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!

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View from Last Dollar Road campsite. That’s Lizard Head Peak sticking its head up on the right side

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.

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Sunset on Wilson Peak and Hastings Mesa

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!

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Misty taking her morning walkabout

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.

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Main street Telluride view

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Main street Telluride view

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.

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Path along San Miguel River

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.

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Gondola Station

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Town of Telluride from ski mountain

Later we took a drive up the box canyon towards Bridal Veil Falls.

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Bridal Veil Falls & Powerplant

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.

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Creek flowing across road to Bridal Veil Falls

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.

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Smugglers-Union Powerplant

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.

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Looking east towards 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 🙂

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Little cabin on Last Dollar Road

Not far into the drive we encounter this flock of sheep.

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The sheep on the road wanted to get inside the fence with the others

Traveling across the mesas, there are nice views of the mountains to the south.

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Looking across the mesa towards Sunshine Mountain

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Looking towards Telluride ski mountain

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.

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Historic Aldasoro Brothers barn

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.

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Aspens on Last Dollar Road

As you begin to descend the other side, there are more open views as you travel through historic ranch land.

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View driving north towards Hwy 62

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Camping area along Last Dollar Road

There were a few meadows of flowers left.

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Flower meadow

A little further along, the Sneffels Range comes into view to the east. The town of Ouray is on the other side.

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First view of Sneffels Range

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.

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Beautiful Last Dollar Ranch

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.

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I believe Mt. Sneffels is in the center

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.

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Beautiful Colorado ranch land

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.

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Another beautiful sunset

8 Comments on “Telluride and Last Dollar Road

  1. The Ross ranch house from the original True Grit movie is located on the Last Dollar road. A few other True Grit film locations are also located near Ridgway. You’re in a very beautiful location.

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    • Hi Brian, I agree, this area is beautiful! I wasn’t able to spend much time in the San Juans when I was working so it has been great to be able to be here. I did see the Ross ranch, but didn’t make it to any of the other areas in Ridgway. Will have to do that next time.

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  2. Well, Deb, now you’ve gone and done it. Your photography continues to impress but the ‘Sunset on Wilson Peak and Hastings Mesa’ picture is just sublime excellence and now graces my desktop as wallpaper. The only issue is the modest 362k file size.

    Any chance of linking a version with greater pixel density for a sharper blow-up on my 4k desktop (3840×2160) ? I think that a nice framed 8.5 x 11 version would sell well and I would buy one. A good reason to consider SmugMug.

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    • Hi Bob, love your comment, thanks! I was going to wash my truck today but it is raining. So instead I’m at the library. I learned to add a watermark to photos so I can start doing that. It just takes so much time to figure all this out, so I tend to procrastinate. 🙂 Thanks for mentioning that a couple times. I checked out SmugMug, but I don’t think I want to pay a monthly fee to join a service. I’m not as confident as you are that my images would sell, haha! I’m checking out some other options.

      I would be happy to provide you with a larger file of the Wilson Peak photo for you desktop background – I’m using that photo as my background also. Where would be a good place to post it? Or I could email the file to you if you like. I have a larger file that is 3.7M and 4592×3448 which you could resize to meet your needs.

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      • Thanks ! I use the Win slideshow with a folder called “e:\wallpapers” and dump all my downloads and best pics in there – works great.

        [right click on desktop>personalize>desktop background>picture location>change picture every xx minutes>save changes]

        You could start by storing backups of your original (or smaller but still larger than 364k) full rez photos on-line for free someplace like Flickr (which is operated by SmugMug now – 1 Terrabyte [approx a million photos] for free). Then you could link the photos to your blog at the desired resolution like you currently have and somebody like me could back-trail to the original via that same link posted here in a comment or posting, select the resolution I want and download it if you allow that in your Flickr settings

        But Flickr is just a very commonly used storage site and there are others you might prefer by a good deal. Here is a recent good review of 10 choices:
        https://www.tomsguide.com/us/pictures-story/839-best-photography-sites.html#s3

        You could also just post it in a new post with the full rez/ requested rez shot uploaded or substitute it for the current photo link/upload, etc, upload it to a facebook page and reply with the link in a comment, etc. Or you could send it along to the email I use to post if you can see my email there. There are lots of choices. I have no idea what the file size limit is for WordPress and I assume they have one since there are camera’s out there that use some humongous native photo capture size.

        Pick one, LOL. I use an excellent program called IrfanView to resize to any resolution with the click of a button and another to save as xxxx.jpg but lots of programs do that. You probably have figured out by now that I played with computers for a living before I retired but none of this is particularly difficult. Just getting used to how it all works and done. Happy to help if you have questions.

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      • I do see your email, so for this one I’ll just email it to you. I may try to figure out the flickr option later on. I usually can figure out computer stuff although it always takes alot of time. And I’m really not into spending hours on the computer, I’d rather be outdoors hiking or something 🙂

        Also, I did try to figure out how to do a slideshow like blogger does it. WordPress doesn’t seem to do that. The plan I am on doesn’t let me use plugins. To upgrade to the next plan that does would triple my annual cost, so I don’t think I can do that right now. It would be nice to have the additional functionality though. Maybe I could do that in Flickr if there is an option to create slideshows. I’ll look into it.

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