Our trip to Ouray in 2019 had hit a major issue. The Mountain passes were overwhelmed with snow over the past winter. Even in July, we were looking at passes that traditionally had been open by now that we’re still under 20 feet of snow, trees and avalanche debris. Regardless of this news, we were still committed to camping and enjoying the area, even if it meant limited trail rides.
On our second day of the trip, we decided to take a run down to Silverton via the Alpine loop. The “loop” is a series of trails meshed together that run from Ouray to Silverton, over to Lake City and back. Silverton is probably the ultimate tourist trap in the rockies. Short of food and souvenirs, the once thriving mining town doesn’t have much to offer outside of the main street of town and a wonderful assortment of small shops
Our plans got a jolt when we got to the Loop trail head.
Close your eyes and picture the worst lightning storm you have ever witnessed… Then add some green and yellow to the clouds to make it look extra eerie…. Smash that vision between two mountains and visualize a rock strewn mountain pass going right up into the storm. That’s what we observed at the trailhead to Alpine Loop. It was nasty. Something out of Lord of the Rings. Like looking into Sauron’s all-seeing eyeball. Knowing that the freshly cleared trails were still avalanche strewn and now being washed down with rain and hail did not sound appealing to any of us. Especially since we were with our Daughters… This was not a time to be filled with male bravado and jump into a bad situation in the name of adventure.
Having been to Ouray a few times over the years, we have been on about every pass in that neck of the woods. Just a few miles south of this pass on highway 17 was another scenic pass that heads to Telluride. Ophir Pass. I am obviously jaded from years of travel in the San Juan’s… Because I was having a “I’m Bummed we have to take Ophir” moment with the other Dads. Why? Because I have this perception the Ophir is kinda lame. Sorry! I said it!
Ophir is a below average trail when it comes to technical concerns. It’s a loose gravel road with a steady consistency for the whole drive. At the top of the pass was a great little spot to take a break and let the girls throw snowballs… At their respective Dads! We grabbed some pictures with the sign and headed down the hill to Telluride. While I am jaded about this “easy” trail… My 17 year old daughter thinks it looks pretty scary. So I did the scariest thing I had done on the whole trip… I put her in the driver’s seat for the drive down to Telluride.
A few of the switchbacks going down require a multi-point turn on loose gravel… Looking over a thousand foot drop. My daughter was stressing and handling it like a champ. Add this experience to her quiver of life experiences that make her that more confident on the road. Me moving over to the passenger seat was the best thing that happened that day!
Ophir Pass may have been a tame ride from my veteran perspective, but to my daughter, it was an amazing drive! Sometimes you need to get out of the driver’s seat and share the adventure.
Next up, Telluride and cooler disasters!