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Saturday, April 15, 2017

I am the Wuss-Man, coo coo ca choo

Slipping from winter into summer in Lovely Ouray is like slipping from your starched Sunday best into a ratty old pair of "sweats. It is our season of comfort, a time to pack away itchy wool and sticky Gore-Tex till October, and embrace the soft caress of loose-fit cotton. In most places, "Spring" means planting flowers and seeding gardens in a pair of shorts. Spring around here means 8 more weeks of winter.  

Winter can be quite beautiful here; it makes a purdy-postcard out of Lovely Ouray, for sure.  But summer...ahhhh, summer, it's a juicy watercolor, suitable for framing. Only problem is, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, it's still a long ways off. Summer is a lot like Bobbie and I at a party, always last to arrive and first to leave. 

Soon, too soon, actually; already, in fact, if you include me, anxious townies will/have begin to don teeshirts, shorts, and hiking boots...sundresses will come out of closets...all topped off with polyester parkas. It's how locals squeeze a couple more weeks into summer, by freezing to death. 

Come summer, real summer, like June, tourists in Ouray are easy to spot. They're overdressed "to the nines," dapper, sporting Columbia, L. L. Bean, Patagonia, and a host of other name brand garments made is sweatshops in third world countries. They hold an ice-cream cone in one hand and a cell phone in the other...craning their necks upward at still snowcapped mountains...shooting video, snapping selfies, and generally stepping out in front of four wheel drive vehicles driven by suburbanites who don't even know what a "stick shift" is. What's not to love; they've got pasty white skin and two-week's vacation to burn, and we've got all summer.

Set in a box-canyon at the pine-scented feet of notably "rugged" San Juan Mountains—old-time Swiss Victorian charm oozing from architectural details—Lovely Ouray is easy on the eyes. Steam wafts from hot-bodies (and some not-so-hot) soaking at our world famous hot springs, while dogs chase frisbees and run over toddlers in Fellin Park, right next door. Nearby, under a shady canopy of cottonwoods, adults kick back, relax, and nibble at picnic goodies. The altitude makes them drowsy. Naps are easy in Lovely Ouray, especially after a two hour soak in 105 degree mineral water.

Come mid July, townies and tourists alike are drawn above timberline to view alpine meadows that teem with wildflowers. Melting snow gushes, tumbles, and free-falls—celebrating its liberation after five long, sub-freezing months held captive in suspended animation. 

But I'm getting ahead of the calendar, here. Trees have yet to leaf out, daffodils struggle, shocked by hard freezes nearly every night. And, of course, it still snows every few days...a 10 incher just last week. Pansies and petunias set out before Memorial weekend are a waste of hard earned tips (yes, most Ouranians are in the food service industry, cause you can't "eat the scenery"). But were so anxious, so we go outside, wearing our shorts and parkas, and turn soil still soggy from snowmelt, glean flower beds, rake last fall's snow-matted leaves from a few shoots of early grass...finally getting cold, muddy, and discouraged, and going back indoors to wait, wait, and wait some more, on summer. Corn will be knee high in Kansas long before summer comes to Lovely Ouray.

I've toughed out a few winters in Ouray, even worked outside as a Lifeguard at the Hot Springs Pool a couple years. We seem to be in the bullseye for angry storms that form in the Bering Sea. They line up nuts to butts like Siberian prisoners in a chow line, little gifts "from Russia with love." It's a Jekyll/Hyde relationship I have with winter in the mountains. There are times when falling snow makes a Hallmark Card out of this place...flakes as big silver dollar gently swirling to the ground like autumn's leaves. Then there are times when it snows horizontal in blizzard fashion, little shards of ice that sting and cut exposed skin, and soon enough, drifts so deep you can't find your car...buried deep under drifts and the snowplows inconsiderate wake.

Five months is a long time to embrace "Mr Hyde." The romance of mountain living fades when the sun finally comes out, only to reveal six-foot drifts, waiting to be shoveled. So if you see what looks like an Arizona raised tender-loin wearing shorts and a parka, and he's got a snow shovel in one hand and a bag of ice-salt in the other, offer to buy him a scrap cookie and a cup of coffee down at Mouse's Chocolates. 
I'd appreciate it.
I make no chilled-bones about it: I am the Winter Wuss-Man...Coo coo ca choo! 

Now for some nice sunny days just a few week ago up on Cedar Mesa, Utah...


  1. I honestly don't know how you do so much winter. Especially when there's so much Utah.

  2. I'm right there with you Mark--if I never see another snowflake it will be too soon! I'm still searching for a spot where the temperature is 75 degrees every single day!

  3. I'm with you Mark...anything under 40 degrees is way to cold for us! Sure hope we make it to Lovely Ouray for a couple of weeks in July. I need a wildflower fix!

  4. Yes, Lovely Ouray has way too much winter. You know we can barely tolerate the 50s!
    Cute photo of Bobbie peeking around the opening in the ruins.

  5. I am amazed at the photos of the cliff dwellings. Hard to believe they could make suitable shelter from rocks and mud and on the edge of a CLIFF!! Scary for sure but I guess it got them away from the predators and such. Great photos and I don't envy your winters there. We get enuff of it here in the OK Panhandle.

  6. Thank goodness for the photos and memories of your winter travels once you return to lovely, frozen Ouray! I guess this is why Hans and I will likely never live in a severe winter area!

  7. Monarch Cave is a fantastic ruin. It is a great idea that they have placed a chain to keep people out of the fragile, beautiful part of the cave. There is so much to see and feel a part of without crossing the chain. I'm sorry that you felt the need to go beyond into the closed area.

    1. Bobbie and I have racked our memories... there was no chain nor anything that resembled/indicated that we should stay out of monarch ruin...or we would not have entered. There were two Utah "locals" that entered while we were there, had been there many times, and no mention that it was out of bounds. I do admit to touching my hand to the wall beside the hand print...then realized I probably shouldn't have done that :(
      mark and bobbie...with Erik and Maureen as our witnesses.
      sorry Pam and John. We do try our best to be good stewards of sacred places.

    2. I thought I had replied to your response, but I guess I only did it in my mind. We've been there twice, last year and a couple weeks ago. The same roping was there both times. It went from the midden up the slickrock to the wall at the top. You would have had to step over it. I believe the information in the ammo box asks you to not enter also. I know you and Bobbie aren't the problem. I just hope people don't go in too often so things stay as they are. I must say I did enjoy seeing behind the round towers! I was surprised to see they were full of dirt. so thanks for giving me eyes where I have been curious to go:)

  8. Winter is a conundrum. Summer is....well just summer, something you want to last and last and last. Ever too short-lived, compared to the cold and white brother arriving before Christmas.

  9. Absolutely stunning photos! Thanks for sharing.

  10. We did see some of those tiny chains strung along the trail up to the ruins...but nothing up at the steep sloped entry. It seems to us that, if there are certain areas that are more "sensitive" than others, that a slightly larger "chain" would be in order, perhaps even a sign. I'm not sure why Monarch Ruins would be off limits while hundreds of other sites are "open" for us to wander around in to our heart's content. If what you say is true about Monarch, and I don't have any reason to doubt your word on it, why not put a small sign up? That would have stopped us and "most" others, too. My opinions, anyway. :)
    mark and bobbie


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