It rained/drizzled almost the whole day. Even through the mist, we caught a glimpse of the beautiful mountains, lakes, and glaciers. We also saw lots of wildlife—guanaco, fox, ostrich, pink flamingo, and other birds. Guanaco is a camelid native to South America. They are very cute.
Posts tagged ‘wilderness’
Unable to speak Spanish is very inconvenient. Most people don’t speak English, even the people in the tourist business. The Google Translate works for simple phrases but doesn’t work well for conversation.
I booked a tour bus ticket to Laguna Esmeralda (starting 10:30am and ending 4pm) via the hotel. There is one lady who speaks English. Later, another lady came by and tried to talk to me. After struggling for a while, I understood that the bus wouldn’t come until 12. By coming back at 4pm, how could I finish a hike that requires at least 4 hours? Via Google translate, she told me something like I could communicate with the driver to set the return time (now I know this is what she said, but at the time, it wasn’t clear). I was so frustrated that I canceled the ticket and walked to the bus station, hoping someone there could explain clearly.
No, the lady selling the ticket doesn’t speak English either. She tried to tell me the same thing that I could communicate with the driver to set the return time. If I had so much trouble understanding them, how could it be easier to talk to the driver? I imagined the bus left me and I was stranded at the trailhead. It was cold and windy at daytime (around 45F, but felt chilly). How cold it would be at night?
As I struggled with the decision if I should go and take the chance, a young couple showed up. The girl can speak English, and they were going to the same place! I was elated. I asked her the questions, and she promised to keep me informed. There was another couple from Canada who couldn’t speak Spanish. We did part of the hike together.
Laguna Esmeralda is prettier than the pictures I’ve seen. And the weather was really nice. I loved it.
By the time we returned to the parking lot, the young couple wanted to take another hike in the area. It takes about 1.5 hours, and the bus would pick us up at 7pm (they called the driver). It was 5:20pm. Well, no big deal. We started hiking. Up and up it went a steep hill. In an hour, we were so much higher than the other trail that we could see Laguna Esmeralda in the distance.
The trail became so muddy and wet that my shoes were completely soaked through. But we made it back at 7pm. And the bus showed up just in time.
Without the young couple, I wouldn’t have this adventure. Certainly I wouldn’t be at ease and enjoyed the whole time.
This hike (7 miles round trip, 2,430ft elevation gain) visits two beautiful lake basins, traverses through meadows full of wildflowers, and passes numerous waterfalls along the way.
It was sunny and warm when we started. Half-an-hour later clouds moved in, and it started raining. As we were still hiking up, the rain turned to sleet. Soon the ground was covered by ice pellets.
Both of us were prepared. But even with a wool hat, gloves, jacket, and raincoat, I was freezing cold by the time we reached Ice Lake. Dark clouds hovered above us. Loud thunders boomed around us. We didn’t have any luxury to enjoy the gorgeous lake before heading back. I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture of the lake for fear of ruining my camera.
Half way down the mountain the rain and the sleet stopped. A ray of sunlight peeked through the clouds and lit up the dramatic peaks around the area. What a nice way to conclude the San Juan Mountains adventure!
Thank you, David!
Today’s hike turned out to be easier than that of the first day. I still huffed and puffed, and we made it to 12,800ft, but the slope seemed less steep and I didn’t stop “every 30 seconds” as David joked. The view from the top was equally breathtaking, and the experience was no less memorable.
Perched at 11,600ft, the OPUS Hut is an eco-friendly, European style lodge. In the summer, one can drive to within ¼ mile of the hut, but in the winter, the road is closed, and one has to take a 3.5-mile hike to reach it. Breakfast, afternoon soup, and dinner are provided to the guests.
It has solar powered lighting and running water collected from the rain. There are indoor composting toilets, but no shower. A sauna room with a bucket of hot water is a refreshing way to clean up after a sweaty hike.
We indeed took a sweaty hike (5.5 hours). As an experienced rock climber and ice climber, David is like a mountain goat. Although I’m a pretty good hiker, I huffed and puffed and felt my lungs were going to explode at the high altitude (11,000ft-13,000ft). The view from the top was breathtaking. I was so glad he encouraged me to keep going until it was time to get down. 🙂
The slope was so steep that I simply couldn’t handle it. We had to find a longer, but less scary way for me. And even so, I had to hold his hand in a death grip when we inched across a crumbling ledge hundreds of feet above ground and when we stumbled downhill, racing against the threat of rain. Thunders boomed all around us by then, and drops of rain indeed fell on us. Luckily the heavy downpour held off until we returned to the Hut. If we were five minutes late, we would be drenched. The afternoon soup tasted heavenly.
Sitting amongst the craggy summits, the Hut is a remarkable place to visit. And the adventure I experienced with David will be one of the fondest memories in my life.
Originally established by miners chasing silver and gold in the surrounding mountains, Ouray is a hiker’s paradise. Miles of trails take one to mountain ridges, lush forests, deep gorges, waterfalls, and old mining sites. Although we had only a few hours, thanks to David’s knowledge of the area, we hiked to some of those beautiful places.
PS. Hot spring is another big attraction to this quaint tourist town. 🙂
El Malpais National Monument is located in western New Mexico. Its name means Badlands in Spanish. Barren, volcanic field covers much of the park. La Ventana is one the largest natural arches in New Mexico.