In early July we wanted to escape the heat and go to cooler Colorado. Since the trailer had been in storage for many months, we had a lot to gather and organize. Things needed repair due to lack of use. It was a hot endeavor to get ready.
When we stopped enroute, I was not feeling well. We assumed I had overheated while loading the trailer. When we arrived at a state park near Grand Junction the next day, I never felt well. I had a headache, low fever, cough, and fatigue. Despite being very careful – I had covid symptoms. We decided to go home in case I got worse or Randy got sick. Randy drove ten hours home and unpacked it all himself.
My doctor recommended Covid testing, not an easy endeavor in Arizona, but one that was accomplished three days later. I was told I likely had Covid. I was mildly sick for ten days, very unusual for me. By the time I got my negative test results 14 days later I was mostly well and we were highly skeptical. Randy never did feel sick.
By mid August I was well and wanted to finally escape the heat. Social distancing is easy in an RV and I was able to find reservations in two Colorado state parks above 7000 feet.
Randy installed “soft starts” on both trailer air-conditioners. That allows us to run an air conditioner from a 20 amp outlet at the house. It made the loading procedure much more tolerable! Due to the extreme heat we can’t keep much in the trailer while it isn’t in use.
After a quick overnight in Flagstaff, we arrived at Ridgway State Park near Montrose, the northern point of the San Juan Skyway region in southwest Colorado.
The park has trails along the Uncompahgre River and Ridgway Reservoir.
Fly fishing is very popular here and we enjoy watching.
We are here for 11 days so have plenty of time to wander, relax and explore the area.
Also plenty of time for a Handy Randy project! Because the trailer is stored for months at a time, he kept needing to sterilize the fresh water tank. Not only is that time consuming but it wastes water. We never forget we live in the desert!
Randy installed an UV-LED water purification system by the Canadian company ACUVA. Basically the water is zapped by ultra-violet light to kill any contaminants from the source or our water tank. (That is Serene’s non technical explanation.) Some municipalities use the same technology for their water purification. Included was a charcoal water filter to help with taste. We will use water through the ACUVA for drinking and cooking.
We took a day long excursion along the Million Dollar Highway, one of the “most scenic drives in America.” There are several thoughts on why it is called the Million Dollar Highway. Possibilities include building it cost a million dollars a mile and that fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore.
The Million Dollar Highway northern terminus is Ouray, the Switzerland of America.
Ouray looks like a fun town with a historic main street, enticing restaurants, brew pubs and hot springs. Since we are not currently doing ANY of those social things, we just drove through – happily anticipating our next visit.
The route between Ouray and Silverton is 25 miles long and takes about 45 minutes to drive if you are just going from one town to the other. Of course we explored a bit!
According to tourist information, there are two ghost towns accessible from the highway, Ironton and Red Mountain. They were just two of many towns that sprang up during the mining bonanza of the late 1880s.
Ironton boasted 1000 residents circa 1890. The Silverton Railroad made twice daily stops and life was booming due to the 1890 the Sherman Silver Purchase Act requiring the federal government to buy silver. In 1893 the act was repealed and the price of silver plummeted. By 1910 only 26 people remained in Ironton.
It was easy to see the additions off this main house – an added room and the covered walkway to the outhouse.
There are six or seven buildings still standing in the former residential area. I wonder if this house was the nicest in town.
A copy of The Mining Age newspaper, used for insulation, is still visible under the stairs.
Red Mountain Creek runs adjacent to the town and is shocking at first sight!
Over 100 mines were developed within the 30 square mile Red Mountain region. They left environmental devastation. Mine tailings exposed zinc, cadmium, copper and lead. Rainwater and snowmelt go through the tailings resulting in acid mine drainage. Iron is also evident in the bright orange water and rocks.
Only one mine company, Idarado, is still in operation. Their mission is remediation of the land and water by re-contouring and moving water routes away from pilings. Idarado is remediating areas damaged by all mining operations, not just their own.
Given the remains of mines are everywhere, that task seems enormous!
We searched for the townsite of Red Mountain but didn’t find it. Our four wheeling search led us to other interesting things.
We found this mine opening…
…and this machinery and mine shaft.
Eventually we got back on the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton.
We spent a little time in Silverton last year when we rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. (That blog post is Plan B: Colorado!)
The Million Dollar Highway, part of US 550, is not a road for the timid. Parts include hairpin turns, no guardrails and steep drop-offs. I am glad we explored the highway this way first because our route to the next Colorado state park goes south through Silverton. That means the Million Dollar Highway with the trailer… Randy says no problem!