The next day we set out in two rented jeeps for Telluride, about seven miles southwest as the crow flies, if crows flew above 13,000 feet. I drove the second jeep as we crossed Ophir Pass in a relatively tame drive, although at least two spots riveted my attention. As we reached the summit of the 11,789-foot pass, well above the tree line, we burst upon a splendid panorama of three snowcapped fourteeners (Colorado parlance for mountains that top 14,000 feet). Then the road crossed - or rather, became - a broad field of debris known as scree: small, loose pieces of stone left by an ancient (I hoped) rock slide.
A little later, a swing around a rocky promontory became my introduction to the three-point turn, one so sharp you can't make it just by turning the wheels. You go as far into the turn as you dare, stop, back up with nothing but a thousand feet of air in front of or behind you, and go forward again. When I got ready to back up, I told my sons to get out of the jeep and let me know how far I was from the edge. Believe me, I knew; I also knew that one twitch of the toe could be fatal. (The guidebooks tell of even tighter switchbacks, which can be negotiated only by going forward up one segment and in reverse up the next.) The rest of the drive was easy: a long, winding downhill run through a forest of fir, spruce, and aspen, into the valley occupied by the settlements of Old Ophir and New Ophir, and onto the highway to Telluride.
After lunch, we decided to skip the main highway and return to Ouray over Imogene Pass, which sits at 13,114 feet. This route is serious jeeping, offering glimpses of Telluride far below and Bridal Veil Falls, as well as the chance to stop and explore the ruins of the Tomboy mine. The road itself is cleared of snow, but even in summer the remnants of winter tower as high as your car on both sides. The road downhill is long, steep, and very bumpy. Our average speed seemed around 5 miles an hour, which was just fine with me.