Jeeping in Ouray, Colorado

Bailey here –

I promised to show you Ouray, Colorado, so here goes. I loved Ouray! What a gorgeous little town that seemed to me to be a caldera (volcano) surrounded by steep mountains on all sides. Why else would there be a hot springs and a hot river flowing through it?

Centuries before white men arrived, the Tabeguache Utes, a nomadic Indian tribe, traveled to Ouray in the summer months to hunt game and soak in the “sacred miracle waters”. They knew the springs that simmer beneath much of Ouray were therapeutic. The town’s original name was “Uncompahgre,” the Ute word for “hot water springs” and the hot river running through town is called the Uncompaghre River.

The Utes served as guides for expeditions crossing the southern Rockies in the 1700s. Spanish explorers named the rugged mountain range the San Juan Mountains, but the Spaniards weren’t interested in settling such a harsh and unforgiving environment. It was the miners, flooding the region in the late 1800’s in search of silver and gold, who’d forever change the face of the San Juans. In fact, many of the roads we jeeped on were access routes that miners made over a hundred years ago.

In 1873, the famous Ute Chief, Ouray, reluctantly signed a government treaty releasing the Ute’s treasured San Juan Mountains to encroaching settlers. The town, officially incorporated in 1876, was named in Ouray’s honor. Although the locals say it ‘you-ray’ not ‘ew-ray’ and they’ll correct you. In its first year, 400 struggling inhabitants forged their way through the long frozen winter and eagerly greeted spring with its blooming alpine flowers, rushing brooks and gentle mountain rains.

By 1880 with the frenzy for precious metals, Ouray had grown into a booming mining town with over 2,600 inhabitants. The town included a school, several churches, a hospital, restaurants, saloons and brothels, hardware, clothing and supply stores for the miners, hotels and boarding houses. By 1888, the town would celebrate the arrival of the Denver Rio Grande Railroad. Less than five years later, the value of silver fell drastically challenging the resolve of Ouray’s residents.

As you can see, the jeeping was beautiful and amazing. And the guys had lots of fun. I love to watch guys in their Jeeps try to conquer an insurmountable pass. Sometimes they even make it! And it sure makes for some great pics.

We made it to several summits, saw glacier lakes, awesome storms, and lots of marmots (big rodents). The wildflowers this year were incredible. It’s not like this every year and I felt very special to be able to see them in their glory. It was definitely an epic summer vacation!

Oh, and don’t forget you can click on any picture to see a bigger version of it.

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Jeeping in Silverton, Colorado

Hey there, Bailey, here –

I was gone for almost the entire month of July on a jeeping/camping trip with the parents. I know, the parents. But it was way cool! I swear the Rocky Mountains are the most beautiful place on earth. Now I know what John Denver was singing about all those years. Yes, I grew up listening to John Denver. All of the pictures posted here are ones I took on our trip. Click on any of pics if you want to see a larger version of it.

We started out with six 4-wheel drive vehicles. They weren’t all Jeeps. We had also had a Bronco, a Land Cruiser and a Ford truck. My parents have the white Jeep Cherokee. The Bronco had a bit of trouble every time we drove above 11,000 feet. Something to do with the carburetors vapor locking. Those of us with fuel injection didn’t have those issues. But as you can see, with a bit of manpower, we got them turned around and back toward 10,000 feet so the Bronco would start again.

We jeeped around Silverton, Colorado for the first part of the trip. Silverton is an endearing little mining town at the elevation of 9318 feet. Beautiful, jagged peaks surround the town and my gorgeous Animas River rushes on the other side of the railroad tracks for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It rained there almost every day for an hour or so in the afternoon. I loved it!

The Silverton district opened to miners in 1874, following the Brunot Treaty with my Ute Indians. About 2000 men moved into the region that year from around the U.S., Europe and even China. They had to deal with the severe Rocky Mountain winters and dangerous mining conditions, all in hopes that they’d find gold, silver or whatever other minerals that could make them rich.

We saw a ton of the old mines, mining ghost towns and unbelievable pulley contraptions that were built so long ago. How they built such laborate things without modern technology, reliable vehicles or heavy equipment, I just don’t know. I mean, we drove over rough roads, peaking at above 12,000 feet, just to get to the other side where these ghost towns were. People are amazing.

But not everyone who settled in Silverton were miners. By 1875 the 100 “sturdy souls” who lived in Silverton worked in the post office, sawmills, blacksmith shop, mercantile, newspaper, liquor stores, smelters, or the assay office – an institution that tested the purity of precious metals. The town’s population grew to about 500 by 1876. Life wasn’t easy for any of them. The winters are long, cold and harsh.

Today, many people still live in Silverton year-round. Their school houses about 60 kids, from kindergarten through high school. They even have a preschool. Although most of the cute shops close during the winter, they are open during the few summer months where tourism is at its highest.

And if you’re ever in Silverton around the 4th of July, we were told that their fireworks show is ranked in the top ten of the nation. I hear about 20,000 people bombard the town every July 4th, just to watch the fireworks. I loved Silverton!

Next time I’ll show you Ouray, Colorado! Did lots of jeeping around there, too.