Treasure Mountain Mine and Animas Forks
Colorado

Intro

THE DRIVE IN

The road was rough, sure, but I never expected for my battery to stop working.

The road was narrow, sure, but I never expected to have only a few inches of it between by tire and a mountain gulch.

The road was high, sure, but I never expected it would end where trees do not have the oxygen to grow.

Preparing to drive up the narrow road into Picayune Gulch, which was barely wide enough for my SUV.
Preparing to drive up the narrow road into Picayune Gulch, which was barely wide enough for my SUV.

Life felt strange as we drove north from Silverton, Colorado beside the Animas River, right past all of the signs recommending we turn round. We were not treasure hunters, by most every definition, but more like treasure hunter-hunters. That is, we were looking for the leftovers of gold booms and busts in the San Juan Mountains. Finding abandoned mines up there is the easy part. The hard part was finding ways up the mountains, around the snow-blocked roads, and into areas where, for more than a century, curiosity trumped safety.

As the sun waned over the range I put the cameras away, ate a simple meal, and slept on the edge of a place I would find out was called Treasure Mountain. It was not until I was back at sea level that I began to unravel the stories that I had unwittingly documented…