In praise of place: Ouray and environs (Part 3)
This installment of the Ouray series involves a local hike you’ll never read about in the guidebooks.
One of the first walking tours undertaken by many visitors to Ouray is the steep 1/4 mile slog up 8th Avenue (and thence onto the 1/4 mile foot trail) that leads to Cascade Falls, a charming perennial cataract visible from the center of town. Up close it’s a cheery and invigorating freshet that serves to lighten the spirit and cool overheated brows.
While the traditional approach can be hot and dusty on a fair Summer’s day (proceeding, as it initially does, up an unpaved dirt road), the one I’m going to tell you about is cooler and at least partially shaded — not to mention far more entertaining.
WARNING: do not attempt if you see rain clouds forming over the Amphitheater, above and to the east. You’ll understand why in a moment.
My approach involves entering the concrete flume enclosing Cascade Creek just west of where it crosses Main Street. From here, you transition off the water-smoothed stones of the natural creek surface up onto the man-made concrete channel, and proceed steeply upward and to the east towards the falls.
The trek provides for a fascinating point of view – there you are, crossing under Main St. (and shortly thereafter under 9th Ave. and then 4th St.) to eventually emerge from the steep-sided concrete channel near the top of 8th Ave. – just where the flume ends and the natural streambed begins again. (As does the actual foot trail part of the trail to Cascade Falls.)
It’s a bit tricky walking on the steeply-angled, wide-open v-shaped bottom of the flume, which lends the experience something of a fun house vibe. (Watch out for slippery patches of moss!) Even more whimsical is what happens when you drop a rock into the center of the seemingly modest flow of water rushing down the center of the flume: the unexpected force of the flow snatches up the stone and tumbles it relentlessly downward, where you can hear it clattering away into the distance and around the bend.
I’m tossing in a few bonus shots, mostly because they were taken contemporaneously and don’t fit in with anticipated themes of future installments. Hope you enjoy.
NOTE: These photos are from 2003/2004, shot mostly with the Canon 10D (and captured mostly as .jpgs).