This cool road takes off just south of Animas Forks and curls around up to California Gulch Road. It’s probably best to start with the GPS track, as other photos are referenced to it.
I learned of the road from an “Alpine Ranger,” a fellow in an official capacity sitting up above Animas Forks observing the rather heavy traffic yesterday (Friday). We chatted for quite awhile. I vaguely described a road that I thought cut up into the mountains and came out along California Gulch Road. He noted it was Picayne Gulch and told me it wasn’t far south of Animas Forks. So, I followed his instructions and found San Juan County Road 9, taking off rather steeply to the west from the main road between Animas Forks and Silverton. I found several photo opportunities, which I share here.
I found some stairs leading down to what looked like the toilets. The staircase has come completely detached and should not be entered.
This next photo shows a structure that was apparently intended to be a covered bridge to another building. It has fallen and twisted. I thought the interplay of the studs, floor, ceiling, and sunlight made for cool modern art.
There are several other buildings in the area. The next photo shows a mill. You can just see the rails going into the top—their support is long gone and the old iron droops across the void. The ore was shuttled to the top and gravity-fed into the mill. The mill was there to concentrate the ore.
Okay, back on the road. The photo below shows the road up, and I do mean up, County Road 9.
I came around a corner and was amazed to see that someone has constructed a home up on what must be a horrendously windy point. Many mining claims are still in private hands. The Colorado Constitution says that if a person has 35 or more acres of land, they can build a home on it and no one can stop them. I’m not sure I’d like to live up here. The wind must be incessant and access is available in winter only after a long snowmobile drive, and vehicle access is pretty much a one-season thing.
Further riding gets one to the ridge separating Picayne Gulch from Placer Gulch. The following photo is a panorama taken from atop the summit looking north. In the distance you can see where CR 9 intersects California Gulch Road.
The road continues to be easy to traverse. Just beyond the summit is an overlook, which looks south and into some wild country. The road then winds down between some more ruined mining structures and then on down to intersect with California Gulch Road. I opted to turn left and head up over California, Hurricane, and Corkscrew Passes, which I describe in another post.