In praise of place: Ouray and environs (Part 2)
So let’s get this part of the ongoing Ouray photo story out of the way before we go any further in the (written) narrative: This historic little mining town nestled in the midst of Colorado’s high lonesome San Juan mountains is widely regarded as the jeeping capital of the world. And, while I haven’t been every other place in the world to verify that statement, I have no reason to doubt it.
When I first started visiting in the early ’80s, Jeeps were indeed the four-wheel-drive beast of choice among the Ouray populace (including the vendors who rented them out and offered chauffeured tours to thrill-seeking flatlander tourists). Still, the term “jeep” should be taken as a categorical descriptor rather than a brand designation: Even then, there were lots of other makes and models of 4-wheelers being put into service in the cause of getting way up high and way out there
(Lately, street-illegal ATVs of the Polaris variety have gained a wide following.)
In fact, if you’ve got the coin (for rentals) or the proper gear (in terms of a high-clearance, low-range 4WD vehicle), you can drive yourself (or have yourself driven) to some of the finest, wildest scenery imaginable, and all within easy range of town.
Easy in terms of time, I mean. Some of the jeep “roads” have a reputation for being pretty technical, and potentially quite hazardous. On the very mild end of the scale, those who don’t know what they’re doing are likely to wind up having to change a flat tire on a tilting switchback at 13,000 ft.
Still, at least the scenery will be nice while you’re gasping for breath and wrestling with the tire tool.
While the surroundings are arguably the main attraction thereabouts, the town itself has a lot to offer in terms of both creature comforts and interesting photographic subjects. The restaurants are to die for, from Italian (The Bon Ton) to Mexican (Buen Tiempo) to charbroiled steaks served in an old west saloon-style setting, complete with piano player (The Outlaw).
And don’t forget the Hot Springs Pool where you can soak away your sore muscles after hiking up (and down, hopefully) the perimeter trail that loops around town. Afterwards, head over to Billy Goat Gruff’s Biergarten for a stein of suds and a brat on a bun, while taking in the spectacular view of the Amphitheater across the valley.
If all this begins to sound like a chamber of commerce promo, cut me some slack: I’ve been hanging out there for part of my summers almost every year for the past 25 or so. Naturally I’m enthused about the place, or I wouldn’t have kept going back.
The pictures posted in this webisode are vintage 2002 – 2003, and were captured with either the Canon G1 or 10D. As we work through these Ouray posts to more recent years you’ll see a noticeable improvement in both native image quality and photographer skills. (I sincerely hope!)
Note that all these images have been reprocessed from the original files (mostly .jpgs), which I’ve been archiving on CDs and DVDs. I’ve attempted to tread as lightly on the pixels as possible while still employing the odd bit of legerdemain to enhance the photos. Since they’re destined for the web and not for print, image degradation isn’t as big an issue.
Plenty more Ouray to come. I’ll leave you with this glimpse of an isolated copse of aspen across the road leading to Blue Lakes Trail, south of Mt.Sneffels.
(I love that word – copse! Has a real ring to it.)