Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ouray, CO (11/30/2016)

On Wednesday, I finally was able to drive south into the San Juans and the village of Ouray.  Along the highway, there were signs warning of one hour delays due to avalanche control near Red Mountain Pass.  That stretch of road is notorious for avalanches, which have killed numerous people.  In particular, snow plow drivers are most at risk, since they push away the bottom part of huge snow piles, causing the top part to sweep them off the road and into the deep gorge.  For them, avalanche control is very important.

Nearing Ouray, I had a good view of the Cimarron Ridge, with its familiar peaks covered with the recent snow.
Driving into Ouray was like entering a winter wonderland.

 Ouray is always a quaint little town, but even more so with snow all around.  No wonder they call it "The Switzerland of America".  Much of their architecture emulates the Swiss chalet style, but the Victorian style is also very popular.

Some homes are built using local stone, while others are built on the stone cliffs and ledges surrounding the town.

Public buildings, such as the library, hotels and churches also carry out the Victorian theme.

One thing they have in common is a great view of the amphitheater formed by a semi-circle of mountains overlooking the town.  And, from up there, one has a good view of the town.
Going south out of town toward Red Mountain Pass, I could see only a small part of the ice climbing park because the road to it was still closed by snow.  I chatted with a city employee about road conditions over the pass, then watched as he went back to his duties, clearing some of the snow on the edge of the gorge.  Not a job to be taken lightly.

Once on the Million Dollar Highway, I was engulfed by fabulous scenes of the mountains in their blankets of snow. The roads were clear where the sunlight hit them, still icy in the shady areas.  There was almost no traffic, mostly a few large trucks that had backed up waiting for snow removal and a few folks like me, wanting to see it while the snow was still fresh.


I stopped to visit with a couple just returning from a snowshoe hike on the trail alongside Mineral Creek.  They were scouting for a Christmas tree for their church and were excited to have found a beauty near the highway.  They would come cut it over the week-end.  While there, we noticed several flocks of sand hill cranes flying south for the winter, Bosque del Apache, NM being their likely destination.  The couple also pointed out a frozen waterfall they had spotted while hiking.

Red Mountain Creek stood out against the snow, and the old fire and rescue station looked like it probably did while in use.  I've never learned what the nearby shack was used for.

There were huge icicles hanging from the cliffs along the highway, and I noticed they were starting to fall as the sun began to melt them, even at 22F.  As I drove back toward Ouray, it was a risk that some of the icicles would hit and penetrate the roof of the LRJ.  Fortunately, only smaller pieces landed on the top.


  1. Stan, great shoot of Ouray. Have you been there for the ice climbing competitions? I think they are around Christmas, great spectacle!
    Keep them coming, I enjoy the vicarious travel!
    Ed from Santa Fe

    1. Thanks, Ed. Haven't seen ice climbing yet, maybe this year.