We went to see the turning of the Aspen tree leaves and came away “golden”… from being immersed in thousands of acres of masses of trees burning brilliant golds in the mountain sunlight. If there is a valley that Ayn Rand meant to escape to in her book “Atlas Shrugged,” this is the place. Right now, October 14th 2015 the surrounding mountain sides are still golden, the leaves hanging on longer than other years.
Our entrance to this enchanted part of Colorado was flying into Montrose from Denver, enjoying big intense views over the Rocky Mountains. Montrose has become one of those yet to be really discovered ideal small towns. The altitude is less than that of the higher Ridgway and Ouray (u-ray) towns and has all the fun things that make a community with the addition of sensational sunsets. South by a half hour is Ridgway at almost 7,000 ft and the start of a series of valleys, all fitting together in a loving way and surrounded by the 14,000 ft stunning mountains of the Rockies.
We drove the backroads every day, winding up into the mountains, overlooking yet another softly sloping valley. The aspen were full and thick, the sun giving off an added touch to the brilliant yellow and glimpses of burnt orange and red. It was an amazing interlude for us. The massive and colorful forests emphasized the greatness of the majestic landscapes. We stopped our car, shot hundreds of pictures, and were overwhelmed with such beauty as if we had spent time in another world. It was such a gift.
True to it’s name, the main valley is called Pleasant Valley and is where Ralph and Ricky Lauren have their ranch, preserving thousands of acres of land for the public. Other working ranches dot the valleys. Mt Sneffels stands out in the middle of the southern range and an 8,000 ft mesa rims the northern edge of the valleys where houses and a golf course are tucked into the flat landscape.
We had returned to the place where we had lived for ten years. It was a joy to see that little had changed. The tiny town of Ridgway is where the movie “True Grit” with John Wayne (his only Oscar) was shot, hence our favorite cafe of the same name that sits across from the town park. Only a few blocks long and wide, it’s as sweet as a tiny community can be. Our sense was that we were very fortunate to have found a home here…living there had enriched our lives with its simplicity surrounded by magnificence.
Years ago, my psychic friend had “directed” us to find a town with a man’s name and a connection with trains. We never found it and choose Ridgway. Much later after buying and building our home, I realized Ridgway was the last name of the man connected to the railroad that had serviced the area and was now long gone! Coming back and beholding the fantastic fabric of nature’s glory was heaven-on-earth. All we could say was “Thank you.”
The Uncompahgre River runs through the towns from the small and vibrant village of Ouray, 10 minutes south of Ridgway. The town was named after Chief Ouray of the Uncompahgre Ute Indians. Here the cliffs rise straight up seemingly from the back yards of houses. On the way are the Orvis Hot Springs and the open air Ouray town pools also fed by natural springs.
The highway leading south, up and out of Ouray is the Million Dollar Highway, named for it’s cost and splendid views. The highest point of the pass is 11,018. All along the winding cliffside road were red mountain tops of the Uncompahgre National Forrest in stark contrast to the huge amounts of golds, reds and dark greens of the autumn leaves. The groves of aspens quaked in the breezes, the blue spruce at higher altitudes stood tall as a background for the bright colors while the narrow-leaf cottonwoods lining the river were showing off too.
We were enchanted, felt so privileged to be there to see this. The rich array of talented people who live in Ouray County feel the same way. Our first look years ago at this spread of mountains and valleys was driving up from Cortes, past Telluride and coming over the Dallas Divide. We were knocked out as the view opened up! The other route, equally as lovely is driving north from Durango on the Million Dollar Highway over Red Mountain Pass where remnants of past mining can be seen.
I hope my large amount of photos brings it all to you. I became addicted to the photography, as you will see. It seemed as if there was not an “un-heavenly” sight anywhere.