Onward to Ouray!

along US 550 ear Ouray
Golden aspens contrast with craggy mountains along US 550 near Ouray
© William Horton

RMOWP’s 42nd annual conference takes place this coming September 21st through 24th in Ouray, Colorado,

and if Mother Nature cooperates we’ll be there just in time for the area’s beautiful fall colors.

Named for a chief of the southern Ute tribe, Ouray got its start in the 1870s as a gold- and silver-mining camp. By 1886 it had over 1,000 residents, a school, a hospital, dozens of saloons and brothels, and even a few churches. Today, still with a population of about 1,000, Ouray retains much of its 19th-century flavor, with many of its original buildings still standing, and serves as the perfect home base for exploring southwestern Colorado’s spectacular San Juan Mountains.

Life’s uncertain – that’s why we eat dessert first – and although some fine-tuning to our schedule is inevitable, here’s the plan as of now.

Monday, September 21 – Explore Ouray on your own, see Cascade Falls, walk the Perimeter Trail, and relax in the hot springs. All RMOWP members are welcome at the 1 p.m. board meeting, which will definitely be adjourned in time for the real start of the conference, the 4:30 p.m. Registration, Opening Reception, Happy Hour & Light Buffet, followed by the ever-popular Presentation of All Photo Contest Submissions.

fall colors near Ridgeway, CO
Late afternoon light tinges the storm clouds looming over the Sneffels Range near Ridgeway  © William Horton

Tuesday, September 22 – The General Membership Meeting kicks off the day, followed by the Showcase of Selected Members’ Photography. There will be a workshop on how to turn your ho-hum photos into prize winners using the latest computer software, and a program from a member who went from a career as a newspaper staff photographer to a freelancer, and hand-tints black & white photos in his spare time. Contrary to the old adage, there is a free lunch – well, as long as you paid your registration fee – and the afternoon will include tips from a former magazine editor on selling your writing and photos, plus a field trip to impressive Box Canyon Falls and some historic mining ruins.

Wednesday, September 23 – Time to get out and up, well up, into the beautiful San Juan Mountains with a full-day four-wheel-drive tour with Switzerland of America, a well-respected Ouray tour and jeep rental company. The custom tour, dubbed “Ghost Towns in Fall Splendor,” will take us into the mountains south of Ouray and promises splendid views of both scenery and historic ruins. A stop in the community of Silverton is also planned. We’ll be back in Ouray in time for a buffet dinner and the Photo Critique. Remember to bring some digital photos to see what our photo experts – the Good Cop and Bad Cop – have to say about them.

Thursday, September 24 – Photographers will want to be up early for the Sunrise Photo Shoot, and anybody who writes anything – from the Great American Novel to magazine articles to photo captions – should make their way to the writer’s forum. There will be an informative workshop on how to get started blogging (where do they come up with these terms?), and after a lunch buffet we’ll have a program on the best advice our members have ever gotten or given. You won’t want to miss the always fun and usually noisy benefit auction that dominates much of the afternoon, and the conference concludes Thursday evening with a banquet and awards ceremony.

mountain reflections
San Juan Reflections © Jon Sheppard

Workshops, meetings, and most meals take place at the Ouray Community Center, 340 6th Avenue, and there will also be opportunities for exploring the area on your own.

Our 4X4 guide company, Switzerland of America, offers a number of half-and full-day tours to other area attractions and also rents four-wheel-drive vehicles for those wanting to go off on their own. Tell them you are with Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers & Photographers and they will give you their group discount rate for individual tours and rentals. See soajeep.com or call 866-990-5337 or 970-325-4484.

For additional information on the area see the Ouray Chamber Resort Association’s website,     ouraycolorado.com, or call the Ouray Visitor Center at 800-228-1876 or 970-325-4746. There will also be occasional updates to conference plans at rmowp.org.