Day 16—Monday June 11, 2018
Smoke from the “416” fire north of Durango (still burning today—June 24) obscured the Sneffles Range and the upper end of the Uncompaghre Valley around Ouray and Ridgeway for several days after we moved to Centennial RV Park and there was some at the Centennial—we wondered if we’d made a mistake moving. But the smoke at Centennial was light, we could stay inside and our new air purifier kept the air clean—thus it did not affect Brian’s lungs.
When Brian got up Monday morning he checked conditions outside (as usual)—the wind had shifted and the smoke was gone—Mt Sneffles was visible in detail.
So when Maryann got up he proposed that we go to Silverton to eat at Handlebars—eating at Handlebars is a ritual with us. For example, in 2012 we stayed in Lake City; while there we rented a Jeep and drove over Cinnamon Pass (a primitive mountain road), ate lunch at Handlebars, then drove back over Engineer Pass (another primitive mountain road).
A word about Handlebars: we always have prime rib, French onion soup and peach cobbler with ice cream. The restaurant has old time Western décor with the requisite display of trophies: elk, mule deer, bear, wolf, etc.
Maryann checked the smoke situation and agreed. So after breakfast we jumped into the truck and headed south on US 550.
We pass through Ouray, climb the Million Dollar Highway (a section of US 550 which will we’ll describe in a separate journal entry) over Red Mountain Pass and descend to Silverton (48 miles one-way).
There was no smoke in Silverton. We were surprised that Handlebars wasn’t at its original address; fortunately the new location was half a block further east on Main Street and was much larger.
While we ate lunch we visited with our waitress—without the Durango Silverton trains due to the 416 fire business was very slow. Talking with the owner as we left, we learned that she would be shutting down (as many had other businesses already) until the train resumes operation.
Ouray, Silverton and Telluride are three mining communities in southwestern Colorado that survived the mining booms of the late 1800s. In fact each had mines that operated well into the twentieth century. Today the economies of each are primarily tourism.
Ouray, “The Switzerland of America”, is nestled in an amphitheater surrounded by steep mountains at the head of the Uncompaghre Valley.
The large natural hot water swimming pool at the north end of town has been one of Ouray’s main attractions for years. The water comes from a hot springs and must be cooled to permit normal swimming; while the water at the inlet (~ 100 degrees) provides a “hot tub” environment.
Box Canyon is another attraction: a waterfall is enclosed in a large cavern.
Montrose didn’t have a swimming pool when Brian was young (one was built after he went away to college). Thus Ouray was a favored place for family summer outings, with picnics. Also, the Montrose 4-H Clubs used the Ouray pool for an annual summer party.