Telluride and Last Dollar Road
8/19 – 8/23
On Monday morning, I have an appointment at Humphrey RV in Grand Junction to have a new screen door installed. The screen door was defective on the Nash when I purchased it, with big gaps at the top and bottom. When I arrived in Colorado this summer, I went to Humphrey RV to have a couple warranty items done. At that time, they also ordered a new door from Lippert. Sunday afternoon, 8/19, I pull out of my campsite on Rabbit Ears Pass and drive to Rifle, CO. There is a rest area on the Colorado River with a small park. Since this is at a low elevation, I time my arrival for late afternoon so the temperature would be cooling off. From here it is about an hour drive in to Grand Junction.
I arrive at Humphrey about 9am Monday, prepared to wait a few hours. They finished about noon and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the new door fit – I had pretty low expectations.
From Grand Junction, I head south for Telluride. RV camping is almost non-existent in Telluride. I’m hoping to find a place at a dispersed camping area on Last Dollar Road. As I am driving up Last Dollar Road, the views are very impressive. About five miles from Hwy 145 there is an open flat area where dispersed camping is permitted. The view looking southwest over the mesas towards Wilson Peak and Lizard Head Peak is gorgeous! I love that name – Lizard Head Peak. When I say it, I can’t help from getting a mental image of a lizard sticking its head up in the air. The area is rather unlevel so I maneuver around until I am able to level with two boards and not be pointed downhill. Wow, this view is on par with my Twin Lakes campsite!
Not long after I finish setting up camp it begins to rain and continues raining for most of Tuesday. All the rainy weather results in some beautiful sunsets.
A couple mornings Misty decides to take off down the road. She heads out like she has a destination in mind. I really wish I knew what she is thinking when she does these things!
On Wednesday morning, I go into town. This is my first time in Telluride – I fall in love with it immediately! It is in a gorgeous setting in a box canyon. A large portion of the town is a national historic district; there are some lovely Victorian homes. It isn’t touristy in the way that Vail is. Overall there is just a great atmosphere here. I enjoyed walking along the main street.
The San Miguel River runs through the southern edge of town. There is a nice walking/bike path along the river. If you walk along the path in the morning hours, you might see a bear.
My friends Joyce and Dorty drive over from Buena Vista to spend a couple days. They arrive mid-afternoon. We met for lunch, then rode the free gondola up the ski mountain. The town is small enough, you can walk to most places. There is a gondola station right in town.
Later we took a drive up the box canyon towards Bridal Veil Falls.
There is a small creek flowing across one place in the road. The water is an eerie green color. Since this was a large mining area, I wonder if this is due to leaching from the mine tailings. Or it might just be naturally occurring minerals.
On the cliff next to the falls is the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Powerplant, built in 1907 to provide power for the Smuggler-Union (now Idarado Mining Company) mine in the canyon below. The building also houses a residence and a cookhouse. The mine manager lived in the residence until the 1920s. The powerplant was decommissioned in 1953. A Telluride resident secured a 99-year lease on the property in 1988 and restored the building, which had been heavily vandalized. He and his family lived in the residence until 2010, when he gave up the lease to Idarado Mining. Idarado continues to operate the powerplant which supplies 25 percent of Telluride’s electricity. The powerplant was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1979. Power is still generated using the original Westinghouse 2300 volt AC generator, one of the oldest generators in operation in the US. This summary is from a Wikipedia article.
In the 1880s, a “battle of the currents” was taking place between George Westinghouse who advocated the use of AC power (with patents licensed from the great engineer, Nicolas Tesla) and Thomas Edison’s General Electric, which advocated for DC power. To discredit AC power, Edison and GE warned that it was dangerous, with risk of electrocution when turning on a light switch should there be a ground in the high voltage infrastructure. They even conducted public demonstrations of the danger in which live animals were electrocuted! People’s sensibilities certainly were different then. Telluride is where the outcome of this struggle was decided. The Ames Hydroelectric Plant a few miles south of Telluride and completed in 1891, was the first operational AC power hydroelectric plant. The Ames plant became the first electric utility, the Telluride Power Company. Its success led to the awarding of the contract to construct the AC plant at Niagara Falls. The Ames plant is still in operation using the original power generation equipment. This article is the source for this information and has more about the history of the Ames plant and the development of electric power generation – Ames Hydro: Making History Since 1891
On Thursday morning, I picked up Joyce and Dorty in town and we took a drive along Last Dollar Road. This is a roughly 15 mile scenic drive that extends between Hwy 62 and Hwy 145. The Hwy 145 end begins just outside of Telluride.
The first few miles travel through private lands with lots of big houses. This adorable little cabin was an exception. This would be more my style 🙂
Not far into the drive we encounter this flock of sheep.
Traveling across the mesas, there are nice views of the mountains to the south.
The Aldasoro Brothers immigrated from the Basque region of Spain and settled on Deep Creek Mesa in 1926. Over the years they built up a 5,000 acre ranch on the mesas. Their descendants continue to run sheep on the land, although some has been sold for development.
About five miles along, we come to the area where I am camped. From this point the road becomes narrower and begins to climb up and over Last Dollar Pass. While the road is considered a 4wd road, if there hasn’t been a lot of rain, 2wd vehicles with good clearance can drive it. If there has been a lot of rain, there are some muddy spots that may require 4wd. It travels through a lot of aspen forest, which would be beautiful later in the fall.
As you begin to descend the other side, there are more open views as you travel through historic ranch land.
There were a few meadows of flowers left.
A little further along, the Sneffels Range comes into view to the east. The town of Ouray is on the other side.
As you come out onto the mesa, the road passes the historic Last Dollar Ranch. This 392 acre ranch is now protected from development by a conservation easement.
The ranch sits below the Sneffels Range. One of the peaks is the 14,150ft Mt. Sneffels, although I’m not positive which one it is.
I noticed there are a lot of zig zag fences in this area. This style fence is also called worm or snake fence. Joining the sections at angles gives the fence more strength and stability.
Last Dollar Road is a wonderfully scenic drive. If you are in southwestern Colorado, don’t miss it. I enjoyed spending the day with Joyce and Dorty as we made the drive. Tomorrow they head back to Buena Vista.
I have a few more days here on Last Dollar Road which I’ll share in the next post.