Sometimes I just want things to be static and unchanging. During this crazy time of wearing masks, waiting in line to enter the grocery store and being more anti-social than usual, I find it comforting to get out into nature and visit the unchanging landscapes. Well, I should state that the landscapes are always changing, but in small, natural ways.

Frog pond


I went out this week and hiked the Odyssey trail (my own name for it since it doesn’t have an official name).  I was expecting small changes.  I was curious how the Champion stamp mill ruins survived another winter.  Big change. The huge jaw crusher had fallen through the wooden supports holding it up. It was not unexpected.  It was just a matter of when.

The pulley of the jaw crusher is still partially visible in the center after falling through the supporting deck.


View from Winter 2009

Then another change: someone with too much time on their hands moved the old school bus from where it had sat for decades near a mining camp, to a quarter mile away. I can’t fathom why this was done.  The new site is not very interesting.  Well I suppose it’s better than being pushed into the creek which was a lot closer.

The old school bus in its new location (actually it says Colorado State Forest Service on the side, so not school)

The next change was the aqueduct is no longer an aqueduct.

A pipeline has replaced the aqueduct.

The most disappointing change was a fir tree which was hundreds of years old succumbed to the winds of winter.  It was the oldest fir tree that I have seen in the wild.

This old fir tree was hundreds of years old. The diameter where the tree broke was 3.5 feet. It’s nearly 6 feet in diameter near the ground.

By the end of the hike I was feeling pretty unsettled with how much things had changed in a year. So much for those unchanging familiar landscapes.

It seemed like a longer than usual winter.  So much snow. So much work. So much bullshit. I had looked forward to camping in the Utah deserts, in the silence, the solitude, in the warmth. But a world pandemic got in the way of it, with lockdowns and a piling on of the work schedule. I’m grateful to be able to earn a living, many are not so lucky.  The pandemic will likely affect business eventually since what I do is connected to disposable income.  I imagine that some customers will no longer have disposable income.

Mourning cloak butterfly on an aspen trunk

I’m hoping to update more often, but who knows. I’m trying to get my photographic “work flow” established on the Linux desktop since I no longer use Windows.  I’ll be more likely to update if it’s easy to do so, and developing the photos has been a block in the recent past. I estimate I’ve taken somewhere around 40,000 photos in the last 20 years.  For Linux, I seem to be settling on Rapid Photo Downloader to get the photos into folders and RawTherapee to process the raw images.

Lichen on rust


Another Rabbit Hole

I was hiking in the tundra a couple of weeks ago and spotted a tailings pile coming out the side of a mountain off in the distance.  It was directly below an old mine I already knew about.  I made a mental note to explore that area on a future date.

That future date arrived and I went exploring.  Given that it is located near a heavily traveled trail, I didn’t expect to find a hole that you could drive a Corvair into.


Entrance to lower Forth of July Mine.


I didn’t have a flashlight with me.  But even walking in a little way, taking a flash picture, and cranking up the brightness, I still couldn’t see the end.


Not sure how far it goes


It looks stable, so perhaps with a bright flashlight I’ll go in a bit further on a future hike.  I suspect it joins up with a vertical shaft that is running down from 500 feet above.  I’ve previously explored the shaft from above and it’s closed.  The amount of tailings in front of this entrance indicates quite a bit was excavated.

Around the entrance was the requisite old rusting machinery and boiler.

Old boiler and air compressor. A date stamped on one piece is July 28, 1902.


Boiler with firebox doors still intact.


Top of air compressor storage tank


What's left of the steam engine and compressor.


Nearby cabin.


There were numerous sites where old cabins stood.  One was probably the mess hall with a very large wood cooking stove still in the center of it.  What I found interesting was there were steam pipes leading to each cabin site.  Did they use the steam for heating?  Maybe. Typically mining camps would use wood stoves but perhaps this one was different.

Gilpin Adventure

It was well overdue for an outing with Rob and Sherrie.  We normally do this monthly, but it’s probably been 6 months or longer.  And as we often do, we set off to places none of us had been before to discover the mining history of the area.  But if anyone had asked, we were hunting for wild mushrooms and raspberries (which we found and ate).

We headed up towards Mammouth (or Mammoth, depending which sign or map we were looking at) Gulch in Gilpin County.  As we bounced and jostled up the 4×4 road, Rob kept an eye on the maps.  There was a “Y” symbol next to the road, which in U.S.G.S. symbology means an adit or tunnel.  So we stopped to explore what we couldn’t see.


Follow the rails

Continue reading