We took a down day yesterday. I skidded down the path as we were coming back into town and tweaked my ankle, so I spent the day with it up on a pillow and wrapped in cold packs. Can’t waste time having a sore ankle! It was still a little tender today so we drove to Silverton over the Million Dollar Highway. Us and a gazillion motorcyclists. It is a great road for motorcycles. As we were driving along, I was looking at the far side of the canyon and I had Gerry stop at a little turn-out to take a closer look at, what? a house? with laundry on the line? way the hellandgone up the mountain with no road or even sign of a track? There was a sign on the side of the house that said “Antiques, 9-5:30.” I don’t think so. I suspect a joke played by the guys one of the local girls characterized as “crazy hippie climber dudes.”
We checked out the town of Silverton, and ate our picnic lunch while we watched the train from Durango get itself repositioned. Off on the side of the hill, we could see what looked like walkers and runners. Tough guys, running at 9,000’. There was a big tent they were running to, so we checked it out and turned out it was a 5-day event with them running from Telluride to Silverton, a hundred miles. Horrifying. We went back to looking at the train.
As we headed back toward Ouray, we saw a dirt road leading off the highway with a sign that announced it was Colorado Road #31. The mountains here are threaded with numbered Colorado roadways that in some cases are little more than mountain goat tracks. This one looked good in comparison, so we ventured off the beaten (or paved, if you will) track to see where this lead.
We came out at the National Belle mine, where we met some HOV riders picking through the mine tailings, looking for crystals. We followed them for a little while when they moved on, but the road soon became HOV friendly but not Little Green Toad friendly, so we turned around.
Back on the highway, we came to the overlook of the tall mine structure I’d taken photos of when we came this way from Cortez, last month. As we looked at it, here came 3 HOV’s rolling along in front of the buildings! It was our friends from the National Belle. So when we saw the other end of CO 31 down the road a bit, we took it and drove right up the base of the Yankee Girl Mine. It was a deep shaft mine and the building was the elevator structure, still standing after 130 years, but with a substantial grating over the mine shaft that echoed below my feet.
More people came up while we were taking pictures. They were locals showing some out-of-town guests around and they told us about the mine, and the still active Idarado Mine across the valley. That mine goes all the way through the mountain and out on the other side near Telluride. One winter there was an avalanche on the highway and the Silverton boys’ basketball team couldn’t get to Telluride for their game, so the mine operators took the team through the Idarado mine and out the other side to Telluride so they wouldn’t have to forfeit the game, which they won. Guess when you live in these mountains, a little thing like an avalanche isn’t a good reason to call a basketball game!
Golden leaves and red mountains – this is a very colorful place!
Back in Ouray, we stopped to take a picture of the hot pools. There are lap pools at 80, a warm pool at 97, and a 105 degree hot pool.
This little guy was munching on the grass in the front yard of one of the houses just off the main street.