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Trail ride to Colorado - Silver Jack and Horse Ranch Park. (Long post. Lots of pictures.)

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Trail ride to Colorado - Silver Jack and Horse Ranch Park. (Long post. Lots of pictures.)
  • We had a wonderful trail riding/camping trip in Colorado during the first two weeks of July '09. We spent the first week in the Silver Jack area of the Uncompahgre Wilderness, which is located southwest of Gunnison. On our first night there, we had this view of the moon rising over the mountains.

    This is our camp. What a beautiful view greeted us during our stay here.

    East Fork of the Cimarron

    We had dark clouds move in and threaten rain several times on this trip, which is common in the Rockies during the summer months. On this particular day, the rain clouds moved on to another area and left us alone to enjoy the day.

    We had great views of several distant waterfalls during our rides.


    We had great views everywhere we looked while on the East Fork Trail.


    Creek crossing

    Our good friends, Pris and Dave

    David and I

    This old mine had stood here for many, many years until an avalanche a few years ago wiped it out.

    Along the Silver Jack Reservoir trail


    David and I were woken up early on our fourth day at Silver Jack by a knock on our trailer door. Sandi told us all of the horses had ran through the electric corrals and 4 of them were running up the road towards the wilderness. The other two were not in sight. We put some sweats on real quick and began our hunt for 6 horses. It took us about 2 hours to catch all of them. What fun! Fortunately, they all stayed fairly close to the road, so we didn't have to chase them up any big mountains. We will never know what happened to cause 6 horses to run through 3 electric corrals. We have speculated that something spooked them, or maybe one of the alpha horses ran one of the others through their corral and the others decided to follow. ??? Only they know, and they aren't telling.
    We didn't ride on this day. David stayed in camp because he was feeling puny. Mike, Sandi, and I took a truck trip over Owl Creek Pass to the small town of Ridgway. This is a view of Chimney Rock that can be seen from the gravel road that we traveled over.

    Parts of the movie, True Grit, were filmed in this area and Chimney Rock can be seen in the background of some of the shots, such as this one.
    After eating lunch at the "True Grit Restaurant" in Ridgway, we drove back by way of Montrose and picked up some elecric corral fencing parts at a farm supply store. Along the 20 mile gravel road back into the Silver Jack area, we came upon some ranchers moving their cattle to another area. They gave us permission to slowly make our way through them.

    On our last day of riding in this area, we made our way up to the Middle Fork trail. This required riding up the Middle Fork Road about 5 miles to get to the trail head. This gravel road also had great views along the way.

    Before we got to the trail head, we road up a short side trail to view this waterfall up close. Can you feel the mist as the water cascades down?

    Double waterfall on the Middle Fork Trail.

    While we were riding along the trail, we met a group of women hikers making their way back to the trail head. We chatted with them awhile and they informed us that there were some rangers up ahead of us that were working on the trail. They had the trail blocked in the area they were working. There was a lot of downfall on this trail and the rangers were actually cutting trees down in hopes of keeping the trail clear after future storms. We rode a short distance more and decided to head back down the trail. When we got to the trail head, we found the women hikers stranded with 2 flat tires and only 1 spare. The did have AAA, but no cell phone reception in the mountains. The guys helped them change one tire and while doing that, the rangers also came back down to the trail head. The rangers agreed to give one of the hikers a ride into Gunnison so she could get one of the tires repaired. Later that evening just before dark, when we were back in camp, we heard a honk and saw the ladies driving back down the road. They hollered "Thank You" as they drove past. We actually had a card in the mail when we got back home, thanking the guys again for helping them change one of their flats.
    The next morning, we packed up camp and made our way towards our next destination. Before we got back to the highway, we came upon 4000 sheep being herded to their next grazing area.

    The next leg of our trail riding journey took us to Horse Ranch park which is located near Crested Butte, CO, which is a ski resort community in the winter and known as the Wildflower Capital in the summer. We had ridden here before in '04, which was the very first long distance trail riding trip that David and I had ever taken. We were looking forward to revisiting this very beautiful area again. The first time we were here, the camp had a few other campers, but was not crowded. We found the camp very full when we got to it this year. There was an article about this camp in the Western Horseman a few years ago, so we blame that for the crowded conditions this year.
    On our first day of trail riding in this area, we made our way up the trail and found great scenery along the way. This is David and myself. He is riding Frisco and I am on Dash.

    David and I were riding in the back of our group, so we didn't get to see it, but our friends who were in the lead, saw a grey wolf run across the trail in front of them.
    Along this trail, we rode past Lost Lake Slough.

    We rode to Dollar Lake on this day.

    We were making good time, so on the way back to camp we took a short side trip to Beckwith Pass. IMO, this is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen.

    The wildflowers were blooming in all of their glory as we made our way along this trail.



    This is a view of Horse Ranch Park that we could see from the trail. Our trailers can be seen on the left side of this picture.

    The next day, we made our way up to Lake Irwin.





    The trail to Lake Irwin is shared by bicycles. We met several groups of bike riders along the trail, so had to keep a sharp eye out for them. They ride down from the lake, which has an elevation close to 11,000 ft and sometimes are looking down and don't see us until they are right on us.

    David and I at a waterfall near Lake Irwin. We ate lunch near this area.

    While we were enjoying our break, a family who were visiting this area, came to see the horses. David let this little boy sit on Frisco. His little sister would pet the horses, but she didn't want any part of sitting in the saddle.

    We saw dark clouds bearing down on us as we headed back down the trail. Thunder and lightening rumbled and crashed around us as we rode back to camp. Needless to say, we didn't waste any time getting down the mountain.
    The next day was beautiful and we took a long ride on this day. We rode back up to Beckwith Pass, rode into the West Elk Wilderness, and rode towards Soap Creek Basin. We saw this very large ant hill along the trail.

    As we were making our way along the trail, we also saw a cinnamon colored bear hurrying away from us. He was above us as we were making our way to a rock slide area and also running among some trees when we first spotted him (or her), and I didn't have a chance to get a picture before he ran out of sight. Dang it!
    We had to ride through this large area of rock slide for several hundred feet. I am not sure exactly how far we rode through these rocks, but it seemed like it went on forever.

    We also spent a long time searching for this old cabin. Dave and Pris had been to it once before, but it is very well hidden. I wonder what stories it could tell. I don't know the story behind it, but the way it is hidden and built against a steep rock wall made us wonder if maybe in yearsd past, it was a hide out for bad guys.

    We rode almost 17 miles this day and decided to take a day off from riding the next day.
    Our horse were very tired and I am sure they appreciated a day of rest.

    The next day, we went into Crested Butte, ate lunch, did a little shopping, and picked up a few supplies.

    Our favorite hang out.

    Two of my favorite cowboys, waiting on their wives to finish shopping.

    Our last day on the trail, we decided to head towards a trail called "Oh Be Joyful", which is in the Raggeds Wilderness.
    One more waterfall.


    We met some other riders along the trail, and one of them agreed to take a group picture of us.

    Mike and Sandi decided to head back to camp, so David and I, Pris and Dave rode on towards our planned destination.

    Me and Dash

    On top of the world.

    Pretty landscape

    We rode to 10, 904 ft elevation and because it was getting late in the day, we decided to turn around and head back to camp before we actually made it all of the way to the Oh Be Joyful trail. I think we were getting close, but just didn't quite make it all of the way.
    We did have to ride around the side of a mountain on a side hill that was narrow and a little scarey. Of course, I didn't get a picture during the worst part of it. I was too busy hanging on!

    While riding back towards camp, I heard a strange sound. Pris was in front of me and she turned around and said, "did you hear that?" We both think it was a cat, and probably a very big cat that made that sound. We were riding through some aspens and there were some big rocks a few feet up the mountain on the other side of the trees, perfect setting for a mountain lion. I watched my back for quite a ways after that!
    We found this partial horse skeleton along the trail. We don't know the story behind these remains, but we all warned our horses that they better be good and not run away again, or this could happen to them.

    On our way back home, we spent a couple of nights camping at a horse motel near Howard, CO. We spent one day rafting on the Arkansas River through Bighorn Sheep Canyon. That was a lot of fun! Of course, I didn't try to take my camera along on that very wet ride, but we did go together and buy a photo CD that the rafting company took of us. I haven't had a chance to copy it yet, but I will put some pics of that ride on here in a few days.
    We rode on great trails and saw a lot of beautiful country on our ride this year. Believe it or not, I actually had a hard time narrowing my pictures down to post on here. Thanks for reading this long post. Hope you enjoyed it!
  • Thanks so much for the pics.  Oh my gosh would I love to have been there.  I went to colorado only once but loved it so much that if I could have i would have just stayed there.  I'm glad everything went smoothly for you guys and taht you have such wonderful friends to do that with.  The pics are just wonderful and so vivid, I could almost smell those pines again and head the wind wispering through them.  Thank you for sharing it really makes me want to go back.
  • wow great pics.  your post is like one of those travel  shows. beautiful mountains.
  • QH, I don't really know how you manage to do it but I'm always in awe of your rides.  Sure would like to meet up with you one day and take some time to ride/learn from you all.
    Take care and keep posting.
  • wow, beautiful pictures and looks like great fun!  Your name certainly fits.  Thank you so much for sharing.
  • What a great bunch of friends, human and equine!  You know I'm going to have to watch that movie now.   So.....how many days were you there?  I must have missed that.  You guys did a LOT of riding!  There's no way my barefoot boy would be able to handle that!
  • Hunter, we left  home on July 2 and spent two days on the road before arriving at Silver Jack. We got back home on July 18, but it didn't feel like we were gone that long. Time sure goes by fast when on vacation. It's always hard to go back to the MO heat and humidity after enjoying that cool mountain air for 2 weeks. Of course, going back to work isn't something that I really want to do either. I am never ready to go back to the real world, but that is just part of it, I guess.
  • Thank you for your wonderful photos and story.  I am leaving for a week at Horse Ranch park this coming Sunday and was researching what was in store and found your article and this site.  I can't wait to get there to see for myself this awesome beauty!  I will share my photos and experiences there when I return!