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.)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

After falling in love with the San Juans, we decided to go check out Gunnison and Pitkin. Along the way is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We just did the south rim drive and didn’t head down into the canyon but it was pretty impressive:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Painted wall

Galloping Goose(es)

Home of the Galloping Goose

Here’s a unique bit of railroad history from Colorado’s San Juan Mountain region. Forrest, Sprocket, and I have seen the replica of Motor #1 and the originals of Motor #4 and #5. I hope to see the others sometime in the future. I’ve included C.W. McCall‘s “The Galloping Goose” for your listening pleasure:

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Founded in Ridgway, Colorado in 1889, the Rio Grande Southern Railroad was a narrow gauge railroad founded to connect the towns of Ouray and Silverton. (Both of these towns were reached by branch lines of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad but were not directly connected). Soon after the railroad was completed, the Silver Panic of 1893 took away most of the railroad’s traffic.

Rio Grande Southern caboose

In an attempt to stave off bankrupcy, the Rio Grande Southern looked beyond the mines for a way to stay viable. In 1931, the railroad built RGS Motor #1 to be a cost efficient way to transport the U.S. Mail. The motor was built from the body of a Buick “Master Six” sedan. RGS Motor #1 could carry the mail, some passengers, or up to 4,000 pounds of freight. Motor #1 was so successful it paid for itself within a month. Unfortunately, the original Motor #1 was scrapped as parts for the other motors in 1933. A very exact replica of Motor #1 was built in 2000 by Karl Schaeffer and is on display at the Ridgway Railroad Museum. The replica is fully operational. (For more on the replica check out the Ridgway Railroad Museum’s Motor #1 page.)

The name “Galloping Goose” was not adopted by the railroad until 1950 but the name is believed to come from the “waddling” rocking motion the trains had going down the track. Another suggestion is that the air horns (compared to steam whistles) were compared to goose honking. Regardless, the informal name stuck while the railroad officially called them motors.

Motor #1 Replica

A larger Motor #2 was built later in 1931 using the same Buick body as Motor #1. In 1935, it was repainted silver to match the other Motors. In 1939, Motor #2 was revamped with a Pace-Arrow body and received many parts from a motor retired in 1939 from the San Cristobal Railroad (that motor was built in 1933 by RGS for the San Cristobal and is not considered one of the seven “geese”). Motor #2 was placed mostly on standby after its rebuild as newer motors were in use. Motor #2 undergoing restoration at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado and is considered operational.

Galloping Goose #4

Motors #3, #4, and #5 were all built with Pace-Arrow parts. They had three trucks (the middle truck was powered) and articulated bodies. Motors #3 and #4 were built in 1932 and Motor #5 followed in 1933. Motor #3 operates occasionally at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town & Calico Railway. Motor #4 belongs to the Telluride Volunteer Fire Department but is currently on display at the Ridgway Railroad Museum where it has been returned to operational status; its restoration is on going. Motor #5 is on display in Dolores, Colorado. Either in 1945 or 1946 (conflicting reports) Motors #3, #4, and #5 were refitted with Wayne bus bodies and WWII surplus GMC engines.

Galloping Goose #5

Motor #6 was built in 1934 mostly with parts from scrapped Motor #1. As a “work train” Motor #6 never saw passenger service. It is currently at the Colorado Railroad Museum and is considered operational.

Motor #7 was built in 1936 and is nearly identical to Motors #3, #4, and #5. Unlike the other motors, it retained its Pace-Arrow body when the others were updated to Wayne bus bodies. Along with Motor #6 it was used for scrapping the Rio Grande Southern operations. Motor #7 is located at the Colorado Railroad Museum and is operational.

Galloping Goose Logo

In 1950, the Rio Grand Southern lost its mail contract (trucks took over the task of driving the mail) and Motors #3, #4, #5, and #7 were converted entirely to passenger operations to attract tourists. Large windows were cut in the freight compartments and seating was added. It was at this time that the railroad formally accepted the “Galloping Goose” moniker for its motors and added the goose logos. Passenger operations ceased at the closure of the railroad in 1951.

 

 

Sources:

Wikipedia: Galloping Goose (railcar)

Wikipedia: Rio Grande Southern Railroad

The Galloping Goose Historical Society

Ridgway Railroad Museum

American Steam & Narrow Gauge: Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose

 

Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton

After a chilly night in the parking lot of Thunder Mountain Raceway, we headed south through Montrose towards adorable Ridgway. We ate breakfast, walked around town, checked out the Railroad Museum’s outdoor displays, and generally became enamored with the place.

Ridgway, Colorado fire truck and fire station

After awhile, we headed for Ouray. It has more dramatic mountain views than Ridgway but comes with the bustling feel of a tourist town to match. I obliged and snapped pictures all over town. (Adorable Victorian buildings! Mountains!)

Ouray Colorado

Ouray County courthouse

Eventually we headed out of town making a quick stop to peer into the winter site of the Ouray Ice Park and to walk to Box Cañon Falls. (Sprocket was not a fan of all this metal grating!)

Sprocket at Ouray Ice Park

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Finally we were on our way. The million dollar highway (US 550) is really one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on. I can’t wait to see it again in the summer time.

Million Dollar Highway Views

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway Views

Mt. Abram

We headed up and over Red Mountain Pass (11,017’…Sprocket’s lifetime high point) to Silverton. Once a bustling silver mining town, it

Sprocket in military vehicle

Silverton City Hall

On our way back over the pass, we stopped to play in the snow. Sprocket was quite delighted.

Sprocket on Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass

Mining building

The Mountains Called Us…

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”   -John Muir

After some hiking in Fruita’s Devil’s Canyon and grabbing some food and hitting up REI in Grand Junction, we were headed for Gateway, Colorado.

Devil's Canyon

As we made the turn west off of US 50, F commented that we were only a couple hours from Ouray & Silverton. I’d been wanting to explore that area for a long time and we were both anxious to see it in the spring with snow still gracing all the high peaks. Just like that, our plans changed and away to the mountains we went.

Louisiana to Midterm

The alarm went off at 4am and we were up, dressed, and in the van by 4:11. On our way out of Leesville, F found a doughnut shop that was open (4:13am). I’ve always sworn that I don’t really like doughnuts but that was the first fresh one I’d ever had and I had to admit that they were quite good.

We headed north. I took the opportunity to sleep in the back  until we were about an hour outside of Shreveport where I swapped into the drivers seat. Forrest tried to sleep but the condition of I-49 was a little rough for him in the back (I maintain that I would have slept just fine!).

As we cruised through Dallas, it started to rain. And it rained. And rained. All the way across Texas it rained. It was about 40 and raining (what happened to going south where it’s warm?!). We did get a pretty decent hamburger at “Giant Burger” in Rhome (F had to fix a busted power steering cooler line in the rain though) And then we kept on driving. After a brief stop in Amarillo for windshield wiper blades we cruised into New Mexico. Continue reading “Louisiana to Midterm”

Day 6: Moab, Utah to Artisia, New Mexico

We departed Moab this morning at about eight after packing up our clean laundry and mostly clean puppy dog. Sprocket settled right in for the ride as we headed south out of town. At Monticello we headed east for Colorado (a new state for me!). We got gas and the most fabulous gas station burrito I’ve ever had at the gas station in Dove Creek.

We headed to Dolores to see the Galloping Goose and found that the train was interesting but that the town itself was pretty interesting—there were lots of old cool buildings and a brewery (which sadly was closed). Before heading out towards Durango we stopped to visit Tony & Brenda, friends Forrest made riding the trials circuit. It was nice to just get out of the car and Sprocket really enjoyed eating all of the sticks in the yard and drinking out of Brenda’s fountain.


In Durango, we made a quick tour through the historic downtown but there was lots of construction and not really anywhere to park so we didn’t stop. We headed to Walmart to try and remedy the no camera situation and decided to postpone our purchase until Santa Fe (bad choice).

We drove through some really pretty country in southwestern Colorado to Pagosa Springs. Just before getting into town we passed two microbreweries (Pagosa Brewing Co. and Pagosa Brew Stop) but both were closed at 2pm on a Sunday. In downtown, there were still some cool old buildings but the town was certainly dominated by the large hotels and spas on the rivers using the hot springs. Sprocket’s nose was going a mile a minute trying to understand that sulfer smell! I was a little mean to the little guy and let him sniff and take a sip out of the hot springs water in a fountain in town—he couldn’t quite figure out if it was good or plain awful.

In New Mexico, we made a stop at the Echo Amphitheater in Carson National Forest. It was a really beautiful, almost perfectly semicircular gouge in the wall of a cliff. Sprocket and I sprinted the whole way back down the trail (not very long…maybe a quarter mile) and he loved it—it’s certainly his favorite to run with me off the leash.

In Santa Fe we tried to stop and get some “southwestern” food and try some micros but downtown Santa Fe was a zoo. Forrest and I decided that the food would probably be pretty pricey and the stop would probably turn out longer than we’d hoped for so we just headed for Walmart where we bought a camera (that means pictures from here on!!). We filled up before leaving town and found that we’re getting pretty unbelievable gas mileage—we calculated 29.3 mpg if you can possibly believe it.

We miscalculated and guessed that at the US 285 and I-40 interchange…”Clive Corners”…there would be food of some kind. We were pretty wrong. There wasn’t even gas station food so we settled for bagels and cream cheese in the parking lot and decided to press on to Roswell for the night. We’re joked about “looking for UFO’s” as we’re cruising towards town while listening to “The Country Giant” that promises a “Strait Shot” once an hour—that’s a George Strait song at least once an hour all day long, love it! Unfortunately, I directed us onto the truck route around Roswell so we went all the way down to Artisia before we found anywhere to sleep, but boy were we ready for bed when we got there!