WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• How to get to Yankee Boy.
• Jeep pics of waterfalls and wildflowers and mountains.
• Three unusual conversations.
This is a long blog. If you love pics of the Rocky Mountains, you can just look at them (but please click to enlarge them to gain the full oohs and aahs). If you love jeep trips, and mining history, read about them. If you love conversing with travelers, here are a few great examples. If you love music, be sure to read the last para about Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. If you have no love for any of these, wait for the next blog.
YANKEE BOY BASIN LIES IN COLORADO, above the old mining town of Ouray, which is named after an Indian chief. Yankee Boy has been on my bucket-list for 40 years. Ouray is known as Little Switzerland because it’s surrounded by very steep Rocky Mountains. In ABQ it has been 100F for 10 days, and will be for another 10 days, so this trip was a great escape. Dewey and Linda came from Houston and drove all the way to stay cool and to explore by jeep.
After Durango, an old-west mining town in south-west Colorado and site of a famous train ride which still puffs along in summers, we passed through Silverton and hit the million-mile highway to Ouray. It was called that because in the 1960s every mile cost a million dollars to build, with so many hairpin bends. They forgot the guard-rails, and with drop-offs of 500 feet it’s a hair-raising road.
We visited the large natural hot springs pool, open to the public, but didn’t partake. Box Canyon falls at the edge of town is a slot canyon with a thundering waterfall. Within the dark canyon walls are small black swifts sitting on their mud nests.
We can recommend St Elmos hotel, an old home beautifully decorated in the style of the mining period.
JEEPING WITH COLORADO WEST OUTFIT
We had 10 folks on the jeep as we headed out. Steve was the driver, and his little stories of the area and its history were fascinating. At one stopping point, above a steep canyon, he pointed out a cross where a young man had fallen. A firecracker didn’t go off, so the boy reached for it just as it went off. He jumped back in fright, right over the cliff.
Old mines from the late 1800s and early 1900s were dotted everywhere….. mounds of mine tailings and collapsed wooden rock crushers. We passed the Camp-Bird mine, the richest gold mine in the USA in the 1920s. The owner’s daughter at one time owned the Hope Diamond. She was a selfish lady, and unlike her father didn’t give much to charity. One of the mines we passed is a working gold mine.
When we arrived at Yankee Boy Basin, we found a large waterfall called Twin Falls, with Mt Sneffels in the background. This is one of the posters that attracted me 40 years ago. The green grass was luxuriant. With flowers and waterfalls and snow-streaked mountains everywhere, Yankee Boy was like heaven to me.
We completed our trip by taking a rough and steep side track, which made me a little nervous. Steve the driver kept it as a surprise…..at the end was a glorious turquoise lake, called Silver Lake. Lots of oohs and aahs from the riders. Set amongst fir trees, and green grass, this has to be the prettiest lake I have ever seen.
SURPRISING CONVERSATIONS: THIS IS WHY WE TRAVEL
1. Linda and Dewey and I got seduced by a gelato store in Durango. Her favorite was salty caramel. So every day after that we had to have gelato or ice-cream.
2. Candice, from Texas, joined us for breakfast in the hotel. Super-friendly, as many Texans are, she explained that she contracted cancer, had the tumor removed, and took chemo. After being cancer-free for five years, it returned with a vengeance and got into her bones. The doctors gave her little hope. But Candice clung to verses from the Bible, including the one at the bottom of this blog. When she went in for her next cancer review, the doctor started crying. Told Candice there was no evidence of cancer. There’s a lot more to this story, and Candice if you will send me the full story I’d love to post it as a blog, after your review and approval.
3. We saw a lot of Amish folks in town, women with bonnets and long dresses, men with goatees, and young men with black close-fitting knit caps. I chatted with two friendly couples in a restaurant, who told me they came from northern Indiana. They take a lot of jeep trips out here in Ouray.
4. At the same restaurant, a piano player was tapping out boogie-woogie and other old-style hits. He looked like he’d just ridden in on a horse. Rough-cut clothes, boots, and a cowboy hat. I decided to test him out, and asked if he could play Prelude in C-sharp Minor by Tchaikovsky. He graciously said no, but said he would play the Concerto. I said okay, since it would still be a test of his ability. I’m no musician, but I recognized the Concerto. He seemed to play it well and I was delighted, gave him a big tip. Only when I got home did I check and find out it was Rachmaninoff who wrote the Prelude, not Tchaikovsky…..lots of egg on my face. Now I understood why he looked perplexed when I asked for the Prelude by Tchaikovsky. PS. The Concerto WAS by Tchaikovsky and called Piano Concerto no 1. Click here if you’d like to hear it played by Martha Argerich.
PPS. The piano player showed up next morning at the jeep rental…….he is one of the jeep drivers! Now I know what I want to be when I grow up: a jeep driver who can play Tchaikovsky! PPPS: I had used this method as a test once before. I asked my brother Neil, who has always been handy at the piano, if he could play the Prelude, knowing it was very difficult for a normal person to play because Rachmaninoff had very large hands. Neil sat right down and belted it out. Impressive!
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The Gray Nomad
Probing the stirrings of mind, body, and spirit.
For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon me, and you will come and pray to me, and I will hear and heed you.
[Book of Jeremiah, chapter 29].