Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree

Marian writes:

Years ago we took a mountain bike over one of a Colorado mountain trail past some of the old mines. One area was so steep we had to get off and push the motorcycle up the skidding gravel as Jim held the throttle open and the front stable, and I tried to push the back tire down enough to get traction in the unstable rock. As we struggled up the steep area a Jeep with four people scurried by us cheering as they climbed what looked straight up. I stood there gazing as they disappeared high above us and wondering how they could do that in a car. It looked impossible.

I also had the experience of looking down from a high elevation at the charming small western town of Ouray, Colorado (population 1,014). The area is called the Switzerland of America. Majestic mountains reigned high above the picturesque little village. The overwhelming beauty brought tears to my eyes. The thought ran through my mind, What is man that You should think of him, the son of man that you should care for us? (Psalm 8:4)

A new desire was planted in my heart. Someday I wanted to come back to Ouray and ride the mountains in one of those Jeeps that seemed to travel on impossible terrain.

So, there we were traveling to Colorado at the same time the Jeep Jamboree would be in Ouray. We could tour the Rocky Mountains with other experienced drivers who knew the trails.

Two hundred sixty one people showed up for the event. Over half were there for the first time. Most hadn’t experience the amazing abilities of their Jeep.

Our first trail had stair step type rocks along a tiny trail that dropped further than I wanted to look. I tried to imagine who could have used the path years ago. It was too narrow for wagons, or any sane person. Finally at the top there was a sign that explained mules had been used in the mines to transport the silver, etc. out, and also to bring supplies in.

Of course. That was the only thing that made any sense. Later, I found another sign that said they tied the pack animals together with buckets hanging on their sides and sometimes lost the whole team over the side when they slipped. I was so glad we went back a different trail.

And I did reconsider my crazy desire to Jeep Colorado.

The area has hundreds of old mines and ghost towns scattered around the mountains. I’m always intrigued to think of the stories they hold secret.

Thousands of people once worked hard to bring gold and silver worth millions out of those mountains. Now the land sits quietly waiting for people on ATV’s, mountain bikes, Jeeps, etc. to come enjoy the scenery and the thrill of their adventure.

For you Jeep people who know the area I’ll document which trails we enjoyed. Of course, we found the high cliffs again, and I always seemed to be on the down side.

We rode Imogene-Ophir, Alpine Loop trailhead to Mineral Point, California Pass, and Corkscrew Gulch. The beauty of the ever-changing Colorado Mountains is beyond explanation. The colors, majestic terrains, blue skies, and fragrances are addictive.

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Traveling Blessed USA

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Gunnison, Colorado

Marian writes:

After the beauty of the areas of Ouray I was disappointed as we entered the high desert type area before Gunnison. At least the Blue Mesa Lake made a pretty blue oasis in the dry scrub brush and barren rolling foothills.

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At those times when I’m missing the beauty of my surroundings I always tell myself to look a little closer. Sure enough, Colorado Columbine of all colors was in bloom around the spot where we parked. There were also paths lined with rocks. Someone had placed their Colorado rock collection of sparkling colorful rocks, and crystals all around for me to enjoy.

As evening arrived blue birds and many others swooped by as if I were sitting in their favorite café. The sunset was spectacular.

After so much activity we planned to take two weeks in Gunnison to take a little rest. But we didn’t want to miss anything there was to see or do either so our first day we drove into town to see the Pioneer Museum we had been told not to miss.

The county supports this impressive museum that has at least ten buildings that hold their collection of most everything from the past from trains to photos. The majority of the items have been donated by the local community.

I especially enjoyed the old wedding gowns donated by families from the area. They were exquisite and reflected the wealth from the early days. There was also clothes made from animal skins that I think are extinct.

Back at the RV we met George and Kay Smith who wanted to travel the areas four-wheel trails but wisely knew it was best to go out with another Jeep so we spent two days wandering the mountains where the aspens were gloriously golden, orange, and red. We drove through them. Looked across at the yellow covered mountain sides, and then down on them as we lost the blue spruce tree line. The sun and blue blue sky created a spectacular accent for the fall leaves.

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Kay and I share our name. She is Marian Kay. Here’s a picture of the two Marians.

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These Rubicon friends invited us to go with them and another couple on some difficult trails. We decided to pass because our trail book said our little Jeep would drag on some of the rocks and we didn’t want to take a chance of damage.

Gunnison (population under 7,000) has an impressive airport for such a small town.

Western State Colorado University (aka Western) boosts that number by 2500 students. It looked like a great college and we saw signs for free student ski passes. The town also has a bus to take students and the employees to the slopes for free.

There are always treasures to be found in the little communities. Traders Rendezvous was a strange looking shop but everyone we met told us not to miss it. The place was filled with beautiful taxidermy animals that were for sale. All sorts of different kinds of antlers were everywhere. Some had been made into chandeliers and furniture. It was an intriguing place to wander about. I’d never considered you could just go into a store and buy your trophy animal without any hunting effort.

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With no time pressure we thought we should include the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with our back road drives. Again we peered over shear walls into what seemed a black abyss created by the shadows of the close walls. I was fascinated that so much of the stone was really pink with crystal pieces shining in the sunlight. We started visiting with another couple from Cologne, Germany who were also intrigued by the beauty of the rocks and the wildflowers that grew in them. There we all stood with a famous canyon behind us checking out rocks and flowers.

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Jim had spotted another road that went down into the canyon. The dirt road had a 16% grade and hairpin turns. I thought it was the best part of the park and we ended up at the river where people were fly fishing.

We stopped in Montrose for lunch and must share the amazing Cinnamon Rolls we found. The container is dinner size (maybe twelve inches).  For a treat that delicious we had to pay $2.29 which seemed very reasonable.  That works out to less than $.01 per 100 calories I think.

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In Gunnison we were told to try PowerStop for the best hamburger ever. Two brothers wanted to turn a gas station into a fun place and had created unique hamburgers. Their prize winner was a spicy Hawaiian so we tried it. High quality organic beef, fresh homemade buns spread with cream cheese, a grilled pineapple slice, a layer of grilled jalapeno peppers, and a red pepper sweet mango sauce. It was delicious, but oh so hot.

Sunday we went to River of Life Church where Mike and Becky Darnell are pastors. They also own the True Value Hardware store in town. To provide resources for the community they also have a little store that carries Carhartt clothing and Redwing boots and shoes. They added appliances to their store and even included a Blue Bell ice cream shop which wins best ice cream shop in town. They are the only people who carry that brand outside of Denver. I was so impressed with their creative ways of making Gunnison a great place to live.

At church one of the students from the college told us he had a home game the next Saturday, so we decided to go. Mike and Becky said to come early for lunch. When we arrived the parking lot had long tables of food for everyone who came to the game to enjoy. We sat on dark green plush grass on a hill and enjoyed a picnic in the shade of a very old fir tree.

The game was excitedly tense but they won by one point and took home a trophy the school hadn’t held in fifteen years. The students went wild and it was fun to be included. The football field was reported to be the highest college football stadium in the world. It certainly felt like it.

I love the beauty of the mountains but the downside is the air is so thin. The altitude requires drinking lots of water to keep from getting headaches. Walking up a hill is exhausting, and there are hills everywhere.

The other thing that took adjustment was seeing the temperature at 45o in the morning and stepping outside to a perfect day that feels like 75o. And it didn’t take long at all for the sun to burn our skin at those highs.

I love the sense of humor of Americans. We stopped for lunch in Lake City and noticed a chainsaw bear looking in the house next door. While riding in the mountains feeling as if we were far away from everything we found a large round rock. Someone had taken the time to add more rocks to make a happy face. Fellow Americans keep us smiling.

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Traveling Blessed USA

Pyramid Lake Recreation Area

Thinking this place was just a spot between destinations we recognized God was continuing to bless us with His guidance. Imminently, we knew we were there to pray. The place had lots of potential but needed maintenance. We spotted the cross on the hill above the park, and saw a building with a cross obviously used as a church.

We learned the RV Park was owned by the Korean family who was there. The father was a pastor and the resort was used as their church campground where other Korean churches, and leaders, come together to encourage each other and receive training.

It was a privilege to walk the grounds and pray for the people, their work, and the land.

Rosebushes scattered around the park were covered with huge blooms. The area was so dry and sandy I was curious what could be in the soil to create such a vibrant display of color.

To our unexpected surprise Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area was right across the highway from us. We had never heard of the 20,000 acres of trail to run around on with motorcycles, ATVs, and jeeps. One afternoon we checked it out, and then spent a day exploring. The workers told us they sometimes have two thousand people in there running around. We were glad to be there on a quiet weekday. When you topped some of the hills you didn’t know where the road went down, and had no idea if someone else would be coming up the other side.

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We drove through trees and desert, curving valleys up to mountain tops on dusty dirt road. Power line Road was my favorite. At the top of the mountain the wind was gusting and birds were level with us, wings expanded floating in the air currents. I rarely covet but I so wanted to join them and fly.

Jim’s favorite place would probably be the enormous hill that he drove straight up and down with me squealing as we ascended and descended.(Oh, did I say (only) three times?)

We survived!

Traveling Blessed