How I almost died in Colorado

One of the things I wanted to do was seek out an old mine for a longtime reader of mine, an ancient mine located deep in the mountains of Colorado that had once belonged to her grandpappy.  It was located right off the tiny town of Silver Plume, and because I was covering the area as part of my tour to explore the popular ski destinations west of Denver, I decided to challenge myself with this mountain hike, beginning at roughly 9,400 feet above sea level.  Piece of cake!

Silver Plume, taken from hiking trail
A good day for a hike.

The trail itself was straightforward enough, although eventually I had to go off the beaten path and climb/crawl up about 100 feet more off a steep incline to find the entrance to the mine.  I’m not sure how I managed it without a walking stick, but I did.

Relics of Payrock Mine, overseeing the town of Silver Plume.
Relics of Payrock Mine, overseeing the town of Silver Plume.

After taking a few shots of the area, it was time to hoof it back down.  Only amateur hiker that I am, I hadn’t realized that I was going the wrong way, and I’m wondering to myself why this incline was so much more steeper and less steady than I remembered when I crawled up here, and wow there sure are a lot of loose rocks here-  *SLIPS*

Down I went, falling flat on my back and racing down over loose debris like a sledder without his sled.  I grabbed hold of a dead tree bark, which of course broke, then grabbed another dead bark, which finally arrested the slide.   I lifted my head up to see nothing but 300 feet of airspace and certain death in front of me.  If I had fallen forward instead of on my back, well… let’s just say that probably wouldn’t have ended well.  I remembered thinking, “If my mother saw what I was doing right now she’d be very upset.”

I finally got smart again and stopped frantically trying to scale back up the incline, which was only loosening up the dirt even more, and instead dug my heels in to get better footing, while slowly feeling my way around for rocks and tree barks that were firmly wedged into the incline.  I very gingerly made my way back up, until I saw the footprints of where I had originally come up, cursing to myself over how easily I could have avoided this fiasco and snaked quickly back down if I had just retraced my flipping footsteps.

foot prints near Payrock Mine
You can see the footprints where I originally arrived at the mine. #%@^!!

Still, I made it, black and blues all over, but with the satisfaction that even as a hiking novice, I still successfully scaled halfway up a mountain at nearly 10,000 feet and discovered the ancient mine I was looking for.  Who’s your daddy?

Mission accomplished, I settled into my Nissan Versa rental, downed like 20 pills of ibuprofen to dull the pain, and soon celebrated with hot cocoa at Starbucks after a drive through Keystone and into the heart of Dillon.  All in all, a good day.

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