"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." Annie Dillard
Peering into the bowl from an adjoining ridge, I found it near unfathomable that 400 hard-rock residents once called this unforgiving place "home." Over time, the crushing weight of winter snows and volatile avalanches have taken a destructive toll on all but a couple of buildings. Gravity, like rust and scheming women, never sleeps.
The historic Virginius Mine is located in Governor Basin, a mere ten miles above Lovely Ouray. It is a magnificent otherworldly place, hemmed in cloud-snagging 13,000 foot summits of Gilpin, Emma, and Mendota Peaks. Between Emma and Mendota exits a raggedy-ass 13,000 foot sawtooth ridge known as Saint Sophia, the knife-edge demarcation between Ouray and San Miguel counties.
With the brute force of Petroleous Rex, our trusty 4 X 4 gas-hog of a pickup truck, Bobbie and I negotiated swollen streams, mud, and a narrow Jeep-trail—unceremoniously carved into an abrupt cliff-face as if someone double dog dared a road builder to try and put it there. It had been bulldozed clear of snow all the way to Governor Basin, I assume due to reactivation of the "Virginius" (now called The Revenue) mine. But ours was a search for another kind of "glitter," beyond flakes and nuggets buried in the maze of shafts burrowed beneath these mountains.
There to hike, not drive, we parked the Beast at a plowed intersection and set out traversing a broad expanse of snow that still laid claim to the road to Sidney Basin—hopscotching from snow to rock to tundra—aiming for a gunsight notch in a ridge that appeared to be a plausible and passable route into Governor Basin. Later, we determined that our guidebook's suggested route was a long round-a-bout loop hike way to see "The Governor." When you live around here, a "hike" often ends up being a climb.
|Aiming for the notch, right of center|
|So far so good, the snow supports our weight|
|Bobbie, working her way up to the ridge|
As usual, we got off track and ended up south of Saint Sophia on a minor adjoining ridge. It turned out to be a good vantage point to have lunch and take in the enormity of our surround. After getting a birds-eye view of Governor's Basin from the notch, we adapted our plan. If snow was firm, why not try to gain San Sophia's ridge… maybe catch a view down the Telluride side? Indeed, our amorphous guidebook showed that we could work our way up a moderate incline north of the the "sawtooth" section.
|Bobbie taking in Governor Basin from our "notch"|
|As soon as the snow recedes, flowers pop|
|Looking northwest across Governor Basin toward Gilpin, 13,700', and Mount Sneffels, 14,157'|
|Another view from our ridge...|
|Right to left, Peaks Gilpin and Emma, then San Sophia Ridge|
|A view of Mount Sneffels from our notch|
|Bobbie makes her way down to Governor Basin from the notch|
|Saint Sophia Ridge. The notch right of center is the one we needed… but a lot of snow the overcome|
Happy Fourth of July!
|Headed back to Pet Rex on Governor Basin Road… a "cake walk."|