Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Summer Adventures 2011 - 4x4 driving
Once upon a time, I used to be adventurous. Or maybe I was just stupid.
I used to love riding along on the four-wheel-drive roads my husband loves so much to explore. Steep drop-offs inspired awe, not terror. Jostling and bouncing over the bumpy, rocky roads induced laughter, not nausea. Sadly, all of that seems to have changed.
Ouray is known for the Million Dollar Highway, twenty three miles of narrow, winding road with sheer cliffs just inches from the edge of the roadway, and no guard rails. I've ridden and driven over it enough times that I ought to be comfortable with it. I've always been fine with it before. Maybe it's just my increasing age giving me the sudden ability to imagine every single thing that could possibly go wrong. For whatever reason driving the pass this time really creeped me out.
And Red Mountain Pass wasn't even the half of it this time. Check out this road:
You have the pleasure of driving under the rock overhang, still dripping with water from an earlier rainstorm. The road is narrow and one lane. Mostly, you just have to hope no one is coming down, or someone's going to have to back up. And backing up on these roads isn't fun. I know this from experience, as we had to back all the way down one of them when we discovered a snow slide was blocking the road, and there was no spot to turn around without falling off the side of the mountain.
Anyway, back to the road with the crazy rock overhang (it's the Yankee Boy Basin road, for those here locally.) It's a popular road, busy even, on the Fourth of July weekend in Ouray. It was somewhat comforting to realize that thousands of people drive the same road and have survived it. And then we got to the top, and we found this:
The kind of scenery that can only be found at the end of steep, sometimes scary mountain roads.
More wildflower species than I could have counted, with thousands more buds because we were just a couple of weeks too early for the height of the wildflower season. Two waterfalls rushing together into a creek cascading down into the deep valley below. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, a perfect mix of lush green and jagged rock cliffs. Nature at it's finest.
Was it worth the trip up that awful road? Probably. I felt increasingly better seeing tour trucks going up and down the mountain all afternoon.
I wish I could stop my brain from playing out all the awful scenarios that could come from the 4x4 excursions (mostly the scenario that involves the truck falling over the edge. It's an awful scenario to think about.) I trust my husband, and I trust his driving... but I don't trust other people much. I'd much rather be hiking, on my own two reliable feet, but there are some places we just couldn't hike to in a day, places like this. I'm glad we've got the truck for stuff like this. I think.