Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another Trip on Scenic Highway 550

This road is also called the San Juan Scenic Highway, or the Million Dollar Highway.  Anyway, we decided that we want to see the part we missed last Friday.  And rationalized it all by saying that we would only go as far Silverton, just a little road trip.  Coming out of Durango we noticed several cars parked at what seemed to be some kind of roadside attraction.  Just had to stop and look.
It is the Pinkerton Hot Springs, named for Judge Pinkerton who owned the land back in 1875.  These springs are not too far from our home. There is another hot springs across the street from us, water from those springs run down in a little creek near our home.  It is interesting to see the steam rise from the creek when the nights get cold!  I should at least soak my feet in that water before we leave.
Coal Bank Pass was our first stop, it is the second highest summit on the San Juan Skyway.  Notice the yellow wildflowers in the foreground.  The wildflowers we saw along the highway were about as equally stunning as the mountain vistas.  One area, coming out of Durango, has so many white flowers it makes the ground look like it is covered with snow.  Our next stop, Molas  Pass, also had quite a display of them.  A young man used that backdrop as the scene for a wedding proposal while we were there.
The young lady did accept the proposal.  At this stop we were able to get a great view of the Weiminuche Wilderness.  It is the largest wilderness in Colorado, encompassing 488,700 acres.  Here at this overlook there is an interpretive sign noting that from the San Juan Mountains one can see for 170 miles, the longest sight distance in North America.  It also noted that up here the air is quite pure.  On that note I want to write here about what is now not so pure, the Animus River.  We could see that river snaking through Silverton when we stopped off the highway to look down at the city.
As many of you know, the river has been contaminated by mine tailings from King Mine, which is north of the city.  I will not go into the details here, but John and I saw the polluted water 24 hours later after it happened while biking along the river in Durango.  Fortunately the water today is now a light green color and word on the news this morning is that people can go back on the river by next Monday.
After lunch we drove north of Silverton into the mining area.  Mining equipment, sheds, chutes, as well as ore cars dot the landscape.  Scrap ore from the gold and silver mining cover the hillsides, and any little rivulet of water is colored the same color orange as we have been seeing in the Animus River.  At one of the mine sites there is a sign put up by the Idarado Mining Company that they mined the area from the 1870s to 1980, and got out of the mine 4 million ounces of gold, 21 million ounces of silver.  The sign also noted that mining the ore fueled the Industrial Revolution as well supplied raw material to aid America during its two world wars.  Since the 1980s the company has taken on reclamation efforts to clean up the land.  We saw no reclamation efforts in progress as we drove through the area, I guess as Paul Harvey once said,  "now you know the rest of the story".  A mined hillside is in the picture below.   I will continue the tale of the rest of our drive on the scenic highway in my next posting.  I am so glad we did not stop at Silverton, there was still so much to see!

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