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Ouray Colorado Vacation Guide and Trip Planning Information for SW Colorado

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Ouray Colorado: Calling all Performers for Entertainment Review

  
  
  

talent show in ouray

Do you think you have talent & would like to be on stage at the Wright Opera House in beautiful Ouray Colorado?

WISE (Women In Support OF Education) is conducting a search for entertainers of all ages to perform in their upcoming talent show, “The WISE Entertainment Review”, August 5th & 6th. In order to encourage more people to participate in the show, there will be no entry fee. Local entertainers will not only get to show off their talents, but will also be contributing their time to a good cause. “The Wise Entertainment Review” will be the 3rd talent show organized by the local women’s organization to raise money for their scholarship fund. Each year, WISE women provide scholarships for Ouray County graduates, including the Emma Lou Wilder scholarship awarded to recognize an outstanding college student from Ouray County. To sign up, or for more information, contact Sharon Neville, (970) 325-9904.

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Events in August 2011 in Ouray Colorado & Ridgway Colorado

  
  
  

Mushroom Hunting, Other Events and Things to Do in Ouray County Colorado in August 2011

mushroom hunting ouray colorado

As the monsoon filled days of July give way to the crisp, cool nights of August, alpine basins of brimming with Colorado wildflowers slow their growth and begin to prepare themselves for reseeding.  Alas, it is finally the time to hit the forests in search of great treasures!  Mushroom hunting kicks into gear typically the second week of August in the majestic San Juan Mountains of Ouray County Colorado.  Other events and things to do in August 2011 follow below. 

July 8 - August 18: - San Juan Photo Series: The Annual Ouray County Museum's "San Juan Memories" opens July 8th and runs through August 18th.  features photographs on any topic in the San Juan Mountain region of southwestern Colorado. This is a juried show with first, second and third prize selected by this year's judge, M. E. Marcantonio, as well as a "Viewers Favorite" selected by museum visitors.

July 20 - August 28: Quilt ShowThe Ouray County Historical Society Annual Quilt how runs from July 20th to August 28th. Come and see historic quilts that were pieced or quilted prior to 1960 at the Ouray Museum.

July 29 - August 6: 51st Annual Alpine Artists Holiday

Ouray County Arts Association (OCAA) 51st Artists' Alpine Holiday at the Ouray Community Center 

  • Friday, July 29 & Saturday, July 30 -- 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
  • Sunday, July 31 - Friday, August 5 -- 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, August 6 -- 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

August 3, 10, 17, 24:  Bingo at the Ouray Elks Lodge:  Wednesday Night Bingo at the Elk's Lodge is open to the public and for all ages.  It begins at 7:00pm throughout the summer.

August 5 & August 6: WISE Music and Comedy Review: Come enjoy a local production of comedy and music for an evening to the "Women in Support of Education" scholarship programs.  It begins at 7:00pm each night at the  Wright Opera House, 470 Main Street, Ouray.

August 11:  Carin Mari and Pony Express Concert: 7:00pm, Wright Opera House, 470 Main Street, Ouray.

Acclaimed as one of Western Music's brightest hopes, Carin Mari & Pony Express play a style of music all their own.  The multi-talented siblings have won numerous awards including North America Country Music Assoc., International "2009 Entertainer of the Year" for Traditional Country, and Carin Mari was Runner Up in the 2010 Texaco Country Music Showdown.  They have a respect for the traditional western sound, but strive to create their own refreshing sound that appeals to the lovers of the traditional western music, as well as those new to the genre.  The tickets are - Adults $15 pre show (day of show-  $18) & Students (16 & under) $5.  They will be available at Buckskin Booksellers, Mouse's Chocolates, Cimarron Books in Ridgway, and The Coffee Trader in Montrose.  Tickets will also be available online as well.

August 13: Ouray Art Walk - Second Saturdays - 5pm - 8pm.  Shops and Galleries that are participating include Window to Yesterday, Skol Gallery, Ivory's Trading Company and Gallery, San Juan Art Galleries, Dreamtime Gallery and Studio, Ouray Silversmiths, Ouray Glassworks and Pottery Company, Painting Marmot Art Supply, and Silver Linings.  Many of the shops and galleries are offering refreshments, demonstrations  and/or music at this time.

August 13, Guided Cemetery Walking Tour A Guided tour of the Cedar Hill Cemetery five miles north of Ouray on Hwy 550. Come and learn about the lives of those buried in this historic cemetery. $10 per person fee. To pre-register contact the Ouray Museum @ 970-325-4576.

August 13: Mt. Sneffels 1/2 Marathon & Marathon  A great road race that begins in Ridgway (marathon) or Ouray (1/2 marathon) and benefits a great cause, the Mt. Sneffels Education Foundation.  More information and registration information.

August 13 & August 14:  27th Annual Ridgway Rendezvous Arts and Crafts Festival, Ridgway Town Park, all day long - This event is free and offers live musical entertainment all day both days of the show and several attractions geared specifically to children. The event is fun for the whole family. Catagories of Handmade Goods exhibited include: Ceramics, Drawing and Graphics, Fiber, Glass, Jewelry, Metal, Mixed Media, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Wearable Art, Wood Furniture, Bath Products, Toys and Gourmet Food. Food Concessions available.

August 19:  Lecture - Two Historic Himalayan Ascents by Kelvin Kent.  7:00 pm, Wright Opera House.  The most famous Himalayan expeditions to which Kelvin Kent was attached were the successful 1970 attempt on the south face of Annapurna and the 1972 siege (unsuccessful, it turned out, due to high winds and extreme cold) of the southwest face of Mount Everest.  The program Kent has put together will feature rarely-seen images from both climbs, some slides he took, and some taken by sponsored photographers whose work is only now free of copyright. The evening is a benefit for the restoration of the Wright Opera House.

August 19 - November 19: Special Exhibit at Ouray Museum:  "A Century of Ouray County Farming and Ranching History 1875-1975" - The Ouray County Historical Society presents it first special exhibit of the 2011 season. Learn about the various types of ranching and farming that took place in Ouray County during the counties first 100 years.  

August 20: Guided Walking Tour of OurayJoin a museum volunteer on a Walking Tour of Ouray's Main Street. Learn the history of these fascinating old buildings. $10 per person fee, to pre-register contact the museum @ 970-325-4576. Meet at the Museum at 3 pm.

August 24: Guided Walking Tour of OurayJoin a museum volunteer on a Walking Tour of Ouray's Main Street. Learn the history of these fascinating old buildings. $10 per person fee, to pre-register contact the museum @ 970-325-4576. Meet at the Museum at 3 pm.

August 26:  Dinner with Otto Mears - Enjoy an Evening with Otto Mears, Pathfinder of the San Juans as performed by Steve Lee.  Cash Bar:  5-6pm:  Catered dinner and performance.  Phone 970-325-0931 to reserve your spot.  Tickets: $50/person. Ouray Community Center.

August 27: Grillin' and Chillin' Music and Beer Festival  The Fourth Annual Grillin and Chillin Music and Beer Fest takes place in conjunction with Heritage Weekend.  Twelve craft breweries to attend with music.  Fellin Park, Ouray Colorado.  1pm - 6pm.  Tickets $30.  Free admission if you don't want to partake in the tasting portion of the event.

Reserve a Room or Reserve Tickets for Ev

Southwest Colorado Golf Courses: Divide Ranch and Club in Ridgway

  
  
  

Golfers Find Great Times in Ridgway Colorado at the Divide Ranch and Club.divide ranch golf course

Divide Ranch and Club, a semi-private golf course located on Loghill Mesa overlooking the stunning Mt. Sneffels massif just outside of Ridgway Colorado, is one of the closest golf courses to Ouray and it is also one of the prettiest.  

The challenging 7,039 yard course provides excellent views of the surrounding mountains.  For the 2011 Golf season, Divide opened in mid-May and it is anticipated to close in mid-October.  It is closed every Monday during the season.

golfing at divide ranch ridgway colorado

The clubhouse provides a stunning backdrop for a wedding reception and is reservable for non-members. It would make a great spot for a destination wedding in Ridgway Colorado.

Our Ouray hotel offers a discount golf voucher to our guests; golfers get 18 holes of golf, including a cart for $55/player.  It is a wonderful opportunity to see this great golf course in Ouray County.

For those interested in other golf courses in Southwest Colorado, check out the Fore-Corners Golf brochure so that you can make a great golfing getaway in Ouray and the surrounding area.

                   Reserve Your Golf Pac

Ouray County Roads 2 & 4: Oft Overlooked 4WD & Scenic Drive Gems

  
  
  

Off the Beaten Path 4WD and Motorcycle Roads in Ouray County Colorado for Wildflower Viewing and Fall Foliage

 

scenic views from ouray county colorado

Ouray County Roads 2 and 4 are often overlooked by visitors who want to climb to dizzying heights in the San Juan mountains. Now don’t get me wrong, because I love doing the same thing. But close to home are two readily-accessible roads that offer access to Billy Creek State Wildlife Area, along with spectacular views and wildflowers. The roads, shown in the GPS track below, are easily reached from US Hwy 550, just north of the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Campground at Ridgway State Park. This post tells you how to find these great roads and gives you a sample of the views and wildflowers I captured on camera on a mid June afternoon.

ouray county road 4 cimarrons view

Let’s suppose you’re renting a Jeep, but that’s tomorrow. What to do today? If you have a conventional 2-wheel-drive sedan, you can easily travel up County Road 2 and also up to the top of the ridge on County Road 4B, enjoy the incredible views, then turn around and retrace your steps. The road is a bit rutted, but time will knock the ruts down even more. Now, let’s suppose that while you’re waiting for that Jeep you have your SUV or pickup truck. You can easily add County Road 4 to your itinerary and see even more. Pay attention to where there are some rocks embedded in the road surface and you’ll be fine—I don’t recommend it for low-clearance highway vehicles like our Prius. If you take your dual-sport or dirt motorcycle, note that there is some scree. Also note that parts of CR 4 border private property, so please obey the “no trespassing” signs and stay on the road. Also please note that vehicles going uphill have the right of way (but use common sense).

ouray county road 4 entrance from us550

ouray county road 2 entrance from us550

From Ouray, drive north to Ridgway. Keep on going, about nine miles. You’ll pass the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk campground—in another half mile you’ll find the turn onto County Road 4. If you’d prefer the tamer County Road 2, travel a couple miles further north on US Hwy 550 and you’ll see this sign on the east side of the road near a small collection of homes and the big metal maintenance building for Billy Creek.

Before looking at the wildflowers, let’s take a look at the GPS track below that highlights both roads. You may want to print this map and take it with you.

cr 2 4 gps track

Note there are primitive campsites near the intersection of CR 2 and CR 4A. Observe the signs. If you’re bringing ATVs along, this is where you’ll want to park and unload.

cr 2 view

Above:  The view from the parking area at the easternmost end of CR 2. In the fall this field is dotted with hay rolls and is gorgeous. It's quiet here and there's plenty of room to park, plus a trail to go further into Billy Creek on foot or horseback.

When I was up there yesterday evening, I found wildflowers everywhere, especially up toward the intersection of CR 4A and CR 4. I stopped to take a picture of one and ended up spending quite a bit of time capturing pictures of others.

cr 4 thistle w bug

wildflowers in ouray county

cr 4 yellow flowers

cr 2 blue bevey

 

cr 4 fairy trumpet

So, there you go! A low key, straightforward ride through some beautiful areas with gorgeous views. This is one of my favorite rides!

Below:  Pinion Pines Biome on County Road 4.

 ouray county road 4 pinion pines

About the Author:  Dave Casler is an avid motorcycle rider (both dirt and street) and lives in Ouray County.  He has the very best website documenting the roads of Ouray County for motor enthusiasts.  He also has information on routes in Montrose County as well as San Juan County (Silverton), Hinsdale (Lake City) and San Miguel County (Telluride).  All 4WD enthusiasts will appreciate his GPS maps and documentation of routes although he specializes in motorcycles.

Ouray Jeep Tour Package: Enjoy Colorado Wildflowers & Photography

  
  
  

Add Some Color to Your Colorado Summer Vacation – Book a Wildflower Jeep Tour Package with Ouray’s Box Canyon Lodge 

Ouray, nicknamed “Switzerland of America,” is one of Colorado’s premier locations for wildflower viewing. During the summer wildflowers cover the ground around Ouray, offering a stunning backdrop for a picture-perfect photography Jeep tour. Book the Box Canyon Lodge’s Scenic Jeep Tour Special to get a guided, up close and personal look at the fabulous flora. Stay for one night in a standard room and receive two vouchers for two half-day scenic Jeep tours. The cost of the package is just $275/night, double occupancy.

field of wildflowers in colorado mountainsBe sure to bring along your camera to capture colorful candids of the dozens of varieties of native plants that blanket the area. Indian paint brush, Rocky Mountain columbines, delphinium and Queen Anne's lace are some of the most prominent plants. The crescendo of flowers begins soon after the first snow melts, though the biggest plants flourish from late July into early August.

Some of the most popular Jeep routes include Black Bear, Spirit Basin, Red Mountain Pass, Blue Lakes, Clear Lake, Hurricane Pass, California Gulch, Animas Forks, Ice Lakes and American Basin. Another local favorite is Cinnamon Pass, offering great views of the Animas Forks Valley. At the top of the pass there are wonderful alpine flowers and widespread vistas of the San Juan Mountain Range. 

Even if the wildflowers are not in bloom when you visit Ouray, there are other natural wonders - such as waterfalls and lakes - that make beautiful subjects for a photography-focused Jeep tour. Cascade Falls is a series of seven waterfalls that carry snowmelt off the mountains and down one of the two flumes through Ouray. The falls are accessed by the Lower Cascade Falls Trail that starts at a parking area at the east end of Eighth Avenue.

The Box Canyon Falls in the Uncompahgre Gorge, just steps from Box Canyon Lodge, is the culmination of Canyon Creek narrowing and spilling thousands of gallons of water per minute over the falls. Photographers may capture dramatic shots both above and below the 285-foot falls. 

million dollar highway crystal lakeCrystal Lake, with its beautiful reflections of the iron-rich Red Mountains, offers another great photo opp. The best time to shoot, according to locals, is early morning as the sun hits the tops of the mountains. Finally, at Ironton Park/Yankee Girl Basin, 100-year-old mining structures are accessible amid a beautiful grove of Aspen trees, making this a favorite destination any time of the year.

Reserve your Scenic Jeep Tour Package

 

About Box Canyon Lodge (www.boxcanyonouray.com)
The Box Canyon Lodge 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. The Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs has been recognized by a variety of publications, receiving the “Award of Excellence” by the Colorado Connoisseur and Travel Holiday magazine and listed as one of Sunset magazine’s “Best of the West.” Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs has also earned the four key rating from Green Key, a well-known eco-rating program.


Is Ouray Colorado Fun for Kids and Families? You Bet!

  
  
  

Ouray: Fun for Kids and Families in Southwest Colorado

This weekend, one of our kids participated in the 25th Annual Ouray Swim Meet, which is a fantastically fun meet that welcomes teams from all over the Western Slope.  130 swimmers came from Cortez, Delta, Durango, Grand Junction, Gunnison, Montrose, Rangely, and Telluride.

The Ouray Public Pool has been in operation since the 4th of July in 1927.  Owned and operated by the town of Ouray, it is not only a public pool, but it is also home to the Ouray Screaming Eels. That's right! Check 'em out.

ouray colorado swimming

 

As far as a location for a swim meet, the Ouray Public Pool is gorgeous. The pool appears to be cradled in the mountains.

Here, see what I mean?

ouray hot springs public pool

Anyway, I knew that it was going to be a great day from the very beginning when they started blasting Bon Jovi over the speakers during warmups. I'm a former Jersey girl- I can't help it. I almost started doing cartwheels as I was remembering my gymnastics routine to Livin' On A Prayer in junior high. DON'T WORRY - I didn't do it. Here's another picture of Ouray’s gorgeous pool.

ouray colorado natural hot springs

And look at the excellent fly, compliments of a Screaming Eel:

ouray co public hot springs pool

After the meet, we headed over to the playground for a few  minutes, and also checked out the fish and turtle pond.  Someone told us that there are sixteen turtles that live there, and there were tons of beautiful fish. I meant to take a picture, but we were busy trying to fish (no pun intended) sweet child #2 out of the pond after she slipped and fell in. But here's a picture of the playground. This has got to be one of the prettiest  playgrounds in the country. No kidding.

ouray best playground in colorado

Our stomachs were starting to grumble, so we headed over to one of our favorite restaurants in Ouray: Buen Tiempo. This place just rocks. The staff is always incredibly friendly and generous with the chips, and their food satisfies. My favorite is the spinach enchiladas. Yum. We sat on their patio, which is just downright pleasant and beautiful. Inside is equally appealing. By the way, what is the deal with the dollar bills on the ceiling? Does anyone know? I am probably the only person who lives in this area who doesn’t know. Forgive me.

buen tiempo restaurant ouray colorado
We had originally planned on squeezing in a quick hike up Lower Cascade Falls, but we were all pretty tired by this point. So we walked around town and of course we had to go into Gator Emporium. We saw rocks, beads, butterflies, beetles, bow and arrow, jewelry, purses, and this guy, whom I love:

gator emporium ouray colorado shopping

Go into Gator Emporium, and be sure not to miss the 50% off Ugly Guy Statues sale. Go to the back. Yes, the deals are always in the back.

We had so much fun at the Ouray Swim Meet. I don't care how old my kids get, I will keep going back again and again, as long as they let us come, just so that I can spend a day in this stunning place where water meets mountain. Have you been dozens of times? Then you know what I'm talking about. Have you never been? Well then, you must add this to your list of
things you need to do in your lifetime.


Ouray Hot Springs Pool Info:

  • Hours: 10AM - 10PM 7 days a week
  • Slides are open 12PM - 6PM
  • 2011 Summer closure dates for cleaning: June 7th and August 16th
  • Daily Rates:
  • $12 for adults
  • $8 youth (ages 4-12)
  • $10 seniors
  • Children 3 & under and seniors over 75 are FREE!
  • 10 punch swim pass $84
  • 20 punch swim pass $144
  • Lockers are $.50
  • Towels and swim suits are available to rent.
  • (970) 325.7073

 

About the author:  San Juan Parent is a parenting blog with information about family activities in the San Juan Mountains and surrounding communities. It was created by a mom who is always looking for something fun to do with her energetic children that will tire them out and make them go to bed at a decent hour.

Southwest Colorado: Mesa Verde National Park: Balcony House

  
  
  

Ouray is Only 2.5 Hours from Mesa Verde

In addition to seeing Ouray on their Colorado vacation, many people drive to Mesa Verde National Park and visit the ruins of the ancestral puebloans.  It is a spectacular look into the history of the continent and establishes human existance in the region as early as 550 AD.  The ancestral puebloans lived in the region until sometime around 1300 AD and many of their villages remain.  Twenty-four present day tribal nations trace their ancestors back to the inhabitants of Mesa Verde.

To visit Balcony House is a physically demanding tour but well worth it for those who can tolerate the obstacles.  Balcony House is opened from late April to early October every year and requires a guided ranger tour that costs $3/person regardless of age.  The tour lasts about one hour and the ranger describes the daily life of the ancestral puebloans as well as some of their religious beliefs and customs.

Head to the Far View Visitor Center to obtain your tickets.  During the busy summer season, you may only get to see one of the main ruins (Cliff Palace or Balcony House) in one day so get tickets early!  The Visitor Center is actually 15 miles from the park entrance and it takes time to get there.  Balcony House is another 30 minutes passed the Visitor Center.

balcony house ladder mesa verde national parkAccess to Balcony House starts with a long descent that includes several stair cases only to be greeted with a very large ladder and a 32 foot climb up to the ruins.  The ladder is very secure but those with a severe fear of heights may not be comfortable climbing this large ladder.  The ladder is large enough so that two people can climb side by side.  It is anchored and bolted into the ground so there is no chance of it moving, even with all the people.

inside balcony house mesa verde national parkOnce up the ladder, people walk through the initial entrance to the ruin and then into an open kiva area where the ranger begins to discuss the use of the kiva, daily habits and routines, access to water, and religious practices.  Continuing to the second room, the discussion continues with more elaboration into the arachaeological significance of Mesa Verde and these sites.

balcony house exit mesa verdeWhen preparing to exit the ruin, people must negotiate a tunnel whereby they must crawl single file through a 12 foot long by 18 inches wide hole.  There is no cushion or soft surface; it is rock and is hard on some knees.  After the tunnel, there is an open face climb of 60 feet made up of two 10 foot ladders and stone steps.  Most children will enjoy this adventurous tour.

Make sure to bring plenty of water.   Also make sure to use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses as well as the sun's rays are very intense during this time of year.  Last, there are no gasoline stations within the park so be sure to have a full tank before you venture into the heart of this national treasure.

Hiking in Southwest Colorado: Mesa Verde Natl Park: Petroglyph Trail

  
  
  

Ouray is only 2.5 hours from Mesa Verde National Park!

petroglyph trail canyon overlook

When visiting Southwest Colorado, no trip is complete without a stop at Mesa Verde National Park.  The park entrance is along the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway but the actual ruins are about 25 miles further into the park.  The scenery is impressive and a hike on the Petroglyph trail is easy and allows for some grand vistas of the canyons along the way.  

The Petroglyph Trail is a 3-mile loop trail and about 1/2 way down the trail, there are some petroglyphs on the wall.  The hike starts next to the Spruce Tree Cliff Dwelling and undulates below the mesa top.  The return is a steep climb of about 150-200 vertical feet to the mesa top and then mostly a flat walk.  Be sure to take plenty of water as this is a very dry trail and in the heat of the summer, it will be hot.  Plan on 2-3 hours to complete the full loop. 

route markerThis trail has an accompanying trail guide that can be purchased near the trailhead (honor system) for $0.50 if you want to take it home or just borrow it during the hike and it is free to use.  This brochure contains information on 34 marked points along the route.  Most of the markers identify plants and using the guide book provides hikers with information of a herbacious nature describing the plants along the way including the coniferous trees and bushes as well as shurbs and flowering plants.  However, this brochure also enhances the journey by explaining how the particular plant was used by the ancestral puebloans.  

petroglyphs at Mesa VerdeAlong the route, there are also some small ruins that are somewhat non-descript but their seeps (areas where water flows out of the sandstone) are obvious and interesting to see up close.  Views of Spruce and Navaho Canyons are wonderful. Of course, there are petroglyphs too and this is the only place in Mesa Verde National Park where trails pass petroglyphs.

Activities for Families Near Ouray Colorado: Letterboxing

  
  
  

Letterboxing:  Great Activities for Kids and Families near Ouray Colorado

ouray-colorado-letterbox-stampOuray, Colorado, located in the San Juan Mountains (most beautiful mountain range in the state), is a destination made for families with kids.  The natural hot springs provides a great respite for the young and the young at heart all year round and there are many great activities in the vicinity, especially in the summertime. One such activity is Letterboxing.  

Letterboxing originated in the 1800s in England.  People hid little treasures in the woods, under rocks or leaves, in small crevices and other people received clues to find them.  Today, letterboxing lives on by combinging navigational skills and artistry via a hand carved hand stamp.  Read more about how it started in the US.

Letterboxing is similar to geocaching but it doesn't require any expensive equipment (a compass is optional).  People receive clues to small treasure chests (plastic, reusable food storage boxes) hidden in various publicly accessible, outdoor places and then other letterboxers look for the item.  Ouray has a couple of treasures and so do the surrounding hills.

To enjoy the game, start by checking out the two main websites:  letterboxing.org and atlasquest.com.  Both sites explain the unique hobby and provide many details and explain and elaborate on proper ettiquite for the hunt as well.  Both sites also provide information on hiding and finding letterboxes.  

Head to the official letterboxing website and search for the area you want to explore (you don't need to join if you don't want to) and you will find that there are five sites in Ouray (at this time).  Click on the hyperlinks and print out the clues.  You can find sites in Silverton, Durango, and Telluride too.  If you are on a road trip, perhaps you can find sites along the route.  The clues are created by humans so don't expect them to be EXACT.

For your first find, look for an easy one so that you don't get discouraged immediately.  Once you find it, take the treasure and immediately move away from the area so that you don't give the exact location away (in case there are other letterboxers looking) and find a place where you can safely enjoy opening the treasure chest.

Inside the treasure chest (typically a rubbermaid food storage container), you will find a stamp, and optionally, a pen or pencil, a stamp pad, and some paper.  The first page of the book should be a message from the person that hid the treasure that explains when it was hidden and tells the finder which stamp is the "Official" stamp of the site.  Sometimes people will find more than one stamp in a box that second stamp is a hitchhiker.  You are free to move the hitchhiker to another cache but the "official" stamp must remain.  (Read the rules on hitchhikers and other ettiquite) Stamp the book in the chest with your stamp and leave a message including hometown and date of visit.  Use the "official" stamp from the cache and stamp your own book with date and cache name.  

Return the cache to the location that you found it, ensuring that the book is put in the watertight ziploc bag and that the container is properly closed.  Leave the landscape in nice condition and move on to your next treasure.

Find a few letterboxes before you hide one so you can see the methods and clues people use to hide the stash.  I just learned of this hobby and love, love, love it!  

If you are new to the hobby and find yourself in Ouray, visit the Painting Marmot Art Supply Store on Main Street to purchase your own log book and to get the supplies to make your own stamp or purchase a stamp.  

I would love to hear your comments.  Do you letterbox?  How long have you been doing this hobby? Tell me about your most unique experiences when letterboxing.

Destination Wedding Colorado in the Mountains: Historical Ouray

  
  
  

Destination Weddings in the Colorado Mountains - Historical Venues in Ouray

Rich in the grandeur of Victorian Era architecture, Ouray sits nestled in the San Juan Mountain Range in Southwest Colorado. While our mountains and views will certainly leave you breathless, our historic wedding locations will undoubtedly make your heart skip a beat.

For over one hundred years, brides and grooms have taken their vows in our beautiful town. In the many historic buildings that host weddings and receptions, you can almost hear the sweet whispers of good luck and many blessings from couples past.  From quaint to luxurious there are many venues here in Ouray to consider for your destination wedding in Colorado.

The Ouray Elks Lodge:
ouray elks lodgeBuilt in 1904, the  Ouray Elk’s Lodge features French, Queen Anne, and Romanesque architectural designs.The lodge is available for weddings, meetings and parties upon request. The lodge boasts a 45 seat dining room, the adjacent lodge room can function as a 150 person dance hall and the lodge has a very spacious and functioning kitchen next to both rooms. The bar-room, located on the first floor, is a sight to be seen. The bar & back bar date back to the historic mining town of Red Mountain, which can still be viewed. The room is a great example of Victorian elegance meeting western charm.  Couples can rent out the entire facility or just parts of it and then bring in their own caterer or ask the Elks for their services.  

Historic Western Hotel:
historic western hotel ouray coloradoOne of the oldest remaining wooden structures on the Western Slope, the hotel's architecture combines Victorian Italianate elegance with the old, Wild West. The open second floor veranda extends over the sidewalk to the street and serves as the grand entrance for stagecoach guests of the past. There are many spaces at the Historic Western Hotel including the saloon restaurant, the large tin ceiling ballroom opening to original lobby, the second floor veranda with ice cream chairs, and/or the cliff side outdoor patio. lobby historic western hotelIt is a unique, authentic old west hotel and saloon that may be reserved for your private wedding, reunion or party. Colorado's first and oldest 4x4 high mountain pass tour companies - San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours - provides breathtaking mountain top tours and mountain wedding transportation on site.  Each part of the building can be rented together or separately depending on the size requirement for the destination wedding and reception.  

St. John’s Episcopal Church:
St. Johns Episcopal Church OurayThe Victorian Gothic English countryside inspired church was built in 1880 and was the third church built in Ouray. The sanctuary is adorned with stained glass windows that pay tribute to the beauty of Ouray’s wildlife and mountains. In the late 1970’s the parish hall was built adjacent to the sanctuary and can accommodate large or small groups. There is also a full service kitchen in the meeting hall as well.

Wright Opera House:
wright opera house ouray coloradoBuilt with a fortune made on a gold mine and the desire to enrich the artistic culture of his daughters, Edward Wright’s contribution to Ouray is still a thriving Mecca for entertainment. The structure was built in 1888 and is one of the oldest buildings in town. The architectural design is Greek revival and Romanesque with the original façade still intact. The upstairs has a large room that can be rented for larger parties, theatrical performances, conferences and meetings. 

Beaumont Hotel

beaumont hotelThe Beaumont Hotel, built in 1886, hosts numerous destination weddings in Colorado every year.  This exquisitly restored hotel was fully renovated in 2004 and the Grand Ballroom and beautiful staircase provide great backdrops for weddings and receptions year round.  In fact, this property rennovation was awarded the prestigious Preserve America Presidential Award for Private Preservation in 2004. They feature an onsite restaurant, Bulow's Bistro, as well as spa services for you and your guests.  

For more information on your dream destination wedding in Ouray, Colorado please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help you with your wedding plans and make your time here in Ouray memorable for you and your friends and family.

About the Author:  Nikki Komar works at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs.  She works with many of our groups including family reunions and destination wedding couples.  She lives with her husband and four children in Ouray.

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Family Adventure Package in Offered in Ouray Colorado

  
  
  

Rock Climbing, Zip Lining, Hiking, Jeeping and Biking Top Family Fun in Beautiful Ouray

ouray colorado & box canyon lodgeOuray, Colo., – nicknamed Switzerland of America – is a remarkable place to spend your family summer vacation. Jeep tours to spectacular vistas, hiking and biking trails for miles and relaxing hot springs tubs await.

Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs makes it easy for families to make unforgettable memories with The Family Adventure Package. It includes two nights lodging and a guided half-day adventure with San Juan Mountain Guides above Ouray. Fly over the Uncompaghre River Gorge on a zip line, climb to new heights on rock walls, and learn general rope and rappelling skills. All this for only $799 (plus tax) for two adults and two children. Additional guests can be accommodated for an additional fee.

Families won’t want to miss out on the plethora of other activities in Ouray, most of which are available within walking distance of Box Canyon Lodge, enabling a virtually car-free vacation.

Hiking

There are 76 area hiking trails, 12 of which begin within the Ouray city limits. The Box Cañon Falls Trail starts just down the street from Box Canyon Lodge at the west end of Third Avenue. It offers unbelievable views of the falls, as well as the chance to see Black Swift, which nest along the canyon walls. The Lower Cascade Falls Trail provides access to Ouray’s most notable waterfall, which is visible from nearly every point in town. This quarter-mile hike, accessed two blocks uphill from Main St. on Eighth Ave., is a great place to picnic. One of Ouray’s newest trails, the Ouray Perimeter Trail, also begins at the Lower Cascade Falls and connects many of the trails around Ouray.

Biking

Ouray is an amazing experience on two wheels, with something for cyclists of all levels. For a laid-back, family trip plan a leisurely ride along the river just north of Ouray. The River Road goes all the way into Ridgway and back (approximately 25 miles) and is a scenic route over rolling ranchland. Dallas Trail, at an elevation of about 9,000 feet, is a popular, yet difficult, mountain bike trail. Another challenging route is the eight-mile-long Portland Trail, which is a shorter, intense, single track.  

Jeeping

jeeping in imogene basinJeeping is such a popular pastime in Ouray that the city has been nicknamed “Jeep Capital of the World.” The immediate vicinity offers limitless opportunities for four-wheelers, from easy scenic drives to rugged challenges, abundant with wildflowers, ghost towns, abandoned mines, animal life and breathtaking vistas. Routes range from extreme high mountain passes (Imogene Pass), to areas of spectacular wildflowers (Yankee Boy Basin), and mountains blanketed in alpine forests (Last Dollar Road).


Hot Springs

Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs’ four natural hot springs hot tubs are the perfect way to top off a fun-filled day in Ouray. The tubs – with temperatures ranging between 103-108 degrees – offer spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains. Nearby, the Ouray Hot Springs Pool offers more than a million gallons of natural hot springs water. There are several soaking sections, a diving area, a water volleyball are and two waterslides.

About Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs

The Box Canyon Lodge 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. The Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs has been recognized by a variety of publications, receiving the “Award of Excellence” by the Colorado Connoisseur and Travel Holiday magazine and listed as one of Sunset magazine’s “Best of the West.” Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs has also earned the four key rating from Green Key, a well-known eco-rating program.

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Ridgway and Ouray Colorado Events: July 2011

  
  
  

July is the busiest time of the year in Ouray, Colorado.

wildflowers peak in july in ourayWildflowers typically peak during the third week of July as the last of the winter snows have melted.  High alpine basins filled with wildflowers provide great experiences and make hiking even better.  Plan a jeep tour or hike into a basin to see these awe inspiring delights.  During the other times of your weekend escape or well deserved vacation, enjoy the following events in Ouray County Colorado during July:

April 14 - July 5th: Special Exhibit at Ouray Museum:  "A Century of Ouray County Farming and Ranching History 1875-1975" - The Ouray County Historical Society presents it first special exhibit of the 2011 season. Learn about the various types of ranching and farming that took place in Ouray County during the counties first 100 years. 

July 4: Old Fashioned Patriotic Celebration, including a parade, 10K run, pancake breakfast and some of the very best fireworks in southwestern Colorado at nightfall.

July 5: - Evening in History Lecture, "The Mines of Marshall Basin"

July 6, 13, 20, 27:  Bingo at the Ouray Elks Lodge:  Wednesday Night Bingo at the Elk's Lodge is open to the public and for all ages.  It begins at 7:00pm throughout the summer.

July 7: Ridgway Summer Concert Series, "Big Sam's Funky Nation"

July 8 - August 18: - San Juan Photo Series: The Annual Ouray County Museum's "San Juan Memories" opens July 8th and runs through August 18th.

July 9: Ouray Art Walk - Second Saturdays - 5pm - 8pm.  Shops and Galleries that are participating include Window to Yesterday, Skol Gallery, Ivory's Trading Company and Gallery, San Juan Art Galleries, Dreamtime Gallery and Studio, Ouray Silversmiths, Ouray Glassworks and Pottery Company, Painting Marmot Art Supply, and Silver Linings.  Many of the shops and galleries are offering refreshments, demonstrations  and/or music at this time.

July 9: Guided Hiking Tour of Marshall Basin - Join tour leader Rudy Davison for a guided hiking tour of the many mines in Marshall Basin above Telluride. Meet at the Telluride Historical Museum at 8:45 am. The group will drive up Imogene Pass to the Tom Boy Mine where the hike begins with return to the museum at 3:00 pm. Everyone should wear layers of clothing and bring rain gear, sun glasses & sun screen, hat, good hiking shoes, camera, and maybe a geology pick. Everyone should also pack water and a picnic lunch. For more information and to make a reservation contact The Ouray County Museum @ 970-325-4576. There is no charge for this event but donations will be accepted.  

Hike description: From the gate leading into Marshall Basin, the road is flat because it follows the old electric tram line that connected the Tomboy Mill with the Tomboy Aerial Tram at the Ophir Tunnel. The aerial tram ruin is in decent shape and there are good vantage points to look down at the lower Smuggler-Union workings and Telluride Valley. From here, the road gets steeper as we leave Tomboy Mining Company property and head into Smuggler-Union Mining Company property. Whatever wildflowers are blooming will start in earnest now. We will take a rest stop at the upper end of the aerial tram that connected the Union Mine with the Bullion Tunnel and pehaps inspect the Pioneer Leasing Company stamp mill that is still in fair shape. From here the road heads uphill to the bottom of the Smuggler mine dump which we will skirt to cross over a concrete trough that was installed during reclamation in the mid 1990's. At this point, we meet the old wagon road that climbed up from the Bullion Tunnel and continue on to an ore loading chute that served the Sheridan Mine. This stretch is fairly steep. Above the ore loading chute we come to the ruins of the Sheridan boarding house, a meat storage facility, and a shaft into the Sheridan Mine where there is a good boiler ruin and part of the hoist cable. The road ends at the top of the Smuggler claim, so from here we bushwhack up mine dumps through Mendota Mine property. There are good bottle remnants, rails, shovels, and a motor that pulled ore cars through the mine. Getting to the motor is as high as I plan to hike. From here we will bushwhack to the east side of Marshall Basin following the usual litter that mines produced back to the Smuggler shaft and then reconnect with the same road we hiked in on from Tomboy.

July 12: Evenings in History Lecture, "Images of America"

July 13:  A Guided Tour of the Museum Enjoy a guided tour of the Ouray Museum, led by Curator Don Paulson. Learn about Don's favorite items in the museum. $10 fee per person (OCHS members $5) To pre-register contact the museum @ 970-325-4576. 9:00am - 11:00am

July 14: Ridgway Summer Concert Series, "Great American Taxi"

July 16: Guided Walking Tour of Cedar Hill Cemetary - A Guided tour of the Cedar Hill Cemetery five miles north of Ouray on Hwy 550. Come and learn about the lives of those buried in this historic cemetery. $10 per person fee. To pre-register contact the museum @ 970-325-4576.

July 19 - Evenings in History Lecture, "Una Wheeler Winnerah, Pioneering Ouray Photographer"

July 21: Ridgway Summer Concert Series, "Lake Street Dive"

July 20 - August 28: Quilt Show - The OCHS Annual Quilt how runs from July 20th to August 28th. Come and see historic quilts that were pieced or quilted prior to 1960 at the Ouray Museum.

July 23: Anticipated peak of the Wildflower Season in Ouray Colorado

July 23: Walking Tour of Ouray - Join a museum volunteer on a Walking Tour of Ouray's Main Street. Learn the history of these fascinating old buildings. $10 per person fee, to pre-register contact the museum @ 970-325-4576. Meet at the Museum at 3 pm.

July 27: Evenings in History Lecture, "History of Log Hill"

 July 28: Ridgway Free Summer Concert Series, "Euphorquestra"

July 29 - August 6: 51st Annual Alpine Artists Holiday 

Ouray County Arts Association (OCAA) 51st Artists' Alpine Holiday at the Ouray Community Center 

  • Friday, July 29 & Saturday, July 30 -- 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
  • Sunday, July 31 - Friday, August 5 -- 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, August 6 -- 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

July 30: Silverton Railroad Grade and Corkscrew Turntable Hike:   Hikers will meet at the Ouray County Museum, 420 Sixth Avenue, Ouray at 9 am. Guided hike by Don Paulson, OCHS Curator. Sponsored by OCHS and The Ridgway Railroad Museum. In case of inclement weather call Don Paulson @ 325-0931 before 8 am to ascertain the hike status. We will car pool to the hike start. The hike is downhill on a railroad grade but the elevation is over 10,000 feet. Wear hiking shoes and bring appropriate clothing for June weather. $10 per person Fee.

July 30: Concert - North Fork Flyers Jazz standards, up tempo rock/pop by one of the most popular bands on Western Slope.
Advance Tickets $15, At the Door $18 Info and Will Call Tickets: 970-325-4235

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Ouray Colorado Hotel: Great Guest Experiences Bring Us Joy!

  
  
  

Hotel Employees Love to Meet New People!

ouray visitors see rainbowIt is always a pleasure to talk to our guests and learn about their experiences in Ouray. Whether it is their first visit, or they have been vacationing here for decades, it seems as if there is always a new story to be told.

Recently a couple checked in celebrating their anniversary. They were married in Ouray in 1968, and went to the Outlaw Restaurant for dinner after the ceremony only to find they were seated next to John Wayne and Robert Duvall who were here shooting the original "True Grit".  Apparently the couple didn’t realize who they were sitting by until the two men got up to leave, and the husband informed me that they spent the next four hours of their wedding night driving around town so his wife could get an autograph. It was great story, and very informative; according to our guests, Mr. Wayne burnt his fingers on his BBQ ribs that night. Even 40 years ago, they were serving food hot and fresh off the grill!

It is easy to spot the guest who has just traversed the Million Dollar Highway for the first time. Often shaky, and always awestruck, they walk in the door with a sense of accomplishment. Especially if they had no idea of the road they were going to be driving before putting tires to pavement in Durango.

Last year, some young men from Europe trusted to their GPS a little too much, and found themselves at the top of Corkscrew Pass in a rented SUV. Their harrowing tale still makes me chuckle, mostly because of the delivery. These guys were great sports, and fortunately had rented a vehicle with high clearance and four wheel drive. One thing to remember when travelling in the San Juan mountains: all of the four-wheel drive jeep trails are mapped on County roads, which, when the GPS is figuring a journey by  shortest distance……. Long story short, turn off the GPS and stay on the highway.

Regardless of how they feel when they arrive, it’s just a matter of time before we get to see our guests relaxed and happy. Once checked in and settled, a trip to the natural mineral hot springs tubs in the courtyard is typically the next step. Just a few short minutes in the soothing water is enough to wash away even the longest, most stressful day on the road. Rested and mellow, guests come in to the lobby to chat and pick out the evening’s entertainment. With over 350 movies to choose from, it’s pretty fun to watch people reading through the books, and discussing movies and the activities of the day with each other and the staff. The mood is light and friendships are created.

In fact, we have two families who have been coordinating their trips to Ouray for the past ten years. After having met on a jeep tour, they discovered they were staying at the same hotel - The Box Canyon Lodge - and decided to have dinner together.  Living on opposite sides of the country, they keep in touch, and haven’t missed a jeep tour together or a soak in the natural hot springs tubs at the Box Canyon Lodge since their first meeting. 

We love to hear about what our guests bought in the shops and where they had their favorite meals while in Ouray County. It helps to direct future guests to the spots we know folks have had good experiences. And of course, we encourage our guests to let each other know if they disagree with a recommendation.

Looking for a great meal this past winter, a fellow guest who had just returned from dinner at the Bon Ton informed a young couple in the lobby of the Lobster Ravioli he had just enjoyed. Coupled with the incredible service he said, it was by far one of the best dining experiences he had had in ages. Needless to say, the restaurant had a very busy night, and we had a lot of very full and content guests.

Every day it seems there is a new adventure to add tour list. From hiking trail conditions to which gift shop has the best variety; wildlife sightings and crazy adventures, each story gives us just a little bit more insight and more often than not a good chuckle.

About the author:  Maria Ziemba works at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs and raises her daughter in Ouray.  She loves greeting our guests and sharing stories and advice for visitors to Ouray and destinations beyond in Southwest Colorado.

 

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Ouray Colorado: Current Status for 4WD and Jeep Roads

  
  
  

Current Status: October 18, 2011

Due to the recent snowfall in the upper country, all four wheel drive trails above 10,000 feet are snow packed and icy. Fall colors are still in bloom in much of the lower country although many of the aspen have begun to shed their leaves in preparation for winter. Trails like Last Dollar are especially beautiful this time of year, however please remember to use caution, as muddy trails can be quite hazardous.

For information on Fall Color, look at these other articles:

 

county road 7 ourayYankee Boy  - Open to the restrooms only

 

Gladstone - Open

 

Corkscrew -CLOSED

 

Last Dollar Road - Open Fall colors are still fantastic in this area!

 

Old Lime Creek - Open

 

Imogene - CLOSED

 

Governors Basin - CLOSED

 

Clear Lake  - CLOSED

 

 

owl creek pass autumnAlta Lakes  - Open

 

Hurricane/California  - CLOSED

 

Maggie/Minnie - CLOSED

 

Stony Pass - CLOSED

 

Black Bear Pass - CLOSED

 

Engineer Pass  -CLOSED

 

Picayune - CLOSED

 

Placer - CLOSED

 

Ophir - CLOSED

 

Skyline - CLOSED

 
dallas divide 3Although most passes are now closed, there is much to see from the lower altitude trails. As always, use caution on all trails this time of year, and dont forget your camera!

Southwest Colorado: Mesa Verde National Park: Cliff Palace

  
  
  

cliff palace at mesa verdeMesa Verde is only 2.5 hours from Ouray

When planning a Colorado vacation, besides visiting Ouray, many people plan to visit one of the best known attractions in southwest Colorado: Mesa Verde National Park.  Mesa Verde is only 2.5 hours from Ouray along the San Juan Skyway and makes for a great stop on a tour of this beautiful state.

Mesa Verde is a World Heritage Site and the only National Park that is dedicated to  human beings.  The earliest inhabitants of Mesa Verde moved into the area by 550 A.D. and they occupied parts of the Colorado Plateau until about 1300 A.D.  

cliff palace at mesa verde

The largest ancestral puebloan cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde is known as Cliff Palace.  Archaeologists believe that 120 people lived in the dwelling at one time.  This dwelling is opened from early April until early November and visitors must take a guided tour to walk through the area.  The ranger guided tours are $3/person (regardless of age) and take about 1 hour.  

Head to the Far View Visitor Center which is about 15 miles from the entrance of the park gate and get signed up for your tour as it is well worth it.  This road is a windy, two lane road without many passing zones so take your time to enjoy the scenery; bring plenty of snacks and drinks for impromptu picnics and stops along the way.  The tours begin at the Cliff Palace Overlook which is another 8 miles further into the park and it can easily take 20 minutes to drive there from the visitor center.  Times of the tours vary depending on the season, but get tickets early in the day so as not to miss out.

trail to cliff palaceAs the tour progresses, the ranger explains the dwelling, the water seepages, the geology of the area and the way of life as determined by extensive study from archeologists.

The route has five 8-10 foot ladders that must be negotiated and there are some uneven steps made from sandstone as well as an asphalt path in many places.  Since all tours begin on the top of the mesa, there is a 5-10 minute walk down to the cliff dwelling.  It can be a rigorous tour due to the 100 vertical foot climb to return to the mesa top but it is well worth it.  Most young children will enjoy the route and the ladders and steps and trail.

ladder at cliff palaceMake sure to bring plenty of water.  In the summer, it can be very hot in the afternoon at Cliff Palace.  The thermal mass of the cliff dwellings will retain heat and it is primarily western facing.  Also make sure to use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses as well as the sun's rays are very intense during this time of year.  Last, there are no gasoline stations within the park so be sure to have a full tank before you venture into the heart of this national treasure.

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