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Silverton Wildflowers

Friday – Sunday, July 18-20, 2014

Diane and I decided to spend a relaxing weekend in the San Juan Mountains around Silverton camping, hiking, peak-bagging, driving high mountain passes and looking for wildflowers. We left after work on Friday and headed over Red Mountain Pass to the South Fork of Mineral Creek to look for a campsite. This used to be my go-to camping area near Silverton, but I couldn’t believe how many people were camped along here this weekend. It was ridiculous! As we were driving back out to find somewhere else to camp, Diane spotted a nice secluded campsite along the creek that no one was at, so we setup camp there since it was getting late. We didn’t have time to get anywhere else for sunset, so I just took a few photos over the South Fork of Mineral Creek behind out camp as the sun went down for the day.

South Fork Mineral Creek by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Behind Camp by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to catch the sunrise up at Clear Lake we found that someone else had setup their campsite not more than 20 feet away from us. This will probably be my last time camping in this area since it’s become very crowded. I’ll just have to go to some of the more secluded campsites I know about in the future.

There were plenty of wildflowers to be found up by Clear Lake.

Field of Yellow Flowers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Morning Flowers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Columbines at Clear Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Nice reflections on the calm water, too.

Mirror by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Clear Lake Sunrise by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When the sun was up we drove back down to Silverton and had a good breakfast at the Brown Bear Cafe. Then we drove back up towards Red Mountain Pass and turned off on the trail to Black Bear Pass.

The sign at Black Bear Pass looking over Ingram Basin towards Telluride, which isn’t visible from this angle.

Black Bear Pass by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we reached the pass we parked the Jeep and hiked to the top of Trico Peak (13,321 feet). It wasn’t a long hike, but it was a little steep. The name ‘Trico’ comes from the fact that the peak is located at the place where three counties meet: Ouray, San Miguel and San Juan Counties.

Trico Peak from Black Bear Pass.

Trico Peak by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Nice light on Ingram Peak and Imgram Basin below.

Ingram Basin by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking back over Black bear Pass towards Paek T10 (13,477 feet). You can see my Jeep parked below and a few other vehicles over by the pass.

Black Bear Pass View by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane on her way up Trico Peak.

Coming Up by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Me at the summit.

On Trico Peak by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane at the summit. This was her first 13er. There were nice views of the Sneffels Range from up here.

Diane on Trico Peak by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Back at my Jeep with Trico Peak in the background.

Trico Peak & Jeep by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After our hike to the top we got back in the Jeep and drove over to Porphyry Gulch to check on the wildflowers. We found plenty!

Porphyry Gulch by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Here’s a quick iPhone photo of Diane sitting among the flowers waiting for me to take some photos.

Among Flowers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The scenery in Porphyry Gulch is just beautiful. There are a few nice waterfalls and plenty of wildflowers this time of the year.

Porphyry Gulch Falls by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Levels by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Porphyry Wildflowers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Along the Creek by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A view inside of a snow bridge over the creek.

Snow Bridge by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Lower Fall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Porphyry Falls by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Small Fall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Cascades by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Cascade Flowers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I spent a while taking photos in Porphyry Gulch before heading back down. On our drive back down to the highway we ran into a little bit of traffic…

Holy Sheep! by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Don’t Eat All the Wildflowers! by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We headed back to Silverton for an early dinner, but we took the scenic drive back by heading over Corkscrew Pass.

View back from Corkscrew Pass towards Red Mountain #2.

Corkscrew Pass by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After reaching the pass we took the short side trip to Gray Copper Gulch so I could show Diane one of my favorite places in the area.

I just love the view of Red Mountain #1 and the reflections in the small tarns found here.

Gray Copper Gulch by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Gray Copper Gulch Tarn by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Clouds Reflected by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After our early dinner at Handlebars we drove up nearby Kendall Mountain to take in the views. The afternoon monsoon storms had moved in and the light was pretty nice.

Distant Rain by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we were almost to the top at the large overlook I hoped to stop at, there was one small snow drift left across the road. I thought I would have no problems driving through it, but I was wrong! As I tried to back up out of the snow I started to slide off the road. There wasn’t a big drop off near the edge or anything, but it was still a little uncomfortable, so I hooked up my winch to a nearby outcrop of rock to make things a little more comfortable for me.

Sliding Off the Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When my Jeep was back on the road again, there were still plenty of great views up here to enjoy.

Crepuscular Rays by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Breaking Through by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Spotted Light by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Kendall Gulch by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Storm Light by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

View through a large notch along the road on our way back down.

Notch View by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Kendall Mountain Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Kendall Gulch Light by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Since there was still time before sunset, we drove back over to Mineral Basin along the Black Bear Pass trail to photograph more wildflowers I had noticed when we were there earlier in the day.

Columbines & Waterfall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Red Mountain #3 lit up in the late afternoon light. I’ve always wondered if that road that goes to the top is still open? One of these days I’m going to have to go find out.

Red Mountain #3 by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Inside by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Pink & Green by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

While I was taking photos of the flowers, Diane used my other camera with my macro lens to take a few photos. She took the following three photos that turned out very nice.

Detail by Diane, on Flickr

Cow Parsnip by Diane, on Flickr

This one kind of reminded me of fireworks exploding the the sky.

Fireworks by Diane, on Flickr

A few nice clouds in the sky as the sun sets for the day.

Evening Clouds by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

On Sunday morning I decided to skip catching the sunrise so we could sleep in a little bit later. When we did get up I took one photo over the creek behind our campsite before we started to take down camp and load up the Jeep.

Sunday Morning by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When the Jeep was loaded we had a quick breakfast and then took off for Ophir Pass. We stopped at the pass so we could hike the short and steep trail up to Crystal Lake.

A nice reflection on Crystal Lake this clear morning.

Crystal Lake by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After the short hike we continued down from the pass through Ophir and made our way to Telluride. We left town on Tomboy Road which would take us up to Imogene Pass, one of my favorite drives in Colorado!

Diane’s first time at Imogene Pass, the second highest pass in Colorado at 13,114 feet.

Diane at Imogene Pass by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we reached the pass, Diane stayed behind while I attempted to climb Chicago Peak (13,385 feet). Even though it was a little later in the morning than I would normally attempt to hike a peak, I figured since it was only about a mile away I would have plenty of time. There were some clouds building when I started, but nothing that worried me, yet. The terrain was a little rougher than most of the peaks I have attempted before and there was some scrambling in large talus and boulder fields below the top of the ridgeline in places, but nothing too difficult.

Chicago Peak in the light in the distance as I hike along the ridge.

Chicago Peak by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Narrow ridge to the peak.

Chicago Ridge by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

View from the top of Chicago Peak towards the Sneffels Range.

Chicago Peak View by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Just as I reached the top of Chicago Peak I heard the first clap of thunder off in the distance. I quickly took a few photos and turned right around to start my descent back to the pass.

There was a storm off in the distance that was starting to get closer and I could hear more thunder in the distance that was starting to get closer. You can see the storm in this photo looking back towards Imogene Pass from Chicago Peak.

Outrunning the Storm by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

As you have probably guessed, I made it back to the Jeep without any issues. We drove over to the Red Mountains Overlook for a quick lunch and then finished the descent down to Ouray. From there it was an uneventful drive back home through a few rainstorms. We had a great weekend in the San Juan Mountains and look forward to many more.

>> Silverton Wildflowers Photo Gallery

One Comment

  1. Amanda
    Amanda July 27, 2014

    We just missed you guys! We were camped off Porphyry Gulch for three days but left on the 17th. Your photos put mine to shame (

    Porphyry was a great place to camp. I recommend that over Mineral Springs. We camped at MS two years ago and it was crazy packed then too.

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