This past weekend, My husband and I drove across the continental divide from Colorado Springs to the sleepy, Colorado mountain town of Ouray for my family reunion. The reunion was to honor my grandmother, Serafina, and her two sisters and brother and their parents, Oliver and Alice. On Sunday morning, my mom and dad took my husband and I up to Yankee Boy Basin (or as far as we could get until we were stopped by snow!). I remember from my childhood memories how beautiful this area was, high up in the San Juan Mountains, feet below tree line.
As we rounded the bend under the rock face that had been blasted by workers over a hundred years ago, I could tell that winter up in the high country had lasted long into spring this year. The mountains were still capped with feet of white snow, and the usually prolific flowers were just coming through the ground, and in some areas they were peeking through the snow.
The snow was melting at a rapid pace as was evident from the many waterfalls that we passed on the way up the rutted, rocky, old mining road.
It was a beautiful, crisp day. I got to hear some amazing stories from my mom and dad that I had not known until our drive. When my mom was young, her dad drove the school bus up the mountain to pick up the kids who lived with their parents at the mines in the San Juan Mountains. One of those mines is called the Camp Bird Mine. My mother had a very good friend who lived in a lovely, Victorian home high up in the mountains. My mom recalled how much she loved to ride the bus up the steep, switchbacks on the rocky, dirt road with no guard rails. She said they would love sliding from one side of the seat to the other as her dad wound his way up to the mines. Today the Camp Bird Mine is closed. In another interesting story, my father recalled how he was the last miner out of the Camp Bird before they shut the mine down for good. While mining, they hit water and the mine flooded. By the time my dad got out, the water was up to his chin, and he is 6 feet tall! Here is a picture of my mom’s friend’s house at the Camp Bird. Sadly, it is now abandoned and in disrepair, but it was obviously lovely, during its day.
This is the old mine office. What is funny is that there is still an old rotary telephone in the upper left window!
These are the old miner’s cabins, where some of the miners stayed.
The mine closed in the 70’s, but the history of those who worked it and their families is still alive today. The man who originally owned the mine made so much money on the gold that came out of it that he bought the Hope Diamond for his daughter!