The one where I cram April-June 1 into one post.

You guys.  This post has been a long time coming, and I have my reasons for the delay but it is time to talk about our sudden changes!

During our Colorado trip we kind of made the choice to open up job searching to country wide. The travel bug hit us BAD.  I was in a crossroads with my job, which isn't important now in hindsight, but their decision made my decision concrete. Goose was at a crossroads with his job because the company wasn't the same company he signed on with in 2013. We knew the youngest Grill was about to start college and was most likely staying on Oklahoma (she did) and the oldest Grill had a pretty awesome handle on college life and could survive if it happened.  Around March Goose was put into a life altering career path. While he had applied at various other jobs with little to no interest, there was still the option of uprooting.  He was being looked at a company in Houston in corporate level with quick advancement or a job in Connecticut as a Contract Engineer. Long story short, neither company hired him though he was second place for both, but he had made his decision and we had come to an agreement on how we would live from here on out if something came along.

--I had become burnt out on the suburban life as much as Goose. I loved that house we picked out three years ago, knowing it was too big for us but plenty big for family and did it ever serve its purpose. So many fond family moments were gathered up into my heart in that home, but I was burnt out. Goose had become miserable at work and he was in physical pain from the stairs also. We both wanted a better quality of life for us and our children and nothing secured that thought more than taking our jeep trail trip to Colorado. We knew right then we wanted all of us to see the country before we were old, and we couldn't do that if we were living to maintain our house. We wanted to find HOME. --


Colorado Jeep Trail Adventures

August 28-September 7, 2015

We took a trip to Colorado in our new truck for the sole purpose of "roughing it" with jeep trails and camping in the mountains.  Boy was it AWESOME.  I literally have over a thousand pictures on my camera phone alone, Goose had a couple hundred, and some amazing ones on the big camera.    It was such an amazing (sometimes a little scary, but not really) ten days.  I wrote a trip journal, as customary wherever we go.  Thought I would combine it with photos into blog form to share!  It's REALLY long, I'm not sorry. I realized as I was typing this, that I didn't record every temp and highway like I was supposed to, oops. Most the time the only reason I knew what road it was is because Goose told me what it was. Eh. Every morning we were up with the sunrise.                
 Day 1:

So, clearly I'm the only one excited here.
With the truck already packed, I arrived home from work at 2:10 PM. to change clothes and get outta town.  Gooses showed up around 2:20 and we were driving off by 2:35, with Shyann Belle in tow, of course! The navigation had us arriving to our destination at 1:25 AM and we were a bit upset until we realized it was still in CT, not MT. I was forced to listen to NPR until it got out of range before I was allowed to play our "Colorado Tunes" playlist on the ipod.  When we passed through Booneville, I waved at Ashley!  Goose was pretty anxious through the cities, ready to get back to country life for a bit so he had some choice words for those KC drivers. ;)  It was my first time in KC (weird, I know!) and I missed my photo op of the Royals stadium, so I planned to take it when we drove back through.  Kansas along I70 is pretty, there were lots of green rolling hills and prairies. There were huge thunderclouds (Wichita) in the sky framing the gorgeous red sunset at 8:05 PM.  

Breezy: You..uh? You mean those cows?

Goose was hoping to see some post rock in western Kansas but it was too dark.  I of course had no clue what he meant so he tried to explain it to me.

"I don't see any of those rock sticks you were talking about" I said.
Nah, not rock sticks. POST ROCK" he corrected me so that I could google it.
Sunsetty artsy windmills. Photo not for sale.

We encountered some windmill farms! The first one was in Kansas while the sun was setting.  It was pretty cool, but I didn't realize how large they really were!  We crossed over into the Colorado Border at 10:43 PM MT time and the temp was 68.  We came across another massive windmill farm heading towards our stop for the night and it was super eerie.  All the red lights lit  up at the same time and you could see how massive the farm actually  was. We made it to Limon, Co and tried two motels with no one at the front desk before finding someone at the Limon Motel.  It was nothing fancy, just a place to sleep.  I showered and passed smooth out.
10:43 PM, how nice of that  crazy-eyed trucker to take our photo! Mom, I'm kidding, calm down!

Day 2: 

55 degrees at wake up

We woke at 6AM to make our way to the Garden of the Gods/Pike's Peak.  We stopped for gas and I needed lotion.  I got dry skin, okay? Don't be so judgy! I had to use udder cream because for some reason that's all they had.  We had hoped to plan our night stop so that we drove in and the mountains would greet us in the sunrise.  It was a hazy day so it didn't happen as soon as we hoped.  We got off I70 and dropped down to HWY24 towards Co. Springs. While we kept an eye out for the mountains, we looked for antelope. Instead we found another windmill farm, but it wasn't running.  When we got to the town of Calhoun, my ears popped for the first time.  Elev. 6057 ft.

Breezy:  I'm so excited I'm about to pee my pants and I don't even have to pee!
                                                                                                 --34 mi from Co. Springs
Wait. Is that it?
OMG I'm going to pee!
Every high ridge we came to, we hoped the mountains would pop out at us.  There were lots of little farms and spread out houses, probably really small towns.  Villages, some might say. In Falcon, CO I finally saw the mountains through the haze just barely!  We were 17 miles from Co. Springs. JEEZ. We drove HWY24 through Co. Springs right on over to Manitou Springs, a place I've wanted to see since our last trip to CO.  We went to see the Garden of the Gods, which you could see from 24.   We stopped in the GoG Trading Post so I could pick up some post cards for the scrapbook, and I found a cool little ring for ten bucks. We took off driving through GoG trails and parked so we could hike up some of it for good photos.  We got a couple with Pike's Peak in the background, and I would soon learn that if I took too long on my cell to take a photo it would auto record. -{Somehow I changed the settings to this and didn't have time to mess with changing it back so there would be several videos of me screaming "I DON'T WANT TO TAKE VIDEO! !#$%" when we got back and I went through them}- After some driving and plucking some flowers and sage brush (shh, don't tell!), we finished the drive off by stopping  at the balancing rock.  After that we headed back into Manitou Springs downtown to see all the cool little shops.  I could totally live there. It's small but not too small, and definitely artsy enough.  There's obviously a lot of tourists rolling through so it was bustling with people for being small.  I had to look for some jewelry, again and I chose a couple belly rings just because.  It was time to head up to Pike's Peak!

Manitou Springs, CO

Manitou Springs, CO driving towards Pike's Peak

Garden of the Gods:

Investigating the integrity of the balance
How do we "selfie"?

Balance Rock

So MANY sniffs!
PIKES PEAK-trail 1
86 degrees at base

We got to the Pike's Peak toll road and $24 later we were on our way up. We strapped on the GoPro camera to the dash for the rest of the trip and started our 19mi ascension. We paused at Crystal Lake  (I didn't feel like messing with Jason, even in daylight)  and got a couple shots.  It was 68 degrees there and 1150AM. As we elevated more, the air got much thinner.  We passed several cyclists on their way up looking pretty breathless. With 40% less oxygen at the top than at the base, we got a bit dizzy when we reached the summit of 14,114ft.  We stood there a few minutes to get our bearings before walking around. The temp was 52 degrees and windy! There was a summit shop where they made fresh donuts.  We walked around taking in the view and seeing those cyclists who made it  finally, utterly worn out. We separated to take in our own views and I had to pee!  I did not get a donut, and I do regret it, thanks for reminding me. Coming down was really fun! It felt like we were flying in a plane if you got the road out of the view in the window. We stayed in the lowest gear as required and waited on our approval at the mandatory brake check.  Safely off the mountain with our brakes in tact, this trail was fairly easy.
Crystal Lake
This was Shy's spot. 

Don't go looking for Jason!


Mountains are serious.
A cloud forming right behind me!

Pike's Peak

We got on Ute Pass on 24W towards 67S.  We drove through Woodland Park set in the valley behind Pike's Peak and was absolutely gorgeous.  I could totally live there.  Do you see a trend happening? ;)  When we got on 67S we got onto 81 and  came across an old gold mining town, abandoned, called Goldfield.  Then we came upon another gold mining town and a portion was still abandoned but they had built another town next to it called Victor. On the other side of it was this MASSIVE mine that we had actually seen from Pike's Peak. We saw  the backside of the peak leaving Victor and then veered off towards our first not-paved jeep trail.  We were just south of Cripple Creek. We were going towards Sand Gulch Campground somewhere in the middle of  this Shelf Road trail.  As soon as we got onto the road, we saw a really fun lookout spot that had an amazing view! We decided, why go to a campground? Why not stay here?  It was really remote and just barely off the trail. We got camp set up and decided to make dinner: smoked pulled pork and beans.  The temperature started dropping so we got into our cold gear and waited for the stars. We watched the mountains glow in the full moon's shadow. Once I got used to the strong winds, Shy had crawled up inside my hoodie and I didn't move hardly at all during the night.  I slept a lot harder than I expected to, given I need noise to sleep.
looks like a great place to camp!

Writing this very trip journal! How Inception-like!

Day 3

Sunrise in the mountains is so cool.  Looking at our jeep trail book map, we realized that we had camped on the Scenic Overlook of our jeep trail. We broke down camp and started out.

SHELF ROAD-trail 2.
The road was easy enough, but the views were spectacular.  We were following along a stream in a valley that opened up into a wider canyon.  The road was literally a shelf along the mountain side, a straight drop off the drivers side.  Luckily it was very wide and allowed room for any other traffic.  It must be a decently popular road as well as a trail because we encountered a bit of traffic and homes along the way. There was Window Rock to see, a large peak with a perfectly square hole eroded out at the top. Lots of little S curves around the river, before we crossed over a low water bridge. The rest of the drive was just scenic along the river and valleys. 
Window Rock
You can see Shelf Road we traveled on from this angle

A very young Brooke bravely tested the water temps here in '05
When we hit pavement, we ended in Canon City on 50.  We passed by the Royal Gorge and drove along the Arkansas River, stopping at the spot Brooke fell in 10 years ago.  The spot we now know is Salt Lick Campground.  I began to notice all the little pull of spots for camping every few hundred feet.  Later we would see a sign that said camping was allowed for a maximum 14 days free.  After a short detour for a memory card for the GoPro, we had made it to our next trail near Coaldale, CO

HAYDEN PASS-trail 3. 
75 degrees
10,709 elev.
It started out paved and then a level dirt road.  All the sudden we turned up a very tight switchback with a sign saying 4x4 ONLY.  It was narrow and very steep and rocky going up. We were bouncing all over the place and Shyann LOVED it.  She had managed to stand on top of the cooler in the back seat and stick her wee little nose out to smell and see what was going on.  We had gotten partially up the pass and our jeep trail book said to look for the scenic look into the valley at Coaldale, so we did and got some photos.  We reached the summit semi-easily.  Aside from it just being extremely narrow and rocky it wasn't too bad.  We didn't run into any vehicles going up, which made me happy.  Going down was definitely the hardest part.  I had to get out twice to help Goose navigate the truck, which in itself is comical if you know me. By the end of the trip I would be a pro at it.   Mostly this time, I was just flailing my hands and going "oooh! GO THIS WAY! NO! THAT WAY! LOOKOUT FOR THE ROCK!" to which he then instructed me on airplane runway signals.  I then chose to practice my flight attendant skills as well. We had run into a RZR at some point and the menfolk decided to help Goose during a particular spot, while I guided him over some of the rocks he had re-positioned. Shyann also helped navigating. One of the guys took a shot of Goose coming down so he text him the photo and another guy came up in a jeep telling us there's a giant boulder in the middle of the road and our truck may not make it because of its wheelbase. Great.  After we parted ways, we spotted the tiny boulder in the road.  It was not near as tight as they jeep guy tried to tell us and the rest of the way down was easy. 

Gonna go over that. *nods*
Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Coaldale in the valley

Goose checking out the best possible option

I got this, guys!

It's hard to see this view from the highway, so pretty.

Valley to HWY50

With our crossing over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, which must makes me crave a deep fried sandwich, we drove through a bit of valley until we were back on 50 so that we could find Taylor Mountain.

View from highest pass of Taylor Mtn
13,651 ft elev.
This one was SO AWESOME.  It started out fairly easy, passing several little mine shafts and shacks left over from the old mining days. The road was pretty wide for the most part and there were a few little detours, one of which dead ends at an old mine quarry.  There was a lesser road going up another portion of the mountain but it was so skinny we knew it wasn't part of the trail.  For hiking, maybe.  I don't see how anyone could get up that one! We went back down off the old mine and followed the trail up a pretty narrow road.  It was slightly rocky but nothing compared to Hayden Pass we had just cleared. There were several breathtaking switchback views worth just stopping the truck and staring.  We didn't actually reach the summit of Taylor Mountain, that road was treacherous and not for our truck. We did easily get to the pass and stopped.  I had to hold onto the truck for fear I was going to be blown off the side from the wind! Okay not really, but it was quite windy. There were more mine shaft remnants at the pass and looking down towards the descent we saw an active mine that we would eventually pass over.  A mule deer greeted Shyann and she wanted us to catch him so she could have a leg to chew on, but we said no.  Coming down we actually drove into the active Lily mine to get through the trail and saw a salvaged set of buildings left over from the old days.

Checking out one of the MANY old mine camps

One of the better preserved mine buildings

View from old mine quarry parking lot

We chose to go ahead and drive to Old Monarch Pass just for the fun because we had been there 10 years ago and since it was on the way, well why not?

72 degrees
11,312 ft elev.
This was a real quick drive up a fairly level wide road up to the pass.  Once to  the top, we parked the truck and got out to stretch our legs and hike to the summit.  It still had the same stunning views and was still as windy as I remembered it.  In fact in the photo I'm pretty sure my hair was blowing the same way as 10 years ago.  Shyann was EVERYWHERE on the summit and enjoying every second. We went back down the way we came, on a mission to get to Lake City.
Old Monarch Pass

Recreating an old photo minus some grillz
Way up there is Goose, and somewhere running is Shyann Belle
I've seen this sign before!

We did stop at New Monarch Pass/Continental Divide for postcards.   Shy was worn out and slept all the way to Lake City, CO.  We took CR149 towards Lake City traveling through the valleys of the mountains next to a river.  When we arrived the elevation was 8,671 ft and it was this tiny little valley town where several creeks and rivers met.  We passed through and saw a Country Store that we'd come back to for ice in the morning, and a huge jeep trail/atv rental shop.  There were lots of little stores and eateries, but it was super quiet and peaceful.  The sun was getting away from us, and we were expecting rain so we were kind of rushing through this section to get to our next camping spot on Henson Creek.  We took CR20 along Henson Creek and saw steep rock cutouts for the road, waterfalls and several points of interest that we could see in the morning when we went back to Lake City. We found our spot literally at the base of the Engineer Pass jeep trail road we lovingly called base camp! It was absolutely secluded and quiet. I can't even begin to describe the wonder of this campsite we found.  There was absolutely no one around and not a single bit of city noise.  Just calm and quiet and a lightly roaring little creek.  We met a little mule deer family watching us from across the path and they didn't feel we were a threat so they stuck around for a few minutes.  No sooner had we gotten camp set up did the rain come so the fire we had just started had gone out.  We instead boiled hotdogs under the EZup and sat in the dark just listening to the creek.  We hid our food stuffs from bears, it was too dark to wash.  We would have to clean in the morning.  We climbed into the tent and fell asleep listening to the creek's lullabies.

Most amazing campsite
'Sup bro?
Just taking it in

Day 4 
approx 10,500 ft elev.
39 degrees at wake up

It was 39 degrees when I woke up.  Goose had been up a little before me and watched an Elk across the river on the mountainside before starting breakfast. It was chilly changing, but surprisingly I didn't feel cold. We cooked eggs, sausage and bacon and decided we should leave the tent up since we planned to come back to the same place to sleep. We just had to hope nothing would bother our camp while we were gone.  We washed our stuff, being sure to clang our pots walking down towards the icy creek, just in case! We headed back to Lake City and stopped at all the POI's along the way.
Not very helpful until it was time to eat...
CR20-trail 6.
We saw an old Rose Lime Kiln built  in 1881 by George Lee. It was very successful but didn't stand the depression that came in 1882. He built a "mansion" over in Capitol City, a now ghost town right near the Kiln that we went to see next. The town only had two buildings remaining.  A fenced off section must have been where the mansion once stood before being torn down in the 60's.  Next we came to the Ute & Ulay Mine Camp which was probably the coolest POI on this road. It still has lots of buildings, some undergoing restoration.  There was a dam that had been compromised but somehow still standing and various mine shafts.  We stood on the edge of a lookout point and walked around the area.  Lots of people were forced to live on site during this mine's high point, which was very dangerous to their health.  We passed another mine that had succumbed to an avalanche but they left the remains there.   

Ute and Ulay Mine Camp
Going on a side trip to see Ute and Ulay Mine
Looking back towards "base camp"
Ute and Ulay Dam
Henson Creek
Ute and Ulay Dam

When we got to Lake City, we pulled into the Country Store.  It had all the basics for small town living, including a freezer full of elk meat. We didn't pick any up, but should have.  We were too busy trying to get on the way to do the Alpine Loop trail.  Before actually going up the trail we drove along the Gunnison River and passed by Lake San Cristobal on CR30.  The scenery was just beautiful. For about 5 miles we stayed on paved roads before turning onto a gravel road.

12,640 ft elev.
There were just so many points of interest on this trail that the first half of it didn't even feel like a jeep trail.  The terrain wasn't too rugged but we got to stop at the overlook into the old townsite of Sherman.  We saw many homes and old mine sites.  On our way up towards Cinnamon Pass was a detour for American Basin, which happened to be a bit tougher trail but we figured we could handle it.  There was a pretty steep rocky section. This detour DID NOT disappoint. There were wildflowers everywhere and this babbling little stream of perfectly clear water.  Shyann and I walked the stream up a ways and Goose filled his water jug.  We pilfered around in awe for a bit and then left to get back on the Cinnamon Pass trail. As we ascended the steeper section of Cinnamon Pass, a small rain shower began. Here it started to get a bit challenging with some switchbacks.  The rain stopped pretty quickly and we took our time.  We got to the pass at 1:50 PM and hiked higher for photos. The thin air made me feel like a big weenie for being out of breath! We let Shyann loose to explore and she didn't ever get too far. By the end of the trip she will be and expert on all the smells of Colorado! We spotted some snow just a little too far of a hike out of reach.  I was kinda sad about it. After the hike up and a good pause to take it all in, Cinnamon Pass was literally breathtaking.  The mountain was red, so it was aptly named. Heading down the pass with ease, we reached the halfway point of the Alpine Loop in the ghost town of Animas Forks, another place we visited 10 years ago. This time I went into all the buildings with my wee ghost guard dog.  She deemed it safe.  When I got done with all the buildings, Goose said he'd like to do an impromptu trail that wasn't on our planned trip but it was right here so why not.

Lake San Cristobel

Just running into nature

Sherman Townsite
Sherman Townsite
"How do I do this daddy? Do I go over that big rock?"

*gasp* she did it.                                                              JUST KIDDING! It was him the whole time!

American Basin

Making our way up Cinnamon Pass

Cheese from Cinnamon Pass!
Juuuust too far...

Animas Forks ghost town:


Going up Picayune

high point P&P G: 12,750ft/ EMR: approx 13,300 ft elev.

Up close and personal with Treasure Mountain Gold Mine 
This ended up being the most confusing trail of all the trails.  It had multiple dead ends at the intersection and of course we took all the wrong ones first by accident.  The beginning of Picayune was super steep and narrow.  We did not want to run into any vehicles coming down.  Luckily, so far we hadn't. The road had just had dirt brought in by bulldozer so on top of the steepness the loose dirt provided a challenge 

After trying to keep up with the jeep trail books marker points, we gave up after getting turned around at the Treasure Mtn. Gold Mine trying to recount our mileage unsuccessfully. We ran into one of the little dead ends with a cool view and came back around to the intersection.  The jeep trail said "bear right, all other roads at this point are dead ends" however there was more than one right turn.  So we took the next right, and it wasn't even on our jeep trail book!  It did show up on our navigation as Eureka Mtn Road.  By this time I was just utterly confused as to where we were but Goose had it under control, even though he was also confused. The only way was up, so up we went. I noticed how high we were getting and going over very narrow passes with drop offs on both sides and I will say I got pretty freaked out due to this road not being on the jeep map. I tried to figure out where we were and if we were on a different trail but the only other one associated with Eureka was an easy trail, and this one was not in places. It wasn't challenging like Hayden Pass, but it was intense. While I was looking at the book and making notes, I wasn't paying attention to where we were and Goose said "hey".  I looked up in time to see him pulling up to the end of the road.  From my point of view, because I wasn't watching, it looked like we had pulled to the edge of the mountain and were inches within driving off the end and I didn't see anything to the sides of us.  In the video you hear an audible gasp from me and I tried to hide my nervousness. I didn't want to get out this time.  I managed to look around a bit and a wave of anxious came over me.  I didn't know how we were going to get back down! He was out taking video of the area and eventually when we got service we determined this was a high point of Eureka Mountain, whose summit was 13,5700 ft and we were just a couple hundred feet below it. I chose to close my eyes while Goose backed down the side of a mountain until he got to a point he could turn around and I was honestly thankful to get off the side of that mountain safely. In hindsight, we were in stickier situations but the combination of not knowing where we were and not looking when we stopped had my nerves going. :D Upon looking at the video, we had way more room than I realized but the angle in which the truck was sitting made me feel like we were going to topple off the edge. 
End of Eureka Mtn. Rd.

Wanna keep going? WE CAN'T! 
Placer Gulch

FINALLY we took the correct "right turn" and made it towards Placer Gulch.  After the Eureka excursion, this was NOTHING. We saw a really cool Gold Prince Mine. Another tricky dead end we managed to avoid, and we were safely back in Animas Forks to finish the Alpine Loop via Engineer Pass which would drop us directly back at our base camp.

Summit on evening drive

Switchbacks on Engineer Pass

Look at this house...
ENGINEER PASS-trail 9 & 10 (in reverse)
12,800 ft elev.
Goats are really exciting for me!

Oh! Point.

We did the Engineer Pass trail 10 years ago, but only halfway. We actually stopped at Oh! Point then, and went back down. It sure isn't as scary in the truck as it was in the Excursion. We hit a few crazy switchbacks that I had to help navigate and hone my airplane traffic skills to get around the curves without having to back the truck up. We ran into oncoming traffic and Goose had to make room to let them by since we were on the mountain side of the road. He pulled as far over as possible, tilting the truck (and me) at a pretty steep angle. He and the guys got to talking and I had to clear my throat because I was uncomfortable trying to hold this weird crooked position. They told us to look for mountain goats just past the summit and I got really excited!  We found them just chilling on the side of a mountain, but they ended up being just regular goats. They didn't even faint! I bleated at them to get them to look my way but they were unimpressed. We descended the very easy portion of the trail but there at the top we started seeing marmots, and this became Shyann's favorite game. Marmot hunting.  She would get so excited from her perch at the back window and when she saw one she would yip and yammer on about it as if we didn't see them too.  She figured out how to roll down the window so we had to child lock her sneaky paws. As we came down, we saw our tent still in tact from the mountain.

Ah, Base Camp.
When we made it back, we were starving so  we made salmon patties and rice. When we went down to the creek to wash dishes we decided to just have a little conversation with any lingering bears. It went a little like this: "HEEEEEY BEARRRS!  We are coming down! We are gonna wash these dishes, you don't need to help us! We got it under control but thanks for your concern! Just gonna finish up this rinse and I'll be out of your HAIR! HAHAH I SAID HAIR, YOU SILLY BEAR!"
We sat in our chairs and rehashed the trails and talked about the next day until the sun went down and we climbed into the tent at a chilly 46 degrees.

Day 5

35 degrees at wake up
Engineer Pass:early morning

At 35 degrees, it's a little chilly to go pee out in the forest but what you gotta do, huh? I really wasn't that cold until I had to pee.  Probably because I had my little space heater Shyann still snuggled inside my hoodie at night. There was frost on the tent.  We broke down camp, had leftover breakfast and went back up Engineer Pass in reverse to head to Ouray where we had reserved a campsite for the night. On our way up we found some snow we could reach so we walked across the sheet of thick ice. A mini glacier some might say, and that one someone is Goose. At that point on the mountain before the summit the temp was 40. We hit the summit and headed down which proved to be a bit more difficult coming down, but we expected that from 10 years ago. Immediately connected to Engineer Pass was Mineral Creek trail which would continue us on into Ouray. I realized quickly why the last trip we took here why Engineer Pass seemed so much longer.  I didn't know then that we also took Mineral Creek out.  I guess I thought it was all the same.

Mom, this THING is in MY SPOT.
Summit of Engineer Pass (looking towards Ouray/Mt. Sneffels)
Good morning goats!
Just beautiful

Mill City ghost town 
high point 12,080 ft
This was by far the most technical trail we had done because of all the boulders and large rocks to get around without banging the truck up.  I have no idea how that Excursion made it on this road back then. It seems that going up would be the easier route. Alas, we are going down. There was quite the narrow ledge and passing wasn't the best. I got out a few times on this road to help get him around some tricky spots, including making room for the oncoming jeeps to pass. The truck did get a minor boo-boo on it's underside but nothing major.  We had a lot of really tight switchbacks on big boulders.  We took our time with this one, so it took a lot longer getting down. This is a pretty popular trail so we saw a lot more traffic here than the other trails. We saw some really cool waterfalls. 

figuring out a tight situation

snow tunnel
watching that guy get over the tough spot we just finished

coming out of Mineral Creek looking at Million Dollar HWY

We made it out of Mineral Creek onto the Million Dollar Highway and drove into Ouray to the Amphitheater Campground. We had reserved this spot because this particular campground gets full fast. We set our stuff up early to let it dry out from the frost and took a break from jeep trails and went  downtown to Ouray.


 We went to a restaurant called Maggie's with some outdoor seating so Shyann could have a couple french fries. The burgers were LOADED with bacon. I've never seen so much bacon on a burger and everyone else needs to take a lesson from this place! I could totally live there. We had filled up our SD card on the GoPro so we needed to drive out to Montrose to get another one at WalMart. Gross, WalMart. In Montrose the temperature was 86 degrees. We decided to find a truck stop and went in to take REAL showers instead of the catholic ones we had been taking. We then headed back to Ouray/Amphitheater refreshed. A rain storm looked threatening but was only sprinkles for the time being.  At 5:20 PM it was 77 degrees and just fantastic weather. We were in a camping spot where we could nearly see down into the valley into town, but a great view of the mountains across the way. We were under a canopy of trees so we still felt very secluded.
Camping at Amphitheater Campground in Ouray

I walked up to the bathroom and when I came out, I  noticed this really big statue of a big buck mule deer I thought looked pretty cool. Then the statue ran across the road! I jumped of course! He stopped when he got across the street and looked back at me. I had a talk with him about mountains and stuff and I inched within 3 feet of him and offered him an apple. He politely declined and snorted something about some tasty wheatgrass he just had down the road. I took off RUNNING back down to the campsite to tell Goose what just happened, then I went back up to see if he was still there.  He and his wife were there and cutting through the weeds hopping off to visit with another camper, I bet. So cool. 
Not much longer and the thunderstorm  had rolled in for the night. So much for drying out the tent but I didn't care. If you've not laid in a tent above the valley of some mountains to listen to the rain and thunder echo all around you, then my friend, you have not lived.  Put it on your bucket list.  You can bet your bippy I slept so good to the sound of constant rain.

evening rain and sunrise in Ouray

Day 6

8,400 ft elev. in Ouray

47 degrees at wake up
looking down from the bridge into camp
Hot springs aquatics center

We woke up and made sausage biscuits and broke down the camp. It was still really wet. We drove downtown to do some shopping, but being up so early nothing was open until 9 AM. We hung out in a coffee shop until they did open and did some souviner shopping. Goose picked out this amazing handcrafted ring by a local artist with fire opal for me and I got the grillz some shirts. We then took off towards Telluride via the Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass. We started out the trail scouting another campsite, unsure if we wanted to stay there or continue our intended path to Moab, Utah later.

early morning coffee downtown
"Mommy, that lady is looking at us isn't she?"

Yankee Boy Basin

high point 12,400 ft
We started out fine, nothing was too difficult yet. There was some really fun stopping points. A place called the drinking cup got us curious to find the natural spring. We found it, but the spring was taking way too long to fill our 5 gallon jug so we gave up and kept going. There was a really cool rock overhang over the road that was fun to go under. 

The drinking cup: you see how much I helped! ;)
Twin Falls

We crossed over the creek several times during our drive up. There was another little townsite and then we stopped to check out the twin waterfalls, where we took our jug to fill. It was a bit of a struggle to to watch Goose carry the full jug back up the hill but such is life of a nomad. It got rockier the higher we went and as we got to the basin we climbed some slippery switchbacks thanks to some loose rock. We saw lots of tailings from the mines.  When we made it to the parking lot at the high point there were lots of jeeps parked for hikers to go to the summit on foot. We carefully made it back down the crazy trail to head to Imogene Pass so that we could go on over to Telluride.
views on the way up Yankee Boy

at the top

Imogene Pass overlook
13,114 ft elev.
This was by far the funnest trail we took. It is the second highest driveable jeep trail pass in Colorado. It was steep in spots and rocky but no worse than what we had already done before. By now, we got this jeep trail business down. We hit a few washboards just to test us, I think. During the switchbacks close to the top we passed a hiker that was nearly to the top, just strolling on up. -{I don't even understand this logic. How do they do it? If I could totally live there, I'd totally try but only make it up a little ways and then lay down with some beef jerky and skittles and wonder why I'd torture myself so.}- We climbed the summit, to see a cool overlook spot we wanted to go to first.  There was a lake and a cabin out there! Who stays there?!? Shyann played the marmot game on the way up and when we got out at the overlook she decided to let the world know she was there by doing her dirty business on the top of the mountain. 

Look at this GLORIOUS VIEW!  ..... oh..ew. Shy NASTY-BOMBED me!! 

From the overlook we had a 360  degree view.  We could see Ouray on one side, Telluride on the other and everything in between. Coming down was just as fun, switchbacking narrow spots and having to wait on a subaru to figure it out too. We talked with them a little bit and Shyann had some kinda heated conversation with their border collie, but it ended up being fine. They were just talking about the marmots. The subaru piggybacked with us down the trail towards the Savage Basin where Tomboy Townsite was.  This was the biggest ghost town/ruins we had seen the entire trip.  It once was the largest mining town in all of CO.  We had to stay on path because a lot of the ruins were on private lands.  We went through the "Social Tunnel" which was a big tunnel carved right into the mountain side. The end of the trip had some really narrow roads and hairy switchbacks and a creepy wooden bridge that still can withstand traffic somehow. Across the valley towards the end you could see Black Bear Pass, which is super difficult and it's a one way only trail. Even the smallest wheel bases have to usually readjust getting around corners.  Goose really wanted to try that one.  Maybe next time.

Who lives here? How do they buy toilet paper in the winter?

I mean...this. No words.

Tomboy townsite

Social Tunnel
Black Bear Pass across the valley

We came off the trail literally into an alley way behind people's homes in Telluride.  We drove down the main drag.  I could totally live there, it's so cute.  Sadly we didn't stop anywhere this time because we had decided to go ahead and drive out to the Moab trails.  I won't lie, we both got pretty emotional leaving the mountains, even though we knew we'd be back. We passed through some tiny towns such as Placerville, Sawpit, and Norwood on CO145.  We were driving along the San Miguel River.  I watched a rainstorm in the mountains from the valley.  After we drove past Paradox (two Shyanns!) and some winding passes through red boulders and canyons, we entered Utah. On the way to Moab on route 46 we passed by the La Sal Mountains. We got onto Route 191, we passed by "Hole in the Rock" store.  I know we went in there 10 years ago, I bought a ring from there!  So I guess then we drove through Moab to get to Arches Park, but didn't stop to explore. Eventually the highway turned a little bit and we were able to see Moab on the horizon. Since we didn't know what to do or where to stay we grabbed Subway so we  wouldn't have to make dinner and parked outside the Visitor Center to get the Moab Jeep Trail book and found the Riverside Oasis campground for the next two nights, that is if we didn't choose to abandon ship and go back to Telluride/Ouray. We set up the tent and EZup to dry and set out to see an easy trail (rated by the book) called Long Canyon.

LONG CANYON-trail 14
We drove on 3 miles of just dirt road before it dipped down into this beautiful canyon. The sun was setting so the shades of red were glittering. We had to take some sandy switchbacks and came to Pucker Pass. It was narrow and rocky but nothing after Imogene and Hayden passes. We came towards a fallen rock that we were supposed to drive under and it until you were right up next to it, it looked impossible. The canyon road opened up to some really pretty switchback views of the canyon and we finished out our drive along the dried riverbed. We got back to our campsite just after sunset and planned our trails for the next day. 

Pucker Pass

Long Canyon at sunset