Saturday, July 5, 2014

All over Red Mountain...

All over Red Mountain...  This morning we set out to find some interesting trails that were obscure enough that we'd avoid the hordes of July 4th weekend riders. We succeeded beyond our expectations, in particular by locating a system of trails that starts on US 550, just northeast of Guston, at the 10,320 foot level. The road there took us into a dozen or more roads – some on the map, some not – that had us traversing all sorts of different environments, visiting a dozen or so mine remnants, and taking us as high as 11,900' up the western flanks of Red Mountain No. 3. On the lower stretches of these trails we ran into a number of campers, and just a few ATVs and jeeps, but the rest of the day we had the trails all to ourselves. Compared with the chaos the more well-known trails are having on this holiday weekend, this was pure bliss for us.

Not only did we have the trails to ourselves, but these were particularly pretty trails that were full of interesting stuff – spectacular mountain scenery, tons of gorgeous wildflowers, some wildlife (though not as much as we'd have liked), mine wrecks galore, and healthy, vibrant forests and meadows. It was as pleasant a day as we could have imagined.

We sat for a while in an especially pretty place, with the FJ parked on a little knoll overlooking a meadow with a stream burbling through it. This was our lunch spot, where we had some great beef jerky, dried mangoes, pistachios, chocolate, and cold drinks. Yum! We also let the dogs out there to run and play in the grass, chasing the ball all over the place.

At one point we spotted a bird we didn't know, perched in the top of a small fir, munching on the new growth that was just emerging. Turns out that it was a bird we did know, albeit in a color variation new to us: the “gray headed” variation of the dark-eyed junco. That's a bird we know well from Jamul, but the one here looked like a completely different species – with a slate blue/grey body and head, a slight darkening around the eyes, and a big rusty red patch on its back.

We did see a bit of other wildlife – one deer, lots of chipmunks and squirrels – but no marmots or pikas today (mainly because we spent the whole day below timberline).

After finishing with the trails above, we headed for the “Amphitheater” trail just south of Ouray. We didn't like it nearly as well as any of the other trails we've been on, and it was relatively full of people. We'll just add that one to the list of trails to avoid in the future :)

We ended the day by dropping down into Ouray for a milkshake from Mouse's Chocolate and Candies – we each had a “Double Fudge Chocolate Wow” milkshake, lightly malted. Delicious!

A pretty stretch of road
through the aspens
An abandoned mine
Parked below a tailings pile
Geranium, unidentified
Hooked violet
Surprisingly close to the peak
Moss and more, in a seep
Sickletop lousewort
Porcupine damage on cabin

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