As a sort of early birthday present to me, we wanted to find some nice hot springs. Ouray was a great stop because they have several.
Ouray is a gorgeous little mountain town, encircled by mountains whose colors change depending on which direction you face.
We walked around, got ice cream, and admired the Victorian buildings. It was one of our favorite little mountain towns.
We thought it would be nice to get a drink at the bar at night. So Edd asked a cop in the sheriff’s office if we could park right in town. He said no. At the visitor center, a really nice woman told us how to get to the National Forest land just outside of town where we could stay.
We drove there, but the road got really rocky and steep. We couldn’t take the van any farther, so we parked just off the road on an overlook.
An hour later, a policeman came and parked up next to us. Coincidentally, he was the same guy whom Edd had asked about parking earlier. The cop said we were still on city land and normally couldn’t park there, but must’ve remembered Edd’s English charm and gave us permission to stay one night. Still, before he left, he ran our license plate number. Weird.
The cop’s suspicions were not too far off. Something weird was going on that night. Two guys in a van pulled up and parked behind us and then drove off in the middle of the night. At the overlook just below us, cars came and went. Drug deals? Dogging? We’ll never know.
Orvis Hot Springs
The next day was hot spring day. There are municipal hot springs right in Ouray but they’re doing construction on them. We wanted something more peaceful, so we went to Orvis Hot Springs north of town.
You can bathe a la nude at Orvis. No problem for us, right? We both lived in Spain where topless beaches and pools are the norm. We’ve been to nudist beaches in Mexico. In a Tbilisi bathhouse we had a good old naked scrubdown by an old man with a loofah.
But the shock value of seeing complete strangers naked hasn’t really worn off. And there they all were: old and young, fit and fat, black and white. One very shaved man strutted around and posed like Johnny Bravo, but everyone else just pottered around and engaged in light-hearted small talk.
After a while, Edd was floating around naked. I kept my swimsuit bottoms on. That’s free enough for me.
No cameras were allowed (logically), but the pools were very pretty. They were all at different temperatures and had flowery landscaping and little waterfalls. Mint was growing in the rocks. There was a sauna and a cold plunge pool. They even had a clothing-mandatory indoor pool. It must be a dream in the cold winter.
We went from pool to pool until we had to leave at 10pm. We sucked it up and paid to stay at an RV park down the road.
All in all, it was actually exhausting being in hot water all day, trying to make polite conversation and intense eye contact with people! Next year for my birthday, I could probably forego the “birthday suit” part.
The Million Dollar Highway
South from Ouray, you take the “Million Dollar Highway” towards Silverton. It was by far the scariest road we’ve been on. On the passenger side, I was staring over the edge of the cliff. I told Edd that I could see a car at the bottom of the ravine so that he would slow down 😜. Taken slowly, it was a really beautiful drive.
We stopped in Silverton, an old mining town which is now pretty much maintained for tourists. Edd was interested in their steam train, which you can ride all the way to Durango for a couple of hundred bucks.
Back on the highway, we had to take turns with oncoming traffic for a few hundred meters. Why? Because road workers were repairing a section of road that had FALLEN STRAIGHT OFF THE CLIFF. No joke.
The ubiquitous smell of burning brakes. The “in rememberance of” crosses placed on the curves of the highway. The fact that one entire lane had succumbed to a landslide. You think it would be enough to make people respect the might of the mountains. Yet several drivers sped past us, lingering next to the cliff edge as they passed. No doubt these are the same A-holes that carve their names into tree bark.
The mountains started to change from large rocks to thin compact layers, like tiramisu. Finally, we made our descent from the Rockies and into Durango. We were ready for a big glass of boxed wine.