Tuesday morning we slowly packed, and ate oatmeal and coffee. But toward the end of breakfast we saw dark clouds and the fog of mountain precipitation coming over the ridge to the southwest, maybe a mile away.
If at all possible, I didn't want our stuff to get wet, or to have it raining in the middle of breaking down the popup and having the mattresses get soaked.
We scrambled. We make a good team. Vicki got things all put away and zipped up and out of the popup. I got the stove and outdoor gear put away. As soon as that was finished we took the covering off the popup, put the table and poles in the bottom, threw the mattresses on top, and folded the tent in and the two fold-out bed supports.
The rain was maybe 1/4 mile off now, and we packed the top of the camper, covered it with the vinyl tarp, sealing it as the first raindrops began to fall. We hooked up the trailer lights and hitch to the car, and jumped in as it started coming down harder.
We stopped at the restroom on the way out. It was raining pretty hard, but it wasn't far to run.
The idea was to take the ranger's advice and look for a place around Silverton. Silverton he described as an old western town where they still had hitching rails on the streets, and they had the Durango Silverton Steam Engine.
It was several miles down the road before we started climbing into the mountains. There aspens were beautiful even with the fog and clouds and rain. Sometimes a sun even peeked through and really made it spectacular. Before long we came to a pass and the rain turned to rain and sleet and even snow. We were literally in the clouds at times. Just under them at others.
I had to stop several times to take pictures, naturally.
The closer we got to Silverton, though, the less pretty the trees were. At the higher elevations (9,300 ft), the aspens were finished. I'm not sure any of the town's streets were paved. It was rainy. It was muddy.
It was cold.
As we headed down to Ouray (7,800ft) the leaves on the aspens reappeared. The descent into Ouray took us along a road hugging the mountain on one side, and a deep ... pretty much a slot canyon cut by a mountain stream on the other side. Breathtaking.
Around the last bend, and we could see the Victorian town below. But to the right was the Ampitheater Campground. Pretty nice for a closely packed campground, but not exactly what I was looking for. We bookmarked it and headed to Ridgway State Park, which the Mesa Verde campground host had talked up. He said there was a beautiful view of the San Juan range.
But not today. So cloudy and rainy, you couldn't see anything close to a peak anywhere, and Ridgway was down on the flat. The KOA campgrounds along the way were tightly packed and completely out of the question.
We headed back to Ouray.
We'd seen the Visitors' center on the way out of town right near the outdoor hot-spring swimming pool. If we would have known.... we might have brought suits.
We told them what we were looking for, and the lady described a canyon up a road we had passed with two National Forest campgrounds. Along a mountain stream. She said the road started out a little rough but we should be able to get up it in the Taurus with the popup. Ok. Either there, or we'll hit the Ampitheater.
The road WAS rough -- washboarded up the first hill and around the bend, but it smoothed out. Dispite the rain, the dirt road was solid. There were workers doing some drainage work and some grading on it.
And the campground was tents only.
But we did determine that the season had ended the previous week and it was, until spring, a free, first-come, first-serve campground.
We continued up to Thistledown Campground, which had some sites that allowed RVs ... and it was practically empty. A tent, and a pickup camper, and a lady in an RV up at the far end of the campground.
We found a site, dropped the camper off, and headed into town to hopefully wait the rain out before we set up the camper.
Hit the Ouray Brewery. Spent $38 on wings, a couple of beers and a sampler. Not cheap. But good.
The rain broke by the time we got back to camp, and set up the camper. Soaked in a little mountain stream and aspen as the sun set, and went to bed.