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post #141 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-04-2019, 05:09 PM Thread Starter
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Little sneak peak


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post #142 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-06-2019, 01:01 AM Thread Starter
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Today's sneak peek, the friendly mountaintop fox. Didn't give a rat's ass that we were there. He was after chipmunks

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post #143 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-08-2019, 08:19 PM Thread Starter
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So it was a short trip, but definitely a good time. The weather was beautiful in Leadville, Colorado, with highs around 70 and lows around 40 (as I sit in the 90°, 60% humidity of Kansas, sweating my ba11s off). The town of Leadville sits at 10,150' above sea level. It is the highest incorporated settlement in the country. Leadville has been at the center of mining activities for over 100 years. Gold, silver, zinc, galena, sphalerite, and lead have all been mined in the area. Mines dot the landscape all over the valley. Many have been designated as Superfund sites by the almighty EPA. This is due to the high levels of lead, arsenic, and other "heavy minerals" that came out of the ground. You'll see evidence of this in the following pictures. Being deemed Superfund means its classified like Federal land, and all trespassers will be shot on site, errr I mean prosecuted to the fullest extent. As an avid explorer, this bums me out but oh well. Just have to enjoy from afar.

So my buddy wasnt able to leave until late at night. We pulled out of Lawrence about 10:30pm and rolled into Denver at about 7:30 mountain time. Due to our wonderful timing of crossing into mountain time, we saw the sun rise at 4:30. Unfortunately, none of the "stores" in Denver were open yet, so we kept driving and hit up some mountain "stores".

Sunrise lighting up the Front Range.



Leadville is about 30 minutes south of Vail, which is about 90 minutes and two 11,000' passes from Denver. Scraps, as I've started calling the van, made it up without a problem. We weren't passing people, but held our own.

South of Vail, you come upon the ghost town of Gilman. Once a thriving little mining town of 300 people, it was designated a Superfund site and abandoned in 1984; 100 years after it was founded. The EPA closed off 200 some acres, containing the town and 8 million tons of toxic mining waste. The Superfund designation is supposed to draw funds for cleanup of the local environment. However, the funding has dried up and less than 1% of sites are actively being cleaned.





Continuing south, you come upon this neat bridge. It's a long way to the bottom...



Then you are in the headwaters of the Arkansas River. And dont you dare pronounce that with a "W"! It's the Ar-Kansas River (at least in Kansas and parts of Colorado) lol. The Arkansas is one of the longest rivers in the US, and drains into the Mississippi over 1400 miles downstream. Speaking of DOWNstream, the Arkansas river drops over 9500 ft of elevation over its course. 4600ft of this occurs in the first 120 miles.





And then you decide to look up as you pass the next bend and you are smacked in the face by a pair of monsters: Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. Mt. Elbert is the tallest mountain in Colorado, and a mere twelve feet higher than Mt. Massive who tops out at 14,428'. The only taller mountain in the lower 48 is Mt. Whitney.

But man, Mt. Massive is truly MASSIVE



Somehow stumbled onto possibly the best camp site in all of Colorado. Tucked back in the pines on a bend of Halfmoon Creek, we were a good hundred yards from the next campers. And IT WAS FREE! I would have paid 50 bucks a night for this spot. Heck, I've paid 50 bucks for less.





At this point, I'd been up for 30 hours, with 12 more to go before I'd crawl in the sleeping bag. It was a long two days. Stay tuned, more mining, ghost town, and mountain pics to come!

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post #144 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-09-2019, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
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After setting up the tent to claim our spot, we headed out to Hopemore Mine. It is a privately owned mine, and has a very informal underground (600ft) tour by the owner himself. We didnt do it, due to not knowing about it. You can drive to the top, where the view is fantastic.

Coming up to a shaft. That tall structure was part of the elevator system.



The rocks have been permanently stained by the toxic stuff pulled out of the mine. Without proper precautions, the pollutants will still pollute because they remain in the tailings piles.



Closer view of the first shaft tower.



Many structures are gone or dilapidated, like whatever this was.



As you can see, the pollutants are still there. This small pool was blood red. Need I say, DONT DRINK THE WATER. Actually, you'd be best off not touching anything.



Tailings and a structure of some sort.





Scraps! The road is pretty nice through the mine.



One of the nicer structures



No matter where in the valley, you cant escape the hulking giants of Mts. Elbert and Massive.



Structure at the top.



Mountains for miles, and Turquoise Lake in the background



I assume this is the elevator that you take on the tour.



More to come!

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post #145 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Warning, large panoramic pic!

Just a random Camp shot, sitting by the fire.



Day two had us traversing Independence Pass. Independence Pass is the second highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the US at 12,095 ft. It is closed from the first heavy snow through the spring melt. There is a couple things to do at the top, plus you can climb the peaks on either side of the saddle. It was a little too busy for my liking, so we just drove through to our destination. The west side of the pass has had road damage. It is therefore, a single lane wide in two places, with little warning, no signal, and no turn around or passing spots. This, and the amount of tight switchbacks, mandate a 35' length limit for vehicles on the road. A significant length of this road has sheer vertical drops on the downward side. There were numerous avalanches here this winter.

Heading up the east side of the pass.







Parked up top. There is a good sized gravel parking lot, but it was pretty crowded. This makes a better pic anyways.







I bet the water tastes so good from this lake. I didn't want to contaminate it though. The ecosystem is very fragile at 12,000 feet.



The Great Divide, facing the Pacific.



And looking back at the Atlantic.



And the front half of a badass camper



Supermotors is mega slow, so that's it for tonight. Next up is the "ghost town" of Independence.

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post #146 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-13-2019, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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After topping the pass, we had a couple miles before the town of Independence. Independence is a national heritage site, and is well maintained. A donation of $5 is recommended, though not required. During peak season, there is a pair of volunteers that are at the town site during business hours.

The history behind Independence starts with a declaration of the Continental Divide being the dividing line between the white man's land and that of the Ute Indians. On July 4th, 1879, prospectors defied the Governor's orders and crossed the divide and settled in a spot on the Roaring Fork River. The river runs through a glaciated, U-shaped valley that is extremely peaceful in the summer. In the winter however, the weather is some of the most unforgiving in the nation. Feet upon feet of snow remain well into spring. Independence was used as a stopover for people travelling from Leadville to the towns lower down in the Roaring Fork Valley. By 1882, population had grown to 1500 and gold production neared $5 million in 2019 dollars. However, much of the easy gold had been mined and in 1883, many residents were leaving for Aspen, which had a multitude of economic opportunities. By 1888, 90% of the population had left. The winter of 1899 was exceptionally fierce, and all but one single resident retreated down to Aspen as a group. In 1912, it was completely abandoned.

Winters are intense at 11,000', and avalanches were abundant, especially on the areas that had been cleared for the mines. In the 1930s, the CCC came in and planted rows of trees to replace the forest that had been cut down. Evidence of this can be seen even now, 90 years later, by looking at the trunks of the trees: they are in rows running up the mountain.

This is a self-guided tour that requires a small amount of hiking. Remember, you're at nearly 11k feet, so pay attention to your oxygen levels. I use the oxygen you can buy at many convenience stores in Colorado. Good shoes are recommended.

View from the roadside parking lot









Random boarding house. These were for workers. The hotels charged upwards of $3 a day, and these were about that for a week.



Old wood







Cant get much prettier of scenic views



Many structures are only known by the destroyed piles or depressions from cellars.



This is a fully restored general store. One of the volunteers is stationed here and sells trinkets, books, and such about the site. Proceeds all go to maintaining the location.



Interesting construction methods on the logs. Most arent this perfectly triangular.





Old well



Skinny doors!



Beautiful view out the window.



This is part of the patch of forest replanted by the CCC.



Roaring Fork River







It really is a Roaring River!


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post #147 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-13-2019, 05:36 PM
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I spent three weeks in Yellowstone NP one spring many years ago and stayed in Cooke City, MT on the NW corner of the park. The cabins I stayed in were around 8300 ft elevation, so I can definitely attest to the lower oxygen levels up high!

Love the pics!
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post #148 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-13-2019, 10:14 PM
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I had to check on Google, for the highest crossings in the US, because the day the North Koreans invaded South Korea in June 1950, My mom and my grandparents were on US 34, crossing the pass on there, which is Trail Ridge Road, when they heard the announcement on the radio about the invasion.
As for oxygen, my late brother Geoff, who was a truck driver, told me about crossing on I-70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel, and having to pull in to get some oxygen therapy because he started getting hypoxic.
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post #149 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-14-2019, 07:27 PM Thread Starter
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If I dont exert myself, I'm fine at 8000 ft. At 10k, there is a definite difference. I've had altitude sickness twice, and know the signs well. Gotta move slow, and not carry too much. Stay hydrated, and well fed. Moving at high altitudes is kind of like moving with extra gravity. It wears you out faster.

Getting hypoxia just driving through the passes isn't a good thing, and could have been due to a prior condition. Though driving up the two passes on I70 can be harrowing, especially in a loaded down big rig. I know of people who've gotten it at just 6000', and they were a personal trainer. It affects everyone differently.

Trail ridge road is higher at one point, but not where it crosses the Divide. Reading up on it, it sounds pretty cool. I had considered taking that route before the trip, but it's close to where we were last year.

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post #150 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-14-2019, 08:26 PM
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Good to hear that the old Shaggin Wagon made it with no problems.
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post #151 of 151 (permalink) Old 07-14-2019, 09:36 PM
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Trail Ridge Road was also the road featured in the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz movie "The Long, Long Trailer." Mom and I were watching it, and that's when she told me about her and her parents on US 34. I didn't realize that where it crosses the divide, it's not the highest point.

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