For our summer camping trip, we decided to venture to a new part of the state – Ouray! We had heard good things. And, not gonna lie, it was one of the few places where I could still get a decent campsite when I finally got around to planning this. We had recently gotten a new cargo rack installed on the Jeep, and were anxious to try it out as well.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t figured out a good plan for securing stuff, and our idea to use tarps and ropes ended up looking a bit ghetto, lol!
It was a long drive, but lots of nice scenery to pass the time, including a great view of Mt. Princeton. Google maps said 5 hours, which I translated to 8 for our driving habits. Turns out we were close, but didn’t quite make 8. Oh well.
I hadn’t been able to get the campsite for the first night of our trip, but I thought a night in town at one of the hot springs hotels would be a welcome way to start anyway. It was a cute place, but the kids were a little freaked out once in our room – I think housekeeping may have gotten “distracted” and forgot to finish cleaning it, lol! They were convinced someone was already living there.
The pool was refreshing after so many hours on the road though.
We thought we would keep dinner simple and eat at the hotel restaurant, which was outdoors by the pool. It wasn’t a great experience, so maybe we should have tried out something in town instead. Live and learn! The included breakfast the next morning wasn’t much better, so if I had left a review of the hotel, it wouldn’t have been stellar.
We were up and out early the next day though, having a family rafting adventure scheduled in a nearby town. We got to the rafting shop early, and had a bit of time to kill before our group left. After all the instructions we given, we loaded up in our rafts. Our family had a raft to ourselves, plus our guide. There were a few other rafts travelling with us as well.
This was supposed to be a “gentle float” down the river, mostly class I rapids. I have to say, it was a LOT more intense than I expected! I very nearly fell out once, and several times the rapids threw us mercilessly into a patch of trees and brush. The guide had a hard time getting us out more than once. To be fair, I don’t think he was very experienced. But I wasn’t expecting the water to be so rough either.
Everyone seemed to enjoy it regardless though, and it’s something I can check off my bucket list. Brian is convinced we are doing it again… we’ll see I guess! I was a bit disappointed that the ‘family photo” they promised of us on the river completely omits me- I was directly behind the guide and you can’t even tell I’m in the boat!
After our rafting adventure, we ate lunch in town before heading back to Ouray to set up camp.
I had a hard time finding a site this summer, and the one I reserved was the only one with availability, and only for these two nights. Driving through the campground, we realized most of the sites were closed, I guess they are doing some work on them. Made it less crowded anyway. The site really was beautiful!
We had plenty of afternoon left once we got set up, so we decided to check out the nearby Box Canyon Falls. It’s truly amazing – you hike into what feels like a cave / canyon, and there is a HUGE waterfall inside! It’s a bit intimidating actually.
Then we climbing up about 4 million stairs to hike around the top of the canyon. And went through a long, scary tunnel. A really good afternoon though, and the kids both really enjoyed the adventure.
Lily wanted to relax afterwards, but Owen was ready for more. So after dropping her off at the campsite, we took Owen to the Baby Bathtubs trail, which was just down the road from the campground.
It was a short trail that went along some dips in the rock that would fill with water – baby bathtubs! He had a blast playing and exploring here, so I was really glad we brought him.
We had an uneventful dinner in town, then tucked in early, having a big day ahead of us tomorrow.
In the morning, we made breakfast at camp (the only meal we cooked on the trip) and then hit the road in the Jeep. We were headed for the Alpine Loop, a 4WD only trail through the high country. The pictures and descriptions made it look terrifying, but Brian was determined to try it. One of the roads that would have been very useful to us was closed, so we were already having to make a sight detour, but thought we had something workable figured out.
We were slowly navigating our way through a steep dirt road over Hurricane Pass, often with lots of exposure. Beautiful views though.
Suddenly, around a corner, we saw that most of the road up ahead was covered by a deep snowfield. There was only a foot or two of clearance on the edge of the road, and a steep dropoff on the other side. We had to decide that this was a deal-breaker, we weren’t going to attempt that. So, we backtracked a bit, and found a place we could reroute and go back down through Silverton instead.
Brian was disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to make the whole loop on the 4WD trails, but we would hopefully make it the rest of the way at least. We stumbled our way through town, and finally made it back to dirt roads, though nothing as adventurous as before. That is, until we reached the junction with Animas Forks. The kids wanted to explore to ghost town buildings here, but Brian was anxious to get on with the adventure after having lost so much time with the detour. So we headed back into the steep and scary, towards Cinnamon Pass. It’s the southern part of the loop, and supposed to be a bit easier than Engineer Pass, on the northern side of the loop.
More amazing views, more moments of me deciding it was better to just close my eyes while Brian navigated difficult spots, lol! But overall, it wasn’t any harder than what we had done earlier.
We stopped for a quick picture at the summit, then headed on, hoping to make it to Lake City for lunch, as we were already hungry. We did stop at a few old buildings from the areas mining era, and the kids really had fun going inside and exploring them.
The rest of the drive to Lake CIty was uneventful, and we just barely beat the big lunch rush to Poker Alice Cafe (strange, as it was almost 2pm already).
But it was good, comfort food, and we were all feeling much more refreshed now. Ready to tackle the rest of the loop.
The way to Engineer Pass, as expected, became a bit trickier. Lots of exposure, lots of harrowing moments trying to figure out how to get around oncoming jeeps without falling off the side, And lots of snow!
But, it was an epic adventure for sure, and Brian was glad we managed to make it all around, after the mishaps earlier that morning.
We finally came back to the junction with Animas Forks, and since we had more patience now, we stopped for a while and let the kids explore. I think this ended up being one of their favorite parts of the trip. It was neat reading the history of each of the buildings, and imagining what life would have been like for these brave souls, living in such harsh conditions with no modern comforts.
We arrived back in Ouray in time for dinner in town, then collapsed in the tent, exhausted from the big day.
The following morning, we went into town for breakfast, then made a quick stop at Baby Bathtubs again, because Owen had become quite attached, and Lily hadn’t been there yet. Made a good Father’s Day photo-op for Brian and the kids 🙂
After that, all that was left was to pack up and make the long drive home. It took longer than the trip here, in part because of a bad wreck that we passed (after sitting in the back-up from it for almost an hour). I knew it looked very bad, and found out after we got home that there had indeed been a fatality. So, a sobering way to end the trip. But also a reminder to cherish every moment, and take the adventures when you can.