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10/20/2004: Million Dollar Highway
So, we left the low-lying Montrose (only 5,400 ft above sea level) and went south. We saw lots of mountains, and some threatening weather in the distance. Luckily, we only hit some snow flurries. The San Juan Skyway, (U.S. 550, or the Million Dollar Road) is truly a scenic wonder. We stopped here and there. Most notably in the marvelous little valley town of Ouray ("you-ray"). This town is deep in a valley, but still at about 9,000 feet. We hiked up a steep trail to see the Cascade Falls. It's been quite dry, so the falls were but a small stream and spray.
A shot from a state park near the north end of the San Juan Skyway (U.S. 550) where we pulled off just to clean our windows. Them's the mountains we're about to cross. The teepee? Park silliness, I guess
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Cascade Falls in Ouray, CO ("You-Ray"). Years of drought have reduced it to a trickle.
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Cascade Falls, not so much a trickle when you climb up to it
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My shy wife flags down a passing vehicle and asks for directions.
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Another shot of Cascade falls, showing foliage and banded rocks. I took about 30 shots of these falls, this is the 3rd and last on this site.
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A grand old building agains grander, older structure (geology) in Ouray, CO
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Rock shop in Ouray where I bought some old teeth.
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Looking back from the road out of Ouray, CO
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The year-round hot spring in Ouray was closed for the week for cleaning! That was a bummer. But Karen is soaking in a hot spring here near Durango as I write this.

I'm not sure how to get across the view. "Wowie-zowie!" is what Karen said as we entered the Skyway with its layered mountains, scudding clouds, vivid yellow trees, and occasional sheep.
This suspiciously yellow stream is high in the San Juan mountains. I didn't try to taste this "pure mountain water"
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Looking down from Red Mountain Pass 11,108' up along the "Million Dollar Road"
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Self Portrait at the Red Mountain Pass
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A reassuring view of mountains and the road disappearing there-around.
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I'd never understood white, plastic Christmas trees until we stopped at Coalbank Pass (10,640').
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We drove over 3 passes, all over 10,500 feet. The air still seems thin to me up there when I walk around to take pictures. But a few hours later I feel almost normal.
A natural mineral hot spring, piped across the road to this tall and growing structure
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View from our room in Durango, CO. We are leaving those high peaks behind, but we are still in mountainous surroundings.
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If any of you get the chance to come out to Durango, you have to eat at Sweeney's, next to the Days Inn on 550 a few miles North of Durango. The food is excellent, but the hand-made wooden, iron, and stained glass architectural design of the place is worth the stop. The place is a favorite among locals.

Pictures: I took 97 shots today (340 so far, this trip), so count yourselves lucky.
Next: From Durango to Cortez, CO

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