San Juans, CO: Mountains, Mushrooms, and Memories

Leaving Montrose and Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we high-tailed it south for the last few stops of our three-month trip. The first leg took us down the Million Dollar Highway, named for the views … but which could also be the price tag of repairs, if you lose concentration on this narrow, hairpin-turn, slow-goin’, steep-grade, views-a-plenty, nerve-wracking stretch of road carving through the mountains!

Considering a visit to this area? For a recap of our 2015 visit to Silverton, click here! For a recap of our Ouray and Telluride visit, click here! Then go! You’ll absolutely love it!

Having previously visited both Ouray and Silverton (the endpoints of the Million Dollar Highway stretch), this time we set up camp at Molas Lake, south of Silverton at the top of the Molas Pass. What the campground lacked in hookups (none!), Internet (none!), and cell service (none!), it made up for in beauty, peace and endless nature.

We had hoped to hike Ice Lakes, which many consider Colorado’s #1 most epic hiking trail, but torrential downpours and worrying monsoon forecasts made that difficult hike ill-advised. Instead, we took a portion of the Colorado Trail right out of Molas Lake Campground.

On the Colorado Trail, we encountered small groups of hikers making the 567-mile trek between Denver and Durango. Many of them had been on the trail for 23, 28, 30+ days …… anddddd that’s about 23-30 too many days for me. We tried to bond with them — “hey, we’re going to Durango too!” — but they quickly lost interest when they learned we planned to get there in an RV, and not via blood, sweat and tears.

The rains have encouraged the growth of gorgeous … and enormous! … mushrooms. My daughter, who is a follower of fantastic fungi, tells me that this is an Amanita Muscaria, possibly the most iconic toadstool because of its pop-culture usage … the Mario Brothers franchise, the houses for The Smurfs, and quite possibly the mushroom imoji appearing on your cell phone right now. ūüćĄ Check my foot for size comparison!

From Molas Lake, we descended the pass, leaving elevation 10,300′ for Durango’s 6,500′ … whew! We can breathe again! Our RV site in Durango literally backed up to the famous Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, the “most scenic rail line in the country.”

This brought full circle our stay in the San Juans in 2015, when we camped next to the train at the OTHER END of the line in Silverton!

We did NOT take the all-day train ride (in these parts, practically sacreligious to skip it), and in fact were not here long enough to enjoy the myriad of Durango offerings — that would require a multi-week stay. We did, however, greatly enjoy the Animas River Trail, almost 20 miles of smooth off-road path the borders the river.

Multiple groups of rafters going down the river distracted me from pedaling too hard, and Philip, who has yet to successfully retire, took important calls right from the saddle.

Durango has a fabulous, walkable downtown district, where we did a walking history tour and noshed in the 11th Street Station Food Truck Co-op with its fun faux-greenhouse vibe, and pondered how to build that cool rock-wall fountain at our own house.

Alas, after five weeks in Colorado, we’re skeedaddling out, because the atmosphere here is a little unsettling to my husband … who is a land developer. ūüėā He’s getting a sore neck from looking over his shoulder in fear ….

Photo thanks to my bro and sis-in-law who are also RV’ing in Colorado right now

Continuing our path back to Arizona, we are heading to a weird and wild and wonderful wilderness — probably unknown to most people — outside Farmington, New Mexico, the Bisti/De-Na-Zin area on the Navajo Nation Reservation. It’ll blow your mind!

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