San Juan Mountains Colorado – And then it Snowed!

October, 2014 – When we first arrived in the Ridgway/Ouray area in Colorado, the aspen trees were just beginning their autumn golden glow. As the days passed, their colors intensified until we were surrounded by a vibrant mass of yellow set against a rich blue sky. Autumn is the harbinger of winter, though, and before long we found ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm. We have never been in a snowstorm in our RV, and it was quite exciting — and very surprising, as it was still early October.

Fifth wheel RV Ridgway Colorado fall foliage


5th wheel RV Ridgway Colorado snow storm


Fifth wheel trailer in the snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado


Million Dollar Highway Route 550 with snow Colorado

The “Million Dollar Highway” becomes a winter wonderland.

The snow fell steadily around us, and slowly a gossamer veil of white settled on our world.

There was enough of the white stuff to stick around awhile, and when we finally emerged out of the fifth wheel, the amber woods had become a winter wonderland trimmed in white lace.

We tip-toed around in total awe of the scene and took our cameras out for a drive along the Million Dollar Highway.

If it’s possible, the landscapes were even more beautiful now than before.

Aspens in autumn with snow in Colorado

Peaches and cream!

The snow on the orange aspen trees looked like peaches and cream, and the stately evergreens added dramatic accents here and there.

We were here because our friend Nasim Mansurov was conducting a photography workshop. One of the highlights was meeting John Sherman, a professional bird and wildlife photographer who was an instructor at the workshop.

He lives in a custom built Class C motorhome full-time, and as we tromped around in the snow the first morning after the snow storm, he suddenly appeared between the trees.

Evergreens and aspen in Colorado autumn snow

Gorgeous scenery all around.

He was shooting birds that morning, of course, rather than snowy landscapes, and he was using a staggeringly long 800 mm telephoto lens (yes, gasp, that price is correct, lol! Merry Christmas, anyone?!).

The darn thing is so big that the lens mounts directly onto the tripod (usually the body of the camera is what sits on top of a tripod). I just had to get a photo of him with this thing! See the tiny camera body on the end of it?

Pro Photographer John Sherman

John “Verm” Sherman and his LENS!

He ended up getting some wonderful photos of tiny birds high in the trees that we didn’t even know were there!

In the following days we got to know John a little bit.

Photographer taking photos in Colorado fall foliage

We were almost in a daze as we walked around taking photos.

He has shot two back covers for Arizona Highways magazine as well as some full page and two-page photos on the inside. How cool is that?!

He also writes for and his posts are written with a wry sense of humor that always makes us chuckle.

Fall colors with snow in Ouray Colorado

The spectacular colors seemed even more-so after the snow.

His girlfriend Dawn Kish also shoots for Arizona Highways and has had more front cover photos on that beautiful magazine in the last five years than any other photographer.

Good Lord!! We were keeping some pretty illustrious company — way out of our league! — but we were learning lots and having a blast at the same time.

One evening John and Nasim did a critique of students’ photos, and it was a fascinating exchange between the two of them and each student as they went over the highlights and flaws in each photo.

Travel trailer in snowy Colorado mountains

This was cold camping, but oh so pretty!

Everyone in the room was able to see how a slight adjustment here or there would have transformed a good photo into a great one. Many photos, of course, were fabulous already and just got big nods of approval all around.

Out here in this newly snowy world, we were loving hanging around with a full-time RVer who shares our fascination with photography.

A deer by our trailer

This deer visited our trailer many times.

John is a rock climber as well, and was Senior editor of Climbing Magazine for years. He’s also written several popular books about climbing and bouldering.

Here’s a link to some of his very impressive work. Wow!!

This was a cold world up here at nearly 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, but the wildlife was plentiful.

One night we listened to elk bugling all around us as we laid in bed. We didn’t see any during the day, but their high pitched calls filled the night air.

We did spot a little deer who hung around our trailer in the mornings and evenings for few days. We both marveled that he could manage all winter in this freezing climate.

Autumn leaves in snow

The bushes and trees hung onto their colorful leaves in the first snow.

He didn’t have an ounce of fat on him, and the fur coats that deer wear are not very thick!

Before the snowfall, he had come by our trailer one evening, munching the grass between the aspen. It was way too dark to get a photo of him, so we watched him quietly from our spot by our window.

After getting his fill of grass, suddenly he lowered himself to the ground and folded his legs under his body.

His ears twitched as he listened to all the night sounds growing around us. Every movement we made in the rig made his ears turn our way.

The night got darker and darker and he stayed put in his little spot.

Golden aspen in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado

If you have a chance to go to Colorado in autumn, do it!!

Snowy mountains and fall leaves in Colorado

An amber window on a snowy world.

Before long his head began to droop lower and lower, and in no time he had fallen asleep, right next to our fifth wheel trailer!

We were absolutely delighted. We had a special neighbor — and a trusting one.

When we got up in the morning he was gone, but the long grasses were all flattened out where he had made his bed for the night.

This was a magical time in every way. The colors on the trees were still vibrant, and the snow was a brilliant white in the sun.

Golden path near Ridgway Colorado

Treading down a golden path.


For a few days the trees and bushes hung onto their leaves tightly, cradling the snow that had fallen.

The photography workshop came to an end and everyone disbanded, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the beautiful San Juan Mountains.

We wandered down dirt paths and drove up and down the highways, catching each view in different lighting as the days passed.

A second snow storm covered us in another frosty blanket of white


Red Mountain Pass Colorado

Looking up towards Red Mountain Pass.

When we drove through the town of Ouray, we noticed that almost all the RV parks that had been full to overflowing two weeks earlier were now virtually empty.

The red “No Vacancy” signs on the hotels had changed to “Vacancy,” and the outdoor bar on the second floor of the Ouray Brewery that had been packed every afternoon since we’d first arrived was now empty.

It seemed like we were the last visitors in town! And no wonder — it was freezing cold.

In fact, when the snow fell the first night and into the next day, we were so focused on trying to stay warm that we didn’t really think about the other systems in our rig.


Fall colors in Colorado with a starburst from the sun

Mark does some starburst magic in the late afternoon sun.

Suddenly, near the end of the day, Mark gave me a lopsided smile and said, “You know, our solar panels haven’t charged one bit all day long.”

Huh? Oh, right, they were covered in snow!!

Oops!! He scampered up on the roof and found there was well over an inch of snow on top of them.

We had been running our electricity-hungry RV furnace almost non-stop all day, because the 10,000′ elevation was so high that our vent-free heater would run for only an hour or so before the oxygen detection sensor shut it off due to lack of oxygen.

Colorado Mountain stream with snow in autumn

Just beautiful…

Unfortunately, the furnace could barely keep up, and we were in shade until late morning. So, the batteries needed a little boost!

For the second time this season, Mark fired up the Yamaha 2400i generator to save the day and charge the batteries.

Motorhome on Colorado's Million Dollar Highway in snow

After the snow, the RVs left for warmer places!

The truly amazing thing about this underused generator is that, despite the cold, it started on the first pull, and it ran beautifully for the bulk of two days while we lived through this mini Arctic blast.

We don’t use that thing very often, and we sometimes regret the space it takes up in our rig as we chauffeur it around, but it sure comes in handy at times!

After the second snowfall, we sadly watched the colorful leaves fade to their winter shades. They began to fall from the trees like rain every time the wind blew. It was time to go! We packed up the buggy and headed up and over the Million Dollar Highway one last time — with 14,100 lbs of house in tow!

For more info on this stunningly gorgeous area, check out these links:

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3 thoughts on “San Juan Mountains Colorado – And then it Snowed!

  1. Mark and Emily, spectacular photos and story as usual. I am so glad you guys had the generator and didn’t freeze to death! Happy Trails!


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