Friday, October 16, 2015


On Oct. 1 we took a ride to Silverton and over Red Mountain Pass to pick up the Corkscrew Gulch road in Ironton. We took it  over Corkscrew Pass to Gladstone.



 The well-maintained road climbs  and climbs



and climbs to well above timberline.



At the top one gets to look almost horizontally at the top of one of the Red Mountains


IMG_6565 .

Descending into the Cement Creek (Gladstone) valley, we came across the evidence left by the EPA caused blowout of 3 million gallons of mineral laden water from the Gold King mine a few weeks earlier. The water had to escape sooner or later, but if released at a lower rate and treated on the way downstream it would not have caused as much anguish and publicity.



The EPA built small temporary water treatment ponds below the blow out, to be replaced with a larger one downstream which would be accessible come winter as the Gladstone road is maintained only to the site of the lower pond.


The blowout caused this staining along the banks of Cement Creek.  Cement Creek feeds the Animas River at Silverton. The same staining was present on the Animas River as it flowed through Durango.

While in Silverton I got a Rocky Mountain Brass Band annual tee shirt for 2015. Its color was first called Burnt Orange. After the blowout, it was renamed Animas Red’'.


On Oct 3 the Durango Cowboy Gathering parade was held on Durango’s Main Street, Above the marchers are in ladies of the evening costumes.



Even llamas got into the parade.




Rarely does one see a longhorn steer being ridden in a parade like a horse.


This is typical of a session of cowboy poetry and singing – several entertainers taking turns at the microphone.


Here is one poem recited by one of the entertainers.


The Bear Tale

I was up in the Sycan Black Hills Camp
   workin' for old Z-Cross,
This was my own piece of country,
   I was cook and crew and boss.
The afternoon of that year
   was comin' on as I recall,
Meanin' summer'd hit the cap rock
   and slid right down into fall.
The days was warm and pleasant
   though the nights were kinda sharp.
I had a nice snug little cabin
    to keep the cold wind off my tarp.
Aspen leaves was turnin' yellow,
   bees was buzzin round the hive,
And it was just one of them there days
   when it was great to be alive.
So, I'm a-ridin' along that mornin'
   lookin' out beneath my hat.
I thought I'd make a little circle
   down through Silver Dollar Flat,
And maybe brand some big slick yearlin'
   with the address of this farm,
Because I sure did need to limber up
   my old stiff ropin arm.
I'd been just kinda' travelin'
   down this little open draw
When I came around a corner
   and I's amazed at what I saw.
I pulled my horse up, sat there a-gawkin'
   and my eyes went plumb agog,
'Cuz there's a big old brindle he-bear
   diggin' ants out of a log.
My old heart commenced to poundin'
   and I couldn't get 'nough air,
I knew I'd never have a better chance
   to rope myself a bear.
I was trying to jerk my rope down,
   my old horse began to dance.
Hell, old Bruin, hadn't seen me,
   he's still busy diggin' ants.
I got my rope tied hard and solid
   so I said a little prayer,
Then I let out a cowboy war whoop
   and I built right to that bear.
The old beast heard me comin'
   and he beat it for the trees.
They weren't no moss a-growin' on him
   and he sure did split the breeze.
But I pulled right in behind him
   and like that bible story told,
I cast my bread upon the water,
   and it came back a thousand fold!
Well, I pitched the slack right at him
    and I turned my pony neat,
And I heard him grunt as he hit the ground
   as I jerked him off his feet.
Then I towed him toward the timber
   just the way it should be done.
Hell, there wasn't nothin' to it;
   ropin' bears is lots of fun.
In the timber I got busy
   dodgin' limbs and brush and such,
And I ain't had time
    to check up on my cargo very much.
I'm gonna start by breakin' him to lead
   or at least that's what I hope.
Then I looked back and here that bear come
   hand over hand right up my rope.
Well things sure started lookin' different
   so I tells him, "OK Bruin,
I'll start payin' more attention
   to this little job I'm a doin'.
"I'll just zig and zag and circle some
    now you just follow me
'Cuz you're about to meet your maker
   on some big old Jack Pine tree."
Well I zigged and zagged and circled
   but it seemed to no avail
And next time I checked,
   old Teddy's right behind my horse's tail.

About that time, why, my old pony
   made a funny little jump,
And that old bear he started climbin'
   up my rope, across his rump.
I yelled and squalled and hollered
   and I slapped him with my hat,
But that old bear was plumb determined;
   he's comin' right up where I'm at.
You know, I've knowed a lot of people
   in the hills and on the plains,
and nobody ever told me
   I was over blessed with brains.
But it didn't take no Einstein
   with no special high IQ
Nor no call from God to tell me
   what that bear was gonna do.

I know a coward's way out's a bad one
   in most anybody's book,
But that's the only route left open now
   so that's the one I took.
I just bailed off and checked it to him,
   but a big rock broke my fall.
Old boy, I said, it looks to me
   like you just bought it all.

As they went crashin' through the timber,
   why, I realized, of course
That I'd just lost a damn good saddle
   and the company'd lost a horse.
And how's a man supposed to tell it
   with the boss astandin' there
You took a plumb good horse and saddle
   and just gave 'em to a bear!

These thoughts and lots more like 'em
   kept a-runnin' through my mind
As I went limpin down that cow trail
   tryin' to leave that wreck behind.
My clothes was sorta tattered
   and I'd lost some chunks of hide,
But my body wasn't hurtin'
    near as much as was my pride.

Then I heard a noise behind me
   and the sound began to swell,
Back the way that I'd just come from
   and I wondered what the hell?
Then I seen my horse a-comin',
   steppin' lively down the slope
That old bear's up in my saddle,
   got a loop built, swingin' my rope.


On September 28 we left Denver and headed to Durango on US 285.  At the top of Kenosha Pass we encountered a traffic jam of leaf peepers admiring the turning aspens. Aspen colors around Silverton were much better. Below, the aspens had begun to shed their leaves.



Traffic jam on Kenosha pass from motorhome.



This view from Molas Pass of the San Juan mountains near Silverton always impresses me.



These aspens are in nearly all phases of color – green, yellowing, yellow, gold and orange. This was taken on Sept.29 looking south toward  Molas Pass.



Closeup of the above picture of aspen colors.




This was on the Coal Bank Pass road with Engineer Mountain in the background.


This stand of aspens with Engineer in the background was even more impressive in its color. But the leaves are beginning to drop here. By the time we left the area on Oct. 1 the great color was almost gone.

Friday, September 25, 2015


  Valentine is the gateway to the Niobrara National Scenic River. It is popular for canoeing and rafting, the longest run taking over 7 hours in a canoe and 14 hours just floating.  The  river and its feeder streams  have 230 waterfalls. One, on the Snake River tributary, is Nebraska’s widest falls; Smith Falls is its highest.


The area is interesting in several respects. This is the farthest east that ponderosa pines grow naturally. The wider general area is named the Sand Hills.The sand is quite compacted and of small grains. It grows grasses, forbs and a few kinds of trees, but is not suited to agriculture besides cattle grazing and haying.


After passing through the Niobrara Wildlife Reserve, we came across this white cliff eroded by the river.




This small falls is just downstream from the Berry Bridge


Two or three outfitters have watercrafts here for rent. An oversized tube costs about $35.00 per person per day.


Tubers and canoeists parked here for refreshments on shore. Here I saw two people floating down the river wearing just life jackets.



This is a typical flotilla of tubes. The small yellow ones are for coolers. Most of the river is quite shallow. The man at the far left is standing on the bottom to hold the group of tubes.  Looks like a lot of fun.



At Smith Falls State Park we walked across this bridge in its third location to take the short walk up a side canyon to Smith Falls, Nebraska’s tallest at 70 feet.



The wood walkway was easy to walk. This is our first view of the falls.



Here is most of the falls, with me in the foreground.


And  here is the bottom of the falls.



This shows several miles of the Niobrara valley



On Sept 7 we took the 25 mile  ride to the Snake River falls. It is located on private property, with admission fee of just $1.00 per person. There is no sign at the intersection of NE Hwy 97 and the gravel road going north to the parking area. It is located at about mile 190.2.  A landmark at the intersection is a round metal cattle watering tank.

Once we paid, a sign directed us to a trail.


This is the best part of the trail – not maintained and challenging to senior citizens. It gets much worse beyond. We stopped near this point and relied on telephoto features of the camera to get shots of the nice falls.



Jo, with parts of the rough trail  beyond..



This time of year the flow over the falls  is much less than in the spring with water from snow melt.



We stayed the week ending on Labor Day at a small RV park at Valentine NE while on our way the the Black Hills. Valentine  is the gateway to the Niobrara National Scenic River. It is popular for rafting, the longest run taking over 7 hours. The river has several waterfalls to attract tourists. One is Nebraska’s widest falls, another is its highest.

The Sioux City & Pacific Railroad, nicknamed the Cowboy Trail, (bought by the Chicago & Northwestern in 1901) served the town until 1992. Its old roadbed (minus salvaged rails, ties and ballast) has been preserved as a Rails to Trails pathway.  The Cowboy Trail is paved through town and nicely graveled at least west of town. I took walks along the trail and found walking an old roadbed is quite pleasant. No significant elevation changes. But it goes through an industrial area which sometimes was not pretty. There is even an active stock pen area where I watched young cattle being loaded into a double decked semi trailer.

 The pictures are taken my cell phone 10 mp camera.



 On my walk I spied this odd-looking pickup  so I walked over for a closer look.



It is a 1955 1 1/2 ton Reo Gold Comet. The owner told me that the Reo body is on an old Ford pickup platform.



A pavilion in a city park the Cowboy Trail  has some design elements of the railroad depot.



Wast of town is a long railroad bridge on which the Cowboy Trail runs.



This crawler tractor will never run again!


Does anyone need a nice set of front fenders for a truck?


The railroad rails were removed about 1992, but these rails in a siding remained. From the size of the tall tree stump close to the rail, it appears that the siding was not used for many years before the abandonment.


A claim to fame of the city is this building, the oldest standing high school building in Nebraska. It now is named Centennial Hall and houses a museum and supporting thrift shop.


Black Hills 1

We arrived in the Rapid City SD area on Sept. 8 to stay at the Coast to Coast park, Rushmore Shadows. It has undergone several improvements since we first stayed there several years ago. It is fairly close to Custer State Park and Mt. Rushmore, as well as the Black Hills Central Railroad.


The next three pictures were taken in Custer State Park of pronghorn (antelope) and bison.





This bull was branded on his rear quarter. The bison are rounded up annually and the herd reduced to the projected carrying capacity of the range.


We wound up our tour of Custer State Park with lunch at its Sylvan Lake Lodge, below. It began raining while we were there, so we called it a day and returned to the RV. 





On the next clear  day we visited Keystone, Hill City, and ‘chased” the 1880 train from Hill City back to Keystone.



Most of the tourist stores of Keystone are located on two blocks of Main St.


I was surprised to see this diesel locomotive next to the train station in Keystone. The railroad’s brochure indicated that the first round trip of the day from Hill City to Keystone would be headed by this loco.



Mt. Rushmore sculptures from the highway. One of the tunnels on Iron Mountain road was built to frame the sculptures. Of course the view from the Visitor’s Center is much better. The only charge there is the $11.00 per vehicle fee for the parking garage.


A railfan is said to be chasing a train when he plans to be at each intersection of the train tracks and a road to see (and photograph) the train as it passes the crossing. Here is is best done from Hill City as on the way back from Keystone the locomotive leads the consist of cars running backwards. There is no facility in Keystone to turn the engine. Above is the Black Hills Central Railroad’s standard gauge steam locomotive, a 6-6-2 T. The two sets of 6 wheels are articulated to go around the tight curves. The T stands for the water tank being mounted over the boiler.


Another railfan and I got pictures of the train at several crossings.





I was also taking movies of the train at the crossings using my GoPro Hero tiny video camera. For the first time I tried it both mounted on a monopod and later on a headband, above (but not at that jaunty angle). The monopod held the camera steadier. I need to remember to point the camera downward more when using it on the headband.