CO Trip, Living like a Dirtbag.

So if you didn’t figure it out from a couple of my last posts I was in Colorado.  The loose plan was to fly into Denver then drive to Durango via Grand Junction with stops in Telluride, Ouray and Silverton.  After that the plan was to head back to Denver via Pagosa Springs and Buena Vista.   My tour guide was my like minded friend Jill, of the All Things Epic with Jill blog.  On my second day there we hiked to the Bridge of Heaven where she kicked my ass up the mountain.  You can find pictures and a short write up under the title, Death March, here on AOS.  On the second hike, the tables turned and I found my groove on a less steep trail at lower elevation.

Jill strolling down Main St in Ouray.
Ouray as seen from Hwy. 550 leaving town
More views from the Million Dollar Highway.


Besides just kicking my ass kicked on the way up to the Bridge of Heaven we soaked in the Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway, CO.  Spent two nights in some cool cabins in Ouray, drove over the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton and on to Durango.  We spent the afternoon in Durango, then had Mexican with Jill’s friends in Bayfield where we spent another night before we drove east to our snowshoe hike into the Rainbow Hot Springs along the West Fork San Juan River.  After that it was more driving back to Denver with a stop at Joyful Journey’s Hot Springs where we soak for at least two hours.  We shared our experience with the most amazing views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and a guy who looked just like “The Dude” from the Big Lebowski.  I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to ask him if his students called him “The Dude”.

View from Joy Journey Hot Springs


"That John Denver was full of shit!"


Pruned and very relaxed we finally left the hot springs and continue north.  The sunset was once again amazing.  It cast a great glow on the Sangre De Cristo range.  In need of some serious chow we began our search for substance but Buena Vista didn’t have much to offer us.  We settled for Chinese food, which was acceptable.  Slow service though we were the only ones in the place and our food didn’t even come out at the same time.  Jill was 90% down by the time I go mine.  So lame.  Lucky for them I don’t use Yelp.

We finally finished the giant circle we were making through the southwest of Colorado and arrived back in Denver.  The main item on our agenda was to relax.  We had just driven 1000+ miles and it was nice to just sit still for once.  My last day included some duck view at a park someplace in the suburbs of Denver and if that wasn’t enough Chipotle for lunch.  What made both of those great was we were on bikes.  The rest of my time was spent talking about Jill’s new Surly 1×1 and watching movies.  Very untypical for Jill, so I was told.

Fading light as we left Joyful Journey HS

Overall I had an incredible time though a bit rushed I saw a ton and totally see myself moving there someday.  The possibility of epic rides and hikes was endless.  Oh, and did I mention the weather?  It didn’t rain.  There wasn’t a hint of rain, unlike the four days of it I came home to.

Below is a recap of our hike to Rainbow Hot Springs along the West Fork San Juan River.

Our departure from pavement was just before the base of the beautiful Wolf Creek Pass.  After a short snow covered dirt road we crossed the West Fork San Juan River and decided not to push it any further as the snow was getting deep.  The hike was 5.5 miles one way from this point, the first part being on private property.  That first mile must have had a dozen signs reminding us of the fact.

The trail took us along the West Fork San Juan River and as a result it undulated most of the way.  Overall it was uphill and in the trees.  That being said we got amazing views of the Weminuche Wilderness around us.  We stayed in the valley along the San Juan and followed the contours of the mountains around us making the trail anything but straight or flat.  Great puffy white clouds floated by over our heads and dry powdery snow kicked up from below.


Rainbow Springs HS

Rainbow Springs HS

We found the hot springs pretty late so we ended up just setting up camp.  Or should I say, I set up camp, while poor Jill stole every dry piece of clothing I had and put it on.  After her dragging my ass up the mountain in Ridgway, I punished her with a strong steady pace that resulted in her sweating through her layers.  After I set up the tent she promptly jumped in my sleeping bag and snuggled with her dog Wheels while I collected fire wood to make a fire.  Both of them soon joined me next to the fire.  I was getting cold by now and needed to eat, so I cooked while Jill just continued to warm herself.  That left the tired, but yet still hungry Wheels to beg from me.

Jill and Wheels making tracks.

Being so accustom to eating then going right to sleep, I just assumed it was later than it was and Jill had to remind me it was only 7 pm.  We hung out and enjoyed a great fire while occasionally admiring the stars through the tall pines that surrounded us.  At one point poor Wheels decided to get into the tent and we thought she took off.  Frantically we yelled and searched, only to have a very sleepy and sore-looking dog crawl out of the tent with a look that said, “What do you people WANT!  I was sleeping for God’s sake.”

Great sunset through dirty window.

My night was spent battling Wheels for tent space as she pushed against me shivering all night.  The next morning brought cold temperatures and another fire.  We both wimped out and didn’t want to get naked in the hot springs as they weren’t that warm and the outside temperature was pretty low.  Neither of us like the idea of getting out all wet and having to get dressed again.

The plan was to hike out and continue to Denver.  We hiked out at a brisk pace as it was mostly downhill.  The forest was quiet despite a few woodpeckers and Chickadees.  We did see one rabbit during our hike.  We had our first lunch back at the truck then headed east over Wolf Creek Pass towards Del Norte where we had a second lunch.  We were like a couple of Hobbits.  From Del Norte it was a short way to Joyful Journey Hot Springs.

Get out there!
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