June 11 – Silverton, Colorado


We were ready for our adventure across the mountains by 9 AM and so we began the trek. The first 15-20 miles were not too bad, winding some, slight rise in elevation and nice scenery of houses and farms and trees.

The second half of the trip I would say wasn’t so easy. Very winding roads, narrow with a huge drop-off on one side or the other (it seemed to be on my side more often) and an elevation rise to a height of 10,900 feet. The air was thin and there is still snow in the peaks. We can make it.

I can tell you I didn’t do much gawking (as Brenda says I often do and then hit the rumble strips on the edge of the pavement) as I kept my eye on that centerline. I wasn’t about to go over the edge.DSC_0030

We were in the campground by 11 and set up before lunch. Silver Summit RV Park is adjacent to the D&SNG railroad siding in Silverton. Campground is right adjacent to downtown. Only one street in Silverton is paved and the rest are gravel that they water them every day to keep the dust down. Location is right in the middle of mountains surrounding the town. I thought I read about it being created by a volcano. More on that later.

The exciting part is that the train passes by at least 6 times a day and blows its whistle. The one thing I am noticing right now is that you can smell the coal smoke inside the RV.

We walked (hiked because it was further down the road than I thought) to the first brewery (Avalanche). Sat down with my IPA, Brenda a Porter and started talking to the couple next to us. Captain Bob and his wife, they drive large motor boats for rich people along the Atlantic Coast. They come to Colorado to get away from the Ocean (yes there are no oceans in Colorado). Great couple that love to tent camp and we shared stories about each other adventures. That is one of the great things about traveling, you meet so many nice people with similar interests. Had a pizza and another beer and walked home.

Sunday, no church within 50 miles so I guess we will say a prayer and thank God for this great creation. Also we pray for the people of Orlando! We did wake up to 42 degrees – oh burr!

Off to explore a mine, The Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour. We rode in car into the mine with about 10 other people. I was wondering why we had to wear a raincoat (hard hat I understood) and quickly discovered that the ground above the mine is very pervious and holds a lot of water. It dripped on us for the 1/3 mile into the mine.

This mine produced gold, silver, copper and other metals. They even had demonstrations of the equipment, including the drill and mucking machine. I can tell you they were very, very loud!DSC_0037

We were able to pan for metals adjacent to the mine and found some copper and silver. I don’t think we will retire on what we found. Though it brought back memories for Brenda as she used to pan for gold in California as a young teenager. Her experience found all these pieces as I don’t have the patience to sit here that long.

We then drove further into the canyon and saw two ghost towns, Howardsville and Eureka. People began to arrive in 1874. They were old mining towns that people abandoned after the mines closed in the 20’s and 30’s. It was amazing how many mines there were in this area and the lack of people today.

Please note that once you left the one paved road in Silverton, the rest of the roads were gravel. In fact the further we drove the worst they got and there was a sign that said only 4×4’s beyond this point. Didn’t venture any further.

We stopped at Golden Block Brewery (#2 in town) for a beer to rinse the dust out of our throats. It seems that every town in Colorado has at least one brewery. Looking forward to Denver where there has to be at least 50. May have to stay there a little longer to try them all lol!

We walked around the town to see a variety of shops, mostly oriented toward trains, mining and back-countrying (that is jeeping or 4×4 or hiking the wilds of the countryside – my definition – that seems to be the big focus here).

Silverton seems to be a great area and beautiful scenery but unfortunately the economy is poor. Many store fronts are For Sale or blank.

Wyatt Earp spent a lot of time here dealing cards with his friend Bat Masterson in the 1800’s. I remember reading books about Wyatt and watching TV programs about them. It was exciting walking on the same street that Wyatt walked.

Silverton started in 1874 as a mining town, after the Feds negotiated the Utes Indians out of the area. There is only 699 people in the whole county surrounding Silverton. The Grand Imperial Hotel started in 1883, a year after the railroad arrived. It still stands tall and eloquent.DSC_0127

What was Silverton’s largest industry after mining? Saloons! In fact, in the three block area of Blair Street, there were 32 saloons and houses of ill repute. The last house of ladies closed in 1947.

Monday is an easy morning. I rode the bike down to the depot and did a video of the train coming into town. I still enjoy watching the trains.

We toured the local museum, the Mining Heritage Center and 1902 County Jail. It was a fantastic museum of mining and the area. We saw the old jail (bars and system had been built in St Louis). You could spend all day there and they had many items in great condition and the stories explained the history. They even had Derringer’s handgun collection.

They even had an authentic recreated Sunnyside Mine Tunnel. You were able to walk through it and see the walls and equipment – this time you didn’t get wet.

After all that walking and reading back to the Avalanche Brewery (we felt the better of the two) and had some bacon wrapped figs and a beer.

Time for supper and I heard that the “Thee Pitt’s Again” was a Diner, Drive-in and Dive restaurant. I found it hard to believe that Guy came to Silverton, but we thought let’s try it. The owner was closing the door as we pulled up at 4:30. (I had stopped by at noon to make sure they would be open and the girl had said yes.) The owner invited us in anyways, explained his daughter had gotten sick and they thought it was easier to close but we could still order. We sat down and he told us about Guy, watched the TV video, and had some great food. It did turn out that Guy visited his restaurant in Phoenix (same name and process). He said Guy was there three days and videoed taped the whole time.

His conversation about the town was interesting and the struggles they have.

Had rain this afternoon which the people were happy about. It has been quite dry.

Tuesday woke up to 35 degrees – guess I better stop complaining about the 90’s. There was a heavy fog but it lifted by 9 and we have sunshine. I am surprised by how warm the sun feels at higher elevations even though the temp is only 48.

Ate lunch today at Mattie and Maud’s, they specialized in Navajo Style Tacos on Fry Bread. Oh was it good! So good I forgot to get a picture before I started eating.IMG_1534

Oh yes I did read the article about this area being formed by a volcano. I will not try and explain all the details (as I am not a geologist) but the important part was as the heated waters migrated upwards through the caldera fractures they began to deposit minerals on the sides of the fractures forming veins. Those veins consisted of deposits of gold, silver etc. You get the idea that the volcano is what made this area famous.

As I was relaxing in my chair, starring at the mountain in front of me, I noticed that there were no trees above a certain elevation (approximately 12,000 feet).  It was hard to believe that there is an area that is a tundra and nothing grows, especially since we were so close.IMG_1558

Wednesday we head north to Olathe, Colorado. Before we left we needed to get a cinnamon roll from Mattie and Maud’s (heard they were great). Went at 8 AM and they said they were just starting. Said they were a small family restaurant and get to it when they do. Went back at 9 and had a great roll that was still warm.

Off to the next site. I understand we have to traverse the Million Dollar Highway which is a bit scarier than the trip up from Durango.

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