For months I've been talking about taking a roadtrip with girlfriends. Brandon does a boys-only backpacking trip every year (this year they actually did horsepacking) and I decided I need to do a girls-only trip too. I've done a few in the past, but not for a couple of years. I needed a weekend away from the kids and my day-to-day life and Brandon needed a chance to be Mr. Mom.
Jen was the only girlfriend who committed to the trip early on. I let her pick the weekend we would go because she would have to take two days off of work. She and I did a girlfriends trip to San Francisco in 2002 and we were overdue for another. In July airfare to Philadelphia plummetted to under $200 roundtrip and we almost bought tickets, but I decided that rather than spending time on a plane where we could see no scenery, we'd save a little money and take the scenic route. We listed about 10 cities we could drive to and finally narrowed it down to Ouray, Colorado or Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah. These also allowed the three other friends that were considering joining us a better possibility of being able to come (none did).
I have an awesome book called National Geographic's Guide to Small Town Escapes. I've been on trips to three of the towns previously (in OK, AR, and LA) and I chose Ouray from this book.
This past Friday, Jen (one of my best friends since 8th grade) showed up at my house around 9 am. We were on the road by 10:00. It was slow-going for awhile on 1-15 but then it was smooth sailing. We stopped for big juicy hamburgers somewhere in southeastern Utah for lunch. I'd heard good things about Grand Junction, CO and we were considering staying the night there, but when we arrived we were unimpressed. We did stop to stretch our legs and check out a few shops in town and then took a walk along a path by the river. From there we continued south to Ouray.
The valley were Ouray is located is narrow with steep mountains surrounding the town closely. It was stunningly beautiful and there were white-capped even taller peaks in the distance. We checked into a hotel with a tiny room and a kitchen. We explored Main Street on foot and then found us some dinner before heading back to our room for the night.
After checking out of our too-small and slightly uncomfortable room the next morning, we got breakfast and then headed up to Ouray's Box Canyon to check out the waterfall and deep ravine where there is a huge (like 1/4 mile long) manmade ice-climbing wall in winter. It was pretty amazing. We hiked around a bit up there for some amazing views of the town below.
Next we drove about 45 minutes on the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton. The road was slow-moving with so many twists and turns overlooking the yellow river and yellow aspens with views of huge mountains growing ever closer. It was truly incredible scenery. We passed under two bridges and saw several abandoned mine shafts and mining ruins as well as an old, abandoned fire station.
Silverton was in an impressive location but was a dusty, weird, old mining town. We had lunch there and then headed down a long dirt road for several miles to find the ghost town of Animas Forks. This was probably my favorite stop of the trip. It was at an elevation of over 11,000 feet and was rather remote. There were about five other cars there checking out the abandoned homes and mine. There was also a mountain goat hanging out in the vicinity who got really close to us, apparently thirsty when we were near water. The homes there were built around 1900 and remained occupied until the early 1940s and despite incredibly harsh winters, still remain standing.
To be continued...