September 23-24, 2006 Days 2 and 3
Silverton, CO Elevation: 9318 ft.
Just as planned, the sun emerged from the storm and lit our mountain world on fire, providing a gorgeous backdrop for two wonderful days of hiking in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. At one moment, as the clouds parted and the snow-covered flanks of surrounding peaks burst into full view, one of our guests turned to me and exclaimed, “Wow! This really does look like Switzerland.” In fact, the snow covered peaks, and a very comprehensive system of hiking trails; make the town of Ouray seem just like the Swiss towns that we hike through annually during the summer season. However, the small mining towns of the San Juan Mountains are very different from Switzerland and proudly display their own unique mountain heritage.
The town of Ouray sits in a climate zone that supports a mix of desert vegetation and alpine flora. Consequently, it is not uncommon to find pinion and juniper mixed with a forest of ponderosa and fir. Saturday’s hike for example, carried us from the warming aroma of juniper trees, up to a world of enormous Ponderosa, aspen and spruce. One of the ponderosa trees stood so large, that I couldn’t even wrap my arms half way around the trunk. The rock formations too, appear in every shape, color and configuration. An avid hiker finds red sedimentary rocks, along with all forms of volcanic debris. Ancient glaciers once carved the many valleys of the San Juan range and yes, there is still gold in them thar hills.
My favorite aspect of these tours though, is the laughter and smiles that appear throughout the day. It really becomes apparent at night, and I still haven’t decided if it’s the wine that I drink, or the wine that they drink, but everyone appears to have a really good time.
This evening, a few of us enjoyed a leisurely stroll following our fireside dinner. Myriad stars danced across the evening sky and for a brief moment, the year became 1896 as we embarked on a walking tour of historic Silverton. I showed them a place on Main Street where a gentleman still prints with an original letterpress. In another corner of town, a weary traveler can still walk into the original railroad depot and buy a one-way ticket on the stream train out of town. Old mines still dot the landscape and many hope and pray, deep down, that the infamous red lights shall never disappear. Though the services ended long ago, the lamps still burn vigilantly.
Tomorrow we’ll disappear into an even higher world of aspen and spruce as we travel westward, over the Colorado Trail en route to Rico and yet another, fireside dinner.
If you would like more information concerning the Telluride Trek, or any of our tours, then please contact Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. We would love to hear from you. See you on the trail.