Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wet Rocks

Just in case anyone is wondering if we’ve been affected by the rain and floods in Colorado, it is raining here in Durango…lots of rain in fact, but the floods and mudslides being reported on TV are on the eastern slope of the Rockies and Durango is on the western slope. A lot of the flooding and mudslides are right in the area where we were camped last week.  The locals here are saying they haven’t seen rain like this in a long time, but so far there has been no flooding.


Yesterday the sun was out, so we went back over the mountains on the scary road we took to Durango earlier this week. This two lane highway (US 550) goes over two 11,000 foot mountain passes, and has innumerable steep switchbacks in its 70 mile run from Ouray to Durango. The road was built in 1881 and was originally called the million dollar highway because it cost one-million dollars per mile to build.DSC_0479

The “highway was built when it became apparent that moving ore down the mountains on the backs of mules wasn’t very efficient.


About midway between Ouray and Durango is the tiny town of Silverton, nestled among the mountain peaks. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s this town was an important mining community, especially after the railroad between it and Durango was constructed.


The town’s main street is the only paved street among the 6 or 7 streets I counted and it looks like nothing in the town was built after 1910 or so. Get rid of the modern cars and you could be in the 19th century. There isn’t a McDonalds or a Holiday Inn in sight.

DSC_0508This stretch of mountains is the heart of what used to be Colorado’s mining district and the highway runs right along an area where several mines used to exist. The last active mine here closed down in 1948 and there is currently a major reclamation project underway which is supposed to return the mountain to the way it looked before the mining began.


There are still remnants of the boom towns that grew among the mines. This one was probably associated with the mine that closed in 1948 because the building look more modern than something built in the late 1800s.


This is probably considered a ghost town, but there are others in these mountains that fit the stereotype a bit better.




The area is known as Red Mountain, probably because of the color of some of the stones that top the local peak.




Descending the mountains and coming into Durango we spotted this hot spring at the side of the road. We’re hundreds of miles from Yellowstone, but this serves as a reminder of how much volcanic activity is going on under the mountain west.

Earlier today, before the rain started we drove to Chimney Rocks National Monument, which is near the town of Pagosa Springs.


You can see in the picture why its called Chimney Rocks. Interestingly, although it’s a National Monument, they wouldn’t accept our Interagency Senior Pass (no problem at other National Monuments) and wanted $15 each to permit us to take a self guided tour of some archeological sections. We declined.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’re planning to visit Mesa Verde, which is the biggest Anasazi pueblo of them all. But the way it’s raining right now I wouldn’t be surprised if the dwellings were reduced to piles of mud.


Blogger christie said...

Glad to hear you two are safe!

11:33 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Hi Lew and Penny. Your trip sounds amazing. Glad to hear you were safe in Colorado -- I was worried.

6:23 PM  

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