Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Yankee Boy Basin (6/20/2016)

Long-time readers will likely remember previous travelogues dealing with Yankee Boy Basin.  While I have been there numerous times, I never tire of the beauty I find there, and each season has its own rewards.  Right now, the current heat wave has snow melting rapidly, creating countless waterfalls and filling the streams.  This trip, I confess, was partly to escape the heat being felt down in the valleys.

The road to Yankee Boy Basin is called Camp Bird Road, named for one of the most prosperous mines in U.S. history, which in turn was apparently named for the gray jays that frequent the area and will steal lunch off your plate.  The road is always somewhat rough, but was much worse this time than I have ever seen it.  Snow plowing, recently completed, obviously does a lot of damage to the rocky, gravel road.  Further, all the water flowing down the mountains and crossing the road has created sizable washouts.  Road construction crews are already in place, but there is little point in filling washouts until the snow melt subsides.  Huge piles of rock and gravel wait alongside the road, waiting to go into road improvement.

Early on, the road is in pretty good shape, except for some washboard sections.

Almost everywhere you look, waterfalls are coursing down the mountains and filling the streams.

 Still, the mountains are the stars of the show, with their jagged edges standing out against the remaining snow fields.

The Camp Bird Mine was started in the late 1800's as a silver mine, but gold became its primary production over time.  In today's dollars, the mine has produced more than 1.5 billion dollars of ore. It has closed and re-opened several times over the years.  One of the early owners sold it for $5 million in 1907.  His daughter later bought the Hope Diamond for $180,000 when she was just 24 years old.  With gold prices at record levels in recent years, the mine was going to be re-opened in 2014, but financing failed.

One of the construction crews was working to repair the walls that support the road in many places.  One of the workers hangs over the canyon by rope to spray Shot Crete into forms.  It was surprising to see large cement trucks on the narrow road.  I can assure you, the cement truck cannot pass the overhang just beyond the work site.  I don't know how they get cement beyond this point.

Known for its wildflowers, the only ones showing now are dandelions.  Others will pop out soon.

More streams and waterfalls to enjoy.

The Revenue Mine was actually re-opened in recent years, but appears to have been abandoned once again.  The economy of nearby Ouray seems to always be on a roller coaster ride as mines open and close.

The old Atlas Mill, where ore was crushed, has long since fallen into ruins.

Closer to the 12,500 foot elevation of the basin, mountain views become more dominant.  In the next photo, you can clearly see two other roads in this area as they switchback up the mountains, one to Imogene Pass and the other to Governor Basin.  Both these roads are still closed by snow.


A view of the road as it enters the basin.  I neglected to make photos of the washouts and stream crossings, maybe because I was too busy negotiating them.

Twin Falls is one of the major locations for filming commercials when the wildflowers are in bloom.

Sneffels Creek can usually be crossed easily enough, but not at this time.

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