So. CO Trip Day 7 and 8 – R&R before a 13-mile waterfall tour

The wildfire smoke was so bad on the sixth day of our southern Colorado trip that we expected the seventh day to be no less worse. Shockingly, we woke up on the seventh day to this view:

A rare bluebird day in the middle of a bad wildfire season in Colorado.

As excited as we were for this beautiful, clear day, we had already resigned the night before to finally take a day off for rest. We weren’t physically sore from the 10 hikes we had completed in six days, but rather just mentally unmotivated to do anything for the day.

We didn’t totally waste the beautiful day, as we ended up doing a small afternoon picnic by a river near Telluride, along with a socially-distanced “to-go” happy hour on the main street of Telluride. In the end, it was good we relaxed on the seventh day of our trip because the next day, we had a really long hike to complete with our dachshunds in tow!

On the agenda for the eighth and final day of our So Co trip was an epic waterfall tour! To get to the hike, we had to drive over Ophir Pass yet again, a 4WD road that goes from the town of Ophir (south of Telluride) over a mountain pass to Silverton. We had driven this road during a trip in July and a few days earlier during our So Co trip. While we weren’t too disappointed to see Ophir Pass again, since it’s actually one of the more “tame” 4WD roads in the area and it is very scenic, the thing we were not looking forward to seeing again was the wildfire smoke! It was back just in time for our long hike and was just as bad as ever!

Ophir Pass has a long shelf road section that is not for the faint of heart, but provides gorgeous views that look like a watercolor artist threw paint down a sloped mountainside.
That’s not a smudge on our camera. That’s wildfire smoke hanging above the town of Ophir.
A smoky sunrise on Ophir Pass.

After completing Ophir Pass, we were back on paved road for a short while before jumping on another dirt road that lead to our hike. We knew that the last mile of the dirt road would require a 4WD vehicle, but we were looking forward to blasting to the trailhead with our Jeep… until we were bamboozled by a freshly fallen tree over the trail about a mile from the trailhead. We pouted, but parked as close as we could and continued on our fun adventure.

The trail for our waterfall tour was fairly straightforward and paralleled a creek while taking us in and out of forests and into vast, open meadows with backdrops featuring pointy, smoky mountains. What wasn’t straightforward was finding most of the waterfalls along the way, as we would eventually discover. We had information from a blog briefly detailing where we could find each of the most prominent waterfalls along the way, but even with these cheat notes, we still found ourselves utterly confused on where some of the waterfalls were. We had started our hike at a different point than the blogger and as such, our mileage didn’t match up to the blog’s mileage.

We reached the first waterfall on the trail after about three miles of hiking. This waterfall was easy to find because the trail lead directly to it. We could have easily called it a day after reaching this gorgeous, serene waterfall, because a six-mile hike is a decent amount of mileage to log for a day-hike. Furthermore, it had slipped both mine and hubby’s minds to pack snacks and fuel for a longer hike (thankfully, we had plenty of dog treats though!), but it would have been a shame to call it a day at that waterfall, since we knew there were some stunning, turquoise waterfalls to be found further along the trail. There were about five or six more waterfalls to be found in the next three or four miles and we figured we should at least make it to one or two of the next waterfalls and then we could call it a day.

We managed to find the next waterfall along the trail less than half a mile later, but only by following our curiosity to investigate what seemed like the unmistakable crashing sounds of a large waterfall. Unfortunately, the view of this waterfall was limited by a large cliff that we dared not get close to, especially with the dachshunds in tow. Since we couldn’t get a good view of this waterfall and it wasn’t one of the turquoise ones we were seeking, we reasoned that we had to keep hiking on and not count this in our “just one or two more waterfalls” we had committed to finding before we called it quits.

After pushing on for another two and half miles, we ended up finding ourselves at one of the last waterfalls noted on the blog’s guide without having seen any of the other turquoise waterfalls along the way. Luckily, this last waterfall we found was also arguably the prettiest of the waterfalls along the trail, so we certainly couldn’t be disappointed in our discovery… but where were those other waterfalls hiding?!

With the six miles we had logged thus far, we couldn’t wait to take a dip in this cool waterfall! While I had forgotten to bring trail snacks for our exhausting hike, one thing I didn’t forget to pack was my favorite pool inflatable, ‘Mingo. What can I say? Priorities! Mingo served more good than just being able to have some fun in the waterfall, as we ended up having to wait around for half an hour for another group that happened to arrive right after us and took up the entire area near the waterfall. We were wanting to be courteous and socially distanced (we were in a pandemic after all), so we killed time by blowing up Mingo. He requires a lot of air and we didn’t have much to spare after our long, smoky hike!

We decided not to continue any further past this waterfall, even though there was still one more grand waterfall upstream, but we couldn’t help but wonder where those other waterfalls were that we missed on our hike in. On our hike back, we figured we would try one more time to find some of the other waterfalls we missed, so we carefully reread the blog guide before continuing our long journey back. We ended up wandering around quite a bit and only finding one more of the turquoise waterfalls that wasn’t nearly as impressive, but still really cool, before giving up on finding all the waterfalls of our waterfall tour. It was so frustrating to not find the other incredible waterfalls, considering they were probably right under our noses, but we had to remind ourselves that we did find four of the most incredible and unreal waterfalls we had ever seen in Colorado and that was quite the accomplishment and memorable hike for the books!

More importantly though, we still had such a long hike to finish and our energy and patience had been dwindling many miles ago. Hubby and I are constantly impressed by what our bodies are capable of, and this long hike was no exception! Even though we had no snacks to replenish our energy, we still felt relatively energized. It is usually more of a mental challenge than a physical one to complete long hikes for us.

What continues to impress us on hikes even more so than our bodies are our little fearless dachshunds, who were able to also complete this hike like champs! Roxie dragged behind a little bit at the end of the hike, but threw a huge fit any time we attempted to carry her to give her a break. She’s very independent and stubborn! Banana was just an absolute rock star! This was the longest hike we have ever had the dachshunds complete in one day and you’d never guess they were 15 (Roxie) and 14 (Banana) years old. Who knows, maybe (and hopefully) we’ll be back next summer with the dachshunds to find those other elusive waterfalls!

A tree bamboozled our attempt to drive all the way to the trailhead. We had to park about a mile from the trailhead, which didn’t feel like much at the start of the day, but was an annoying extra leg at the end of the day, especially when we returned to find that the tree was already being chopped up to tiny pieces by the forest service.
The trail for our waterfall tour was fairly straightforward and paralleled a creek. From the scenery at the start of this trail, you’d never know the kind of gems hiding six miles ahead!
Every so often, the trail popped out of the trees and into vast, open meadows like this one with a backdrop featuring a pointy, smoky mountaintop.
The first waterfall of our waterfall tour required three miles to get to. We could have called it a day here, but we knew there were more gems to be found further down the trail.
We couldn’t get to the base of this waterfall that we followed the unmistakable crashing sounds to get to, as it was flanked on all sides by tall cliffs.
A short distance later after the first waterfall, we stumbled upon our first glimpse of the turquoise waters that could be found in the stream paralleling our trail. We knew we had to hike on to find the accompanying turquoise waterfalls.
Our first glimpse of paradise in a forest! It “only” took a six-mile hike to find it.
The temperature of the water was as equally cool as it looked!
I had a good laugh as hubby relentlessly paddled as close as he could to this intense, roaring waterfall! Boys will be boys.
Nothing unusual to see here. Just a sweet husband carrying his wife’s pool inflatable in the middle of the forest.
Both hubby and I forgot to bring trail snacks for our 13-mile hike, but I didn’t forget to pack a pool inflatable. Priorities!
We weren’t able to get a good view of this impressive waterfall on the hike in, but the hike goes in a loop and has a alternative trail that we took on the hike out where we were able to get a better view of the waterfall.
Roxie absolutely hates being carried on hikes, but she had no choice but to be carried a few times at the end of our hike since she was dragging behind and holding us up. Banana hiked the whole thing like a champ! Neither of them were sore the next day. And yep, you have that right – I hiked in sandals for 13 miles and didn’t regret it one bit!
Go figure that the log that was blocking the road on the drive in was already chopped to pieces by the forest service by the end of the day. It was an annoying extra mile we would have loved to have driven rather than walked at the end of a long day!
Ophir Pass was just as smoky on our return trip at the end of the day.

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