Tuesday 7/26 – Buena Vista, Cottonwood Pass, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, Durango

I got up early at Tonya’s house and went to the local cafe for coffee and then I found the campground they had told me about the night before so I could wash up.  I didn’t want to impose on them for a shower and I was sort of enjoying the hobo experience.  They told me to take the road at the end of town that drives along the river.  It will go through some old railroad tunnels and then look for a big rock they call “elephant rock.”  They said you can’t miss it, it’s a huge rock.  Right after the rock is the free campground area.  It was a beautiful ride!  The Collegiate Peaks on one side and more Rockies on the other side.  The tunnels were really cool!  I saw a deer on the way and I saw people rock climbing on the “hills.”  I knew there was white water rafting nearby because that’s what the guys did around there.  The river was really pretty.  I’d like to go back to Buena Vista someday.  Cool town! 

After I washed up I headed on my way through Cottonwood Pass, Taylor reservoir and Gunnison Nat’l Forrest.  The ride into the mountains was really pretty and then it turned into prairies again for a short time before coming to the town of Montrose.  I had lunch at an interesting diner in Montrose, got wi-fi for a bit and took a rest walking around the town, then I headed for Durango by way of Ouray.  The scenery got more and more beautiful as I went!  The ride through Ouray was one of my favorites.  It was raining and it was a bit of a scary drive.  I almost hit a deer!  Since returning home, I’ve learned that the stretch of road I was driving is called “The Million dollar Highway.” 

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_550

“Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles (19 km) south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin “S” curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. During this ascent, the remains of the Idarado Mine are visible.”  It was truly an awesome ride but I had no idea it was special.

 I got to Durango and met up with Ashley at about 6:oopm.  I had contacted her on http://couchsurfing.org a couple of nights before arriving and she agreed to host me for the night.  She was a lot of fun!  She and her friends were playing a game of soccer when I got there.  After the game, we went out for Mexican food and then went back to her place which was right downtown Durango. 

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