Colorado Trip – Day 2 – Red Mountain Pass

For this segment, you must know a little background – When Mom first called and said, “Let’s take a trip”, she wanted to ride the steam train between Durango and Silverton – she told me what time she could be gone (5 days) and I researched all the things we could see/do on our way to Durango and back – came up with an itinerary for each day to ensure we wouldn’t be forced to drive 8 hours straight to get from one place to another, or have to rush when we’d rather meander, accompanied by a list of things to do in each area, prioritized, so we could easily cut something out, if we wanted to spend more time at one stop, or happened upon an  interesting by-way I hadn’t found on any map/tourist site during my research – or visit longer with the interesting locals at the cafe we choose for lunch – –

Since my stroke, I’m even more anal about planning – because I don’t feel as confident in my ability to quickly adjust to changing realities – sometimes, my brain still can’t process fully or quickly the multiple stimuli it’s being bombarded with all at once  – – sometimes, my body doesn’t adjust to changing barometer or altitude levels just as quickly as it used too, meaning I have to sit or lie still while it recalibrates.    So while I want to feel like I’m still able to take life as it comes, seize opportunities and go with the flow, quite simply, I feel more at peace and enjoy forays into new areas more, if I do a little research and plan for any eventuality my twisted brain can come up with – at least that way, I’m not as surprised when the surprising shows up –

Here’s the itinerary for this leg of the journey:

  • Depart Ouray area no later than 2:30 pm for Durango – Total Mileage – 66.9, Estimated drive time – 1.5 hours
  • Points of Interest on way to Durango: Ironton, Joker Tunnel Mine, Red Mountain Pass, multiple ghost towns/mining towns listed along the route – Much of the drive meanders along the Uncompahgre River
  • Arrive in Durango no later than 5:30 pm so we have time for supper before going to melodrama

See?  I gave us 3 hours to meander along the way, enjoy the scenery, soak up the history of the mining era…..

Here’s the reality:

  • Depart Ouray around 3:00 pm with afternoon thunderstorm rolling in.
  • Drive much of Red Mountain Pass in a pouring rain the windshield wipers can’t keep up with.
  • Realize there are no guard rails to protect you from sliding down what looks like a sheer, (probably exaggerated) 1-mile drop-off, covered only with rock slide material from avalanches/snow removal processes – no trees to catch your car, nothing – you go over, you’ve got air time to think about your life choices before you hit bottom and are done for…
  • Realize you can’t keep an eye out for signs telling you which ghost town you might be passing,  what mountain is coming up on your left, which river you see that looks like a trickle from this distance, because you’re too busy watching the little white car from Texas, approaching you, in your lane, with a string of traffic behind him dutifully staying in the correct lane –  it’s raining so hard, he apparently can’t see the middle line – – and realizing your choices to avoid hitting him head on are: A)over the edge to eternity, B) head-on into the string of cars behind him or C)head-on into the mountain rock that edges the left side of your roadway….
  • Breathe Deep – – You can do this – – – Okay, he’s back in his lane – – what did I miss?
  • Pull-off to wide parking area, with lots of signage to tell you about what you are seeing, only to snap a few hurried pics, because the next wave of lightening is moving in and Mom, who really wants you around to drive the rest of the way down the pass, is anxiously begging you to get back in the car….
    • In all fairness, this is why she gets nervous: (circa 1970’s – Mom is on the phone with her sister-in-law, trying to end the call because there’s a thunderstorm nearby.  Phone flies out of her hand across the room, and she is startled by an instant, loud boom of thunder – – Dad thinks she panicked and threw the phone – until he sees the black greasy spot on the side of the house where the phone line box used to be….)  She does not mess around when a thunderstorm is near….

The following pics are mostly taken from a nicely built pull-off near the where tracks, old buildings and signage indicate you’re viewing mining districts that eventually were consolidated into the  Idarado Mining Company (which closed in 1978).   I quickly read and took pictures of the history signs, but regrettably, the pics are too speckled with rain to easily read – so, I’ll just say – …It is worth the trip – even with Mother Nature and heavy traffic scaring the pants off you – 🙂  And I plan on going back someday to better explore this area.


Before we got to the hairy part
Before we got to the hairy part
Is this Joker Tunnel?  I know not, but like old tunnels, so took a pic anyways...
Is this Joker Tunnel? I know not, but had to share the pic anyways…the sign on the right is for a trail head…

(Next few minutes… Driving, Breathing, Praying, cursing, Giving Gratitude I didn’t go over the mountainside….Look!    A nice big pull-off with lots of information signs, a ghost town, a bridge to nowhere – – whaddya mean it’s lightening again?!?)

Bridge to Nowhere
Part of the infrastructure of  a consolidation that became the Idarado Mine, which closed in 1978.
One of three red mountains
One of three red mountains
Was unable to figure out from area sign exactly which ghost town this is
Was unable to figure out from area sign exactly which ghost town this is – there numerous mines and towns listed on the map sign posted at this stop, but no red star indicating “You Are Here” – Yes, I’m an average tourist…
Little boy in red cowboy boots to his grandpa, “Grandpa! Come look at this car! It’s a Mustang and I bet it’s a thousand years old. Let’s go get it and fix it up!” Grandpa, “It’s not a Mustang, see, it has 4 doors….” 🙂

And finally, a sign and a memorial seen along the way that really, for me, say it all:

Red Mountain Pass
Red Mountain Pass
Honoring those who make it possible for you to drive it
Honoring those who make it possible for you to drive it



5 thoughts on “Colorado Trip – Day 2 – Red Mountain Pass”

    1. Was very pleased with how well I did with the altitude changes as we traversed mountains & valleys! 🙂 Course, came home to some dramatic changes/news, so crashed the following Monday, but hey! Healed enough to go on vacation! LOL


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