Mostly Wildflowers — Exploring Forest Service Road 631…

July 18, 2014

We packed a picnic lunch and headed out of the campground to County Road 600 to Mosco Road – FS 631. First, we stopped by the ranger station. Jim, the very helpful volunteer at the Pagosa Ranger Station, recommended FS 631 and marked several forest service roads that would be good for us.

Jim lives locally, frequents the forest roads, knows the fishing streams, and alerted us to a forest service road that was closed due to an overnight mudslide. I asked him if he knew of any places I could find a Colorado Blue Columbine… I have never seen one in the woods. He showed us a couple places where he had seen them before. He told us to look for a fire scar from a forest fire two years ago, and look for Columbines (aspens and Columbines often grow in burned areas.) He told me Columbines often grow in Aspen Tree groves… just park and start hiking in a ways and look around. At first, we were driving through grasslands, with mountains all around us. We saw a lot of very large homes, and then we got further along and saw more farms and small vacation cabins. Rolling hills and Ponderosa Pines became frequent. Before too long, we were up at 10,000 feet, driving through spruce-fir forests with occasional grassy meadows, covered in wildflowers.

We saw an amazing number of flowers along this route and so many different species! The views and landscape are just beautiful. Lush green valleys, meandering streams, some cattle grazing, shiny horses swishing their tails in fields, a few mule deer, tall Ponderosa Pines, giving off a wonderful piney scent… and all around carpets of wildflowers. As it was John’s birthday, I tried to keep the photography stops down to a minimum for jumping out of the truck and wandering off with my camera. But, it was hard! I saw so many new species today that I can’t identify… even after going through three different local wildflower books and looking on the web. Beautiful flowers, all colors…

We drove on CR 600 which was paved, and turned to dirt and gravel when FS 631started. It is a well-maintained road and we didn’t find many potholes and puddles till we were 30-40 miles into the forest. We saw several other FS roads off FS 631, beckoning us to explore them (We might feel quite comfortable on the forest service roads in north Georgia, near where we live but we know nothing about the condition of forest service roads in Colorado. A small 4 wheel drive vehicle would be perfect for exploring in the woods but we have a 25 foot F250 pickup with a large turning radius. It is off-road and 4-wheel drive… ) We found a clearing and had lunch (the spot we wanted by a stream was already occupied!) I wandered around and took more photos and we noticed the black clouds moving in once again. Not wanting to get stuck in mud, with no telephone service, we packed up and headed back home. We encountered quite a bit of rain but the road was passable. The truck however, was covered in mud. (We took care of that the next day at the car wash… The mud was bad enough that it will take at least two car washes to get it clean!

I do apologize for so many photos of flowers… but they are the first thing I look for in the woods these days and it’s sooo cool to find new flower species out here. There are so many wildflowers blooming in the forests around us, it’s just exciting! High altitude native wildflowers are often showy… One could easily have a beautiful garden here using only native species.

I wish I had become interested in wildflowers (among other interests!) 30 or 40 years ago. I have many mobility issues these days… Physical agility (climbing to a flower or getting down low for a photo), the ability to hike moderate and strenuous trails for some distance…. these are physical attributes I would dearly love. And, they are very important when looking for wildflowers. But, John and I do pretty well, with field trips within my limits. Nothing steep, or prolonged climbing or long descending trails… Nothing more than a mile, or mile and a quarter on my best days… We can start a four mile or longer trail, knowing we won’t see the end… You can always turn around!

We take more days off these days and relax now that we are both retired, and a bit older… I often need a day to recover after a good hike anyways… Prior to this western RV trip, we didn’t spend more than a couple days in each campsite. We saw a lot, and covered a lot of miles. There is just so much to see! But it has been an eye opener to set up a home base campsite, and enjoy day trips and adventures to the National Forests, and Wilderness areas around us for a week or more. We spent about 5 weeks in New Mexico and plan to stay in Colorado till it’s time to head east the first week of August…

Thankfully, after 42 years of marriage and doing things a certain way, John admitted that he likes the more relaxed pace of our current travel. I know it’s been a major adjustment for him, too. But, we are having lots of nice adventures, and we are still able to feel the wonderful peace and sense of well-being that I enjoy when we are out in the woods or by a stream.

About Holly Ritger

I am retired, enjoying being a grandmother, traveling to National Parks and other interesting places in our RV with my husband of 43 years, and visiting with friends and family. Hobbies: photography, learning about wildflowers and birds, and trees, and reading from my kindle.
This entry was posted in Birds, Colorado, Wildflowers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Mostly Wildflowers — Exploring Forest Service Road 631…

  1. Holly, I love this post! There can never be too many wildflower photos!

    I agree with you and John about taking time to relax on your RV trips. We like to travel less than 300 miles, stop early in the afternoon to set up camp, and spend at least 2 nights where ever we go. It’s so much fun to find a beautiful area off the beaten track. We love taking off down roads in the middle of nowhere!


    • Holly Ritger says:

      Thanks Beth. 🙂 A minimum of two nights just wouldn’t work for us sometimes… Once we leave Colorado, for instance, we will probably head home, driving 250-300 miles a day, staying one night in each place. We figure we are maximizing our time out west by doing one-nighters on the way east to Atlanta…

      We ran into a lot of 4×4 jeep roads out here where Big Red (Ford F250) was too big for the tight turns on the mountain roads. Maybe next time we will rent a jeep. Next time, I also want to see western ghost towns, take a mining tour, go to a mining museum, take a dip in a hot spring (natural preferred over pool). I think I would also like to see Colorado in Fall, Winter, and Spring… I bet it’s beautiful out here!


  2. Ingrid says:

    We enjoy a slow, relaxed pace as well. It seems we get to enjoy each new location at the perfect pace. There’s no such thing as too many wildflower photos. The San Juan Mountains around Ouray are gorgeous this time of year with wildflowers all around as is Crested Butte. FYI – do NOT take hwy 550 from Durango to Ouray with the RV unless you don’t mind heights and no guardrails. Enjoy my home state of Colorado 🙂


    • Holly Ritger says:

      We will save Crested butte for another trip… We did take Hwy 550 from Durango to Ouray… And on to Montrose where we stayed. I thought the lack of guard rails amazing… It was straight down the mountain on my side of the truck, and I swear, the road was crumbling along the edges! It was a two-fisted drive for John with the caboose… But we went back another day to ride the “Million Dollar Hwy” from Silverton to Ouray (without the RV).


      • Ingrid says:

        Awesome. I don’t have a problem driving it but hubby won’t with the RV. His concern is in regards to the other drivers. Gorgeous country!


  3. Holly Ritger says:

    John does the driving… Big Red is too big and with the 5th wheel, jeez… I can just imagine me taking out a gas pump or something. What we have seen of Colorado is beautiful Ingrid, and we don’t have near enough time for exploring. A month or two more would do it!! We have decided we need to come back, maybe in July sometime for the flowers… I can’t get enough of them!


  4. Sherry says:

    Colorado is one of my favorite states. John and I spent over two months exploring the state a while back. We did return there the year Eliza was born in the fall to see the Aspen leaves and it was beautiful. Try looking up Elegant Death Camus, Elkweed and Rocky Mountian Goldenrod. I think they will match up some of your unidentified flowers. Sorry you are missing Crested Butte this year, but glad to know you will go there someday. It was one of my favorite Colorado towns and the wildflowers there were outstanding.


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