Ridgway, CO Tuesday, May 27
Obviously we do not learn from the past since we went on another 4 wheel escorted tour today. But first, some facts about Ridgway. a. Dennis Weaver the actor had a home here and there is a park dedicated to him. b. The Grammy awards are hand-made here in Ridgway. c. There is a prairie dog colony just outside our airbnb lodging. d. The one traffic signal in Ouray county is here in Ridgway.
The morning started with a hike at the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park. Evidently Weaver, who died in 2006, was an environmentalist and his family worked with the town to create a park in his name. There is a nice eagle statue and the park is big on creating prayer stones. The hiking trails go along the river and up in the hills. The river runs strong today, spring run-off is still in progress. Much of the water is used for agricultural irrigation in the valley. We hiked along the river primarily. This is the Uncompahgre River which basically means dirty, red colored, foul-smelling river. Whether that is because of the hot springs, mineral and rock run-off, or some other reason is not certain.
The town has a small railroad museum which we visited. This area was settled by Anglo-Europeans due primarily to mining so the Ute Indians were moved out of here. In order to transport the ores to smelters, etc; several railroads were built through the region. The history of the region is fascinating with tales of fortunes won and lost and the what might have beens if only. On display is a “Galloping Goose” a modified automobile put on train wheels in 1931 to save money on a government contract to deliver mail between Ridgway and Telluride. Lunch was in a local restaurant before we headed back over to Ouray for our mountain ride.
San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours was the original and for many years the only jeep tour in the area. Now there are 15 competitors, some of them proclaiming to be the first. The season is just beginning and our driver was the owner, Greg. We had a fascinating and beautiful just under four-hour ride.
When we started, the weather, which was warm and sunny in the morning, looked stormy and the mountains appeared to have snow falling on the peaks. We had prepared with winter type jackets but as the afternoon went on, the storm moved east and the skies cleared up. At 11,000 feet and in an open vehicle, the temperatures were still quite cool.
Greg gave us a fascinating history of the town as a prelude to our drive. One of the miners who struck it rich mining gold was named Walsh. He gave the Hope Diamond to his daughter as a wedding gift. The Western Hotel is where the tours start and Greg’s wife runs it and the restaurant-which did not open until this Friday.
Greg also informed us that the Million Dollar Highway that we drove over yesterday to Silverton was hit by a major landslide early in 2014 and has only been open intermittently since then. We lucked out in that the construction work-which site we saw-was not ongoing over Memorial Day Weekend.
Our ride included great scenery and history. We saw many waterfalls and one mountain sheep. The tour goes up in the mountains past many of the mines that once made history for this area. We also passed a currently operating gold mine that employs 100 workers so it must be doing something right.
Ouray proclaims itself the “Jeeping Capital of the World”. We could have rented a Jeep and driven ourselves around. The roads we took on this tour were frequently county roads. Once again, though, we were plenty happy to have someone else driving these rutted roads meant only for high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles.
Greg gave a great narration and pointed out many scenic features. It was a smart choice to go with San Juan.
Dinner concluded our day with another small restaurant in Ridgway, the True Grit Cafe. The movie “True Grit” with John Wayne was filmed in Ridgway and the cafe has movie memorabilia and part of the bar wall was used in the film. The food was fine too.
Ed and Chris May 27
EDITORS NOTE; TRIP FOUR WAS TO EXTEND FOR ANOTHER THREE WEEKS. WE HAVE DECIDED TO HEAD BACK TO MN TOMORROW. I AM STILL NOT FEELING WELL AND THIS HAS REDUCED THE AMOUNT OF ACTIVITY WE NORMALLY DO. SINCE OUR TIME IS FLEXIBLE, WE WILL CONTINUE THE REST OF TRIP FOUR AT ANOTHER TIME.