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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Highland Mary Lakes...A Preseason Hike

Knock the spiderwebs out of your boots and grab a hiking pole; we're heading off to Highland Mary Lakes. 

We were thinking out loud on the drive to Silverton, that there was a good chance of being turned back by remaining snowdrifts; Highland Mary Lakes are well above timberline, after all. But I figured we could negotiate a way around or over. It was a hot day for early June, and post-holeing through a little snow might even feel good on bare legs.

I drove east through the isolated and splendidly set mountain town of Silverton, all scrubbed and bustling with ice cream cone toting tourists freshly disgorged from their ride up from Durango on the Denver and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Train. It was good to see the town waking up after a long winter's hibernation at 9,000 feet. A parade of spandex wandered Main Street. A bicycle tour group was in town...TMI for the eyes, but what can you do with vaguely written indecency ordinances and the ACLU. 

A few miles east of town is Cunningham Gulch Road; it's not marked, so just follow the "Mine Tour" signs. Once up a moderate grade with a few bumps, Cunningham Gulch broadens into a Field and Stream valley with mining relics and free boondocking spots...one next to an old corral, or, another further up in a dispersed camping area. I think all but the biggest motorhomes could manage the road just fine...if the driver could talk his passengers into it. Try it in your Toad first, though. 

The road crosses an ambitious stream with a rather abrupt exit just before ending at the trailhead. The creek was quite swollen with runoff, but, have Subaru, will ford. Piece of cake.

I think Ronald Reagan was President the last time we hiked Highland Mary; nothing looked familiar on the way up. We could tell snow had just come off as the tundra was brown and matted...not a lot of green to ease the eyes yet. That will change rapidly over the next few weeks, though, as we move toward wildflower season and the monsoons come July first.


  1. I always love your "photographic journeys." The photos are always beautiful and inspiring. Now, I need to get out there and hike too!

  2. Nice hike! It's great that the streams are running so full and fast. We've enjoyed them on our hikes.

  3. Doesn't look like it was too cold out for this hike with barely any snow.

  4. It is interesting to see Colorado in the "in between" stages. I have visited many times, but only in the green and white seasons. It would seem that the rivers and streams get much more exposure at this time of the year...

  5. Looks like a wonderful hike, despite the green and flower status! Just being out there away from the masses and into the wild is sustenance enough.

  6. I will have to find that road if I make it up your way this summer. The boondocking along there sounds perfect for my 21 foot LTV. I usually stay along South Mineral Creek just north of Silverton on the road to Ouray--but it seems to have turned into a sea of huge Class A's side by side.
    As always, I love your photography and the hike sounds great. Also, I am envisioning your beautiful drive to get there from Ouray. My all time very favorite road!!!!

  7. Great description of a place we havent' been! Oh yeah... and the photo's too! Can't wait for wildflower season! You will get out and share that, right? Promise!? I'd come out myself, but the calendar seems to be filling up with too much stuff at home...

  8. Thanks for commenting everyone. Between work, three home projects (installing a sprinkler system with a separate drip zone for potted plants and flowers...and building overhead storage in the garage, and chasing down a water leak in our shower), and getting out to hike/explore, I've been remiss with commenting on my own blog :((.
    I'm about ready to go back to full time RVing!!!


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