Saturday, August 8, 2015

San Juan Scenic Skyway

We again did Durango to Silverton, but this time via autmobile.   The San Juan Skyway, connecting these towns, is perhaps one of the best scenic road trips to be found in the United States.  Shortly after we headed out of Durango we were able to get a good view of Sleeping Ute Mountain.  It was easy to see the form of a Native Indian with his arms crossed and the one feather on his head.
Sleeping Ute Mountain has been in news lately,  as there is a forest fire west of the "knees".   On the way to Telluride we stopped at the Mesa Verde's visiting center.  This is a national park that consists of 5,000 archeological sites which include 600 Native Indian cliff dwellings.  We had been there in the past, and as it was getting late in the day, we decided to press on to Telluride.  One of the more popular sights in this town is Bridal Falls.
Bridal Veil is the headwaters of the San Miguel River.  It drops 365 feet over Bridal Veil Falls.  The white building next to it is the hydroelectric plant for Telluride.  In 1907 it housed on of the oldest Westinghouse generators in the country.  Telluride was once a mining camp of 5,000 people.  The town was named after tellurium, the non-metallic matrix in which precious metals appear.  I am not all that smart, just did some research.  Not sure why the town was given this name, because tellurium decomposes rapidly, and its gas in low concentrations has the odor of rotting garlic!  Anyway, the town now has a population of 2,000.  Over the years it has resurrected itself with the tourist trade; in the winter it has great skiing slopes, and for the summer visitors, there is hiking and biking.  The town is quite picturesque with its old Victorian styled homes, shops and restaurants.  It also has a gondola service which is free to anyone either just wanting to take a trip up the mountain slope or just needing to travel home.
View from the top was great, in the valley below we could see Telluride as well as the mountains surrounding the town.  It had started sprinkling when we arrived in Telluride, fortunately the rain held off while we hiked the top of the mountain. 
It was late afternoon by the time we got off the mountain.  We looked for a motel for the night in both Telluride and Ouray, and found every one to have no vacancy signs.  We had to cut short our trip and head for home.  Coming out of Ouray, in the fading twilight, we could see very high canyon walls on both sides of the highway.  It was then a tense drive home over roads which wound over and down steep mountain passes.  It did not help that it was dark and the rain was pouring down.  The picture below is of the scenic highway from Telluride to Ouray before the heavier rainfall started.

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