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Ouray Colorado Vacation Guide and Trip Planning Information for SW Colorado

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4th of July in Ouray Colorado 2011

  
  
  

Nostalgic July 4th Celebration in Ouray Colorado

4th of July water fights in Ouray ColoradoOuray Colorado's biggest day of the year is the 4th of July.  This small town puts on quite a party that begins each year with the all you can eat pancake breakfast in the Ouray Community Center.  It begins at 6:00am and goes until all the food is gone!  After your stomach is full and bloated, consider running in the Ourayce.

Ourayce, a 10K run through town, gets your blood circulating.  The Ourayce is an informal affair so you can just show up that morning at 7:00am in front of the City building to register.  The race begins at 8:00am.  

By 10:00am, US Highway 550 is closed to traffic for the parade.  The volunteer fire department organizes this extravaganza and it includes horses, floats, bikes, costumes, and jeeps.  Most anyone who wants to participate in the parade lines up near 4th Ave by 9:30am.  For those who enjoy watching the parade, the streets fill in beginning at 8:30 for best viewing.  Bring a lawn chair, plenty of sunscreen, a hat and some water.  It is going to be fun! 

After the parade ends, the join the Ouray Historical Society at the Ouray Museum for a lemonade and brownie social or enjoy some kids games at the park.  Of course, a dip in the hot springs is also a possibility.

There is a BBQ lunch following the parade near the Elks Lodge and they typically serve brats.  The Masons (next door) typically have ribs.  The smells are very enticing.

The San Juan Mountain Guides set up a zip line across the Uncompaghre Gorge ($10/ride) from 11:30-1:30 too.  Find this set up at the bridge on Camp Bird Road just above town.

At 2:00pm, the waterfights commence (pictured above, photo courtesy of Kane Scheidegger) at 6th Avenue and Main Street whereby local teams compete against each other.  Using firehoses and fire hydrants, this tradition yields new champions each year.  The city closes off US 550 again and even sets up some bleachers so the onlookers can see the fun.  Prepare to get wet, even if you are just watching since they shoot the hoses up straight into the air to cool down the crowd!  Many people opt for umbrellas.

Listen to live music in the afternoon and evenings at O'Briens Pub and at the Backstreet Bistro and then at 9:15ish the torch parade begins followed by the firework show.

Guests staying at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs enjoy the fireworks from the parking lot.  They burst just over the hillside and the echos are tremendous.  It is a real treat!

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Best Scenic Jeep Tour: Yankee Boy Basin Near Ouray

  
  
  

Best Scenic Jeep Tour in Ouray: Yankee Boy Basin! 

Nothing beats a scenic jeep tour in Ouray Colorado.  The mountains surrounding the town are exquisite in any season but summer wildflower season reigns supreme for family fun times near Ouray.  Many high alpine basins are covered in wildflowers but Yankee Boy Basin is one of the very best.  

wildflower photography ourayOn a 1/2 day adventure into the basin, be sure to bring your camera; photographers flood the area to capture the absolute beauty of the wildflowers.  Native plants like indian paint brush, rocky mountain columbines, delphinium, queen anne's lace, and dozens of other varieties paint the landscape with dramatic colors.  They bloom like a symphony; only for a short while are all the flowers blooming.  The crescendo of flowers begins soon after the first snow melts and the biggest plants bloom in late July and into early August.  By the end of August, many flowers are past their prime but the forest readies itself for the golden onslaught of aspen leaves.

field of wildflowers yankee boyJeep tour drivers allow plenty of time for pictures and tell the tales of generations of miners that worked underground in the early history of the state of Colorado.  On the tour, you will pass old mine relics, ghost towns and icons of the past and the drivers' historic knowledge brings these mute remains to life as they describe the life and times of hardrock miners.

These tour drivers also provide information about the flora and fauna as it comes up as well as the geology of the region.  In four hours, you are mesmorized with history and amazed with the grandeur of the rocky mountains near Ouray.

Our Ouray hotel offers a jeep tour package and we are delighted to schedule your tour for you.  Morning or afternoon tours are availabe each and every day through early October.

Reserve your Scenic Jeep Tour Package

Southwest Colorado: Gateway Canyons Auto Museum

  
  
  

Southwest Colorado Vacation Stop on Your Way to Ouray

gateway coloradoThe farthest point from Ouray Colorado on the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway is the world class Gateway Auto Museum.  This museum houses John S. Hendricks (founder and chairman of Discovery Communications) incredible automotive collection.  There are at least 60 vehicles in the collection  dating back to the late 1800s here and each one is in perfect condition.  In the 30,000 square foot facility, at least 40 are on display at any one time.  Most of the time, there are a couple of vehicles displayed outside the museum too!

gateway auto museumThe museum presents the exhibit in the form of a timeline to demonstrate the evolution and innovation of the american car for the last one hundred years.  This museum pays tribute to the importance of the automobile on the American landscape.  Each vehicle has been masterfully restored and stands as a work of art.

The cornerstone vehicle on display is a 1954 one-of-a-kind concept car, the Oldsmobile F-88, purchased at an automobile auction for nearly three million dollars, is the musuems highlight.

Multi-media presentations and vintage signs and displays throughout the museum provide context and history for the vehicles making this a very unexpected but delightful stop along this very remote scenic byway.

The museum is opened five days per week, Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Dedicate a minimum of one hour but, to absorb all the information and watch the videos, you will need at least two hours.

Hanging Flume: Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway

  
  
  

Scenic Drive Near Ouray Colorado:  Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway

unaweep tabeguache map 2

For a wonderful motorcycle ride or a scenic drive in a passenger car from Ouray, consider the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway.  This route takes you to an area on the Colorado Plateau and can have much warmer and dryer weather than Ouray.  The road is fully paved and you travel on State Highways.  About 15 miles north of Naturita, near the confluence of the San Miguel and the Dolores River you will see one of Colorado's treasured sites:  the Hanging Flume.

In the late 1800s, a major gold strike occurred on Mesa Creek Flats below the confluence of the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers. The Montrose Placer Mining Company bought six and a half miles of mining claims there.  No one knew how much gold was buried beneath the tons of sand and gravel and to free the gold the miners needed water and lots of it.  And so the hanging flume was conceived.

The mining claims were only 40 feet above the Dolores River but in 1889 there was no way to pump water in sufficient quantities even that far so several miles upriver, they built the flume and tied it into a series of ditches to move 80,000,000 gallons of water every 24 hour period when it was working.  The flume consisted of 7 miles of a wooden trough, four feet high and six feet wide, suspended above the river and the builders bolted the frame over 18 inches deep into the sandstone rocks.  This flume was at a very slight grade, only 6 feet 10 inches to the mile.  It took 12 men three years and over $100,000 to build it.  The mining company only used the flume for three years before calling it quits since it didn't prove to be terribly profitable - the gold was too fine to be recovered, even with the use of quicksilver (mercury).  Through the years much of the timbers that were used to build the flume were harvested by local farmers and ranchers for use in building.

hanging flumeAll that remains today are some dangling shards of the once great flume.   Some of the best views are along River Road.  You can also see several remnants from CO141 at the Hanging Flume Overlook about 14 miles north of Naturita.

To access River Road, look for the road and bridge near the UMETCO sign a couple of miles south of the Hanging Flume Overlook.  It is a dirt road but accessible to 2WD passenger cars.

umetco-river-road-sign

Southwest Colorado Drives: Unaweep Tabaguache Scenic Byway

  
  
  

Scenic Drive Near Ouray Colorado for Motorcycles and Passenger Cars

map of unaweep tabeguache scenic byway

In less than one hour from Ouray, the San Juan Skyway intersects the Unaweep Tabaguache Scenic Byway in Placerville after a magnificient ride over the Dallas Divide from Ridgway.  It takes a mere 45 minutes to get to this intersection from Ouray.  

Once the Unaweep Tabaguache Scenic Byway begins, the drive snakes along the San Miguel River as it flows downward through the San Miguel Canyon.  High walls of red rock flank the road on both sides and riparian habitat carpets the valley floor along the river.

There are several boat ramps and camp sites along this area of the river managed by the BLM.  Caddis Flats is about 2 miles south of Placerville and has numerous picnic tables and camp sites as well as nice river access and a small information kiosk.  Lower Beaver is about 7 miles east of Norwood and has the same basic setup as Caddis Flats.

Norwood PanoramaYou leave the valley floor and climb Norwood Hill so that you are on top of the mesa.  Wow!  This is big sky country.  The panorama in the distance includes the mountains surrounding Ouray on the far lefthand side.

River Road UMETCO signContinue along this roadway and you will slowly see the topography change as you rejoin the San Miguel River.  The visitor center in Naturita is a delight, staffed with very friendly faces and a wealth of information, including a nice brochure on the Hanging Flume that includes a self-guided tour.  The best views of the flume itself are seen from River Road (turn left and cross the bridge at the UMETCO sign about 13 miles north of the Visitor Center in Naturita.)  You must drive the River Road downstream and keep your eyes out for the flume.  

scenic drive hanging flume coloradoContinuing down the river, you pass the site of Uravan.  The mostly abandoned town of Uravan was very important during the dawn of the nuclear age.  Uranium and Vandium (a mineral used to harden steel) was mined from the area beginning in the late 1930s and finally closing down operations in the 1980s.  The town was home to as many as 800 people in its heyday.  In the 1980's UMETCO received a $70 million contract to clean up the mine waste that remained.  Along the route, look for old mining relics that remain high on the canyon walls.

gateway coloradoAs you continue through the Dolores Canyon you come to Gateway, home of the Gateway Auto Museum, a world class museum with a private collection of over 60 cars in exquisite condition.  This area makes a nice rest stop.   At Gateway Canyons, there is a gas station, a small convenience store and a restaurant.  

Finish the journey through the 44 mile long Unaweep Canyon, the only canyon in the world that has a watershed divide in the middle of the canyon.   Once you reach US 50 and Whitewater, the scenic byway route has ended.  Head back to Ouray by taking US 50 South for about 95 miles.

True Grit Vacation Package in Ouray

  
  
  

ridgway and ouray were home to original true grit movieRelive the Original “True Grit” Movie in Ouray, Colo. 

--Box Canyon Lodge offers “True Grit” package to retrace ‘The Duke’s’ footsteps--

The DVD release of the remake of the western “True Grit” is just around the corner. In honor of the original John Wayne version, which was filmed in and around Ouray (a.k.a. “Switzerland of America”), Box Canyon Lodge invites visitors to book the True Grit Package and channel their inner “Duke.” The package spotlights movie scenes, as well as local hot spots popularized by John Wayne.

The True Grit package includes: two nights lodging for two at Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs in Ouray; dinner at Outlaw Restaurant; and your choice of a 4x4 Jeep Wrangler rental or a morning guided Jeep tour. A detailed map of set locations, complete with specific GPS coordinates, pictures, routes and a suggested itinerary are also included. The package is available from late-May through October 1 and costs $565 for two people, excluding taxes and gratuities. (bcm@boxcanyonouray.com or 800-327-5080).

 

Package Details

Box Canyon Lodge: The well-appointed rooms at Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs are equipped with DVD players for watching the motel’s copy of “True Grit.” Also, be sure to check out the natural hot springs tubs terraced on the mountainside.

Outlaw Restaurant: Dinner for two is included at the Outlaw Restaurant, where John Wayne liked to eat during filming. He became particularly friendly with the bartender named Addie, to whom he gave his hat. It is proudly displayed still today.

Jeep Tour: Provided by outfitter Switzerland of America, visitors may choose a guided or self-guided Jeep tour. GPS coordinates and directions to movie locations on Last Dollar Road and Owl Creek Pass are provided.

While in the area, visitors may want to consider stopping by True Grit Cafe in neighboring Ridgway.  Sitting in “The Grit,” you can look out over the town park and see where the hanging scene was filmed. Right behind the park is the old Train Depot depicted in the movie. If you tilt your head just right and look at the mountains you can see the famous Chimney Peak that is shown prominently in the big shoot out scene in the movie. 

About Box Canyon Lodge (www.boxcanyonouray.com)

The Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs is located in beautiful Ouray, Colo., nicknamed “Switzerland of America.” Box Canyon Lodge, a hot springs motel boasting four, all natural hot springs tubs, offers a peaceful location, clean, comfortable and nicely decorated rooms, meticulously-maintained grounds and warm, personal service.  

Rock Climbing near Ouray Colorado

  
  
  

ouray rock climbing guideOuray Colorado Rock Climbing Overview

Ouray’s climbing history is really not that  colorful.  There was no Camp 4 here, and there’s not many, if any, classic historical routes.  Route development sometimes takes more of a mining approach than a climbing one, and thus, not many routes where put in until recently.

Native Americans of course were the first residents of this area after the cavemen and dinosaurs.  In some cases they traveled to the high peaks.  It’s unlikely they were doing much climbing as free soloing would have been the game of the day, and free soloing a San Juan first ascent is not such a good idea in most cases. The white settlers eventually succeeded in kicking out the Indians they didn't kill.    Those settlers consisted of miners, ranchers, and prostitutes.  For some unfortunate reason, the prostitutes were the next to go, leaving the miners, ranchers, and livestock to fend for themselves.  The miners and ranchers didn't like each other much and still don't to this day.  I don't know what the cause of this was, but it likely had something to do with lack of prostitutes.   

The 1930’s were an active time for the San Juans.  The Hayden Survey climbed many of the areas peaks, and the San Juan Mountaineers climbed the remaining summits. 

The majority of the lower rocks in the valley have seemed to not receive any attention from those not wielding dynamite until ice climbers started venturing to the area in the 70’s.  Royal Robbins had a climbing school in Telluride for awhile, and even John Long and Lynn Hill visited, leaving behind some first ascents.  It doesn’t seem that they made it to this side of the hill to climb however. 

Lyle Dean, Bill Whitt, Bill McTiernan, Dave Bangert, Mike O’Donnell and Michael Covington were likely the modern day pioneers of Ouray Rock.  These guys mostly developed traditional routes like the ones on the Pool Wall, some on the Sandias, and the Roadside Attraction crack.  Not a whole lot of routes went in on rock as previous ethics and approaches to rock climbing limited what could be done. 

--***---

Michael Gilbert took a modern approach to route development at the Pool Wall around 2000 and others followed suit.  A lot of great climbing routes were created once the loose rock was removed.  Now, many of the routes in Ouray have some or all bolts for protection.  New routes often require much cleaning or removing of loose rock and dirt prior to being climbed.  

Today, Ouray has a well rounded selection of climbing routes for almost all abilities.  The approaches are often short and most of the routes are very close to town.  This makes for a convenient atmosphere to sample the many rock types Ouray has to offer.  

Rock Climbing Areas Near Ouray

Rotary Park - Family-style climbing at its finest.  Safe, easily accessed one pitch climbs.  It is far enough off the road so the family dog won't get run over in traffic but steps away from public facilities including BBQ grills and picnic tables.

The Pool Wall - Just north of the Ouray hot springs pool.  Approach times range from five to fifteen minutes.  

The Sandias - Just west of Ouray.  Head up the Old Twin Peaks Trail at the intersection of Queen and Pinecrest.  Approach times range from five to fifteen minutes.

Many other climbing areas exist near Ouray including Jimmy Cliff, Ice Park, The Overlook, Red Mountain Pass, Camp Bird Road and others.  In fact, there are so many routes that I wrote a guide book with pictures and details entitled "Ouray Rock Climbing Guide" and it is available in town or online at the mountain shop, Ouray Mountain Sports.  It is 82 pages long and includes details and photos on the routes and I last updated it in the fall of 2010.

If you are new to rock climbing and or looking for lessons or instruction on rock climbing, the local experts are San Juan Mountain Guides and offer year round training and instruction in both rock and ice climbing near Ouray and all over Southwest Colorado.

About the Author:  Jason Nelson is a professional rock and ice climber that currently splits his time between Ouray Colorado and Flagstaff Arizona and travels around the world conquering rock and ice challenges whereever he can.  He also owns and operates his professional web design company, Visual Adventures.

Ouray Event: Trio Solisti Concert in Ridgway Colorado June 24th, 2011

  
  
  

The Ouray County Performing Arts Guild, The Telluride Foundation and Citizens Bank presents - 

Trio Solisti - June 24th, 2011 

7:00pm 4H Center in Ridgway, CO 

Tickets are $20 pre- show, $22 at the door.  Students are $5.
Available at Mouse's Chocolates and Buckskin Booksellers in Ouray Cimmaron Books and Coffee House and Bluecorn Naturals Factory Outlet in RidgwayThe Coffee Trader in Montrose.  Tickets are also available online as well.

trio solistiSince 2003, Trio Solisti has been performing in Ouray County. This world class quintet will once again bring its quintessential style and grace to the Umcompahgre Valley. 

Hailed as the "most exciting piano trio in America" by The New Yorker Magazine, Trio Solisti is comprised of three brilliant instrumentalists - violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach and pianist Jon Klibonoff. Trio Solisti has earned a reputation for soulful and passionate performances marked by soloistic virtuosity, electric energy, seamless ensemble playing, and thrilling abandon. These qualities have drawn high praise from such journals as The New York Times (“consistently brilliant") and The Washington Post (“unrelenting passion and zealous abandon in a transcendent performance.”)  Performing a broad spectrum of styles, their versatility extends to new music, most notably to the work of Paul Moravec who  composed his 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Tempest Fantasy, for Trio Solisti. One of America's most notable critics, Terry Teachout of The Wall St. Journal proclaimed, "To my mind, Trio Solisti has now succeeded the Beaux Arts Trio as the outstanding chamber-music ensemble of its kind." Trio Solisti celebrates their 10th Anniversary in the 2011-12 season. 

Evening Performance and Program Information:

  • Leonard Berstein: Trio (1937)
  • Ernest Chausson: Trio in G MInor, Op 3
  • Intermission
  • Antonin Dvorak: Piano in E minor, Op 90 "Dunky Trio"


"Trio Solisti- the most exciting piano trio in America"-The New Yorker Magazine 4/27/09 

Trio Solisti headlines Dumbarton Concerts "...the appropriately named Trio Solisti- smashingly successful" -The Washington Post 4/4/11 

Trio Solisti at The Kennedy Center: Fortas Series "..a splashy and exciting crowd pleaser...The Trio Solisti performance was characterized by passion, lyricism,transparency and, in the finale a sense of triumph. "-The Washington Post 12/5/09

"...Trio Solisti to my mind has now succeeded the Beaux Arts Trio as the outstanding chamber-music ensemble of its kind."-Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal 11/07

Ridgway Colorado Perfect for Hot Air Balloon Ride

  
  
  

Ridgway Colorado hot air ballooningRidgway Colorado is ten minutes from Ouray and sits lower in the valley and has stunning views of the Mt. Sneffels massif as well as the Cimmarons.  Ridgway is the "Gateway to the San Juan Mountains" and is a perfect spot to enjoy a hot air balloon ride.

San Juan Balloons offers rides year round (but May - October is the busiest season so be sure to book these rides well in advance).  You meet your balloon pilot in the very early morning in Ridgway, a mere ten minutes from Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs.  If the winds are calm, you will ascend from town and float weightlessly across the town and whereever else the gentle currents take you.  The panorama of the mountains is majestic and the peaceful drifting through the air is an unmatched experience.

Hot air ballooning in Ouray County adds a new dimension for photographers as well.  Consider the splurge during the fall foliage season where golden aspens create waves of color across the rugged hillsides.  

We offer our "Up, Up and Away" vacation package and we are happy to schedule your balloon flight for you.  We recommend this package for a romantic weekend getaway or for a great add on to any vacation.  Get up bright and early in the morning and enjoy a hot air balloon ride for two complete with a champagne brunch over the spectacular Ridgway Valley, surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks, beautiful green mesas and rugged rocky plateaus.  Book this in conjunction with the honeymoon suite and this incredible experience is only $700 + tax for the night! (Slight rate variations with different room combinations are available).   Advanced booking required.

Reserve Your Hot Air Balloon Ride

Taste of Ouray Colorado: June 8, 2011

  
  
  

What better way to experience the true flavor of Ouray than with the Taste of Ouray celebration, held every June.  Local restaurants from both Ouray and Ridgway participate and serve up some of their fanciest cuisine and demonstrate their skills in the kitchen.  Some restaurants feature menu favorites while others dazzle participants with new and exotic flavors.  Last year, the Bon Ton restaurant served samples of their scrumptious "Beef Wellington" and the Western Hotel decorated strawberries in "dark tails" and bow ties (see photo below).  This event is a crowd favorite so be early!

Participants buy tickets in $1 increments and then turn the tickets over to the vendor of choice.  Most items range 1 - 5 tickets for a very generous sample.  Entry is free but food and beverages are not.

Including a tantalizing and delicious sampling of local cuisine, the festival also features music and beverages. This year also features a town "Cupcake War" that embraces the theme of "Spring Fling" and a culinary cooking challenge.  

LOCATION:  Ouray Community Center

TIME: Doors open at 5:00pm

The pictures below show the event from prior years.  Photos below courtesy of Jennifer Loshaw, former Executive Director of the Ouray Chamber and new full time mom!

decorated strawberries

taste of ouray 2010

Compassion 5K Run/Walk in Ouray on Memorial Day

  
  
  

May 30, 2011: Compassion Run/Walk in Ouray:  On Memorial Day, there will be the First Annual Compassion 5K.  This run will begin and end at Fellin Park (next to the Ouray Hot Springs) and will be used to raise money for Compassion Weekend (June 18th & 19th, 2011) to fulfill work requests for those residents that are in need of help.  

The running course will be an out and back loop and mostly follows the flat River Trail on the north side of Ouray along the Uncompaghre River.  Entry fees for either a walk or run are $20/person through May 23rd and $25/person on May 24th through race day.  All participants will receive a t-shirt.  

If you have interest in volunteering on Compassion Weekend in June, please contact us and we can put you in touch with the group.

We have sign up forms at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs so book a room and run on Memorial Day Weekend in Ouray!

If you want to register but don't want to get a hotel room, we will still help you out.  Just call us!  This is for a great cause.

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If You Visit ANY County Museum, Make it the Ouray County Museum!

  
  
  

ouray county museum ranch roomThe Ouray County Museum is a treasure of memorabilia from the last 150 years of Colorado history.  It has 27 rooms on display including a replica of an old mine, a blacksmith shop, a mineral collection, an old jail cell and many others.  It also includes countless historical photos from its rich archive along the walls and through the corridors of this three story museum.  Plan to spend at least one hour touring their vast collection, although I have never spent less than 2 hours walking through.

ouray county museum evelyn walsh mccleane roomThe Ouray County Museum was the former St. Joseph's Miners Hospital so several exhibits showcase medical instruments, hospital furnishings and even the hospital kitchen.  Their is also a room dedicated to Evelyn Walsh, daughter of the owner of the Camp Bird Mine.  The museum is run by the Ouray County Historical Society and their summer calendar of events include their ever popular "Evenings in History" lectures, a sponsored hike to see the Cork Screw Railroad bed and turntable (June 11th and July 30th), and a dinner and show offered where attendees get to meet Otto Mears (as performed by Steve Lee) on August 26th.

The museum is a highlight on the City of Ouray historic walking tour but if you want even more information, consider scheduling a private guided walking tour with a tour guide from the museum.  These tours are a grand way to learn the history of this town with knowledgable guides leading your journey.

Nicholas Trotter, author of Colorado and the Rockies for Dummies stated, "If you only go to one county museum in the course of your travels, make it this one."  

Take a Hike in Ouray Colorado: Portland Trail to Scenic Overlook

  
  
  
scenic overlook portland trail

 

Ouray Colorado is a hiker's paradise.  Right from town there are many trails that you can hike to without using your car to get to the trailhead if you want that additional distance.  For a pleasant lower elevation, intermediate hike, try the Portland Trail.  It is a lovely trail into the Uncompaghre National Forest and the Amphitheater.  There are some views of the high mountains to the west, but, it is a wooded area with numerous coniferous trees and gambel oak.  The Portland Trail to the Scenic Overlook is about 2.2 miles one way from the trailhead.  This trail has a strong southern and western exposure so it can be a hot and dry trail in the afternoon especially in the summer but it also is hikable early and late into the season.  Once you leave the Baby Bath Tub area (about 0.3 miles into the hike), you will not have a stream nearby with water so if you take your dog, consider taking water for them.

 

Trailhead Location:
US 550 south of town about 1 mile is the turnoff for the Amphitheater Campground.  Head in and park before crossing the bridge over the Portland Creek.  Near the bridge, there is ample parking for several passenger vehicles.  The gate is closed when the campground is closed but just maneuver through the gate and cross the bridge if you must.  On your right, the Baby Bathtub trail begins.  Walk that trail for 0.3 mile or so and it will intersect the Portland Trail.  It is a well marked trail but pay attention to the signs as there are numerous trails in the area.

 

Trail Update:
As of May 8, 2011, the trail was mostly clear with some small traces of snow and very little mud.  There are three fallen trees that you must cross but the scenic overlook is rewarding.  The descent down to Portland Creek from the Overlook looks fine but the return down the Portland Road looks very muddy and contains many patches of snow that need to melt.  
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Ridgway Railroad Museum in Ouray County has New Exhibits for 2011

  
  
  

ridgway railroad museumThe Ridgway Railroad Museum, located near the only traffic light in Ouray County, recently opened its 2011 season with a new look and several new exhibits.  “As many people know, we had a water pipe burst during the extreme cold snap in February,” said museum vice-president Jim Pettengill, “so after repairs were completed we took the opportunity to spruce up the facility.  Fortunately, none of the exhibits were damaged.  We’ve repainted, and added two new exhibits inside the building.  One is a unique double dispatcher’s desk that came from either the Ridgway Depot or the Rio Grande Southern office building.  It’s set up with its original telegraphy equipment, and two operators can work at the same time because both sides of the desk are mirror images of each other, with identical equipment.”

“We also have a wonderful new diorama of the Ridgway railyards,” Pettengill continued.  “This was a gift from the estate of Richard Dorman, a respected author of many books on Colorado’s narrow gauge railroads.  Mr. Dorman was also a nationally known modeler, and his personal layout was based on the RGS and had been featured in top modeling magazines.   We are very fortunate that his widow honored us by donating the Ridgway portion to us.  It is incredibly detailed, and will allow us to show what things were like here when the railroad was still active.  We had to build a lighted enclosure for the diorama, and the finished display is impressive."

ridgway railroad museum new additionThe museum’s most obvious new exhibit arrived last week – a very special railcar.  “This car was donated to us by the railroad preservation group in Grand Junction,” said Pettengill.  “They felt that it belonged here because it operated on our railroads.  This car is one of a kind.  It was originally built for the Denver and Rio Grande by the Jackson and Sharp car shop in Wilmington, Delaware in 1882 as a kitchen and commissary car, with sleeping accommodations for six.  It was one of three cars built for a special train to be used by D&RG General Manager David C. Dodge, and was known as Business Car C.  It was finished inside with ash wood.”

“Business Car A was a luxurious sleeping and observation car that was later sold to the RGS and later renamed the Edna.  It has been fully restored and is at Knott’s Berry Farm in California.  Car B was a sleeping and dining car, and was destroyed in an accident.  Our new project, Car C, was later converted to a railway mail and baggage car in 1906, and later into a bridge and building bunk car in 1926.  We will restore it to its original glory as the railroad manager’s special kitchen and commissary car.”

Moving the new car to Ridgway was a major logistical exercise.  A crane in Grand Junction loaded the car on to a lowboy trailer, which was then trucked to Ridgway.  Another crane was waiting at the museum to lift the car onto its temporary base of ties.  “This car was built with wheelsets (trucks) that are rare today,”  said Pettengill. “Locating a set will be difficult; we may have to fabricate them from blueprints.  This will be a long restoration project, but when we are through, it will be a very special piece of our railroad history.”

The museum is open from 10 AM to 3 PM daily until June first, when summer hours of 9 AM – 4 PM will go into effect

Using a Debit Card at a Hotel Can Be Risky Business

  
  
  

debit cards at hotelsUsing a debit card at our hotel in Ouray Colorado is possible, but, some guests experience problems.  If you understand the way debit cards work, you can mitigate these unfortunate situations.  At check-in, we ask our guests if this is a debit or a credit card.  Just because it has a Visa or Mastercard logo on the card doesn't automatically mean it is a credit card; typically, debit cards are marked on the front with either "Debit Card" or "Check Card" and they are tied to a bank account.

If the debit/credit card you are using at check-in is attached to a bank or checking account, a hold is placed on the account for the full anticipated dollar amount expected to be owed to the hotel, including estimated incidentals, through the date of check-out and such funds will not be released for 72 hours from the date of check-out or longer at the discretion of your financial institution.

So, this means that if you do not keep a sufficient balance in your account, your account might experience an overdraft as these funds are not available for any other transaction, including checks that might be outstanding that attempt to clear the account.  We recommend that if you provide us with your debit card at check-in that you do not change your mind and pay with another payment method (i.e. cash or a different credit/debit card) because you will experience a delay in clearing that hold on the funds in your bank account.

A few things you can do to mitigate any trouble are:

  1. Know your current account balance and make sure that your outstanding checks and charges are included in your computations.  Ensure you do not commit more funds on your debit card than your account balance.
  2. Car rentals, gas stations where you pay at the pump, or restaurant and hotel bills are most notable locations where the final amout of the bill is not known when the authorization is obtained.  These charges can take much longer to settle with the exact amount.  In the event that you see the transaction but the amout is different than your actual obligation, it typically shows up as a "pending amount" as opposed to a final sale in your online banking software.  Let the transaction finalize before you spend any amount held over from the pending transaction.
  3. Do not use your debit card when making a reservation at a hotel.  When you are asked for a credit card to confirm a reservation, the debit/credit card is used as a room guarantee and indicates that if you do not show up on the reservation date, the hotel charges that credit/debit card for holding the room for you.  Hence, the hotel/motel may charge your debit card unexpectedly.  This charge may be valid and may overdraw your account if you do not keep a substantial balance in your account.
  4. Merchants do not have very much control over these situations.  However, we work with guests during normal banking hours to clear the pending charges when issues arise.  It is a long process and takes time.  You must call your banking institution to see if it is possible to avoid possible problems with overdraft charges in the event of a mistake and work to involve the merchant too.

Ouray Colorado: Signature Events 2011

  
  
  

From A (athletic) to Z (zany), Ouray, Colorado, hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year that offer the perfect excuse to plan trip to the “Switzerland of America.” Here is a look at what is on Ouray’s fun-filled calendar this year.

TASTE OF OURAY, June 8, 2011: What better way to experience the true flavor of Ouray than with the Taste of Ouray celebration, held every June. Including a tantalizing and delicious sampling of local cuisine, the festival also features music and beverages. The Taste of Ouray is held at the Ouray Community Center, 5:00pm - 8:00pm.  This year also features a town "Cupcake War" that embraces the theme of "Spring Fling" and a culinary cooking challenge.

FOURTH OF JULY, July 4, 2011: One of the most cherished traditions of Ouray’s old fashioned Fourth of July celebration is the water fights on Main Street that grew out of the old mining days of Ouray in the late 1800s. In addition to the water fights, other festivities include: the Firefighters Dance; horse races; a pancake breakfast; “Ourayce” (a 10K walk-run); a patriotic parade; kids games; barbeque; zip line rides; and a Jeep flare parade, followed by fireworks over the city.

51ST ANNUAL ARTIST’S ALPINE HOLIDAY, July 29 – August 6, 2011: This is the 51st anniversary for this celebration that features a number of outstanding events during the nine-day gala. Enjoy the exhibition of the Ouray County Arts Association (OCAA) Permanent collection at the Ridgway Library and other gallery venues, a judge’s workshop, a “Paint-Out” event on Main Street Ouray, Artist’ Demonstrations, Studio/Gallery Tours, and Children’s workshops. Visit http://www.ourayarts.org/aah.html for more information.

GRILLIN’ & CHILLIN’ MUSIC AND BREW FEST, August 27, 2011: Head over to Fellin Park in Ouray for the Annual Grillin’ & Chillin’ Music and Brew Fest. Enjoy live music, tasty BBQ, cold microbrews from breweries on Colorado’s western slope.  Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, kids, dogs (on leashes please) and even your mother-in-law and spend an afternoon hanging out, tasting craft beers, and chillin'.

trail runningIMOGENE PASS RUN, September 10, 2011: For 38 years, athletes have challenged themselves to a grueling, 17-mile race from Ouray over 13,114-foot Imogene Pass to Telluride. This is one of the premiere mountain races in the country that has grown to include thousands of participants each year. Racers must be 15 years or older, and participants must pre-register to participate. Registration opens on June 1 and fills up fast. Visit http://www.imogenerun.com to learn more and sign up.

OURAY OKTOBERFEST, October 8, 2011: Cold beers, hot brats and a great German band. It is all on tap October 8 when Ouray plays host to the annual Ouray Oktoberfest celebration, which kicks off at 6 p.m. at the Ouray Community Center. The festivities also include the Annual Jeep Raffle Drawing, dancing, door prizes and the popular Museum Quilt Raffle.

OURAY ICE FESTIVAL, January 2012, : Each January, world-class athletes converge on Ouray for the Ouray Ice Festival. The festival is held at the Ouray Ice Park, the world’s first park dedicated exclusively to ice climbing. The Ouray Ice Festival is arguably the ice climbing community’s favorite gathering of top competitors, spectators and climbing gear manufacturers. It includes professional competitions, ice climbing clinics, slide shows, an outdoor bazaar and gear demos and a silent auction.


Ouray County History: Dairies Thrived During Mining Days

  
  
  

When one thinks of businesses in Ouray County, milk dairies do not instantly come to mind, but one hundred years ago dairies were very important to Ouray County.  Many of these dairies were small with only a few cows. They sold their milk to the larger dairies that sold directly to the public using their own milk as well as milk bought from the small outfits. In 1900 the Ouray Herald reported that there were a half dozen large dairies in Ouray County.  

Nineteenth century milkmen would load several five-gallon cans of milk into a wagon for the trip to town. They would stop at each customer’s house and jingle a bell. The buyer would come out with a pail and, using a long handled dipper, ladle out the desired quantity of milk. The driver never left his seat. It wasn’t quite as sanitary as we would demand today, but in the early 1900s the customer got their 12 quarts of milk for a dollar.

One of Ouray’s first dairies was Jim Brown’s Riverside Dairy located in the small flat where the Box Canyon Road leaves the one leading to Sneffels (today’s Camp Bird Road). Just past his dairy the road began a steep climb that today is still known as “Jim Brown Hill.” He sold milk to the Revenue Mine and, in 1896, needing much more space he moved the dairy to the Bachelor Switch area two miles north of Ouray. The Bachelor Switch was a station on the D&RG Railroad on the east side of the Uncompahgre River in front of today’s Whispering Pines Subdivision. By 1900 Brown had changed the name of the dairy to the Revenue Dairy. At that time he was delivering 70 to 100 gallons of milk per day to the Revenue Mine!  

camp bird milk bottleIn 1896 Joe Scales built another large dairy located where the CDOT yard is today on the Camp Bird Road. The 20% grade of the Mears Toll Road began behind the dairy and the hill was known as “The Milk Ranch Hill.” Scales sold the dairy in 1911. It operated for many years and was eventually called the Camp Bird Dairy. (Photo left courtesy of the Ouray County Historical Society).

The V. I. Hoskins Cedar Hill Dairy was located in 1899 just north of the Cedar Hill Cemetery. Dairies often changed hands such as the Boon Flora Dairy (1883) that became the Lewis Dairy (1896) and then the Foley Dairy (1899) and finally the Merling Dairy (1904). The Orvis family ran a dairy at the Orvis Hot Springs during the early 1900s.  

Axel Erickson built the Highland Dairy in 1913. It was located high in the hills across the valley from Lake Lenore. In 1936 it was taken over by Axel’s son-in-law, John Honstein, who operated it into the mid 1940s. Many dairies closed during WWII due to government price controls and a lack of labor.

The Whinnerah Brothers (Robert, Raymond and Richard) had a ranch on Billie Creek just south of Colona. They sold buttermilk door to door, and Richard who usually made the trip into Ouray, was well known as “Buttermilk Dick.” Richard went on to become a well-known Ouray County mining surveyor.

The Ridgway Creamery (the building still stands on Sherman Street) was incorporated in 1905. They did not have any cows of their own but bought milk from area ranchers. It was ably managed by George Braham. In 1910 they produced 260,000 pounds of cream and 70,000 pounds of butter for a net profit of $1400. The creamery lasted until 1920 when it succumbed to competition from creameries in Montrose.  

Victor Dalpaz operated the Dalpaz dairy from 1938 to 1972. It was located west of the Uncompahgre River about 5 miles north of Ouray. Other dairymen I was able to discover include Charles Winstrom, George Hanzel, Fred Jerome, E. W. Roscoe, J. D.Boyce, H. A. Siebert, Ross Gray, Erin Sigfrid and D. E. Pilcher.  

One hundred years ago there were many milk cows in Ouray County that provided additional income to small farms. The miners and their families drank a lot of milk, much more than we drink today. It wasn’t pasteurized but ice was available from the several  icehouses in Ouray.

About the Author:  Don Paulson is the curator at the Ouray County Historical Society and Ouray County Museum.  He is also a retired Professor of Chemistry where he specialized in organic chemistry.  Don is an active member of the Ridgway Railroad Museum, and an avid hiker, 4WD (jeep) enthusiast, and photographer in addition to his duties as curator for the museum.

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