Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The San Juan Mountains

Just south of us are the San Juan Mountains. From
the south side of town you can see them even though
they are 90 miles away. Of Volcanic origin, they are
younger and more jagged than most of the other
mountains in the state and fourteen of them reach
over 14,000 feet tall.

We've driven over the San Juans a few times over the
past couple of years and the first town you come to
from the north is Ouray. It's a quaint little town
that is mostly geared toward tourists now, but at one
time was a mining center and boom town. It's most
famous feature though is Ouray Hot Springs. We haven't
visited these hot springs yet, but they seem to be
uncrowded and look really relaxing.

Continuing south from Ouray is an eleven mile stretch of
the San Juan Skyway nicknamed the "Million Dollar Highway".
There's speculation why it was called this. Some say
because it cost a million dollars a mile to build back
in the 1920's, and others say that it contains "a million
dollars" in gold ore in the fill dirt. Regardless, it is
one scary road to drive on. I've driven over Trail Ridge
Road in Rocky Mountain National Park at night and I find
this road more harrowing. It's eleven miles of twists,
switchbacks and in some places, thousand foot dropoffs
with no guard rails.

At the end of the Million Dollar Highway is the tiny town
of Silverton. Also a mining town in the past, Silverton
is now the north terminus of the Durango-Silverton Railway.
It's a tourist railway that runs through the mountains,
well off the beaten path. From Silverton it's pretty
much downhill to Durango and the southern end of the San
Juans. It's a beautiful drive that can be done year round,
with each season being very different.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is a great drive. You need to go to Ouray for their 4th of July Celebration. They throw 1/4 sticks of dynamite in the air all day long and then, at night, every off-road vehicle in town has flares attached to it and they drive down the mountain in a bright red stream and then through town in a parade and then they have one of the best firework displays in all of Colorado. It is a must see.