The Road to Ophir

Jeff had told me that Bass Lake was beautiful and worth checking out, so I headed up the 145. The whole drive up the canyon was beautiful. Mountains to either side, forests, and the Delores river to keep me company. Past Rico, I came to the Lizard Head Mountain trailhead. Even before knowing what it was I had to stop, awe struck by the beauty of this scene.

Lizard Head

Next stop was Bass Lake, truly beautiful in its own right. There were some paddle boarders down below, and folks hanging out on the beach. Driving around it, I kept an eye out for camp sites. I found mostly pullout spots, which technically I could have camped at but wouldn’t have had much privacy or space. The larger camp areas were well populated, and I didn’t see a reason to pull up into a cluster of RVs.

Bass Lake

Around the back part of the lake there’s an old bridge that was built back in the mining days.

Old Mining Bridge near Bass Lake

I had a lot of daylight left, plenty of time to keep exploring. So I got back on the 145 and continued North. I saw on the map there was a road heading out into a bowl between the mountains, and a little town there called Ophir. That seemed worth checking out. Oh my God, the beauty! Ophir is a sweet little town. Murals, kids playing, dirt speed bumps to slow the traffic, and signs asking to be careful around the kids and not to stage ATVs and motorbikes within the town.


Coming to the upper edge of Ophir, the mountains greet the sky. I’m also greeted by a road that looks pretty gnarly, with some spring channels carving their way through. I have to say I hesitated here. Some bandana wearing girls in a Toyota rolled down their window and I asked them how bad the road was up ahead. They said the stretch I was looking at was the worst of it, and it cleared up beyond that. Ok, I figured I could make it if I were careful. So I hopped back on my faithful steed. A slow steady push through the runnels and I only scraped my oilpan a tad bit!

My camp site past Ophir

Well, I hadn’t come too far down the road when I saw a magnificant view and had to stop. That’s where I’ve been for the last three days, and that’s where I sit as I type this. I wouldn’t mind one bit if this scene stretched out to eternity. I could spend my days memorizing the curves, the ridges, and the jagged edges of the mountains above. The shades and colors of the sky, the rocks, and the trees, and the shadows as the sun dances its way across the sky. “Why all this movement?” life seems to say. “Isn’t this a nice spot to be?” I am happy and content. I don’t know when I will leave - maybe tomorrow. Maybe never.

Typing on my laptop

Yesterday I walked down to the river below, less than a quarter mile. The hillside leading down to it is visible due to the prevalance of yellow, red and black volcanic ash, and there are natural springs bubbling out of the hillside in cascading sheets.

Springs coming out of the hillside

I came down to the river, crossed, and I found a mining road switch backing up the mountain side. So I followed that for a while, then saw a trail cutting off and to the left.

The river below my campsite

A little way down this path, I stepped aside to let past a man on a mountain bike, who would be the only person I saw on the trail that day. He was bumping along, drowning out the sound of the birds and the creek with his earbuds, playing real cool tunes I’m sure. I interrupted his bliss by asking him if there was flowing water up ahead for me to drink via my filter. He stopped, pulled out his ear buds and pondered for a moment… “Yeah, you’re headed into Swamp Canyon, there will be plenty of water coming down.” Swamp Canyon I found out has a much exagerated name. There I found beautiful meadows and ponds amongst the forest and the jagged peaks. Streams and waterfalls flow down the canyon walls to fill the ponds, and eventually meet with the river below.

Swamp Canyon

Well, I wanted to drink but I wasn’t in a rush. Why not drink from a waterfall? And maybe take a bath. I was beginning to smell aromatic. I enjoyed my hike up the ravine along side a bubbling creek. Where two streams joined I beheld a Japanese water feature that some hikers had constructed. Clever. Good fung shui for gathering drinking water.

Japanese water feature

And up a little bit further, I came to one of the waterfalls I had seen in the distance.

Swamp Canyon Pano

Now a gentle course would have been to turn back at this point, having quenched my thirst and seen the greener parts of the canyon. But I was curious what awaited me above. So I scrambled up through foliage, through scree, and up inclines with no rightful path. That sort of thing takes some energy, and makes for slow going. The air was thin, and I couldn’t take too many steps before having to catch my breath. Up to the next ridge, and what do my eyes behold? Another ridge, much the same. Eventually I tired of this game, and checked the map on my phone. There were eventually going to be some lakes up there, but they appeared to be on the other side of the highest ridges and mountain peaks. That definitely didn’t seem to be within the sane realm of achievement for my day.

alpine bowl

The hike down and back to camp was long and exhausting. I got back with a few hours of daylight to spare, but I mostly just wanted to nap. Somewhere in the middle of this, a crew of a dozen people were milling around my camp site and chatting, above, then to the left, then to the right. No peace. I came out to ask whether they were camping, or… ? They said they were filming for a movie, and were looking for a place to jump dirt bikes. Ah. They milled about for a bit more, and then began coordinating the about face of their caravan of white vehicles - no small feat on a narrow mountain road. I assume they were headed to Moab, which I had overheard one of them expressing a preference towards.

Back to the future… the future is now! It’s starting to get chilly here, and my fingers are moving slower across the keyboard as numbness sets in. That’s my cue. What wonders will tomorrow hold? Only another sunrise can announce. Farewell, dear friend! Shine on, and let those who have been in darkness take their turn.

Brandon Mason avatar
Brandon Mason
Brandon looks at the world with wonder, curiosity, compassion, and creativity. He is interested in the different perspectives that we as human beings hold, and finding ways to co-exist and co-create our future.
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