Day Five - Lake City to Ouray - 406 miles

We left Lake City and headed south once again on C149, this was our second trip down this road.  We rode non-stop until we reached the town of Creede.  This time we stopped and walked around town for a little bit.  This old mining town is quite the tourist town now.  We grabbed a bite to eat and sat on a bench on main street. 

Traveling south on C149 took us to South Fork where we headed west this time on US160.  This road follows the South Fork of the Rio Grande River through the Rio Grande Forest.  As we approached
Wolf Creek Pass (KMZ) we noticed some construction signs.  However, we had no idea the delays we were about to encounter.  Close to the summit the road was one-lane where we had to wait for an hour while cars from the other side passed and also while some blasting was completed.  Coming down Wolf Creek Pass would have been nice except for the construction, the road downhill was a 16% grade, and the views were spectacular.  Through Pagosa Springs we were fighting loads of traffic and continued construction.  We had planned to stop at Chimney Rock but we were behind so when we saw the rock formation from the road we decided that was good enough and continued on toward Durango.  We stopped in Durango to pick up a sleeping bag since we were staying in a cabin at the KOA campground that night.  We decided on large blankets instead to save on space and money.  As we left Durango it began to cloud up and we thought rain was in store for us.  We continued west on US160 toward Mesa Verde.  West of Durango the terrain becomes very arid and the scenes remind one of the desert.  As we approached the entrance to the park we could see the high road of the north rim to the south carrying traffic to the ruins.  Once in the park we proceeded slowly with the traffic to the southern edge of the park.  There, we saw the Cliff Palace ruin (KMZ).  This is probably the most famous of the ruins, and the one most photographed.  I didn't realize how many different sites there were within the park.  After we left Cliff Palace we stopped to view the Balcony House ruin.  The view of this ruin was further away but still quite spectacular.   This stop also had a nice view of the Soda Canyon.  We left Balcony House and continued back the way we came in leaving the park.  Once again we had to bow to time constraints.  We had planned to go down to the Four Corners area but we really didn't have the time.  We also thought that the scenery and roads to that area would only be fair at best.  Plus we would have to turn around and backtrack which we did not want to do.  So we continued west on US160 and turned north on C145 on the east side of Cortez.  The road travels due north into the southern portion of the San Juan National Forest.  Just south of the town of Dolores we passed the over the south end of the McPhee Reservoir.  Dolores was a town founded by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad.  The railroad followed the Dolores river upstream to the silver mining towns of Rico and Telluride.  Now the old railroad bed is C145.  Since the road follows an old RR bed it is not very steep and not terribly winding.  Nevertheless the views are great as we passed south of the Taylor Mesa and started an uphill climb towards Rico.  This is where Dolores creek turns into Dolores River as several creeks come together in the once bustling town.  Leaving Rico we begin to climb Lizard Head Pass.  Once on top we found ourselves among a group of fourteeners.  The cluster, informally referred to as the Wilson Group contains several peaks over 14,000 feet, Mount Wilson, 14,245 feet El Diente Peak, 14,159 feet Wilson Peak, 14,017 feet and an unnamed summit on the spur south of Mount Wilson, known locally as South Wilson, 14,110 feet. Scarcely less imposing is Gladstone Peak, 13,913 feet. At somewhat lower elevation, about two miles east is the spectacular landmark of Lizard Head, a nearly vertical rock spire which rises 300 feet from a conical base to 13,113 feet.  As we descended down the backside we passed Trout Lake on our right, and the western portal to Ophir Loop.  This trail is an easy dual-sport trail through the ghost town of Ophir and links up with US550.  One of the few trails we did not ride in 1999.  We continued north on C145 even though that meant we would not ride through Telluride.  It had begun to drizzle and we were ready to call it a day.  We headed toward Placerville where we caught up with C62 north to Ridgeway.  We stopped in Ridgeway to see our buddy Chuck that we met in 1999 but he was out riding somewhere on vacation.  After loading with our adult beverages for the night we proceeded to Ouray and the KOA (KMZ).  At the campground it seemed like old home week, we recognized most of the workers there.  We ate at the Creekside Cafe (oops Kreekside Kafe, sorry) and took a turn in the hot tub.  Later we spread out our new K-Mart blankets and called it a night.