Today is John’s 60th birthday. We celebrate with a big breakfast. By the time we are finished all the other campers have left. We later realize that there is an hour’s time change in Utah.
First destination today is Goosenecks State Park (actually where we had intended to camp before we found our lovely spot) The goosenecks in the river look pretty amazing, but there are only so many photos you can take & only so long you can talk to other campers ,…. Time to leave, it is bitterly cold.
Second destination is the dirt road loop road of “The Valley of the Gods” – magic. Like a free version of Monuments in Arizona. Pity it is so early in the day as there are lots of great spots to camp. Then it is on over the mountains via Moki Dugway – not for the faint hearted!
Third destination is Natural Bridges National Monument. By now it is raining, but we still walk to each lookout and we even walk right under one of the bridges – a stiff walk assisted with ladders & handrails. Hard work in the wet.
Finally leave by 4pm & head to Blanding via a few more lovely canyons. At the info centre we use their Wifi (In the Indian Reservation area our hotspot & phones have not being getting range). When it cuts out we head to the best restaurant in town – sharing a table with 2 other couples makes for a fun night. Then out to a lake for the night.
First destination today via a scenic drive (mind you, most of them are here) is to Hovenweep National Monument. Not too many people here, & there is a lovely walk around the old Indian ruins. These are right on the edge of the canyon, rather than tucked into the cliffs. There are more up the road, but the tracks are now impassable due to the wet. We cross the border into Colorado. Another quick walk at Castle Rock in Canyon of the Ancient National Monument – we could walk here for hours – but time to move - we want to get to Mesa Verde National Park today. Finally we get there, along with many others – after all it the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. A long drive in, is followed by a loop road with lots of stops to explore. We are too late to book a tour, but we still can get pretty close to one set of ruins. Finally we start heading out by 7pm. We stop at a viewpoint – it is so clear we can see a mountain about 270kms away. At Mancos we hunt for a campspot. Finally head into San Juan National Forest, but not onto grass as everywhere is wet & slushy.
It rains in the night, and we get lots more showers today. We head in to Durango, and as it is early park right on the main street right outside the Welcome Centre – great as they have good Wifi, which we make the most of during the rain & hail. Then we head out for lunch at the Diamond Belle Saloon where the girls are wearing burlesque! The décor is pretty good too. We should have put another tip jar on the side of GR2 or charged for photos. She was a major tourist attraction today! A final drive through town before we head on through some amazing mountains to Silverton - another old mining town. This one is pretty tiny and dead. As the sun is still shining we decide to continue our magic drive over the Million Dollar Road to Ouray – WOW!! Yet another superb drive cut through a gorge with heaps of snow. Finally arrive at Ouray at 6.30pm and head up to the Amphitheatre camping area (after we settle in we discover it is not free… Oh well, it is a lovely spot with views over the town).
We wake to sunshine. Great. So we head to town to explore – on foot this time. Then drive on out of the canyons to the large town of Montrose. Time to stock up on food, diesel & water. Then on to Black Canyon of the Gunnison – it is an incredibly deep canyon, with steep walls. Sadly it starts to rain. We walk to all the lookouts, but decide not to negotiate the narrow dirt road down into the canyon itself. Our original plan was to continue north after Gunnison, but we are tired of cold, wet weather, so instead will head in a southeast direction. As we head east to Gunnison there are lots of lovely lakes with paid camping, but we are heading towards BLM land to find free camping – eventually finding a lovely quiet spot for the night still at about 8500 ft, just before we head up yet another mountain pass (We prefer to stay down a bit lower where it will be a bit warmer – hopefully)
The next day we head over the mountain pass & onto flatlands. A quick stop at a small museum at Saguache, before miles of flat farmland. We are heading to Great Sand dunes National Park. We can see it as we get closer. Miles of dunes nestled into the side of snowy mountains. We are amazed by the number of people here. Then walk through the frigid water, where kids are playing, marveling at how the waves come down the river, before wandering into the dunes. The camp ground is full & the road over the mountains closed – bummer! We will have to go another way.
So we head south on the 150 & over the range at a lower point, then head northeast towards Walsenburg. It is nearly 5pm when we spy a tyre shop – manage to get the wheels rotated. By now it is getting late so we decide to head back to a State park to camp. Oh bother – the sheriff is following us. We pull into the State Park & he keeps coming. He just wants to chat! John asks him where we can free camp & he ends up taking us to a great spot not too far from his house. We would have never driven up that goat track on our own!
Oh getting a bit boring there Lynda. Will try to lighten it up in the next blog.