I detoured into the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument area for a half hour or so to have a quick look around and a couple of photos before going back out to the highway to resume. I retraced a little bit of my route, as I'd left the area via US 89, but turned to the northeast towards the Four Corners area on highway 160 instead of continuing north from where I'd originally come from. I did drive by the Four Corners monument area, but didn't stop... instead choosing to make my way into the San Juan mountains in Colorado.
I'd read earlier that morning of Last Dollar Road - an unpaved gravel/dirt through route between Telluride and Ridgway, Colorado... a seemingly easy road, based on the description... so long as it was dry. The entrance to the road/trail wasn't very far from Telluride, and even closer still to the highway I was on. I decided I'd give it a try - worse case, I'd turn around and make a trip into Telluride for a look around. I'd gotten on the road, and it was pretty easy going. It climbed into the mountains and provided for fantastic panoramic views. The Jeep handled the climbing and the small rocky obstacles with ease, and I figured I'd make it through to the other side with in a few hours. Until I came upon a suspicious mud hole. It was far larger than the few I'd encountered before it. Unsure of the terrain under the water surface (as I couldn't see through the murky water), I inched towards the hole... enough to let my right front tire drop in... and enough to NOT like what it felt like. It felt like it would be deep. And I couldn't be sure what kind of rocky or rough goodness lived at the bottom. All of this, and still being without under-body armor and recovery points on the Jeep... I'd played it safe. I backed out slowly, turned around, and went back the way I came. I couldn't chance getting stuck with no easy way out... and being so far from home. I played that game last fall, and lost.
Frustrated, I headed into Telluride. I drove through the touristy downtown area. And out the other end. I'd had another idea earlier that morning, and had decided to act on it. Back in 2009, Aaron and I joined some other Jeep folk from across the country and spent a week on trails in these very same mountains. One of these trails, the notorious Black Bear Pass, empties out on this side of the mountains and heads down into Telluride. For the most part, Black Bear Pass is a one-way route that begins on the Ouray, Colorado side of the mountain. For a few of reasons, there is no way I would have attempted the whole of Black Bear - again, the lack of armor and recovery points, the lack of someone else with me, and because the pass wasn't actually open yet (due to snow). BUT, the back side/Telluride side of the pass... the part that allowed travel both up and down the mountain... that was open, and I remember that it wasn't overly difficult... at the time. So I headed up that trail, which would eventually end at the Bridal Veils Power Station, over half way up the mountain.
Image borrowed via Google:
Image borrowed via Google: