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Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Blue Monday, "Oh Girls—They Want To Have Fun"

Gals out numbered guy(s) two to one on our weekly hike. It was a Blue Monday, not "Moody Blue," you understand, more a blue skies, blue lakes, and blue jays kind of day. Our trio endured the heel blistering, toe-jamming treadmill trek to Ptarmigan Lake, just so the girls could have fun on a day off from the work treadmill. Colorado Life is a "treadmill," after all, whether at work or play.

Our Blue Monday was the complete opposite of today, a sunless, sullen, and dismal version of Lovely Ouray. A look out the Imax reveals guillotine clouds, decapitating our mountain surround like some middle ages evil King. And now "His Sullen-ness" dares to "weep" on our planned Bike-To-Ridgway-For-Breakfast outing.

But back to Blue Monday and the "girls," Bobbie and Tamara, blue in the face from too much "fun" and lack of Oxygen at 13,200 feet... 

The Senator Beck Mine trail takes off on the infamous "Black Bear Pass" Jeep trail; first right just the other side of Red Mountain Pass going south from Ouray toward Silverton. There's no sign at the trailhead, just a two-car wide spot in the road a couple miles up Black Bear, and a demure path now half hidden by tall grass.

A couple miles in we gain cross-casm views of Red Mountains 1, 2, and 3. They never disappoint, aglow in morning light, radioactive in afternoons. The hike levels off in the first basin, which is punctuated by an out-of-place looking weather station. We continued on a hit and miss trail up a steep, south facing slope of tundra. Again, we were surprised at this late date in august to stumble across acres and acres of wildflowers, bending in the breeze, still clinging to life. 

The mountainside eventually leveled out on a steppe—an old cabin and remnants of Senator Beck Mine rotting and rusting away. Last time Bobbie and I were at the Cabin Wandrin' Lloyd was along. The basin was covered with Mountain Maggots, a Colorado outdoorsman's term for a stinking herd of "Sheep." A Great Pyrenees (a protective breed that would sacrifice their own life to save a single lamb from a bear or mountain lion or people) spotted us and trotted over to see if we were friend or foe. Fortunately he was old—beyond teenage hormones, rage, and distrust—and left us alone. 

Tamara, Bobbie and I paused for photos and then took lunch around pieces of an olden cast-iron stove. Once properly re-carbohydrated, giddy on sugar, the "girls" decided to press on to the ridge at minimum, and possibly, depending on energy levels, down to Ptarmigan Lake. Another mile of stair-climbing gained the ridge, it was lofty at 13,200 feet, give or take, and offered a 360 degree forever panorama. I then posed the question, "Do you want to go on down to the lake?"  Of course they did. Against better judgement and my sore feet, down, down, down we went, losing precious elevation, into another basin, another drainage, another world—to Ptarmigan Lake and the ghost of another old mining relic that lay rotting on its shore.

Most hikers would be satisfied to gain a 13,200 some-odd foot ridge and look down on Ptarmigan Lake from a distance—let wobbly legs settle, heart rates retreat from "Danger Zone" to "Normal," maybe even wait for lightheadedness dissipate.  But the "girls" had come to have "fun," and on a Blue Monday, without much threat from lightening, that meant we're not done. Sometimes I question people's idea of "fun."


  1. Actually have never hiked at 13,000 plus feet I am sad to say, or maybe not. 11,000 something was quite enough in the Sierras, although I do covet those open meadows, grassy landscapes and views that go forever in the Colorado Rockies. Maybe I will eventually get there, spend a week at 8,000 feet or so and then see how it feels. Gee...toe jamming sounds fun too. Good to see you are back to your wordy, witty self, Mark!

  2. Ah...the times we have spent in and around Ouray. To this day, our motorhome has a "Ouray" vanity plate on the front. We were last there about 2 years ago...in November. We had SoCal cabin fever, if there is such a thing, and took the car on a late season road trip to Salt Lake and Jackson, Wy. Got snowed in and out and hightailed it south to Ouray. It was a beautiful sunny day, although snow was piled around town.

    Now that I'm about 3 years post new titanium knees, I'm ready for some of your day hikes. They DO have EMTs standing by at 13,000 feet...right?

    BTW, "Bruce" of Mountain View Gifts...we may have met and had conversation with him, depending on how long he has owned it.


  3. What a gorgeous day...every photo is postcard perfection! I love how incredibly clear the air is there.

  4. I love hiking high in the mountains. Such lovely flowers and wide open views. I need to make a summer trip to CO to do some hiking one of these days!

  5. Love the new header!! Gorgeous photos. We just made our highest hike in a year and a half...7400 feet. We were surprised at quickly we adjusted from 900 feet. It is good to be back in the mountains and the wildflowers are still going strong.

    1. We head to the low elevations every winter and it usually takes us about two or three weeks to get our "lungs" back. I saw you post…we did that same hike, and I think I recognize that chipmunk :))

  6. A breathtaking hike in more ways than one. You guys are amazing!

  7. What a perfect day...I miss those beautiful wildflowers and the mountains!


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