Colorado Fall Color 2013 Part III: Crested Butte (Oct 1-15)

On this, our third trip to Crested Butte, the area began to feel a bit like home away from home.

The fall color view of Mt Whetstone from our condo on October 2nd, just south of Crested Butte
[Click on any image to enlarge it.]

We returned to many of our favorite haunts and hikes, and tried a few new ones. Pizza at the Secret Stash is as good as always at their new location, but just to be sure, we ate there twice. The Crested Butte Film Festival was just over but we caught Dear Governor Cuomo during the After Fest at the Center for the Arts, Crested Butte. We shopped in "Gunny" and saw Gravity in 3D at the Ruby Cinema on the Western State Colorado University campus. We even have a dentist in town now.

We watched fall color come and go, and the mountain peaks were white with snow before we headed home. Here are a some pictures from some of our favorite places while we were on "CB time".

Mount Beckwith along Kebler Pass

Kebler Pass

In addition to the drive across this aspen loaded area as we arrived at CB, we did the Horse Ranch Park Loop hike. This was an excellent extension (5 miles total) to the HRP viewpoint hike we did in 2011.

Aspen grove along the road in Kebler Pass
Aspen color from viewpoint at Cliff Creek trailhead on Kebler Pass road
Late day light along Kebler Pass

Mt Beckwith from the Horse Ranch Park trail

Horse Ranch Park viewpoint

Susan along the trail

Ohio Pass

We had a very pleasant morning photo excursion at some great roadside viewpoints of aspens and the Castles.

iPhone panorama of the Ohio Pass viewpoint

A favorite view from the talus slope along Ohio Pass road

The "Castles" from Ohio Pass road

Our fun watching for pikas on the opposite hillside ended with Petey Pika meeting a real pika. He keeps asking to watch Pinocchio now.

Probably the closest a pika has ever approached us; he seemed curious

Petey Pika makes a new friend  :-)

Working our way through a cattle drive, we drove further down Ohio pass Road and hiked to Mill Creek. A huge bang for the buck in just 2.5 easy miles round trip. I look forward to birding here during spring migration.

Ohio Pass traffic jam

At the Mill-Castle trailhead

Very interesting rock formations similar to "the Castles"

Along the trail

Panoramic view of the Mill-Castle hike (click image to enlarge)

Washington Gulch

Mike did a hike called No Name Hike, or hike number 31 in our hiking guide, and came back beaming and anxious to share it with me. Steep but only 1 mile round trip, he had 360 degree views. 

Crested Butte, viewed from the No Name "summit"

Panorama from the No Name summit

Another view from the summit

On another day, we tried to go up together but were turned around by snow .4 of a mile before the trailhead at almost 11,000 feet. Still, it was a beautiful drive.

The road going up to Washington Gulch

Crested Butte Mountain

Some private trails in the community where we stayed offer convenient hiking through mostly Aspen forests and around Lake Grant. 

Lake Grant

Common Mergansers flying in to Lake Grant
Eared Grebes
Aspen reflections on Lake Grant

These trails connect with popular local hiking and mountain biking trails at the base of CB mountain, leading into town via Tony's Trail, or up to Mount Crested Butte via the Upper Trail, or further west via the Upper Upper Trail or Whetstone Trail. These lower elevation hikes are good for spring or late fall hiking, and we especially enjoyed the carpet of yellow leaves. I think we're going to want bicycles on our next visit.

Along the trail near Mt Crested Butte

We hiked up to Mount Crested Butte, then down on the paved bike trail which ended at a wetlands area, continuing together as far as Rainbow Park, a nicely maintained city park, for a total of about 6 miles. While not wilderness hiking, these walks are very pretty and provide interesting perspectives looking down at CB and surrounds.

Mountain bikers on the way down the trail to CB

Along the trail to Grant Lake

I headed west into town to window shop while Mike walked an additional 3 miles back home. He drove back into town a bit later and made a new friend at Townie Bookstore while waiting for me.

Colorado Fall Color 2013 Part IV: Ouray and the San Juan Mountains (Oct 5-8)

On Saturday morning we decided to visit the San Juan's for a few days so packed up a few things and were on our way before noon. En route, we booked one of the last rooms in town at the Ouray Victorian Inn.

Mike picked up a couple things at a funky little camera shop in Montrose, then we headed west at Ridgway towards the beautiful Dallas Divide.

Sneffels range viewed from Dallas Divide, near Ridgway, Colorado

The next stop was Telluride to ride the free gondola up to Mountain Village and back down. It made us happy to be sharing our car with local “gondola commuters”. In the summer when parking is tough in Telluride you can park on the other side of Mountain Village and ride the gondola in to town. 

Telluride, viewed from the free gondola

After a quick dinner at the Telluride Brewing Company, we drove on to Ouray via Last Dollar Road. Tina performed well on the wet and snowy road, but I did not. We may need to upgrade to a higher clearance 4WD vehicle in the near future.

Along Last Dollar Road

We checked in to our room and learned we had just missed the Ouray Oktoberfest, but the fireworks were yet to come. Soon we were treated to a wonderful display of light and sound echoing off the canyon walls, viewed right from the balcony of our room.

Sunday Mike had a great itinerary planned, starting with a drive up to Crystal Lake for sunrise. 

Crystal Lake after sunrise

After breakfast, we took three very scenic drives on some back roads off of Colo 62 west of Ridgway. County Roads 5 and 9 were our favorites, but we also look forward to hiking from trailhead a at the end of CR 5.

View from CR5 near Ridgway, Colorado

Dinner at Ouray Brewery was mostly good and we liked the ambience, but we'd sit on the upstairs patio next time if it was warmer.

After spending yesterday in the car, we stayed in town Monday and enjoyed local attractions. Box Canyon Falls is mandatory when in Ouray, and it is now incorporated into the newer Ouray Perimeter Trail. We need to go back in the summer to see nesting Black Swifts!

The Beaumont Hotel in Ouray

Box Canyon Falls near Ouray
Ouray, viewed from the upper trail at Box Canyon Falls

We relaxed at the base of Cascade Falls in the afternoon.

Cascade Falls, Ouray

On our way to dinner, we were sidetracked at the Ouray Alchemist museum. Kurt has quite a collection of pharmaceutical artifacts and gave a most interesting tour.

Dining at The Outlaw Restaurant was especially enjoyable because of the skill and wide repertoire of the pianist.

We also enjoyed taking Camp Bird Road and part of the nearly-4WD road to Yankee Boy Basin.

Atlas Mine and Stamp Mill, on the way to Yankee Boy Basin

The road down from Yankee Boy Basin

Tuesday we took the long way home completing the full San Juan skyway loop in about 8 hours. The terrain was beautiful and varied as we drove through Silverton, Durango, Dolores, Rico, and Lizard Head Pass. We barely scratched the surface and will definitely be back. 

Street in Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, view from the road to Durango

The historic Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado

Strater Hotel lobby

An antiques co-op in little Dolores, Colorado

Antique post card of Big Thompson Canyon entrance; purchased at the Dolores antique store

Trout Lake along Hwy 145, near Lizard Head Pass

Fall color along Hwy 145 near Ophir Pass

Along the road near Ophir Pass

We had one last look at the Dallas Divide before stopping for dinner at the little Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery. Great pizza! Then back to our home away from home in Crested Butte.

Mt Sneffels at Dallas Divide
Crescent Moon near Last Dollar Road

We missed visiting Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison because of the pointless government shutdown. Meanwhile back home in Estes Park people were protesting the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park.