The town of Ouray is called the Little Switzerland of Colorado and there were certain similarities. We must agree. Again, only the main road was paved but the snow capped peaks, the chalet style houses and the multitude of biergartens certainly tried to present a Swiss aspect. We admired and then continued on to Montrose for the necessary groceries. Our next stop was the Black Canyon of the Gunniston National Park. (http://www.nps.gov/blca/index.htm) We were a little disappointed by this park. The canyon was indeed spectacular, especially the “Painted Wall” but the descent on the Portal road was denied us (10 inches too long), the boat ride through the gorge was not running (river was too high) and they asked us to leave the only space with shade at one of the lunch spots because we were 6 inches over the end of the white line parking place separators in an almost empty parking lot. We were left with a feeling that they were too concerned with nit picking and we were underwhelmed. Especially as a huge Class C RV was parked in a similar space on the other side and had no issues! But we found a great campsite on the way out, a small primitive campsite called Dry Gulch on the Corecanti Recreation Area. So small, we had to stop at the Big Elk Campground down the road to pay the fees the next morning! Dry Gulch was approved for traveling horses so we enjoyed the company of the two mules and one horse who shared the campground.
Heading towards Leadville now, we took the Cottonwood Pass at 12,106 feet. Another spectacular drive from the rapids running alongside the road (and a couple of rafts enjoying them) to the Taylor Park reservoir and then the well graded dirt road up to the peak and the notice telling us we were at the Continental Divide. Amazing (other than the views) were the three feet high snowbanks still showing the plough cuts on either side of the road. There was even a snowman (someone from Florida perhaps?!!). The descent was a series of hairpin bends and then we headed north towards Leadville, lunching beside the Arkansas River.
Leadville proved a pleasant small town though the altitude of 10,200 feet is noticeable. We have been above 8,000 feet so long we have forgotten what oxygen is! We enjoyed a visit to the Healy House Museum and Dewster Cabin. After learning all about mining, it was pleasant to visit a furnished house of the era and a “hunting box” log cabin used by a millionaire for hunting and checking on his investments! Each town’s history was a little different, the gold rush having started in the 1860’s in Leadville, followed by a silver rush a little earlier than Silverton. We also ordered a new induction cooktop for delivery overnight from Amazon. Our first cooktop, after giving yeoman service for 8 weeks, had decided to be difficult and was refusing to remain on. We were thrilled that, the following day, the new cooktop did indeed arrive and is now functioning perfectly. That said, Denise has determined that we will, indeed, install a diesel stove, as a backup.
And then it was on to the site of the Tiger Rally at Printer Boy Group Campsite. (Local mines were often named “Boy” or “Girl.”) A total off 23 Tigers came, of which ours was the only Malayan. It was amazing how many of the original vans and pop tops were still running and were present. It was a great weekend with lots of socializing (Tiger owners are great people!) and wonderful weather, not to mention constant discussions of various issues like solar power and battery charging.
And now we are on our way home driving through Kansas in a monsoon. Who knew that Kansas would look so green and in part so like the UK, even down to the rain. Marginally better than tornados, no doubt, but for the last twenty four hours, it has poured and poured. The winds were so strong last night that the camper swayed. And the weather forecast for tomorrow in Kansas City…rain! We estimate another three days or so heading early tomorrow into Missouri, then into parts of Illinois to West Virginia and on to Virginia, depending on weather and visibility on the interstates. We’ll sum up our experiences then.