Two or three more miles brought us to the ghost town of Eureka, where we saw a picnic area and the terraced ruins of an old mining mill. Nothing else remained. Five hundred feet beyond the ruins, the two-lane road became a one-lane dirt road with a large sign prohibiting further travel to all but high-clearance 4x4 vehicles. I shifted into four-wheel drive.
The next five or six miles were thrilling. A large piece of construction equipment had plowed a one-lane furrow through huge snowbanks that often rose above the roof of our F-350. Kerry had given us good advice. We'd never seen snow this deep. The snowbank on my side of the road looked as if a massive cleaver had chopped through it, exposing large boulders, dirt, and aspen tree trunks. Only an avalanche could sweep such piles of debris down the mountainside.
The snow on the right-hand side of the road had been pushed over the cliff to the Animas River below. I slowed to a crawl and tried to reassure Darlene, but the road was icy in spots and blind curves obscured our vision as we continued to climb higher toward the snow-covered peaks ahead.
As we rounded a final curve, the roofs of the Duncan House and the Columbus Mine were visible over the mounds of snow. I pulled up behind a red Ford pickup and got out to talk to its owner. He, a friend from Silverton, and their two dogs had driven up the mountain to do some cross-country skiing. He said the road had been opened up only two days before.
We crawled over the snowbanks to see the ancient town. A brochure published by the San Juan County Historical Society and Bureau of Land Management informed us Animas Forks was at 11,200 feet and was named for its location between the north and west forks of the Animas River. The Gold Prince Mill ceased operation in 1910, reducing the area to a ghost town by the 1920s.