San Juan Mountains

I’ve decided I’m tired of seeing absolutely phenomenally beautiful sights while on the trail and never being able to photograph them well. So, I’ve decided it’s time to improve my photography skills. I’ve bought a new camera, a couple of new tripods, some nice lenses, and I’ve been teaching myself to use the full features of the equipment. But I still need to know how to find good pictures.

To help with that, at the end of September 2019, Tracy and I drove to Colorado for a photography workshop in the San Juan Mountains outside of Ouray, CO.

Of course, the drive from Alabama to the Rockies is always pretty miserable, but we’re getting more and more used to it…since we’ve done it at least once a year for five years.

We eventually arrived at our hotel for a few days in Ridgway, CO. For some reason, either I had never paid attention to Ridgway when we drove through, or it had changed a lot, but we really liked Ridgway. The downtown was nice and quaint, the town is surrounded by mountains, there were walking trails alone the river, and it was just a really pretty place.

The photography workshop was a little intimidating because it felt like I simply didn’t have the same experience level as the others. But I was determined to learn something, so I paid attention and tried to absorb some useful information.

So, for a couple of days, I got up before sunrise and stayed out after dark taking photos with the workshop, while Tracy relaxed around town and did some drives. I think I got some good photos, and I feel like I learned some useful information…we’ll see if it sticks.

After the workshop, Tracy and I headed out for a few days to enjoy the backcountry of the Fall in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

Our first stop was Blue Lakes trail at Mt. Sneffels Wilderness. Somehow, we’ve never really done much in Mt. Sneffels, and this seemed like a great place. We arrived at the trailhead on Monday, September 30th. It was pretty late the evening when we got there, so we just found a nice campsite near the trailhead and slept in the truck. It was a little bit challenging to sleep in the truck, though, because I was going to meet the guys for a canyoneering trip in Utah after this trip, so I was hauling a lot of my own extra gear, as well as a bunch of gear for the guys. But we managed to assemble the puzzle, and we camped inside the truck for the night after walking around the nice Forest Service roads.

The next day we got up early and did a dayhike to Upper Blue Lakes at the base of Mt. Sneffels. This trail was absolutely beautiful. Once you climb above treeline, the views are incredible. The color of lower Blue Lake earns its name, and we spent an hour just sitting there, enjoying the beauty and solitude.

When then climbed up to the upper lakes, with great views down to the lower lake, as well as great views of Mt Sneffels. We considered climbing up to Blue Lakes Pass, but the wind was howling, so we felt it wasn’t a very good idea that day, so we headed back down to the truck. We only saw a handful of people on the trail, so it was a great day.

We spent the night in Ouray, then got up in the morning and drove up to Yankee Boy Basin. This is a rough 4×4 road, but it was also beautiful and worth the effort.

Then it was south towards Durango. We ended up at Hermosa Creek, and hiked into the evening on Upper Hermosa Creek. This was also a beautiful hike. It’s almost like it’s hard to find a bad trail in Colorado. The fall colors were great, the open meadows were great, and we had the trail to ourselves.

We camped that night near the trailhead, and I tried to get some Milky Way photos, but the maxing moon was too bright.

The next morning, we drove around some, and then headed back north. We stayed the night in Grand Junction. I picked up Aaron at the airport late that night, and the next morning I dropped Tracy off at the airport for her return trip home. After that, I began the second half of the trip in Utah.

I know I sound like a broken record, but this was a great trip. It was so relaxing to see the San Juans in full fall color splendor. This is one of the best places in the Rockies for fall colors, and it didn’t disappoint. I have seen better colors up here, but it was still great. We also did several new hikes that were great, and it always makes me happy to find new trails that I enjoy.

So, yeah, as always, I want to spend my life in the Rockies.

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Blue Lakes

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Blue Lakes 38.035858, -107.807465 San Juan Mountains Report (Directions)

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