Adventure Riding through the San Juan Mountains of CO

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Day 2, Ouray to Rico

After some coffee and breakfast in camp, we we’re ready to ride!


Alpine Loop

We rode through Ouray and headed toward the Alpine Loop trail via the 550, also called the Million Dollar Highway. We we’re taking this route to Silverton for lunch.

When we hit the dirt, there was zero warm up. That section of the Alpine Loop is steep and rugged! It’s a rocky Jeep trail that climbs quickly from the highway. About 200 feet in I almost crashed. When my back tire hit a big step, the bike bucked and went sideways. I kept it upright and somewhat straight but it made me realize I needed to seriously that a look at my rear spring pre-load and tire pressure when we came to a smooth spot! Steve and Brian we’re like WTF! They thought the trail was like this the entire way and Steve was thinking of excuses to throw in the towel early, hit the highway, and meet us in Silverton. I assured them it got easier.


There were a couple more rocky sections, but it became a smooth road like I promised offering gorgeous views along the way.


Once we stopped and took a break I looked at my tire pressure. 41.5 psi! LOL

Pro Tip

Always double check your tire pressure after transporting your bike up or down a few thousand feet in elevation!


Then I adjusted my rear shock. It was sagged out with all the extra weight of my luggage, therefore it was just a pogo stick with very little dampening since it was so far down in it’s stroke.


After the adjustments, my 690 was a whole different bike. It was a huge improvement. As we continued on towards Silverton, Steve was happy with the smoother terrain. That GS is a handful in the rough stuff.


A little ways down the road, we came upon this ATV that was destroyed and stripped of a ton of parts. I couldn’t tell if it tumbled down the mountain or if it was stolen and dumped.


Denver Lake



We passed several mountain bikers. I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to pedal up these passes at this elevation!


Several more scenic views along the way as we approached Eureka.


Eureka Gulch

Eureka Gulch, an old mining operation from the late 1800’s.


We passed by some llamas.


Animas River

Riding along a dirt trail that followed the Animas River, we passed a small waterfall, an ATV tour and some old ore carts.


We arrived in Silverton to grab some lunch.


The Brown Bear Cafe was a solid choice the last time I was here so I went with what I knew was good. It was interesting to see they had a storage room below. A cafe worker opened up a door in the floor and they walked down a set of stairs to a basement. Interesting.


Before we left Silverton, we walked around a little bit and grabbed a coffee. These towns always have other adventure riders passing through and you see the coolest stuff.

Let’s Meet the Sheriff

Before leaving town I wanted to top off my fuel. We got stuck behind an old army truck transporting a Willys Jeep in a rather interesting way. He was taking forever to pull into the gas station. The guy in front of me, also in an old Willys, acted like he owned the town and was yelling at him to “keep it movin”. We sat there for a while longer, stopped in the middle of the road, before I decided to simply ride across a 2 foot section of shoulder which was trampled grass and dirt leading into the gas station. I didn’t think it was a big deal. The guy in the hat in the Jeep was looking at me weird and walked over to me. He pulled out a badge and mentioned he was Sheriff Conrad and that I better watch what I do “in these parts” and that driving across that grass was illegal. He was cool to give me a warning but he definitely looked at us like unwanted outsiders and gave me, what seemed like, an excessive angry attitude. I explained that there were other tracks from others doing the same and I didn’t think it would do any harm and I apologized. He didn’t seem to care about my story and just walked away. I found that strange.

Ophir Pass

After fueling up and getting scolded, we took the 550 down to Ophir Pass. This is another very scenic valley and pass connecting Silverton and Ophir.


At the top, we stopped for a quick pic or two.


Looking down the other side of the pass…


The entire mountain is made out of shale type rock. It is very loose.


Towards the bottom it turns into dirt and lush trees.


Passing through the small town of Ophir, population 159.


Trout Lake

We took the 145 highway up to Trout Lake to do some sight seeing and exploring. Trout Lake is amazingly.



By now it was late afternoon and we were thinking it might be a good time to scout out a campsite for the night. We headed towards Rico and took a dirt road into National Forest. It opened up into large, green valleys surrounded by pines and evergreens. 


By the looks of those skies, I’d say it was going to rain.


We found a spot that was perfect, but there was a Chevy Suburban parked right next to it. It was just a fisherman there for the day. We chatted with him for a bit and he told us we were ok and that he’d be leaving soon. The spot was all ours! It fit our requirements of 22 feet from water. We came up with this “perfect camp condition” back in Idaho.


I marked out 22 feet with pinecones. Boom! Look at that. haha


“22 ft from Water” Camp

After we set up our tents to claim our spot, we relaxed for a bit.



Then we rode into Rico for more supplies (beer and whiskey).


BMW panniers make for awesome ice chests!


Rico was an interesting little town. I have no idea what handipped ice cream is. At first I thought it read handicapped ice cream. I was really confused!


We couldn’t pass up a playground photo opportunity.


Heading back to camp. The weather was great. It was a perfect night to camp off the bikes.


Let’s Party

Back at camp, the whiskey and beers began to flow.


We started making dinner and  the shenangans quickly ensued. Brian and I opted for the simpler Mountain House freeze dried meals while Steve got fancy with his quinoa, rice and Spam. Spam boy!


When the sun went down, we didn’t expect much of a sunset since we were tucked down in a valley below the horizon. Instead we were treated to some intense skies popping with colorful clouds!



This is the life! Cheers.


When the sun went down, we needed a fire. There was a small amount of wood that we gathered in the area that did the job for a little while, but we needed more and tried splitting down the big logs that were there. As you can see, we did more laughing than chopping. The entire logs ended up going in the fire.


We closed out the night with a good fire, some more whiskey and some #hammocklife. We joked and talked like “Jennyyyy” for way too long. We were cracking up.




Follow Pete:

Do more with less! That is my motto lately. I love getting outdoors and exploring new places, usually on my KTM motorcycle. My wife, Anna, and I recently bought and built out a Sprinter van to do more of the things we love. Traveling and seeing new places is always at the top of our to-do list.

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