Today. It's been a long day. I'm tired...
Today began in Gunnison, Colorado. I didn't sleep well. I stayed warm enough, but was uncomfortable due to my knee giving me grief. So I was up early. It worked to my benefit, as I wanted to get into Ouray early and have a full day of trails.
I was in the area by 9:30am. Although I had made plans on what trails to run... I didn't stuck to them. I stopped into a shop in downtown Ouray to find my obligatory sticker for the Jeep. I asked the older lady behind the counter whether or not she could tell me about the trail conditions. She said that there wasn't much left of offroading this season... BUT (she said) I could try my luck and head up some of them, and if I encountered snow or other generally bad terrain, I could turn around and come back. Sounded legit enough for me. Besides... how much *real* trouble could I get into with a nearly-stock Patriot with no low-range?
So the first trail marker I saw as I headed into the mountains was for the trail to Yankee Boy Basin. I remembered reading about that trail the night before and deciding against it because the connecting trails were supposed to be more difficult than what I wanted to get into. That said, I decided I'd go ahead and drive it as far as I could... or until I reached the connecting trails... and the come back the way i came in. It had been raining off and on in the area, so the trail was sloppy, but not impassable. I successfully made it to where all the trails converged... and back again.
I took Hwy 550 (aka The Million Dollar Highway) towards Silverton, hopping off at random intervals to navigate some of the old mining trails - these were all in-and-back spurs. Most were easy enough, one I had a bit of a traction issue with, but was still successful.
Once into Silverton, I got on the trail leading back to the ghost town at Animas Forks. I'd been there before on a previous trip, and seemed to recall that trail being pretty easy. It was. Bumpy, but not technical. It was approx 8 miles in each direction with scenery to die for!
After returning to Silverton, I got back on Hwy 550 headed south in search of Old Lime Creek Road... the trail Bean Ants told me about. Fortunately one of my mapping apps found it with ease. The sign told me 12 miles of unpaved goodness... so off I went (this was the only new trail I tried). Overall, it wasn't horribly technical. It had some sections of larger rocks to navigate, some low water crossing areas, and one section at the top... on a narrow shelf road... that I had to make multiple attempts to pass... but cooler heads prevailed and I didn't let the altitude get the better of me. It was a good time, and was the most challenging for the stock Jeep.
The Patriot handled everything I threw at it quite well today. I didn't go crazy, however. This was the first time out to get his shoes dirty... and I have a LONG way to go yet on this trip to get overly stupid with it. I know it won't compare to my old Liberty in terms of capability, but it certainly has potential. More than I initially thought.
This evening landed me into Durango, where I got first-hand advice on good eats (that was awesome, thanks Ben!). I wanted to get closer to Utah to get myself back on track. Initially I was headed for free camping approx. 1-1/2 hours from Durango... but instead, stopped for the night to camp on BLM land near Mesa Verde. It was dark when I got here, so I'm curious to see what it looks like tomorrow!
*some of today's unedited phone pictures*