When we last saw our intrepid Road Trippers they were happy campers at Mule Canyon, but as so often is the case, they soon succumbed to the dreaded disease “itch-us feet-us.” There is no known cure for this devilish sickness except to give in to the urge to turn the key and drive away; and so our heroes and heroin did just that! They found themselves on the road headed toward Ridgway, Colorado where some good friends of theirs were waiting with emergency medicine for their ailment: a Jeep tour through the beautiful San Juan Mountains.
We all had been away from civilization long enough that we needed to do some shopping and resupply, so we stopped at the Wal-Mart in Cortez. CO. Our new friend Al left us there. He had business he had to take care of in South Dakota so we wished him god-speed and Judy and I continued on the trip alone. Neither of us like pushing ourselves with long driving days so we had found a campsite in the San Juan National Forest between Cortez and Durango, CO. The way to find a campsite is to find a National Forest that is close-by your route and find out where you can legally camp. To learn about dispersed camping in the San Juan National Forest I downloaded the MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map) and saw that Forest Road 316 was right along our way and was legal for camping, so we stopped and set-up camp there for the night. It was a very pretty spot and so we planned to spend the next day there as well—like I said, we like to drive at a leisurely pace!
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. That night I got an email from Forrest saying that they had been hit with a cold snap and the fall colors had turned quickly and were already fading fast. I had wanted to be there for pretty fall colors so we decided to hit the road the next day and head straight to Ridgway.
We drove to Durango and then turned up Highway 550 toward Ridgeway. 550 is commonly known as the “Million Dollar Highway. There are several explanations for the name: 1) because it cost a million dollars to build 2) because there is a million dollars’ worth of gold buried underneath it 3) because it has a million dollar view all along it. I firmly believe in number three because it is the most beautiful drive I have ever been on. I’ve been all over this country, and nothing I have ever seen is any prettier! If you haven’t driven it, you are missing out!
There is a large pull-in at Molas Pass and I spent about 45 minutes there looking for the best photo. That whole time there was a constant parade of cars stopping for a quick shot. Most walked to the overlook, took the photo, and then jumped in their car and drove away. They were using the “Run and Gun” or “Shoot and Skoot” method of photography. Nearly all of them ended up with mediocre photos at best because cameras can’t take great pictures, only people can. And the most important thing to taking a great shot is not the quality of your camera, but your willingness to use your feet and get a little dirty.
I walked all around the area and found items to use to frame these shots and I especially look for foregrounds. A pretty background is rarely enough to make a great photo. But if you can add a nice foreground, it moves up to the realm of an impressive or great shot.
Forrest was right, the cold snap had caused the fall colors to change very quickly and they were gone when we got there. Because of that I only took a few pictures along the way. I had been there in the fall 5 years ago when the leaves were a beautiful yellow so I am going to include photos of the drive from back then, with a few thrown in from this year. I have dozens more shots from then as good or better than these but I can’t really include them here. They few will give you some small idea of just how beautiful this area is.
When we got to Ridgeway we met up with Forrest and Beth, it was so good to see them again!! We had met in November of 2012 when they dropped by our camp near Quartzsite, AZ. They were living in a converted dodge Sprinter. We camped together for a few weeks and I came to tremendously admire them. They are very young but they aren’t going to let that get in the way of living life to its fullest! They are true adventurers in that they go hiking, Jeeping, rock climbing, motorcycling and anything else that involves adrenaline! They are living their life the way I wish I had lived mine. I encourage everyone to go and follow their blog to find inspiration to follow your dreams no matter what they are! http://3upadventures.com/
They’ve decided to settle down in Ridgeway because it offers them EVERY kind of adventure sport they like to do. They bought land and are setting up the Alpine Tour Company where they will lead Jeep Tours, Hiking Tours and Motorcycle Tours. http://alpinetourco.com/jeep-tours/ But, like nearly everyone associated with this blog they are afflicted with the same horrible disease “itch-us feet-us.” They just can’t spend all their time in one place! So they are going to be snowbirds and live and work in the Ridgway area about 6 months of the year and head out on the open road for the winter.
When we got there they were working on their new Toy Hauler that they were going to live in for the winter. Because Forrest is an ace mechanic with anything that requires tools, he plans to use the wide open spaces of the Toy Hauler to carry his tools as well as a few toys. I’m going to do a post in the near future about the advantages of a Toy Hauler if you need to work while you are on the road!
In the next post we will look at pictures from the Jeep tour they took us on following the Alpine Byway from near Ouray, Co to Silverton, Co. It was so much fun and the scenery was so spectacular I can’t recommend it highly enough.