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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Guns and Roses

Smack dab within the city limits of Lovely Ouray there's a steep, winding trail that will spirit hardy hikers up to the  "Bridge Of Heaven." It's a quad-crushing 5 mile hike to the "Bridge," the last 2 miles of which involve substantial post-holeing through knee to waist-deep mounds of snow. Trust me, even the last week in April is considered too early to attempt "Heaven's Bridge" without snow shoes. In fact, some years June's pushing it...unless, of course, you like post-holing and bloody shins.

The forecast promised sunshine and mild temps. The plan was for Bobbie and I to walk from home and meet up with hiking pal, Ruthie, at the trailhead shortly after 10 AM. Given that the mountain-top surrounds above Lovely Ouray are still covered in snow, we agreed to forego a post-hole trek all the way up to the "Bridge," instead settling for a "sample" to the south facing "Ridge-to-the-Bridge." We can see that treeless "ridge" from home, and it appears to be free of snow. I figured we'd run into some lingering snow higher up in timbered areas, but nothing a determined trio of experienced trekkers can't negotiate. 

The valley floor fell away quickly as we switch-backed up through cool shade. But "the cool" was soon overcome by exertion and I, for one, was sweating bullets. Thankfully, this section of trail doesn't see much sun till noon this time of year. 

There are a couple of steep sections on Horsethief that are subject to erosion (an understatement) Every spring we find them nearly erased by rockfall and winter's constant snow-slides. Gravity. This spring was no different. We encountered a slight, off camber trail filled with the loose-rock spoils of winter that reduced the route to more of an etch. Through those steep, loose sections we were like moving targets in a shooting gallery as pebbles and rocks rained down from above.

It makes for surreal colors when the sun sets fire to rocks in the lower blowout section. It's tempting to linger...till a rock goes whizzing by.

As Horsethief Trail ascends, it offers better views of our pleasant valley and snowcapped mountains. Cross-valley I spy Twin Peaks, a first-time climb Ruthie is itching to do. Unfortunately, it appears substantial snow remains where a few sections of the trail meander through areas with north facing slopes. We'd need cramp-ons to pull it off this early. I'm itching to make another "speed-run" on Twin Peaks...see if I can come close to a years-old PR of 1 hour, 49 minutes from our front door. I know, I should leave my watch at home (sigh).  

Higher up, Lovely Ouray comes into view. To the left, Mount Abram...always a standout with its classic pyramidal shape. 

Due to a pine beetle infestation, some of our forests have considerable deadfall every year.  Trail crews have their hands full trying to keep up...lugging chainsaws up steep trails in order to clear the path for hikers. We had to scramble over or around several good sized trees, but nothing serious. Around 10,000 feet we found some piles of snow to dodge.

Downed trees

Some snow

Bobbie and Ruthie: Happy to be Halfway

We soon encountered better views of Lovely Ouray. Note snowed-in Imogene Pass on the horizon above and to the right of town.

The Whitehouse massif 

A shady icefall, still ripe for climbing

Bobbie and Ruthie paused for a break just before the final stretch to the "Ridge to the Bridge." 

Ruthie overlooks her new hometown 

Almost there, girls.

We found a rough mound of rock with views of Ouray where we rested snacked. Main Street Ouray looked dead, for obvious reasons. 

Looking north, Grand Mesa was visible...floating above the valley like a pin on blue-john milk.

Time for the long trek down, always hard on old knees.

I took a few more shots of the colorful rocky section of "trail" that tries to slide down-mountain every winter. You can see it's not much of a trail when winter gets through with it. Bad as it looks, it's not really dangerous if you watch your step...and keep an eye and ear out for rocks under the influence of gravity.

The photo above shows how much snow remains on Bridge of Heaven. Though you can't tell from the photo, the trail on up to the "Bridge" tends to stay on forested north facing aspects, which means deep snow and post-holeing. 

So I get to thinking...why not pack our snowshoes next time and give it a go?
Stay tuned.

So peace out from an almost too peaceful Ouray, where the liquor store is about all that's thriving during this pandemic. As with most of the country, stores and restaurants are set to begin reopening over the next couple of weeks. We'll see how it goes. 

And one more side-note: I find it curious how some of the extreme right wingers in some states feel it necessary to carry pistols and assult-style rifles while protesting the state's "closures." 
I don't get how that (intimidation?) helps their cause. Maybe someone can explain it to me. Hell, back in the 60's and 70's we protested armed only with flowers in our hair...  

Panorama below: Scroll →


  1. And they shot us anyway at Kent State.At least Justin Trudeau has the balls to ban assault type weapons.

  2. Don't you just love those dickheads in their Walmart tactical gear? I doubt they realize how ridiculous they look....

  3. Beam us there.... such a beautiful hike. You two continue to “kill it”!!! Great blog.. thanks friends.

  4. Finally some really good pictures!! What is snow. Steve. Florida

  5. A superb hike and pictures. All the best.

  6. Wow, made my morning; love that hike too, such great views of Ouray and surrounding mountains.....wish I were on that hike with you, (dreaming).
    The 60's & 70's still are like a "Dream"...hopefully one that won't end before we make it back to Little Switzerland.
    Stay Thirsty my Friends
    D & A


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