September 21 – 23
At this point in our “planned” road trip, we would be in California enjoying Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and the Mammoth Lakes area of the Sierras. Due to the wildfires and smoke hazards, we opted to alter our original plan and stall in Southwest Colorado for a bit longer. We can’t complain even the tiniest bit. It is so beautiful here, and we are grateful to have extra time to relax and explore the area.
We stayed in a hotel room to shower after 3 nights of boon-docking outside of Telluride, and booked the next 3 nights at Ridgway State Park campground. We had enjoyed the area’s close proximity to many towns and hiking areas, and the campground is really nice.
We woke up early on Monday morning, and planned to head up about an hour north to Grand Junction. We had to do some of the not-so-glamorous tasks (like bloodwork, etc) that happen prior to starting a new travel nursing assignment. Once we had that squared away, we decided to take advantage of being in that area region and took a detour to Colorado National Monument.
We only had time to drive through and take in some of the scenery at the overlooks, but it was well worth the extra driving. Rim rock road is a windy road that runs up and on the side of a plateau with many canyons and red rock formations to view, and dotted with juniper trees and bighorn sheep.
We drove back to the Ridgway area, after grabbing some Taco Bell, to set up our camp and go to sleep.
We woke up early the next morning, and got ready to hike to 2 alpine lakes (we love alpine lakes). We drove south through Ouray and then along the Million Dollar Highway again, admiring all of the trees that had turned golden since we had driven the road the week prior. The mountains looked as if they were watercolored with yellow and green stripes.
We stopped just short of Silverton and pulled off on a gravel road, drove a few miles into the mountains, and started hiking.
We knew the weather was iffy for the afternoon, but we were not expecting temps in the 30s, strong winds and on and off rain/sleet to greet us once we got to the high elevations. We adorned Charley in her adorable rain jacket and began our ascent. The hike was steep and took us from an elevation of 9,673 feet to 12,624 feet in about 4 miles. I am not going to lie, I was huffing and puffing most of the way up.
We first walked through some nice foliage with aspen trees, and then a valley with several waterfalls. The first lake that we hit was Ice Lake. It was a crystal-clear indigo blue color. We stopped for a few photos but couldn’t stay too long due to not being able to feel our fingers, toes or paws.
We kept trucking to get to the next lake, Island Lake, which was another 3/4 of a mile. We hiked along a ridge with a steep drop-off and amazing views into the valley below that we had hiked through less than an hour before, with some angry clouds looming in the distance.
We arrived at Island Lake, a lake with a greenish hue and an island jutting out in the center, and surrounded by a striated basin. See photos below:
We hiked down swiftly once we had seen both lakes to avoid the oncoming storm. About halfway down, we heard a crack of thunder and were pelted by sleet for a few minutes, only to be greeted with sunshine once we got closer to the trailhead.
We drove back to Ridgway State Park to make a hearty meal of pasta and meat sauce, while an exhausted Charley curled up on her bed for the night. We watched a few episodes of The Office, our nightly ritual and camping guilty pleasure, while we contemplated where to go after we leave Colorado.
We had decided that Wednesday was going to be our “rest” day, and we opted for canoeing as our activity for the day. We drove back toward central Colorado to the Blue Mesa Reservoir, located in Gunnison. The reservoir is the largest lake in Colorado and is a part of the Gunnison River.
Being east of the mountains, the landscape is a dry desert with little to no escape from the sun. We took a canoe out of the Elk Creek Marina, and paddled about 3 miles or so before we turned back. Charley was our captain in her hot pink life jacket.
To round out our time in Colorado, we went back to Ouray for one last meal in the quaint little town. We ate at Ouray Brewery and were treated to great food and good brews.
After some deliberation, we decided to head towards southern Utah for some slot canyon hiking, and paddling on Lake Powell for the next few days. Stay tuned!