonderful wonders of the world and enjoy all the various stops in other states, cities, and enjoy a different culture as they expand their loving friendship to others along the way.

I will say it sounds like their life is all fun, easy, and relaxing but to be honest it’s stressful, trying, and down right hard work.. Hats off to all you full timers, I admire your determination to travel.
 
Here’s to a vacation of no regrets and can’t wait to do it all again soon.. Love to you both and so glad for the wonderful, special and loving relationship we have between us all.. Safe travels..

Love Roger & Penny 

 

We spent some time while we were all together to plan the next trip, so March 2017 we all head to Cabo San Lucas for a few weeks. Yea, so looking forward to spending time with then again.

Come on back as the “Rover” has taken us on another wonderful adventure, with more snow and more friends involved!
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