Garden Diary - September 2015

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A Week in Purgatory
Where the Road and the Sky Come Together

Technically, I suppose you could say that I go off-roading on a portion of the road I live on. The portion that is unpaved, that is, with potholes, rock outcrops on one side and a tumble down into the creek on the other. The elevation is somewhere around 220 feet. Very plain vanilla when compared to our more adventurous off-roading in Colorado.

This is not even off-roading, just a pull-off for a scenic overlook at Molas Pass.

They surely do encourage off-roading in Colorado. It can be 4X4, OHV, motorcycles, mountain bicycles, horseback, llama packing, or on foot. Trails will be sign posted with brown and white icons as to what's allowed and what is not. Unpaved, some with rubble, crossing a talus spill, cut as a shelf into the mountainside. More information on the nearly 500 mile Colorado Trail here.

On Saturday, 19 September while daughter and I went to soak in the Orvis Hot Springs outside Ouray our menfolk went off-roading on Yankee Boy Trail. The lower portion of the trail is easy but then becomes rocky, narrow and steep but still suitable for aggressive, high-clearance, stock SUVs. Highest point on the trail is 12,400 feet. September is about the end of the maybe 3 month trail use season, before the snow flies and the upper portion of the trail is gated off until the snow melts, usually in late June or early July

Sunday, 20 September we went to Silverton, the only original mining town left in San Juan County. We had a pleasant time walking around town, admiring the Durango Silverton narrow gauge steam train, good lunch at the Handlebar Restaurant (with a plethora of dusty stuffed critters festooning the walls and staring, glassy eyed, at us), and a visit to the excellent Historical Society museum. Well after all that we needed to blow the cobwebs away so we went off-roading on the nearby Maggie Gulch trail. Good for all skill levels, the trail is primarily used for off road driving and is accessible from June until November. Starts off the Silverton-Animas Forks Road, goes up Maggie Gulch to near the continental divide. It is rated a 3 for difficulty and 8 for mountain scenery and mining ruins. This is an out-and-back trail, 4.1 miles out then turn around and come back. Each way took about an hour. Our high point elevation was 11,900 feet.

Paul and Steve take a break and admire the scenery.

Silverton has a rich history when it comes to mining. Gold and silver
drew the speculators and miners to the region, honky tonks and bar girls
followed them. Brutal, dangerous work, long winters - now just remnants.

Located at the end of the Maggie Gulch road, built in the late 1890s, the Intersection Mill and Mine is one of the few mills in the San Juans with its stamps still standing.

Behind the Intersection Mill is the Continental Divide, with Canby Mountain at 13,478 feet ahead.

Wednesday, 23 September we take an easy afternoon off-road drive into the San Juan National Forest from just behind Durango Mountain Resort. The road begins its ascent up Coal Bank Pass that tops off at 10,660 feet. (The app on the guys phones gives us a little more height, claiming 10,800 feet altitude.)

Cross some gravel-bottomed shallow water, splashing up a minimum of white water and admiring views of aspens, conifers, meadows and mountains.. Lots of folks camping in clearings to the side of the road - tents large and small, some small trailers, sitting out in camp chairs around a fire. If we think they notice us we wave as we go by.

Come to a corner . . . . and there are two riderless OHV and some gear on the side of the road. Telling us to stay in the truck, Steve and Paul get out to see what's going on.

It is a very off off-road incident. The young man, out to go bow hunting for deer with his father and brother, came around the corner too fast. Tipped up on two wheels, spun 180 degrees and went over the edge. An angel must have been sitting on his shoulder because his OHV landed right side up and straddling a good sized log not to far down slope.

Some discussion, then Steve turns the truck around and brings it towards the OHV while its rider fixed a tow strap and clevis to the frame. Here's where the Smittybilt winch with 6 anchors to the truck frame is going to be ever so useful! It even has a remote control so Steve can stand out front, see how it is coming, and control the winch.

All ends well. The three men will ride the two serviceable OHV 10 miles back to where their truck and trailer are parked. Camp for the night, then drive back to retrieve the damaged one (bent tie rod and possibly some additional issues). And we get back to Purgatory Lodge after sunset, feeling pleased that no one was hurt and that we were able to help.

Thursday, 24 September and it is time to begin packing, sort of, by doing a load of laundry. Home-going is always easier because you don't have to make decisions about what to pack. So this and that and we head off to Potato Lake. Which is also sometimes called Spud Lake. Or vice versa. Whatever. Accessible from June until October, Spud Lake is a 2 mile, short and easy, out and back trail through aspen glades which, as the guide book noted, can be spectacular in the fall.

Not much of a lake, more of a lily pond, with a small black lump of a beaver lodge to the right.

I cannot find the reference but believe these safety pillars
date back to Civillian Conservation Corp days.

Lunch in Silverton and then off on another off-roading adventure. Steve had spotted this trail, wanted to try it. Never did find out its name. Up and up, bouncing over rocks on switchbacks. Bouncy enough that my Fitbit kept adding flights of stairs as I watched from my seat in the truck, giving me a total credit of 293 flights of stairs. Go above the treeline. Mostly 4-wheel drive in low range at the upper portions.

A look at the trail, hugging the stone face of the rise to the left.

Pass a gated off mine opening.

Looking at a glimpse of the road and a panorama of the mountains.

Steve and the Toyota on the top of the world at 12,700 feet elevation.

Off-roading Colorado, where the roads touch the sky


Other entries here, here, and here,

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