Hardly a soul on the "Million Dollar Highway" to Silverton. Could of been because it was New Years Eve, but more likely it was below-zero temps.
We left Lovely Ouray around 9:30 AM with the promise of nary a cloud and full sun. Red Mountain Pass had reopened and, excepting a few shady-side patches of black ice and smatters of rockfall, was in fine shape for travel.
Forecasts for mountain towns is worth exactly what you pay for it, nothing. We were assured temps would warm into the 30's, which if fine for snowshoeing. But as we rolled into Silverton with -3 degrees below zero reading on the car's "Outside Temp," well, snookered again.
|Temp in Siverton, negative 3 degrees
It had been a while since we'd snowshoed from the cemetery above Silverton. We couldn't recall much about the potential for avalanche, other than the route snugs along the bottom of a south-facing mountain. But since it was heavily forested with aspen trees, we thought it would be a safe enough place to venture out.
The drive through Silverton let us know that they had received a lot more snow than Ouray. Snow was literally stockpiled everywhere there was space available. It was pretty, though, kinda put us in a holiday spirit.
It was so cold our tires squeaked on the snow in town. I kept eyeing the "Outside Temp," trying to think of a good excuse to just head over to "The Bear" for some pastries and coffee.
Silverton's cemetery lies on a hill overlooking town. I reluctantly bailed out of the car...my white-hot fervor to snowshoe having been tempered to tepid. Adding layers and struggling into uncooperative snowshoe bindings warmed me up enough to give it a go. We headed east through the cemetery on fresh, well packed snowshoe tracks. I thought about grabbing a few photos of old headstones, but every time I left our packed track I'd get bogged down by knee deep sugar snow.
|Headstones...a lot of homesteaders and miners buried in this cemetery. Children, too.
Once out of the cemetery we lost our packed trail. The hundred yards of uphill in knee deep snow was brutal, but it landed us on an old unplowed road with snowshoe tracks.
|Looking back toward Silverton
|They make custom snowboards down in that red brick building
|Not much in the way of elevation gain or loss...and the packed tracks kept us up and out of all but a few inches of fresh snow.
|We came to a hundred yard section where last year's record snowfall avalanched across the road. Large diameter aspen lay snapped like toothpicks and/or pointed down mountain.
|Except for a few jays and squirrels, it was very peaceful
We finally reached a free flowing creek that serves as a source for Silverton's water supply. Though we have hiked beyond this point before, it would be problematic and dangerous to do it during winter. And here's the "believe it or not" part: In spite of below or near zero temps, Bobbie and I were overheated and sweating. We pulled off a few layers and stomped out a place to have lunch. Sitting there, literally steaming in full sun and dead calm, it felt like 65 degrees.
|Silverton's water supply
|The view above. On the left are aspen trees bowled over from previous avalanches. They originate way up on the steep slopes of the distant peak. We kept an eye on it, figuring we had time to get out of the way should it decide to "run."
|We added an extra loop out to La Chapell Park to overlook Silverton. Snow here was waist deep in places off-track.
Once back to the car, we decided to have a look around town...maybe check out some of the homes and churches are dealing with all the snow...
|An old garage/gas station
|A 13,000 foot Kendal Mountain backdrop for an olden church and parsonage.
I hope you enjoyed our little tour of Silverton.
Peace out from Lovely Ouray,
mark and bobbie