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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"And In The End, The Love You Make..."

Lovely Ouray from Horse Thief Trail

I can nearly throw a rock to Horse Thief Trail from our deck. It splits from Lovely Ouray's Perimeter Trail, which takes you on a delightful spin around the wooded fringes of our well-nestled Swiss village. Horse Thief Trail, on the other hand, ushers Crevice Dwellers all the way up to Bridge of Heaven... an honest-to-goodness unvarnished innuendo if there ever was one. Until recently, we couldn't hike Horse Thief to Heaven's Bridge because of an antiquated federal law passed in 1872; something that always ruffled this old bird's feathers. 

I have several bones to pick with the 1872 Mining Act, but first and foremost, how can a regulating Act that was drawn up in 1872 possible address mining issues and methods in the year 2012? Now I'm a conservative, so this Lib like outfit might not look too good on me, but common sense dictates that at least an amendment or two would be needed in the last 140 years to catch the past up with real-times. But Congress seems to like status quo and being in arrears... as in the rear hip pocket of rich and powerful mining lobbyists... snuggled up right next to their big fat wallets. Oh the perks of getting elected.

So the Act says private mining claims on our National Forest or BLM lands can be bought and sold. Ok, this is America...  in 1872 we needed to encourage development of our natural resources in order to fuel the Industrial Revolution. The Mining Act allowed anyone to stake a claim and rip the ever-loving guts out of Mother Earth in order to "harvest" the minerals de jour. When the vein ran out or companies went belly up they were allowed to leave their toxic waste dump in a pile on our Public Lands.The EPA is finally holding feet to fire and some of that mess is getting attention. Still, there are fish-less creeks around here that continue to run orange. With the price of gold and other metals going stratospheric, mining on public lands is making a comeback. Almost makes me wish the bottom would drop out of gold and silver.

Pillage and plunder aside, here's what ruffles my feathers. Under the shelter of our antiquated 1872 Mining Act, "people," as in anyone with enough money and loophole savvy, can purchase a mining claim... regardless of mineral potential...  and build "structures" to support operation of said mine as needed. Hence all the picturesque old mine shacks and log cabins that punctuate Colorado's mountainsides. I have no problem with historic relics from our past... even rotting, rusting and falling down, they are not eyesores. But a brand new mansion... A sprawling hilltop compound... in the middle of our National Forest? That's nothing but a one lot gated community, and I have a real problem with it. How does a "mansion" qualify to be a "supporting structure?" 

Now the Law says you must actively mine a claim in order to live there. So all a rich squatter needs is a rock hammer and a flashlight... "Yep, I'm working this claim hard. Gee, I better take a break and head over to the "cabin" and tap that new keg of Ranger IPA... see what the little woman is grilling up for dinner in her new gourmet kitchen (wink wink)."You get the idea.

So Horse Thief Trail happened to cross a certain mining claim on it's way to "Heaven." That claim got bought by Richie Rich a few years ago and sure enough, he build a new "cabin," fully visible from just about anywhere in town. Richie didn't want hikers crossing his new kingdom... I mean claim, "Why it's dangerous... (wink nod) I could be sued (hee hee)." So he puts up a bunch of No Trespassing signs and singlehandedly shuts down one of the prettiest hikes from Lovely Ouray. The trail grew old and cold... a victim of rockfalls slides and neglect.

But you know, every once in a while Karma catches up with "people." If it catches them spreading kindness and goodness, then goodness and kindness refills their store to overflowing. If it catches them looting and pillaging, then they become victims of their own calculated misdeeds and get swallowed up by a bigger fish. There's always a Bigger Fish... no matter how big you get. 

It's a beautiful thing to behold when justice is served and "natural order" is restored... when "IThe End, the love (we) take is equal to the love (we) make. (Beatles)." A slumping economy is a pretty Big Fish, and it's taking a bite out of everyone... including Richie Rich. I heard tell a bank foreclosed on his "Kingdom" up Horse Thief Trail. The wicked witch is "dead," signs have come down and the Stairway to Bridge of Heaven is open once again. One wrong righted. 

Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Town Park from Horse Thief Trail

Mine Shacks One and Two... For Sale By Owner, you know... Wouldn't you like to move to Lovely Ouray and be our neighbor?

Horse Thief Trail

The Ridge to the Bridge of Heaven

Looking down on Ouray

Lavandar Volcanic Tuff

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  1. So enjoyed your post. I read at one time that Rocky Mountain National Park was actually supposed to be in the San Juans, but too much of the land was privately owned. It may have been in one of the regional books that I have.

    I, personally, prefer the San Juans. It may have been the crowds up near RMNP that made me feel that way, but I never tired of the area you live in (lucky dog).

    While the national parks are beautiful, after being in the isolated areas of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, they almost seem like zoos. That's only my opinion, but that's also coming from someone who doesn't have kids with them that have to be entertained.

    Glad the signs are down on your "hike to heaven". The pure disregard for land because of mining is evident down around Silverton--visible to the casual visitor, but I imagine you'd know where it is in the back country. I was glad to see the restoration effort continuing with each visit, but it will take many years to fix some of it.

    I bought a little white book 10-12 years ago called "One Drive in a Million" written by Branson Reynolds. Probably the best $10 I ever spent. It went with us on each subsequent trip to the area. All kinds of information and history at every mile marker - he is obviously a person who loves the area. It shows in his knowledge and descriptions. I just stopped to look it up on Amazon to see if it's still available and new it's $50. Worth every penny even at that. Good for Branson! Do you know him?

  2. and if you chuck that rock a lil' farther, you'll dent the tank on the Raider hiding under the 5er... which is hiding on the SW shoulder of Caviness Mountain! :)

    Like you... I'm all for freedom and free enterprise... but... when you're done "Mining"... the hole you dug should get restored and sealed off. The slag piles spread out, covered over and planted... and the "Active mining" should mean that the income exceeds the expenses... ie. If the mine don't make a few hundred thousand a year... your "Multi-Million_ dollar "Mining Support Structure" gets torn down too! oops... THAT wouldn't ruffle a few feathers would it? THAT would pull the suckers clean out! Hee Hee... kinda like tying knots in the Devils tail... Sounds like fun to me! :)

  3. you wear common sense okay!

  4. Much like many of the old laws the Mining Act is antiquated. But then the rich like it that way. So glad the trail reopened. It looks stunning.

  5. How many miles is the hike to "bridge of heaven" from your place? What a beautiful hike last summer when you and Bobbie took me on the Bridge to Heaven trail. Your pictures bring back fond memories.........
    John Q

  6. Hobo Pals,
    Thanks! I didn't know that about Rocky Mountain National Park. I'm glad it ended up "over there," more elbow room for us :)) I'll see if that book is in our little bookstore... I like knowing the stories and history.

    CowBoy Brian,
    I like your idea... you should run for Congress and straighten everybody out with your CowBoy logic.

    But do I look fat wearing common sense? :))

    Thanks, we are glad too. It's a beautiful and convenient hike.

    John Q,
    You'll find out soon enough :)) July? right?
    Bobbie thinks it adds about three miles. But it saves all that driving. Hopefully this year we won't get run off by lightning like last year.
    thanks all,


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