After a restful sleep, we took our time getting packed up, cleaned up, and walking along the river. This was the first time on our trip we put our fancy new camping shower and with pop-up tent to use. Despite pouring a pot of boiling water into mix with the “room temperature” (ie. freezing cold) water we had with us, the water flowing out of the shower head was frighteningly cold, causing fits of giggles to laugh off the pain. It was probably one of the least enjoyable, yet most satisfying showers I have ever had. After camping for a number days it felt great to have a fresh start to the day.
We used this Green Elephant outdoor shower tent, the Nemo Helio outdoor shower, and this cute Nemo Helio green floor mat.
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Not far from our campsite was Animas Forks, a ghost town and relic of the heydays of mining in the San Juans. The first buildings were constructed in the 1870’s, and by the early 1880’s the town was home to 450 people, complete with a post office, general store, saloon and a telephone.
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The great thing about exploring Animas Forks is that you can walk inside all of the buildings to get a real sense of how it might have been to live here back in the day. Some buildings still had preserved wallpaper or ornate woodwork, but most had substantially succumbed to the elements.
The crown jewel of the town is the grand, two-storey Duncan Residence, built in 1879 to withstand the long cold winters. Previously, most residents of Animas Forks spent the winters a bit further south in Silverton (which you can read about here). The Duncans were one of the first families to brave the full winter in Animas Forks where the snow would easily bury the first floor of the house!
We enjoyed exploring the town, though didn’t see any ghosts, and were soon headed towards our final, and highest offroad pass of the trip: Engineer Pass. We zig-zagged our way up the shelf roads with plenty of multi-point turns to get around the corners.
We own a Toyota Tacoma and were extremely happy with its performance throughout the trip. This post is not sponsored by Toyota but we can highly recommend them.
We came to a breathtaking viewpoint, “Oh Point”, with an almost 360 degree view of the mountains and valleys around us. We must have taken hundreds of pictures trying to capture the moment and the beauty of our surroundings.
After what felt like an eternity, we reached the 12,800 ft (3,901 m) summit of Engineer Pass and stopped for a ceremonial picture before quickly jumping back into the car to escape the wind and the cold and head down the other side.
No sooner had we started our decent and there were a few locals blocking the road and getting in our way!
It took us a couple of days and with a few detours, but we finally completed the famous Alpine Loop. This was something I had on my bucket list for a number of years and I was glad to have successfully completed the loop, taking in all the magnificent views along the way.
It wasn’t the end of our driving day though as we had a few hours of highway driving to reach our next campsite! However, compared to the last days of offroading, highway driving was a welcomed change. We arrived in the dark at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a beautiful warm summer night and we enjoyed sitting in front of the stars and taking it all in.
Not knowing what to expect of the Canyon because we arrived in the dark, we set off the next day and enjoyed our coffee with some prime canyon views.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is famous for its dramatic views, as it is especially deep, narrow and steep compared to some of the more famous canyons around. Why is it called the Black Canyon you wonder? It's because some parts of the canyon are so narrow and deep they receive only 33 minutes of sunlight each day.
As we were having coffee, we made friends with this little guy who was hoping for some breakfast.
The Canyon was our last stop before going back to civilization and at this point, we were both looking forward to a real bed. We had camped for five days in a row which was certainly pushing our limits. (Did you read about our nights in the Sand Dunes, in Silverton, and Ouray?) I'm not sure I'll be able to convince Bettina to go on another camping trip anytime soon but the trip was a dream of mine for years and the entire adventure made it all worthwhile.
Have you completed your dream road trip yet? What was your longest camping trip?