Christmas in the San Juan Mountains

One of the downsides of working at Goblin Valley is that we have to work holidays.  The other ranger and I are pretty good about swapping holiday duty -- I went home for Thanksgiving this year, so he gets Christmas.  It's definitely a bummer not seeing family during the holidays, but Jordan and I managed to sneak away for a couple days for a great consolation prize -- visiting Diana and Jerry in the San Juan Mountains near Ridgway, CO!

12" of new snow = guaranteed white Christmas

I love Christmas in the San Juans.  The mountains are coated in snow and the tiny towns are decked out with lights.  It's definitely a cheeseball-classic winter wonderland.  Jerry and Diana have a house up in Elk Meadows with a killer view of the Sneffels Range and loads of snow for us to play around in.  We didn't wander very far from their place all weekend, but we still managed to squeeze in loads of snowy shenanigans -- sledding, snowshoeing, riding ATVs, and building an igloo. Diana and Jerry are a blast and it was great to spend the holidays with such great friends.

redneck-style sledding!

Jordan and I have been talking about snow camping this winter, so we decided to test our igloo-building skills.  Fueled by copious brandy mixed with hot chocolate, we piled up a huge mound of snow and misted it periodically with a hose.  We let it set for a couple hours, then came back to hollow it out.  It took the better part of an afternoon to finish, but it was surprisingly cozy inside and totally bombproof.  Seriously, spraying it with water made it an ice bunker -- I bet it'll be there until next spring!

On Christmas Eve day, we rode the ATVs up to Top of the Pines to snowshoe.  The Top of the Pines building is still under construction, but eventually it's going to be an outdoor education/recreation/event center.  There were also 8 kilometers of groomed cross country ski and snowshoe trails, which we tooled around on for a couple hours.  Really pretty.

After hoofing around in the snow all day, we drove a couple miles down the road to Orvis Hot Springs for a soak.  Orvis is a natural hot springs resort near Ouray, CO with water that ranges from 98-112 degrees.  It also naturally contains lithium, which makes you feel super relaxed and loopy.  They have a couple big pools, the "lobster pop," a sauna, and two massage yurts.  There's nothing better than soaking in steaming hot water surrounded by falling snow.

That evening, the big storm rolled in!  While a foot of snow fell, we drank wine, belted out Christmas carols around a bonfire, unwrapped presents, and danced around all night.  Yay Christmas!

Diana at Top of the Pines