Taking the Summit and Going Within

Why am I doing this!! I asked as I searched for a path up the steep mountain slope. The fourteen thousand foot summit of Mt. Sneffels was only a 1.2 miles from the trail head, but it was scary steep and covered with loose rocks that seemed to give way as soon as you set foot on them.

It was anything but easy and I had similar thoughts the last time I climbed a fourteener. As I took a break, my mind politely reminded me that I’m on vacation. Several miles away, I had a large beautiful camp site next to a crystal clear mountain stream. I could be stretched out in my reclining camp chair napping peacefully in the sun.

Instead, I’m up here breathing hard, with a heavy pack and trying not to climb up and not slide the long way down. Geez, I could take it easier on myself, ya think???

After a while my pack began to annoy me. It seemed heavier with every step and it felt heavier than it should be. It only had two bottles of water, a bag of almonds, granola bars, first aid kit and a DLSR. Yet, it felt like I was carrying a week’s worth of supplies.

The summit loomed ahead and was close enough to not give up, but not close enough to just run up. Each step required a test for solid ground with my trekking poles. I made my way up in short increments and a few times found myself in a seemingly no win situation. I can’t step forward because there isn’t a solid step ahead. I can’t step backward because I’ll fall for sure.
Now I know what a cat feels like when it climbs a tree!

As I made my way up in short increments, I encountered fellow hikers returning from the summit. Each one had two things to say: 1) awesome view, worth the trip 2) it’s slick up there and I’m glad to be headed down.

After two hours I reached the top and enjoyed the amazing, breathtaking view composed of jagged peaks set against a blue sky. Some peaks looked like they were carved and others looked like they just fell into place. I could see forever in all directions and felt like I was on top of the world. The most memorable part of sitting on top was the incredible deafening sound of silence. It was clearing and yet a bit eerie at the same time.

When it came time to leave, I peered down that steep, rocky, slope and wondered how I’d get down without falling. I watched other hikers slide along on their butt, using their trekking poles to keep them from sliding too far.

Everyone that I had passed had dirty pants from sliding or falling on their butt. I was a bit determined to get off this mountain with clean clothes. After some closer than I’d like to slides, I managed to pick my way down that mountain without falling and stayed clean.

I totally agreed with all the hikers I’d met; I’m glad to be off that steep, rocky, feel like I’m going to fall anytime slope.

So why did I do that instead of napping at my peaceful camp? I admire Sir Edmund Hillary, but my answer is much more than “because it’s there”. For me, being on that mountain forces me to face my inner self and accomplish things I’d never otherwise do.

It’s about being in the moment, for better or worse, and moving out of that moment to the next one. It’s about looking at something that appears impossible and yet finding out it’s not. It’s where I find myself and what I’m truly capable of.

Now when I’m faced with “difficult” tasks or don’t know what to exactly what to do I remember that mountain climb. If I can successfully face those unknown obstacles, surely I can figure this out.

For me, that is the beauty of exploring and challenging myself. It’s way more than the interesting people I meet or the amazing scenery and photographs; it’s about finding what I can really do and that is the greatest journey.

Rich history and Golden views in Animas Forks

What a view! I said to myself standing on the porch of the house. Several fourteen thousand foot peaks lay at the end of large grassy meadow; the house was situated perfectly to take in the view.

It’s always interesting that no matter the culture, or time in history, people always enjoy great views from home. The home I was in was famous because it was the “first” in the area to have indoor plumbing. Back in the 1800s that was something to brag about.

It was called indoor plumbing because the path to the outhouse was enclosed. Can you imagine having an outhouse down the hall from your living room? If you’ve used a pit toilet in the National Forest, you know what I mean. And I thought my cat’s litter boxes were bad…

History:
Animas Forks was initially known as Three Forks of the Animas in 1873. The name was changed in 1875 to Animas Forks to accommodate the post office. In the summer time, the population swelled to 450 people. As a side note, the town of Ouray Colorado today only has around 896 people.

The town survived the boom/bust cycles of mining from 1873 all the way to 1920. Another fun fact; at 11,200 feet the Animas Forks Pioneer was the only newspaper published and printed at so high an elevation in the United States. Other interesting facts are on the picture of the sign, just enlarge it to read it.

Walking around:
The historic site has several old buildings that you can actually go in and walk around. I enjoy going into historic places and imagining what it must’ve been like to live back then. There’s just something about being in the same room and walking on the same floor as the people who lived there in the 1800s.

Oh, and if you have to use the restroom during your visit, there are modern day outhouses just down the road about a block.

Looking away from town toward the mountains you can see Cinnamon Pass snake up the side of the mountain which goes to Lake City. To the left is the main road that eventually goes over Engineer Pass which will also take you to Lake City. One fellow explorer said it was about two hours over the pass which requires four wheel drive.

One of the most intriguing parts of Animas Forks is down the road and behind the old town. Following the dirt road through town and to the left, you’ll embark on a very rocky road. Just around the bend, you’ll see a giant old building looming ahead.

It’s sheer size and state of ruin is irresistable; you have to go see it. Again, you are allowed to walk inside the building and see the history first hand. (See the below video) Most mining ruins are dwarfed by the Rocky Mountains; this one holds its own. I believe it was the Gold Prince mine which was constructed for $500,000 in 1904 making it the costliest mine built in Colorado at that time.

Getting there:
Animas Forks is located SE of Silverton Colorado. From downtown Silverton follow the road past the museum and head toward the signs for a mining tour and Engineer Pass. The road will change to a wide dirt road and stay that way for a while. After a bridge,the road narrows and will be a little rougher.

When the road is dry, you should be able to reach Animas Forks by car; it’ll just be bumpy in spots. Or you can rent a Jeep in town and head out. Either way, give yourself some time to enjoy the history and scenic views. If you leave early enough and have a 4wheel drive, you can explore Animas Forks and then head over Cinnamon or Engineer Pass for more breath taking views.

Either way, take the time to enjoy the history and spectacular views; you’ll be glad you did.

This video starts with a pan of the surrounding area and then I walk inside, enjoy!