Saturday, January 3, 2009


Each winter I travel to Ouray, CO, for the coldest, darkest Alaska months. Ouray is light and has tons of great ice for climbing at the ice park and in the backcountry; and the San Juan mountains have tons of great snow for backcountry skiing.

Rebecca Case flew down during the Christmas holidays, so we decided to make the most of it and see the Southwestern Colorado and eastern Utah landscape. Rebecca arrived Christmas day and had a long flight and drive, so we spent Friday recouperating. After a day in Ouray, we set out for Arches National Park Saturday, drove over and hiked into Delicate Arch. It was great! However there was a lot of ice on the 2-mile approach, and the temperature only reached 21 degrees.

We ate dinner at the Moab Brewery, a fun place, if a bit low on the food quality; after Alaska, Utah cuisine leaves a bit to be desired. The next day we drove down to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. As we drove the snow covered Route 221 into Indian Creek, we encountered a couple from California who had slid off the road and wrecked their car. We drove the wife back up the hill to cell phone coverage and called AAA for a tow. By the time we reached the park, the temperature was still only 21 degrees, but there was little snow on the ground, and we headed to Elephant Rock for a nice 5-mile hike into the Needles. Tons of fun, beautiful scenery, trails across slickrock and through joints in the red sandstone.

After a long trip, we spent the next day enjoyin Ouray, visiting every store, buying gifts, and checking out the Victorian homes on the east side. We drove up to Red Mountain Pass to see the big peaks, then cruised down the other side to Siverton and had a beer and pizza at the Brown Bear Cafe which sports a beautiful old bar, newly restored from a warehouse in Durango. The waitress was a local, and we enjoyed talking with her about life in the town.

Since we were in Ouray, Rebecca had to try ice climbing in the park. It was a blast! The ice was good, the sun was out, and there were a lot of climbers in the area. That afternoon we got a call from Jim McCarthy and Ellen Latham who wanted us to have dinner with them. We met in Ridgeway at Drakes where we had a wonderful time talking about every subject. We pretty well closed down the place.

We hadn't ever been to Telluride, and since it was a whole different world from what we regularly experience, we decided to go see it. It was a warm and sunny day as we strolled the streets, looked into every store, and enjoyed a Mexican lunch at a tiny cafe on the main drag. Since it was New Year's Eve, we were invited to dinner at Jim and Ellen at McCarthy's lovely home on Log Hill in Ridgeway. A fine dinner of salad, scallops, and excellent wine. When we got back to Ouray, the fireworks display was underway!

Thursday was New Years Day, and it was also Rebecca's flight out to Anchorage. On the way back, we stopped to visit with her great friend Christy, and her parents, Bud and Carol who live together in Beulah, CO, near Pueblo. Carol fixed a wonderful lunch; Rebecca had a great visit with Christy; and I talked woodworking with Bud who had been a shop teacher and had built the house, its beautiful kitchen woodwork, and was nearly finished with a fine new addition to the house. We drove to the airport, got Rebecca on the plane, and I made it back to Ouray before midnight.