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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Out of Bounds

Yeah that's me... off route again, getting high the hard way. To be honest, there was an old steel cable to hang on to, but it just seemed to get in the way. Other than this little speed bump (well, there was the snow cave... that was a little sketchy, too) we had a fantabulous hike to an old mining camp on the shores of Silver Lake, way up above Silverton, Colorado.

We couldn't remember the last time we hiked up to Silver Lake. All I know is that it was pre-digital cameras as I was still shooting slides. Thus, the details had been forgotten (especially the "sketchy" parts);  it all seemed like a brand new to me :). 

Getting there was, how shall I say it, interesting. We left Sue Bee down in the timber and walked a narrow 4WD road several switchbacks up the steep side of a mountain. We wanted a long hike anyway, so no sense in risking harm to Sue Bee.  

After a mile or so the road ended at a pile of mining ruins. We were still in shade, but the mountain next door was lit up.

There was a faint path just beyond what looked like a salvage yard full of scrap metal. I followed Bobbie... hopscotching through leg-traps and other blood sucking devices waiting for a miss-step. 

Once out of the junk yard, the trail skirted along the bottom of a solid rock cliff, right where it turned into a discharge of precipitous scree. One should have a helmet in such places... especially if "one" is on blood thinners. Oh well, a ball cap would have to do.

I feared we'd be turned back as we approached an enormous shed of snow left over from winter. It was far too steep and long to risk crossing on foot.

 We rounded a corner only to discover a narrow slot where snow melted away from the cliff face. Cool, a passage! It didn't take long, however, for the slot to turn into a tunnel. I sent Bobbie in to scout it out, you know, cause she's smaller.

It was a tad disconcerting. Bobbie disappeared under a thick slab of heavy, waterlogged snow... tons of it. Such things are known to give-way; the weight alone would squeeze the life out of you in less than a minute. And me, with no shovel... not that it would do any good.

Go gently, Bobbie. Try not to make any disturbance or push on anything.

After what seemed like a long time, I hear, "Ok, I made it. But you are going to have to get small, maybe take off your pack."

Easier said than done, but I managed, reluctantly. I Didn't like it... was keenly aware of the tremendous weight tenuously attached to the cliff face. 
This is how stupid people get on the nightly news in Colorado.

The snow tunnel in shadow, below... the road up. Sue Bee's way down in the timber.
The relief of making through the snow tunnel was short-lived. Suddenly I'm like, Hey, we got to go back through that thing... after the sun's been beating down on it all day. 

As it turned out, the snow tunnel would be the least of our worries. Oh happy day...  

"Danger: Loose rock... Falling Climber Zone"

You don't have to say it. I didn't like it either!
Bobbie, I don't remember this!

Once I got back on-route, it was nice to have a cable to hang onto... even if it was a hundred and fifty years old :)

The mountain relented a little once we reached the upper basin. The mine stayed active near to the middle of the last century (Wow, it sounds so long ago put that way, yet that's when I was born).

Thirty or forty years with electricity sure helped... 

Silver Lake's spillway is littered with lumber from the ruins...

As we approached the mining site, it looked as if a bomb had gone off. Decades of heavy snow, wind, and avalanches have taken their toll.

One thing is for certain. Nobody bothered to take anything down with them when they left. The grounds were littered with old shoes and bowls and sun-tinged glass from every kind of bottle imaginable... from perfume to liquor to canning jars.

It's fascinating to pick through "artifacts" from bygone years... especially up in mining towns that built up around old camps. Winters were so raw and harsh. 

Bobbie and I rummaged around for an hour, stooping down to pick up personal items that caught our eye... remnants of a child's boot, once fine china, now shattered, miner's hightop boots, all shriveled and rotten. 

After lunch we decided to try and hike up higher, to one of the ridges at least, maybe even summit a 13'er. I spied a slight zig zag going up one of the ridges... a faint trail. Cutting cross country, we mad a beeline for it. That's when we stumbled upon a hidden pocket full of posies. 

You won't believe it, so stay tuned for part II of "Out of Bounds... Flowers and Getting Down," and by "Getting Down," I don't mean dancing'.  


  1. What an amazing site! That looks like a ton of fun to comb through...but the access looked really hairy. You are a couple of brave souls...

  2. Thanks for the memories. Hiked to Silver Lake many years ago with my dad and brother. A very memorable day, in that my dad usually didn't hike much with us, he preferred to hang out and poke around looking for old railroad and historic stuff. Your photos are fantastic, as usual.

  3. OK, so now you scare me. Crawling through collapsible tunnels, hauling yourself up an old rusty cable....all this makes me think maybe this is this last blog posting. I mean seriously, what's next? It doesn't amaze me that nobody took anything down from that mining camp - given the trail is kinda dangerous. Sure looks like after an ISIS attack up there. Be careful man.

  4. I hiked to Silver Lake somewhere around the turn of the last millennium (how's that for ancient history). There was no snow tunnel that year, but the cable route was sketchy as I recall. It's pretty amazing that some of those buildings are still standing given the winters up there. I also enjoyed poking through all that stuff laying around.....funny how 50+ year old junk is cool, as opposed to just being litter. Thanks for the pics and the reminder of another great spot in the San Juans.

  5. Yup! That's how people make the news! Glad we won't be hearing about you two:) How cool to have all that old stuff to sift through...fun times!

  6. I love places like that. To think they actually hauled bricks up there. Glad you didn't make the six-o-clock news.

  7. You are definitely bad ass crazy! I'm glad you do it, so I can just sit here in my comfy couch and enjoy it through the pics.



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