Touring the San Juans of Colorado with a Newborn

Julie and I just moved to our new home in Minturn, CO as I took a new job in Vail and we just had our new arrival… by the name of Kruz. Kruz now a full month old has already had an exciting life. Being born at the foot of the Tetons in Jackson, WY, he moved to Colorado and even climbed his first 14’er by the time he was 1 week old.

Its now been a month with the little guy and we did his first camp outing. A long weekend tour of Colorado’s amazing San Juan mountains, overland style. This is also the first outing with our new travel vehicle, the FJ Cruier so it was a bit of a shakedown. What follows is a picture essay of sorts of the trip, sights, and the fun we had.

First night camping with the little man, near Cottonwood Pass and Taylor Park. He is a content little camper.

The new setup, replaced our FJ60 Land Cruiser we were traveling with this spring. Its an ’07 FJC with Atrac and rear diff lock. It has some goodies like Warn Bumpers and a Warn Powerplant up front. The trusty old Camping Labs RTT is on it currently along with some 33″ Good Year Duratracs for rubber.

We headed down to Lake City directly from the first night’s camp and hopped on the Alpine Loop towards Cinnamon Pass.

Julie and Kruz in American Basin at the foot of 14,000ft Handies Peak. The weather for our trip was a bit wet at times but made for dramatic lighting and great skies.

Descending back out of American Basin to rejoin the route up Cinnamon Pass.

On the way up Cinnamon Pass. A few vehicles were heading over despite it being early evening now. Note the Jeep a couple of switchbacks down.

After crossing the pass you drop down into the ghost town of Animas Fork. Rain showers were falling on the town as we worked our way down giving us this view.

We poked around Animas Fork a bit. A photographer’s dream, especially with the evening light.

We found a great spot at the edge of town to setup camp along a waterfall. What a backdrop. Temps were dropping steadily since we were camping at around 11,500 feet in elevation. Marmots cheeped and scurried about the area.

Cooking dinner out of the weather. I love to sleep out under the star as much as anyone, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate. In those cases, the merit of your setup is truly tested. Its nice to have the option to deploy the room off of the roof top tent to work as a kitchen when things get ugly.

Another bedtime selfie. Kruz did great, he was sleeping longer and better while we were camping on this trip than he does at home. hmmmm Julie unfortunately got some acute altitude sickness this night and was dealing with that.

After a leisurely morning at camp we headed down to the town of Silverton. One of my all time favorite little towns. It is a former mining town and besides the paved mainstreet, the rest of the streets are still dirt. It gets a bit touristy in the summer but it still has alot of charm. I was lusting after this ’62 Caddy.

An appropriate taxi in a town with such endless high alpine exploration opportunities.

We rolled out of Silverton and headed up Black Bear Pass. Many great vistas on the steep climb up. This is looking out at Red Mountain. The San Juan’s are rich mining history as well as vibrant colors.

It was at this point that weather started to roll in over the top of the pass. It would lend a mystic feel to the rest of the day and weekend for that matter.

Views all around us

Driving on the ceiling of the world.

Our other trip companion, the Chug or Pugwawa if you will.

This trip was also a shakedown of the new vehicle setup. Whenever possible I took the harder route options along the way. This is near the top of Black Bear Pass. Stopping all forward movement and letting the Atrac work, I was shocked at how easily we were climbing over things. Didn’t have to use the diff lock at all.

Another angle of the climb

Kruz and momma at the top of Black Bear Pass, just shy of 13,000 feet.

Weather still moving through at the top.

On the way down the otherside of Black Bear you descend down towards Telluride and some very sheer mountains. In the background you can see our route as it winds its way around this basin. You feel very tiny.

Along the section visible from the previous pic.

Now when people refer to the scariness of Black Bear Pass, they are referring to this next section. This section is referred to as the steps. A narrow shelf road was blasted out of the rock leaving a rugged and steep section along a sheer cliff. Add rain like we had here and it makes it even more nerve racking. People with a fear of heights don’t do well on this section.

Once through than you have the bottom fall out to the canyon. A series of extremely narrow switchbacks with equally tight turns brings you down to the bottom. Most turns require two sets of eyes and multi point turns to execute.

The pano allows you to see the tightness of the turns though it takes away alot of the sense of steepness.

The road brings you down along the impressive, Bridal Veil Falls. Family shot.

Randomly ran into my friend Alex and his amazing 70 series Troop carrier, along with Jeremy from Expedition Opps. After a quick diaper change we moved on.

Telluride is another Colorado classic.

After seeing bad weather moving in, we decided to head up Imogene Pass and camp and avoid weather moving the direction of where we originally were planning to go. As we climbed up out of Telluride, the surreal music of Thievery Corporation was echoing up from the bottom of the canyon where they were playing an outdoor concert.

We all had a great night’s sleep to the sound of rain showers on the tent and a river cascading 500 feet below our campsite at an old mine site. We were fortunate in our planning and avoided getting hit by some of the big Thunderstorms in the area. Chalk it up to 4g and watching the weather radar on our iphones.

Getting ready to move out for the day and climb the rest of Imogene Pass. The pass is shrouded in clouds in the background.

Kruz was ready to go

Ruins in the massive complex of the old Tomboy Mine site. We witnessed a HUGE landslide that ripped down from the top of the mountain directly behind this shot. Scary. Rain kept falling.

The final climb to the top of Imogene. 13,100ish feet. One of the highest passes in Colorado.

Pausing at the top for a 13,000ft diaper change while rain and sleet pelted the truck.

From just past the top of Imogene there is this great vantage point where you can look down into the valley towards Red Mountain Pass and Ouray. The cloud cover was heavy so our views were a bit limited.

Stopping for one last shot on the way down to Ouray. It was windy for sure. We hit Ouray, and grilled up some lunch while I aired the tires back up. It was a great little foray and first time camping trip for our new family. Looking forward to doing it again soon.

Categories: camping, Overlanding | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Touring the San Juans of Colorado with a Newborn

  1. Kim

    This is amazing. Your family is amazing.

  2. Joyce Kendrick

    Outstanding scenery, beautiful family and wonderful memories!

  3. Gary Bowen

    My thanks to you both for such a grand photo essay sharing with me an experience I’ll most probably never be able to do. I took special note of altitude sickness, as I suffered a bit of that at 9,500 feet last year. I’m not so sure I could handle much more who knows? Maybe if I like did the Michael Jackson float-along-walk? Naaah? I don’t know how…

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  5. Benny

    Congratulations on your new addition. Fabulous photos and blog. I found your website when I was researching Subaru as an overland vehicle.

  6. Billie Jo B

    This is such a beautiful Blog, thank you for sharing it with me. It is so wonderful to see all of your adventures with your little man Kruz. It was such a great way to have met your family and the new little man in your lives. Your blog and photos truly makes me want to get out there and adventure a little more myself. Thank you for the inspiration, if I get out your way, I’ll definitely hit you up for some suggestions. You definitely know some great places to get out to. – Feeling inspired. – Billie Jo

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