What a quaint little mountain town! Dubbed the Switzerland of America, this town is nestled in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado. I spent 4 wonderful days here and loved every second.
I’d been here once before about 20 years ago but had forgotten just how charming it is. It sits at the base of the towering walls of a tight canyon and so has dramatic views at every turn. Its Main Street, a classic of the Colorado Rockies: historic buildings, great restaurants, quirky shops and, my favorite, an ice-cream store!
I got a spot at an RV park, my first, right in town. It sat on the river and was just a couple of blocks off the main street. The best part about it though was that it had full hookups, which I’ve come to understand means that you get your own private water, sewer and electrical hookup. This means Millie can be happily playing inside while I get the tanks emptied and the water refilled! Big win! If she gets upset I can just stop what i’m doing and come play with her. As you may have read in my first post of this trip, I’m not a fan of getting in line at the public dump stations in case Millie wakes up and needs attention. I tell you, Millie having a breakdown at that Steamboat Lake dump station has me gun shy for ever having to get in a dump station line again! I’ll do anything to keep that kiddo happy.
We had a great stay. Millie got in lots of play time. Atlas scored because there was a big grassy oval at the end of the RV park for lots of ball fetching. And I had Main Street with lattes and ice-cream. There was a trailhead for the Ouray Perimeter Trail right from the campground too!
The highlight of the trip was a Jeep tour to Governor Basin. The San Juans are such a rugged range and it’s really hard to get the full experience without getting up closer to a ridgelines. With Millie in tow, our hiking outings are limited, so hiking up there was out of the question. Instead I hired a jeep guide to take us somewhere stunning, and he sure did deliver.
The three of us rode in the backseat, Millie and Atlas each had a window and I was stuck in the middle. I see how it goes in this family! Millie slept and Atlas had his head sticking out the window the whole way. Luckily the front half of the roof came off the jeep, enough for me to see a great view but not so far that Millie got sun, perfect!
The views from the end of the jeep road were exactly what I’d wanted to see, big rugged beautiful mountains. My happy place! Millie even got to see her first 14,000 ft peak or 14’er. She also got a feed and a diaper change in at 12,000 feet. I tell you, I’m getting good at changing Millie in all kinds of odd places, we just added back seat of a jeep to the list!
We had nearly an hour to kill before the end of my tour and because we were going really slowly my guide wasn’t sure if we’d make it up another drainage in time. Haha, when he picked us up at the beginning of the tour I asked him if he had any grandkids, he said yes, and I asked him to drive like his own grandbaby was in the backseat. He was fabulous, it was probably the slowest he’d even driven those jeep roads, but Millie’s head didn’t get bumped around so I was a happy Mamma!
He decided to take me back down to Ouray but then drive a little bit out and back along the Million Dollar Highway. I’d asked him earlier whether he thought I should drive that road in an RV and he had the great idea to take me along the hairiest of sections in the jeep so I could decide if I wanted to drive it in my RV. I really wanted to drive that direction and continue on to Silverton but I’d read so much online about how dangerous the road is that I wasn’t sure I should do it. I sure am glad we drove some of it in the jeep because it really helped me decide that I definitely could do it in my RV. More about that next post!
Another highlight of the trip was visiting the Ouray Hot Springs, which sit right on Main Street and a few minute walk away from our RV park. I loved getting Millie dressed up for her swim, she wore a cute little pink and white checked swimsuit with a little pink frilly skirt on it. Super cute!!!
Unfortunately there wasn’t a good pool for us to hang out in given that Millie can’t regulate her own temperature yet; one pool was about 90 degrees, just a little bit cool, and the next highest was about 102 degrees, just a little bit hot. We spent a few minutes in the 90 degree pool, but with the outside air temp cool, she got cold pretty quickly so we had to get out and get her bundled up.
We got back inside to the changerooms and someone was in the room with the baby changer, oh no! I tried changing her in a normal change room but the space was too tight and the bench too narrow for me to really be able to do it. I paced back and forth with a bundled up, but still wet, Millie, hoping the room with the changer would open up fast. Millie got cold and started wailing, my poor girl! Finally the person, a perfectly healthy lady with no baby, came out of the change room and we got to get in there and get her changed and into some warm clothes, but not before Millie had a mini meltdown. Did you know baby cries echo in concrete rooms?
I tell you, there are so many people that are oblivious to taking up the baby changer room in public places, I’ve actually noticed that a lot since having Millie, and I don’t even go to public places very often. Public service announcement… don’t use the baby changing stall in a bathroom or changeroom unless you’re actually changing a baby or there’s no other stall to use! I know it’s bigger, but that’s because us Mamas need more space!
It was great being in a town, the first town stay since I’ve been on the road. I made good use of it and opted for some restaurant meals instead of cooking in the RV. I didn’t want to go into the restaurants with Covid-19 still raging, so we got takeout meals and brought them back to the RV. I usually left Atlas in the RV when I went up to Main Street, so he was happy that I got takeout and wasn’t away too long.
I did sit down and have a nice relaxing lunch on the nicely spaced-out outdoor patio of a pub one day though and that was really nice! I’d fed Millie just before and decided she was getting a bottle for the next few hours so I indulged in a Moscow Mule! I haven’t drunk much since having Millie so that Mule certainly gave me a kick, kinda felt good to have a buzz! Millie was really great and just sat on my lap and absorbed all of the sights and sounds and watched me enjoy my meal. Thanks Millie, you’re a great lunch date!
The only thing I didn’t get to do as much of as I’d like to have is hiking. We set out on the Ouray Perimeter Trail twice and both times Millie was squirming around and grizzling a bit and so I turned back after about 20 minutes. I got high enough to get some good views of the town, but I would love to have walked the whole 6 mile trail. I did lots of 6-mile hikes with Millie in her first few months but I’m finding now that she’s a bit older a 1-2 hour hike is about our max, and some days it’s less. I’ll do anything to keep Millie happy and smiling, so that’s just fine with me! Snuggling with my kiddos in the RV is a great alternative use of time!
Hanging-with-Millie-time was pretty entertaining this week because she discovered that she can stick her foot in her mouth.
I do owe you an update though before we wrap up here… if you noticed at the bottom of my last post my plan was to stay in Silverthorne for my next stop. Silverthorne sits on I-80 just an hour and a half from Dumont Lake, where I was camped last post. Ouray is a 6 hour drive, and a lot more than that driving less than the speed limit in my RV, and even longer when you drive the long way around to get there, and a little longer if you set up camp somewhere else and a little longer again with a baby along for the ride. So, yeah, I left Dumont Lake at 11 a.m. and pulled into the Cimarron National Forest Campground, just an hour’s drive from Ouray, at about 3 a.m. the next morning. Here’s what happened…
We set off as soon as Millie was ready for her morning nap at 11 a.m. I stopped at an RV park after we’d been driving about an hour to dump the tanks and fill up with water, and Millie stayed asleep, hooray! I got back on the road and was within 30 minutes of Silverthorne when Millie woke. Happily she decided it was time to stop driving in a very scenic place, a pullout overlooking Green Mountain Reservoir. I had lunch and played with Millie for a few hours before she was ready for her next nap.
We started down the road again but Millie woke within a few minutes and started crying. So I pulled over and we played for another hour before she was really ready for another nap.
It dawned on me that it was going to take me a LONG time to get anywhere if i needed to go more than a 2 hour drive in a day. I can count on Millie taking a 2-hour nap right at 11 a.m. but anything more than a nominal nap at 4 p.m. is a bonus.
As I drove towards Silverthorne, Millie finally sleeping and out hard, I decided to forego my reservation at Heaton Bay and keep driving to Twin Lakes, the stop I planned to make after a stay at Silverthorne. I had a couple of friends I was really looking forward to catching up with in Silverthorne, so I was torn as I drove over the pass out of Silverthorne towards Copper Mountain. Sorry Bill and Jean!!! The spell of the sleeping Millie got me.
Boy oh boy was it a beautiful drive from Silverthorne to Twin Lakes! The road traveled along the backside of 10-Mile Range, which if you’ve spent any time in that area you’ll know is a rugged and really beautiful mountain range. Once again I found myself reminiscing about my Continental Divide Trail hike, because I passed right through this area on foot.
I pulled into a gravel parking lot by the first of the two Twin Lakes. It felt really weird ‘camping’ in a parking lot but the location was gorgeous and I didn’t need a reservation. There was only one other rig and they had set up at the other end of the lot, so it was nice and quiet.
I set up for the night, took Atlas for a walk and sat down to eat dinner. I was looking right at Mt Elbert. What a special place to be! It was camped up on that mountain, Colorado’s highest peak, that I decided Millie would be my next adventure. Wow, two years ago life sure was different!
My reminiscing was interrupted by some really strong wind gusts. The gusts turned to more of a steady strong wind and we were really rocking around. Kind of reminded me of a night I spent on a single hull boat with Mum and Dad in the Whitsundays a few years ago, i literally rolled from one side of my bed to the other each time a wave rolled passed…. all night.
I decided to put Millie into her car seat instead of her bassinet at bed time and packed up and drove south in search of a less exposed place to camp for the night. Well, what do you know, a few miles after I started driving down Highway 24 there were a series of signs warning of significant road works and closures on Highway 50. Hmmm, that was the highway I needed to drive in a few days to get from this part of Colorado to Ouray in the San Juan Mountains in the south of the state.
I pulled over and looked up online what was going on. The road was completely closed Monday-Friday except for a couple of short segments of one way traffic. The site advised to drive back north and access that part of Colorado from 1-70, which is what I’d left back up in Silverthorne, or to drive it on a weekend. So let me get this straight, I’ve got 7 more hours to drive that road before it essentially closes for the week? Argh. I looked at a sleeping Millie and Atlas and decided to go for it.
I imagined the beautiful Collegiate Peaks to my west as I drove south, again thinking of the beautiful hiking I did when I walked through this part of the state a couple of years ago. I thought of my friend Lisa Goring as I drove through Gunnison at about 1:30 in the morning. Then I thought of anything I could to keep myself awake as I drove west along highway 50. I stopped as soon as I got through the road work area at a Forest Service campground and put us all to bed finally for the night.
Happily Millie and Atlas decided not to stir until nearly 10 a.m. There is a god! I pulled the shade up and was happy to find us nestled in a heavily treed campground, I love looking out the window in the morning at something pretty!
I was feeling really relieved to be there. Relieved to be on the west side of the road closure, but also relieved that I wouldn’t need to do much driving again for a couple of weeks as I now had 2 weeks not 1 to spend in the beautiful San Juan Mountains.
Thanks for reading! -Elevated