Report From the Road: Ridgway, CO and my Old Friends Beth and Forrest

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.

Our route to Ridgway.
Our route to Ridgway.

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!

Our camp on FR 316 between Cortez and Durango, CO. This would be a great spot to spend the summer. High enough in elevation to be cool and yet to close to two large towns with Walmarts.
Our camp on FR 316 between Cortez and Durango, CO. This would be a great spot to spend the summer. High enough in elevation to be cool and yet close to two large towns with Walmarts.
A map to our camp near Mancos, Co.
A map to our camp near Mancos, Co.

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.

One of the few shots I took on this drive up to Ridgway.
One of the few shots I took on this drive up to Ridgway. That’s Red Mountain in the background. It’s always worthy of a photo!

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!

Another area that is always worth stopping at is Molas Pass. This is another classic example of the need to get out and move around in order to get the best photo. I walked 10 minutes to get to these trees to frame this shot.
Another area that is always worth a stop is Molas Pass. This is another classic example of the need to get out and move around in order to get the best photo. I walked 10 minutes to get to these trees to frame this shot.

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.

This is a pretty decent shot because it has a great background. I walked about 15 minutes to get these trees to frame it and give it a decent foreground.
This is a pretty decent shot because it has a great background. I walked about 15 minutes to get to this tree and slightly colorful grass to frame it and give it a decent foreground.

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.

But I looked around and noticed this little pond, so i made mt way over to it and knelt down at a low angle to get this shot. I like it alot better! iIwalked just a few minutes and ended up with slightly wet feet and a muddy knee. To me it was well worth it. (the trees in the center of the photo are the ones in the shot above, that's how close the pond was.)
But I looked around and noticed this little pond, so i made my way over to it and knelt down at a low angle to get this shot. I like it much better! I walked just a few minutes and ended up with slightly wet feet and a muddy knee. To me ,it was well worth it. (the trees in the center of the photo are the ones in the shot above, that’s how close the pond was.)

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.

All the rest of these photos are from 5 years ago. This is Ironton Creek and it flows out of Red Mountain in the photo above. That is where all the heavy mineralization is coming from. That year had spectacular fall colors!
All the rest of these photos are from 5 years ago. This is Ironton Creek and it flows out of Red Mountain in the photo above. That is where all the heavy mineralization is coming from. That year had spectacular fall colors!
This photo was taken just a few miles from the photo above.
This photo was taken just a few miles from the photo above.
Five years ago I spent about 3 weeks in this meadow (my camper is a tiny dot in it you probably can't see). I watched the trees turn and snow storms come and go. It was one of the best times of my life.
Five years ago I spent about 3 weeks in this meadow (my camper is a tiny dot in it you probably can’t see). I watched the trees turn and snow storms come and go. It was one of the best times of my life.
hTis was along my drive back to my beautiful little meadow.
This was along my drive back to my beautiful little meadow.

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/

Forrest and Beth where they are happiest, in wild nature living the life!
Forrest and Beth where they are happiest, in wild nature living the free life of adventure!

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.

Beth and Forrest in front of their new winter home.
Beth and Forrest in front of their new winter home.

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!

Forrest is hoping to lead motorcycle tours of the beautiful area they live in.
Forrest is hoping to lead motorcycle tours of the beautiful area they live in.

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.

Forrest, Beth and Judy at 12, 900 feet in the Colorado  Rockies. That day will go down as one of my best ever!
Forrest, Beth and Judy at 12, 900 feet in the Colorado Rockies. That day will go down as one of my best ever!

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