Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Red Mountain Pass

Before I got distracted by life, I was telling you about my summer drive across the country.  We had just started talking about the Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.  The pass is located on US 550 (aka Million Dollar Highway).  I suspect that it might be called the Million Dollar Highway because if you are afraid of heights and narrow roads, it would probably take someone paying you a million dollars to drive this road.  When I sat down to plan our route, I had no idea what I was getting us into by deciding to take US 550 through Colorado.  I only knew that I wanted to take a scenic drive and according to the map I got from AAA, US 550 is a scenic route.  I believe "scenic route" might be an understatement.

From Denver, we took Highway 285 southwest to Highway 50.  We took Highway 50 west and then we took Highway 550 South.  The drive up until that point had been winding through lovely mountains and valleys in Colorado.  I'm not fond of driving through mountains, so my husband drove while I snapped photos from the passenger seat.  We had just driven through a lovely town called Ouray when we started ascending the Red Mountain Pass.  The road quickly became very narrow, winding up steep slopes with no guardrail.  I was terrified, but also mystified by the beauty surrounding me.  It had started to rain a bit, which made the drive that much more unnerving.  The speed limit on most of this section of the highway is 15 miles per hour.  My husband had started the ascent at 25 miles per hour.  I told him to SLOW DOWN.  He said, "I can't look away from the road or we'll die!  Tell me when we're doing the speed limit."  He slowed down and I kept an eye on the speedometer for him.  There were no guardrails and no shoulder.  If you went past the yellow line, you would be tumbling down the mountainside.  As the car would round a steep turn, I would feel like I was falling out of the car.  My heart was racing, but the whole time I just kept snapping photos.  The roadway goes up to over 11,000 feet.  The mountain peaks are over 14,000 feet.  It was late July, but there were still traces of snow on some of the peaks.  As we ascended, it got cooler and cooler.  As we neared the summit of the roadway, my husband was complaining that it was cold and I needed to roll up the window.  I told him to turn the heater on because there was NO WAY I was going to try and photograph these mountains through the window.   

The beauty was so wondrous that my eyes were tearing up just looking around.  The luscious green mountainsides were so beautiful.  There were waterfalls and mountain streams all along the roadway.  Then we came to a mountain peak that actually has portions that are red in color and I understood the name "Red Mountain Pass."  I only wish it had been a clear day with plenty of sunshine.  I don't think my photos do the scenery justice, but here they are.  They are still a bit dark even after I lightened them up.  Despite the dark tones, I hope they can convey some of the beauty of this harrowing drive.  I've also included a link in my title that will take you to photos of someone else's journey up the Red Mountain Pass.  They went on a clear day and the photos are gorgeous.

Here is my view of the Red Mountain Pass on that rainy day....

Green Mountain Slope

The San Juan Mountains

Rocky Mountainside

Small Waterfall Cascading Down the Mountainside

The Red Mountain

Thanks for stopping by.  Please leave a comment.  I love to hear from my visitors!

1 comment: