In praise of place: Ouray and environs (Part 6)

A vacation in Ouray would simply not be complete without a drive up County Rd 10 east from Ridgway — surely one of the most beautiful backroads in creation.

Cty Rd 10 eventually transitions into Cty Rd 8, a graded dirt byway which is extremely dusty, and washboarded out enough to rattle your fillings. But it’s easily passable for 2WD vehicles — as long as their drivers remember to slow down when approaching curves (where oncoming traffic might be taking their lane out of the middle), and to slow WAY down approaching downhill curves overlooking dropoffs — thereby avoiding actually dropping off due to loss of traction caused by the washboarding.

Deb's Meadow and Chimney Rock in autumn

The payoff for all this teeth-rattling and dust-gathering comes by way of passage through the region’s most impressive stands of aspen, and a stopover at one of Western filmdom’s most recognizable locations: the high mountain meadow where John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn shot it out against Ned Pepper’s gang in (the original) True Grit.

Chimney Rock in sepiatone

Deb’s Meadow is a rare patch of level ground amidst the generally hilly terrain, covered with wildflowers in early summer and bordered by aspens sporting their showy golden splendor in autumn. Chimney Rock serves as a fittingly dramatic backdrop.

Having visited this spot on numerous occasions over the years, I can report with some measure of confidence that getting even lighting on this iconic scene is a real challenge. The precipice is either washed out by direct sunlight (in midday) or nicely toned in the evening — at which point  the foreground detail fades into gloom. In short: an excellent opportunity for those with HDR chops to exercise their talent.

For the rest of us, we soon discover that turning our focus away from the spectacular rocky backdrop and concentrating on the equally interesting foreground elements provides a worthy substitute. The aspen trunks hereabouts have an extraordinary presence, almost a glow — they seem to shimmer against their surroundings as if hovering on the cusp of a separate reality.

Ghost aspens, Cty Rd 8

Great fodder for post-processing treatments of all sorts, but particularly suitable for high-contrast black and white conversions.

Skunk cabbage and rock: Deb's Meadow

Boulder and lichen

White trunks in a dark place

The Shimmering

Last light near Owl Creek Pass

Beyond Deb’s Meadow is Owl Creek Pass, on the other side of which one eventually comes to three separate bridge crossings of the Cimarron River, followed by a great and wildly scenic place to stop for a picnic lunch: Silverjack Reservoir.

But, that’s another blog post.


9 thoughts on “In praise of place: Ouray and environs (Part 6)

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