If any of you are very familiar with the great state of Colorado you may have heard of the Shelf Road that runs between the towns of Canon City and Cripple Creek (lots of Cs in that part of the world). It’s a mountainous dirt road with steep drop offs, hair-raising corners, and not even a hint of a guard rail on the whole 24 miles.
The Shelf Road is actually part of the Gold Belt Byway, a string of scenic roads in Colorado so called because of the gold mining in the area.
The average person wouldn’t drive this road, but my husband is not your average person. After buying a pick up in Texas and a camper to sit on top of it in Colorado, he chooses to christen our new rig by taking it on the Shelf Road. Let me just say right now, as the person who sat on the side of the ledge, that it was total insanity. It may have been enjoyable in a Jeep or something but as it was, our huge lumbering beast met a small truck and I was so busy white-knuckling it that I forgot to take a photo!
Below are photos of the drive, with some captions that you can see if you click on the image and scroll to the right, and below those are some photos of Cripple Creek and the mountaintop mine nearby.
Beautiful unassuming red dirt road…
…until you look down!
Truly on the side of a mountain.
A cross and some lovely metal art to memorialize someone.
One lane, around a corner !?!
It’s a really long way down.
24 miles of this!?!?
That’s an old collapsed barn down there.
Strange to find a big warehouse out in the middle of nowhere but there are mine accesses, tours, and roads to 2 ghost towns also.
Having a great time I’m sure, while his wife has a heart attack.
A great blue heron flying overhead.
Looking back the way we came.
That’s quite a road but I don’t really understand why it’s here, considering how much it probably costs to maintain.
Not taking his eyes off the road.
It had snowed recently, hence the puddles.
Another turn !?!
Beautiful valley VERY far down there.
How long does this go on??
Yay, falling rocks too!
Finally heading down the mountain.
The rig’s doing a pretty good job.
Some interesting drainage ditches.
A great blue heron flapping it’s wings in the breeze, practicing?
Still a lot of one lane portions, but it’s easier to breathe.
Notable rock formation.
I suppose Jack would just love to explore that old mine, thank goodness it’s locked.
What is a house doing out here and how did it get here??
A wild turkey gets startled by our lumbering beast.
Our reward for completing the harrowing Shelf Road was getting to Cripple Creek, a town that is clearly proud of their mountaintop removal! Here is a satellite image of the mine and some from the town itself. Hope you get there someday if you haven’t been already.
The view driving toward Cripple Creek
A satellite image of Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine.
A nice dusting of snow livens up the scene.
It’s amazing how big that mine must be.
This old structure is called the “Morning Glory Ore House” and was moved here in 2012 for preservation.
Another dark hole in the side of a mountain.
Now THAT is a retaining wall!
Don’t know the story behind this monster but there’s got to be one.
Tailing piles, I suppose.
Not sure if I’m going to be on board for this again. Luckily we’re leaving in a different directon.
Lots of historical buildings around here.
They sure love their donkeys, maybe too much. A bartender told us a story about the townspeople going after the donkeys that left town and bringing them back whether they liked it or not.
During the day…
and on a chilly night with some snow.
We left about $200 up, not too bad!
More mining stuff on the way out of town.
Would love to come back some day when we have more time.
This is what it looks like when caribou cross your path on the Dalton Highway (click on the first one and scroll to the right to see them full size):
And here are three moose next to the Welcome to Fairbanks sign on the Parks Highway, taken the day after the caribou but there was no snow in Fairbanks at that time (10 days ago). Jack says this is a bull and his harem. You can barely see the one on the other side of the bushes but Jack says he’s a young bull trying to build a harem. The moose on the right looks to me like a young moose, possibly a calf of the cow. All-about-moose.com says about this topic: “The taiga moose calf will stay within visible proximity whereas with tundra moose calves they will generally avoid the harems the bulls collect. Bulls will tolerate yearlings but for the most part calves avoid the harem group.” We didn’t even know there was a difference between taiga and tundra moose.
You’d think that someone would start small and work up to a 75 pound salmon but Jack does it the opposite way. When coming to Alaska years ago he caught the huge salmon first and then is working down and crossing the small fish off his list as he goes.
This summer he got his first Arctic Grayling. Six to be exact. We kept the first few and cooked them for dinner, but they were a bit mushy and muddy tasting, at least compared to the beautiful trout we’ve been getting. From now on we’ll catch and release grayling.
Jack and I had an amazing moose experience in Healy a few days ago. Otto Lake is moose haven. We saw at least 6 moose in a 24 hour period. Here is a photo story of a cow moose and her two babies, and her yearling that she is trying to shoo away. Be sure to click on the first one and scroll to the right to see how it all went down.
The cow moose on the right chased the smaller one, her yearling, away. He doesn’t look too scared but she charged at him several times.
Casually sipping water. The lake is very shallow.
Does he not look just terribly devastated here?!?!? It’s really a sad sight.
She came back several times.
She’s looking back at him but seemed also to be preoccupied.
She heads back the other way.
You can see how close she is to our camper!
And now we know why she was shooing the yearling away! She’s got two calves to take care of.
She keeps trying to scare him away.
One baby ventures out.
But rushes back to the shore.
Then both of them wade into the marshy grass to nibble.
Then they come back toward us, walking along the shore.
Looks like a kangaroo face to us.
What a cute little bugger.
Here comes Mom getting in my shot.
And they follow her.
Trying to keep up.
Before they walk down the hiking trail (aka game trail) Mom stops to nibble.
Looks like they want to nurse.
You can see how very skinny the mother is. It’s no doubt that she needs to constantly eat to keep up her ability to nurse and take care of her babies. Her yearling just doesn’t have a place in this family anymore.
They were very alert but not scared at all by us.
Sometimes it seems like they made the same general movements but it could be that the smaller one, on the left, is copying the larger and more assertive one.
They nuzzle noses and do a lot of other movements that remind you of horses.
They are a lot to take care of, and a lot to trip over.
Neither Jack nor I have seen these lampreys (thank goodness) but lately they’ve been found in strange locations like parking lots and front lawns. They spawn at this time of year in the local rivers and Alaska Fish & Game says most likely they are being dropped by seagulls who can’t manage to hold the wiggling creatures. Terrifying, that’s all I have to say about it!
Jack and I found the most amazing sight back in 2006 when we pulled into Happy Valley along the Dalton Highway. Happy Valley is a former pipeline camp at about mile 335 that now is a gravel pullout where various storage units are kept. There’s an airstrip that hunters and Fish & Game use, and Jack has seen mushers there too.
A raven built a nest in a set of moose antlers on the side of a building and 2 young ravens were in it!
This raven nest, with 2 babies in it, is built in a set of moose antlers on the side of a building!
You can see how much of a mess the raven family has made with guano all over the steps, propane tanks and the side of the building.
What a work of art!
The “babies” were absolutely quiet and watchful while I snapped photos and even climbed up on a nearby truck to get on the same level as them. They did not seem traumatized. 🙂
Jack had a close encounter with a very friendly raven a few years ago too.
Raven sitting on Jack’s truck hood and peering inside the cab.
Don’t worry, I discussed with Jack how it’s not appropriate to feed wild animals and that it might even be against the law! 🙂