I took the road north back to Ridgeway and we stopped at the river so the dogs could run free for a while after being tied up the whole time at the campsite. Wet, muddy, exhausted they ran back to the truck and settled down for another day on the road. I pulled back on to Highway 62 heading west but noticed rows of local Colorado vehicles parked at 8 am. Why? A diner, one that the locals love. I parked in the shade, grabbed my wallet and reading glasses and wandered back to Kate’s place.
I fell in love with Ridgeway over bacon and eggs. Ridgeway hides quietly in a sweet open valley only ten miles from the much more famous Ouray. Everything about breakfast that day makes me think in superlatives, too much to be credible but I challenge you to look for Kate’s place on a Sunday morning and settle in for an hour or two, you won’t be disappointed.
In all honesty, I get scared taking the back roads like I do. I have a pretty stock vehicle, good tires, an air compressor, some food and water and three dogs for company and protection. I’m much more aware of what could go wrong on some days and this trip was one of them, that is until I remember myself and stop the truck, get out, and walk and breathe in the views and fresh cold air.
I really didn’t want to drive through the one lane construction on Hwy 550 to Durango, an hour and a half at the best of times over a pass reaching some 13,500 feet high. Nope, not for me, not in Faith my 4Runner.
With a full belly, some extra bacon for the pups, we set off on Hwy 62 with the rest of the detour drivers except at Hwy 145 I took a right and they all turned towards Telluride to head to Durango. A sign to the south led me onto County Road M44, “Narrow Road, steep inclines and 4WD only.”
Well, I don’t like to turn back. I took a breath, checked the tires, well, kicked them, took a pee break and we headed off into the Uncompaghgre National Forest.
Some two hours of slow driving took us up higher onto a bluff that opened up with a lingering view of rivers, trees, and little sign of ‘civilisation’, perfect. I made sandwiches as the dogs played and explored for an hour.
M44 turned into CR 44z after zigzagging through the hills and down into a wide valley. Without any modern GPS or satellite phones I just used the sun and shadows to make sure i was heading south, my goal being to find a dispersed campsite near McPhee Reservoir on CR 31.
The dogs suddenly all stood up in the truck and stared off the the left of the dirt road. There stood a mama bear and two cubs, all on hind feet, watching us drive by. Silence in the truck, the dogs knew to keep to themselves. They settled back down.
I had thought to check out a side road, off the main dirt road, I know it sounds silly but…Forest Road 259 would take us near the reservoir, according to my map. We started off quite happily, passing a few dispersed campsites with open areas and firepits only to drive to an ever narrowing track. I stopped to check at one point and I’m so glad i did. Around the corner a ten foot long mud pit with deep ruts blocked the way. I walked back giving up on seeing the reservoir from the campsite.
We found the perfect spot within hundred foot tall pines. Someone had even left a pile of firewood next to the firepit. The dogs ran free and I didn’t worry.
We spent a couple of days here, relaxing with numerous naps, hikes, campfires and the last of my beer! The afternoons were a love fest with the blankets on the grass under the September sun, cuddling and sleeping with the pups. Yep, simple. Just witness to the landscape, no need to conquer or prove myself with kayaking, hiking, biking into the unknown, I’m happiest appreciating the landscape and critters.
Then one morning, we ran out of water for the dogs and so headed off towards Pagosa Springs for a few days.