San Juan National Forest, Colorado.

Switzerland of America – American Road Trip (pt25)

Sept 22-23, 2015.  Day 44-45 of my American Road Trip.


After a great 10 days in New Mexico, it was time to make my final National Park and Monument run through Colorado and Utah. As I drove, my mind was preoccupied with all the cool places my friends had told me about and what I’d seen on the interwebs. But I was quickly brought back to the present after driving through the old mining town of Silverton, Colorado and through San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests. I’d never seen trees changing color on such a grand scale and lost count of how many times I stopped to take it all in. I could definitely see how this part of the country had been nicknamed, “Switzerland of America.”



After driving through the most colorful mountain scenes I’d ever encountered, I realized I had to stay the night and see all this again in the morning. And perhaps take some better pictures in better lighting. Black Canyon of the Gunnison could wait a few hours.

As the sun was setting, I made it out of a steep mountain canyon and some of the most windy, narrow, cliff side roads I’d encountered anywhere in the U.S. Having had more than a few white knuckle, narrow, cliff side road encounters in Switzerland, I can confirm the “Switzerland of America” nickname is accurate in both the scenery and driving experience.

The town I happened to pop out into was Ouray, Colorado.  It was originally established by gold and silver miners in the 1800’s.  Like Silverton, it too had a ton of old west character.  Little did I know at the time, but it’s a very popular tourist attraction and I was lucky to find a room via my iPhone and as I rolled into town.  Thank God (or whoever your higher power is) for technology.

After I arrived, I dropped of my suitcase and made my way out to explore the town and get some dinner.  Ouray has definitely maintained its mining town heritage feel and once again I was in a place I wish I had more time to experience.



After a late dinner, I was walking back down main street towards my hotel when I thought I saw a big, dark-haired dog run by. It was well past dark and I had to do a double take before realizing it was actually a black bear cruising down the other side of the street. At first, he was just meandering and kinda checking things out. Then an older white-haired gentlemen came out of a restaurant and started chasing him down the street with his camera. I was hoping the bear wouldn’t give him a reality check smack where I’d have to get involved. At some point though, I think I’d have to let Sir Darwin take over before getting mauled myself trying to save someone that’s proven they no longer want to be on planet earth. I mean really, who chases a black bear down the street at night with camera?  


The next morning I was up well before the sun and made my way back into the forest to see if I could catch some more amazing scenes. While the early morning experience was phenomenal in person, the pictures were still lacking. One doesn’t fully understand the lost opportunities in life until they begin to document them. I’ve had plenty of time over the years to learn how to properly use a DSLR or mirrorless camera, yet I’ve always just reverted to the easy to use iPhone or compact cameras. Lesson learned on this random stop and missing out on the chance to take some really great photos.



After an evening and early morning of gawking and driving through the oil painting type landscapes in San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests, I headed out and worked my way through the southwestern Colorado towns to Black Canyon of the Gunnison, another National Park on my American Road Trip.


Thanks for reading.
– Chris 


Last Stop: New Mexico
Next Stop: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado