We took off fairly early Sunday morning from Cortez. Durango was our first stop, more like a pause, before we began our mountain drive. Durango is known for the old coal powered train that runs along the Animas river valley to Silverton and back. I've heard it is quite the experience. My dad rode the train as a child in one of the open cars. You get soot in your face but it does seem to be the best way to get photos. Anyways, our pause in Durango was to see the train before it left for its first 8 o-clock run.
The drive from there was all winding roads along the Million Dollar highway, completely engulfed in the mountains all around. Everywhere you looked there was another breathtaking bend or mountainside. And just as often crumbling mine shafts, old buildings or sheds, slides of overburden, the debris leftover from mining. This was the area for gold, iron and silver mining.
Silverton was a small single paved road with a grid of wide dirt roads crossing it. The main downtown was quite quaint. You could drive the entire main street in 2 minuts, it was that small. Most of the houses there were quaint but the yards were undefined leaving you with the feeling of un organization. Such a verity of old cars could be found here as well, most parked in the yard to rot.
Ouray was our next destination. There we oriented ourselves with the area by visiting the visitors center. Actually we were really looking for restrooms. Note: when visiting Ouray, don't try the tiny gas stations for public restrooms. There are none. We ate lunch at local at the "Timberline Deli". The soup of the day, a spicy, creamy chicken was delicious as well as their avocado sandwich with turkey. Ouray had such a different atmosphere then Silverton. The downtown area was bustling with tourist traffic, people walking, jeeps heading every which way for off roading as well as dirt bikes. Plenty of biker groups in their respective styles of bikes. If I do have a chance to come back I would love to dip a big toe in the hot springs pool. It is located right next to the visitors center and is large enough to have a lap pool as well.
After consulting some local maps we decided to head back up to Silverton (only about 24 miles back) to see a few ghost towns. We stopped at what we thought was the walking entrance to Box Canyon. Turns out the road kept going and our parking spot was for the ice climbing that they do in winter. All along this deep canyon was a white pipe with spigots attached. In winter they would create a wall of ice for climbers to climb up. It would be quite an interesting show.
We did walk up the canyon a ways. The path followed a very large pipe that probably fed the towns water supply. The bit of walk reminded me of two places. One, following the pipe up the the falls behind our school in Indonesia. And two, the cool, crisp mountain and smell of earth along a small stream felt in every way like the highlands. Perhaps an OE (outdoor education) trip.
As we didn't have much time we did swing by the real Box Canyon. To our dismay they wanted money so we moved on out of town to our next stop.
It was in a bend in the road, one of the many switchbacks, that this next ghost town was located. I originally thought it was called Red Mountain but in reading the details on that particular town I determined that you could actually see it from our location and that this town, to me, is unknown. Four houses total were standing, the first completely boarded up, while the rest stood empty and open. Across the road from these homes was a large open area that had at one point been mined. That area was closed off to the public as far as I could tell.
Back in Silverton we took a road out of town that lead to yet another ghost town, Animas Forks. We only made it to Eureka. The dirt road we had been following turned even steeper and a sign suggested only 4x4 vehicles procede. In Eureka there was what remained of an old mill and a canyon. I captured a few shots up the canyon of some running water bafore it began to sprinkle. Outside we also explored the beginnings of a mineshaft, really just a hole in the rock face.
After our little backtrack we decided to head on to our final destination, Colorado Springs. Along this last part of our journey we began listening to "The Hobbit" to entertain ourselves and keep dad awake. We made it here late but safely.