At 12,800 feet, Engineer Pass is one of the highest mountain passes in Colorado, and winter is rapidly closing in.
We stop for a packed lunch in an alpine valley as the road heads farther and farther up.
The abandoned Ute-Ulay Mine beckons us to explore.
The forge was recently used by miners. Core samples drilled from deep underground lay in boxes all around. A letter on the floor, sent from a brother in the Iraq War, says that life wasn't so bad in boot camp: "It does suck, but everything here becomes a custom. Only thing I miss is listening to my music."
Miners lived up here year round, despite avalanches that cut them off from civilization.
We find an open mine shaft and explore deep into it, turning back when we hit water. This is close to the area where the EPA released a flood of toxic water into the Animas river.
Here's what it sounds like inside the mine (link to Soundcloud file)
The road leads higher and the snow gets deeper. We're above the tree line and higher than most of the adjacent peaks. The road is just a narrow shelf along the mountain face. It divides into multiple forks, with no signs or maps. Which way from here? The only way seems to be up. Somehow we've got to get over and begin the descent....
Just a few days until the deadline for the Graveyard Painting Challenge. Check out the amazing entries so far.