Black Bear Pass, Attempt #1

Tuesday in the absence of any real information about whether Black Bear Pass was open or not we decided to give it a shot. Turns out, there definitely still snow blocking the way. We went as far as we could before turning around and continuing the adventure elsewhere (more on that Monday).

Black Bear Pass

Black Bear Pass

Black Bear Pass

Waterfall

Black Bear Pass, Sprocket

Sprocket always appreciates the snow:

Sprocket on snow

View from Black Bear Pass

Buckhorn Lakes

San Juan Mountains

Last week we decided to head up into the mountains to do some exploring. We’d been in Colorado for a few weeks and hadn’t been out to play in the mountains—something is clearly wrong! After taking care of some business in the morning, we were getting a bit of a late start so we chose to explore towards Storm King.

Sprocket

As we headed up Buckhorn Road, our views of the mountains just kept getting better. It was also really fun to look back across the valley towards our place on Log Hill Mesa.

Storm King

Storm King

Buckhorn Lakes

We weren’t expecting to get to nearly the end of the road and find a sign welcoming us to Buckhorn Lakes park but what a welcome surprise. Sprocket was beside himself to have a nice mountain lake to swim in!

Buckhorn Lakes

Sprocket

Forrest

It was awesome to get that first adventure under our belts. We’re looking forward to exploring a lot more this summer!

Burning The Dugout

Next to the very unlivable house on our property, was a small dugout shelter. The dugout had collapsed sometime within the last couple of years and wasn’t worth salvaging so we decided it needed to be among the first things we cleaned up on the property.

Collapsed dugout

Collapsed dugout

Burning the dugout created a nice deep hole that is perfect for burning brush and old lumber we find around the place so there really isn’t an “after” picture yet. I did, rather, have lots of fun taking picture of fire.

Dugout

Fire through wood crack

Sprocket was helpful as always:

Sprocket with fire

Dugout on fire

Dugout on fire

Flames

flames

Burning the dugout

Dugout

Entrance

Cleanup Begins…

Buying a new property always involves a some work to make it what you need it to be. If you’re picking up properties on the cheap (as we always do) there’s always an element of imagining what things will be like once we’re done cleaning up. We’ve been hard at work and I should have some “before and after” posts coming for you soon! For now, here’s some shots of what we’re up against:

Scrap metal:
Scrap metal

Old tires:
Tires

Piles of wood:
Pond, pre-cleanup

Random cross-property fencing:
Fencing and garage

Old outbuildings:
Shed

Hanging Flume

On our way from Colorado to Moab, we took a scenic byway along the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers. Unexpectedly, we spotted some timbers sticking out from the rock above the San Miguel River.

San Miguel River

As it turns out, it was the remains of the Hanging Flume. Between 1883 and 1885, the Lone Tree Mining Company filed several claims along the Dolores River just downstream of its confluence with the San Miguel River. Lone Tree mined it’s properties (including the furthest downstream claim Bancroft) using water diverted with ditches and bedrock flumes from Mesa Creek.

In 1888, the claims were sold to Montrose Placer Mining Company. This larger company needed more water than the systems used by Lone Tree could provide to profitably produce gold via hydraulic mining.

Hanging Flume

Along the often sheer walls of the San Miguel and Dolores Canyons, traditional methods of flume construction (dirt ditches and trestle supported flume boxes) were not sufficient. The flume needed total drop of just less than 90 feet over its 10 mile course to have the appropriate pressure for mining; falling just 6′ 10″ for each mile. Approximately 7 miles of the flume was constructed along the sheer canyon walls with a flume 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep.

Construction began in 1889 and was finished in 1891. Few records of the flume’s construction appear to exist. The flume began operation in 1891 and moved about 80 million gallons of water from the San Miguel River to the mining site. Yields were approximately 20 to 30 cents of gold per yard with workers moving about 4,000-5,000 yards of earth daily. The gold in the area was very fine and required mercury to recover it.

The Montrose Placer Mining Company went out of business and sold the claims to Vixen Alluvial Gold Mining Company who extended the flume an additional three miles. Still, the flume and mining operation were not profitable (mainly because of the difficulty in recovering gold). The Silver Panic of 1893 crashed metals prices and the flume fell into disuse.

Hanging Flume

As time passed, pieces of the flume were removed to be used for home building and as timbers in local uranium mines. Additional damage has been caused by erosion of the sandstone and by biological growth. The Hanging Flume was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and has also been named to Colorado Preservation, Inc’s list of endangered places and to the 2006 World Monuments Fund watch list.

We spotted the flume off of the Y-11 River Rd. that travels south from the former mining town of Uravan. The ruins of the flume are also visible from the Unaweep Tabegauache Scenic Byway (Colorado Highways 141 and 145).

Confluence

Sources:
2006 World Monuments Watch List
World Monument’s Fund: Hanging Flume
“121-year-old western Colorado mining flume clings to its secrets.” Denver Post, April 4, 2012 by Nancy Lofholm
“Engineering marvel Unaweep Canyon Hanging Flume to be restored.” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, April 5, 2012 by Kathy Jordan

Wow.

When 3Up Adventures announced back in November that we were taking to the road, we could hardly have expected that we’d have three different travel vehicles within six months. There was no expiration date to our travels but we knew that we wanted to eventually settle in one place again—we just didn’t have any idea where that would be.

When Forrest and I left Moab about three weeks ago we checked out some of the more remote parts of Southwestern Utah. We were supposed to be staying at “lower” elevations and planned on going to Gateway, Colorado but at the junction of US 50 and CO 141, we were struck with mountain fever and rationalized that Ouray (and Silverton and Ridgway) was only a couple of hours out of our way. We’d been wanting to check out SW Colorado for a long time thinking it might be one of the places we’d be really happy.

We got to Ridgway and I fell in love. It reminded me of Switzerland. 14ers everywhere! Exploring! Hiking! Brewery! Distillery! Young outdoorsy people walking around! Friendly people!

Fast forward three days of us bumming around and we started shopping for property. (Because there’s no time like the present for decent prices, right?) Browsing Zillow semi-jokingly, I found 40 acres with mountain views for a what seemed to be a pretty good price. We called the listing agent and arranged to meet her, rationalizing it to ourselves as “just to check it out, probably wasting her time.” (This didn’t stop us from spending hours researching public records on the property.)

The next day, we walked around the property and realized that it didn’t just have a view, it had The Views. To the north, we could see Grand Mesa, to the northwest the West Elk Mountains peaked over a ridge, to our east was Cimmeron Ridge, and to the southeast and the south are the San Juan Mountains. As our tour of the property came to a close, we glanced at each other and took a deep breath, we wanted to put in an offer.

Log Hill Mesa views

After the usual ups and downs of real estate offers, contracts, and closing, as of last Friday, it’s ours.

 

Buying more property this soon isn’t what we had in mind when we left Idaho but sometimes the unexpected things are the best!

 

(So yes, I was totally messing with you a little bit with the Where To Live post Friday.)