Sunday, September 28 Today we set out of Colorado. Durango to be specific. Rain showers are supposed to be moving in, and the early morning sunrise gave way to quickly overcast skies. We were packed up and out of Bandelier by our usual 10 AM departing time and on the road. It was easy going for a while, but we could see the rain up ahead as we drove further north, and in no time we were in it. Rain always makes driving a little more stressful, but when it’s a 230 mile driving day, it gets worse. By the time we reached Durango, I was a grouchy as a new 60 year old has a right to be.
We first pulled into the county fairgrounds, looking for a place to stay. No go. There was no one in the administration building to talk with, no RV’ers parked anywhere in any of the lots to ask, and nothing to give a clue as to where we should park. So much for the cheap camping. We decided to stay at one of the RV parks around town. We stopped at Alpen Rose, about 6 miles north of town. We’ve stayed there before and it was fine. This time, all the unoccupied lower sites were flooded from the thundershowers. All the rest were up in the trees. It being Sunday, we wanted satellite for watching the season ending episodes of a couple of shows we watch. We decided to stay at the United Campgrounds, a little closer to town. Five bucks more, but we were right next to the Silverton train and the Animas River. Even though there were trees here also, I was pretty sure it was open enough to get a signal on the dish. Nope. I must have just been on the edge. But there was a very nice laundry right near our site, and we were only going to be here a couple of days for chores, so it was alright. We ended the day watching the trains rumble through the campground on their way back from Silverton.
Monday, September 29
Still raining, so Mary did the laundry and grocery shopping. We worked up a list of thing to do. We both needed haircuts, I wanted new hiking poles for my birthday (the freebie’s from Jim & Gayle had come to the end of their lives), and we needed propane. I also wanted to check out Open Shutter Photography Gallery. I met Margy Dudly, the owner, at the Santa Fe portfolio reviews and she’d offered me a show in one of the 2 galleries in her space. But things did not go smoothly.
We set out in the afternoon, first for haircuts. The Great Clips Mary had found no longer existed. Walmart had a shop and was right next door, but the wait there would be an hour and a half for the first appointment. But she did give us coupons. We found another salon, but the first appointment wouldn’t have been till 6 PM. Only one person on duty at each. On to hiking poles. The big beautiful REI that I remembered being here was not. What was in its place, was now a Big 5 or something like that. They only had really cheap poles. The other large sports store had exactly the same poles. We moved on to Open Shutter.
This worked out better. Located in a prime location of Main Street, she has a big beautiful space with loads of walk-in street traffic. Margy toured us around the gallery and showed us what she had in mind for my Nomads work. It is a smaller separate space, but well lit and open for easy browsing. The show may be as much as a year off in the future, but it will be nice! We also managed to find a nice little local sports store right across the street from the gallery where I found some acceptable poles. Now we just have to find some trails. Not necessarily and easy task with all the rain. We finished the day at the liquor store where Mary was NOT pleased with the prices. On the plus side, there was cake for evening dessert.
Tuesday, September 30
The skies were partially clearing this morning as we packed up getting ready to head up to Silverton. We’d finally found propane at a CoOp near the south end of town, but since we were on the north end, we had to drive all the way through and out of town to get there. But we were done now and headed up. More rain showers were predicted for later, but mostly it was just gray. As soon as we started rising, the aspens began looking good. We were a little worried the storms of the past 2 days would wreak havoc on the fall color, but here, it was looking great. The ride up was a thrilling blend of twisty roads and brilliant color and really sweetened our moods. We reached Silverton and dropped the RV at the visitor to check out campgrounds. Don & Dorothy Malpas told me about their favorite dispersed campground just outside of town, so that was our first – and last – stop. It is a lovely location that has plenty of wide open spots to park. We backed the Lazy Daze right up to Mineral Creek and enjoyed the views all around us and the sound of the rushing creek. Thanks D & D! As soon as we were set-up, we were back out on the road to retrace our ride up on 550 in the RAV. We drove back toward Durango for about 15 miles, stopping often for pictures. It was very cloudy, but sun peeked out occasionally. If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know how much I prefer this. You don’t get the brilliant backlit colors so much, but my preference has always been the more subtle pastels that can be achieved with the even lighting clouds provide. It can backfire when the clouds get too heavy and dark – then everything just gets dull. We found plenty of great spots to stop and photograph, but as we progressed further down the mountain, it got progressively cloudier, so we turned around and headed back to camp. Turns out, the best lighting was all around the Silverton area. The low temperature for the evening was supposed to be 18˚, so we piled on our extra queen sized sleeping bag half and prepared ourselves for a cold night. It was actually too much because it never got that cold.
Wednesday, October 1Upon waking, we found the inside temp to be 45˚ – cold, but not that bad. The reason was the evening clouds hung around and actually dropped about an inch of snow on the ground. As much as I wanted to stay under the covers, I just had to get up to photograph the camp. I was rewarded with some great moody lighting on the mountains and a nice little rainbow right in camp. It was supposed to stay cloudy with an 80% chance of showers later in the day, so we were up and out to photograph the Silverton/Ouray side of US 550. Again, it started out mostly cloudy with occasional breaks of sun, but as we got up over the pass, it got cloudier. Much of the foliage was past peak around Silverton, but after getting up over the pass, we began seeing trees in better condition.
We found a couple of extraordinary mountainsides covered in turing aspen. For a good while, the lighting was dramatic once again. Occasional snow showers would send us scurrying back to the warmth of the car and our coffee cups, but we were out again as soon as the snow diminished and our fingers thawed. I know that doesn’t exactly sound like fun to many, but we just love being out in this kind of weather – as long as warmth is close at hand. When we hit the long canyon road down to Ouray, the fog got really thick – like 20’ visibility thick. There wasn’t much point in continuing like this, so we turned around and headed back. The afternoon rain (and thunder/lighting) had picked up, and up on the pass, snow had begun to accumulate on the road. It was looking slippery, so we were both happy to be getting down lower to our camp. Again, back at camp, the sun was still peaking out, but soon, even here it was more rainy than sunny. Tomorrow is supposed to be clear. We shall see.
Thursday, October 2
It was actually colder last night. We were still cozy warm inside, but with not a cloud in the sky now, the outside temps must have been in the low 20’s – judging by the thick ice coating on the RAV anyway. I had to move it into the sun to thaw it out. We also had a little problem with the generator starting up. It would turnover and begin to start up, then kind of weakly run for 30 seconds, then stop, leaving a blinking green light error on the panel. I feared it was the dreaded cracked fuel line that so many LD’er deal with. It continued to do this for several more attempts, until we just left it alone for awhile. Looking at the LD manual, I relearned about the altitude adjustment on the generator. We have never camped at 9000’ ft. before, so it seemed probable this was the problem. I decided to try starting it up again before messing with any controls and viola’, it started right up. We’d also been having problems with getting the burners to light with the ignition nobs. Both problems are altitude related I believe.So for our morning drive, we decided to go once again drive the Silverton/Durango side of US 550 again – this time in full beautiful sunlight. While the sun did provide wonderful warmth, it also wreaked the lighting on the hills. I think many of the leaves had also fallen, because it certainly looked much less dense than 2 days before. A little disappointing, but still a nice drive and look see. After stopping in Silverton for a few items, we were back in camp for a couple of hours, then headed out again to look over the Ouray/Silverton side of US 550 again. We keep retracing our earlier routes because many of the off road routes we might have taken are a bit too muddy for our RAV. The results here again were disappointing. The sun is just not workin’ for us right now, plus this side now looks rather spent. I think we are ready to move on to the Ridgway area a little further north.