Back from Snowy Colorado Part 1

18 Oct

We returned safely from our adventure in Colorado last week and I wanted to share some pictures and conditions from our first couple of days on the road. We departed Phoenix around 4:30am PST and made it to Cortez by about 1pm MST. From Cortez, we headed up the 145 touring the picturesque Delores River Valley toward Lizard Head Pass, seeing the first signs of snow approximately five miles outside of the town of Delores and before Rico.

The first storm of season had hit the area the day before and blanketed the mountain slopes with up to a foot of snow. The weather was a mix of partly sunny conditions with fast-moving clouds with temperatures in the low 40’s.  The trees in that area were a mix of peak, past peak, and still green – a theme that became the dominant foliage conditions of the trip.

What’s interesting, is as we drove towards the Dallas Divide there were large areas of the mountains that didn’t appear to have any snow or that it had already melted. A few token stops along the way didn’t yield any keepers and we settled into our hotel in Ouray, stopping for happy hour at O’Brien’s Pub in the downtown area. By nightfall, the cloud cover was getting thicker and it was obvious another storm was moving in. The snow started a short time later…

We overslept a bit the next morning for sunrise as I set my alarm on my Blackberry for the right time, but the phone never changed time zones like the rest of us. Luckily, we still woke up in time. When I went outside to heat up my ride, it was still snowing and there was a fresh three inches of powder covering my SUV.  We made our way towards the Dallas Divide on snow-covered roads.  The snow did stop a short time later but the skies did not clear in the right place to catch any sunrise color. Still, it was a beautiful morning and I was able to capture this image about 45 minutes after sunrise.After spending the first part of the morning on County Road 7 we headed back towards Ridgway to check out Owl Creek Pass. It didn’t take long for that road to turn to snow too and we found ourselves four wheeling in what was easily six inches of fresh snow.  As we made our way up and over the 10,114 foot Owl Creek Pass towards Silver Jack Reservoir, I stopped to capture this image taken close to 11:00 am.  There was definitely a foot of snow on the ground where I was standing…The temperatures were in the mid 40’s by the time we stopped for lunch near the Silver Jack Reservoir. This was our first time in the area and I was quite impressed with the dispersed camping opportunities as well as the side roads and hikes to explore the area. The views were 360 degrees and the foliage was looking great, good, past peak, and not yet changed all at the same time again.  Here is an image of the main road between Owl Creek Pass and Silver Jack Reservoir. As you can probably tell by the previous two pictures the weather was partly sunny, but that didn’t last long as heavy clouds were moving in.  I captured this next image just a short way down the road….This was pretty much our turning around point as had about a 75 minute commute back to Ouray and the weather was threatening again. On the way back, much of the snow had melted on the road and there were many more people out and about.  This was our last stop of the day, one of the more iconic foliage view points in the area located just inside the Uncompahgre National Forest boundary. I have several more days of pictures and reports to share with you, and I hope you enjoyed this one as well as the pictures. If you have a particular favorite or favorites, I would love to know about it. Thanks so much for reading.

5 Responses to “Back from Snowy Colorado Part 1”

  1. Michael Glover October 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Living in Florida I don’t get to see much in the way of fall color so this is a real treat. My two favorites are the first and third pics. I love the sky in the first shot. The way the clouds are kind of ghosted in the image really makes it dramatic. In the third shot the path leading to the mountains really catches my eye. And with the yellow trees it makes a very pleasing composition. I need to get to Colorado someday. Very beautiful work Michael!

  2. Michael October 19, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Thank you Michael. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment. I am always interested in hearing what others think of my work and I am glad you let me know. Thanks again!

  3. Rick Whitacre December 31, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Beautiful images and a great write-up! This area appears to be spectacular.
    The second image appeals most to me due to the texture and layers. Fantastic!
    For a first time visitor, what time of year would you most recommend for a visit to this region of CO? Is fall the best in your mind?
    Thanks and best regards,

    • wildmoments January 1, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      Hi Rich,

      Happy New Year. Thanks for posting here. That’s interesting that you like the second image the best. I didn’t even post it on my website or anywhere publicly other than this blog.

      To answer your question – I really think it really boils down to apples and oranges. In this case, wildflowers vs foliage. It depends on your preference. That being said, the fall offers more opportunity for solitude and you can get much better room rates if you plan on staying in a hotel. The biggest drawback in the summer is the crowds, but you can’t go wrong either way. Seasons and conditions vary year to year so a lot will depend on your availability, timing, and a bit of luck. When you decide to go please contact me if you have any trip questions.


      PS – I really like your Crater Lake lodge photo. It reminds me of The Shining.

      • Rick Whitacre January 2, 2012 at 7:55 am #

        Thanks, Michael! Will do

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