Here’s how day 4 went…
- Left camp around 10:30 after Evan’s nap
- Visited Phoenix Gold Mine near Idaho Springs
- Picnic lunch near Clear Creek in Idaho Springs
- Drove up Mt. Evans
- Returned to camp and took Evan swimming
- Met Tim and McKenzie for dinner at Mimi’s
Today we got a bit later of a start than we had planned, but everything worked out fine. We headed west to Idaho Springs to the Phoenix Gold Mine. We took a short guided tour of one of the mines that’s no longer active. Our tour guide, Buzz, looked exactly like you’d guess a miner would look, but I really don’t think he was an actor. We put on our hard hats and ventures a several hundred feet into the mine, where they had displays of old equipment, etc. During the last part of the tour, a small rock fell off the ceiling and almost hit Dusty and Evan. Evan didn’t have a hard hat because Dusty was carrying him in a front-carrier. Afterwards they showed us how to pan for gold and let us try it. Meanwhile Evan insisted on walking into the small stream, even though the water was near freezing!
After a quick stop in Idaho Springs to eat our lunch, we trekked out to Mt. Evans, to travel on the highest paved road in the continental U.S. It was a long scenic drive, and thankfully on the way up the weather was very clear. It was strange – on the way up, we couldn’t tell whether we were driving uphill or downhill… It felt like we were going downhill, but I still had to keep my foot on the accelerator, so to prove it, I pulled over and put the truck in neutral – it rolled backwards! As we neared the top, we passed Summit Lake, which is only a few hundred feet below the summit, and I’m assuming very cold. The higher we got, the harder it was to breathe, and we even started feeling light-headed. When we reached the parking lot near the top, it was probably 40 degrees and Evan had just fallen asleep. I hiked up the last quarter mile or so to the top myself. It took quite a while to reach the top, because a storm blew up suddenly and because I was dizzy and couldn’t take more than twenty steps without stopping to catch my breath (I’m not in good shape, but I’m not in THAT bad of shape). When I reached the top (14,264 feet elevation), the visibility was pretty poor, but I could see the neighboring peaks and Summit Lake below. I found a log book hidden near the top (just by chance) and signed it, thinking it was a geocache. It wasn’t, but it was placed there by a local club. The way down and back to town was quicker, though we almost sideswiped a deer. I don’t think I touched the accelerator more than a few times all the way back.
We took Evan swimming in the pool at the campground (which was a big hit) and then met Tim and McKenzie for dinner at Mimi’s, a Cajun restaurant. Finally, since every day on this trip requires yet another camper problem, today Dusty was using the hairdryer connected to the porch outlets when it quit. I discovered that of the four pairs of outlets in the camper, only one now works. All of those are on the same circuit, and I checked the breaker and all of the GFCI’s. The hairdryer pulls 15 amps, and that’s what the circuit breaker is rated for, but I have my sneaking suspicion that the wiring to the outlets is NOT rated for 15 amps… I thought we’d worked all the bugs out in the first few trips last year, but we must have shaken some stuff lose dragging the trailer out here.
More stuff we saw:
- A seam of pure gold that couldn’t be mined because the mine would collapse
- Picnic tables 10 feet from people whitewater rafting
- Wine fermenting in an unused shaft of the gold mine
- A older Volkswagen motorhome with a very low profile, which I couldn’t identify
- Lots of insane bicyclists riding up and down Mt. Evans
- Mountain goats, bighorn sheep and marmots
- A pickup with a slide-in camper descending Mt. Evans
- Lots of eastern European people
- The tree line and sleet in the middle of July
- Our first runaway truck ramp on I-70