Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What to do on rainy days in Colorado

When I got up on Tuesday, no surprise, it was 50F and pouring outside. No place within driving distance was going to escape unscathed. Take a rest day? The Hill Junkie scoffs at rest. One reader suggested I check out one of Colorado's many hot springs. A web search didn't bring anything up particularly close, and the most accessible ones were developed. I really wasn't interested in hiking 18 miles round trip to Conundrum hot springs in between Crested Butte and Aspen, especially since I'd have to traverse a 13,000ft pass in rain and zero visibility. One thing I did have on this rainy day was time. A drive to Ouray (pronounced yur-RAY) was not beyond reason.

I really like Ouray. It is easily the prettiest town in the USA I have visited, on par with any picturesque town in the Alps.  There are two hot springs near Ouray, one right in town itself and one on the way, Orvis Hot Spings. Orvis is more of a resort and clothing optional. Mrs Hill Junkie would not approve! Can't bring any electronics in there either, so no blog fodder. Ouray Hot Springs is more of a public pool. I decided to check it out, and a couple other things in the area too.

I first visited Box Canyon. If you've visited the Flume Gorge in NH, you have an idea what Box Canyon is like. After copious rainfall, the water was really moving. It was so loud in the slot canyon you could not talk over the roar. The water must have been coming down over 100mph in the falls. It looked like chocolate milk.

Still pouring mightily, I dropped down to the hot springs. They open at noon and only a handful of cars were there. They had a large swimming lanes pool at 76F, a large warm pool at 96F and a smaller hot pool at 106F (current measured temps). The water is 100% naturally heated, although I detected a hint of chlorine. I asked about the water. Lifeguard on duty said regulations require chlorine in public pools. So not 100% natural, but it sure was nice to just lay back in the 96F pool, cool 50F rain coming down on my head, while the rest of my body felt like it had returned to the womb. I could have napped easily, gazing up at 2000ft cliffs all around me. Very quiet with just a few people there in such a large area, except for the main road which was close by. I was more wrinkled than a prune when I finally got out.

My friends and colleagues are always eager to bring Fat Doug back. Dave sent me an NPR story on a new hypothetical sandwich Arby's was offering to showcase how many meat choices they offer. It is called a Meat Mountain and contains every kind of meat Arby's offers on sandwiches. It is not so hypothetical. There's an Arby's in Montrose, so I stopped by on my way back from Ouray. I asked if I could order one. The counter clerk said no, that was just an advertising gimmick. Then another person came up, manager maybe, said "yeah, we can do that, but I have to figure how how to build it first." Score! It was $10 and took a while to make. Once they gave it too me, all eyes in the place were on me. The manager even made a phone call and jubilantly said "we sold one!" I was the first at that store to order a Meat Mountain. So was it good? Yeah, I would order one again.

The rain was breaking up as I started to head back. I've driven by the Black Canyon gorge before but didn't really know what it was about. I decided on a whim to drive around to the north rim since it looked like there'd be less people there. I stopped at a point above Curecanti Creek, which feeds into the Gunnison River almost 1000ft straight down. I saw a sign for a trail to the bottom. Sweet. Two miles, 900ft drop, how hard could that be? Harder than it looked at the kiosk. I bounded down until it became all slippery rock and very steep, almost like hiking in Tuckerman's Ravine. More than half the vertical is contained in the bottom quarter of the trail, I surmise. It was cool to stand in the bottom looking perfectly straight up to where I was less than 30 minutes earlier. If somebody kicked a rock over the edge and it hit you, you'd be deader than dead. The sun was starting to set has I bounded back up out of the gorge. Heading back out to US-50, deer were all over the place, and none too timid either. There was a freshly killed one on US-50.

Hill Junkie knows how to make the best of rainy days!  If there is no more rain overnight, I may try to hit the Colorado Trail near Lake City on Wednesday.

Blue Mesa Lake, backstop of big dam on Gunnison River.
On way to Ouray in morning.

Ouray looking south

Ouray looking north from second switchback

Loud cauldron of chocolate milk. Box Canyon Falls

Ouray from Box Canyon Falls high bridge

Box Canyon tunnel

Soaking in Ouray Hot Springs

Arby's Meat Mountain. Chicken Tenders on the bottom, bacon on the top, everything else in between.

Gonna be gone in no time. Could have eaten two.

Only meat item not on sandwich was the fish, which is a seasonal item.

Part way down Curecanti Trail looking up

Bottom of Curecanti Creek where it meets the Gunnison.

Yep, Curecanti Creek is 900ft straight down.
I was down there 30 minutes earlier.

Hill Junkie is still freaked out by heights.

Looking over the Gunnison River Gorge.
Hopefully last of the rain for the trip.


BillW said...

Did you get to the the mountain bike museum and hall of fame in crested butte? Worth the $5.

Hill Junkie said...

I visited the MTB hall of fame in CB several years ago. Last year the hall of fame moved to Marin, CA. I didn't check to see if there is still a museum in CB or not.

Steve G. said...

That's a meat eat'n grin if I ever saw one.