Archive for October, 2014

It was 122 miles to Moab. Dave did not hook up the EvenBrake and the Rav’s battery did not go dead. We settled into the Portal RV Park on the north end of town ($42 per night) and watched the Giants lose to Kansas City. So it’s one-to-one now. The reason we’re staying here is that we can watch the World Series. It’s warm and cloudless here, so we’re focusing on hiking and revisiting some of our favorite haunts.

On Thursday, we got a late start to Arches National Park and so the light wasn’t very good. We walked the short trail from the campground (that we couldn’t get reservations for) to Broken Arch and reacquainted ourselves with the gorgeous terrain and red rock.

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Then we drove about 1/8th of a mile and did part of the Devil’s Garden Trail, that visits about 10 arches. We thought it was pretty busy for a Thursday morning late in October. I heard German, French, Japanese, Russian (I think). We actually sat down and waited ten minutes for an Italian couple to get out of our earshot. The lady literally never stopped talking. Everyone else was relatively quiet compared to her. We walked as far as one of our favorite arches – Navajo, little off the main trail. About 8 or 10 people visited during the 20 minutes we were there. It’s funny to watch how people experience the arch. Some take a picture or two and leave. Some hang around to experience the ambiance.

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The trail does involve some scrambling and some intimidating climbs but none of it is particularly scary when you have good hiking boots.


We ambled back to the parking lot and had a peaceful evening at home – no baseball obligations.

I wasn’t feeling too good the next morning, so Dave went hiking in Negro Bill Canyon and I lounged around and eventually, feeling better, I cleaned a little bit. It’s so hard to get cooking grease off the various kitchen appliances, especially the mini-blinds. It was a gorgeous day, so I was reading outside when Dave got back. I was making spaghetti for dinner, only it turned into Salsaghetti; I accidentally dumped half a big bottle of salsa into the sauce. The bottle was the exact same size as the Ragu sauce I buy. Dave often teases me that I never make the same recipe twice but this was a big change. Luckily, it tasted okay. Dinner wasn’t much consolation – the Giants lost. Now the Royals are ahead, 2 games to 1.

On Saturday, we didn’t get out early and spent an hour talking to our RV park neighbor from Ann Arbor, MI. It was after 1 p.m. when we took off to do the La Sal Loop, a 60-mile road that goes through Castle Valley and the La Sal Mountains. Our photographic expectations weren’t high and were met. No clouds and hazy conditions marred the wonderful views. But driving to the start of the loop, along the Colorado River was amazing, as always. And we found things to amuse us.

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We were only halfway along the loop road when a couple on an off-highway-vehicle stopped us to ask for directions. Then they recommended a shortcut from the loop to Moab that went through some nice rock formations. Sand Flats was a dirt road and Dave had just got the Rav washed but we are always interested in new territory. The first 10 miles of the 16-mile road were okay – it descended through pines with intermittent views of Moab and the Moab cliffs. We had never seen Moab from this viewpoint.


Then the road dropped into sandstone formations that got nicer and nicer. There was a large amount of traffic on the road and we saw loads of people camping on what we assumed was BLM land. The finishing touch in the middle of the road as we were just outside of town: an entrance booth charging a $5 entrance fee. Weird.

On Sunday we had arranged to meet an old friend, Janet Curley. We have had some great adventures with Janet and her husband, Don. Don suddenly passed away in early 2013 and Janet has been perservering in running their homestead in the small town of La Sal. She suggested going on a hike to Corona/Bowtie Arches. Once we started on the trail, Dave and I realized we had never been on it before. It only ran 1.5 miles but went through great red rock formations.

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Because it was Sunday, there were quite a few people on the trail. We ate lunch at Corona Arch and watched people come and go. One couple came over to where we sitting, on one side of the arch and said two French girls had asked them to please get out of their picture, that took around 5 minutes of various poses under the huge arch.

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On the way back, we got to see the train going through the narrow canyon beneath us. It moves Potash out of the mine to civilization. All this occurs around Moab and the Colorado River. The potash is evaporated in large ponds. The intense blue color is dye, used to accelerate the crystallization process.

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We returned to our rig around 3 p.m. cleaned up and hung around, waiting for Buck’s Grill House to open. We’ve been there several times; it’s good and has the benefit of being next door to our RV park. We were the first customers of the night and got seats on the patio, celebrating the mild weather with Lemon Drops, a very nice cocktail. Janet and Dave ordered the delicious Cowboy Porkchops while I had Elk Stew. Janet had the most innovative dessert – Mojito ice cream. It was very light and good. Dave and I went a little heavier with a chocolate brownie and pecan pie. Ooh, it was good! We waddled back to our campsite and bid farewell to Janet. The Giants game was still going and they won again. One more game and they win the World Series again.

Monday was our last full day in Moab. We got up at 6 a.m., heated up the coffee and drove away to Island in the Sky, the high-rise part of Canyonlands National Park. The clouds, too many or none, have an enormous impact on sunrise photography and it was no exception on this visit. We perched at the Green River Overlook and took all our pre-dawn images. The rising sun lights up the far-off mountains and buttes first and works its way to the huge canyons in front of us.

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I was going at it, shooting, shooting, waiting for the sun light up the vicinity, when it went behind a big cloud bank. Darn!!! Back to pre-dawn conditions. Plus it was cold, a big drop in temperature from the past couple of days. Oh well. We ate our cookies, drank our coffee and drove from overlook to overlook, looking for great shots. Nothing looked spectacular but you never know until you look at those pixels.

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We left Island in the Sky at about 11 a.m. and decided to visit Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s 4 miles off the west on the huge mesa and provides an eastern view of the canyons and the Colorado River. And they had a coffee kiosk that was nice because we had drank all our coffee. We downed our sandwiches with a large mocha. That fortified us enough to take a walk along the East Rim Trail, our last walk, probably.



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There are always clouds around. Sometimes they are wonderful and sometimes they are a pain. Sometimes they are little white puffies, making the dunes look like a cartoon drawing. Sometimes they are spectacular, exploding thunderheads that make a great backdrop for trees. And sometimes they are just dull and pale gray, sucking the vibrance out of the landscape. We’ve had all of these in 5 days. Clouds have covered up all the stars in the dark night sky most evenings.

On Sunday, we reprised the 7-mile round trip hike to Mosca Pass in the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains. The rise over 3.5 miles is 1400 feet and it’s a steady slog upwards, but the trail is a good one. Our expectations weren’t too high because most of the aspen are done, but we saw some nice color, especially from the Narrow-leaf Cottonwoods that provide a bright orangey-yellow note to the landscape.

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After about 2.5 miles, the trail levels out into a series of meadows. The weather was perfect – warm sun, cool shadows and a little breeze. And always in front of us, huge thunderheads looming over the crest of the mountain. We cut the hike a little short – my legs were getting tired and frisked back down the trail (not really), using our hiking poles efficiently. It’s amazing how much they help with balance when descending a downhill rocky path.

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The next morning, at the ridiculous time of 5:45 a.m., I arose with Dave to trek up the dunes for sunrise. It was still dark when we locked up the Lazy Daze at 6:15 so we used flashlights to descend the Dunes Trail for a quarter mile or so. It was weird crossing Medano Creek in the dark. Luckily, the deepest channels are no more than 3 inches (I think) and I could avoid them using the flashlight. When we reached the foot of the dunes, it was still too dark to pick out the route Dave wanted to use. If you just head “up” you can really run into some lung-busters. It’s better to zig-zag your way up to the higher dunes.

After standing around for ten minutes or so, waiting for the light to increase, we began the ascent. Going up gets you out of breath fast, but what really slowed me down was the spots where the sand is soft and mushy. As agreed, Dave continued on to higher places. I moved up as I caught my breath. I was sitting on the edge of a ridge looking eastwards when I realized the mountains to the north were alight with ethereal pink light on the snow topping them. I jumped up, mushed a little higher and began to photograph. To paraphrase a certain song, “If you can’t photograph from where you want, photograph from where you are.”






All of the clouds over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east assured that we would only have a few moments of sunshine on the dunes. Dunes to the far west lit up. The plains to the south lit up. The dunes we were on did not light up. Luckily, they had many striations and color variations that made them visually interesting, but they didn’t glow.

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When I find an interesting foreground, I just keep returning to it to see if the light has changed. I liked the look of this “hole”.

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Footprints create a design along the crest of this dune.


We did what we could and skidded down around 9:30 or 10. Crossing Medano Creek was easier in the sunlight.

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Since half a breakfast bar isn’t much of a repast, I stewed some apples and blueberries and made cinnamon toast. Of course, the clouds to the east went away and the sun came out. We hung out the rest of the day, enjoying the place. It’s so wonderful to look up and have this enormous expanse of dunes right there.

We were sad to leave the dunes but it was time to move on. Tuesday was going to be a 220-mile driving day – a long one for us. Every time we stopped for anything, Dave checked the Rav’s battery and there was no problem. We ate lunch at the Shaw Creek Rest Area in South Fork and it was decorated for Halloween. I’ve never seen a rest stop like it: the wastebasket under the sinks had a cozy around it and each toilet stall had a very nice, handmade Halloween wall hanging. I didn’t have any camera to get a shot so you will just have to imagine it. It made me feel good to know someone trusts the public enough to do that.

We were intending to stay in Cortez but ended up in a nice RV park in Mancos so we could watch the first game of the World Series. Glad we did – the Giants won 7-1. Go Giants!!





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On Tuesday, we tried a couple of nearby roads that we hadn’t traversed before. A few miles up the road, Coal Creek Road had a closed gate right where the aspens started. Avalanche Creek Road was actually a narrow track that slowly rose through a valley but we were in the midst of so much brush that we couldn’t really see anything. It was pretty rough so we turned back.

We drove up to McClure Pass one more time and stopped at McClure Campground to see what the rain and snow had done. The aspens there had lost more leaves but were still looking pretty good. But since we’ve visited all the spots in the area accessible by our car, there was no reason to stay there. We started talking to a local couple who had stopped to use the bathroom. They told us that the company who is doing the fracking is paying to keep McClure Campground open; otherwise the Forest Service would have closed it. (I’m not sure if they meant seasonally or permanently.) They said the company “is trying to be a good neighbor” but they worry about the possibility of earthquakes that come with fracking.

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And then, back over McClure Pass for the penultimate time. In my opinion, it is one of the most scenic passes in the country.

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We broke camp and headed for Stevens Creek Campground by Curecanti Reservoir, near Gunnison. We took CO-92, a road that goes from Hotchkiss down to the reservoir. This was the first time we did the length of the road. I should say the height of the road because the final 20 miles or so soared above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. And I mean, soared! A lot of this road wound its way along the gorge at 10,000 feet. The views were stupendous. The gorge, being so deep, was basically black and the river invisible. We found that out on previous trips. Finally, you descend to the welcoming sight of the intense blue Curecanti Reservoir. We got our favorite campsite by the water for $3 per night.

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The plan for Wednesday was to drive up the Alpine Plateau Road to see what shape the aspens were in. Previously, we’ve gone up the road about 6 or 7 miles, then turned back, but I worked out a loop that meant 27 miles on the road, then hooking up with another couple of roads to go back. We started out, and as we expected, the aspens were pretty shot except for a few spots. But we had fun photographing icy ponds and streams and toodled along, expecting at least a pleasant drive.

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We kept rising: 8000, 9000 feet. The dirt road was okay but at 10,000 feet started to go from thick, gooey mud to snow. The Garmin showed the road breaking into a hundred little offshoots but I managed to pick out our particular offshoot. We were in pine forest and as we hit 11,000 feet, the surrounding trees were keeping the snow on the road icier. When we hit 11,500 feet, our track was still rising and we still had 13 miles to go before we hooked up with the connector I wanted. Regretfully, we decided we better turn around. Getting mired in snow wasn’t in our plans.


Easing the pain of the aborted trip was the Giants-Cardinals Game 3 that the Giants won in the bottom of the tenth inning. So the Giants are ahead 2 games to 1. All right!

Thursday, we made the short drive over Monarch Pass to Salida. Monarch Pass was still looking pretty good, aspen-wise, in 2012, but it was totally finished for us. So we continued on to find the Four Seasons RV Resort, a pretty place by the Arkansas River. A little run down, but nice. But for $35 we got a site by the noisy road, so-so WiFi, rec room closed for the season (no shuffleboard for us!) and a small laundry where 1 wash and dry cost $6 and the clothes were still damp. For the dryer, a quarter got me 3 minutes of lukewarm heat. Oh well, we had sausage and acorn squash for dinner and watched the Giants eke out another win. One more and they are going to the World Series to play the Kansas City Royals.

Another 90-mile drive and we arrived at Great Sand Dunes. The campground was surprisingly occupied; most of the best sites that directly look out on the dunes were taken. We found a pretty good site and unhooked the Rav4, only to find the battery was dead. This concerned us because the same thing happened after the 60-mile drive the day before. That short a haul shouldn’t exhaust the battery. It was going to be difficult to turn the RV around to jump the Rav so Dave hooked up the mobile solar panel and it took about 15 minutes to recharge the car battery enough to get the starter going. Clever! We found a better site and relaxed for a while outside. There was a cool breeze and bright sunshine. After dinner, we watched the Giants win the National League Pennant. Ishikawa hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth and BOOM – they’re going to the World Series. Unbelievable: 2010-2012-2014. What a great team.

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Dave had plotted his route up the dunes and his rose early on Friday and left the cozy bed to me. This is a rarety and after dozing a while, I got coffee and reveled in my solitude. He eventually returned and we lazed around until mid-afternoon and then went up to the primary parking area to access the dunes. The place was buzzing with lots of people. Medano Creek, when it runs, runs right in front of the dunes. The recent rains means that Medano is burbling along and kids (and adults) get to run, splash and play -a day at the beach.

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The light wasn’t optimal but we tried our best. Sunshine sure makes a difference. We returned to camp and had a nice evening.

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Saturday morning the light looked pretty good, so we got up and out to the Sand Pit. This is another parking area that provides a little more remote access to the dunes. There are a few more orangy trees around and its fun to tramp through the Medano’s million little streams. We were on a hill when some riders came by and I heard French wafting up towards us. There were several groups out riding on the dunes. It was neat to see.

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We took off from Erickson Campground on Thursday, heading north for a big chore day. We passed Paonia Reservoir, not as pathetically empty as it was in 2012, but still very low.


We ended up at a KOA south of Carbondale. It was starting to sprinkle as we tried to find our way into this place. It is situated just past a small bridge and sculpture garden. We missed the sign, turned off onto the bridge and dead-ended in somebody’s driveway with them patiently waiting for us to unhook and back down the narrow road. We finally made it in and thought the $34 without a discount wasn’t outrageous; it’s a very pretty place right by the Crystal River.

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We did the most expensive laundry I think we have ever done: $8.25 for 3 washes and $6 for 4 dries because the dryers were lousy and didn’t dry much the first time around. The I went to two liquor stores and one supermarket in town. The first liquor store was small and had a lousy, expensive selection of wines. The second liquor store was managed by a German guy who kept telling me that his California wines had to be cheaper than those sold in California. They weren’t. Finally stocked up, I returned home and we listened to the rain pitty-patting the rest of the night.

We went about 15 miles south to Redstone Campground, run by the Forest Service. It’s in a gorgeous setting, right off Highway 133. A site with electricity and water was $36, expensive. We spent some time trying to figure out if my Golden Senior Pass was accepted or not and finally decided that it was, so put $18 in the envelope.


It was early enough to go somewhere and it was cloudy but not raining much, so we did the short drive to Marble, a town at the foot of a marble quarry higher in the mountains. As you near the small town, you start seeing marble slabs holding mail boxes, playgrounds with marble sculptures and huge marble boulders lying around everywhere. We headed straight to one of our favorite spots, Beaver Pond, a small body of water that reflects the mountains nicely. After that interlude, we headed up into the mountains, getting spectacular views in every direction. The dirt road is pretty narrow, but not scary except where a piece of it fell off in one spot.

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We reached the big view parking area and watched four guys preparing for a backpacking trip. I was glad I was coming home to our Lazy Daze for the night. When we got back, the campground hostess came up and told us we owed another $2.50 because there’s no senior deduction on the electricity charge. Oh well, $20.50 isn’t too bad. She also told us that 3 deer had appeared in the campground meadow yesterday, and someone had seen a mountain lion in the campground, possibly stalking the deer. Oh dear! No midnight wandering for us.


Saturday morning turned out to be cloudy with dramatic fluffies posing over the huge valley views. We spotted some fog over the aspens at the top of McClure Pass so we rushed up there and took advantage of the morning mists.

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Our chosen road for the day has the unattractive name of Buzzard Divide Road (CR-265). It heads west, away from the major mountains. In 2012, we took a late-afternoon drive on it and we were rewarded with fantastic views of the Ragged Mountains. This time we were amazed as soon as we got on the dirt road. There were about 40 semi-trucks parked in a row along the side. We asked what they were waiting for and found that they were there to pick up natural gas from a fracking site, unseen by us. We kept on down the road and went through some very pretty ranch country, following East Muddy Creek. We of course, tried to commune with the cattle we saw but they were having none of it.


As we entered Gunnison National Forest and began to rise, the surroundings became more entrancing. The clouds provided fantastic backgrounds to anything we wanted to photograph.

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We turned around after about 13 miles and headed back. A little down the road, some cattle were ensconced right in the middle of the road, looking implacable. Some we saw more coming down the road towards us, followed by a couple of wranglers and I don’t know how many dogs. Milling about right in front of us, they were herded off the road and we could advance through all the fresh cowpies they had left behind.

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The breezes had picked up and the aspen leaves were blowing about, like golden snowflakes. We tried to capture the effect but the images didn’t work so well.

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As we neared the end of Buzzard Divide, there were another 40 trucks waiting to pick up the fracking results. It is disheartening to know that process is happening in these beautiful hills. I hope the enormous quantities of water that fracking requires isn’t coming out of an aquafir and that the chemicals that are used aren’t leaching into anyone’s water supply.

We continued home, didn’t see any mountain lions lurking in the campground, and prepared for the first Giants-Cardinals game. This entailed taking showers and preparing dinner: kielbasa sandwiches, pasta salad and potato chips. Perfect with a cheap red.

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On Sunday, we did the 60-mile drive up to Erickson Springs Campground, not knowing if we’d get in or not. This area is the dead space of the area. Most of the campgrounds close for the season on Oct 1 and the Forest Service CGs that are open have no services. Erickson is 6 miles off the highway and we drove separately to make it easier on the LD on a dirt road. Not only did they have spaces, we were the only campers in the 18 available campsites. Nice. And the outhouses are still unlocked and outfitted with TP. Nice! This is such a wonderful quiet campground. Its disadvantage is that the sun doesn’t arrive over the cliffs until 11 a.m. or so. But then we get a long afternoon of light and warmth.

Monday morning, we hopped out of bed and headed for the hills. Kebler did not disappoint. And the aspens were much greener and golder than the last time we visited in 2012. We reprised one of my favorite images from past trips: some aspens way up on a ridge with the dark morning rockface behind them. But the weather was not ideal; it was a crystal-clear blue-sky morning. We muddled along, stopping every eighth-mile or so to stop and photograph. We have never found a view of aspens that is as expansive as Kebler. It is truly amazing, probably 20 miles of color.

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When we got back, we watched the recording of the Giants-Nationals game. It went smoothly until Bumgarner blew a decision of where to throw. By the end of the inning, the Nationals were up 3-0. And the Giants only managed to get 1 run by the end of the game. Bummer, but that’s what it’s like with the Giants – torture. And I didn’t like the announcers for the first 3 games; I felt like they favored the Nationals over the Giants. (And its well known that I am very unbiased in my judgments.)

Tuesday, we had a busy agenda. We again got up early, spooned cereal down our gullets, and took off for a long day back over Kebler Pass. The weather was different, with high clouds that mellowed the light. So that required us to take lots more images.

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We arrived in the mountain town of Crested Butte about 11:30 or so. The Visitor Center provided us with the name of a good café: McGills. Dave ordered a chicken sandwich plus fries and I ordered a Bacon, Spinach, Tomato and Avocado sandwich with Chipotle mayo. The sandwich was very good but the fries – oh my! They were big and spicy, the second best I remember eating. (Actually, I don’t remember where I had the best fries of all, but I think these were second best.) Stuffed, we took a walk through downtown Crested Butte, then found a public park and caught up with email, Google queries and uploading our blogs, reveling in our connectivity. There is no phone service at all on the mountains or our campground. We were also toting our small bag of garbage and 2 empty wine bottles. A fact of life when you are boondocking off season: you have to bring your trash to a public trash can.

There are a few metal sculptures around Crested Butte, but St. George and the Dragon is quite large.


We headed back around 2:30 and light got progressively nicer. Groves that were fascinating in morning light now looked ordinary and other spots riveted us.

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We got home at 5 p.m., ate a quick dinner and the fourth Giants-Nationals game came on. I kind of expected the Giants to lose again because that’s their style to pull it out when their backs are to the wall. But no!! They eked out another win. And I enjoyed the admitted befuddlement of the different announcers on how the Giants continue to move ahead in the post-season with so few hits. And what adds to my pleasure is that the Dodgers lost their playoff round. The Giants will play the Cardinals in the National League Division Series. Go Giants!!

On Wednesday, we decided to do the local hike taking off from our campground – Dark Canyon. It is crammed between Anthracite Creek and incredible, crumbly cliffs. We crossed one rock scree after another. The downside of this trail is that is used by horses and the frequent muddy parts are deep and very mucky. Dave got to use his new trekking poles for the first time and they were helpful.

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We got back in the early afternoon and later went out again to do Kebler Pass in later light. Once again, the light was amazing.

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On Friday, we drove separately over Red Mountain Pass. It has so many hairpin turns, it was easier on the Lazy Daze. After our two prior trips on the road, we weren’t tempted to stop and photograph. But the descent into Ouray is always spectacular, one of the best I’ve ever seen. We hooked up one the flatlands and sped through town to Ridgway State Park to nab a great campsite with a view of one of three mountain ranges around us. After settling in, we took off on an aspen adventure.

I have collected info from various blogs on where to go for autumn color and County Road 7 was highly touted. So on this cloudless day we took off with no particular expectations. And for the first 6 miles we were not entranced. Things got better as we hit Mile 7. The view of Mt. Sneffels was very nice, with Aspen-slides running down the hills. At the bottom of the scene was a large, green pasture with some picturesque horses.

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The light wasn’t spectacular yet, so we kept crawling along the final 2 miles of the road. There were quite a few photographers out there with us. But we were the only ones who stopped in the aspen groves to take dreamy close ups of the trembling leaves. I get tired of just shooting panoramas. Our critter count increased with the sighting of a second marmot. I never saw one move that fast before.

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We headed home around 4:30, missing the best sunset light, but wanting to get back and watch our recorded version of the Giants playing the Washington Nationals in their second playoff series. We settled down with drinks and potato chips and cheered our boys on to another win. GO GIANTS!!

Oh what a day! After sitting in bed, watching the sun rise over the Cimarron Range, we pulled it together and drove up into them. We had a great day at Owl Creek Pass in 2012 and we had another great day on Saturday. Sun with no clouds is not ideal for photography but it sure is enjoyable.

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The road zigzags it’s way up to 10000 feet before you get to the pass. Then, anticlimactically, you’re over the top and heading down. We got caught up quite a while by a muddy, half-frozen puddle by the side of the road. We are so easy to entertain! As we drove downwards we could see little hints of autumn in full swing behind the pines lining the road, but when we reached the valley, it was outstanding.

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We thought it might be really crowded there and it was busy. There were people smooching by the side of the road, taking their dogs out for a romp, setting up camps on grassy meadows or like us, half-drunk with visual exultation. Huge swathes of bright aspens lead up to jagged snowy crags. A few brilliant blue lakes reflect the mountains, trees and sky. It is a breathtaking experience.

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You can only take so many shots of the big picture, so we began to fool around with the aspens, zooming and panning. Like I say, easily amused.

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We stopped for coffee at Silver Jack Reservoir and took a short walk down to the water, that was very low.

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Dave took over the driving at that point. We were doing an 80-mile loop and he drives more quickly than I do. We evaluated the landscape as we drove, comparing it to what we had seen in 2012. The trees and brush at the lower (7000′) elevations hadn’t changed yet. We had hit Owl Creek Pass at the perfect time.

We got home at some point, ate dinner, then reviewed our day’s collection of images (168 for Dave, 178 for me. This speaks to the power of editing!) Then we turned on the recording of the second Giants-Nationals game. It was 1-0 Nationals for the longest time. And then with two outs in the Ninth, Sandoval doubles! Soon the score is tied! We watch until the 11th inning when our recording ends. Dave had allocated extra time for the game but who would guess the game would run 18 innings. But they won!!!! Never count the Giants out.

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After catching the steam engine one more time, we got propane, gassed up and took off for Silverton. It was a rather dismal, gray day, enhanced by the sight of a coyote. We headed up the US-550, the San Juan Skyway and within 15 miles we were seeing amazing swathes of color. The aspens were going big-time! We reached Silverton (9300’ altitude), dropped the Lazy Daze at the Visitor Center and drove over to take a look at Kendall Campground, a Forest Service campground with no facilities except a pit toilet. About a mile off the highway and 3 miles from Silverton, it looked good. We went back, retrieved the LD and splashed through the mud puddles to camp right next to Mineral Creek. Sweet!

We crammed down some lunch and headed downhill on US-550, back the way we had come. The sun came out for a few minutes here and there, mostly focusing on the snowy mountaintops. That didn’t help us with exposure. But we hopped in and out of the Rav, getting what we could. We have driven this road many times, but not with the aspens in full swing. And it really wasn’t all that cold.

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We got back to the rig and started up the heater, the first time during an evening. We piled on both halves of our queen-size sleeping bag and went to bed with the sound of the creek rushing past us. Dave woke me up in the morning, saying “We had a little surprise during the night”. It was about an inch of snow. We got some pictures before it melted; it wasn’t that cold out. We got introduced to the campground Blue Jay. And then, the requisite rainbow showed up. We are blessed!

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The weather lightened up around 10 a.m. so we packed up the Rav and took off on US-550 towards Ouray to see what we would find. What we found was sun, rain, snow, sugar snow and fog. Red Mountain Pass was snow-raining and was unremarkable. Past that, the clouds lifted a little and the aspens came out in a saturated glow. We stopped at one point and I tried holding my camera and photographing with one hand while holding an umbrella with the other. It actually worked pretty well.

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We continued on to the point at which CR-20 took off into the mountains. That wasn’t happening, but some sun came out and lit the joint up. Aim almost anywhere and you would get a great shot. The variety of shades the aspen displayed included green, spring green, rust, russet, toffee, caramel, apricot, yellow orange, gold, lemon yellow and other un-namable colors. (Boy, I love the names of colors) At each spot, it was sprinkling or not, snowing a little or not, fog was forming or dispersing. What an environment!

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When we began to descend the road switchbacks that lead to Ouray, the fog got thicker and thicker. Since there had not been a single bathroom anywhere on the road, I was planning to use a bathroom in Ouray. Rather than maneuver deeper into the murk, I opted for a hidden spot near the entrance to the Alpine Highway. This is a rocky, unpaved road heading steeply up into the mountains. Who would be on a road like that in this weather? Plus the heavy mist would hide my business, I would have all the privacy I required. As I started trudging up the wet, stony road, a car headed down past me with the driver waving. We probably both thought “What the heck are they doing here?” For me, there seems to be no privacy anywhere when I need it.


We chowed down on our sandwiches, Dave reprised a photograph of a stream he photographed several years ago and we headed back towards Silverton. We returned to the same spot we stopped at earlier, this time much foggier. Finally, we headed home through a thunderstorm. We could see faint flashes of lightning through the fog and snow. Unusual to us. What a great morning. Unsettled weather can be so wonderful for making images.

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On Thursday, we woke up to a pure blue sky; no clouds. It was a bit of a shock. We waited for the sun to rise high enough to light up the valleys and took off on US-550 back towards Durango. The light and the aspens weren’t all that great. No big surprise. One disconcerting item: Dave pointed out the car wrecks thousands of feet below the road. Hope that’s not us!

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So we headed back to Silverton and hit up their grocery store. Flash to the past. Small store, high prices, no red or white potatoes. We bought what we had to have and went back to camp, showered and I started dinner using the frozen beef that was beefing up the space in my small freezer. Leaving the browned beef marinating in tomato sauce, we took off again, this time towards Ouray. We were very shocked that the aspens looked so anemic and past prime. What a difference the light makes.

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We took some comparison shots, progressed to the exact same spot we turned around at yesterday, and wended our way home. I was disappointed and felt a little tired of aspens (Mortal sin!) Hopefully, I’ll regain my enthusiasm tomorrow when we head to Ridgway. Our camp valley has been very nice and the $0 camp fee is especially appreciated. We’re hoping we can find somewhere to watch the Giants-Nationals playoff. We don’t always get network channels. We may have to hit a bar.

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