While going through an external hard drive that is about to die on me I found an old file with pictures of my trip from Phoenix to the San Juan Mountains to meet friends Doug Ramsey and "Jefe" Reynolds for a drive-about over high mountain passes. Boy that was a long sentence and it took my breath away, or was that the elevation of those passes.
I met Doug before Jefe showed up so we could hike to a spectacular place called The Old Hundred Boarding House. Not having time to acclimate to the altitude it was a tough climb. The switchback road up was tight and tough for the truck as well. I wouldn't have driven it if Doug weren't leading the way.
Look close to see white dots marking the trail.
I just want to make the point that if you fall you will see the Boarding House from many different angles, as you roll past it.
Doug picks his way along. I guess that's better than picking...well there is no picking except your way along.
There is no trail down to the Boarding House from the trail up, and if you fell you'd be picking your trail up from 2,000 feet down. This weighed heavily on my mind as rocks moved and slid under my feet, hands and arms were out in case I needed to go into a glide. Good thing rocks can't yell as some rolled down into the abyss.
Silverton is in the distance. And while you can see Silverton from the Boarding House, you cannot see the Boarding House from Silverton, it is such a small spec that blends in with the rock mountain.
Inside the tram house.
I've seen an old picture of a man standing up riding the tram/ore car down. He either had huge cajones or a death wish. Ok I'm thinking a hot date in Silverton.
Inside the boarding house showed the ravages of time, and maybe the going away party from the last night there.
Many springs have passed since those beds were used. Many...springs...oh yeah.
A peak out an upper window showed me how glad I was to not be a roofer.
I just know there's a bathroom out here somewhere.
Rails coming out of the actual shaft in the mountain.
View from the porch. Can you imagine having a few too many and going out for fresh air?
After hiking back to the trucks we drove on up to the next mine, I forget the name, I hope you don't mine.
Those tram cables kept me from being able to drive farther, they would take the camper right off my truck. Well actually, my truck and camper being a GMC and Outfitter would undoubtedly pull that ol building right down off its foundation, just sayin...
A view of the Boarding House trail from that mine
The Old Hundred Boarding House from the dirt road below
And from further away.
Then we drove over Ophir Pass (?) from the Million Dollar Highway over towards Telluride to meet Jefe at a campground.
The next day we couldn't pass on doing Imogene...Pass. Isn't this trip going pretty well?
Whilst driving up the pass we had to make way for a Jeep coming down. I tend to pull into the hill side of things since I'm wider and can't judge how close I can get to the edge, that seriously dropping off edge. Catching the tip of a rock with the sidewall of my BFG KO2's, the tires with that supposed gnarly beefed up sidewall, that tire was opened up like a can of beans and sounded about the same. So much for beefy sidewalls. Jefe sprang into action like a kid on Christmas morning with his new plug kit and, well. plugged the hole, and plugged the hole, and...ok he put a whole bunch of bloody plugs in the hole and we had a tire again. Yes I had a full size spare but switching tires would have left me without a spare and left Jefe without having so much fun.
There had been a huge mining operation up in this valley, now broken down by Nature.
The Telluride landing strip is visable in the upper left.
Imogene Pass, 13,114 feet. Well I can't read the sign.
Driving on the Highway to another pass my tire heated up and started puking plugs. Jefe's best efforts couldn't keep them in so I drove off to Durango in search of a spare. Little did I know that just two years from then I'd be living in Durango for about a year.
I met back up with Doug and Jefe in Silverton and we drove on up to the top of Black Bear Pass. I did say up to the top, but not down the other side, being a spooky very short wheelbase drive switchbacking down the mountain.
There wasn't a lot of choice places to camp up there, I chose the best place I could find.
We're driving, we're driving...
More trucks on dirt roads, oy.
This must be the Pass lane. (Boo, hiss)
Well, it was closer than it looks, that's all I can tell ya.
I was a little rusty yet geared up for one of Doug's fabulous "talks" about the history of this mine. I've never know such a great tour guide and am impressed to this day how he knew so much about the whole area.
Having been there for a while is was time to bolt...
There was a fork in the road...
we went left.
And ended up at a great place to camp for the night.
I'll be jiggered. Was jiggered. After hours at Club Jefe.
Trucks look like tiny toys imposed on huge mountains. It was hard to comprehend the scale in the thin air of altitude.
On the way up Engineer Pass we stopped for a sec at Animas Forks. Just had to visit the Ore House.
On up that pass we went.
We drove a short distance back off the summit to spent the night at what felt like the top of the world.
I don't know who Ray was, but he had a great view and was as close to Heaven as a guy can get.
That night ol Jefe cooked up some of his famous carne asada. And Jefe, being a musician with an awesome voice sang not for his meal but for ours. His Gregorian chanting surely filled the San Juan with the sound of heaven.
The evening itself was a preview of what heaven must be.
The following morning was equally beautiful. What a fantastic way to end a fantastic trip.
Handshakes and hugs were given, we were men out of time with daily lives to get home to.
After the fun and 4-wheeling all we left were shadows.
Even Animas Forks was empty, a sight you'll seldom see these days of SUV's, ATV's and UTV's.
So long from the Three Amigos...Jefe, Doug and Dave
A list of passes climbed:
Ophir Pass 11,789
Imogene Pass 13,114
Red Mt Pass 11,075
Black Bear Pass 12,840
Hurricane Pass 12,407
California Pass 12,930
Placer?Picayne Pass 12,666
Engineer Pass 12,800
Black Bear Pass 12,840
Hurricane Pass 12,407
Ah Point, Engineer Pass 12,968