The most memorable day of the Colorado Fall Color Tour for me was the day we took on Imogene Pass, the 17 mile unpaved road connecting the mountain towns of Telluride and Ouray, Colorado. Accessible only to high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles and climbing to over 13,000 ft. in elevation, Imogene Pass is no Sunday drive. It is a long, slow, always narrow and sometimes treacherous drive with spectacular mountain views.
For most of us on the tour it was stress-free. We were passengers of two very Imogene-capable drivers in two very Imogene-capable vehicles: Rick Louie (our tour host and leader) in his Toyota 4-Runner, dubbed “Yota,” and Chris Nitz piloting his Ford 250 Diesel big-ass truck, which he aptly named “Serenity.” That’s Chris, above. Which brings me to the photos.
Here are a few shots from the day, all taken with my WE35 kit (Olympus OM-D E-M5, Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens).
Early on the ride up, Rick and Yota lead the way.
It wasn’t just about the gorgeous 360° views at the top, the aspen groves below the tree line were glowing with fall color. Here is Michael McLean making some magic.
It is difficult to believe that entire communities once lived along Imogene Pass. This is part of the ruins of an old mining camp. If my research is correct, It is Tomboy Townsite.
This is the final push to the top — a bit over 12,000 feet above sea level.
Just a few hundred yards from the top Serenity overheated. Chris had to give her a rest. Apparently, Chris ran Serenity in super-double-secret-low-gear for too long. (I know, it’s all so technical). During this cooling off period, a well meaning, but clueless gentleman driving a jeep told Chris that this was a sign of trouble. He told Chris he should turn back — that his lame-ass Ford would never make it down the other side to Ouray. Of course, Serenity cooled off and we pressed on to the top.
This mailbox sits is securely anchored to the top. Leave some bread for hungry hikers in it, or just slap a sticker on it.
This is the crew (or some of them) getting ready to head down the other side of the pass. That is Rick Louie in the foreground, Armando Martines on the right. I see Bill, Scott and Chris in the frame as well.
That is Serenity in the middle. Flags waving in triumph.
But the top is not really the top. That little dot in the upper right of the image is a Jeep perched on the peak of an added scenic overlook on the Ouray Side of the pass. We didn’t get to that spot. While we at the summit, we saw an ATV and its riders take a nasty spill on the Ouray side. While nobody appeared to be injured, it was clear they needed help recovering their vehicle. Chris had the gear, so we made our way to the accident.
The ride down into Ouray, according to the guy in the Jeep (see above), was supposed to be more treacherous than the way up from Telluride. We didn’t think so.
In fact, we stopped to maneuver Yota and Serenity onto a precarious “Jeep Perch” overlooking the valley. Here, Rick guides Chris onto the ledge.
On the ledge, Chris offers Jeep Guy some “thanks” for advising him to turn back