Ouray Mountain Adventures, Part Two, Imogene Pass

Imogene Pass is the second highest mountain pass that’s traversed by unimproved roads in Colorado, and is one of the most beautiful, too. Named for Imogene Richardson, the wife of a miner, this road was built in 1880 to access Ouray from Tomboy Mine, which was situated in the mountain high above Telluride.


Last week, I wrote about the first part of our camping/wheeling trip to Ouray, and described our scenic and thrilling run up and over Black Bear Pass. It was about noon when we dropped down into Telluride from Black Bear Pass, and we stopped for a few minutes in a small park near the edge of town for a tasty turkey sandwich and a few handfuls of trail mix. From Telluride, there are two ways to get back to where we were camped: The highway or Imogene Pass. Obviously, the highway was unthinkable when we could fit in another trail, but we wanted to get back to camp and our family before too long, so within a few minutes, we got started up the trail.


The trail begins at the north end of Telluride and is hemmed in on both sides by quaint houses and groomed driveways. At first, the road is fairly wide and lined with trees, but as you climb, it gets narrower and the foliage sparser. As the trees thin out, there are several places to the south where Telluride, Bridal Veil Falls, and the infamous Black Bear Pass switchbacks are visible.




Though we had never gone over Black Bear before that day, we had driven over Imogene once before. We had taken a long weekend in Ouray in September 2010 to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary, and Skot’s parents joined us for a fun family run up this beautiful trail. But this time we went in July, and at the height of tourist season, the traffic was high and spaces were tight. While not as narrow as several places on Black Bear, Imogene sports some pretty slim spots.


No matter where you look in most of Colorado, and especially in this area, beauty abounds. Stopping to let others pass on tight sections was no problem; it just gave me time to gaze at the mountain majesty and allow it to sink in, fill my senses with every good thing, and my soul with grateful thanksgiving.


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Imogene passes two major historic mining camps: Camp Bird and Tomboy. Colorado is rich in mining history, and there are large places for wheelers to pull off and enjoy these amazing mines. It began to rain pretty steadily just before we reached Tomboy, though, so we just took a few snapshots and headed on. We also came upon quite a large, 10 – 12 foot snow drift!



While the rain was beautiful and the clouds made for a comfortable day of wheeling, we wanted to get out and take pictures at the top. Thankfully, the rain moved off and the skies cleared up. We reached the 13,114 summit of Imogene, parked Lil’ Bruiser next to the sign, and handed a fellow Jeeper my camera.


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What a happy time God must have had creating this glorious piece of art! I was almost hesitant to blink for fear that when my eyes reopened, it would all be gone. No matter where I looked, each sweeping facet of Imogene shown bright with the glory of its Creator.



As we rounded each curve of the trail on our way back down to camp, wildflowers popped out to greet us. I couldn’t help but pick a small bunch of colorful ones to take back to our little Peanut.


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We reached our camp site earlier than expected, and my mom and Peanut were napping soundly in Mom’s tent. I pulled out a deck of cards and won a quick game against Skot, then we took a nap as well in our tent. Soon everyone was awake and I grilled us up some hamburgers. As soon as we sat down to eat, rain began to drizzle steadily, but each one of us had an umbrella, so we enjoyed a rainy supper!


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Later on, after the rain subsided, Skot built us a fire and we spent the rest of the evening enjoying our last night in Ouray.



The next morning, I made breakfast and we packed up camp. I could have stayed one more day, but though it was time to go home, we did take our time getting ready, and spent some time simply enjoying the beauty of the spot and throwing rocks into the creek that flowed nearby.



Once ready to go, we headed in to town to do a bit of shopping.



It began to rain pretty heavily, so we climbed into our Jeeps and headed for home – but not before stopping to see the house that Skot and I honeymooned in nearly 17 years ago, and to marvel at its surrounding beauty.


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The drive home was cloudy, continually drizzly, and immensely enjoyable. I drove my mom’s Jeep with her and Peanut the majority of the trip, but we all had FRS radios and Skot and I chatted freely. Five hours later, we pulled into our driveway, happy to be home, and filled with gratefulness for an excellent and beautiful weekend. And though we didn’t take Peanut with us on the trails, it was a fun, family time – Jeep with Kids style!

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