Some while ago my husband Scott decided he wanted a 4-Wheeler. He asked if I might be interested in riding the mountain trails with him. If my answer were "yes," he would buy a side-by-side ATV. If my answer were "no," he would buy the standard motor-cycle style 4-wheeler.
As you can see, I said "Yes." It was a good answer when he asked me to marry him and it was still a good answer for riding with him in an ATV.
When he first got it, it was what you see in the Before picture -- It had four wheels, two seats with seat belts, roll-bars, a flat bed, head lamps, a steering wheel -- the standard stuff. Turn the man loose with his tools and it's got a roof, a windshield, side rails on the bed, heavy-duty front and rear bumpers, a winch, serious back-up lights, overhead spot-lights, and ways and means of attaching everything you could possible need out back of beyond.
In July, he took it for a shake-down run by himself to see how it did. Last Wednesday he took me with him. (I guess to see how I'd do.)
Everything went fine. We took I-70 west through Idaho Springs then turned off on Chicago Creek Road, a road I'm familiar with because we use it to get to Mount Evans, my second favorite 14er. (If it had a restaurant at the top that made high altitude donuts, it would move ahead of Pike's Peak.) That road is a well-maintained, paved, two-lane highway. We were trailering the Toy behind my husband's pickup. And all was going well.
Our goal, however, was Saxon Mountain, so we turned onto Cascade Creek Road. Well-maintained, not paved. And one-lane. It is curvy, with trees and/or the mountain coming right down to the road's edge on my side and the creek at the bottom of a drop-off on his side. "So," I wondered silently. "What do we do if we meet someone coming the other way?" Backing that truck and trailer down a narrow road with no forgiveness on either side could not be a good idea. And there were no lay-bys.
As it turns out, I never found out what we would do, 'cause nobody came the other way.
We unloaded and buckled up. He set the way-point for where we were starting, consulted his map, and entered the coordinates for the first place he wanted to go into his GPS. It was like space travel will be, set the coordinates and go. Of course with space flight, you won't have to worry about switch-backs or mundane obstacles. You know -- falling rock, streams, downed trees. I figured our way would at least be free of rogue asteroids and meteors.
After our first switch-back we came to this abandoned mine.
Gold was discovered here in 1866. After gold, they discovered silver. So Saxon Mountain is pocked with mines. Most of the mines are collapsed and filled-in vertical shafts. This one goes into the mountain horizontally, at least as far as we could see, looking through the gate. The second structure is across the trail. I believe it housed the stamp mill.
While doing a bit of research on mining in Colorado I happened onto the website for Mountain Magazine with an article that includes a first-hand account of mining in Colorado's high country in the 1890's from Carl Fulton. It's not long and it's worth taking the time to read, if you're interested in what life was like back then.
We saw a bachelor herd of Mule Deer. They'll soon be seeking the does for fall breeding season, at least the ones who are old enough. There were several spikes with the more mature bucks. We saw Clark's Nutcrackers. They're Corvidae like crows and jays. And I saw my first grouse in the wild, a Dusky Grouse. And, that old standby, the robin.
There were beaucoup chipmunks and little dark-colored squirrels. Sorry, no photos of wildlife. The ATV on that trail was too energetic to allow photography and when we'd stop, the wildlife fled.
In the mountains, it's all about the light. And just because we're in the back-
Still photography doesn't do the Aspens country, that doesn't mean there's nojustice. Any little breeze sets the leaves civilization. There were street signs.
to fluttering, flashing now silver, now
The meadows were still sporting their wild flowers.
Indian Paint Brush and Dwarf Silvery LupineGolden Aster
A Bristlecone Pine
The yellow blooms are Nodding Groundsel and the pale purple are Alpine Daisy
We came down different trails than we used going up. They were even more extreme. We had one scary, near-rollover which my husband handled by going pale and telling me, "Lean that way!" I responded with "I already am!" We held steady tipped like that for three hours or a fraction of a second. He let the Toy settle itself and we went on our merry way.
It was a 20-mile, six hour trip. I got home exhausted, My arms hurt from holding on. At times it was like shooting the rapids on a river. It was thrilling and I know exactly how Rose Sayer felt on the African Queen.
I learned some very important things. The Toy is both powerful and very stable. My husband is a capable, prudent man, and my life is safe in his hands.