Wednesday May 23 – Cortez, CO

Today we drove a 250 mile scenic loop called the San Juan Skyway through some of the most picturesque and rugged mountain country we have ever seen. The San Juan Mountains are one of the highest ranges in the United States with peaks above 14,000 feet. The loop started here in Cortez and heads north to Telluride and Ridgway before heading south again through Silverton and Durango. On the way to Telluride we stopped to pick up a geocache at a wide spot in the road called Dolores. Here at the Train Museum was an oddball looking contraption called the “Galloping Goose”.  It is a train made out of a Pierce Arrow, a School Bus and an old rail car.  It had seats from the old Denver trolley cars. The “rail bus” was used to transport light freight, passengers, mail and express freight between Dolores and Ridgeway a distance of some 90 miles. This lasted for some 20 years before the more economical truck traffic caused the rail bus to fail.

Telluride (Tell you ride) is an interesting little town nestled in a valley high in the San Juan Mountains.  It is about 3 blocks wide and 7 blocks long.  It caters to skiers in the winter and tourists in the summer. One of its claims to fame is the “BIT” (Baked in Telluride) bakery.  We had lunch there and they did have great bagels, donuts and homemade chili.  The other claim is that Bridal Veil Falls at the end of town is the highest falls in Colorado.  It is not the tallest but is the highest in elevation.

We stopped in Ouray (Oh ray), which claims to be the Switzerland of America, and expected Bavarian type buildings like in Leavenworth, Washington.  It was a big disappointment with nothing outstanding and ordinary looking buildings.  The setting, in a valley surrounded by huge mountains, must have been what they were referring to. 

On the way back toward Durango was a little, very colorful, hot springs right beside the road that looked like a mini Mammoth Hot springs from Yellowstone. One of early Colorado entrepreneurs sold bottles of the mineral water as a cure for any and all diseases that one may have.  The water cascading down the sides was not hot.  Maybe this one should have been called a tepid springs.  We really enjoy how geocaching helps us find so many interesting things that others whiz right on by and don’t ever know about.

Over all, the 250 mile loop took 9 hours and most of the time we were trying to find enough oxygen to breathe as we were mostly between 9,000 and 11,000 feet in elevation. That is like stacking Denver (the mile high city) on top of itself.

All throughout Colorado they have signs stating the drivers must yield to pedestrians in the cross walks.  The local gendarmes must really enforce that law because when you are walking down the street and want to cross all you need to do is stand on the corner and all of the cars will stop to let you pass.  In fact if you hesitate long enough before you step off of the curb I bet that at least 3 people will get out of their car and assist you across the street just so they can proceed on their way.

Other than your run of the mill farm animals that we saw were – yaks, elk, deer and a fox that tried to commit suicide by running across the road right in front of us. I honked at the fox and it paused on the shoulder, probably waiting to startle some other poor tourist as they drove by.

Tomorrow we will be visiting Mesa Verde National Park.  We have tickets to two tours where they will guide you through cliff dwellings. Tell you more about that tomorrow.

The link(s) below will get you to a Skydrive account that has a few pictures from today.

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=8406D35CB4187B48!250&authkey=!AHL3gyduCPHvQ2o

or

http://sdrv.ms/KVJLdZ

 

Geocache count   Today  3   Trip Total 43

Gas watch   Telluride    Unleaded $4.24   (we did not fuel up there)  Diesel $4.25

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