July 10, 2016
What a treat to go exploring on some difficult 4X4 trails with Scott and Chris. Our goal was to traverse the narrow rocky road above Crystal Canyon and the mountain scenery bordering the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. We clocked almost 40 miles of sheer beauty, scary fun, and even some history.
We connected to Devil's Punchbowl ( Charles Wells Guide ) via Slate River Road just north of Crested Butte. The Punchbowl gets its difficult rating because of an extremely narrow rocky ledge that ascends/descends the near vertical wall of Crystal Canyon.
In some places, its a drive along a cliff wall up to 300 feet.
Dangerous backing would be required to pass.
Looking down on Crystal River and the roaring water...the canyon is actually deeper that the picture shows.
There is no good way to get an up-close picture of the dramatic waterfall and deep pool of water that gives this trail its name. This photo was taken from a narrow bridge as we crossed the river.
I love old mining towns and we just happened to pass right thru one...Crystal City. It was originally incorporated in 1880 with a high population of 300-400 people who mostly supported the miners. By the 1920s it was all but a ghost town. Today, a few families reside there in the summer. Crystal never has had electricity.
I had read that the most photographed historic sight in the state of Colorado and ranked top 5 in the nation is the old Crystal Mill.
I am so intrigued by places like this. It's amazing how it has stood the test of time and weather.
The mill was built in 1893. It harnessed the river to power air compressor housed inside.
Early engineers built a dam across the river which funneled the water down the vertical penstock (ladder-like structure) onto a horizontal wheel which drove an axle in the the penstock. The penstock powered the air compressor. The compressor ran drills used to bore holes in the mine walls for the placement of dynamite.
Broken boards are remnants from the stamp mill used to reduce and process silver ore.
Lunch was enjoyed in a quiet alcove with a roaring view of Crystal River.
After nearly 11 miles following Crystal River, we made a left hand turn on Lead King Basin Trail (Charles Wells Guide). It is also rated difficult because of a narrow rocky shelf road where backing up to pass is necessary for oncoming vehicles.
What a beautiful drive along the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.
A breathtaking reprieve...
...before the narrow rocky shelf road as we entered the basin.
From here we eventually found our way back to Washington Gulch Road and headed home.
There was one other waterfall where we stopped for pictures. Until next time, happy days and...
|Thanks for the photo Scott.|
Up next...Hike the Peak