Ouray, in the San Juan’s of Southwestern Colorado, has such spectacular mountain scenery it is often called the “Little Switzerland of America. And like Grindelwald of Switzerland, one can walk from a hotel/condo to amazing trails, surrounded by large mountain peaks.
The local hiking club, Ouray Trail Group, has published “Hiking Trails of Ouray County” that describes 40 trails in the area. It overlays precise trails on USGS Maps and contains a user-friendly guide to the difficulty, distance, elevation, and time.
Because of very hot weather and fires in the Colorado summer of 2002, fireworks were canceled, Pikes Pike was closed to hikers, and smoke could be seen along the eastern side of the Rockies from Ft Collins to Colorado Springs. Ouray was spared from the fires, but the annual Hard Rock 100-mile race was canceled. The Hard Rock 100 mile race, like many other ultra-marathon runs in the U.S., is the epitome of athletic adventure on one’s feet. And, way beyond my “pay grade”.
With the race being canceled, some runners went on a hike with a long-time Ouray resident, Rick Trujillo, geologist and former multiple winner of many high altitude races and feats. He led a fit band of folks on an extreme day hike on July 6 that I was fortunate to join – I say “fortunate” only because it is good to be humbled once in awhile. I lagged along in the company of some guys really in good shape. Of the eight, 6 were over 50, including a 62 and 70 year old. There are no excuses for age. I was 58.
It would be difficult to duplicate this hike without Rick’s GPS, that he used to track a route he had done years ago, and apparently few people have ever done. We went over an 8-hour “hike” that went up 4600 feet and down 7200 feet over 11 miles. From a ride to the Bimetallist trail (10,400 start) we went to a ridge (12,000) dropping to Senator basin (11,700) to Potosi shoulder (12,600). Then Weehawken basin (11,500) to Whitehouse Mountain summit (13,500′) and back through a series of meandering declining hill tops to Oak Creek trail and the eventual trail head at Ouray (7800).
Very little of this was on trails and it was fun traversing and glissading down couloirs, moving fast among alpine wildflowers, startling some elk, hopping over fallen trees, gasping for air on the steep inclines, dodging some rocks on the approach to the Whitehouse summit, and realizing this hike wasn’t done by many people.
Update: December 2008: Check out Runner’s World magazine (Jan 2009 edition) for a large article on Rick Trujillo:
Update: Rick Trujillo died in 2015 at 61.
TWILIGHT OF THE MOUNTAIN GOD
“Rick Trujillo trains in the Rockies, not on the roads. He chases elk, not PRs. He fuels up on Oreos, not PowerBars. He loves running. But is it possible to love it too much?”
By Steve Friedman