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Ouray Recon 2001
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Ouray is so beautiful, nestled in colorful high cliff walls of a canyon, with so many trails nearby. The town is a historic tourist town now, originally a mining town when it was founded in 1875. Lots of neat shops, some good restaurants, nice hotels--we stayed at the Ouray Hotel which is the 2nd story above some shops and is lower cost than others but offers some primo living quarters with some real character. Amy and I highly recommend Common Grounds coffee shop for breakfast and lunch. We fueled up on superb double tall iced latte's and great breakfasts every morning.

First morning we met up with everyone and had a huge crowd that decided not to split up until we got to Animas Forks. All ELEVEN vehicles ran Engineer Pass into Animas (James, Toby, Adam, Adam's family, Stewart, Jerry, me, JC, Sandy, Krista, Flint). JC's rig experienced some overheating going up the narrow switchbacks so we took a break and then continued on. We actually didn't make it to the top of Engineer Pass but bypassed it slightly and then took some time in Animas Forks. We had a great time thanks to Toby's great trail leading.

A few people decided to head into Silverton directly, the rest of us went back up via scenic California Gulch which unfortunately was obscured by cloud cover and rain. We reached the steep switchbacks and Flint had some problems with a shortcut but pretty soon we were on the final steep climb to California Pass at 12,900+ feet where we parked and enjoyed the amazing panoramic views. Then back down to crystal blue Lake Como (sorry if I called it Clear Lake to anyone on the trail), then back up again to Corkscrew gulch where we all got to test out our brakes. I guess JC had some problems getting those 36's slowed down but managed ok. His work on Backhoe's brakes was stellar and I had no problems whenever I had to use 'em. We all got down the hill and into the wooded section in no time and before long we were back at 550 ready to head into Ouray again, a big parade of FSJs.

The next day we (Hari, Charlie, me, JC, Jerry, Sandy, Krista, Flint) met up with Toby and Lucinda at the trailhead of Clear Lake trail and ran off on one spur to a scenic valley with some old buildings. We lined up the FSJs for some photos and played in the creek and took lots of photos, then headed back up to Clear Lake which is an beautiful alpine lake something like 12,700' above sea level nestled in a bowl in the mountains. Hari had joined us today and also had some overheating problems despite some tinkering. But we all made it up and enjoyed more knockout scenery.

After some food we headed back down through the woods and out, and ran into some good rain. Several folks opted to head back, and a few of us went into Silverton to run Minnie Gulch trail. Along about halfway into it, we heard Stewart, Adam and James on the radio. They had done Poughkeepsie that morning and decided to recon Minnie. We passed them coming out about halfway into the trail, then we headed further in and made it to the very end of the trail, enjoyed the scenery of the wide open colorful gulch, then headed back, aired up, said our goodbyes and got back to Ouray.

Monday Amy and I had are spectacular hot air baloon ride. Wow, what an amazing experience to float almost motionless above the earth with only heated gas holding you aloft. The view was amazing. I took plenty of photos, but it doesn't do it justice. Our aeronaut pointed out peaks 60 miles away, Ouray nestled in the crevice of the mountains, the resevoir in Ridgeway, Dennis Weaver's house, and much more. We got to pick leaves off the tops of trees(!), branches of sage 1' off the ground, we played "boat" by hovering at the level of a nearby lake, skimmed the earth and hovered a thousand feet above it. All this followed by the traditional champagne toast (and a very nice breakfast including some super pastries from a local bakery).

We met up with Toby and Lucinda and JC and Ken before they headed out of town. We goofed off in town doing some shopping and such for awhile, had lunch, had some ice cream (but no peppermint, darnit), then hit the road about 1:30 or so and had smooth sailing all the way into Denver. With all the reports of horrendous traffic, we were VERY thankful to have left late enough to miss most of it, although things did get kind of tight after Conifer. And there were plenty of stupid, crazy drivers out.

So all in all, a superb, successful weekend. We scouted out several more trails and MarkH was able to get us FREE facilities for next year's shindig which will save us a lot of money. We got in some good discussions about next year, and got to find out what it is really like having 10 people on the trail at the same time.

We had a lot of vehicles seriously overheat (like, 250+) so we will need to be prepared for that to happen repeatedly next year. We will probably have some carburetor and vapor lock issues as well. We found that a group of 10 can really piss off people stuck behind 'em, or those stuck coming the other way who have to pull over. For this reason and to keep the group together and in communication, we will want to cap the trail runs at 10 vehicles only.

I'd say the weekend really paid off and we'll be able to put on a really fun event next year. Michael

Michael Shimniok

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