Saturday, October 1, 2011

Taking the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton and Ouray

 We left the Alpen Rose Rv Park and headed north on Highway 550 -- also called the Million Dollar Highway which would take us to Silverton, CO. This road starts off as a nice, 4 lane highway which is no problem to follow, however, it quickly turns into a VERY twisty two lane with many cutbacks, high passes and great views.

 The first pass is Molas Pass, at 10,910 feet and is literally at the top of the world -- at least at this location!

Orinda wanted to make sure the sign at the pass was right and sure enough, our gps registered 10,900 -- pretty close to the advertised 10,910! 

 What an amazing view. We have climbed about 5,400' from the RV park and you can really feel the lack of oxygen at these altitudes. There is also snow on the surrounding mountains and I suspect it will not be long before more snow will be joining that already there.

After clearing the pass, we began the decline into Silverton, seen here in the valley. This old mining town is the terminus for the steam railroad that travels from Durango, about 50 miles and over a few thousand feet in elevation away. No wonder the train takes about 3 hours to get here!

 Silverton was founded in 1874, well before the railroad was built. We could only imagine how the early miners got here with their pack horses and mules. Today, this is a tourist town, but still is very small.

 We decided to travel the extra 20 miles north from Silverton to Ouray and were amazed that the already twisty road got even twistier! Here Rick is taking a look at the road as it bends back on itself. He was very glad to have the Buick instead of the Winnebago!

Of course, we had to go over another pass -- Red Mountain Pass, which is even higher than Molas Pass. In fact, I think this is the highest we have been for quite a while -- over 11,000'. This also serves as the continental divide. We were especially interested to learn that horse and mule drawn wagons crossed this very road way back in 1878. I will bet that was a tough journey.

Dropping down from the pass, we entered the classic Colorado mining area. Apparently, this area was crawling with miners 125 years ago and you can still feel the history of those events today.

In fact, here is a piece of that history in the town of Ouray. This is the Western Hotel, built way back in 1891 and still in operation today. Interestingly, Rick's mother actually came to visit the operators of the hotel back in the 1940's when miners still worked the area. 

 Rick's Mom described the hotel and bar to us including this face on the floor -- painted by an artist with more talent than money when he wanted a few beers!

 This bar is still the same as Mom recalled it and according to the current owner is just like it was 100 years ago -- including the painted picture of the nude girl in the background.

 We had a great visit to Silverton and especially to Ouray and highly recommend it and the Million Dollar Highway. This is a trip to real western history and it was not hard to imagine the minors and railroad workers crowding around the bar bragging about gold strikes and the like.


Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

A great tour. It brings back memories of our trip there!

Kheldar, the Yorkie said...

The Old Western Hotel looks almost like it did 66 years ago when I stayed there, except the stools look newer and the place to tie up horses in front is gone. Sure brings back memories. Thanks for all your terrific photos! MOM