More than a Million Dollar Highway
The San Juan Mountains, Colorado
The Million Dollar Highway (Route 550) that connects Ouray, Silverton and Durango in the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado. The highway was originally built in 1883 as a simple toll way between Ouray and the now abandoned town of Ironton before eventually being extended to Silverton and Durango. It’s a narrow 2-lane highway winding through the Uncompaghre Gorge and climbing up Red Mountain Pass at 11,018′. As for the “Million Dollar Highway” name, there’s various theories behind the origin – Maybe the road cost a million dollars a mile to build, the land could have been purchased for a million dollars, or the fill dirt used to build the highway might contain one million dollars in gold ore. Whatever the story is, the scenery is really spectacular.
I have been living in Colorado for five years and had always heard that the Ouray/Telluride area was unofficially the most beautiful area in the state – the “Switzerland of Colorado.” And I now kind of agree. I’ve said before that I love Grand Teton National Park because of the in-your-face beauty of the massive, jagged range rising 6,000ft above the valley floor. And I was real young the last time I saw the Alps, but from what I can remember (and in seeing pictures), they’re the same way. And now even though I live surrounded by the Gore, Sawatch and 10-Mile Ranges, the San Juans reminded me more of the Tetons or the Alps than being a part of Colorado. All the other ranges I’ve seen, hiked, and photographed throughout Colorado do not have the same in-your-faceness (now I’m really just making up words) that the San Juans do.
Now I have over 32gb of RAW pictures to add to my to-do list and start sorting through. I shot a cloudless sunrise on the Dallas Divide, offroaded for about 9 hours up to 13,000 over a couple different passes over to Silverton, shot sunset over town after chillin’ at the Ouray Brewery for a bit, was at the top of Ophir Pass to shoot sunrise, drove up to the famous Bridalveil Falls in Telluride, and hung out in the golden Aspen groves of Spring Gulch and Last Dollar Road.
I didn’t intend on spending the majority of it in my car, but it happened. And if I did it again, I’m not sure if I’d do it differently. I got to see a lot of stuff.
Much more to come…