Ouray, CO

Yankee Boy Basin in the Colorado Mountains near Ouray, CO

It is a well known fact that I believe my home state far outstrips any other in the nation, especially when it comes to nature. There is no place more peaceful or entrancing than the lakes and rivers of Minnesota, no place so full of depth and spirit. But even I will admit that there is one thing that Minnesota lacks, one thing that keeps perfection out of its grasp - Mountains. We're not Nebraska, so flat that you can see the very Earth disappear on the horizon, but the rolling hills and glacial moraines simply can't replace the might of mountains.

Just an average view from the mountains around Ouray.

Enter Ouray, considered by its own tourism agency to be "The Switzerland of America." A little town ringed by rugged Colorado mountains, elevations that put anything in the Midwest to utter shame, rocks that would make a geologist weep at the beauty of it, colors that make the washed out look of hipstamatic completely superfluous, and people that deign to step out of their REI travel magazine to visit us in the real world. Sure, it may be a little lacking in culture, it may be so dry that the whole valley seems on the verge of mummification, and its river may be so polluted that it flows in vibrant colors water never meant to carry, but the mountains make up for it.

Colorado Columbine blooming near the treacherous road to Yankee Boy Basin. 

In order to truly see the mountains, it was suggested that we take a jeep on the... uh, mountain roads into the passes. Braving anorexic roads bordering cliffs that dropped hundreds of feet beneath us, we made our way into some of the most achingly beautiful places I have ever seen. Alpine meadows carpeted with wildflowers, majestic elk meandering down to the icy blue streams, mountain lakes virtually untouched by the outside world, lemmings leaping from rock to rock, snow in summer, valleys leprechaun green and martian red and granite grey. A picture is worth a thousand words, but the words might as well be in some unknown language they capture the beauty so poorly. And yet, I try all the same.