Crystal River Mill

Crystal River Mill

Colorado is one our favorite states. We keep coming back here year after year to explore more of this diverse state. This year our target was the western slope. This part of Colorado is rugged, wild and true to the moniker Wild West. Our first stop was at Bogan Flats campground in Marble Colorado. This was a very remote spot. A drive to the nearest store was well over an hour.  The town of Marble itself consisted of a church, a BBQ restaurant, and a very small coffee shack.  It seems that everyone in town works at the local marble quarry.  This is the quarry that built Washington DC. Marble for the White House, Lincoln Memorial and many other landmarks came from this mine. Next stop was the Crystal River Mill!

One of the reasons that I choose to camp here for two days was that I was dying to see the Crystal River Mill.  This is a long abandoned mill used in gold mining around the turn of the century.  The pictures that I had seen of this site were some of the most beautiful that I had ever seen. I have been trying to get here for several years and this was gonna be the year.  There was however one catch. Getting there required a tough 10 mile hike or some serious off roading in the jeep.  Most tourists to the mill get there by professional jeep guides with specially equipped trail rigs.  Who needs that though? I have a 16 year old jeep with 160,000 miles and stock suspension and a check engine light that came on yesterday..Why would I ever let a professional guide deliver me deep into the woods.  Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Yes I remember Hell’s Revenge Yes Kristi and the kids remember Moab too.    However, it had been five years and some of the scars were beginning to fade. Somehow I was able to talk everyone into it.  So we all piled into the jeep and headed for the trail.  The ghosts of Hells Revenge came upon on quickly.  We were less than a quarter mile when I realized that we were in for a long stressful day. Again!  6-1436255046-46-jpgThe trail climbed hard into the Rockies with several hundred foot drops all over the place. It was also completely covered in 10-20 inch boulders.  Moab may have been a tad more life threatening, but this trail was downright abusive to your body. Colby slammed his head into the window more than once, Hunter says that his kidneys are bruised and lets just say that Kristi should have worn a sports bra.  I went on like this for hours before finally reaching the mill.  I am not sure everyone in the car on that day would agree with me, but it was totally worth it.

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The mill was the most picturesque thing that I had ever seen.  After snapping some pictures and taking it all in we headed up the trail a little more to the ghost town of Crystal. There is actually one person who lives up there and he runs a small gift shop. While there I ran into one of those professional jeep tours. I decided to jump in front of him on the trail back so that someone would find the bodies if we rolled off a cliff or something.  OK that is an exaggeration.  The truth was the jeep was starting to run a little funny and I was scared to death  that it would break down in the woods.  With him on our tail, at least I knew someone would know we were in trouble.  I did not really ever consider rolling off the mountain to be an actual risk, but we did see one truck deep into the valley that did exactly that. It seems to have been there for many years. I doubt the occupants walked away from that one. It was at least 500 feet from the trail to where the jeep crashed onto the valley floor.  There should be a pic of it below. The trip back was a stressful one. The jeep was surging and idling poorly, but in the end it made it. I will reward her with a proper tune  up and oil change next chance that I get.  Other that the poor idle and surging, she climbed that mountain like a billy goat. I was impressed.  When we got done with the trail I was advised by Kristi  an end had just come to our days of off roading. Something about “Never Again”  followed by a middle finger salute told me that it was going to be another five years or more before I could talk her back into this type of adventure.  We ended the day at Slow Groovin BBQ.  A heaping serving of Poutine, a few cold beers, and some good BBQ and all was good in the world again.