Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Southwest Colorado Trip - Day 6 Part 2: The Western half of the San Juan Skyway

As a followup to yesterdays posting, here is the scenery and thoughts I'd like put down while such are fresh in my mind.

I left Silverton, CO at 3:00 PM shortly after checking in with my loving wife after my business call was over. I took US 550, aka the Million Dollar Highway, north out of Silverton and while climbing up into the mountains almost immediately had to stop and take pictures. In fact, although it was only 24 miles to Ouray (24 really twisty mountain miles) it took me an hour to get there due to the many stops I had to make for picture taking:

The view just above Silverton, northbound on US 550

Looking towards Ouray on US 550

A closeup of Brigitta near Silverton

Once I managed to tear myself from the beautiful views near to Silverton and enroute to Ouray; I bagged another mountain pass for Brigitta. Red Mountain Pass, named as you will see for the red soil of the mountain peak it lies below of, is the dividing point between two National Forests:

Peak of Red Mountain

Heres some more shots of the Million Dollar Highway, somewhere between Ouray and Silverton I think. I was in such a rush, dammit, that I was not as careful to note locations as I usually do. Still, I hope you get a feel for the incredible mountain scenery provided by this highway.

Mount Abram

By the way, its near the above location where the Alpine Loop exits. Just in case you want to pick it up from this end of it.

Arriving at Ouray at 4:00 PM, I cruised right through this pretty little town nestled inside a canyon, I'll have to come back and visit some day. I rode onwards, found Ridgway (beautiful ridges all around) and took CO 62 towards Telluride.

As I neared Telluride, I bypassed it by taking CO 145 which comprises the western half of the San Juan Skyway. The scenery around Telluride was quite magnificent as well I might add. Here is but two samples:

View near Telluride

Sunshine Mountain and Mount Wilson

Really, towns such as Ouray, Ridgway and Telluride deserve a whole day just to explore and photograph them and their surrounding mountains.

The rest of CO 145 is pretty enough, heavily wooded on both sides of the nicely paved two lane highway. You do go through a long stretch until you reach the borders of the Uncompahgre National Forest where mountain scenery is hinted at but not seen due to the many trees.

However, once you come out for a bit and view what I saw, it made the long wooded stretch worthwhile:

I believe this is Flattop Mountain

As you can see, I was quite taken by Flattop Mountain. The sun was hitting it just right and I could not resist taking picture after picture of it as I neared it and too soon passed it by.

While the rest of CO 145 was unremarkable except of course for tight curves and smooth roadways occasionally marred by tar snakes, there is one more sight to see before one just settles down to straight riding through Rico, Dolores and finally Cortez, CO:

The rock formation of Lizards Head, next to the pass of the same name, I did not have time to ride the pass though, was fortunate to shoot the rock however from the side of CO 145.

The rest of the ride was straight up riding, fuel up when low and repeat. Cortez took forever to show up in my sights! It was 6:00 PM when I took the last picture of the day and then it was a race to get back to Pagosa Springs before nightfall.

Once at Cortez, I picked up eastbound US 160 and "put the hammer down". I made it back to Pagosa Springs and my family safe and sound at 9:00 PM as dusk finally settled in the valley. No deer sighted, which is a truly good thing!

Hope you liked the above rush tour of the Northern and Western portions of the San Juan Skyway. Its definitely one to return to over and over again I think.

EOD Mileage 77,320.

Addendum: 16JUL09: Today it was a six and a half hour of highway riding mostly along US 160 and US 285 back to Denver and reality. Not much to report really, just glad to be back home. My family joins me tomorrow as they decided to take in one more day in Pagosa Springs.

Here's a final panoramic shot of just Flattop mountain and the surrounding area.

EOD Mileage 77,652. Total for the trip: 1997 miles.


Derek said...

Once again, beautiful photos and an amazing machine.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo):

I have been out of touch the past seven days enroute to the BMW MOA Rally in Tennessee. My trusty 4-year-old Apple laptop gave up the ghost, which put me in a bind for work and for reading other folks' blogs.

I did manage to order another laptop (another superb Apple product) but I was running out of time each night to play with it.

I spend at least two days riding the Blue Ridge Parkway this week, but none of my pictures can begin to compare with yours. This last bunch is especially breathtaking. As ever, you go on great rides and bring them back with you.

Fondest regards,
Jack "reep" Toad

Charlie6 said...

Derek and Jack, thanks for the kind words.....

too bad about your old mac Jack, but then again four years is a long time for computers....its about time for me to get a new one too but things are looking iffy right now.

Chris Luhman said...

Thanks for the photos!! I rode on those very roads in May and it was foggy and raining most of the day, so I missed most of the great views.