Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ouray Perimeter Trail

Roger here...  The photo above is of the Lower Cascade Falls just outside of Ouray, CO -- and Dianne, of course.

With just a couple of days left in civilization before we headed to forest service campgrounds in the boonies, we needed to plan carefully.  We wanted to do another hike.  We needed to buy groceries for eight days.  We needed to replenish our supply of dog treats.  

Dianne decided that she would go shopping on Wednesday to get it out of the way, allowing us to better enjoy the hike on Thursday.  I stayed with the dogs.  She spent the morning figuring out what kinds of food I could prepare on the grill, since we would not always have electricity.  After hours of shopping in Montrose, this is what she brought home:

It seems that we were running low on dark chocolate.  We have one or two pieces almost every night.  When Dianne passed the local Russell Stover outlet and saw that some items were 75% off,  Grandma Robison's frugal spirit pulled her into the parking lot.  She did also bring home groceries and dog treats.  (Dianne here:  In my defense, I got all of this dark chocolate for $9; it should last us a couple of months.  If I break each of the six bunnies into small pieces, I really did save a lot!!  I don't mind Santas and Easter Bunnies in July if I can save a buck!)

Thursday morning arrived.  We could not decide which hike to take.  Rather than going back to Black Canyon National Park, we decided to do the Ouray Perimeter Hike.   At the last minute we decided not to take the dogs.  This was going to be a 4.2 mile hike with some elevation.  Bandido is always great for the first half-hour, but then slows down and seeks soft places to rest.  We were also concerned that Tequila might see a lizard and pull Dianne off a ledge.  (We all know that Dianne would not let go of the leash).  As it turns out, it was a great decision.  Sorry, doggies.

We got somewhat of a late start, arriving at the Ouray Visitor Center at around 11:00 a.m.  The volunteer at the visitor center gave us a trail map and told us that the trail was well marked.  He warned us about the steep elevation change at the beginning of the hike.  He encouraged us to take more breaks than we normally would due to the altitude.  He did not warn us about the other things.  This placard at the trail head shows how the trail circles the town of Ouray.  It was a beautiful day.

The first part of the trail was quite steep.  Lots of steps.  Lots of rest stops.  (Lots of high-altitude huffing and puffing -- D.)

We enjoyed a great view of one of the hot springs. Side note.... While waiting to talk to the volunteer at the visitor center, I listened to an elderly lady complaining to the volunteer about how dirty the spring water appeared to be compared to that in the lap pool.  The volunteer patiently explained that it was the same water, but that the lap pool was painted blue.  The lady complained that she wanted to swim in a hot spring, but not a dirty hot spring.  She wanted to soak in the blue water.  The volunteer then explained that there was another hot spring in a natural area just outside of town, but that it was clothing-optional.  That is when the discussion got really interesting.  Anyway, back to the hike.

We saw many views of the town below us.

We spent quite a bit of time walking along a very narrow ledge with loose footing.  Glad the dogs weren't with us.

Eventually, we heard running water.  We arrived at the Lower Cascade Falls.  Time to get out the map.  We could use a rope that was bolted into the rock to descend to the bottom of the falls, or we could follow a trail (unmarked) to the right. The map showed us going straight ahead (the rope).  It just did not seem right.  Two ladies who saw our dilemma told us to take the path that would lead us to the right and away from the falls. Glad they were there.

Here is a shot of the falls that Dianne took as we walked away.  As we left the falls, the trail gained elevation again, but the surface changed from a loose rock surface to dirt.  The walking became much easier,  for a while.

I had never seen moss (I assume it is moss) growing on a tree like this.  Definitely worth a rest and watering stop.  (I just got a message from one of my former science teachers - also a former student of mine, Mike, who is now teaching in Montana.  He says that the growth on the tree is actually Old Man's Beard Lichen.  It is fairly common in the mountains and according to wikipedia it is edible.)

The trail led us to a paved road.  I got out the map.    The map showed us going straight across the road.  The arrow on the sign beside the trail was unclear. I thought that maybe we should go down the road, then Dianne said, "There's the trail, right there."  It didn't look like much of a trail to me, more like a deer path, but then the map did not show a jog on the road.  The map showed us going straight.  So, across the street and up we went.  I expressed concern that there were no markings along the trail.  Dianne countered with, "There are fresh shoe prints in the dirt."  She was right.  Onward!

The trail seemed to be getting narrower.  I got out the map.  If you look very closely at the top of the picture, you can see a person at the fork in the road.  Pretty sure this is where we are supposed to be.

Dianne suggested that the trail (deer path) that we were on might take us to the trail.  It might have; after all, we could see the trail below us.  We reached a point at which the path became VERY steep, forcing us to hang on to saplings to maintain our footing.  Any semblance of a path disappeared.  Needless to say,  Dianne was not a happy camper when I told her we would have to retrace our steps, pulling ourselves up the incline by using those same saplings.  (At this point, I can attest to the fact that the trees in this area have great root systems, and Dianne has better upper body strength than anyone ever imagined.) 

Glad the dogs weren't with us.

After 20-30 minutes (Dianne says 20, I say 30), we made our way back to the road, and followed it down the hill to where the trail resumed.  Along the way, Dianne took a shot of where we were when the trail ended.  It would have been a painful slide over the rocks had we not turned back :-). 

We crossed a bridge and entered the Baby Bathtub portion of the hike.  It was an interesting stream bed with numerous bowl-shaped indentations.   Dianne again: The natural color of the rock here was actually pink and blue!  Several people (not pictured) were soaking their feet in the pools.  Being a little paranoid at this point, I got out the map.  There was no Perimeter Trail signage along the trail.  As it turns out, the Baby Bath Tub Trail was a section of the perimeter trail.  After a short time, we found a confirming sign.  Whew.  We found a picnic table along the trail and ate lunch.  

We passed a beautiful aspen grove near the high point of the trail at 8500 feet --- an elevation gain of 800 feet from the start.

The terrain changed as we climbed onto a rocky area with wildflowers.  When we reached a plateau and found a small meadow,  Dianne did her best impression of Julie Andrews in the opening scene of The Sound of Music.  The scenery was certainly the same. 

On we trekked, following the clearly-placed cairns.  No need for the map.  All was good.  The Box Canyon Falls were ahead.  More than halfway done.  What was that noise?  It sounded like a semi jack-knifing.  Kinda loud.  Dianne said, "No, that was thunder.  Look over your shoulder."

Crap.  I got out the map.  If we left the trail at that point, we were as far from our car as we could possibly be --- probably a mile and a half.  We hurried along the trail to the next exit point.  Before we reached the exit, the rain started.  We wrapped our phones and camera in our empty sandwich bags from lunch and moved as quickly as we could.  Every square inch of our clothing and bodies became soaked within a minute.  I did not mind getting wet, but we were both concerned about the lightning.  There was no shelter along the way.  I took a quick picture of the back of Dianne's shirt.  Pretty wet.  After that, it was raining too hard to get the camera out.

When we arrived at a paved road we attempted to cut through the switchbacks on the way back to town.  As we approached the north end of Ouray, the small hail began.  We ducked under a small pine tree to wait for the hail to stop.  It did after a few minutes.  (Dianne again:  Thankfully, the hail remained small, but it still hurt!) When we reached the town, we leap-frogged from one building overhang and storefront to the next.  We always stopped after each round of hail (about six times).  I offered to leave Dianne in a store while I ran on to get the car.  She refused (not a surprise).  At this point our shoes were so filled with water that we heard sloshing with every step --- and we were cold.

Just as we approached the parking lot, another round of hail pummeled us.  I ran to the overhang at the entrance to the hot spring pool.  I thought Dianne was behind me.  She was not.  She had ducked underneath another small tree.  We reunited under a shelter near the parking lot.  I got the car.  Turned on the heat (51 degrees outside) and picked up Dianne.  This was definitely a hike we will not forget.  Really glad we did not bring the dogs.

Safe and sound back at the campground, 29 miles away (where it was sunny and warm, and had not rained a drop), we laid all of our wet things on the sun-washed picnic table.  We squeezed the water out of our socks.

Next hike, the rain ponchos go in the back packs, no matter how sunny the day appears to be.

The pet picture of the day shows Charlie relaxing outside at our campsite on the Taylor Park Reservoir.  More on that later.


Sue Malone said...

Wow, that was some hike! Glad for the heads up if we ever do it. We were in Ouray for just a quick morning walk, but the hike looks fun. Think I will bring a GPS however if I try it. I got caught in hail like that at the Needles in Canyonlands NP. Hypothermia can set in fast and hail and lightning are scary. I hid under a rock ledge in the middle of nowhere for a very long time! Do you know that you have word verification on? It's kind of a pain, and if it is on purpose, I get it, but if not, it does deter folks from commenting since it is incredibly hard to read the two words. I am giving it a try.

Patty w/ Joey and Scout, the greyhounds said...

I would not have survived that hike. I am clumsy. Beautiful photos as always.

Pam and Wayne said...

Big dark chocolate fan myself, I buy the Dove dark chocolates because they come in those nice pre-packaged portions so I can have 4 or 5 throughout the day. I'm sure the checkers at Walmart can't wait to talk about me when I pass through the register with 6 bags in my cart! No way I'm running out! I agree about the comment moderation, the one I'm looking at now on this post is so dark and thick it's almost unreadable. I turned mine off. You can still set it up so that only registered google account users can comment if you're concerned.