July 4- We hold these truths to be self-evident: that this is a big, beautiful country, and it was our privilege to spend Independence Day at one of its most glorious places. But I am getting ahead. Yesterday was our "extra" day in the San Juan Mountains, since we weren't able to get a Jeep rental until today. We drove over to Telluride, which is a very nice little town. Its coolest feature is a free gondola up the mountain- the only public transportation gondola in the country. It takes you up over to the ski village on the other side of the mountain, with excellent views of the mountains all around.
After Telluride, we drove back over to Ouray and spent a couple hours in the Hot Springs Pool. One of the main attractions in the town, it has cool, medium and hot pools, so you can jump around for maximum refreshing effect. Well waterlogged, we picked up our Jeep in the evening and took it on an inaugural run up to the Box Canon Falls, just above town. Very cool, vertigo-inducing waterfall that pours down with amazing force through a very narrow crevasse. Turns out, the hot springs actually originate here; they pipe the water to the other side of town to the Pool.
We got up at six this morning for our big day trip. Rob went to Yankee Boy Basin several years ago, and it's one of his favorite spots on Earth. The drive starts innocently enough, on a gravel road just above town. But the road quickly turns hairy, and becomes some pretty intense four-wheel territory (hence the Jeep rental). The road gains about 4,000 feet in elevation over 8 miles, passes under hanging rocks, crosses streams, hugs cliffs, climbs boulders, and generally makes for a white-knuckle experience. The reward is that the entire valley is ringed by some of the most spectacular jagged peaks imaginable. The road eventually ends (it ends whenever the driver gets faint of heart, but it does eventually end for real) in a broad basin with the mountains all around - and much closer. We then took a hiking trail up to the ridge line -at 13,000 feet—where you could look down into the next valley at a series of beautiful glacier-fed lakes. Truly, one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. The trail also goes up to Mt. Sneffels, one of the "Fourteeners" - though going up to the ridge was plenty for us. I should add at this point that the kids were WORLD CHAMPION hikers today - I bet half the adults in the country couldn't do this hike (did I mention we went up to 13,000 feet with about 1500 feet of climbing?) and there sure as heck weren't any other six-year-olds, or nine-year-olds, out on the mountain today.
After the white knuckle back down (worse, actually, as there was a lot more opposing traffic than there was at 7 AM), we turned the Jeep back in. We bade farewell to the San Juans and headed north. We buzzed the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (spending less time there than we usually do at the Prince William Forest Park), we drove up to Grand Junction, placed to go to Colorado National Monument and then over to Arches tomorrow. I watched the fireworks by myself from the top of a slide in a KOA - I guess ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right?